By Terri Cotta
...Promoting a Muay Thai event is not as easy as you might think, but if you want it to go well, then you had better take look at a few suggestions...
One of the most difficult sporting events to promote in the United States today, is in my opinion a "true" Muay Thai or Thai Boxing event. I say 'true' meaning the inclusion of elbows, knees, clinching etc., with all the trimmings. This is because there has been so many conflicting stories on the safety aspects of Muay Thai, that in the end have caused nothing but more controversy and prejudice in the minds of the people who run the sports authorities, especially in the United States. I would presume that Europe and Australia and other countries went through similar situations when Muay Thai was going through its growing pains, but my main story relates just to the United States.
The controversy and prejudice which in turn spread among other closely related sports, "who actually began the unfavorable rumors" and consequently filtered it down to Joe public. And when the sports and Athletic Commissions, being unable to receive the correct information, invariably turn to the systems closely akin to Muay Thai, who in turn are tempted to pass along biased information in the attempt to protect their own sport or reputation.
What this unfortunately caused was serious problems for those who wish to promote true authentic Muay Thai. I'll not waste your time or screen space explaining the details of what is involved in trying to promote a Muay Thai event, because I know many Thai Boxing promoters have already experienced this at some time or another. Everybody who has participated in Muay Thai knows of the "Bull and Fluff" that has been neatly spread around in the attempt to curtail the sport.
Getting into promoting Muay Thai is not easy, for one has to be lucky enough to be credited with the good fortune of being labeled as a "Good Promoter", (and they are few and far between). Also taking into consideration that to promote, you need to go through certain official channels, i.e. State or others of which we all know of the "red tape Bureaucracy", are a pain in the #@$! But unfortunately most often than not a necessary evil. In the land of Sue, no pun intended, it is often better to go through these channels than risk the problems that would occur.
To get back to the main reason of this series of promoting Muay Thai, there are a few major and several minor points to look at. First, one of these is of course the "All mighty Dollar", a small but vital point if you are to succeed in promoting....no money...no event, "Faith Hope have no Charity when it comes to the mighty dollar. At the same time, a promoter needs to have a little compassion and a lot more than just a little understanding of the sport. The promoter has not only to understand his contenders needs, but has to understand the needs of his paying audience. After all they are the people who will inevitably make or break an event, be it good or bad and not to say in your pocket!
Many up-coming promoters tend to ignore this small point because they feel that their major concern is the fighters. Without appearing negative and not wanting to discredit anyone out there, that fit into this category, but to coin an old phrase,
"Fighters are ten a penny, good fighters are rare, and true champions even rarer!!" Or another phrase,
"You will always find fighters, rarely find good one's and damn lucky to find a true Champion!
If this last phrase was true, there would be great fighters, super Champions and excellent Muay Thai events everywhere...
Point One; Half of these points I have mentioned are often no real fault of the promoter, who in his interests tries to emulate the promoters of the related sports , he often finds that the fighters out-price themselves for good events. Therefore most times unable to prove themselves to other fighters and to an audience who might have paid to support them. Often these types of fighters tend to ignore new promoters and try to rely on their own ego's and name rather than on their skill or performance in the ring. I am sure that nearly every promoter at some time or another has experienced this.
Fighters and promoters should bear in mind that Muay Thai is a fairly new sport in the USA, though it has been around for decades in Europe and elsewhere. They should also note that the "New sport on the block", is having to contend with the older and bigger and much more established martial art players who are still here. Trying to copy them does not always work out the way you want, and you will probably have more chance of 'crashing out' than you may have in succeeding. Again, this does not mean a financial loss to the promoter, but may damage his reputation as a Muay Thai promoter, if you try too hard to copy them.
Point Two; A promoter has to give his paying audience what they want, or it's a fact that they will not support him on his next event. So, how do you survive on the promoters battlefield? lets take a look at some options. You have to start by treating Muay Thai as the International sport it is. Just because it is not large or not televised in the USA as much as the other sports, does not mean that it is completely ignored. Only one's own ignorance will make it appear this way. Start to use the technology that is readily available for you, (Lights, Camera, Action!). Learn from the promotions of other systems of martial arts that you may have seen, watch how it is viewed on television and learn from the promotional points that appealed to you. Do not think you will make a killing in the promoters circle, it takes a good number of years to really become good and wealthy.
