Welcome to our second interview. This interview was done with Jeff Osborne. Jeff wears many different hats in the MMA world, mainly he’s one if the main forces behind one of the best shows in the US, Hook N Shoot and he’s also one of the announcers for a small show that you may have heard of unless you’ve lived under a rock since 1992 called the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Jeff is the main force behind the up and coming all women’s Hook N Shoot card coming up in April of this year. Her’s you chance to find out what it’s taking to put together the first all women’s card in the US.
Jeff Osborn Women’s MMA Fight Promotor UFC Commentator
Fighter Girls Tell us what you do for Hook N Shoot and who else is involved.
Jeff Osborne What used to be a one-man-show is now about a 10-person production. We have a 3-camera video crew, Bob from South Caronlina and Troy from New York are our stage co-ordinators and help with contracts, Miguel Iturrate is the main matchmaker, Rich Santoro helps with regulatory code and is the U.S. Shooto rep, Darryl Neher along with myself handle all video operations from editing, mixing, encoding and all kinds of other good stuff. As far as my duties, I’m in charge of getting sponsors, local promotion, ticket sales, transportation, radio ads, I also produce the TV show and direct the actual show. Basically, we’re doing the job of around 45 people with about 10 of us.
FG: What possessed you to start Hook N Shoot?
JO: I was a pro-wrestler for about four years and was told to put on 80lbs and I would have a very lucrative job. Obviously, this meant steroids. I had the ability but not the size. I got so fed up with the way things were going and the behind-the-scenes crap that I had to leave it. I saw UFC 2 and walked away for good. In pro wrestling, there are so many make-believe egos and in this sport, there are almost no egos at all. I like that.
FG: Tell us a bit about how the first few shows went.
JO: First show was a sell-out of about 350 people. It was at a 4-H Boys and Girls Club in a small town called Boonville, Indiana. At the time, I had no clue what to pay people and I lost about $2,000 (later this would be minute)
FG: What is the extent of your involvement with the Shooto Organization in Japan and how did the come about?
JO: We are now basically recognized as the U.S. version of Shooto. They are quite possibly the most respected organization in Japan in the fact that they thrive on having the best fighters and entertain the crowd. They may not be rich, but they are true and have the utmost integrity with fans. We are now 100% Shooto and I’m very happy with the way things are going.
FG: How did you land the job and UFC?
JO: I’ve been doing commentary on our HnS fights for roughly 5 years now. They were familiar with me and our show, knew of my work, I submitted a tape and got it. My knowledge on the fighters also helped. I’ve followed the sport before it hit the U.S. with Pancrase and other groups. Knowing the fighters was a plus
FG: It must be fun being a UFC commentator, what’s your favorite part?
JO: My favorite part…that’s a hard one. I guess being able to talk about something I love so much and have the best seat in the house. The paycheck is also a favorite!
FG: What is your Martial Arts background?
JO: Studied some traditional martial arts as a kid but nothing serious. I started training in BJJ and Muay Thai in 1994 after I left pro wrestling.
FG: Do you have any pro or amateur fights?
JO: Yeah, two amateurs and 4 pros. I’m technically 2-2 in MMA I guess. I’m a lover, not a fighter (ha ha)
FG: What are your favorite fight styles?
JO: I’m not a big fan of styles but I am a big fan of fighters who can use their styles to their best abilities. Yves Edwards style is great. He can avoid the takedown and deliver incredible knees and still manage to get out of tough spots. Aaron Riley’s style of boxing, submissions and being able to avoid the takedown makes for incredible fights. Rumina Sato is another who has created a style of his own.
FG: I’ve heard your into video and camera work, also, did you go to school for that?
JO: I chose not to go to college because I knew what I wanted to do. I had three different scholarships and two were fully paid but I chose not to go. I wouldn’t advise anyone else to skip college though! I just jumped in the video production business. There’s nothing like watching a creation take shape on video.
