Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nichole Long Interview

So MMA is a "male sport" you say? Try telling that to Nichole Long. Nichole is the matchmaker for the NAAFS and proving that not only is it not a "male sport", but that a woman can thrive in it. Nichole has built up a loyal following amongst fighters who fight for her, and it's easy to see why. It's because contrary to what some people say, after stealing it from her, she is the one who truly is "fighters first". Outside of the sport, getting to know Nichole as a friend, while if tested she will portray the title someone gave her of "MMA Bitch", she is actually a sweet and caring woman.

Q: Can you talk about how you got involved with the NAAFS?
A: Well, I had left a company I was with, and a main player from a team that fought both where I was and for NAAFS told me I should get ahold of Greg and he set up the meeting. Greg (NAAFS CEO Greg Kalikas) and I met and it clicked.

Q: Several big shows coming up. Let's start with Bellator. What does it say with NAAFS that Bellator wants to work so close with them?
A: Truthfully I think that we have a lot of talented fighters in Ohio and are producing a good product. As you see, a lot of our fighters have been showcased on their shows lately. It's a natural transition to have us working with them.

Q: With so many local fighters fighting this Saturday is it a chance to show the country how good MMA is in Ohio?
A: I definitely think it is. Especially with it being on now. That's huge for local fighters here to be seen everywhere. In addition, it gets the whole Bellator crew a look at what we have in Ohio.

Q: Is it hard with so many good local fighters to have to explain to a fighter why they didn't get on the Bellator show?
A: It is hard. I got so many calls from fighters wanting to be put on that card. Of course I felt bad that I couldn't' put everyone on it, but at the same time, the ones who have been with us for most of their careers were the ones who got chosen first. It turned out to be a good card, I can't wait.

Q: Next month is the big show at the I-X Center, with two Pro title fights, but it's actually huge for amateurs. Can you explain why?
A: Those are our national semi-finals. Those guys you see have fought with us all year round to get to this. The two winners from each class will move on to Night of Champions. It's huge, those guys worked their tails off to get here.

Q: So fair to say, where with most shows you have potentially a few top amateurs, a night like this, you can see all the top amateur talent in one night?
A: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people work and can't get to every show that these guys are one, but now they are all on this show. It's worth coming out and seeing just for the amateurs. Even if this was an all amateur show it would be huge. Now add on two title fights plus having Kevin Zalac and Adam Milstead, it's a big thing for us.

Q: With the finals in December, do you have any worry about one of the winners potentially being injured?
A: There always is that worry. It has happened. Usually its before the semi-finals. There is always someone we have to pull up from the number 5 ranking or someone that has fought and deserves it. Most of the time the injuries are then. Yes you worry about it being before finals. They can't fight anywhere else so if there is an injury it happens in the gym and they aren't as severe.

Q: Someone like Isaiah Chapman, a top amateur and has stayed amateur to get better. Do you feel some rush to soon to turn pro?
A: I do. Isaiah has his head straight and is doing it the right way. Most of them who stay amateur, take their time and grow as people. Definitely they do better as a pro. Most who have done it that way have won a lot. The guys who put in the mandatory five fights and turn pro to make money, don't have the right intentions. They want money and fame, and that's not what its about, its about the sport. Those guys don't seem to do as well, they can, but as a whole they are not as prepared as someone like Isaiah Chapman.

Q: In November is Eve of Destruction. Why is that so important for you?
A: We did the first one last year, that was my baby. I had wanted to do it for some time and Greg ok'd it. It was my dream come true so to do it again, I am ecstatic. It is a lot more work than a normal three shows put together. I love it, I will put in the time cause its a good thing for the sport and the ladies.

Q: With less female fighters, how hard is it to match-up?
A: The hardest part is a lot of their fights weren't sanctioned, so their records don't show where they stand. We are a sanctioned state and I have to match it as their sanctioned record, so I have to find two girls with the same unsanctioned and sanctioned record. Even with non sanctioned fights, they don't even show in records. That's the biggest obstacle. There still isn't as many female fighters so they come from all over. A lot have kids and jobs and that makes this so unique. its fun, they all laugh and giggle together, its a whole different feel.

Q: Aisling Daly will be back to defend her title. I told her with the class she showed last time, a lot who were booing her will be cheering this time, but she didn't agree, do you?
A: I think that yes a lot booed her, but she won the fans over being so humble and nice and talking to fans. She won the NAAFS fan base over. I think she will hear cheers, and after reading articles people like you put out, people will start to get attached. She's our champ and we and the fans should be proud of her.

Q: Awhile ago, an ignorant person, gave you a nickname, you have embraced it since then, can you explain?
A: Haha, yeah I got called the MMA Bitch. So, I find it funny. If you are gonna call me a name, it doesn't bother me, so I got Bitch tattooed in my mouth by Lettia Suchevich, one of our female fighters, so it was even better from her.

Q: First time I interviewed you, you said you were fighters first, some around here have stolen that and used it for themselves. But you are the one who tries to get fighters fights when shows they were on got canceled. Why is that so important for you?
A: Without the fighter, there is no show. People can say they are fighter first, but show me, don't tell me. That's the way I run everything. I show fighters that I care. A lot of them get hurt, I check on them. Not because I have to, but because I want to know how they are doing and to see if they need anything. Its a big part of this industry that people over look. The fighters are the show. When they steal it like they did from that interview, I just have to giggle.

Q: With so many moving to Bellator, and Stipe Miocic and Donny Walker in UFC, does that make it more important to build local stars?
A: We are always going to be kind of on a building basis. Those were the stars last year and we will build new ones each year. But it means we are doing our job. If that's what happens with fighters, we are doing our job getting them to the next level.

Q: When, for example, Stipe wins the heavyweight title, and then moves to the UFC, say he is a big success and stays awhile, how long before you decide to create a new or interim champion?
A: I varies on how long. Right now we are doing an interim title for 145 on Bellator. We felt it was best with Donny in UFC. You give it a few months, give them a couple fights and see how they do. There is nothing wrong with an interim belt, it means your champ has gone on and done big things. If for some reason it doesn't work out, he or she has a home here. There isn't a specific time line, its case by case. I used to not understand interim champs, but I think its essential to have some kind of champ.

Q: Anything else you want to mention?
A: No, anything else you want to ask me?

Q: Is there something I should?
A: Nope, we covered everything.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I always always always want to thank the fighters who ever fought for me at any promotion I worked with. Most are very loyal and fight for me and trust me to put them in the cage. Greg Kalikas and everyone who lets me do what I do. You writers who do interviews for the fighters cause it gets their names out there.

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