Since founding Lion Fight in 2010, CEO Scott Kent has watched his creation grow into one of the best-known stand-up organizations in the United States. Now, nearly four years after its inception, the muay Thai promotion has joined the UFC’s International Fight Week.
“People over the last few years have asked me about how MMA has hurt or helped Lion Fight, and I think groups like UFC -- and really, only UFC -- have paved the way and really redefined combat sports in America,” Kent told Sherdog.com this week. “I think it would have been very difficult 10 years ago to push muay Thai out there because of the elbows and knees and how violent the sport can be. I don’t want to say UFC has desensitized people, but I think fans aren’t as surprised to see fighters get cut.”
The organizations will co-exist for a weekend in Las Vegas this summer, when Lion Fight 16 will take place at Palms Casino Resort on July 4, one night before UFC 175 goes down at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
“I had lunch with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta a couple months ago, and they asked us to be a part of their International Fight Week,” Kent said. “We have a great relationship with UFC. The fact that they have asked us to be a part of that week shows us that they are very supportive of what we are doing and [they] don’t consider us any competition to them.”
While the UFC apparently doesn’t see Lion Fight as a direct challenger, the similarities between muay Thai and other styles of kickboxing are obvious. Even so, Kent does not even feel a sense of competition between Lion Fight and a premier kickboxing company like Glory World Series.
“First of all, we have a sport that has been around for several hundred years and is already the national sport in Thailand,” Kent said. “In addition to that, I like to watch a sport where a fighter has the ability to use all of his weapons, like the clinch and elbows. I think that elbows are such an important aspect of any fighters game, and that’s something a kickboxing organization cannot offer.”
Kent went on to admit that his company has maintained a measured approach to expense in most areas. However, the Lion Fight founder also stated that this approach has not been applied to what his fighters are paid.
“I think if you look at the fighting organizations out there, if you’ve already spent millions of dollars and not made a cent, you’re not doing it right. UFC did it, but I think they were a rare case. I think it’s very difficult for these promotions afterward to try and follow that business model. We have just tried to stay very lean; we have a very small staff, and we reinvest the money we do make back into the fighters and building the promotion,” Kent explained. “We are paying our fighters better than any muay Thai promotion out there, and we have been able to sign them to multi-fight contracts. We give them several fights a year, and that creates stability for them.”
With Lion Fight 15 slated to take place May 23 and precede the organization’s aforementioned International Fight Week offering, the Las Vegas-based promotion is primed for an active summer. If all goes according to plan, this growth and exposure could ultimately culminate in an international event next year.
“We have been approached by a couple companies overseas that would love to have a Lion Fight event in conjunction with their promotion,” said Kent. “We are taking a conservative approach to the growth of this company, but it is definitely on our radar for 2015.”