Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nichole Long Interview

We are just days away from one of the highlights of the year for NAAFS, Rock N Rumble. The yearly event always features some of the top local pro and amateur fighters. This year is no exception with several very exciting and intriguing fights highlighted by one of the best amateur fighters in the promotions history, Isaiah Chapman as he fights as a pro for the third time against the very tough Mike Nesto as well as the main event where one of, if not the most popular fighters in the area, Jessica Eye as she takes on Angela Magana. Then, just eight days later, the NAAFS returns to West Virginia with an exciting all pro card that will also give fans an opportunity to meet current UFC star Stipe Miocic as well as Hall-of-Famer Mark Coleman. NAAFS Matchmaker Nichole Long is always gracious to give me some time to talk about the big shows and this time was no exception.

Q: First, I gotta ask, how are things with the new baby?
A: Rough haha. It is hard to match cards with a little baby at home let me tell you haha.

Q:Before he was born you said he was a night person, is that still the case?
A: Yeah! He is up half the night. He is finally sleeping like in three hour periods during the day so I can get some work done, but mostly from 5am on he is up, and I don't go to bed till about 2am.

Q: Briefly I would like to go over the last show. Frank Caraballo got another win. He is ready for the big stage isn't he?
A: Yeah, I mean where can he go from here with us? He has defended the title numerous times and has had two of our titles. There isn't anywhere else for him to go but the big stage at this point.

Q: After the fight it seemed the whole crowd was chanting "UFC", have you ever heard a crowd respond like that?
A: No, but Frank the Tank fans have always been very very vocal. At any given point you will hear a barrage of "Frank the Tank, Frank the Tank". To be honest I have never heard fans quite that loud and be joined together for any chant let alone the "UFC" chants after his last fight.

Q: I think a lot of people going in viewed Jeremy Czarnecki as just another opponent, but up until the finish he did quite well would you agree?
A: I think Jeremy surprised a lot of people. I was fully aware of who Jeremy is and what he is capable of. He just hasn't gotten to show everything in his arsenal until the Frank fight. At any time fighting a champ who has defended his belt so many times and is coming off two Bellator fights including with Donny Walker who just came out of the UFC, that will be intimidating. So it is a lot of pressure to fight someone like Frank at this time in his career and that had to weigh on Jeremy and he went in there and rose to the occasion. I cant wait to see Jeremy back in the NAAFS cage.

Q: Outside of that fight, it seemed the fights the crowd got most into were the wins by Jena Baldwin and Jessica Dinch. You are a proponent of women's MMA, so how did it feel for you to see the crowd so into the female fights?
A: It definitely feels good. In the beginning there were people who were nay sayers of female fights. They would see girls walk to the cage and go get drinks or take a bathroom break and now it is the exact opposite, they are the fights no one wants to miss. The Jena Baldwin and Sarah Shirey fight, for those two girls to be making their debut, they did amazing. Also I have to give props to Amber Sacramone and Jessica. Jessica might be 0-3 but she has been in there with three beats and for Amber to hold her own with Jessica, those girls really put on a show.

Q: It was the first event at the One Wellness Center, I really liked it, are you hoping to go back?
A: I am. It had a great area for the fighters to warm up and that is important. The fighters loved having that area. When you have happy fighters you have great fights and that fight night, from top to bottom, was one of the better cards we have had all year. The amateurs put on hell of performances, and the pros, Blackwell and Suber will probably be fight of the year if no one else steps up to the plate.

Q: Two big events coming in back to back weeks, how hard is it to match so many pro fights over an eight day period?
A: Haha to be honest with you, amateurs are way harder than pros. Amateurs are on the card, off the card, on the card, off the card. The matching part is more difficult because everything has to be perfect, where as amateurs who are 0-0 there isn't much information. So the negotiations is harder than on the amateur level. Pros say they are gonna fight they are gonna fight unless there is an injury.

Q: Is there ever an instance where you look at a fight and say "where would this make more sense? Cleveland or West Virginia?"
A: Yeah, all the time. I want the best match possible and even if it makes more sense in Cleveland, if one guy cant make that weekend, but they both can do West Virginia, it is gonna happen in West Virginia.

Q: On Rock n Rumble, you have one of the most decorated amateurs NAAFS has ever had, Isaiah Chapman in his third pro fight, not looking past Mike Nesto because Nesto can challenge him, but how good can Isaiah be?
A: Isaiah has all the potential in the world to get as far as any other fighter. He does have a very hard match with Nesto. Nesto's record may not be stellar but if you look down the list at who he has fought, even in his amateur career, he has fought a who's who list. I am interested to see where Nesto is now, he has been training in Vegas at Wanderlei's camp, I am interested to see how much he has improved. Also to see how Isaiah does with an opponent as seasoned as Nesto, who isn't going in there scared shitless as most of Isaiah's opponents do.

