Exclusive interview with MFC CEO Mark Pavelich

Mark Pavelich, representing Canada to the fullest. I’m not even going to summarize everything this guy has said over the past year regarding MFC, his Canadian based MMA organization. He’s said a lot, probably has said too much. The guy even called me out. It’s always fun when presidents of MMA organizations start calling out MMA journalists (but not as fun as calling into MMAscraps radio drunk). Dana White definitely set the bar when he raged on Loretta Hunt of Sherdog back in 2009. He also earned an Xbox Live achievement for the most creative use of the ‘F’ word in a 75-second time span.

We’ve seen Mark Pavelich press-release his beefs with other fighters in the past, but never have we sat down and asked him every question we possibly could think of. It was the only way to tap into the mind of a guy that made a rule that if you pull guard you will be cut from his organization. That’s pretty rough — and that’s why we love him. Check out our exclusive interview of MFC CEO, Mark Pavelich, conducted by Elena Lopez of MiddleEasy.


Before we get started, there were rumors floating around the internet that the MFC will or has already signed Patrick Cote. What’s going on with that?We haven’t signed him yet, I mean we’re in the process of trying to sign him, but I’m sure there are other vultures out there trying to do the same thing, but he is not signed yet.


How did the negotiations go with Antonio McKee to remain in the organization? It seemed as if he just signed with the UFC overnight.No. Antonio McKee is nothing but class with the MFC, he has always been class with me. He is a first rate guy, I got a deep love for him. He has showed us a great deal of respect and he talked to me during the whole process. I’m not happy about it because I wanted to keep my champion in the MFC, but at the same time Antonio is 40 years old and if he wants to go and do his thing there then I understand that . I’m not a feeder organization for the UFC and I never have been. If that’s what Antonio wants to do then I support him 100%, he’s been nothing but first class with us.


Do you think that McKee was betting his entire career on finishing Luciano Azevedo and then putting an extraordinary display of ground and pound at MFC 26 was too ballsy?Yeah, I think your right, I think he figured I’m going all in. He decided that this is it, I’m going all in with a guy like Azevedo, the only human being to ever beat Jose Aldo. He said, Mark, this guy can’t beat me and I’m going to destroy him. He said I’m going to retire, if I don’t finish this guy, I’m done. Not only did he finish him, he made Azevedo look like he had never trained a day in his life.


How did you feel about all the skeptics who doubted McKee was able to finish a fight?Owning the MFC, the largest show in Canada and one of the top three or four in North America, I’ve been dealing with skeptics all of my life. People have always been hating on us and kind of throwing rocks at us, so the stuff with Antonio was nothing different for me, I’m very used to it by now.


Was McKee’s last match the greatest thing you ever witnessed in MFC history?No, I mean Antonio is going to do the same in the UFC, trust me. The Volkmann guy they’re putting him against in his first fight, he’s going to kick the crap out of that guy. If the UFC is thinking that’s going to be a tough test for Antonio McKee, they’re delusional. You can put Antonio McKee in right now with guys like Gray Maynard and they’re not going to manhandle Antonio McKee.


Why aren’t you putting out more vlogs? They were pretty entertaining.I’m mad right now, man, I’m really mad. I just don’t think it’s a good time for me to be doing vlogs. Sometimes I’ll want to say some things that sometimes I shouldn’t probably say. This is the time right now where I’ve kind of slowed down on doing vlogs because I’m just very, very, I don’t know, ornery. That’s the word right now.


When do you think we can expect to see an MFC heavyweight champion?I’m looking into that right now. I’m in talks right now with Todd Duffee and some other fighters. Everybody kind of wants to reincarnate the heavyweight division in the MFC, so you know, maybe in 2011 I’m going to do that?


So, you have your eye on Duffee?Yeah, I mean, come on, let’s be honest, the kid’s a stud and he’s a great fighter. You know, he had his problems with that other organization, but at the same time, in my opinion he is still one of the top twenty heavyweights in the world right now.


Now that the MFC lightweight belt is vacated, how do you plan to get someone to wear that strap as soon as possible?I’m in no rush for it, you know. I’m in the process of finding the 155lbs guys. You know what the funny part is though, a lot of the 155lbs guys called me the second Antonio McKee signed with the UFC. I thought that was pretty funny, you know, because they all knew that their style couldn’t beat Antonio and now that he’s gone they feel that they could probably do really well in the MFC.