FG: Do you have any other jobs besides what we’ve gone into so far?
JO: I do so many things but it’s all MMA related. So many things to explain. I always get asked what I do for a living and I’m stumped!
FG: Are you married or single? Married.
JO: My wife rocks!
JO: My one and only. She’s so unbelievable that we chose not to have another in fear that it may turn out like me! Just kidding.
FG: What’s been your favorite fight that you’ve put on so far?
JO: Hmmmm, my personal favorite fight was Aaron Riley vs. Steve Berger. I worked so hard on an intro video that showed live to the audience and it sent chills up my spine. It was emotional for me because both were my friends and one had to lose. The match turned out to be the only non-UFC/Pride/Shooto to make it into the 2000 Match of the Year Top Ten. It wasn’t necessarily the match but the class they showed before and after it. That to me is why I love the sport.
FG: Who has been your most memorable fighter that you have met to date??
JO: I don’t know. I really don’t get that pumped about meeting anyone. I respect everyone and especially the fighters. No one strikes me as a “superstar”.
FG: What expectations do you have for your show this year?
JO: We will continue to grow as we have over the last 6 years. We like to keep things reasonable where other promotions have failed this year. I was a fighter before a promoter and have seen others mistakes in dealing with promoters. Some ask for so much money that it can drive a company out of business. I look at REMIX for example. Marloes Coenen got $95,000 for winning a tournament and the other girls got paid well too. Granted, I believe the fighters should be making as much as boxers but many are driving companies out of business. REMIX folded and only does two fights per year now, Battlarts in Japan folded, RINGS will officially close in February and so many other U.S. promotions are losing HUGE money. We want to be consistent and give people fights on a regular basis. Blowing a quarter of a million bucks on an unproven show is ignorant and before you know it, no one will be fighting.
FG: What was the reaction from the first female fight you did with Judy Neff and Shelby Walker?
JO: Actually the first fight was Judy vs. Jessica Ross back in March of 2001. This was our first fight and it was a sell-out show. I think people were curious to see what the women could bring to the ring and they weren’t disappointed.
FG: There has been a lot of talk about the all women’s card that you are putting, some very positive some not so positive. I am real curious on why you decided to promote it in the first place??
JO: The negatives are getting less and less. I think some people just want to see something fail. They want to see it fail so badly that they’ll even buy a ticket, which doesn’t make sense. Others are jealous of the women getting so much attention. The positives are that it’s so new, at least in the U.S., that virtually every form of MMA media is calling me wanting to cover it. We’re also getting interest from other magazines and such outside our sport. No special reason why I wanted to promote it. I just want to see who the best woman is!
FG: It must be tough when you have some people telling you it is going to fail, how are you dealing with that?
JO: The same way I deal with every day like. Some people react to negatives in bad ways. I tend to turn it around and shove it in their face when I’m done. Tell me I can’t do something and I will. I’m goal oriented and when I achieve a goal, I’ll set more. Life is boring without goals!
FG: Anything you wish to say to those who have supported you through all this?
JO: I can’t wait to meet some of the women face to face. They have been incredible to deal with and great thing about negotiating and just talking to the women is that they just want to fight! I’m glad to be dealing with people who love the sport just as much as me.
FG: Anything you wish to say to those who have not?
JO: Nothing bad. At times, I think it’s funny because with the crew of women that we have on the show, they will do my talking for me and prove everyone wrong.
FG: Some people think that women should not fight, what do you say to them?
JO: Tell that to Judy Neff, Jennifer Howe or Marloes Coenen. The people who are saying that may have some issues to deal with. Last time I checked, this was America and you’re allowed to dream and do what you want.
FG: Are you getting a good response thus far from the fans?
JO: For the most part, it’s been about 95% positive. It’s usually the 5% that gets heard. The response has been great and we’re still a few months out.
FG: Do you plan on doing more all women’s card or mixing them up on the men’s cards?
