Alchemist Radio Bryan Levick and Adam Conklin will discuss last night’s TUF Nations Finale which saw Tim Kennedy defeat Michael Bisping via unanimous decision. They will also discuss the debut of TUF 19: Edgar vs. Penn which features 8 middleweights and 8 light heavyweights. They will also preview this weekend’s UFC on Fox 11 card.
Titan FC CEO Jeff Aronson was our first guest as he explained why he decided to move Titan FC 28 from April 25th in Kansas City to May 16th in Newkirk, OK. With all the news coming from the promotion, Aronson covered whats next and shared his feelings on all they have accomplished lately.
Kalib Starnes has been so desperate to find and keep fights over the past couple of years that he has competed at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. He will face Dave Herman in the co-main event of Titan FC 28 in a heavyweight showdown. Herman was last seen losing his fourth straight and being cut from the UFC roster while Starnes is riding a four fight winning streak. Starnes discussed his upcoming bout as well as where his career stands.
At MFC 38, Anthony Birchak was experiencing a resounding range of emotions. He was chosen to face Tito Jones for the opportunity to become the first ever MFC bantamweight champion, the fans selected their fight to be the main event, he witnessed the birth of his son and he buried one of his best friends.
Now he heads into MFC 40 with a clear mind and will face Kevin Croom in his first title defense. Once again MFC is leaving it up to the fans to decide the main event as Birchak’s fight is up against two other title fights for the right to close the show. He discusses these upcoming
Bryan Levick: You added a lot of veterans to the card and added a half-hour to the main card, on top of that, international fans can now stream live events. How did you get all this done in such a short time?
Jeff Aronson: It was a mad scramble to the event. It had been leading up to the event. I’m sure you have probably noticed, and a lot of other people I work with, on a regular basis had kind of noticed I have gone pretty silent and pretty dark on everybody for a week or two and I was on phone calls and on negotiations for probably a good, well, it’s been going on for a couple months but they really started heating up the last couple weeks and when the injury bug hit the card as hard as it did with the veterans and then with the last weekend their were three guys on the undercard that all had a problem and got hurt and got pulled off the card, I was in the middle of these negotiations with CBS regarding CBS Sports and we were able to come finally come to a deal and we were also to increase our time-slot to two-and-a-half hours to give the fans six live fights which is unprecedented compared to five and I just said, “you know what I’m not going to risk the integrity and goodwill that we built off the first show”, the ratings were off the charts on the first show and the card was great. The one thing I realized watching it over was that the fights really delivered so I said if its a question of a couple weeks, and we’ll have the integration of CBS Sports, we’ll have the extra half hour of TV time and we’ll have a card that is way better than we have right now, then screw it, I’m going to postpone the event and we’ll have it a couple weeks later. That’s what we did and the outpouring from fans has been phenomenal. I haven’t seen anything negative about it. Even Brian Washington that was supposed to fight Toninho Furia (Gleristone Santos), I was able to replace with Alvin Robinson and that’s a great fight. So we changed a lot of things going on behind the scenes of the company. Since then, we’ve also announced that Rhett Butler has come on from Fight Services. He will be handling all of the back of the house services for Titan. He was over at UFC, Strikeforce, World Series of Fighting, the list goes on, handling all the back of the house things with putting on a show, so everyday, Titan has had this incredible news coming out. I’m just super excited.
Bryan Levick: I know Rhett is going to coordinate everything from the cut man to making sure the weigh-ins went properly, the photo-ops, the video shoots. You’re also adding a day to production aren’t you?
Jeff Aronson: We added an extra set day to production to really drill down on production on for this show. We really added a lot of bells and whistles to the production of this show. CBS is actually working in conjunction with us on cutting commercials for this show and you could see obviously on this show from the extended TV time to the integration to CBSSports.com and the fact that now we’re working together to cut the commercials for this show.
Adam Conklin: How big of a relief was it to get Titan FC 28 finalized?
Jeff Aronson: I mean, it was a tremendous relief. I was really concerned about the card. I did not want to do a card that was not up to the same level as the card we put out the first time. When I go back to the mantra of the company, the motto of the company, Fans, Fighters First, I really mean that. I want everybody to have an incredible experience. I don’t want to put on any garbage fights, I don’t want to put on boring shows, that’s why I’m out their incentivizing guys to go for the finishes. One thing fans will tell you, if they see me on Twitter, or they hit me up on Twitter and mention a name and tell me a fight that they’d be interested in or a fighter rallies his troops to start getting behind him and all of a sudden I’ve got guys hitting me up like crazy about a certain guy that may be a free agent, if I’m a fan I’m reaching out to them. There were a couple of guys on The Ultimate Fighter last night. I happen to have been at that event, I happen to have watched those fights live and there were a couple of guys that I hit up on Twitter last night that didn’t make it in to the house that I knew are really, really talented kids and I hit them up on Twitter last night and we’re already in negotiations with them right now.
Adam Conklin: Do you feel like Titan has finally arrived or do you feel like its a dark horse?
Jeff Aronson: I don’t think I’m ever going to be satisfied to the level of which success is attained because I’m always in competition with myself, not necessarily with anybody else or any other promotion. So, in that respect, I think there is a tremendous amount to be gained. Remember I just bought this company in January and put on the first show and then this is the second so as far as I’m concerned I see massive room to grow, massive expansion, the signing of free agents. There are a bunch of free agents signed recently that we haven’t released yet. There are title fights coming up. There are a whole bunch of things, new sponsors and all of that news I’ve been very quiet about because I’ve been getting negotiations done to provide the right platform for everybody. The biggest complaint I have from people on the first fight was that they can’t get the stream internationally. That was something I knew I had to take care of. Mike Ricci has more fans in Canada than you can possibly imagine and you can’t imagine how I was getting screamed at that we can’t get prelims over there so it was something I addressed and now we’re streaming.