And these calls are coming from people outside of the MFC?Outside, inside, all over, everywhere. You know, you look at my organization outside of the UFC, you know, I’m on live TV and sponsorship is great here for fighters, they’re treated first class when they come to my organization. It’s not a hard sell to get fighters to fight in the MFC now. People are gravitating to us because they realize regardless of all the haters we have out there, people in this business understand and realize that our checks don’t bounce, you know what I’m saying? Our stuff is good. People come here and they get paid, they have a great time and it’s a family atmosphere with our business. Now matter how big we get, it’s always going to be that way.


Any particular names you’d like to drop that you’re interested in coming to the MFC?In which way, fighter signings?


Yeah, outside of your organization, is there anybody in particular that you’re interested in for the lightweight division?I’m interested in, well, there are some Brazilian fighters that are 18-0 and 19-0 in Brazil that I’m interested in. I don’t know, there’s lots I’m looking at right now and like I said, I hate to say things out loud too much because when I start doing that then the other vultures try to sign them before I do. I have to be careful these days, you know. I really love your website and I know lots of people go to it, so when they see the article I have to be careful how much I say. Mixed Martial Arts it’s a dirty business. It’s dirty in a way where’s there’s no martial art and respect level in this sport anymore. It’s a very aggressive, ruthless business.


When do you think that happened? When do you think the sport turned around and lost it’s respect?When money got involved. When I was broke in this business everybody loved me, they said I was the nicest guy in the world. The second I started driving a Mercedes Benz and making money all of a sudden I’m the anti- Christ of MMA, which isn’t true. I should be rewarded for working 16-18 hours a day like I do everyday. Why is it a crime that I make money in MMA? I’m one of the few people that actually make money in MMA, it’s a rarity. People think it’s the fastest growing sport in the world and everybody is making a ton of money and it’s bullshit, that’s not true at all. Very few people, very, very few people, you can count on one hand that make money in MMA that own promotions. I’m the blue collar of MMA guy, meaning we put the grind in. If I wasn’t making money in this business something would be seriously wrong for the amount of effort and time that I put into it.


If you were Bjorn Rebney and wanted to expand into Canada, what plan would you take to have a successful event on Canadian soil?Who? Who? Who is that?


The CEO of Bellator.I have never watched that show in my life, I’m not kidding. Never. I didn’t even know that is. It’s hilarious when people bring that up with me. It’s like, do you know who that is? I’m telling you right now, I’ve never watched his show once in my life.


You have NEVER seen it?NEVER. I would never watch it. Why would I watch his brand of MMA when mine is ten times more exciting? I have ten times bigger name fighters across my whole organization then he does, so why would I watch it? In my opinion, it’s a lower brand of MMA, so I’m not going to watch it, I’m not going to watch it!


But…if you were him, what plan would you take?If he wants come where I am? Here’s my advice, don’t come because he’ll get crushed. That’s my advice. Like I said, I don’t know him, I got nothing against him, but I don’t see his business plan being anything special or his brand of MMA being anything different then I’ve already seen. He’s not bringing anything overly exciting to what we’re doing. Don’t forget, I’ve been in business longer than anybody in the MMA business except for the UFC. So, when people are claiming that these shows are big and everything, don’t be mistaken. If you want to check out his bottom line and my bottom line, I guarantee my bottom line is a lot bigger then his bottom line as far as making money in MMA goes. It’s great that these new organizations are coming in and they’re trying to do whatever they’re doing, but on the grand scheme of things, I’ve been here for eleven years. I’ve seen so many shows come and go and they were going to be the next big thing, aka, Affliction, Elite XC, IFL. Where are they today? I’m still standing and that’s the difference, that’s what people need to recognize. I think maybe that’s why I’m so upset this year?


Eleven years is a long time to stay standing…Go ahead, you go check now and how many other people have been in my business for eleven years, check. Nobody! UFC, me and that’s it, nobody else. How come that is? What is that, that’s lucky? You know who’s lucky in the MMA business man, there’s no luck in the MMA, you have to work for it and I work for it. When I hear these new shows come, I’m like, I laugh. That’s what I find comical in our business because you know, they get a little bit of a marketing campaign going and all of a sudden people go oh yeah, they’re huge, they’re huge. They’re drawing very small crowds and their ticket price is ten times lower then mine. No people watch me on HDNET television then watch what he does and what do I care? Good luck. If he becomes successful in the MMA business then he deserves it because he would have to work for it cause there’s no luck in MMA, you have to go work and strive and go get what you want in this business.


How much of your success do you attribute to the Canadian fans? We have a lot of American fans, so I attribute it to the fans in general. Are you kidding me, we would do anything for our fans! We listen to them. They’re the ones that watch our shows, buy our merchandise, buy our tickets, we have to listen to them. Our fan base is getting larger and larger and like I said, we’re very grateful for that.


