Beyond the Cage with Cage Fury Fighting Championships Promoter Rob Haydak
By William Holmes
Cage Fury Fighting Championships was previously owned by Felix and Amy Martinez before being bought by new and upcoming promoter Rob Haydak. We were able to catch up with Rob and ask him a few questions about his promotion and upcoming plans.
MMAonline: What made you get into promoting mixed martial arts?
Rob Haydak: Years ago when Cage Fury had started off it was owned by Felix Martinez. He is a lifelong friend, and we wrestled together in high school. I helped him out periodically with the marketing for upcoming shows, and my passion for the sport grew. I wrestled division one at Wagner College in New York, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the athletes. When Felix shut down the company, we had discussions to bring it back, and my brother and I made moves to acquire the company and start it back up.
MMAonline: How long have you been involved with Cage Fury?
Rob Haydak: I started back in 2005 when I assisted Felix with marketing on different shows, and I started at a full time capacity at the beginning of this year. We had our first show in February, another one in April, and then one last month. We have a total of 8 shows scheduled for 2011. First two shows we had were on Saturday night, but our shows in May and June were on a Friday night. In Atlantic City Saturday nights are more advantageous because you get more of a fan draw, more people are working on Fridays and most of our fighters are regional for the most part and it’s tougher to run a successful show on a Friday. Our June event is our last Friday show, the remainder of our events will be on Saturdays.
MMAonline: Do you have any prior MMA experience yourself?
Rob Haydak: In Mixed Martial Arts have competed in amateur kickboxing, and have some jiu jitsu training. I am also a black belt in goju karate. Like I started earlier, I wrestled in college. I have also coached wrestling at Sacred Heart High School for ten years.
MMAonline: What fighters that currently fight for Cage Fury are you most excited about?
Rob Haydak: There is a lot of them. Joey Rivera who just won the welterweight belt is a fighter we are excited about, and he used to wrestle for Vineland High School. Jimmy Williams is also a very exciting fighter that fights for us. Our matchmaker has done an excellent job at finding talent. Ozzy Dugulubogov is a great talent, Kyle Cerminara was an Olympic alternate in wrestling, has a huge fight in front of him. Watching the up and comers is an exciting part of the sport, you can tell which guys have a knack for it and will move onto great things. Nah-Shon Burrell is another one of those guys that we are excited about being a part of our promotion.
MMAonline: What are some of the upcoming fights for Cage Fury that you think fans should be excited about?
Rob Haydak: If you look at the history of the fights that we put on, we generally have smaller cards than most promotions. We don’t want people to be there for four or five hours because we know most people are there to watch a specific fighter. Our next card has eight fights, and I am looking forward to every single fight. Kyle Cerminara, Steve Perez vs. Trevor Suiter should be in exciting fights. John Cholish is a guy that before you know it will be fighting for the title. Jameel Childs is a WEC and Bellator veteran and our main event is going to be great. Igor Gracie obviously is on the co-main event, and obviously whenever you have a Gracie fighter on your card you have to be excited. We has some exciting fights on our next card and I’m looking forward to it.
MMAonline: What are some of the future plans for Cage Fury?
Rob Haydak: Our objective for 2011 was to simply get Cage Fury back into everyone’s minds. We wanted to rebrand the company, put on exciting fights, and do that over 8 fights throughout the year. All indications this year is that we are achieving our objective. We want to focus all of our efforts on fighters and managers, and treat them as the professionals that they are. Our staff does an excellent job assisting the fighters in their paperwork, making sure everything is done, and making sure they are taken care of when they arrive at venue. If we keep doing this, fighters will enjoy fighting for us and continue to come back over and over.
MMAonline: Cage Fury previously attempted a PPV event featuring Kimbo Slice vs. Ray Mercer, do you think you’ll ever attempt to get on PPV again?
Rob Haydak: Probably not….I think that ultimately that was the thing that possibly brought Cage Fury down years ago, they probably attempted it a little too soon. If there is anything that Felix and Amy might have changed it would probably be that. We don’t want to get caught up in delusions of grandeur. Start off the promotion at a slow pace, be smart in our business philosophies and goals with no intentions of growing leaps and bounds in the first few years. We want to provide fans with a great environment and great show, and attempt to grow year to year. I don’t think PPV is anywhere in the near future.
MMaonline: What would you do If a fighter has an opportunity to go into the UFC?
Rob Haydak: Great questions, we would let them go there. For example Igor Gracie had an opportunity to fight in Brazil and we let him. We will never hold back a fighter from bettering themselves. His manager called us up and explained the situation, and we let them go. Obviously with Strikeforce and the UFC, if anybody gets an opportunity to fight for them we will let them go do that.
MMaonline: How do you recruit fighters for upcoming shows?
Rob Haydak: I leave it up to matchmakers. Arias Garcia and Jason Martinez have been around the MMA world for many, many years, and they know a lot of the clubs that train fighters. They reach out to clubs and let them know of dates coming up in the future, and the clubs in return give them a list of fighters, and we become very selective in choosing fighters for quality fights to make sure fans enjoy them.
MMAonline: Where do you see the sport of MMA going in the future?
Rob Haydak: I think it’s only going to get bigger, and I the NY market will eventually open up. The approach of Dana White and UFC is to brand the product, and that is only going to be good for everyone involved in the sport. With any sport out there you have your good people involved and bad people involved, over time people will discover which promotions are reputable and which are not, our objective is to remain reputable to have a home in Atlantic City now and for many years to come.
MMAonline: If New York opens up to MMA, do you have plans to go there?
Rob Haydak: We have a lot of close relationships with clubs in NY, and I can see New York being a market that they will entertain in years to come. Right now our focus is in New Jersey and we would like to go to Pennsylvania next year, and if the opportunity arises, New York.
MMAonline: Cage fury was previously owned by Felix and Amy Martinez, what made you decide to buy the brand name from them, and do they still have involvement?
Rob Haydak: I call Felix from time to time to pick his brain, because him and Amy in the past did an outstanding job of branding the name and product. I always thought that all of their events was exciting and they put on great fights. The fans had a great time at their shows. I do lean on Felix quite often and ask for guidance. The reason to bring it back was because we thought Cage Fury had a great name, and we really wanted to keep the product and name.
The next Cage Fury event is being held on Friday June 10th at the Resorts in Atlantic City. It features a main event of John Cholish vs. Mikhail Malyutin and co-main event of Igor Gracie vs. Quinton McCottrell. You can buy tickets at www.cffc.tv or at http://www.ticketmaster.com/Cage-Fury-Fighting-Championships-tickets/artist/1539680