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Another day, another setback

I know many of you out there do not care for reading updates about my wife’s fighting career, which is fine. Most of you keep your opinion to yourselves and just ignore the post and simply look for the posts that are of interest to you. I appreciate that.

However, there are a few knuckleheads that take it upon themselves to leave little smartass, ignorant comments. But the reality is there are a lot of people who have been very supportive of this site. These people are smart enough to realize that we’re an independently owned site that charges our readership nothing for the content that we provide and that nobody funds us. They know not every single post we do is going to appeal to them. They know that we have to run advertising because running a site this size isn’t cheap. And they appreciate the fact that we don’t use invasive ads. They know we don’t get salaries to do this (yet) and understand we are human beings and not slaves to their MMA-content needs.

A lot of the aforementioned people have been so supportive of 5 Oz. that their support has extended to my wife, Andria, and her aspiring fighting career. Whether it be a supportive e-mail, a kind response in a comment thread, or a show of sponsorship, you guys have shown appreciation for the hard work we do here. Because of that, I can’t say working for this site as a founding owner and publisher is a thankless job, because we are getting the thanks.

This first-person blog that will contain an update on my wife is for those people. I also have a lot of other things to get off my chest with this blog. If you’re not a supporter, no problem. Simply stop reading now and read one of the many other stories we have on this site. If you want to be a hater, go take your problems elsewhere. Ownership has its privileges, including the ability to write about what we want, when we want and the ability to treat those how they treat us. If you don’t like it, don’t read it! But if you do read this, you might learn a lot about the industry and the life of an amateur fighter with pro aspirations and what’s involved with managing such a fighter.

First, I wanted to let everyone know that on late Monday we started hearing rumors that Combat in the Cage’s “15th Strike” in Delaware was going to be canceled. This is the same card that Andria was supposed to fight Shannon Schade on. Well, our worst fears were confirmed when I woke up this morning and read a bulk e-mail from CITC promoter Ed Hsu announcing that this Saturday’s card had been “postponed.” The reality is that the card is in fact canceled.

Ed is a guy who in the past has taken a lot of shit from people. Before I had met Ed, I had heard and read a lot about him. A lot of it was negative. After meeting Ed and getting to know him, I learned that about 90% I had heard about him was bullshit. I’m sure a lot of trainers, managers, and fighters are frustrated and need someone to direct their anger at and I’m sure Ed is going to take a lot of shit for the cancellation but the truth of the matter is that he’s not to blame.

There are two groups here to blame.

First is a group of out-of-touch, ignorant politicans who took it upon themselves to shut down a show just nine days before it was to take place even though it had been on the books for months. In May, legislators in Delaware voted that MMA in the state had to be regulated. However, the language of the bills they passed were very unclear as to what would happen regarding the sport until the regulation had been written and approved. Gee, a bunch of elected officials passing legislation that was vague and unclear? What else is new.

According to Ed, he contacted the appropriate officials and got permission to continue to run his shows. Why do I believe him? Because I’ve been to a couple of his shows that took place after the legislation was passed. Combat in the Cage is sanctioned by the WKA and contrary to popular belief, Ed’s shows are insured and have licensed EMTs and doctors in attendance. Since his shows were being operated in a responsible manner, they were allowed to continue.

So what happened?

That’s where the second group to blame comes in. Apparently two gyms in Delaware got carried away and instead of just running regular smokers and staying under the radar, they took it upon themselves to start advertising their events and promoting them as cards. They also illegally claimed they were sanctioning bodies with the ability to regulate and sanction shows. Well, thanks to the irresponsible actions of these gyms, they have fucked up the lives of over 40 fighters that were scheduled to appear on this weekend’s show. I have the name of these two gyms and am seriously considering calling them out.

It should be noted that Ed busted his ass to save this show. He got his lawyer involved and was going back and forth with the state. He tried to present them numerous compromises. He offered to pay for extra security and additional medical personnel. He offered to use revised rules. Everything. But the state was unwilling to allow this one show to take place before shutting everything down until the regulation could be written and approved.

So if you’re reading this, do not blame Ed. Ed isn’t perfect and he’s the first to acknowledge he’s made some mistakes in the past. But he’s an honest promoter who has gone out of his way to help many fighters even when it was of no benefit to him. He’s been extremely supportive of Andria and we’re going to continue to support him in return. Combat in the Cage will be back and will be bigger than ever.

