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A Monday Morning Perspective From The Audience at ‘ECS1’

SWFight was well represented this past Saturday night at the McKernan Event Center in Albuquerque’s South Valley as we had one member of the staff working media cageside and another enjoying the festivities from the last row of the audience.

First, let me start with a very strong critique of the Elite Combat Series as well as the other promotions around town. The concept of media and the need for it needs to be reevaluated in the near future if the promoter desires to have success in their ticket sales and overall exposure and success. The blueprint for promoting a MMA show in New Mexico somewhere along the line went awry and it is a significant reason why ticket sales have declined over the last two years. For this specific event, SWFight wasn’t contacted until the event was but a couple of weeks away despite my personal outreach to the promotion months prior.

Andrew TennesonThe unfortunate conclusion that stems from the lack of communication between promotion and media is that the fighters do not receive their fair shake at proper exposure. The job of a promoter is quite simple, to promote an event. That ideology has been ignored by many and it seems a forgotten art for a promoter to actually work to sell an event. A promoter is responsible for ticket sales and in the process of selling those tickets, a promoter must use the media as means of adding to the event’s exposure. A promoter promotes and the media compliments that promotion with coverage that will solidify a consumer’s decision to spend their money on the product. With a promoter and media working together, only a third aspect of a MMA show remains, the fighters, whose sole purpose is to entertain the crowd and ensure that they return to future events for the satisfaction of entertaining combat action.

The current landscape of the fight scene in New Mexico does not build upon that ideology. Instead, promoter’s use social media to replace most media and they contractually obligate fighters to sell their tickets with the incentive of a percentage of ticket sale money to be added to a fighter’s purse. It is a shame that a hard-working athlete preparing for hand-to-hand combat should be worried the week of a fight on selling tickets to make extra money instead of spending that time training for a better weight cut or to come better prepared for the fight to entertain the audience.

With that being said, there should have been more media coverage for this event but due to the lack of communication between promotion and media the ball was dropped by both ECS and SWFight. The worst part of it all was that the event was actually very exciting and the promotion seems to have great potential going forward. Now if only promoter’s will use media as a compliment to their own fight promotion maybe we can all contribute to selling out venues. (*Disclaimer: If anyone would like to challenge my theory of media playing a much larger role than some promoter’s (or coaches, or any figure in the fight community) give us credit for, I will happily share the ticket sales for any MMA/boxing show to take place in the last several years to compare events that received our media coverage with those that did not to see the difference in trends for ticket sales. Believe me, it is significant.)

With that being said, let’s get to the perspective from the last row in the audience at Elite Combat Series 1:

