Q&A with CFFC CEO Robert Haydak
What interested you in MMA?
I wrestled my whole life, from 7 years old through college. Then I coached for another 15 years. I also hold a black belt in GoJu.
Why did you take over CFFC and not start a new promotion?
The previous owner (Felix Martinez) and I were good friends from high school up until today. CFFC was his creation. He did an amazing job at getting CFFC known throughout the MMA world. A few unfortunate circumstances that were out of his control caused its shutdown.
Did you ever consider partnering with Felix?
Absolutely, he's a great friend. When I was ready to go, the timing for him wasn't good and thus I took off with things.
Do you still talk to Felix and, if so, about what?
We're friends, so we talk about everything...kids, life, etc. When it comes to CFFC, I vent to him from time to time on things that frustrate me about the industry. He's a great calming voice that I can always rely on when I'm frustrated.
What is your biggest regret to date when it comes to CFFC?
What would you consider to be the number one asset of CFFC?
The fighters, with the staff running a very close second.
What would people be surprised about when it comes to the CFFC staff?
Everyone does this part-time. We all have full time jobs and careers. We do this because of our passion and love of the sport. When you consider what we've accomplished doing what we have in a part-time basis, its remarkable.
What is one thing that would make you call it quits with CFFC?
If Chicky and Devon walked up to me and said they quit, lol.
What are some of the biggest surprises to date you've had with CFFC?
Watching our team develop. Thinking about progress that Dr. Dave has made is special. He was a little rough in the beginning. So rough, I had people asking if he was related to me, as if that was my reasoning for hiring him. If you listen to him today, he's one of the best and continues to get better.
What do you think about being the #9 ranked MMA promotion in the world by some reports?
I lose sleep over how to become #2.
CFFC puts on the some of the best fights in the country, how?
Arias. He's like a true brother and we have our spats from time to time. At the end of the day, we share a common goal and respect each other's position on what it takes to get there.
What is the worse decision CFFC has made to date?
Attempting to put on shows in Virginia. I wanted that market to be successful because of my respect and friendship with Pete Hatcher. I let that get in the way of making a smart decision to pull the plug earlier.
Best CFFC Live Gate?
Last Borgata event was over $160k.
Who do you consider to be the top 5 MMA Promotions in the world?
UFC, Bellator, OneFC. After that, it depends on your interpretation of success. If a promotion is willing to spend and lose millions of dollars for ex-stars, I don't think that a recipe for success. It's more of a death sentence.
How does CFFC avoid becoming another promotional statistic in MMA?
Keep improving on what we're doing now. We can't get complacent.
Would CFFC ever consider FightPass?
We did. There is no value in us doing so, unless we want to sign our lives away. I love FightPass, it just doesn't make good business sense for us.
Do you see CFFC expanding?
Do you care to elaborate?
No. LOL. It's one of the situations that's too good to be true. So I'd rather not focus on it until all the pieces come together.
Who do you consider your competitors?
Nobody. A couple of years ago, I was concerned with Bellator being in the market. But, they left. Others have come and gone as well. The staple is ROC. Lou is a legend and he'll continue to do his thing while we do ours. I have a great amount of respect for his achievements.
What is the biggest misconception in regional MMA?
I think it's very hard for fighters to understand the necessity for them to market themselves and sell tickets. On the regional level, casual fans don't really exist. 80-90% of the people who attend an event, do so because they know a particular fighter.
What is the biggest b.s. you've heard when it comes to MMA?
I've heard a handful! The one that sticks out is a graphic designer who thought that our company would fail if he didn't design our posters. The other comes from a promoter that approached me before I did my very first show at Resorts five years ago. He told me I would do one show and go out of business because I wasn't a promoter. He went out of business a year later.
Do you know consider yourself a promoter?
Absolutely not. I hate the term. I'm about making good business sense and treating fighters like the professionals they are. The "typical" promoter is a guy who puts on shows in catering halls, night clubs, etc. and says he's going to compete with the UFC in the next couple of years. Those idiots are a dime a dozen.
Your thoughts on the athletic commissions?
Nick(Lembo) and Greg(Sirb) are awesome. They are very stubborn and set in their ways, which is a good thing. We're blessed to have shows in these markets. They truly care about the safety and integrity of our sport. I've been in other markets and it's scary. Our relationship with the commissions is essential to our viability.
Over the past few years, CFFC has starting a trend of sending their champions to the UFC. Some of those former CFFC champions are George Sullivan, Aljamain Sterling, Paul Felder, Levan Makashvili, Charlie Brenneman and Joey Gambino. What are your thoughts when one of your fighters gets called up to fight in the big league?
I love it! We're a platform for these athletes to get to the UFC. Anytime the call comes, we share in the excitement. We've pulled Main Event fighters twice within two weeks of our event because the UFC called.
The UFC is taking a firm stance against PED's. What are your thoughts on PED's and how can commissions rid the sport of PED's.
I'm all for it. I think all promotions(even regional ones) should participate in the cost of such testing. This will weed out the abusers of PEDs and get rid of the crappy promotions that due the sport an injustice
What do you do in your free time?
I'll let you know when I get some!
What would people be surprised about you?
I own my own Iced Tea brand. www.herbalmist.com
What would you consider your greatest personal accomplishment?
What would you consider your greatest business accomplishment?
Hasn't happened, yet!