Q: That actually leads perfectly to my next question. Isaiah often intimidates opponents even before the fight starts, Nesto doesn't seem like a person who will be intimidated, would you agree?
A: I have matched a lot of Nesto's amateur fights to, he never cared who he was fighting. He was like "just give me the name when I get there". He didn't need to know, never asked about opponents, just wanted to fight. As a pro, business kicks in a little, but he is a gamer and is coming to fight. He has been there with people like Isaiah and never backed down. I see this being an amazing fight and a good thing for both of these bantamweights.

Q: Around this time a year is when fighters start thinking about the amateur titles, that makes the amateur fights on this card bigger than say three or four months ago correct?
A: A lot of these guys it is their second bout with us this year and it is do or die time. One loss can put your ranking down and a big win can put your ranking up. This fight night is one of the most important for the amateurs. Most of them are in the series and ranked and are looking at improving their rankings. Next thing we look at is semi-finals for all of them.

Q: The main event is Jessica Eye vs Angela Magana, is it hard to find girls to come fight Jessica knowing how crazy the crowd is behind her?
A: When she was an amateur it was way harder. Now as a pro, there are so many game pros, and that is the word, pro, they are professionals, they know this is her home town. I have had many of them who don't care, they are just ready to fight, they don't care if they get booed, they wanna take that from her. That is part of being in the sport and makes it so interesting. Before it was hard to get her a match but it is different now.

Q: Jessica is maybe the most popular fighter around here, why do you think the crowd gets so behind her?
A: Jessica is genuine. She is not fake in any aspect of her life. She puts it out there. She is an absolute sweetheart. When you have someone so genuine and sweet who goes in there and has all the talent in the world, why not be behind her? What a better person to get behind? People just fall in love with her. She is a great role model for kids, my daughter is her biggest fan. It is nice to have someone like Jessica for my daughter to look up to.

Q: What fight on this card is falling under the radar that could end up stealing the show?
A: There are a few of them. I think the sneaker fight is Eli Garshnick and Ruslan Khaskhanov. No one knows who Ruslan is and Eli has fought in Pennsylvania and fought his way to the bigger leagues. The problem is no one knows who Ruslan is except he is an M-1 guy and comes from Russia. The talent is there with both guys and fans don't know them as much. It will be interesting to see it play out with the interpreter since he doesn't speak English.

Q: How happy have you guys been with the West Virginia shows?
A: It is always a little bumpy at first. They are doing as much as they can to progress though. The fans are wonderful. They are so supportive and love the fights. I remember the first show I sat by guys who kept asking questions and wanted to learn because all they had seen is boxing. The more I told them the more they were interested. The venues have been really nice. It is good to have an all pro show. It is a different feel. It mixes things up for me which keeps me on the ball.

Q: With the West Virginia shows, is there an attempt to build fighters up for them to get behind like they get behind fighters like Jessica here?
A: Yeah, there are a lot of people from West Virginia that came to Ohio to fight, now they get to fight in their home state making them bigger draws. It is nice to take Ohio guys over there to. It brings more pros into our pro series. With an all pro card I can bring in so many guys who can make it or break it there. With more pro spots there are more places for guys to get on cards.

Q: At that show people can meet Stipe Miocic and Mark Coleman, how will that work? Is it before the fights or something else?
A: I am not exactly sure. I know they will be there the whole time. I don't know if it is before the card, intermission, after, all three. There is a plan in place, but that is not my area haha. I am excited, I have never met Coleman before and Stipe is always fun to have around.

Q: I ask every time, any idea what to do with the heavyweight belt because Stipe is obviously not leaving the UFC?
A: Yeah he is there to stay. After semi-finals we will sit and meet and see where to go with the title. The amateur series is around the corner and we have to handle business there first.

Q: Seeing how good Stipe is doing, knowing you guys helped him get to that level, is there a sense of pride when he is winning in UFC?
A: Yeah, not just with Stipe. He is doing amazing Look at how many fighters we have had move on, it does make you proud. We aren't here to keep them, we want to build stars and move them on.

Q: Stipe moved to the next level but never forgot where he came from, what does that say about Stipe?
A: He is a person you always want around. He makes you laugh, is genuine and real. He knows where he came from. With being a real person it brings loyalty, him and Jessica are like that. They are real people. They are friends, you walk towards the same kind of people. They are great competitors and great people. Stipe is loyal and we love having him around and he supports us.

Q: Anything I missed?
A: Well since you support women's MMA, we have three female bouts on September 21st. I know you like to cover the female fights.

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