The decision to enter the shark-infested waters of fight promotions is one that many enterprising individual foolishly embark on, often to financial ruin. Despite the best intentions of even the noblest individuals, the licensing red tape and hodgepodge of personalities and shysters makes putting on a fight card an emotionally and physically daunting task.
All of which is why it raised a number of collective eyebrows here in the Dallas-Fort Worth fight media when it was announced that there was a new promotional entity ready to dip their toes into the shark-infested waters.
Texas Amateur Fighting League (TAFL) is the latest entrant into the ultra-competitive world of fight promotions. Headed by Alex Madrid and Nick Pahanish, TAFL will hold their inaugural promotion, an amateur MMA event, this Saturday at the Diamond W Arena in Alvarado, TX. While promoting an amateur event may seem relatively easy when compared to putting on a professional show, that perception is a huge misnomer, especially when it comes to putting on a mixed martial arts card.
So the question is asked, why the hell would anyone with an ounce of sanity subject themselves to the maddening aspects prevalent in the fight game? For TAFL co-president Alex Madrid, things just fell into place.
“I knew I was getting out of the Marine Corps, and about seven months ago, I knew I was getting out, and I needed to get a job,” explains Madrid. “My coach said something like, ‘I’m thinking about putting on a fight,’ and what I did was say, ‘well, let me see if I can help you out with this.’ Then I started dabbling around here and there, making some inquiries, and then before you know it I was knee deep in getting our license. Once I got into getting our license, I was getting the venue, getting the fighters, and before you know it, here we are. This was a seven month thing.”
Madrid, a proud member of the United States Marine Corps, soon found that there was lot he didn’t know about the world of fight promoting. Chief among these new discoveries was the fact that you needed a license to promote amateur MMA here in Texas.
“There were a lot of roadblocks. At first I had no idea who [the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations] was,” admits Madrid. “I thought we could just find fighters and put on a fight. So, I went at this knowing nothing about the game whatsoever. We had planned the fight, and then I found out about the whole licensing process. We stopped and started from scratch. I had to go at it from scratch. I had to learn about insurance, about getting my license, and it was all trial and error. We did it all on our own and it took us about two months of talking with TDLR, talking with an insurance agent, and before you know it, we had our license.”
Madrid continues, “We actually planned this fight, and prematurely we planned this fight in hopes that we would have our license and we went into TDLR. What they did is give us a date for our interview and what they said was that this could take anywhere from eight weeks to six months to get your license. We had planned this fight scheduled, but not set in stone, but we kinda crossed out fingers and prayed. In less than two weeks they called and said, ‘hey, you got your license.’ From there we just went full force. We lined up all the fighters we had and said, 'let’s go to war; let’s make it happen.’”
When Madrid speaks, you can tell by his tone that the man is a meticulous planner and deeply passionate about the sport of mixed martial arts. Both traits, Madrid is quick to point out, are byproducts of his years spent serving our country in the Armed Forces.
But while Madrid was always drawn to the art of combative sports, his full emersion into modern day MMA has been done in a relatively short amount of time.
“Myself, I’ve been involved in [MMA] for two years now,” explains Madrid. “However, I’ve dabbled in it for 11 1/5 years since I joined the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps does line training evolving to the Marine Corps martial arts program. So, since I’ve been in it for 11 1/5 years, I’ve been around it, and in the meantime, I’ve been in karate since I was a little kid. But, actually doing jiu-jitsu, and then making my way up into MMA, doing a little bit of training with Durwyn, I’d say about two years now.”
Most fight fans here in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are quite familiar with the name Durwyn Lamb. Not only is he one of the most respected young trainers in the game, he is an astute practitioner of mixed martial arts, most notably his merits as a muay thai fighter.
Lamb serves as a consultant of sorts for Madrid, as few trainers and fighters have managed to clear the hurdles that Lamb has seen.
