Jesse Finney is a name that looms large over the MMA scene in the Midwest, but that's not because of his 6-1 record as a professional fighter.
Finney's real talent is his ability to broker deals, to get people to work together, and to make connections that make things happen. In fact, Finney helped get the Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock fight for Bellator approved in the state of Missouri.
In his recent interview with MMAmania.com, Finney talked about how the deals get done. Being the owner and CEO of Shamrock FC, Finney is no stranger to putting together big cards, including the Shamrock FC Showdown on March 21st at the River City Casino in St. Louis, Missouri.
"We've been around for 18 years coming up in July. Originally, we started doing kickboxing shows, and did some boxing shows, and in 2000 we started promoting mixed martial arts. Since then, we haven't stopped and we only continue to get stronger and stronger. If we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it right and do it first class."
Finney believes that Shamrock Fighting should be a destination event for the 21 and older crowd in St. Louis, and prices his events accordingly.
"Our cheapest ticket, like our standing room only ticket on Saturday night, is $45 -- that's to stand. Our tickets are extremely expensive. They go from $175 to $125 to $75 and then there's a limited amount of $50 seats. I've always believed in quality over quantity. If you're gonna give the $15-$20 ticket, that's the type of clientele you're going to get, and you're going to have problems. I'd rather sell 800 tickets than sell 2,000 tickets at $10."
Finney is a very business-savvy man, and there's no doubt Scott Coker was aware of that when he came up with the Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice plan. Finney even fought twice for Coker on Strikeforce shows in St. Louis, but it's Finney's expertise with the Missouri athletic commissions and regulations that benefit Coker the most.
"You know, I knew whenever he got the deal with Bellator we were gonna start doing some shows right away. He shot me a text and said 'Let's do this, this is where I'm going, are you interested?' and I said 'absolutely, let's see what we can shake out.'"
From there, it was just a matter of doing the legwork to make sure that a superfight featuring a 51-year-old would be approved in the state of Missouri.
"I helped with the commission. I have a good relationship with the commission. We do 20 some shows a year. I asked them what it would take and they said we're going to do all the extra medicals, so I said 'If they pass the extra medicals, will there be a problem?' And they said 'no, if they pass all the medicals, we can't turn down the fight.'"
Finney is humble about his own role, however, giving equal credit to Coker, Bellator, and his own partners.
"The bottom line is, I don't want to take anybody's credit. I never have and never will. I've always been the quiet guy behind the scenes. I believe in surrounding yourself with a group of good people instead of trying to be an individual. I've had enough of the spotlight in my day."
He does have a few predictions for how the fight will look on June 20th at the Scottrade Center.
"I think it's going to go one of two ways: I think Ken is gonna heel hook him or kneebar him, or Kimbo's going to end up knocking him out."
We'll find out in a few months.
In the meantime, you can listen to the audio from our interview with Finney below, and check out Shamrock FC's website for more details about its next big show on March 21st. If you can't be there live, you can still watch the fights via GoFightLive.