For those two try to conspire against Combat in the Cage, you need to realize that the people you’re hurting the most are the fighters who have decided his shows are the right place for them to develop their skills. There’s a reason why the best gyms in Philly have pledged their support to Ed by placing their fighters on his shows on a monthly basis. If Ed has proven one thing, it’s that he’s going to promote shows no matter what. It’s the fighters who fight for him that suffer the most because of your actions. This will come back to haunt you in the end because when the truth comes out, you’ll lose the support of a lot of fighters.

The sad part is that this kind of bullshit happens all the time in amateur MMA. In fact, this is the THIRD time in three months my wife has had a fight pulled on her.

First, there was this June and the WKA tournament in Virginia when my wife and I found out in the sauna while we were cutting weight that the one fighter in her weight class supposedly pulled out the night before their fight.

Then, there was this past July, and this is the first time I am talking about this publicly. Andria actually had a fight lined up for Combat in the Cage’s “14th Strike.” In fact, this fight was agreed upon before we went down to Virginia for the WKA tournament. But the whole thing was a mess and it all started when this fighter’s (who will go unnamed) camp decided to pitch the fight to another fight promotion in Jersey. Myself, Andria, and our trainer, Jared Weiner, all thought this fight was going to take place for Ed Hsu in Delaware in July.

Out of nowhere, Jared’s gym gets a call from the Jersey promotion asking if Andria wanted to fight this unnamed fighter on their show. We were shocked. This fighter’s gym took it upon themselves to take a fight Ed had put together and they shopped it to another promotion. It was completely unethical. It was Ed’ work that was responsible for the matchup. We wouldn’t hadn’t even know this fighter had existed had it not been for Ed.

But Ed didn’t take it personally and the fighter’s gym eventually came crawling back to Combat in the Cage. Despite being burned, Ed was still willing to take the fight. And despite the fact that this fighter came to our gym to spy on Andria, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu United didn’t take it personally and still approved the fight for Andria. It was all set.

Or so we thought.

When we got back from Virginia, Andria and I were really in the dumps. A few days later we then heard that the unnamed fighter inexplicably left her gym without warning and started training elsewhere. Ed contacted the new gym to see if the fight was still on but the new gym determined that she wasn’t ready to fight someone of Andria’s caliber. Andria had lost another fight.

Our spirits were renewed when we were told that a fighter by the name of Shannon Schade from Rising Sun MMA was looking for a fight and was willing to agree to take on Andria. We got approval for the fight and Andria was added to the fight card. At first I was worried that something bad would happen but we were told that Shannon was a real fighter who wouldn’t back out. She was responsive to all the promotion’s e-mails and even had turned her corner list in early. It became obvious that she was a game opponent and that the fight was a go. It’s real hard to find serious amateur female fighters on a regional level so were really appreciative to get a chance to fight someone like Shannon.

But despite Andria and Shannon both being committed to fighting, the unforseen has happened again. However, as crushed as were are we can’t lose sight of the fact that over 40 fighters suffered the same fate as Andria and Shannon. People don’t realize how much preparation goes into a fight. My wife is one of few amateurs focus solely on training. Most amateurs have to juggle school or a job with their fight training. They make a ton of sacrifices and work their asses off and it’s completely demoralizing to learn less than a week out that you’re not going to get to fight. A lot of people took off from work to travel to the fight and a lot of friends and families bought tickets and made arrangements to be there.

Three of my wife’s teammates were supposed to make their debuts on Saturday. I’ve been training daily for the past month and a half and I’ve seen how hard Matt Nice, Lionel “Noreaga” Bocelli, and Ken Berger have worked. I’ve seen them transform over time because they trained so hard. This was supposed to be a huge weekend for BJJ United and a lot of other fighters. And with a blink of an eye, some fraud politicians crush their dreams for reasons that don’t entirely make sense. I feel horrible for all the fighters that were supposed to fight on Saturday. My heart goes out to all of you. If it was legal, I’d set up a cage in my backyard and let you all come to my house and fight.

