Ahead of European Fighting Challenge’s inaugural event on Sat October 1st, I had the chance to ask the EuroFC CEO and Co-Founder a few questions about the promotion, the event, and his goals for the growth of MMA throughout the EU market. Let’s jump right in!
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background? Am I right in thinking you played hockey and were a cross-fit competitor?
I’m 36-years-old, and my background is from sports and business. I’ve always been a sports addict but I’ve also been very interested in the business side of it. Sports in general are full of great and compelling stories and that is very unique! Big audiences want big stories – and the platform full of stories gives great opportunities also for business. What comes to my work experience, I’ve had a privilege to work for great brands like Adidas Group, Cloetta, and Finnish Olympic Committee before starting with the European Fighting Challenge.
Is this your first foray into the MMA business? What’s your personal motivation for this?
Yes this is my first foray into MMA. However, we have a few team members with great experience in the MMA sector from a wide variety of positions. But why MMA for me? We did a European market analysis and found out that there is a gap in the market and a consumer need for a quality sports entertainment in a form of MMA. I have also a personal interest in MMA and I am invested to grow the European MMA market by making the sport more easily approachable.
You call EuroFC the new breed and new era, what do you mean by this? and What separates you from the other promotions?
Our unique selling point is to offer premier MMA in Europe’s best venues in European prime time. We are here to grow the market and make the sport more easily approachable. Our fight cards will be loved by the hard core fans as you have seen already. But we also give an easy-to-understand pathway to the sport for new consumer. We already have three events in three different cities – Espoo, Finland on October 1st, Prague, Czech Republic on February 11th and Copenhagen, Denmark on May 6th – planned, no other promotion has done this. A few have ventured into other markets but never fully commit to bringing their brand to Europe. That is what separates us.
You have 3 events scheduled already across Europe, how big are you aiming with the promotion? Worldwide? Do you want to be contenders with the UFC?
Well, our first three events being in three different countries across Europe should show you how big we are aiming. The name is EuroFC and our aim is to bring MMA to prime-time Europe. Bringing this worldwide is not our focus, yet.
The UFC are the market leaders in MMA, they do events across the globe and just sold for $4 billion. We don’t want to compete with the UFC. We want to compliment what they do and help grow the European market for MMA. We have our own vision and mission – and we want to be market leaders in Europe. We have a good dialogue with the UFC. Moreover, it will be good for both of us if the sport becomes more popular, mainstream and the market grows. We are definitely not going into this with the aim of competing with or ‘jumping’ the UFC but rather collaborating.
You have plenty of both young European talent on the card, as well as established former UFC fighters in the main event. What would you see as your main goal, bringing in established stars in or bringing in your own fresh talent?
Bringing high quality fights is our goal. We want the experienced ‘names’, local heroes, and the best rising talent on each card.
Why do you think there is still a certain stigma around European talent in the American dominated market? The biggest star currently is European Conor McGregor, As well great fighters like Gunnar Nelson and Alexander Gustaffson, but typically we are still seen as “behind”.
Well, Europe has UFC champions in Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Michael Bisping and Conor McGregor. And Overeem could very well capture the heavyweight title for The Netherlands soon. I don’t think Europe is seen anymore as being ‘behind’ anymore.
Maybe the market is not as advanced as would be in America, but the talent have caught up in recent years.
Do you think Brexit will affect your ability to use UK talent in your shows, or put on shows over here effectively?
Brexit will have an impact on Europe as a whole, not just MMA. I doubt that it will have much of an effect on our ability to use UK talent as we have fighters coming in from Asia, Australia, and North and South America for our EuroFC 01 card.
However, it would create some barriers if we wanted to do a show there. But we will just have to wait and see and then cross that bridge when we come to it.
How can people watch Euro FC?
We are working on a number of exciting ways* that will bring EuroFC 01 to as many eyes as possible around the world.
(*See below for details!)
What can people expect from the first event?
Just look at the card. If you know about MMA then you will quickly identify that the card is filled with crazy fights! And if you don’t know about MMA then you are in for a thrill. Fighters from all across Europe and the globe gathering in Finland for an exciting night of fights. I don’t know what more to say but that EuroFC 01 will be an unmissable night.
Which fight on the card are you most looking forward to? Who is the guy you think might be the breakout star?
In short- them all. The card that our matchmaker Tim Leidecker has put together is amazing. Each fight tells a story whether it is a clash between two UFC veterans or a heavyweight rematch or a clash between two undefeated stars…. it is so hard to pick out just one.
As for a breakout star, I can’t answer that. They all have the potential and opportunity on the night to standout.
PED’s are a huge topic in MMA recently, how do you feel about them? Do you have the proper controls in place? There aren’t many organisations in Europe able to run good testing currently, do you think this is a problem?
PED’s are a problem in all sports at all levels from the bottom right through to the Olympics. Personally I don’t like them, what kind of promoter would I be if I did? But they are a constant in sports and that is a sad fact.
Local authorities will be doing independent testing. We work closely with the national (and international) MMA federations – our events are sanctioned by them and they are committed to the anti-doping agenda. Testing like that has to be independent as this reduces the risk of perceived corruption or biased actions towards test results.
Are you working by unified rules or will kicks on the floor be legal etc?
We will be operating under unified rules and the experienced Marc Goddard is our head official.
Why do you think there is still a stigma surrounding MMA in Europe? British promotions can’t really get on TV and its still illegal in France.
There will always be a certain stigma attached to MMA, it isn’t a sport that is for everyone, but you can also say that about boxing, soccer, rugby, water polo, baseball or any other sport. But it’s changing too, rapidly. MMA is a global billion dollar business that competes for the same consumer money with other major sport leagues. The business of MMA has evolved to a position where professional organizations, mainstream media and major sponsorship partners – like Reebok – are a standard. It is fair to say that MMA is no longer a niche sport.
In regards to the barriers in France. I am hopeful though that we can help with this. Our aim in bringing MMA more ‘mainstream’ in Europe will hopefully have a knock-on affect on people’s perception of this great sport.
Your first few events will be spaced a few months apart, is that so the quality isn’t compromised, and do you envision monthly dates and more?
We are only starting so it would be foolish of us to start off with a more busier schedule. These are our baby steps. We have an exciting 2017 and 2018 planned, I’ll leave it at that.
Thanks, Jarno for your time, and clarifying some points going ahead! We look forward to watching all the events, and your growth in the coming year!