After representing MMA fighters for over seven years, Ken Pavia decided to take things to the next level, selling his company (MMA agents) and diving into tougher challenges. Pavia has partnered up with Indian entrepreneurs Raj Kundra, Daniel Isaac and Sanjay Dutt, creating India’s first MMA promotion – Super Fight League. SFL’s inaugural event is set for March 11, and the entire broadcast will be available live and free on YouTube.
I caught up with Pavia earlier today, to find out more about the SFL.
David: How difficult was the switch from MMA agent, to fight promoter?
Ken: It wasn’t that difficult at all. In my capacity as an agent, I utilized a network of contacts and individuals to help me do my job. And I use the same contacts to help me promote the events. I think over the course of 10 years, I developed some strong contacts. And I’m relying on them to help me in my new role.
David: How did the whole concept of SFL come about?
Ken: Raj Kundra, a serial entrepreneur from India, who owns a cricket league team, was introduced to the sport of MMA. And actually came here to the United States, to Beverley Hills and asked for a meeting with me. We sat down and discussed potential synergies and ideas. He basically conceptualized the whole idea. He knew India was virgin territory and the sport was growing like wildfire here in the states and abroad. He recognized the opportunity and brought me aboard.
David: What type of rules will you guys use?
Ken: Our default setting is the unified rules. We brought Bill Mahood — who is an official in British Columbia — onboard for the first event, and he’s helping us refine the rules. The default setting is going to be the unified rules, and we’re making some last minute decisions about some minor changes, but for the most part you’ll see the unified rules.
David: The UFC has been very successful in Brazil; do you expect something similar in India?
Ken: The Indian audience is really unfamiliar with the sport of MMA. We have a lot of work to do to educate them. In Brazil, I think you had a very strong base, based upon MMA’s and Vale Tudo’s history in Brazil. And the television exposure that Brazil has. We have a lot of work to do in India, but India is such a big combat country to begin with. We’re very happy to bring this sport over and believe this country will really warm up to it.
David: How’s your relationship with the UFC right now? Dana White doesn’t seem to be a big fan of yours.
Ken: I didn’t get a Christmas card… I think for many years we were adverse parties by definition. Management and agents by definition are not on the same team. Many years of that can wear on a relationship. Sometimes, a mutual respect develops and sometimes hard feelings develop. Unfortunately, we had the latter.
David: I noticed you have a bunch of Indian MMA fighters on the SFL roster. Is there anyone in particular we should be watching?
Ken: We have opened up training facilities in India and we’re giving Indian fighters an opportunity they’ve never had before. On our cards, you’ll see five or so fights featuring Indian MMA fighters. We don’t know where the stars will emerge from; we know a lot of them have talent and we’re going to give them the opportunity. I’m hoping that stars will organically emerge with the opportunities we provide.
David: Where do you see the SFL in ten years?
Ken: I think Pride in Asia was before its time. Anybody that actually watched a Pride event could not deny the visual spectacle. The mix of fun fights and athletically competitive fights, I think that if Pride was around today, it would be the number one event. We strive to have a Pride-like event. You’ll see an entertainment extravaganza. I believe the fans in India and the fans worldwide would take to it. Quoting Dana White, MMA is just scratching the surface in terms of its popularity worldwide, and the SFL is uniquely positioned to be the elite level organization worldwide.
David: Is there anything else you want to get out there?