Bryan Levick: Talk to us [about] how you added two fantastic match ups with Walt Harris, who we’ve spoken about before and D.J. Lindermanas well as two very tough veterans in Brian Foster and Gilbert Smith.
Jeff Aronson: I love those fights. As a fan, I’m in love with those fights. Brian Foster is a beast, so is Gilbert Smith. You’re talking about two guys who are going to let it all hang out. I think Walt in his first fight with Rosholt showed that he’s a beast. He didn’t get the nod and in his second fight, he got clipped, it happens. I’ve seen Walt Harris train in person, he’s been to my facilities so I’ve watched him train. Walt Harris is an animal, he’s a machine, he’s a phenom freak. He’s 6’6″ 260-pounds, he looks like he’s been chiseled out of a mound of rock. D.J. Linderman is as tough as they come. He’s not going to fall for anybody. I think those two guys are going to go out banging and one of those guys is going out on their shield that night.
Bryan Levick: I feel like [no matter who meets him] everyone is going to walk away with a smile on their face (on meeting Walt Harris in person).
Jeff Aronson: Everybody loves Walt Harris. If you’ve ever met Walt Harris, he always has a smile ear-to-ear he’s always happy, he’s just a good dude. Incredibly approachable, super nice guy and a guy who goes in that cage to hurt you. There’s no missing the fact about Walt Harris that if you get clipped by him, you’re going out. This is a massive man, this is a crossover athlete coming over from a very high level of basketball to MMA. He can be incredibly explosive, he has that gift of power, speed, athleticism. A lot more athletic than 90% of the heavyweights out there. He’s just a freak. He’s a very gifted guy and I just think he needed some more polishing before he went in to the UFC or maybe he just couldn’t perform under those big lights, I see it all the time.
Adam Conklin: What is the next logical move to help extend this reach further and expand your brand?
Jeff Aronson: I think its getting very regular with our shows. Fans knowing like clockwork that ‘every six weeks there’s a Titan show’, ‘every five weeks there’s a Titan show’, getting to the point where our young prospects are really out there. I started at Titan in January and I’ve already had two of my guys signed to the UFC that I’ve had under contract with my ‘ZUFFA-out’ that I give all my fighters so that tells you that the talent level that we’re signing is incredibly high level. We’ve really become the de facto place for veterans looking to get back as well. It’s really a question of continuing to grow, slow and steady wins the race even though I’m not really good at slow and steady but constant growth and constantly going and I’m just really excited fort he future.
Adam Conklin: How important is that ZUFFA-out is for fighters who are contemplating a move to Titan FC?
Jeff Aronson: I think that Zuffa-out has been, I couldn’t put in to words how powerful that is to allow us to lure over talent at the level that we have in the amount of talent that we have. I think fighters really appreciate the fact that with Titan, there’s a couple things that you know going in: You’re not going to get a ‘gimme’ fight. There are no ‘gimme’ fights. You’re going to be tested against the best guys in the world and when ZUFFA does come calling, you’re going to have that out to go and you’re also going to know that you’ve been battle-tested so its a win-win for everyone.
Bryan Levick: What was it like to witness Mike King and Nordine Taleb fight in person?
Jeff Aronson: First of all, the Mike King/Nordine Taleb fight was incredible. IT was two guys going in there. Two guys that I happen to represent and watching those two do battle in the cage, Dana [White] came up to me after the fight and said, this is the best fight I have ever seen to get in to the TUF house and if anyone is hurt, I want Nordine to come right in to the house. Well, no one got hurt and the next day UFC called and said TUF: Nations is filming and we want Nordine to come on the show immediately and Nordine flew right back to Canada and went right on the TUF: Nations show.
Bryan Levick: You’ve got Mike King on the show and I know you’re taking a step back from Alchemist, you’re not doing work for them anymore but its still got to be a prideful moment to see him win that fight and hopefully continue to move on and progress as a fighter because he’s another guy who is just supremely talented and he’s just a great guy to have around.
Jeff Aronson: Mike King is one of those guys. You can’t help to like Mike King. He’s just an incredibly humble guy, as sweet as can be. He gets in that cage and a switch flips and he 100% lets it go and makes no excuses about it. His family, his fiancee, Elizabeth, they’re great people, you know, again, a guy who has trained at the Alchemist training center a ton of times. I love Mike King and I see a tremendous future for him.
Adam Conklin: What do you think about Jake Shields signing with the World Series of Fighting?
Jeff Aronson: It was funny. I was very aggressively going after Jake Shields, very aggressively trying to bring him to Titan. Ultimately, I want the best thing for the fighter. Their the one stepping in that cage, not me and their fit happened to work better for Jake at this point and I really wasn’t involved. I was negotiating with Lex [McMahon] and he was negotiating with other people so I didn’t actually know what every deal was. I gave a shot, I tried, and I couldn’t make it come together but I’m thrilled with Jake and I’m glad that he’s in a good place.
Adam Conklin: Do you think that Fan, Fighter First motto is one that other promotions will have to eventually adopt to make a better atmosphere for their fighters?
Jeff Aronson: I think they’d be making a tremendous mistake if they didn’t. Honestly, I think we’ve proven out of the blocks what a difference it makes but you know what? If they want to stick to their same promoter ways and try and treat athletes like commodities, its not going to work for them because we’ll be out their doing what we do and continuing to grow on a daily basis.
You can listen to the entire interview with Jeff Aronson, Anthony Birchak, and Kalib Starnes on Stitcher and iTunes.