Ryan Jimmo is 13-1, riding on a 13 fight win streak. Why isn’t he the MFC light heavyweight champion?You better ask him that question. I offered him the title fight against Glover Teixeira, who is under a four-fight deal with the MFC and he declined to fight him. It was very upsetting because me and Ryan Jimmo have a great relationship and it’s kind of put a little wedge in it because who is any fighter to pick who they fight for a title in my opinion.


And did he give you a reason as to why he wouldn’t fight him? He just thought that he wasn’t an adequate opponent, but Glover has won eight fights in a row, so how is he not an adequate opponent? He’s knocked out Sokoudjou, he’s beaten a lot of great fighters.


No one can give us a reasonable explanation, so I guess I’ll ask you. Why has Fedor only fought once this year?I don’t know, I love Fedor too, but at the same time I think he’s been over hyped for many years. I think he’s getting older now in his career, I think that if you put him with a lot of the guys at the top of the heavyweight division he would struggle with them. I’m a big fan, I think he’s an awesome fighter, but at the same time I think he’s past his due date in MMA.


Is there anybody in particular you think Fedor would struggle with the most?He would struggle with people like Shane Carwin, Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, he would struggle with guys like Junior Dos Santos. I could list you a bunch of guys he would struggle with, but is he a great fighter? Yes. He’s a great fighter, he really is, but at the same time he has always fought a lessor level of opponents. He’s fought some good guys, but he hasn’t fought those guys.


What’s your opinion of M-1 Global?Of who? Listen,once again, I’m not trying to be arrogant or an asshole, but I have never watched their stuff, NEVER. I don’t know anybody that fights in their organization. I’m sure they’re popular where they come from, I imagine they’re successful at what they do, but I don’t watch it.


You’ve been teasing us with an MFC card in America, if and when that happens, can we make a bid for you to hold it in Southern California?I’d love to, I love California, are you kidding me… The only reason I’m not in the United States right now is because no matter how much bravado I have and how much I want to do a show in the United States, one thing I love more than MMA is making money. The problem with that is economically right now in a lot of parts of the United States of America, the economy isn’t very good. My ticket price for the MFC is $70 is the cheapest ticket and the most expensive is $600. The ticket price point is $600 to $70 and most of the places I check in the states with other shows, their price range is nowhere near that. I look at that and think why would I sacrifice and go wow, I’m going to the United States, but I’m going to discount my ticket price, I’m going to make all these concessions like that. I’m not going to do that. I’m in an economic place right now that is thriving and I’m going to stay here and I’m going to move the show around and until I see places in the United States where the economy is good and I’m not going to have to suffer , I’m not going there.


So, we’re not looking to see the MFC in the United States anytime soon?There are a lot of deals that are on the table, but until anything is confirmed, like I said, I’m very patient and I’ve been in this racket for eleven years and like I said, I’m in no rush. I feel good, I’m 42-years old and I feel like I’m 20, so I’m good.


What formula have you used to make your brand on MMA in Canada the most dominate?We’re very vocal about it, we hate our competitors, we despise them, we don’t talk to them, we don’t look at them, it’s war for us, that’s what it is. My son, David is involved, my wife, Manon is involved, my daughter, Kayla is involved and we all think the same way. We started this sport basically in Canada and the lack of respect people showed us was the best thing they could have ever did for us because the lack of respect, including what the UFC has ever showed us has motivated us to be very successful in this business. You don’t want to know our name, great, we’re going to punch you right in the nose and you’re going to find out who we are and that’s what we have done with every show in Canada. They’ve came after us and showed us no respect, no nothing. I’m not saying they should be building us a statue in some place, but I’m talking no respect, so that’s fine with us, we encourage that now. We want you to be like that because that’s what keeps us up longer, working and when you’re out of business again, that show that came in and said they’re going to take down the MFC, I’ve never said that in my life about another show, that I would put any show out of business. One thing I do know is, I’m going to keep my show in business.


It seems that your strategy has been working thus far.It’s working because I don’t really give a shit, I don’t care. I don’t have the mentality of putting people out of business, they put themselves out of business most of the time in Canada because they’re focused on what I’m doing. I don’t care what they’re doing, I never look, I never go to their shows. I’ve never seen a show outside of the MFC except the UFC, that’s it. I’ve never gone to a show to watch, I don’t care what they’re doing.


So, why have you been to a UFC show?Because I used to train and manage Jason McDonald and Victor Valimaki that fought in the UFC and Scott Junk. I trained and managed those people back in the day so, I had to go, that was the reason why, but I’ve never gone to the UFC outside of training and managing those guys.


