A few minutes with Mike from Fight Summit
Mike Hauben of FightSummit.com took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk with us about the upcoming Fight Summit 2102 in Las Vegas. Our questions are in Green.
• How did Fight Summit get started?
I have a strong trade show background, and realized that there wasn’t a single event in the MMA industry focused on growing brands or helping aspiring business become major players. We realized we had an opportunity to create a very different type of show, an experience that nobody else is offering.You’d see brand blow into the scene one day disappear a month or two later, so I had a feeling that there was a strong need to grow the business side of combat sports, not just the consumer/fan side. When we did our market research, we were right and learned that the majority of upcoming brands in the MMA scene really were just winging it – throwing a ton of money at the wall and seeing what would stick. We set out to create an event where aspiring and leading business alike could all learn from the long-lasting, established brands and learn how to become successful in this industry.
• What benefits where you hoping exhibitors/attendees would receive from the first Summit? Did you feel you achieved your goal with the first event?
The first event’s main goal was to have some awesome workshops to teach aspiring businesses the correct day-to-day business operations, and also to connect upcoming apparel and equipment brands with the retail stores and MMA shops. Its super hard to get into these stores – let alone get a face to face meeting, so offering a platform for our vendors to meet with these stores was a big deal. I think we accomplished both goals at Fight Summit 2010, but it was our first event and knew we had to grow on the outcome for the next year, which we did in a big way.
• Where you happy with the turnout and the response from the first Event?
It was ok. I think the event was successful, but since we were the first group to ever put together a business conference for the MMA industry, most people we spoke to didn’t really get what we were doing. In a lot of other industries – whether it be web design, automotive, jewelry, whatever.. these guys know what a trade show is, because theres been trade shows in those industries for many years. But since we were the first group, we had to explain to everyone we spoke to that it wasn’t a fan expo, or autograph-based show. It was for writing business and connecting with key people in the industry. I think now people get it, which showed from last year’s success.
• What is the longterm goal for Fight Summit?
Really, just to bring all the major and minor brands together annually. The goal obviously is to get bigger and better, but I think the real test will be when people come year after year because they had such a great experience – which we’re starting to see.
• What’s on the menu this time around, cuase I loved last years lunches.
Actually, its funny you ask that. We’re not offering free meals this year. The cost for us to surprise people with free breakfast and lunch is staggering, you wouldn’t even believe. And we wanted to lower admission prices as much as possible for our attendees. But we couldn’t do both. We decided it made way more sense to lower ticket prices to make the event more attractive to attendees rather than keeping the ticket prices high so that we could offer people some free bagels. As the event grows each year, its definitely something we’d like to do again, but I think the show just needs to grow a bit more to make it possible.
• How much bigger do you expect this year’s event to be?
Well, we’re still about four months out, and its looking good. We doubled in size from the first and second event, so if we can repeat that then obviously that would be terrific. We’re aiming for 70-80 booths, but really most people are super last minute in registering and signing up, so I can’t really predict if we’ll hit those goals. I think we definitely will though, its looking solid!
• Is there a speaker or seminar you couldn’t believe you got for this event?
Eddie Bravo’s jiu jitsu seminar, probably. We had reached out to him previously but he expressed that he is not a fan of doing seminars at expos anymore, so we had to take some extra steps to make it happen. I’m a big fan of his so it was cool to get it done.
• Do you train in BJJ?
Absolutely. I’m a purple belt in BJJ under Dean Lister and have trained with some great teams – Serra-Longo, American Top Team HQ, New York Combat Sambo, Renzo Gracie’s… I’ve also been doing kickboxing for many years, and right now I primarily box. I’m doing the New York Golden Gloves next year.
• Do you plan on having Fight Summits in other states? Say an East Coast Fight Summit?
Anything is possible. We’d love to do a UK one as well. But we really try to be smart about all the decisions we make. Remember, we get attendees from all over the country, and all over the world. So to do two events where we have twice as many expenses while risking splitting our attendance doesn’t really make sense. But at the same token, doing more local events could mean drawing more attendees who couldn’t travel to the Vegas show. Ultimately, I think doing multiple locations would be real cool, but we like to take small, smart steps rather than get too far ahead of ourselves and no longer exist like so many other companies in the industry.
• What are some of the things we can look forward to at future Fight Summits?
This year we added the first ever Triumph United Pro-Am (presented by Monster Energy) Jiu Jitsu competition, which should be really really cool, as we as a Crossfit showdown. We’re never going to be a fan-based show, but we do want to make sure to always have cool activities like that for our attendees to enjoy. After all, its not only about the education and business they walk away with from the show, but also the overall experience and good time they have. If we can come up with some other cool activities for our attendees while offering the same incredible workshops and business tools, I think we’ll hit a grand slam each year!
• Jon Jones or Dan Henderson?
You know, thats really tough. Surprisingly, I don’t have a ton of “favorite fighters” because now that I got to know so many great people in the industry, I want to support everyone. For the clothing brands I’m friendly with, if one of their fighters is competing, I want to root for them. But if one of Ed Soares guys is fighting, I want them to win because Ed is such a great guy. So for me, I just want to see an awesome fight. I like Jones and Hendo a lot. But I think I want Hendo to win just to mix things up a bit.
• What advice can you give exhibitors and attendees to gain the most from this event?
Take it seriously. If you’re a vendor, work the show, speak to people, make the right relationships. Last year there were a few vendors (who many of our attendees told us about, no less) who were sitting in their booth playing cards. Thats just a great way to ruin a great opportunity. Fight Summit is a quality over quantity show.. we’re only looking to attract 500-1,000 attendees. The difference is that they’re businesses who can open big doors and business for you. So you need to take every opportunity to talk to everyone you can. Its not a fan expo where you sit back and wait for people to come and buy some of our shirts. For attendees, enjoy Vegas but don’t make it a party. If you want to party, do what I do and stay an extra couple of nights. But don’t stay out late and be exhausted at the event, because you really want to take notes and take advantage of all the workshops. Lastly, the best thing I can say is to listen to conversations that people are having, and make sure to introduce yourself to people and make small talk. It seems that the networking and relationship building is whats most powerful at Fight Summit, and its usually those relationships that open new doors months after the event – its not just about what happens at the event, but also what happens after the event from the people you spoke to at the event.
• What’s your favorite night spot in Vegas?
Oh man. Hans from Triumph United took us out to an incredible Brazilian steakhouse last year. This year I’m sure I’ll take him back. I don’t know the name of the place, but I promise I will be there for hours!!