Castlebar is a regional Irish town of about 15,000 people. A Provincial place, not unlike 10 or 15 more dotted around Ireland. On Friday 7th of December it was home to a big boxing event as Ray Moylette attempted to get his hands on the vacant WBC International belt. Unfortunately Ray lost out narrowly to Mexican Christian Uruzquieta on the night – but thats not what I am here to talk about.
I have been immersed in a lot of chat in recent times about the state of Irish MMA as it pertains to the Republic of Ireland. I have had many conversations with coaches, amateurs and fans about medicals, Blood work and brain scans – I am probably in need of an MRI and a shot of morphine myself at this stage.
I am going to park the medical issues for another article though and talk about the promotional aspect today.
If the future of amateur Irish MMA competition in Ireland involves the consistent interaction with promotional companies with stringent and costly medical evaluation I have a couple of suggestions.
If you insist on a sport that delivers brain scans you need to deliver a product that can afford to pay for them
The Ray Moylette event in Castlebar was superb in it’s execution. It was branded as the #Homecoming, as Ray is a native of that part of Ireland. It certainly made the right impact locally and the place was Sold-Out.
The Theatre Royal in Castlebar was the venue and holds somewhere in the region of 2,000 people. The beauty of a venue like this – is the ancillary services and revenue you can generate on top of the Gate receipts.
The evening began at about 6:45pm , similiar to an MMA event, with a few novice fights at 4 rounds a pop. By the time Moylette left the stage it was well past midnight.
As one of the last of the Mohican smokers – I was making regular trips to the smoking area. On every occasion the bar was 3 deep with people and about 25 people queueing for food.
I would estimate that the revenue from the food, drink and programming was conservatively between 40,000 and 60,000 euro. I know deals have to be done in advance with all locations about this slice of the pie, but the income from this area is a big part of whether a promotion makes money or not. Without it, the chances of breaking even slump.
Next I come to the capacity. When you’re in a venue of this size and quite frankly class – you feel like you are at a Social Event as much as a sporting occasion. This is hugely important when trying to sell 2,000 tickets. The number of couples dressed up like they were going to the theatre was bananas!.
The current situation of MMA events in the UK and Ireland is that a lot of the ticket selling is down to the fighters. Most promotions operate this way so I am not having a pop at any one in particular. 15- 20 fights is fairly standard on an Irish MMA card. That’s 30 to 40 fighters. Even if they are selling only 10 tickets each ( many sell more) thats up on 400. Well over half of the attendance.
It is a cosy promotional job when you really only have to sell a couple of hundred tickets to the general public. In fact what it actually boils down to is a gathering of MMA die-hards, clubs and families. It doesn’t really help in terms of bring the product to a wider audience
It is the promoter and the headline acts that should carry the selling of the fights. Two months ago Ray Moylette was not a well known professional boxer. He has done a PHENOMENAL job selling this event along with his promoters. I sincerely hope they made a decent return from a great nights entertainment.
There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why an MMA event could not have this success on a regular basis especially with BAMMA currently not on the scene. It is grand having events in Halls, GAA clubs and the like, and I understand there are genuine reasons for locating them here. But come on ! How big is the jump from selling 700 tickets to 1,500 – 2,000?
If a town the size of Castlebar can easily sell 2,000 tickets – there should be no excuse in the major cities with the correct focused promotion. However other provincial towns that have the right venue might be the blueprint. They are often starved of big events and would give a night at an Irish MMA event a go.
To be frank in 2018 with social media – if you can’t sell 1,500 to 2,000 tickets for a great product like MMA, and deal with the ancillary issues, you shouldn’t be in the business of calling yourself a promoter. Historically promoters had a lot more problems, cost and risk to face.
The press passes for the event in Castlebar were the front two rows, slightly elevated behind the ring. Everyone else that was in this section (roughly about 150) paid 100 Euro for the tickets. I was chatting to one or two at the end of the night and I asked them was it worth the money. There were two responses
- Yes I would do anything to support Ray and it was a brilliant night out
- I wish there were a few more of these to go to.
The cherry on the pie was having TG4 broadcast the event live. This brought a lot of recognizable faces to the event like Kenneth Egan and Jason Quigley. TG4 should be a target of MMA promotions here. They have a history of thinking outside the box when it comes to sport – whether it is GAA club games or Pro 14 rugby. The right approach here would possibly pay dividends.
This is one of the most important things Irish MMA needs to address. Once the Sport starts getting streamed live in Ireland a lot of the preconceptions the uneducated have will start to fall away. I know MMA Connect TV are doing great work in Irish MMA and others but the backing of a TV network will hugely aid with regularising the sport in the Republic.
The final point I would make here is that once you have an MMA product that is pulling in 1,500 to 2,000 people per event you can financially start treating amateur fighters a whole lot better than they are currently being treated.
That means promotions paying for their brain scans and assorted medical costs, if you insist on a rule-set that includes them, especially when your selling tickets off the back of their Cerebral Cortexs.