JO: Yes, I’d like to have Erin Toughill vs. Marloes on our May show. We’re also looking at running single fights on our regular shows as well.
FG: Do you think the women cross train enough?
JO: I still don’t think a lot of men cross train enough! Usually, a fighter is good at one or two things instead of the complete fighter. There will be some that are “great” but there will always be some who are the “best”. Women’s fighting is so new that the game will change greatly after this show. It’s going to be interesting.
FG: What do you think women should to get themselves noticed as fighter, besides fight well, that is.
JO: Your web page is a good start! ha ha. Seriously, I found many of the women on the show from your page. I would suggest putting together a sparring tape and sending it to us. We’re not here to outmatch people or have one-sided fights. That’s a waste for everyone! My goal is to produce the best quality matches so if I see someone who is better than a possible opponent, I don’t do the fight. Right now, the best way to get noticed in our industry is the web.
FG: Are the winners of this card going to go to Shooto in Japan?
JO: We’re hoping. This is the first full-sanctioned women’s Shooto event. Judy and Shelby was the first official fight and they’re now listed on Shooto’s ranking pages so I do expect things to get interesting down the road and hope they can come up with good Japanese women to do fights on their shows.
FG: The 135lb weight class looks to be a top class for the women, are you planning on doing a tournament any time soon to crown a champion?
JO: I would love to do a tournament but Shooto rules are “no tournaments”. We haven’t done a tournament since 1998 and don’t plan on changing. I would rather do tournaments over a period of shows. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have the fighters fresh. I’ve seen tournis where one fighter has a LOOONNNNGGG fight and his opponent was in for about 20 seconds. You don’t get the best when you do them in the same night. I want to crown a champion around the 125lbs to 140lbs division. That’s where 90% of the fighters are.
FG: What kind of turn out are you expecting for this card?
JO: Hopefully a good! 🙂 Seriously, I believe that it will rival our other shows with a good turnout. We’re already getting media attention and we still have a regular show on 3/9/02 to think about. We have had three shows drawing over 3,000 and two of them had a women’s fight. I’m hoping to make this the fourth.
FG: Are you promoting this show any differently than the men’s shows?
JO: Not really. I don’t have a lot of help going into this but things are falling into place. I think the ladies will do all the promotion on the web and the curiosity of people here locally will handle the rest.
FG: It is also rumored that the ringside seats are almost sold out, is that true, and if so how does that compare to the men’s show?
JO: It’s not sold out but there is a lot of interest. It’s the earliest I’ve ever had people ask me for tickets! That’s a great sign.
FG: Did you have a hard time matching up the fighters or was pretty much everyone willing to fight each other?
JO: Everyone was willing to fight. Like Judy Neff said, some women will only want to fight certain people but I’m VERY confident in the women on the show. I just don’t want to outmatch anyone. The last thing I want is someone getting hurt. We have the best medical record of ANY group in MMA.
FG: I heard you got tons of responses from females fighters for this show, what does a fighter have to do to catch your attention to get on one of the cards?
JO: I got about 40 responses and about 30 were legitimate and serious. The best and the ONLY way to get on a show is a video tape. Be it sparring, training or an actual match, this is the only way you will get noticed. I don’t want some girl with 3 months of Tae Bo trying to get on the show by saying she is a kick boxer. Talk and email means nothing to me until a video shows up. That’s when I take them seriously.
FG: This will be a ground breaking and hopefully trend setting event in the U.S., all of the fighters involved would like to thank you for what you are doing. We will all work hard at trying to prove to the fans that aren’t convinced yet that we are capable of putting on a phenomenal show. Jeff, thank you for the interview and everything else.
JO: I would once again like to say thanks to the women who have agreed to compete. What sucks about the whole thing is that all the great people I’ve spoken to are becoming friends and it’s hard for me to know that 50% of my friends will lose. That’s the worst part but just getting in there to fight is the greatest accomplishment of all. Keep up the great work!