There is some good news to report, which is that Andria and Shannon will still get a chance to fight each other. Brian Crenshaw, the president of the WKA and promoter for the Combat Sports Challenge MMA promotion in Virginia has stepped up and agreed to host the fight on his Aug. 30 CSC 26 fight card in Virginia. I’ve written about this show in my “East Coast Insider” and we also previously announced that 5 Oz. of Pain would be sponsoring welterweights LeVon Maynard and John Doyle on the show. The ironic thing is, Andria and I had already made plans to attend the show and now she’s going to be fighting on it. Not being able to fight this weekend sucks but it’s going to be awesome to fight on the same show as LeVon, John, Sedico Honorio, Dwayne Shelton, and Aaron Miesner.

And yes, this is the same Brian Crenshaw I blasted after the whole WKA Tournament debacle from this past June. While I stand by assertion that in that instance the WKA did not treat us properly, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mr. Crenshaw for extending Andria this opportunity to fight. Obviously he’s a man that does not hold grudges and he’s now okay in my book. It takes a big man to overlook what I wrote and still offer to promote a fight involving my wife.

To aspiring managers, one thing I learned the hard way is that you never burn a bridge in this business — even if it looks like you’ll never be able to cross that bridge. Some people might say I am a hypocrite because Andria is fighting at CSC 26 after I said I never wanted to be involved with one of Crenshaw’s shows ever again. When managing a fighter, your first priority is to always make sure your fighter is safe. But the second priority is to make sure your fighter is getting fights. Andria wants to fight and CSC is volunteered to add the fight to its show on just two weeks notice. You can’t allow personal issues to hinder your fighter’s career.

So that’s the update. I publicly want to apologize to all the sponsors who stepped up and pledged their support for Andria: Pimpit, Graffight, Aggressive Athletics, Punch Drunk Gamer, Toes Up, and Jesus Didn’t Tap. I’m working now to try and roll over everything to Aug. 30. One silver lining is that we have additional time now to add a few more sponsors. If you’re interested, please contact me at: SCaplan8@comcast.net

So this is just me telling it like it is. To me, the negative comments I have read are a total joke. In a lot of ways, I am my wife’s manager. Officially, Andria’s manager is Jared Weiner, the owner and head instructor at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu United, the gym that we both train out of, along with my son, John.

In amateur MMA, in most cases, it is mandatory at a gym that the trainers serve as the manager for an amateur fighter. A good way to get yourself kicked out of a gym is to book your own fights.

A gym manages a fighter early in their career for two reasons: first, it’s the gym’s responsibility to make sure their fighter is safe and protected. Some promoters are honest and a lot are not. Usually the gym understands the local fight scene better than a fighter and is in a better position to judge what is best. Second, a lot of work goes into starting a gym and a fight gym is only as good as its reputation. No trainer worth his or her salt wants some fighter going out there acting as a rogue and taking fights they have no business taking. If a fighter gets tooled in a fight, it could make the gym look bad.

Andria’s situation is a little different though. She has pro aspirations. It’s also harder for females to get fights and a lot of leg work is involved. Also, because of 5 Oz., Andria is getting more visibility than your typical amateur fighter and there are sponsorship opportunities as a result. A trainer running a big-time gym doesn’t always have time to make all the phone calls needed to line up sponsors and fights. Jared is the boss and we don’t do anything without his approval, but he’s been cool enough to allow me to take on a lot of management responsibilities for Andria.

As someone performing in the role of manager, it’s my job to get Andria exposure and fights. Some might say this is putting the cart before the horse, and it definitely is. However, we don’t have a choice to do a “soft launch.” Andria is 30, which isn’t too old to start a fighting career in female MMA, but it isn’t exactly an ideal age either. As a result, she quit her job and trains 4-6 hours a day, six-to-seven days a week. Not having a second income hurts, but I’m working 60-70 hours a week to make up for it. Andria has supported me through a lot and I feel it’s my responsibility to do the same. She has the rest of her life to work and now is the only time in her life in which she will have the opportunity to pursue a career as a professional athlete.

If you’ve never trained before, you probably have no idea how much it costs to train like a pro fighter. Despite what you might think, competitive fighters still must pay a monthly tuition to a gym like everyone else. So I have to cover the tuition for Andria, myself, and my son each month. That adds up. Additionally, my wife works extra hard on her cardio and has a conditioning coach outside of the gym. Also, in order to accelerate her learning curve, we paid for private MMA lessons with Jared. There are also many other costs such as gear (which doesn’t last long when you train 4-6 hours a day), food (we have to eat healthy, which costs more), gas (Andria does a lot of sparring at Philly MMA and has to travel into the city), and travel (in June, we had to spend money on gas, hotel, food, a kennel for our dogs, etc. and we will have to do all of that again). Our costs are literally in the thousands. But we’re no different than any other serious fighter. All fighters incur these costs.

