The WFC: Who – and what – are they?
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say this reporter didn’t know much about the World Fighting Championships – which is staging a card at the Meadowlands Racetrack and Casino this weekend (near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), featuring Antonio Nieves and Oscar Mojica for the NABO bantamweight title – before talking to its founder and President Matt McGovern on Thursday.
“So Matt, just what is the WCF?” I asked.
“WFC,” replied McGovern in correcting me.
(Yeah, that was pretty embarrassing; I have to admit.)
But McGovern took it in stride and explained, “It’s a fight promotion where we do all combat sports but the majority, this year, is boxing. We cater our product to local, regional fight fans, small casinos, deals all over the country and we just do a lot of volume.”
Currently they are doing about two shows a month. After this card tonight, next week, they’ll be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
And yes, the – hold on; let me make sure I get this right – WFC does have a couple of boxers under contract.
”We’re picking and choosing,” said McGovern. “We’re going to build up. I’m just getting the lay of the land for the type of fighters we’re looking for and the type of fighters’ networks we’ll be looking for because, right now, we’re set up and profitable off of just local tickets sales and our sponsors and local casinos and, once we pop television into that equation, we’ll really be able to do a lot of volume, probably more than any other promotion out there and move fairly quickly.
“But, in the meantime, in terms of building prospects, I have to kind of understand the math on the other side of it before I make the investment into it now. So we have two guys under contract: Travis Scott and Justin Thomas and they’re good draws in the Baton Rouge market. We’re looking at a few guys in the Northeast because we do some shows in the Pittsburgh area and I’m more interested now in what I call ‘junior college transfers,’ where a guy has already been there or he’s been able to compete at the Division 1 level or the main stage as a ‘B-side’ or has been there before and has just gotten released from his contract and he has an established record.”
There’s a very pragmatic reason McGovern wants to go the Bob Huggins route in building his roster.
He explains, “Because it’s expensive to build these guys without television. You’re working with a minimal budget and they might take half your budget.”
Despite not having a lot of fighters, they have consistently put on cards since starting up in 2012. “This Saturday will be our 53rd show and we’ve never lost money and we do more shows than anybody. We’re pretty fortunate to have the deal that we have, so it’s good,” said McGovern, who, in the past, worked with the Lane Brothers (Lets Get it on Promotions), TKO Promotions (remember them?) and the NBA D-League.
So the WFC (did I get that right?) is here but is it here to stay? How do they not become another TKO Promotions (which actually had Terence Crawford, Leo Santa Cruz and Randy Caballero all under contract at one point)?
“Stick to our business model,” stated McGovern, who is steadfast in sticking by his formula. “Every day somebody wants us to get out of our business model by paying more money or bringing in a fighter that doesn’t bring value to our event and, if we stick to that model, while we have the revenue that we do, then we’ll be fine and be profitable every show. I wont do a show without being profitable just because I do the math before I do the event.”
Unlike other organizations, they won’t just blithely do “loss leaders” on a consistent basis.
McGovern says, “It’s on me whether we make money or not; a lot of the stuff in the boxing game, a lot of the guys are relying on other people to do deals, bring a venue or bring TV or get another fighter. I don’t rely on a lot of promoters. I don’t do very many – or any – co-promotions. So it’s kind of on me, at the end of the game.”
WFC’s first foray into boxing was a co-promotion with Top Rank Promotions in Laughlin, Nevada, “But it didn’t fit our business model for our properties. So we just walked away from doing those type of deals. In the future, we can always go back and do bigger things. But our model has to generate dollars and cents. If it works, it works.”
So why did McGovern get into this racket? Many have come and gone, full of hopes and dreams, only to be out of the business a short time later. He must have heard the horror stories about the boxing industry well in advance.
“I go to sleep and wake up to it. It’s a nasty business,” McGovern says with a chuckle, “and there’s a lot of curveballs with it. It’s just a challenge and that’s what I like about it. The things other people aren’t willing to do we get done. We move a little faster than most people. We’re tech savvy and that’s how we do so many shows with a small staff and minimal budget. But you can see how the UFC built a real business into this and it’s paid off for them.
Speaking of the UFC, which looks like it’s on the verge of being sold for billions, for the graduate of the University of Nevada at Reno’s school of business, boxing is just that – a business. McGovern’s goal for his company is plain and simple.
“Build it up; build a real business. Try to take it a little bit off my plate as you build a real business, so it can run itself make an impact and sell the thing,” says the 32-year-old, who isn’t destined to be a boxing lifer like Bob Arum.” That’s the real goal. I don’t want to be in this business as an 80-year-old promoter because you’re just going to be dealing with the same type of problems. It’s a real business approach. Ninety percent of the people in the business – or more – it’s a real passion and you’re not going to get a lot of fans that way because people want to relate with someone who’s super, super-passionate about the sport but it’s a business and you’ve got to stick to your model and every person you interact with will try and get you off that model.
“But if we just stick with what we do, we’ll become a force in this business and we’ll be able to get the attention of the networks.”
And yes, without TV, it’s tough to sustain a company above the club level. If you want to be a player, you have to have an outlet to move your product.
“We’ll put in the sweat equity; it’ll go through,” said McGovern, whose company, like many other smaller outfits, has been affected by Premier Boxing Champions flooding the market the past year or so. “But it’s been working and it’ll be very successful. We’re fortunate to have so many fights and so many good people involved with our shows. We’re lucky to be where were at.”
WFC will do around 19 events this year but McGovern reiterates, “I need the attention of the networks but you need the fighters to get their attention. We’ll see what we do. Maybe it’ll be a co-promotion type of situation. We might have an MMA deal with a TV network or Fight Pass, maybe by the end of the year, so we’ll see. But you have to have television, if you want to survive, because it’s painful just selling tickets and getting local ticket sellers with a small budget.”
OK, this much is clear: Boxing is a business for McGovern but doesn’t he enjoy its treacherous nature just a little bit?
“Absolutely not; let’s be real,” he says laughing. And who can blame him? This weekend, he had one boxer tell him he had no car to get to the venue. When a flight was offered, the fighter said he hated to travel alone and would need two airline tickets. Then McGovern had a heavyweight fall out because of asthma, to which he replied, “This isn’t like you just got it today.”
Yeah, this is the fun, wacky boxing business.
“It’s a painful process,” he admits, “but when you build up a promotions, you build up a lot of good relationships; you kind of filter out the snakes and bad people, the non-reliable people. It’ll get a little bit easier but the people at the very top have the very same situation, so you can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
In the latest episode of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” Mario Lopez and I discuss everything from the past HBO and Showtime cards to “OJ: Made in America” and “Game of Thrones.”
For more information about the World Fighting Championships, you can log onto its website right here.
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