Verbatim: MFC’s Mark Pavelich speaks to Alberta Venture
Alberta’s answer to Dana White and the wildly popular Ultimate Fighting Championship has his eye on the prize – and a chip on his shoulder
by Tim Querengesser
Photograph Bluefish Studios
Mark Pavelich is the first to tell you that he’s second. He tells you that the Maximum Fighting Championship that he owns, in Edmonton, aims to be the second largest mixed martial arts league in the world. Ask how long it has been in existence and Pavelich answers that, whatever the length, it’s the second longest.
Like many Canadian entrepreneurs, Pavelich is in the shadow of his larger competition in the U.S.– specifically the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship, which dwarfs all other MMA leagues, and its celebrity president Dana White. But there’s something personal about it that makes Pavelich – whose successes are impressive, including lucrative TV deals in Canada (through TSN2) and the U.S. (through AXS TV), as well as backing by “shark” investor (and Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban – constantly compare himself to the UFC and, especially, to White. Is the comparison evidence of jealousy or instead the scrappy entrepreneurial ambition needed to succeed internationally from Canada? Alberta Venture’s Tim Querengesser called Pavelich at his Edmonton headquarters to find out.
TQ: How are you?
Mark Pavelich: Fantastic.
MP: People say I’m lucky [but] I tell everyone I’m blessed, so it’s going good. You want to talk about my Maximum Fighting business?
TQ: I do, but I want to know more about you first. Were you the tough kid on your block?
MP: Don’t be mistaken: I was forced to be tough, right. I’m a very passive person by nature and then when picked upon I become very aggressive. But I was the kid in the neighbourhood that, you know … people would bully me a little bit and then when I got bullied too much I would always fight back.
TQ: What was your MFC business like in the beginning?
MP: It was grueling because, you know, that’s why most people in this industry go out of business, right – it’s a tough fight. No one knew what MMA meant. I’ve spent half my life explaining to people what it was, let alone selling it. Initially when I got into this business I wanted to put on shows, and then I realized, wait a second: This is a business.
TQ: You and the MFC are often compared to Dana White and the UFC. What’s different?
MP: Dana White uses lots of profanity. In press conferences he’s dropping F-bombs all over the place. I am not that person, right. The problem with me is I have a gigantic chip on my shoulder … because I am angry. And it’s David and Goliath, but to the utmost proportions– because I’m playing with such a smaller budget than my competitors, and [yet] I’m still competing with them. Hey, I still have over 40,000 people following me on Twitter, right? Like Dana White has 20 people Twittering for him all at the same time, right? That’s the difference. For us, it always seems like we have to work so much harder.”
TQ: So how big can you get from Canada?
MP: I can be the second biggest show in the world from Canada, there’s no question in my mind. People will say, ‘Oh, United States …’ Well, 80 per cent of my fighter roster is American, my broadcasting partners are American, but let’s not forget, too … I’m the only MMA show, period, on TSN. We’re the last standing show that hasn’t sold anything to anybody. And we’ve been approached over the years from people, and only now we’ve realized that to get to the next level we would probably have to sell 49 per cent of the Maximum Fighting Championship.”
TQ: Wait, you’re looking for someone to buy 49 per cent of the MFC?
MP: That’s the first time I ever said it out loud. I’m the second most interviewed promoter in the world, for fighting, for combative sports. Dana White’s the most interviewed. [But] I’m the second most. Right?
To listen to the FULL interview, click below: