For those of you that are not familiar with how things go to promote a MMA event, as well as managing fighters, it's a pretty difficult task. However, the guy that we are interviewing today is not only a manager and a promoter, he does the matchmaking for the Fightlab Promotions shows. I'm speaking about none other than Mr. Cornbread himself, Michael Allen. Michael was gracious enough to speak with us about a host of things. You will also become accustomed to his fanposts each week as he talks about the local scene and progress of his fighters, so be on the lookout for those. He spoke with us about who to be on the lookout for in regards to local talent, a great card taking place in Charlotte, and who may be appearing on the Shine Fights 3 card that will take place in Fayetteville in May. Check it all out below:
Kelvin Hunt-Michael...tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into MMA.
Michael Allen - "I started out like a lot of people who are in the sport. I wrestled since I was a kid. I was pretty successful in the State of NC and went on to wrestle briefly in college. In 2000 I was fortunate to meet up with my current teammates at Team Huskey. Back then we weren't called Team Huskey. We were Shooters gym and were under the tutelage of Johnny Huskey and legendary catch wrestler, Billy Wicks. The only guy fighting at the time was Johnny Huskey over in Japan and doing underground fights here in the states. Most of us were only doing submission tournaments. I did very well in the grappling events and eventually expanded my grappling knowledge by traveling and training under Joe Hurst. I ended up suffering a torn ACL during the US grappling Championships and that took me out of the sport until 2006. Then I made my return to fighting. Funny thing is I came back as an ammy even though I had fought pro in Kentucky years before. Thank god no one kept records. Anyways, I made a short return and got that out of my system. I realized that I wasn't young anymore and my services would be better used training the guys at Team Huskey beside Johnny Huskey. The rest is history. Team Huskey was formed and shortly after the persona of "Cornbread' grew and I started managing fighters outside of Team Huskey. I met Kenny Letts and Chris Frye and we formed Bread and Butter mgt LLC. So far everything has blossomed out so quickly that it is a miracle. I barely know which way I'm going sometimes! LOL!!!
Kelvin Hunt -Now you are a fight manager, announcer, promoter slash whatever else needs to be done with Fight lab promotions. Fight lab puts on a great show from what I can tell with some very good fighters here in NC. How did you get hooked up with that company and what separates Fight lab from all the other promotions out there?
Michael Allen-.....I met up with Kenny Letts in the middle of him matchmaking for his debut show, Misery Loves Company. I offered him some advice on the matchups and he liked what he saw. Also, he was very impressed with the aggressiveness of Team Huskey as a whole. For some reason he decided to hire me as matchmaker and the rest has been history. As far as what separates Fight Lab from the rest......well, we don't fuck around. We don't protect our fighters first and foremost. Even though a lot our guys come from camps that we manage or even from Team Huskey. We make the toughest matchups possible. I want our champions to be pushed and we want the crowd to get their money's worth. The other thing is we want people to leave our show questioning whether they just left a mma fight or a big block party. We interact with the crowd; have loud music and hot women. It's an experience.
Kelvin Hunt-Yea...so I'm told. You guy have put on a couple of special events in the past couple of months. You had the Fight Night for the Kids event, plus the event at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Tell us a little about those events and how they came about.
Michael Allen- ...LOL!!! That is all Kenny Letts. He is always looking for a way to be different. It's not enough to do a show at the Grady Cole center where UFC 3 was held. He has to do shows at the top of the Epicenter or bring our show to the troops at The Air Force Base. He is a master marketer and really knows how to set our shows apart from the rest.
Kelvin Hunt-Fight lab has a big event coming up next month in Charlotte, tell us a little about that event and why fans should come and support the show.
Michael Allen- ...Yeah Kelvin. On March 26 we will be doing" Fights at the Epicenter II". Like the first one it will be four stories up on top of the Epicenter. That in itself is fucking crazy. Last year we did the first one in mid October and still had 1200 crazy ass fans show up in the rain and cold. Of course the event was covered by two huge tents, but nevertheless it was electric. It was one of my favorite cards I have ever put together and this one is going to be better. We have all fight lab titles up for grabs, including the vacant female 125 title. So we are excited and hope to see all of you there.
Kelvin Hunt -Yea, I saw footage from the last Epicenter show...that was crazy. Ok, now let's switch gears a little bit. I know you used to fight and have a background in submission grappling. Do you actually get out there and help your fighters with the training as they prepare for their fights?
Michael Allen- ..Yeah I try to lend as much of a help as I can. I am so busy with the management and Fight Lab adventures that it is hard. Luckily, we have a staff of trainers at Team Huskey that is second to none. The level of training those guys gets rival that of any camp anywhere. Johnny Huskey, Patrick Green, Clyde Dull, Phil Wills and Chris Frye are awesome. It is a network of asskicking that reaches from Asheville all the way to Charlotte. It's crazy.
Kelvin Hunt-There are a ton of MMA events popping off in North Carolina. In fact, the Shine fights organization will be holding an event here in May. The UFC is coming back next month...will you be looking to get some of your fighters on those cards, if so...who should we be on the lookout for?
