The sport of MMA is still a male dominated sport at this point. However, we are beginning to see some changes as Gina Carano and Chris Cyborg will be headlining a major MMA event in a couple of weeks. There are several other female fighters vying to make a name for themselves. One of the sports best pound for pound fighters in George St. Pierre is managed by a female. So here at MMA4Real we always like to get different perspectives about things that happen in the sport. Enter Kristen Brown, a female MMA manager that's covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Kristen was kind enough to grant MMA4Real an email interview and speaks on what she's passionate about, how she's different than most MMA managers, and what it's going to take to make MMA become a major sport on par with baseball. Check it:
MMA4Real-Tell us a little about yourself and how long have you been involved with mixed martial arts?
Kristen Brown-I'm actually a little insecure about divulging how long I have been involved in MMA, but lately it has been said to me by several people that I should be proud of what I accomplished in such a short amount of time. I seem to have surprised a few people. It's just embarrassing that I was in a relationship for so long where I wasn't permitted to watch TV or have any friends whereby missing so many years I could have been involved in MMA. It upsets me to know I missed so much. I am trying to catch up as fast as I can. I gave myself 5 years to work my magic!
MMA4Real-Word. What line of work did you do before becoming involved with MMA?
Kristen Brown-I wore a lot of hats in the past. I was an assistant chef, a Montessori school assistant teacher, a house painter, a contracted artist (murals), a waitress, and I owned my own business a few times from desk top publishing to handyman referral service.
MMA4Real-There are not many female managers in MMA at the moment. What are some of the challenges you have faced thus far and how have you overcome those obstacles?
Kristen Brown-The first time a fighter told me that with my drive and love of the sport I should manage fighters, I said, "no one is going to want a female manager, especially one who is new at it". I am thankful to say I was wrong on both points. I haven't found my gender or even my disabled status to be any kind of obstacle. I think being a female manager has given me a better understanding of how to meet a fighters needs in the respect that I feel a sort of maternal instinct and protectiveness about them.
MMA4Real-Haha, sounds like my mom! UFC Welterweight champion George St. Pierre's manager is female and she's done a lot to get him exposure...signing with Gatorade etc. Do you think we'll begin to see more females on the business side of MMA, if so..why?
Kristen Brown-When GSP won his fight against Alves, I sent his manager Shari an e-mail congratulating her on her fighter's win. She is one of my inspirations, as is a female matchmaker for Cage Warriors USA in Orlando, FL, Samantha who taught me so much. Lately I have been working on a campaign to not only get more women involved in the sport as fans, but also to get fans involved as participants of the sport, or involved in the business side of it. So many people tell me they would love to do what I do but don't know how. 6 months ago I didn't know how either and now I find myself hiring managers to keep up. IF I CAN DO IT ANYONE CAN!!! I would be happy to show anyone with a passion for the sport and intense drive how to do get started.
MMA4Real-Right on. A lot of managers get a bad wrap from taking advantage of fighters, what would you say differentiates you from most MMA managers?
Kristen Brown-I always thought it was a travesty how much money managers make off their fighters, but after working with so many fighters and listening to their needs and concerns, it is an overall consensus that what concerns a fighter isn't so much the money issue, but rather feeling stuck with a manager that doesn't return their calls, or their fights are too few and far in-between. I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "well I have a manager but he hasn't done anything for me." That sort of thing is more important than money sometimes. They want to know the person charged with forging their career actually cares andis actively doing something about it. What I want these discontented fighters to know is READ YOUR CONTRACT....it says right in there that the contract is voided if the manager does not perform their duties as outlined in the contract. It also says they have to actively find your performance opportunities. These words are in every single state mandated contract. I know because I read them from time to time! Ha! These contracts are found online under your states boxing or athletic commission website. Those fighters who have good managers, keep them forever! Appreciate them! Aside from asking fighters what their goals and interests are and trying to help them fulfill that, I don't charge them a single thing for my work. I ask for nothing in return from anyone I help. A lot of people look at me funny when I tell them that. Ummm, my job is to get a fighter as much money as I can. How effective can I be at that if I am taking part of every dollar I get them? I found a better way!
