Mixed Martial Arts is widely termed “The world’s fastest growing sport” by fans and media alike, whether you agree with that statement or not, there is undeniably a gulf between MMA and more mainstream sports in the way the athletes find the route to their sporting dreams.
Sports like football are filled with scouts, agents and academies eager to snap up the young talent at an early stage as there are great riches promised for all concerned when reaching the upper echelons of the game. MMA does not provide that luxury, instead fighters grind out a living, often working full time and juggling training and ‘Turning pro’ means little more than a change in ruleset.
Recently we are beginning to see fighter management become more prominent on the domestic circuit. While it’s not uncommon for a promoter to feature fighters they also manage (something we don’t see in other sports) fighters are reaping the benefits of proper guidance. Just look at Intensiti Fighter Management who have a string of UFC fighters on their books.
In Liverpool, a famous fight city that has enjoyed the spotlight again recently with it’s rising stars, there is a new name among the professional representatives of MMA Athletes, McHale Sports. Solicitor turned sports agent Adam Horner has signed clients from the newly launched Aspire Combat Sports Academy on Queens Drive, Liverpool.
Horner comes from Manchester and has always been involved in combat sports, boxing for several clubs in his early years. It was this passion for boxing that would lead him towards their biggest MMA client at present as Adam Explained to AddictedOTR.
“I went to Liverpool university and when I got there I was gutted that there wasn’t a boxing club. I set up a club with a mate who I had met the day before and we happened to instantly hit it off due to our love of the sport. This was in 2008. We set up our team in the 051 gym and it was there that I befriended Danny Roberts. Danny used to help me on pads and went easy on me when we sparred. He was a pro boxer at the time having moved up from Bristol. We hit it off straight away and have remained friends ever since.”
“I have always wanted to get into sports law and when I joined McHale and Co in Altrincham,they already had a sports agency set up. Their background has always been with football but tapping into their contacts has given me the chance to get into any sport now, although combat sports will always be at the forefront of my work.”
Sports management is often viewed cynically, conjuring up visions of greedy agents penning deals that favour themselves over what is best for the athlete, Adam and McHale and Co. are sure they want the best for their team.
“Everyone is on a journey and I want to be a positive part of it no matter who you are. I have worked with huge global brands such as Adidas, Nike, Reebok, New Balance, Footlocker, My Protein, Monkey Nutrition, Muscle Food and many others so these contacts allow me to get benefits for my team. I have extensive contract experience so fighters aren’t having to pay out for management, agency and legal representation, its an all in one service. MMA is the fastest growing sport and the fighters are finally getting recognition for being the fittest, most all round athletes in the world. I aim to promote that further.” Horner told us.
He continued “I am lucky in that I get a salary from my general legal work and the Sports Agency, McHale Sports is in its infancy really. I am an employee of McHale and Co solicitors but a joint director of McHale Sports. Making money isn’t at the forefront of our minds at the moment. Its a slow burner but through lots of different avenues we will make some money and everyone will benefit, particularly the fighters.
McHale Sports confirmed last week the addition of Aspire co-owners, coaches and professional fighters Dean Garnett (7-0-1) and Aaron Robinson (1-0) to their roster. Garnett is a long standing top ranked Bantamweight and fought to a draw on Bellator in the summer. Aaron made a successful pro debut at ICE FC and will have to wait for his BAMMA debut following a cancelled bout in September.
Coach Dean Garnett told AddictedOTR “We’re delighted to be working with McHale Sports and Adam. We believe they have a fresh approach to fighter management, they’re very client centred. It’s refreshing to have someone working in that capacity who feels they work for you and not the other way round. I think we’re going to be making massive steps forward in 2017!”
The current stable is a murderer’s row of lighter weight fighters, Danny Roberts, Dean, Alan, Aaron, Cory Tait, Conor Riordan and Andy Lofthouse are all respresnted by McHale Sports and Horner feels he’s got the top guys in the game as he told us.
“I think Alan (Philpott), Dean and Cory (Tait) are the best 3 bantamweights in the country at the moment in my opinion and we are lucky that there are a few promotions to get them all on! Aaron Robinson is going to dominate his division.”
On Andy Lofthouse, the Manchester based agent explains his reasons for signing him. “Andy comes from a Thai background and questions were asked about not having amateur MMA experience prior to his pro debut, however Andy has had over 130 Thai fights and is a real joy to watch. He trains with Daz Morris, Bispings coach and Daz helps out with a few of the lads and will be getting involved with Aspire hopefully. Andy is training with Diakiese for this camp and many others at ASW, as is Conor Riordan who already has a solid background and trains at a number of gyms. All these guys continue to improve and help each other on. The talent between them is phenomenal. All bringing the best out of each other.
Adam added “We’ve got big plans for all of them and all be getting a run out at some big arenas next year. There are a few options on the table for all of them.” also confirming that McHale are in contact with majority of major European organisations. ”
“I know all the top guys at BAMMA, ACB , Tanko, ICE so there are no issues there. I’m known as ‘Annoying Adam’ to some of the matchmakers and negotiators as I wont leave them alone until my guys have got the best deal possible and believe me, I know we get better terms that most fighters! It helps to be emphatic with everyone you speak to in life and these guys are no different. They call the shots but at the same time they get my aim and my logic in trying to get the best for the team.”
Horner is confident that all his fighters will get big fights but with Garnett in particular he divulged “Dean is a massive talent and can take his pick of promotions. Its only a matter of time before Vegas come knocking to us. Luckily through Danny I have the right contacts at the UFC too”
Another signing, Alan Philpott will be taking on arguably the best fighter outside of the UFC in Tom Duqesnoy at BAMMA 27 in December, Philpott, already a Lonsdale champion could catapult himself to stardom with a win, something the McHale Sports Director believes he will achieve.
“Alan is a huge talent and trains with some other great bantamweights such as Dean.Cory will also be coming up to train. I agree that Tom is undoubtedly an amazing fighter however, Alan is equally impressive and knows what it takes to beat him. The crowd will spur him on and with the team he has, he will be well positioned to make a real mark in the MMA world. Everyone is expecting a win for Tom but I honestly don’t see it going that way.”
McHale Sports will look to represent more fighters in the future and the strategy is clear as Adam Horner affirmed “We do things differently. Just ask the lads what they think. We are supported by the likes of Reebok, Monkey Nutrition, my solicitors firm McHale and Co also sponsor all the fighters. Sponsorship is huge for all these lads and each of my fighters earns much more in sponsorship than their fight purses. I’ll be heavily involved in developing and improving the gym through commercial sponsorship and connecting the gym with the right people.
Aspire is not just a gym, its a family. The lads and ladies all have a huge amount of respect for every other single person. There are some amazing success stories in the gym and many more to follow. It keeps people on the straight and narrow and provides top physical and mental well-being. I am really lucky to be a part of their journeys!”
We look forward to seeing the fruit of their labour on the big stages in Europe, AddictedOTR will bring you details on the deals and fight announcements as they come. In the meantime, check out Aspire Combat Sport Academy on Facebook and @McHaleSports on twitter.