When Ed Soares was asked to become president of the Resurrection Fighting Alliance, a burgeoning mixed martial arts promotion based in Nebraska and Las Vegas, his first thought was he didn't want to disappoint anyone.
Said Soares, co-founder of Black House (a highly successful mixed martial arts management team that includes Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and a pipeline to Brazil): "I didn't want to take a position and let Wayne [Harriman, RFA CEO] down because I still had a responsibility to fighters I represent."
On Tuesday news broke that Soares had addressed those concerns and was set to move into the promotional realm. From merchandising (Soares owned Sinister Brand and other lines) to management, promotion, he felt, was the next step.
In a statement released that same day, Harriman praised Soares, saying that there's nobody better than Soares for the position.
"RFA needed a front man, someone with the experience to take the RFA to the next level. I've known Ed for over 12 years now and we have been in this business from the beginning. He knows the business better than anybody. He has a lot of access to fighters and has established relationships with everyone in the business. This was the perfect match."
Soares discussed the decision, its impact on his relationship with the sport's top powerbroker, Zuffa, and what he hopes to accomplish.
What will you do as president of the RFA?
We're going to be doing a lot of things. I'm not doing the day-to-day stuff immediately. I mean, The next three shows for the RFA are pretty much done already. It's going to be in October, November and December. Most of the matches are made. Most of the guys are signed. I'm going to slowly get my feet wet, kind of be the frontman and help orchestrate this organization.
How did this come together?
I think I've always thought eventually a natural transition would be for me to get into the promotion side of the business. I really enjoy the management business and I'm still involved in it, but I also have gained an interest in the promotional side of the business. This is a way for me to still do management, which I like, and be able to work on the promotion side. We'll see where it goes. I look at this as a breeding ground to build up new talent. And I think it will only enhance the management.
Are you an employee? Did they give you part ownership stake?
Right now I'd rather not talk about it because we still have some details to figure out. When we get it all done I'll let you know.
So you'll act at press conferences, weigh-ins and that sort of stuff as the "face" of the RFA, like a Dana White role?
Kind of, yeah. That's what it looks like it will be.
How is that different from what you've been doing?
I think at the end of the day it's the fight game and there will be lots of similarities. It's still the same game, I'm just playing a different position. But I think I'm familiar with the vibe and scene and responsibilities. I've been to enough press conferences and weigh-ins and I'm looking forward at taking on this new task in this new chapter of my life.
You've been around the game for a long time. You've seen promoters come and go. Why risk what you've built up by attaching it to a promotion at this point?
First of all I don't feel I'm putting anything at risk. I really don't. What I'm trying to do, if anything, is help grow the sport and create another opportunity for fighters out there to be able to expose themselves. I don't feel I'm putting anything at risk.
Well, you'll probably hear a lot of questions about how this will work with the UFC. You manage fighters and sell fighters to the UFC, but now you're the head of a promotion. Is that something you considered before taking the job?
Of course I considered it. To be honest with you, I wouldn't have taken the position if I didn't run it by the UFC. I ran it by Lorenzo [Fertitta, UFC's chief executive]. First of all, Wayne [Harriman], the CEO, ran it by Lorenzo first. And then I talked to Lorenzo about it. I don't look at it as a competition thing. I don't think there's a conflict of interest. I don't think it's anything. At the end of the day we're talking about breeding new talents. I'm not looking at being a competitor of the UFC. I'm looking at developing new talents, and providing new talent to the UFC and other big organizations. It's not just the UFC. I want to have a working relationship with everybody. I don't want to have issues with that. The same thing with our fighters. We're still managing the fighters and the only thing I decided is that any time there's any sort of negotiation with our fighters and the RFA I'm going to eliminate myself completely from the situation and let my partner Jorge (Guimaraes) negotiate the deal directly with Wayne or Scott Cutbirth, who is the matchmaker.
Can you talk about Wayne Harriman? He's a name that's been around the sport a lot. He has a good relationship with Lorenzo Feritta and Zuffa. What's his role in the RFA and why did you choose to work with him?