Michael Allen - ....Right now I am in negotiations with Shine to have Preston Marks showcased on the "Shine" card...I also have some things in the works for "The Leprechaun" Roger Carroll. He has been on a tear lately in the 185 pound division. Recently he scored a huge win over THE BOMB SQUAD'S Mike Guerin who at the time was undefeated. Also, Roger's little brother, Joey has amassed a 3-1 pro record after a successful run as an amateur.
Kelvin Hunt-No doubt they'll represent the state well. Tell us something about "Cornbread" that people would be surprised to know.
Michael Allen - ...Uh...I have two awesome kids, Eddie (12) and Meagan (10). I love video games and I have a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu jitsu.
Kelvin Hunt-Cool...now you were sending quite a few of your guys down to Georgia to compete a while back. Tell us a little bit about the rivalry that developed and how it all got started?
Michael Allen - ...Oh My God!! LOL!! Yeah, that was quite a run. The funny thing is that the rivalry wasn't between my guys and Georgia, but more between my mgt group and Jeff Chasner's Sponsored Fan mgt. It was all for show. I work hard for my guys and if that means I have to ruffle somebody's feathers just to get one fight, then so be it. I have a pretty good friendship with Jeff now. At first, he didn't know how to take my remarks and obviously neither did the entire state. But it was all for show. It made for some intriguing matchups. We won some and lost some. It was fun. I was grateful that Dave Oblas down at Wild Bill's allowed us to have fun with it and we look forward to going back down there as much as possible.
Kelvin Hunt-Right on, I just wanted to give you a chance to clear the air with that. North Carolina is a pretty wide state, so the western part of the state gets overlooked from time to time. Since you are from that part of the state, who are some up and coming fighters we need to be on the lookout for?
Michael Allen- ...First of all, Kelvin you are a terrorist. You constantly over look the Western part of the state...and you will pay. You're on the list...GRRRR!!! Just joking! The western part of the state definitely sports some of the top talent in the state. Especially in the amateur ranks. I look forward to the day that Fight Lab and CFP could do a joint promotion and settle this on a yearly basis. I think that would be an awesome year end show. Maybe hold it in Raleigh every year. As far as the up and comers ...man...there are so many. Jacob Allman, Colt Howell, Jordan Rinaldi and Kurtis Cloward are beasts at 155. Matthew Tran and Nate Davis @ 135/145, Blaine Thomas , Travis Ferrell, Micah Lail and Jaime Pickett @ 170, Adam Dehart and Jeremy Perdue own 185, Zach Klouse and Rickey Rainey are scary 205's and of course Jeremy Holm at HWT.
Kelvin Hunt-Man, you stay hating! We've interviewed Dehart! I promise we'll get to all these guys man! Also, I'd love to see a joint promotion between those two organizations. Yall need to work on that. There are a lot of quality fight camps out there, who are the top 5 in the state in your opinion and why?
Michael Allen- ....I knew this was going to come up. Top 5? Well, it depends on what you're talking about. Pro or ammy, winning percentage, win / loss? There are a lot of different factors. Some schools have strength in numbers and some don't have a lot of fighters, but the ones they have seem to always win. I'm going to catch hell for this, but I will do my best...lol!!!........1. TEAM ROC- I'm not a huge fan of them, but facts speak for themselves. Rodney Wallace is in the UFC and strength is in numbers. They are always well trained, professional and they boast a tough roster...2. Team Huskey - Not quite as successful in the pro division, but definitely has one of if not the highest winning percentages in the southeast. They're active roster is huge and they have some of the top amateurs anywhere. They fight often and abroad. ...3. Team Superior - You could count their fighters on one hand, but DAMN!! They seem to always win. Roger and Joey Carroll, Micah Lail and Nate Davis are fucking studs. Love em or hate em, you have to respect them...4. Team Evolution - Tough guys. Cocky and arrogant, but for good reason. Leading their charge is that headhunter, John Owens and I think that gives their guys a confidence boost that is usually found in larger camps. Very diverse group of guys as far as skill sets....5. Whoever the hell I left out
Kelvin Hunt-Who's your favorite fighter and why?
Michael Allen -....Not sure what the hell you're talking about Kelvin. In the world or locally? Clarify yourself, you damn terrorist....Believe it or not I don't have a favorite fighter other than the guys I see at the events I attend. So with that being said my favorite fighter to watch is probably Butch Marks or Jake Whitfield or Roger Carroll...John Buck Is pretty interesting to watch. All those guys I like, because when I watch them I am amazed that they hold regular jobs and train at such a high level. I Love it.
Kelvin Hunt-LOL! Ok, that's about all I have Michael. Do you have anyone out there you would like to thank, or any words of wisdom for the up and comer's?
Michael Allen- Absolutely! Thanks to all the fans that come out and support my fighters and Fight Lab. Thanks to Kenny Letts, Tom Bakely and the whole Fight Lab crew. Thanks majorly to Johnny Huskey and Billy Wicks, the greatest strategists and catch wrestlers in the world. Thanks to all the teams and fighters I have the pleasure to manage and work with....Team Huskey (Huskey 4 LIFE), Team Superior, Team Renegade Boxing, Team R.H.E.K, Team R.O.C for setting the bar, Carolina Fight Promotions and Jawbreakers for holding shit down in the middle and Eastern part of the state, All the Georgia promoters who have been to good over the last year, NO QUARTER, and last but not least thank you Kelvin for this opportunity. To all you up and comers who need major league representation you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace!!!