THE RUKUS PERSPECTIVE- CAUGHT BETWEEN FIGHTERS AND MANAGERS
Let me say before I go into this that I am always a fan first. Sometimes being new in the business I have to remind myself to not jump the gun and promote something before it’s definite. I’ve learned to never assume anything. Anyone recall what happened when Dana White held the infamous “UFC 151 is Cancelled” conference call? He stated on the call the Lyoto Machida would fight Jon Jones at 152….only when Machida’s plane landed in Brazil and he caught wind of the news, he turned the fight down. Having to back track is nothing fun. But it doesn’t matter if Dana does it, he’s Dana “F’n” White, who’s gonna question him other than the Internet trolls right? However, someone like me still trying to establish myself and having a flub like that can prove to be detrimental. So I try to take in every interaction, every conversation, whether good and bad, learn from it- learn to conduct business in a better manner, and produce a better product.
Which brings me to this topic. This subject has come up a few times recently in some of the radio interviews and questions that I’ve received via email and Facebook Messaging. People often ask how is it that I get into contact with certain people or get to work with fighters in the UFC etc. There are only two ways up to this point, it’s either through the fighters or the managers. But let me be the first to tell you that this is not an easy angle to navigate, as I have had great relationships with some fighters, and had some rough relationships with their management. It is this very topic that causes me to ask this next question, and explore it briefly. That question is….in a sport such as MMA where the fighters/athletes are so accessible, how can one create the business connection when the management representation is NOT accessible?
With sports like the NBA, MLB or NFL…fans can tweet all day long to their favorite athletes and be LUCKY to get a retweet. Within the world of MMA, you can hold an open conversation with just about anyone…which makes this sport so much more personal to so many millions of fans. There are times where I do serious research to find a fighter’s representation, and in some cases I cannot lock it down. There are some cases where I am just having an open conversation with a fighter on Twitter, or I am friends with them on Facebook (and NO I am not friends with the FAKE accounts that are out there) and I shoot them the message asking them if they would like a customized walkout song. There are many cases where I have contacted their representation beforehand but I get no response, whether I call, text, email etc, while the fighter and I have open dialogue almost daily. Sometimes it’s the other way around, where I have fantastic relationships with some management firms, but cannot get the fighters to slow down long enough to find out what they are wanting for music. So what happens when you are stuck in a parallel universe, that limbo between fighter and manager?
Let me say that I respect and absolutely feel there is a need for management representation within the MMA industry. I feel fighters should focus on training and fighting. Their representation is there to help them with all of the other responsibilities that go along with being a fighter, sponsorships, scheduling, radio interviews, TV spots, contracts etc. Personally, I feel that a fighter’s walkout music is directly connected to his fighting, so they should have a definite say in what they want. However, I do realize that with the worldwide exposure of some promotions, mainly UFC, that there are a ton of other variables involved. But again, what happens when you attempt to go through the proper channels, only to be at a dead end, when all along you have direct contact with that athlete. Situations like this I tread lightly on, as I do not want to disrespect anyone at the job that they do, nor do I want to appear to be performing any deceptive business practices.
Last summer, I was traveling south on I-95 heading to meet my stepson’s dad so he could head back with him for summer vacation. It was 24 hours prior that I had sent a message to a very prominent and rising star within the UFC, he was set for a main card bout on FOX later that year. Being that I was as excited as I was when he responded back, telling me how he would love to have his own walkout song, I posted his picture on my Facebook page and announced that I was making the song for him. The fighter had told me to get started on it, and to contact his manager for any other details. I figured everything was fine and I would get going. I sent the email to his manager and began loading my truck to leave. In a matter of hours, I got a message from that manager to call him. I was told to take the picture down and that he had spoken with his client and that he does not want anything from me. So I did so. I was really upset, I was down, and yes I did take it personally at first, because I felt I hadn’t done any harm to anyone, I wasn’t scamming this man for his money or anything of the sort. But I did understand that the manager was only looking out for his client’s best interest. Anyway, back to the drive…at around 11 AM give or take, the next few moments will forever be connected to this manager anytime I speak with him in the future. A car sped past me on the busy highway, going over 100 mph, weaving in and out of traffic. I instantly got a horrible feeling. About 2 minutes later, I happened upon the most disturbing accident I had ever witnessed.
An SUV traveling in the northbound lane lost control when their tire blew out. The truck flipped several times and landed upside down. A woman and her six children were ejected from that vehicle. As we happened upon this accident, a scene that I can only describe as mass hysteria was instantly before me. Two of the 6 children still trapped in the vehicle, while the bodies of four other children, including a 3 year old, 4 year old, 10year old, 15 year old and the mother, were strewn across the median. The mother was laying on her side, people consoling her, with massive head injuries, while the 15 year old lay face down in the grass. the babies lay in the emergency lane of the southbound lanes, and several women exited their cars and began praying out loud, trying to tend to the babies. I had no idea what to do, I was in shock. Help eventually came and I made my way down the road. Just minutes after leaving that scene, I got a call from that same manager. Who proceeded to tell me that he was told by someone that the pictures that I had posted were still not down and this was a major problem. I could not even begin to try and explain to him what was happening, but I was positive I took everything down. I simply pulled over, rechecked everything and let him know everything was down. He said we would talk again soon and set something up with his clients a little later, but to this day we have not spoken. In the end, I know he did nothing wrong, and I wanted to tell him this story personally, I wanted to tell him that what I do is genuine, that I truly do hold the fighter’s best interest in mind when working with them. But I never got the chance. This man is well respected and is a good guy by all accounts, there was no way he could have known what had just taken place. I have really no idea why I shared that story, I guess this is just an experience that was was so traumatic for me that as long as I probably work in this industry I will always think of that moment when I see this individual. Maybe part of me hopes that the manager I am speaking of sees this I guess. I researched online for that wreck later that day, all of the children survived, but the mother passed away. She was 32. None of the children were strapped in at the time of the accident.
I thought long and hard about putting this piece out there, as I certainly do not want any of my words misconstrued. I thought about it, and realized that I’ve never, in my entire working career, have ever taken a short cut, cheated or lied my way to to ahead. Since my first day of official work, as 13 year old boy walking into a butcher shop and that little old Italian lady put a knife in my hand, I learned that I am to take pride in my work, that I earn ever penny that I make. From a corner butcher shop, to 20 years of retail, managing up to 100 people in a single building, to running my own business now as a one man show, this is who I am. Some people fight, some people take pictures of those who fight. I set the tone for the battlefield for those who go to war. I wish to summon the emotions of the combatants, to take them to another place of adrenalin in which they have never experienced. For someone who, even though his work is in the background, is forced to promote as an entertainer, as if I am in the forefront within this business, I will gladly continue to work within the parallel universe of being caught between fighters and managers, because it means that much to me. With the ultimate goal being to blur those lines, and to one day have open dialogue with all who operate within the upper echelon.
*Mikey Rukus creates Custom Theme Music and Walkout Music for MMA Companies and Fighters Worldwide- to view his body of work please visit www.soundclick.com/mikeyrukus
*You can also follow Mikey on Twitter: @MikeyRukus
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*You can also email Mikey with any questions, comments, concerns, live appearances or speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org