I've known Wayne for a long time. On top of doing different things together, as far as when he started the WFA I worked with him doing merchandising and sponsoring the show, so we've had a long working relationship. Wayne has a great working relationship with Dana [White] and Lorenzo. And I have a good relationship with Dana and Lorenzo. It all really made sense. Wayne was the one that called me and asked me to take that position. I told him, hey, my biggest concern was I didn't want to let anyone down. I didn't want to take a position and let Wayne down because I still had a responsibility to fighters I represent. And I'm going to live up to the responsibilities.
You're wearing many hats now. How do you think you'll be able to handle it?
I think I'm going to be able to handle it great because the RFA has an infrastructure set in place. A lot of the day-to-day, matchmaking kind of stuff will in the beginning be a slow process. I think it's going to take a good eight to 12 months before things really get going with that. Right now they're working on different television options. And TV deals. Hopefully it looks like we have a TV deal in place by October. So that would be good. By any means I don't see any sort of conflict.
You saw the WFA up close. What's different this time around? Why won't it be another WFA?
I think it's a different time. What the WFA set out to do at that time with the people that Wayne brought in looked at UFC as a competitor. There's no way I would look at the UFC as a competitor. As anything I look at all the bigger promotions and want to work with them instead of against them. We're here to develop new talent and hopefully resurrect talent that needs to get built up again. I really don't look at us as a competitor to anybody. We're just another organization trying to create new opportunities for fighters.
And you have strong connections to fighters. You've been bringing fighters into UFC for a while and you have a pipeline into Brazil. Will RFA be a place for Black House fighters? Will there be a relationship there kind of how Strikeforce was for AKA (and Zinkin Entertainment) fighters?
I think definitely Black House will have a pipeline into the RFA, just like other schools that are going to be fighting for us too.
So what happens when there's a good prospect you or Scott identify and want to sign, but the UFC wants to sign him too? I know you said there's no competition, but some of the guys you've signed already are serious talent. Bubba Jenkins is a great talent. I'm sure the UFC would be interested in a guy like that.
And when the time is right to let the guys go, if they think it's the right step, then go.
So an RFA product could go to, for example, Bellator if he chose to?
We'll cross those bridges when they come. Right now we haven't crossed that bridge. So far three fighters from the RFA already went to the UFC. We're not here to trap anybody. We're here to really enhance the sport, try to develop new talent. We're not here to hurt any body. We only want to benefit the sport and benefit the fighters.
As I understand it Harriman is partners with Kirk Brooks, an arena owner in Nebraska. I think it's Kearney, Neb. What kind of discussions did you have with Brooks, if any, and what was the message to you as the new president in terms of what they want you to accomplish?
I know [Brooks] because we've been in other businesses together also. We know each other. We know each other well. Basically we're going to take this business one step at a time. Our next goal is to get a television deal to maximize the exposure of the fighter.
In terms of your management, are you going to take a step back? Are you going to continue do to everything that you're doing now?
Right now with the RFA there won't be too many things for me to do. Of course, there are some things for me to do, but for the rest of this year it's pretty much set already. I'm jumping in and getting my feet wet. As for the management stuff, slowly but surely I've decreased my day-to-day activities. But the people and infrastructure we have in place, if you noticed I've been doing less of the translating and stuff like that, and I've just basically been passing on the reins to other people. Not for any reason other than I think there are certain aspects of the management that I'm very strong at, and at other aspects there are other people who can do just as good of a job. Or a lot better, hopefully. I think everyone is going to take more responsibility and it won't miss a beat.
How many events are planned for 2013?
By the end of next week I'll be able to answer those questions. I'm going to Las Vegas on Thursday and having two days of meetings with all this kind of information. The only thing I can confirm right now is we have for sure, possibly three events scheduled by the end of this year.
Last question here: do you think you'll be a better manager or promoter?
Umm ... man, I don't know. Only time will tell. All I know is everything I do I give my 100 percent best. Like when I got into the management business one of my goals, because managers always tend to have such a bad reputation, was go into the business and prove I can be a successful manager by being honest and honorable and having credibility. It seems promoters have a similar reputation. I'm convinced you can be an honest person and be successful in this business. I want to go into the promotion business with the same philosophy. I want to go out there, be honest, and help the sport. I believe I'll be able to accomplish that. So I guess only time will tell if I'm going to be a better manager or promoter.