  • The McKernan Center is an interesting venue that could have some serious potential should the promotion want to keep the venue for future shows. Space doesn’t seem to be an issue but the open warehouse can muffle some of the noise other small venues obtain in high-volume. The only gripe in terms of the show’s value I heard on several occasions was a request for screens to watch the action when a fight hits the mat. From the back rows it was nearly impossible at times to watch ground work due to the poor angle. Not a lot of shows offer screens but for such a vast venue, it should be considered.
  • On a positive note, being that I feel that I have been negative despite my intentions not to come across that way, I really enjoyed the show and felt as if the promotion did a great job matching fights. My colleague Jorge Hernandez speculated the audience was near 400 and at the event I estimated it slightly lower at 300-350. Those are actually solid numbers as they marginally beat out Triple-A-MMA’s efforts in the same venue and this was their very first show. I think the magic number in New Mexico for that size of venue is between 500-600 for the event to be considered a success at the box office and it seems ECS is already well on their way to hitting that number.
  • Every event has a memorable moment outside of the cage. Whether that moment be a crowd fight or a drunk fan screaming random things to the fighters in the cage, there is always one. At this event, that moment came when a women directly behind me blew a horn so loud that every sound in the venue was muffled. At first, I thought a Vuvuzela was behind me but upon the woman walking close to the cage I found that a woman was in fact blowing on an enormous antler of sorts (maybe Elk?). It was the first time I saw someone use a horn in this way and definitely the first during a combat event.
  • Luttrell’s MMA definitely came out of the night as the biggest winner because one of their youngest talents, Stephen Cervantes dominated in his main event bout against a Brazilian fighter who was highly touted. Either the hype was blown out of proportion for Romulo Vilhena Medeiros in his debut in the U.S. or Cervantes is the real deal as the explosive wrestler won on the feet and finished things off on the ground with a rear-naked choke submission.
  • For me, the standout fighter from the fight card was Andrew Tenneson of the Jackson-Wink gym. Tenneson is very unorthodox and now undefeated at 2-0 (4-0 amateur) it will be interesting to see how his career moves forward and if any local fighters can figure out the puzzle that is Tenneson’s style of fighting. His striking is kick heavy and unorthodox in that he throws lots of lead kicks in a variety of angles and attacks the head, body, and legs. The complicated puzzle only gets more complicated when the fight hits the mat as Tenneson is crafty and technical but simultaneously creative and unique. Tenneson is a solid prospect in the regional circuit and his submission win over Joel Whitney, of whom many spoke volumes of his Jiu Jitsu acumen was a marquee victory.
  • It was painful to watch Tenneson torque Whitney’s arm, shoulder, and wrist in the second round when Tenneson locked in a tight omoplata. I respect Whitney’s pain tolerance but that was hard to watch.
  • Dorian Dixon’s win over Jesse Long was a huge victory locally for the Rosales Kickboxing product. Dixon is not an imposing figure and nothing about the calm demeanor fighter screams intimidation but when he is in the cage, Dixon is a calculated assassin with strikes. The accomplished amateur fighter bounced back from his pro debut loss to rack up two consecutive submission finishes of game opponents. Jesse Long is a respected name in the fight community and the way Dixon was able to control him throughout the bout was impressive.
  • I wasn’t one of the fans who roared in excitement for Francisco Marin’s victory and I have no problem justifying the reasoning. I do believe it was impressive that Marin was able to showcase his durability as he took everything his opponent, Armando Rivas had to offer. However, the finishing sequence left a bitter taste in my mouth. Marin would land a low kick to the groin of Rivas and follow it up with a head kick that prompted a referee stoppage. I am not saying the low kick was intentional but Marin didn’t seem to show any type of remorse of concern following the kick. I have seen video from two different angles to compliment my live view of it and it is clearly a kick to the groin. Rivas goes down holding his groin and is clearly on the ground in pain due to the low kick.  If our Athletic Commission has a legitimate interest in setting the precedent of doing the right thing, this fight will be deemed a No Contest.
  • In terms of the fight prior to that ending, Rivas looked great in the cage and looked a good one weight class larger than Marin. It was evident that Marin has the striking chops to make a career out of mixed martial arts but after fighting Rivas I would assume his career will continue at 155-pounds instead of 170-pounds.
  • The amateur portion of the card was exciting and the promotion did a great job at not leaving an lapses in time that would potentially ruin the fluidity of the show. From exciting finishes to back-and-forth three round bouts, the preliminary action definitely set the stage for the pro card.
  • I do believe that in one bout, the ball was dropped at four different levels. During the Mateo Sanchez vs. Andrew Herrera bout, Sanchez suffered an obvious knee injury in the second round. I understand that athletes are “tough” but the fact the fight went into the third round was downright irresponsible. This fight should have been stopped by the referee in the second round or in the very least between rounds and he failed to do so. The doctor’s cageside should have halted this bout between rounds (arguably the AC could have intervened as well for the safety of a fighter). The coaches of Sanchez should have halted this bout and most importantly the fighter should have halted the bout on his own. This was an amateur fight and it was painfully obvious that Sanchez had significant damage to his knee; at this level of the fight game a fighter should not risk long-term injury that could damage his career and health in general. At the end of the day, amateur fights do not matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • I am looking forward to a second show from ECS and hope that in the next go-round that they tweak a few things and work more closely with media to sell out that venue or any other venue they occupy. It would also be great to see the promotion use fighters from gyms excluded in this event to really capitalize on fan support. Impressive in their ticket sales for the first show, a second show would be even more successful if they include fighters from some of the other gyms with the immense fan support. They already did a great job bringing in the Chavez Dojo crowd (from minutes down the street) which is one of the best support crowds of any gym in New Mexico.

About Phillip Lujan

Phillip Lujan is one of the lead contributors and a featured writer for SWFight.com. Specializing in MMA breakdowns and analysis, Phillip is considered the MMA aficionado on staff. With nearly ten years of experience in combat sports, gazing through the eyes perceptively as a fan and a cornerman and from fight manager to analyst. He can be reached on twitter at @KingStark24 or through email at marcello.lujan@gmail.com.