Promoters have to establish to other people that you are here for the long haul and not just a for short term profit. No promoter will make a good profit in the first year, unless he is really good and got plenty of money in his pocket and has reliable sponsors. Remember sponsors are the real 'bread and butter' for any promotion to look good. But sponsors want a pay-back too. They want their name or their product seen on as many things as is feasibly possible. Many times promoters have to cow-tail to the sponsors, but in the end it is the promoters event and not the sponsor. A point that should always be made clear to every possible sponsors.
A good promoter is an entrepreneur, he looks to find the best ways and means to make his event more appealing to his audience and his contenders. This is how a promoter should be, but he should not be out there to cut others throats who are trying to do the same thing. It is far better to work with them than it is to work against them. This suggestion is so that promoters do not stay stuck in the same old mold. At the same time, a promoter should be careful not to go O.T.T. (Over The Top) and become a circus manager. That image will definitely kill you sooner or later. Remember, this is Muay Thai and not Kickboxing.
Promote your event with 'Class' and 'Distinction'. One thing that the American public love is Class. It makes them appear special. Adding a touch of Thai culture to your event will appeal to many, just because no one has done this yet, does not mean it will not work. Someone has to start the ball rolling and the Thai's will be more willing to support your events... believe me, there are a lot more Thai people in this country than you may think. In New York City alone, there are over 56'000 Thais living and working, and they would love to see their national sport being promoted in the city they have adopted.
Plan your events a couple of months in advance, and not a couple of weeks. If you rush your event it will never come out the way you want. Try not to do it all yourself, even though doing it yourself often gets things done the way you want. Pass on parts of your event structure to those you feel are qualified to complete the tasks at hand. By doing this, you will get less of a headache.
Above all else, you have got to be honest and stick by your word. If you don't then they will never trust you again, this is from the sponsors, fighters, and audience alike. If you tell a contender that you will pay him X amount of money, then pay him that, and don't make excuses and attempt to pay him less.
Most promoters I have bumped into over the years, tend to state one figure to a fighter, then after the event deduct this fee and that tax etc., from his purse. This is unfair and also illegal. All deductions be it State, license fees or others, should have been planned well in advance and before the final figure is agreed upon by both fighter and promoter. This way everyone is happy, win or loose the promoter gains the respect of the fighter and audience alike, and a sure way of getting the reputation as a good and honest promoter. The fighters and audience will more often than not pass on this information about you and your event to others who may want to participate in your next event.
Point Three; Be Warned!!! A promoters job is not easy, it can be a tough game and the winners are inevitably those who have stuck it out and played by the rules of the game fairly. One area to take note of is; Never promote a championship unless you have clear and documented proof to back it up. ( there is nothing worse than having 15 thousand champions all at the same weight class). This is very important for a promoters reputation. Try to verify the fighters title or status, ask for proof, i.e. fight records, a copy of his championship fight videos or the names of other promoters whom he has fought for. If the fighter is a champion then he will belong to an organization which can prove it Don't be fooled by a fighters own words, check this yourself.
Remember, it is your reputation you are more concerned about not his. He will have the opportunity to prove his worth and his own reputation in the ring. If he is good he will become the champion he states he is. If he is not then people will often look at you first and think you as the promoter, had something to do with it.
To be fair to all fighters and audience alike, they have to feel that what they are watching or competing in, is factual. The simple but unfortunate area to any successful promotion, is the paperwork. You have to do it, If you don't you cannot verify anything. It is far better to spend a little time on these minor details for a promotion than it is on the major ones. Once this set pattern is formed all of your fighters will be quite well versed to the paperwork and are attuned to the regulations, not only for their own reputations but as proof to their professional or amateur skill as a fighter.
For amateurs, it is the license fee, the records and ratings form, the waiver form, etc, for the Professional it is the State License fee, Fight Records form, The waiver form, Fighters Contract Agreement form, etc.
As I have personally seen, no fighter wants to be bothered with these small but vital points, yet he wants the whole world to know of his victories as a way of promoting himself, his skill or his school. The only way this can be done is with the use of the 'paper trail'. The final point in this section is down to the promoter in the end, as he is the only one who has to make sure the results of his event are sent to the proper sanctioning body where the results of his event are recorded.
In the next section we will get into more detail on ways to promote an event with glitter and appeal that appears bigger than what it is, and cost a lot less than you think.