MMA4Real-Do you have actual contracts with your fighters or do you operate with just verbal commitments?
Kristen Brown-I have several contracted fighters, but I also do work for fighters who either have no representation, or they have a manager and just appreciate the extra help I offer no strings attached. The fighters I delegate to other managers in my company MUST be contracted because I actually pay them commission, I just don't take that commission from the fighter. I take it from my other business. I will help any fighter who asks for my help whether they have a manager or not. I don't take any money so I am not a threat to the other manager.
MMA4Real-Wow. Let's switch gears a bit. I know you were working on a documentary a while back, tell us a little about that and when should it become a finished product?
Kristen Brown-I've actually postponed filming of the documentary in the interest of having the ability, crew, and budget to make it more professionally done. As most things I do, I'm not making this film to make money, but for more altruistic purposes. It is easy to find fighters to be in it for nothing more than a percentage of profits, but good luck finding a production crew with the same selfless mindset.
MMA4Real-Now you are also working on a clothing line as well. What's the name of it and what makes it different than all of the other MMAclothing lines out there. Where can we find this product?
Kristen Brown-I make clothing, MMA gloves & fight shorts, and skateboards. The brand is Lethal by Kristen Brown. I also make custom lines for fighters and gyms. I'm currently working on a line for Matt Brown called Immortal which will be not only fight shirts but tees anyone could wear. Everyone has tee shirts. I want something more! August 2nd my products will be available at http://www.lethalmanagement.com, Hibits, and Abrasive in Texas. Currently Lethal can be found at Warriors Edge, http://john-michaelthepunisher.tripod.com(click on Lethal), and http://twitpic.com/photos/LethalPrincess, the Orange Park Mall, and Smiley's Combat Gym in Jacksonville, FL, at certain Grappler's Quest tournaments, and various MMA expositions.
MMA4Real-Good stuff. I'll have to check that out this weekend. What's the most rewarding thing about managing MMA fighters?
Kristen Brown-Fighters appreciate the effort put forth on their behalf. I have never in my life heard of such a thing! It's always been about results and more, more, more. With fighters it is about showing I care and that I am spending my days trying to get them what they are after. The first fighter I ever worked for was BJJ black belt Mike Lee (co-owner of the Jungle MMA & Fitness in Orlando). It took me forever to find him money it seemed like, yet he kept telling me I was doing a good job and thanking me nearly every chance he got. It humbled me. So one day I broke down into tears and said, "I haven't done anything yet!!" He simply said, "yes you have. You haven't given up. Anyone else would have by now. Sponsorship acquisition is grueling and you are out there trying and we (him and Seth Petruzelli whom I was also working on) appreciate it." I have never forgotten that. It gave me strength and confidence to continue my efforts andeventually I did find him sponsors.
MMA4Real-That's what's up. Where do you see the future of MMA going...do you think it could ever be on par with the major sports in America like baseball, football, etc? If so...why....If not...why?
Kristen Brown-In any kind of sports someone MIGHT get hurt. In MMA someone WILL get hurt. That is a hard concept to reconcile with society in any way that would allow MMA to go mainstream. How many places in your daily travels do you see "no skate boarding" signs because companies don't want to be liable for injury.
How nice it would be though if I didn't have to wonder if my kid is gonna get sent home from kindergarten for wearing a shirt with a ground and pound image on it, or worry child protection will crawl up my ass about taking my kids to sit front row at fights every other weekend. So changing society perception of what MMA is all about, changing society's misconceptions of the people who fight, and widespead acceptance of intentional aggression is what it would take to make MMA mainstream. That is going to take some time. History is full of proof that all things are possible if you refuse to give up. There is a huge leap from getting people to accept a sport that involves throwing a ball, to one that involves throwing a punch. It will happen though. Give it time. Tony Hawk took his skate board through the White House, someday someone (Dana! haha) will set up a cage on the White House lawn and it will be on and poppin! :o)
MMA4Real-What's something about the sport of MMA you wish you could change?
