Brian: Jim, it’s an honor to speak with you. Tell us about your journey into MMA, the Shark Fights, and promotion and why the Children’s Miracle Network is so important to both you and your MMA organization.
Jim: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share. The start of the company is a little bit of story. I was introduced to mixed martial arts six years ago and was 18 years into the car business at the time. I did not have much time to watch much television but one of my friends invited me over to watch this new thing called the UFC.
I was absolutely mesmerized from the start and could not take my eyes of the screen. I fell in love with the sport and became one of those radical super fans. I started watching everything I could watch and reading everything I could read. I became a student of the sport really trying to find out as much as I could. Not knowing at the time that I would go on to have aspirations of being a promoter. I just loved it.
Then one of our local fighters, (in Amarillo, TX) Brett Dudley, decided he was going drop everything he was doing, move to Las Vegas, and room with UFC veteran Evan Tanner. And Evan is from Amarillo. So I realized we have all this fighting base in Amarillo, really, MMA in Texas was started in Amarillo. You have got Evan Tanner, Paul Buentello, Paul Jones (only loss to Chuck Liddell), and Heath Herring. So I thought to myself, I really want to start focusing in on these fighters from Amarillo.
What we decided to do, through Brett being Evan’s roommate, was to start sponsoring Evan Tanner. So I used my car dealership at the time to do just that. Evan started having me come out and corner fights for him in the UFC. How cool is that? From there, I was able to get behind the scenes and get to see things that the normal person wouldn’t get to see. I used my access to my full advantage. I started to really think that I could do this. I can put on my own show.
So we went to an amateur show here in Amarillo about two years ago. I walked in and was expecting what I see on TV. It ended up being what I call grassroots or high school gymnasium style shows. It was a teensy little cage, no catwalk, the acoustics were horrible, and the screens were as big as my desk. It was just a horrible production. The fights were average at best. I just thought, ‘you have to be kidding me.’ Now I knew that I could really do this.
I left that fight and researched for a solid year what it took to become a promoter, what it look to get the licenses, how much start-up money would I need. I wanted to have all my ducks in my row. When everything was ready, I applied for a promoter’s license and I got it. We immediately started Shark Fights promotion. Shark Fights 1 was set to take place in Amarillo and 22 days before the event Evan Tanner dies.
He was a just a tremendous human being. And, on the business side of things, he was a tremendous form of help, encouragement, consulting, and all of that for Shark Fights. So in Evan’s memory we started the Evan Tanner scholarship fund. Evan was a high school wrestler and a two time State Champion. He has an upbringing that was underprivileged at best. We wanted that sentiment to be a part of what we were doing with the scholarship fund.
We didn’t realize by working on all of that, we would attract the attention of HDnet. They ended up loving the show and loving the fights. Two weeks after that, they contacted us and said we are going to put you on Inside MMA and show highlights. From there, things have just taken off. We really started focusing in on Shark Fights the name and branding.
Along the way, my beautiful 33 year-old my wife who you got to meet, got diagnosed with melanoma cancer and six days before our second event she has four feet of her small intestines removed. We absolutely decided at that time, we were going to shift our focus directly to the Children’s Miracle Network. The whole experience changed our lives. Because insurance did not pay for a lot of it, people stepped in and gave us food, money, and their time.
Now I know so deeply what these kids and these families go through with cancer. It can just completely destroy everyone in the family, not just the patient. Your ability to function in society. Sometimes you just want to fall apart like a soup sandwich. And yet you don’t have the money or the ability to do that so you just keep on going on. And you want to be strong for that person in your family. What these people need is support, they need people to step in and say, ‘hey I know what you are going through and here is some help and some money and some ability to coexist in our society and our community.’
The flip side of that coin is, I love the connection between Shark Fights and Children’s miracle network. I have got cage fighters up in the cage banging away for their living and we also got these children that our in the cage of life and banging it out against a disease – a disease that they have no cure for. They are in this cage of their disease, and they are battling their way and trying to fight. What we want to do is bring those two together.
So here we have a fight platform and here is a cancer fight platform. Let’s get our sponsors to work together and get the MMA community to work together to start make a difference in specific people’s lives … to help them cope and not only survive, but thrive. Our fight with cancer is very real. We fight it as a shark fight family and also as a Larson family. We want to join in the fight because not one man’s voice is enough. It takes fighters and families, and communities and sponsors. And individuals who are going to step up and say, ‘I am not going to let this thing beat our community.’
There may not be a cure for cancer yet so Shark Fights is taking a bite out of cancer one fight at a time. We are going to continue to do that and it is absolutely our passion and our focus to support these local communities that don’t have anybody to step in and fill the gap. That is our mission. Yeah, I love the fans, I love the fighters, I love cage fighting, and I love the business aspect, but my passion and my team is my family; and my family is fighting cancer. Shark Fights is going to fight cancer too and we aren’t giving up until we make a difference.
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