The year 2011 is now generally recognized as the biggest year in American Muay Thai to date. The quality of the shows and the talent on display (both US and International) were unprecedented. Much of the success of 2011 can be attributed to the meteoric rise of the newly launched Las Vegas based Muay Thai fight promoter, Lion Fight Promotions. With their four headline events last year they were able showcase many of the top American fighters as well as a number of highly ranked international fighters. Now at their new venue, The Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, with their stacked February 25th (2012) fight card headlined by a Joe Schilling vs Simon Marcus main event, they are continuing their upward momentum into this year. From my years of corporate experience, I know that success stories like these are not simply a result of luck, they require hard work and most importantly a vision. I sat down with Scott Kent, the President and CEO of Lion Fight Promotions to find out more about how together with former professional Muay Thai fighter, Christine Toledo, they were able to make this vision come true.
Scott Kent has been a long time business executive in Las Vegas. He has also trained in Muay Thai (both here and in Thailand) for a number of years and he has developed a great passion for it. In the late 2000’s he was doing some consulting work for a hotel, booking boxing and Muay Thai events. During this time, he met Christine Toledo while officiating at an amateur Muay Thai event. Christine had been training and fighting out of the Las Vegas area for a few years at that point.
Soon the hotel had been working with, asked Scott if he could get his promoter’s license so they could work with him directly. Scott jumped at the opportunity and he also knew that he wanted to partner with someone who was knowledgeable and well networked within the Muay Thai community. He talked to Christine about the opportunity to build a Muay Thai promotion and quickly brought her on board. As the two set out to build their promotion, they wanted to ensure that they always had what was best for Muay Thai and its growth as their mission. In an effort to ensure this, they took the unprecedented step of soliciting the opinions of fighters to find out what they like, what they don’t like, what they need and what would they like to see from a fight promotion. From these discussions, they learned that many fighters felt that a promoter who had some business sense and a plan was very much needed to help the sport grow. In addition, the promoter needed to have the right connections to help market and create venues. In their view, the sport had been in a holding pattern for a number of years in terms of growth and the right person with the right connections was needed to help it grow.
They also heard that fighters would like to know when and where they’re next fight would be. The inconsistency of fights was hindering the development of many of the fighters. Based on this, Scott and Christine set out to build a ‘home base’ for US Muay Thai fighters. They felt that being in Las Vegas was a huge advantage in that it was already recognized as the ‘Fight Capital’ of the world and they would be able to work with the respected Las Vegas State Athletic Commission (take that CSAC!).
This has indeed proven successful as Scott points to Chaz Mulkey’s 2011 season. Chaz had been one of the fighters to speak to Scott and Christine and he told them he wanted to fight the highest level of fighters, preferably international ones. Since then, Mulkey’s career has taken off with his 4-0 record last year (all Lion Fight Promotions events), which included victories over highly regarded international opponents Ken Tran(Canada), Remy Bonnell(France) and Simon Chu(England). Scott attributes some part of Chaz’s success to his ability to know well in advance where and when his next fight will be.
From his perspective, Mulkey has found Lion Fight Promotions to be a great promotion to work with. In addition to delivering challenging match-ups he also points to their willingness to spend the money on putting on a good show. From their securing of great venues like the Hard Rock Casino, to their taking on the cost of bringing in big name international fighters. As Chaz puts it “they are a promotion that seems more concerned with putting a great show than how much money they can make and I think it’s a really good thing”.
Kent is also hoping to provide the same type of platform to the always compelling Joe Schilling, with his multi-fight signing of the Los Angeles based star. Lion Fight is the first American based promoter to sign a fighter to an exclusive multi-fight deal. In signing fighters like Schilling and others to deals like this, Kent is hoping that it will provide them with a stable situation in which they can focus on their training and be matched up with top international fighters. Scott believes this will give American fighters their best chance at having a world title shot.
As for the future, Lion Fight is currently looking at moving forward with the right partner in televising their events. They are looking for a commitment from a partner to televise a number of events and thereby have a vested interest in the growth and success of Muay Thai in America.
So as we look back on their first year of existence, we can see that Scott and Christine listened closely to what the fighters had to say. From the start, their approach to marketing has been spot on. Their fight poster artwork, event trailers, usage of social media and assembling of strong fight cards have raised the bar for Muay Thai all Muay Thai promoters. With their new venue The Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas proper and their multi-fight signing of Joe Schilling and their now stellar reputation, Lion Fight Promotions clearly have a plan and are very well positioned for their future growth and American Muay Thai will be the ultimate beneficiary from that.