Kristen Brown-I find it disturbing how very skilled andtalented fighters don't get the kind of media coverage as lesser skilled fighters whom are either deemed entertaining in other ways, or they know someone who can get them on The Ultimate Fighter or a similar hook up. Is it about who you know, having a marketable personality, or about finding the best fighters? I know so many guys that are far better fighters than some of the guys that made it onto The Ultimate Fighter, or onto cards for promotions like Strikeforce and UFC. There is some undiscovered serious skill and talent out there. How do I get these boys in front of a broader audience camera where everyone can see what they've got?
MMA4Real-Great question and I wish I had the answer as well. Who is your favorite fighter and what's your favorite MMA event of all time?
Kristen Brown-I have way too many favorite fighters to list. My favorite events are UFC: Fight for the Troops, UFC 50, 65, 68, 74, 79, 86, 92, 94, 97, 98, Pride 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 32, 33, 34, WEC 41, Ultimate Warrior Challenge Main Event of Seth Petruzelli vs Bernard Rutherford (and of course Seth's infamous destruction of Kimbo Slice), umm,...I have a lot more fav events but I don't want to ramble on.
MMA4Real-I know you have a lot of irons in the fire...do you have any free time? If so, what do you like to do outside of MMA?
Kristen Brown-Since I can do many things at a time, and I work by internet, phone, and text,...pretty much the only place I can go to get away from work is the beach. It is the only place I feel content and the only time my anxiety dissipates. I love the beach. I also like to take my kids out and spoil them with sugar and fun!
MMA4Real-I grew up near the beach so I can relate to that! What's something you could tell us about Kristen that a lot of people wouldn't know?
Kristen Brown-I'm very shy. People who know me don't believe me, but I am actually terrified of talking to people. The fact that I can walk up to someone and generate a friendship out of thin air is in-spite of my fear, not in the absence of it. I usually go home and hyperventilate after walking up to someone and saying, "hi I'm Kristen...(blah blah whatever)".
MMA4Real-What advice would you give to up and coming fighters trying to make it big in MMA?
Kristen Brown-If you feel your manager isn't looking out for your best interests, or isn't living up to what you expect, get a new one!
MMA4Real-Is there anyone out there you would like to thank, and any words of wisdom you would like to leave us with or anything else we should know about Kristen?
Kristen Brown-If it wasn't for the guys at The Jungle MMA & Fitness in Orlando, Mike Lee, Tom Lawlor, and Seth Petruzelli, for giving me a chance I probably would have looked into basket weaving classes instead of googling "how to be a fight manager". Thank you guys! Mike then introduced me to Samantha at Cage Warriors USA who gave me a years worth of advice in 2 months! Thank you Samantha! Thank you to Robert (Bob) Reiter, the esteemed owner of Muay Thaimes magazine who wrote an article on one of my fighters (Chris Clodfelter) and put my ad for Lethal in his magazine free of charge. Thank you to Shawn Christie at Fight! magazine for everything, and Ryan Gausman for designing my ad in the June issue of Fight! on the fly (and doing such a great job of it). You (MMAForReal.com) for always promoting fighters the way you do, and including me in what you do. Thank you to PennyJoMMA.com, Kelly Brown at PerformanceMMA.com, Slade at Tussle Fight Gear, Esteban Lutz for all his advice, support, and Matt Brown's phone number haha, thank you Matt Brown for being so awesome to talk to and work with, Fernando Rivera at Hoodlum Fight Gear, Faith from Mandalay Bay for the hook up, Spencer Fisher for his time, honesty, and advice, Elvis the security guard at UFC 100 Fan Expo, my brother Richard for saving my butt to make it possible for me to go to UFC 100, Adrian at ANA Comics and his awesome wife Farrah, Seth Petruzelli for stopping at my booth for fans at UFC 100 Fan Expo, actor/writer/activist Jesse Kozel, Shonie Carter for his support, Brian Bernstein, Triad pictures director JL Botelho, andevery single fighter I have ever worked with as they have all been amazing. Thank you to my kids for being patient when mommy is on the phone or computer. Most of all I would like to thank my husband for acting like an ass and walking out 18 months ago as it prompted me to move and change my life whereby enabling me to become part of something awesome. Sorry so long, I am very grateful to alot of people.
MMA4Real would like to thank Kristen for granting us the interview. Good luck with everything and keep up the good fight for the fighters. We look forward to speaking with you in the future.