Friday, February 18, 2011
Greg Kalikas NAAFS Interview
There is an MMA company in my home state. I hadn't gone to their shows before, because I really just wasn't the kind of person that went to shows. That company is called the NAAFS. In 2010 they promoted Eve of Destruction. An all women's show. Considering what this blog is about, it seemed an obvious decision to try and cover it. I went and loved it. The fights were great obviously, but beyond that, I loved how the NAAFS put on a fan friendly show. The man behind it is Greg Kalikas. Between Greg, Nichole Long, and everyone involved, they do their best to entertain you. I have been welcomed back to cover every show since then. I have interviewed so many women who fight for them. I do that, not because I just want to cover some shows, but because this is an amazing promotion that needs to have everyone know about it. They have the best amateur series in the country, they treat female fighters not as a side show, but as respected talented fighters. You saw my interview with Nichole, and now I have an interview with Greg. I am very excited about this one.
Q: First Greg I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: My pleasure....anytime!
Q: Can you talk a little about the beginnings of the NAAFS. How it started and what the goals for it were.
A: My brother and I started promoting regional karate tournaments right out of high school thru the league that we both used to compete in which is how I got started in the promotional side of things. But Duke Roufus got me started in MMA promotions back in 2005. After a successful first event (Fight Nite in the Flats), I decided to give promoting MMA a shot and soon there after quit my other job to focus full time on the NAAFS. I realized from the start that the sport needed someone to focus on the amateurs and at first my goal was to develop the premier amateur circuit in the country which I believe we have accomplished. We are now focused on establishing our brand (both amateur and professional) on a national level which we are well on our way to doing. I'm lucky to have a great team behind me and I feel the sky is the limit for the NAAFS.
Q: Its become a very popular company. Did you ever think it would become so big?
A: If I said yes I'd be lying lol. But as we started to slowly grow year by year, I saw the potential that the NAAFS has and now have much bigger expectations for our company. I feel we've only scratched the surface as far as how big the NAAFS will eventually be.
Q: At the next show HDNET will be there. Would you call that a big step forward, or one small step towards a bigger picture?
A: We've had a great relationship with HDnet for the past few years and they send a crew to cover most of our pro events. That's obviously a great honor to have national coverage on a network that is so respected in our industry, and its certainly a part of the bigger picture for us.
Q: You make the Pro matches and Nichole Long makes the ammy matches. Are their certain things you look for in a fighter if he has not yet fought for the NAAFS?
A: Yes, Nichole and I both feel there is more to matching fights then just records. The camp you train with is a big part of it but there are many things to consider when putting together a quality fight card.
Q: Sometimes a fighter gets a shot with Bellator or a company like that. When that happens is it more "Great for them getting that opportunity" or is it more "Damn, now they wont be as available for us"?
A: We 100% support any of our fighters that are promoted to one of the "big three". Our goal as a promotion is to get our fighters ready for that next level and we do whatever we can to help get them there. We realize we will never be the UFC but we want our fighters to know that if they compete and do well in the NAAFS, there is a great chance they will get a shot with the UFC, Strike Force or Bellator.
Q: You also do the commentary for the shows. What do you enjoy about commentating?
A: What I enjoy most about commentating besides being that close to the action is being able to work with quality people such as Steve Hindman and John Strmac. I think it makes a big difference when the commentators actually know the sport they are calling and we are fortunate in the NAAFS to have people like Steve and John on the broadcast team. Steve is currently battling cancer which is why he hasn't been around for the past few events but he is getting better and hopes to be back soon. We all miss him dearly and look forward to his return!
Q: I mentioned Nichole Long. I have gotten to know Nichole and think she is just an amazing woman. Whats it like working with her and how much easier does she make things for you?
A: Nichole is a quality person and great at her job. She definitely makes life easier for me in many ways but how she handles the fighters and her organizational skills have to be two of her best qualities. She is a big part of what we do and who we are.
Q: You have done three shows for your Proving Grounds Series. I have said before, I love this idea. Gives young fighters a shot, and really people need to know, just because they are young new fighters, it doesn't mean the fights are now skilled. There have been some great fights on Proving Grounds shows. Where did the idea for this Series come from?