With a core of passionate individuals at its helm, Texas Amateur Fighting League is poised to put on their first promotion this Saturday night. The promotion, entitled North Texas Ultimate Fighting: The Induction, will be a 10 bout amateur MMA card featuring a lightweight title fight between Michael Lytle and Burt McDonald. But while the card itself is shaping up to be quite a show, most fight fans in North Texas are wondering: why Alvarado?
Situated about 20 miles south of Fort Worth, Alvarado is a sleepy suburb in Johnson County. But while Alvarado may not be the fight hub that its other counterparts in the metropolis are, to hear Madrid tell it, the citizens are more than excited about the first MMA promotion to be held in its city limits. According to Madrid, this location was prime real estate for an MMA promotion.
“It was just something I wanted to do,” Madrid explains. “What I noticed is that there are quite a few amateur and pro organizations in the game. I’m new to the game, but what I noticed is that there are a lot of people that stay [in the area]. There are a lot of MMA fans who will not travel out that far, so they stay here. So, getting a venue is hard to get in Fort Worth because there are very few venues that will hold that amount of people unless you talk about the convention center which is an extreme amount of money for a show.”
Madrid continues, “So, I started looking around for other venues and you do not want to do too small of a venue, so then again I started looking south, and I was like well, Alvarado, Cleburne, there are a lot of MMA fans out there and they have been asking for [fight cards] as well. It’s only 20 miles south of Fort Worth, so if you have true MMA fans, they’re willing to drive 20 miles to see that show, and I’m also bringing something to Cleburne and Alvarado that they’ve been wanting for a long time.”
So far the fans out in south Fort Worth and Johnson County have embraced the idea of MMA invading their neck of the woods.
“Oh, everyone loves it,” explains Madrid. “Promotions wise, when it comes to foot travel, to promote my flyers and my posters, I was never turned down once. I was welcomed with open arms, and not only was I welcomed with open arms to put up posters and hand out my flyers, but they were asking me where they get tickets. They’re telling me that they are interested, or, if they aren’t interested, they have family and friends who are. The venue itself, people had been asking them for a long time to put on a show like this coming out to that area.”
Madrid continues on, “Another thing I see is different leagues hop around DFW to Houston and San Antonio and whatnot. I plan on being DFW based for quite awhile to build a fan base out here before I even plan on leaving the city limits. I want to build my fan base huge, and then slowly start to merge out and come back. So, I want to stay here and put on a few shows, emerge out, and then come back. This is my hometown, this is where my hometown is going to be, but I will reach out along the way and move out because I see other places where they are bouncing around so much they are not giving themselves enough time to advertise, promote, and their fan base is a little more minimal than what I’m trying to get. I want to walk around and people say, ‘hey there’s North Texas Ultimate Fighting.’”
So what exactly can fight fans expect from TAFL's initial foray into the world of fight promotions? Lots of high-octane energy is what Madrid guarantees. After all, this is their first fight card; a great first impression is paramount.
“One, the music is going to be high energy,” states Madrid. “We are going to have some beautiful ring card girls there. The fights themselves, we just don’t let anyone come off the streets and fight. When we get our fighters they’re definitely screened. They are either people that we know their coaches very well, we watch clips of them, we watch training sessions of them, and they are all screened very well. We just don’t throw people together. We know that I one person is a good boxer with little ground game; he is matched against an opponent with great ground game, but little boxing so that it is a great fight.”
Madrid continues, “Two, it’s not just some little rink-a-dink ring, like I’ve fought in before. No, my [cage] is a two door cage, it costs almost $14,000, and so, it’s a legit [cage]. There is definitely not one bad seat in the house. If you get there early, you get to pick your own seat. It’s going to be high energy and we are just going to keep pumping it up, we’re just going to keep it live the whole time. There will not be a dull moment. It’s our first event, our first impression. I didn’t go into this hoping to get rich. I went into this to let them people know that we are here for the fans. We want to stick around for a long time and without these fans, we are not going to be able to do that.”