Everyone on The Underground is saying that Douglas Lima vs. Jesse Juarez at MFC 27 is the biggest fight you’ve signed in the history of the organization. Is it safe to say this will be the main event? Yes, it’s going to be the main event. Isn’t that funny that people are saying that because they’re not really household name guys. That’s the first time I’ve ever done it in eleven years and I did it you know why, because Jesse Juarez is an MFC fighter, Douglas Lima is an MFC fighter and they’re both unreal. I figured I’m going to put them both together, but they’re my guys. They’re not some guy’s that flunked out of some show and I said ‘OK, you’re going to fight for the title’. It’s none of that going on here. For me, this is coming full circle and a dream come true because this is the true welterweight championship fight and it’s an MFC fight, it’s not a ‘we took that guy from that show and now he’s fighting for us’, no it’s not, these are my guys.


I read somewhere that you said Nick Diaz is one of your favorite fighters? I love him, I think he’s phenomenal! I think he is misunderstood and at the same time I would watch him fight 100 times more then 90% of the people that fight in DW’s (Dana White) show.


Is there any chance that we’ll ever see Nick Diaz in the MFC?I wish! That would be awesome, I mean he would fit here like perfect because he’s the style of fighter that’s in the MFC. You know what’s funny? People go, oh, Patrick Cote got cut from “The Show” (UFC) and I said to myself, stylistically they put him with a lot bad match ups for certain things and I said to myself, he will be back in my organization it’s going to be paradise because I know what kind of guys to put him with not to make him look good, but to make a competitive fight for his style, I’ll find someone his exact style to fight him and then we’ll have magic. I have a lot of guys in my organization, Tom “Kong” Watson, Dwayne Lewis, Ryan Ford, these are guys that I love to watch fight, they’re exciting fighters. You’ll stop what you’re doing and watch them fight.


Do you see a different outcome in the Ryan Ford vs. Pete Spratt rematch?You know what’s funny, the first fight everybody thought that it was too early for Ryan Ford to fight Pete Spratt and this time around people think that Spratt is going to beat Ford. Before we did the survey and 60-40 think that Spratt is going to come back because Spratt does really well in rematches. Spratt’s last two fights in the MFC have been unbelievable. He knocked out Luigi Fioravanti, he knocked out Nathan Gunn which is probably one of the best knock outs I’ve ever seen in my life, face first upper cut. I don’t know though, Ford is in camp right now getting ready and I think that it’s a very pivotal fight for Ford and if he wins great, but if he loses I really think that his career is in question.


Rank the top three MMA organizations out there, starting with the UFC/WEC. Counting the UFC/WEC as one?


Yeah, count them as one.Yeah, I count them as one too. So, I count UFC/WEC together as number one, I’d put Strikeforce as number one, I’d put 100% MFC number three-fourish and that’s how I look at it. I don’t see any of these other shows. Like I said, you call me back next year and right now record me saying this and you’ll see, you call me back next year and half of these other people won’t even be in business.


So, you’re saying next year at this time, half of the other organizations won’t be in business?Let’s take a shot at that right now. I don’t really gamble, the only thing I gamble on is MMA because I know the business better than 99% of the people out there so, say hypothetically these other shows and I don’t want to speak derogatory towards them, but this time next year the two shows that begin with an “S” and not Strikeforce, but the other one’s, I guarantee that one of those 100% will not be in business at this time next year.


We’ll make sure to give you a call back then.And you’re going to say God, I can’t believe that and you’ll be mad because I was right. I was right about IFL, I was right about Affliction, I was right about Elite XC. You know what the funny part is, if I had even half the money that most of those shows had, I could easily compete with the UFC. I can’t because the UFC has so much money and they’re so ahead of everybody else, but I could compete at least with the money that Affliction had and Elite XC had I’d probably be the only human being on the planet that could probably legitimately compete with the UFC wit that kind of money.


Do you see a timeline on that? Do you think you’ll ever be ever to compete with the UFC?No, listen, don’t be mistaken, I’m not delusional. The UFC is going to be the top dog, in my life they’ll always be number one and that’s hard for a guy like me to say, but it’s true, they will be, but like I said, if I had the money that went through the hands of people at Affliction and Elite XC and all these other shows are you kidding me. Truly I could be the only person on the planet that could actually compete with the UFC because you need two factors to compete. You know, you can’t just have money and not have the knowledge because if you have the knowledge and the money you can compete. For example, even Strikeforce, they had the money they just don’t, in my opinion, they don’t have the full knowledge of the MMA business, but do they have the money, yeah, the people own the shares, the San Jose Sharks own Strikeforce, right? So, if they had the true MMA knowledge and somewhat mass knowledge with a personality and work ethic and ruthlessness, they would be able to compete a little bit closer to the UFC, but they can’t.