A: As you know, there are so many new fighters in MMA today that we felt it was necessary to provide a low key platform for the less experienced fighters to compete. We recently brought Dustin Ware on board as a third matchmaker for our series. Dustin will primarily be overseeing the "Proving Grounds" series for us which showcases the less experienced amateurs without the pressure of fighting in front of TV cameras or the bright lights. This also gives us a great opportunity to scout potential prospects that can eventually be promoted to our bigger televised cards.
Q: Another thing I like is, while some companies still seem to treat female fights as a novelty, the NAAFS treats them as just another fight. Which I think is a good thing. Puts them on equal ground as men. Is this something you make a conscious effort to do?
A: Yes very much. I feel that promoters who aren't featuring women on their cards are dropping the ball. Some of our best fights have been in the women's divisions and these girls train just as hard as the men. Why not give them a chance to shine? Nichole Long has also had a lot to do with the growth of the NAAFS female series which is only going to get bigger. Watch out for "Eve of Destruction 2" this September!
Q: OK its fight day. The day of one of the big shows. Take us through the normal routine on that day for Greg Kalikas.
A: Chaos, chaos and more chaos lol. In all seriousness we've done so many shows now, its not nearly as bad as it used to be. Most of the hard work comes before the day of the event but we now have individual crews that each do specific things to get us ready for show time. My job the day of the show is to basically make sure everyone is taking care of their duties and handle any last minute issues that may arise before, during or after the event.
Q: If someone had yet to see an NAAFS show, and you wanted to show them a fight to sell them on the NAAFS what one or two fights would you want them to see?
A: Wow great question....id probably say Dent vs Lozano for obvious reasons along with possibly Moomey vs Stevens 2 when they were amateurs and fighting for our national title. That fight is one of my all time favorites and is what amateur MMA should be all about.
Q: In 2010 you debuted Eve of Destruction. An all female card, which I thought was a great idea and great show. Is that something you want to be an annual event?
A: Yes! This Sept 24th will be Eve of Destruction 2 which we hope will be even bigger then the first one. Its a great opportunity for us to showcase many of the top females in the sport today and one of my favorite events to run. I know Nichole takes a lot of pride in EOD too...she did a great job matching it last year and cant wait to see what this years show will have in store for fans of women's MMA.
Q: Now, there are great male fighters in the NAAFS, but this is after-all a mainly female blog. So I am going to name a few females who have recently fought for the NAAFS and tell me what comes to mind.
Jessica Eye- Superstar in the making who has the full package.
Tamikka Brents- Dominant and future world champion
Jessica Zomcik- One of my favorites to watch fight. Truly entertaining, incredibly tough and a great person.
Lalani Malley- overpowering and limitless potential. Another one that I love watching fight.
Amanda Wilcoxen- Very underrated. She is smart, well coached and comes to fight.
Andria Caplan- High ceiling and huge heart. Andria only knows one way and that's forward.
Marissa Caldwell- Scrappy warrior that is going to be one of the best at her weight before its all said and done.
Fans should also keep an eye on Rachel Dovidio, Lettia Suchevich and Jordan McDonald. These two ladies are legit!
Q: Any plans to do another kickboxing show?
A: Yes we try to do one per year.
Q: Any events you want to talk about that are coming up?
We've got some big ones in the works. Feb 26th in Cleveland, April 16th in Canton and June 4th in Cleveland will all be HUGE shows for us. But we have many great events coming up in between that fans can be a part of. Our schedule is always available on NAAFS.tv
Q: Any sponsors or anything you want to plug?
A: Absolutely. We wouldn't be where we are today without our great sponsors. Mr John P Lennon, Intimidation Clothing, Tim Lally Chevrolet, Discount Drug Mart and B3 Enterprisers. We truly appreciate your support!
Q: Greg, again thanks for taking the time for this. I was lucky to be able to cover Eve of Destruction, and have been welcomed back for every show since then. I really appreciate that. I have made many friends due to it, and encourage everyone to check out the NAAFS first chance they get. Any last words before you go?
A: Thanks to you and the fans for the continued support.... 2011 is going to be a big year for the NAAFS and women's MMA!