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Mike Camp: My journey through the world of MMA Vol. IV

Part I., Part II., Part III.

By now it’s October 2007 and Fightfest has officially folded. I had no idea what I was going to do, get a regular j-o-b is what I figured, and go back to MMA as a hobby.

I felt that I had come too far to fall short, and apparently I wasn’t the only one. I had worked with Bernie Profato (Executive Director of the OAC) during my brief tenure with Fightfest, and I guess he realized that my former boss wanted to try to bend the rules, but I was honest and tried to do things the right way. Bernie called me and asked me what I was going to do, and I told him I wasn’t sure so he said he could help my situation. Mr. Profato then proceeded to recommend me as a matchmaker to all of the new promoters in the state of Ohio, because of this kind and unexpected gesture I picked up some work right away, and even though it was sometimes sporadic, it prevented me from having to go back to the full-time workforce. Mr. Profato was a life saver but not the only one, as it turns out I had another fan of my work.

Greg Kalikas of the NAAFS (Ohio’s premier MMA organization and probably the best amateur MMA organization in America) called me to inquire about what my future plans were. I explained to him that I was going to be a freelance matchmaker, and while he wasn’t thrilled at the fact that I technically worked for his competitors, he completely understood my dilemma. Greg asked me to meet him, which I did; we had a great conversation and he offered me a consulting position with his organization. Needless to say I couldn’t be happier as I was back in the game.

I proceeded to matchmake small amateur events and tried to help Greg with whatever he needed. My income wasn’t guaranteed as it was on an event by event basis and depending on the schedule I could have four events one month and none the next, but we got by. I actually did six events in a single five week period last year. That was rough!

2008 had some ups and downs but we made it through, and then the economy crapped out. The promoters I had been working for stopped booking events and I was back in the lurch. I actually did get a job doing lawncare services sales in January of this year and had to do that until they laid me off unexpectedly. At that point I was back to thinking about a regular job. My wife and I were thinking we would move back to the Quad Cities, if nothing else, to be closer to our folks, but Karma had another plan.

I had met Ed Clay roughly nine years ago when he was selling Gameness t-shirts out of the trunk of his car at fight shows. We hit it off right away, probably because we both shared a deep and true passion for the sport of mixed martial arts.

I set up Ed to come and sell gear at one of Chad Wagoner’s Indiana Cage Rage events in Kokomo, Indiana. I drove up to the show to watch some fights and hang with my friend. Ed didn’t do so well that night, and didn’t even end up earning enough dough for a lousy hotel room. He was six hours from home and exhausted. Of course I told him he could stay with me and the family, so he followed me back to our apartment in Carmel, Indiana, and we put him up for the night. We got to talking a little more and exchanging some ideas. Ed was a sharp guy and driven with big ideas, and my wife had always wanted to move south because she hates winter. I had told Ed that night in Carmel that if he ever needed me to come to Nashville, I would be there for him.

Here it was 9 years later and again I didn’t know where my career, if you call it that, was going. Ed called and asked me if I remembered what I told him when he stayed at our apartment, ‘of course’ I said, to which he replied that he needed me in Nashville.

Through his strong work ethic and internal drive he had built Gameness into the #1 BJJ gi retailer on Earth and MMA had just been recently legalized in the state of Tennessee. Ed said he wanted to build a super team akin to American Top Team or American Kickboxing Academy, and he had decided to pick me to head that project!!!! Holy shit was all I could think. WOW. I guess Karma does pay off sometimes in a big way. So at the end of June the family packed up and headed to our new adventure in Nashville where my mission is putting together the next great team in MMA


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