Demolition Fight Series’ (DFS) promoter Wayne Carl is amped-up about April 18. It will be then that “Melbourne’s newest MMA promotion” will hold their sophomore show in that city.
This means Carl and his wife—co-founder of DFS Leisa “The Boss” Carl—have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks.
Not too long after joining MMA Freaks (a Facebook forum for fight discussion), Carl hooked up with Nick Portella and began writing articles in his free time. Soon after, Carl was traveling to various Australian states to cover regional events for different outlets. While he enjoyed his time as a media member, the cost to travel and stay overnight was mounting.
“As you know, there’s not a hell of a lot of money in it,” Carl said of being an MMA media member. “And trust me, there’s no money in being a promoter either but at least it covers your expenses. I’m not only supporting the sport but I’m also promoting the sport and making sure all these young athletes have a platform. Unlike the USA or the UK, Australia doesn’t have a lot of MMA promotions. Especially for amateurs.”
There are not many MMA promotions “Down Under” for various reasons, but one of the main roadblocks is how complicated it is to begin one.
First, a person applying for a promoter’s license has to have a clean criminal record. They then have to go before the government and plead your case on why you deserve the license and your intentions with it. Then it’s on to get a matchmaker’s license. This process is to keep promotions safe, regulated and away from shady promoters.
For large-scale promotions like the UFC, there is a massive team behind the scenes making sure each show goes as planned. Of course, that makes sense for a company that generates massive quantities of money and puts on huge stadium shows.
But regional shows have most of the same needs as a mainstream organization. Each event requires ringside physicians, lighting, judges, promotion, evenly-matched fights, and government regulation.
“The Combat Sports Board oversees professionals and amateurs,” Carl explained. “We have to find a doctor and they have to appoint judges. If there are no judges in Victoria, we have to fly some in from Queensland which adds to the expenses. But you know, judges and referees are pretty important come fight night.”
Also, important come fight night is fighters.
Filling the card
The task of filling a regional card is a tricky one. It’s its own job with its own challenges. To assure fight night is full of quality bouts Carl works closely with a UFC veteran who has over 70 fights of his own.
“I do all the contracts for fighters which takes up some time but the hardest thing is matchmaking. We have a matchmaker named Brian Ebersole, I’m sure you’ve heard of him. So he’s part of the show and does an amazing job. He pretty much reaches out to 40 or 50 gyms and people nominate people in the gym. So to fill a fight card of between 15 to 17 fights, you need between 50 and 60 nominations. Obviously they look at skill, records, weight divisions, so you need 50-70 people to put their hands up to make a show,” Carl divulged.
US MMA lore is full of stories of competitors being pulled out of the crowds or added to a card the day before at regional shows. These things don’t happen in well-regulated Australian sports.
“So they have to apply to the Combat Sports Board,” he said. “They need their bloods, they need their medicals, and they need a matchmaker to actually reference them. I get a lot of inboxes and it’s quite funny, it’s people that never been into a gym and saying, ‘Hey mate, I can fight. I want to fight for you.’ It’s not that easy; you need a letter of recommendation from a matchmaker and as I said, you’ve got to get full medicals.”
— Wayne Carl MMA/ Demolition (@WayneCarl78) February 26, 2020
Fighting for the future of Australian MMA
Despite Aussie MMA taking off worldwide with guys like Robert Whittaker and Alexander Volkanovski capturing gold, the sport is not as mainstream in the Oceania region as one may think. Carl believes this is mainly due to how strict the government was on mixed martial arts until just recently.
While things are getting better and the sport is more accepted than it was even a few years ago, there are still hurdles that include miseducation.
“It’s mainly because of the old ‘human cock-fighting’ thing,” Carl expressed. “In 2019, I had to draw a picture of a cage to explain how it was for the safety of the patrons and the fighters. They were like ‘oh, okay,’ but when I first went to the venue to ask if they wanted to hold the show there, the biggest thing holding them back was the cage and who they thought would come with mixed martial arts. They think it’s just gangster and bikies (bikers) involved in MMA and that’s far from the truth.”
As a family man and regional leader at a plumbing supplier in Victoria, Australia, life is good for Carl and he’s very happy with the career he’s chosen. As a fight promoter, his dream is to grow his brand but Carl doesn’t mention money when discussing his future. All of his focus is on promoting the fighters and giving them a catalyst to the next stage of their lives.
“Look, I’m invested in what I do,” he stated. “I’d be happy for us to be the biggest in Victoria and take it from there. I don’t have any long term goals of doing promotion a hundred percent of the time. I’ve been in my career [at Reece Plumbing] for 23 years and if I do everything right, I’ll be really well looked after. So for me, MMA is not just a hobby, but it’s a passion. You don’t do it for the money.”