Do you foresee Bellator being around this time next year?I’ll give two to one on that, two to one I’m telling you they won’t be and if they are here, count the amount of shows they did this year and the amount of shows they do next year will be half of what they did this year. I’ll bet that! What’s your obsession with Bellator?


No obsession, it was just a question.OK, like I said, I have against the organization, I just see some critical mistakes that they’re making. Not watching the show, but business practice though. I see some of the things that they’re doing and it’s not even sensible to be doing what they’re doing.


Do you think Brock Lesnar losing at UFC 121 in the fashion that he did hurt the organization?Do I believe that? Of course I do. Listen, Cain Velasquez is a great fighter, but he couldn’t sell a taco and he’s Mexican, how is he going to sell a fight? He is horrible, the guy can’t even speak , I’m telling you, did you see Dana White’s face when he was putting the belt on him? He almost started throwing up right there in the octagon. You need people to sell the fight and like I said, Cain is an awesome fighter, I mean unbelievable, but at the same time did you see him speaking for this fight? He doesn’t like to talk. How you going to sell a fight when Cain doesn’t have a great personality, he really doesn’t want to talk too much. How is that going to sell a fight?


If you could say one thing to The Underground without getting blasted for it, what would it be? Spend one week with me and you’d all cut your tongues off for all the stupidity that came out of your pie holes. That’s exactly what I would say. You come walk with me for one week, I’m telling you right now, seven days you spend with me, I guarantee you that 99.9% of the people on the underground forums will become my biggest fans. They would say, oh my God, I can’t believe I said that about him because in the process of all this work we have a lot of fun, so you’d be a part of all that to so they would understand then they would see me live and they’d understand, well, Jesus, he only sleeps four hours a night and maybe that’s why sometimes he’s a little bit crazy. That might be sleep deprivation that’s not really how he is and then they’d go he does work 16 hours a day and he really doesn’t care about Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, New Year’s, nothing! He just wants to work and make money and be successful in the MMA business and then they’ll find out too that I’m compassionate with people, you know, I am, I’m very compassionate, I’m kind of weird, I don’t even know why it’s like that, I think I get that from my mother. I’m compassionate and I care about people and I have great manners and people would be shocked if they see that live.


Is the “Don’t Pull Guard” rule still in effect in 2010? Hell yeah, till 2020, so for all those nuthuggers on The Underground that are all jiu jitsu freaks and stuff like that, you pull guard in my organization, if you’re not getting the crap beaten out of you and you pull guard, you need to go fight somewhere else because you ain’t fighting in the MFC and I’m not taking it back and yeah, I said it and I said it again! I got five hundred emails from people going, ‘I can’t believe you said that’. Keep sending them and I’m going to keep saying it, if you pull guard in MMA then you shouldn’t be in MMA, you should be in jiu-jitsu tournaments.


What can Strikeforce do to stay relevant in the MMA world?Listen, Scott Coker is a really nice guy, but he’s got to get real aggressive. That whole monk approach that he uses where he’s all calm and shit, no one likes it. He’s got to get aggressive and he’s got to throw a punch, he’s got to throw a punch to be in the fight. He has the financial backing, he’s got a great model, business model, but he’s got to get in there and he’s got to throw a punch. I’m telling you, you want to get in a fight with someone you throw a punch. This whole Yoda approach of his, where he’s all quiet and shit, no one likes it. People don’t get the passion from him, they don’t get the excitement from him so, if he wants to go against them and really do that , that’s what he’s got to do. He tried the initial approach to be all buddy, buddy with DW, but once he started getting close what happened? Dana White started talking all nice about Coker, he’s a nice guy, he’s a nice guy, the second Coker started getting close what did he do? He rammed Coker and Coker didn’t fight back . The MMA world goes, ‘what the hell is wrong with you, fight back’. Put me in the same position and see what’s going to happen, on my kid’s head, both of them, you see what happens if you want to pick a fight with me or my family.


Do you think that the UFC opening up an office in the province of Ontario, Canada had anything to do with the speeding up of the sanctioning process there? No, I don’t think so, I think it was in the process already and I think they just got good timing to do that, but the MFC is going to be in Ontario 100% and maybe even before the UFC is. We’re in the process of making lots of deals with lots of real exciting people.


One last question for you. Do you believe in an afterlife?Do I believe in an afterlife? No, I believe there’s a God, and I have a great wife so hopefully I’ll end up in heaven, but I’m not a Buddhist so, I don’t believe in an afterlife.
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