But for us, the only way to keep doing this is to find ways to offset costs. I put a lot of work into this site. Adam Morgan, Matt Cava, and I have decided to make an investment in our future. But if you think we’re making money from this site right now in spite of all the traffic we’re getting, you’re wrong. We’re constantly working towards trying to monetize this site while working other jobs and spending time with our families. But you’re clueless if you think I am not going to try and take advantage of the popularity of this site in order to help facilitate my wife’s dream.

If you have a problem with that but still come to this site on a regular basis, you need to get your head out of your ass. 5 Oz. is not my only job. If it was, I’d be homeless. When it’s all said and done, I work 60-70 hours a week. Sometimes less, sometimes more. But if my wife wasn’t so understanding and supportive, then I wouldn’t be able to get away with keeping such a schedule and putting so much into an endeavor that doesn’t pay our bills. So my wife is a big reason why this site is where it is and she’s a big part of this, just as Matt and Adam’s significant others are.

One thing I’ve learned from this is that managing a fighter is a lot of work. Yes, I am not managing any pro fighters and I only have one fighter to worry about. But I still have at least been given a glimpse of what is involved. It takes a lot of hours going over paperwork and details. There are a lot conversations with promoters, trainers, and sponsors that take place.

If travel arrangements need to be made, you not only need to book a hotel but you need to research all the logitstics such as where the closest gym is and whether or not they have a sauna. You have to coordinate everything with the sponsors and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Fight shorts don’t come with your sponsor patches already sewn on. There’s someone that needs to organize all the little things and that someone is usually the fighter’s manager. If a picture of your fighter coming to the cage doesn’t get taken or a patch is not in its right place, someone could be entitled to a refund.

In some cases, you even have to train with your fighter. If my wife goes for a private MMA lesson, she needs someone to serve as her practice dummy. That’s usually me. When my wife needed to cut eight pounds for her fight in June, I got in the sauna with her.

It also becomes an emotional roller coaster because you invest so much time as a manager. If your fighter is happy, you’re happy. If your fighter is upset, you’re upset. If your fighter is on weight, you’re on weight. If your fighter is nervous about making weight, you’re nervous about making weight. If your fighter wins, you win. If your fighter loses, you lose.

The exposure is also a big deal as well. If my wife delivers and builds a strong record, I want her to be afforded the best opportunities. The best fighters aren’t always the ones getting the biggest opportunities. If a promotion has 50 fighters under contract, that doesn’t mean they are the 50 best fighters they could have brought in. Winning is the most important thing but if nobody knows you’re winning, nobody is going to know to sign you.

Another overlooked aspect is that there are a lot of UFC-caliber fighters either sitting in a cubicle or working outside as you read this. They had the skills and the record but not the opportunity. A fighter can only pursue their dream for so long before it becomes make or break. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to shows and saw someone I had trained with or had watched on a smaller show. I see the fighter and the conversation is almost always the same. I ask them how they are doing and when they are fighting next and they tell me that their wife just had a kid and they couldn’t afford to keep training. For all we know, there could be someone at 185 lbs. that is capable of beating Anderson Silva but they are too busy worrying about how they are going to make their mortgage payment next month.

It’s especially rough for female fighters. There are females in the pound-for-pound 15 that often have to go 10-12 months without getting a fight. Does my wife have an advantage being attached to a highly-trafficked MMA site that people in the industry read? Absolutely. And I’d be a fool not to exploit that advantage. If my wife couldn’t fight, maybe it would be the wrong thing to do. But she’s won grappling and Muay Thai tournaments and she’s getting world class training. She’s working her ass off. I believe she has what it takes to be a top-level pro, but of course, I am biased. However, those that work with her on a daily basis believe see the same potential that I do.

If you’re one of these ignorant people who have a problem with the owners of this site trying to reap a little reward for our efforts then you might as well stop reading this because despite all the setbacks, my wife has no intention of giving up her dream. And as long as she has that dream, I am going to support it. That means more updates about my wife and more sponsorship announcements. Not to mention, this is an MMA site and you just read a post about MMA — from the inside.