Titan FC CEO Jeff Aronson has been around the mixed martial arts (MMA) business for a long, long time. Aronson, former co-founder of Alchemist Management, understands both sides of it better than most, which is why is he's been so successful at the helm with Titan.
Now in his third full year as CEO, Aronson and COO Lex McMahon put together what was an incredible evening of MMA action at Titan FC 37 last Friday (March 4, 2016), featuring Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veterans and young guns alike.
With Titan events now shown on the UFC Fight Pass digital streaming service, and stars in the making like undefeated featherweight champion Andre Harrison racking up wins, Aronson took time to chat with MMAmania.com about the Titan FC 37 event, as well as what the promotion has in store for 2016.
For starters, give us your take on the Titan FC 37 event overall.
Aronson: I don't think I could've scripted a better story-tale ending to the Titan FC 37 card, especially coming off the conflicts of 36. I think the card more than delivered. I think we had some incredible upsets. We had some injuries that forced us to dig into our roster. I think it shows the depth of Titan.
Can you talk about working through some of those injuries?
JA: Brett Johns had to pull out of his fight against Ricky Simon. Anderson dos Santos is somebody that I've been scouting for awhile. I knew the kid was incredibly tough; a dynamic finisher and fast-paced fighter. He gave Ricky all he could handle and finished him, which was the biggest upset.
Weight issues have plagued a couple of past events now. What's your communication like with fighters and their teams during fight week?
JA: His [dos Santos] coaches assured us he'd make weight, but he obviously didn't. He missed by a pound. Nobody should ever miss weight. That's your job. The contract says you fight at 135 pounds, there's no one pound allowance. These guys are going to learn. They end up giving up some of their purse and not winning the title.
With other promotions, namely UFC, sometimes a promoter like Dana White will tell a fighter they need to compete at a heavier weight class. Will you need to make some changes in the future?
JA: If Brett Johns misses weight one more time, he'll never fight for Titan at 135 again. He's had two opportunities. If he misses with me again, he'll never fight at 135. With Anderson, I'll give him another chance but if he misses again, he'll never fight at 135.
As far as reform in weight cutting procedures goes, does it start from the top with commissions, or do promoters need to come together and come up with a plan to tackle the issue?
JA: I think as promoters, we need to take the lead of the commission. I think Andy Foster (Executive Director of the California State Athletic Commission) is really jumping on top of that. I think that's something that we're going to take the lead on. You need unified rules right? I know One is doing it, but they're outside of the commission. For us, we need to go the way of the commission.
Your thoughts on how far MMA has come and fighter free agency?
JA: When I first started on the management side, it was a very different game and you didn't have the promotions like a Titan. That's why we used to see fighters debut in UFC with 10-0, or 11-0 records. The problem is until a fighter is tested against someone of his own level, you don't know how good someone is. With Titan, you know these guys are fighting the best in the world in their class.
Can you give us a glimpse into what Titan's plans are for 2016?
JA: As I announced live on the show on Saturday night, Titan will be adopting basically the Strikeforce model. We're in the ultimate hotbed of MMA down in South Florida between American Top Team, the Blackzilians and MMA Masters.
What we're planning on doing is the best that we have here against the best around the country and in the world. We'll do all of our shows based in South Florida and then we'll do a challengers series, which are smaller shows, around the nation in the other hotbeds of MMA trying to find the top talent in those areas and bringing them to South Florida.
Any potential for a women's division in Titan?
JA: That's something we've been going back and forth on. Now that we're going to be dealing in South Florida, those gyms have plenty of up-and-coming girls that are ready. Depending on the situation, I would never rule anything out.
Titan, with its UFC relationship, has a fantastic niche carved out for itself, but do you foresee the possibility of hosting shows abroad?
JA: I think we'd be open to doing a show internationally if we found the right fighters and the right situation and we felt the we could put together competitive fights. If they weren't fights that I felt would truly be top level, I would not do it. It's that simple. For me, it's never been about making a quick buck. It's been a labor of love for me.
For more on upcoming Titan FC events click here.