Back and Forth with BeeJay Smith
Last year was very good to the Farmington-based Nemesis Fighting Alliance.
They packed the Farmington Civic Center twice for two stellar shows. They raised over $5,000 for the Fredericktown Seniors at a charity MMA event, broke into the crowded St. Louis market, and had several fights nominated for fight of the year. If that wasn't enough, they were recognized by Spire, the largest amateur sanctioning body, as the area's best.
While he typically holds his cards close to the chest, promoter BeeJay Smith has begun unveiling his plans for 2013. Those plans include adding a popular live band, The Greek Fire, to their next Civic Center show, and a brand new format that will surely draw some buzz.
Last week word began to spread of completely new format for an amateur MMA event. Dubbed "Blind Date" by Smith, this new format will feature four or eight athletes at the same weight and similar skill level competing in a one night tournament. The twist: fighters don't know who they will be facing until their music plays. Innovative,unpredictable, and definitely something to see if it takes flight.
On the eve of their second charity MMA fundraiser, I caught up with Smith to pick his brain on a variety of topics including a new format, charity work, and what sets Nemesis a part from the other promotions.
KJ: This will be your seventh show in three years, what are a few of the highlights?
BeeJay: Team USA vs Canada showed me a lot about our fan base and the respect that can be spread out throughout this sport. Our fans not only showed respect to the Canadians during their national anthem and fights but also actually cheered them on at some points. The Canadian team told us they are used to boos and even people spitting at them. That just baffled me.
A fight that sticks out in my head as a highlight is Newman vs Alfaro. Both guys took this fight basically three days before the show, and they both had a "who cares who I'm fighting, I just want to fight" attitude, I love that. Those two went on to get a much deserved Fight of the Night award.
What have you learned, and how have you been able to grow so quickly?
Trust and being stern. We like to have fun and be creative. The two combined makes for some crazy ideas that when initiated can be very risky. We have learned to be comfortable at being risky and its paid off. Being stern is a must because guys will walk all over you and BS you. Fighters, coaches, sponsors, venue helpers, etc. It's not that they are trying to be disrespectful, but you just have to stand your ground. Our show is ran the way we want it ran period.
Spire has recognized you as their Promotion of the Year. Do you feel any pressure to try and stay on top?
First off, thanks to Spire for the recognition and thanks to the fans for the voting. We worked our butts off and believe that it paid off.
As far as pressure goes I will say yes and no. Jayson Cooper and Rob Francis are usually the first guys I go to outside my staff with new ideas and basic show info for our shows. I like to keep a good communication status with all people involved. It's always pressure to stay above the fads and not seep back down into the norm. There are some good shows out there and MMA isn't cheap so we got to do something out of the ordinary to raise extra interest. So to answer the question, we stay at the pressure level just to keep us busy and trendsetting.
You have a large workforce of family and friends, what are their roles and how do they make your life easier as a promoter?
Trust. The NFA staff isn't just a random staff lineup, most of us have all known each other for quite some time. We hang out with each other outside of the NFA and outside of MMA. They all have a role and they have all perfected their roles. They don't just make my job easier they make the NFA a possibility. From top to bottom I honestly think we have the best staff you could put together.
Black Cat Bash will be your second charity event. What drives you to give back, and what is your connection with the Fredericktown Seniors?
Why not? We are not here to put on tough man competitions. We are here to get MMA into every average persons conversation.
Spire official Rob Francis' hometown is Fredericktown. His networking eventually led to interest of an MMA event being used as a fundraiser, and that's right up our alley. We took that first show with a months notice and ran with it. Although it wasn't accepted by everybody at first I do believe that after the show it had won everyone over and so we were asked to return. Although this is our second show for the "Black Cats" this isn't really our only charity shows. We try to get involved within the community for every show we do. There are always good people out there going through hardships and they have no real outlet to get noticed or boost their cause. That's our job and we embrace this to the fullest. You will see more and more NFA events that help out families as well as helping these hard working fighters recognition.
How much money was raised last year, and what are your goals this year for the charity?
The final numbers are not specific but I know we were over the 5k mark. Every charity is different so we have to approach it as such. We not only want to help the seniors raise money but we want them to understand how to help themselves and work for it. Knowing that you busted your butt for your whole class is a great feeling. We hope to have great success in all these shows so the word spreads and more schools jump on board. Like my brother Korey Smith said, "This is a real fundraiser. Selling Krispy Kremes just don't cut it anymore."
You obviously like to think outside the box and your events have evolved from show to show, do you believe this sets you a part from the other promotions?
Absolutely, no question about it. We bring a full night of entertainment to the audience. Fights, lights, great sound, awards, cheap tickets, HD Video, fun and now live bands. I would be willing to bet that besides Pro/Ams that I have the largest bill after my shows. I put a lot of money right back into my shows and I think it's deserving to the fans and fighters I have personally paid $25-35 dollars to go watch fights numerous times. Yes, they are exciting but after a few hours they get old. I don't care if you have a full night of Silva vs Jones eventually it's going to get boring. We try to offer something refreshing and new at every show. It's not always groundbreaking but its at least something to keep the show from getting stagnant. It's not about following a trend to stay successful, it's about guessing and perfecting the next trend so everybody adopts it.
What gave birth to this Blind Date format?
I dreamt it. I had a dream that we were getting fighters in order and lost the fight card. To stall the moment Korey played a song and it happened to be a fighters song and he walked out. In the dream, they weren't the same weight class and I looked like Brad Pitt so obviously I had changed a few things about it but that's how it came to be.
Are you worried about other promoters might steal your idea?
Yes and no. I don't want to keep these ideas as just mine or try to be stingy in anyway. If this helps grow the sport then I would hope others would adopt it. What I don't want is people taking the ideas and creating a garbage filled disaster of show. I don't want anyone to have a bad taste in their mouth after experiencing this format. Fighter, coach or fan.
Whats the plan for 2013 outside of the two announced events?
In talks to do a pro/am and introduce way bigger bands to accompany our MMA shows.
Will we see you back in St. Louis this year?
I like being down south a little because St. Louis has a ton of shows going on and we have built a great fan base down here. I'm always up for ideas and doing something odd so we shall see what happens. 2013 will be another year of Nemesis Fighting Alliance excitement, bank on that.
Check out the Nemesis Fighting Alliance when they return to action on March 9th in Fredericktown, MO.