What I’ve Learned as an MMA Manager.

Brandon_Lowe_ShamrockFC_B

On April 24th, 1990, my life was changed; I now had a younger brother. I have been through many changes throughout my life, and this particular day was one of them. Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD, said: “The universe is transformation; life is but an opinion.” I wasn’t confident of the future, but I did know I had many plans for the new addition in my life. I had plans to tease, prank, play catch, and even torment my half-brother, Brandon. My experience was my reality, and what the future had in store for my family couldn’t be predicted.

We bear witness to many upheavals in the short years we are privileged with being on this third rock most of us call home. We individually see negative and positive in different ways, and we can respond, or sometimes react, in ways that make the situation better or worse. My younger brother, along with my wife, mother, and mother-in-law, responded to a situation as my life was hanging in the balance.

My little brother had to switch roles and become the big brother and make a decision that would send ripples throughout our family. For that, I am thankful beyond description. The decision he, my wife, mother, and mother-in-law had to make forever changed the course of my future. When I held my brother on April 24th, 1990, for the first time, I did not have plans for him to take on such a massive burden, which ultimately led to my managing of his professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) career.

When most people hear the term Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, they usually think of Bellator MMA or UFC. But, what most people are not aware of are the unsung smaller organizations that have been spawned from the seed of hard work and determination. One MMA promoter that comes to mind is Shamrock FC. 19 years ago they began their road as a promoter to one of the biggest sports in the world. To fully understand such an influential organization like Shamrock FC, we must take a trip down memory lane.

In late 2014, my brother, now holding the name Brandon “QuickDraw” Lowe (nickname given to him for his relentless tenacity, quick striking abilities, and ferocious ground-and-pound by his head coach, Brad Jones), decided to enter the stage of professional MMA after defeating Buddy McGinnis for an amateur title belt at the St. Charles Family Arena. Brandon ended his ammy career with an impressive 11 and 5 record.

I was now a little over two years clean and sober, and the excitement that our brotherhood was being restored was amazing. We discussed his choice to go pro quite thoroughly. It was apparent that he wanted to start his new career opportunity with an edge, so he asked if I could help manage him. Before my life spiraled out of control years before the said discussion, I had a background in sales and marketing. I was offered an opportunity to present my brother a living amends and assist in his success, but I was nervous because of my past. I didn’t want to hinder his career. I was probably trying to find an excuse to abandon ship because I wasn’t familiar with the business side of MMA, but deep down I had a compelling feeling to represent him with all of my heart and respect the sport of MMA.

Brandon gave me the number to the matchmaker and Vice President of Shamrock FC, Rob. I was nervous at first. I was an outsider to the sport, so I braced myself and made the called.

The conversation went well, and we discussed a potential opponent to compete against Brandon. When I explained the possibility with Brandon, he was ecstatic. He wanted this fight to happen. A few days went by, and I got word that the opponent had agreed to meet Brandon in the cage. The work began for the both of us.

I started contacting local media. Emails. Phone calls. Facebook messages. I was relentless with a crafted skill that allowed me not to be annoying. I was able to strike up interest from a local media outlet that ran Brandon’s first article on his professional debut.

Brandon was arduously and diligently training as we approached the 3-week mark before his big night. Nothing could have prepared us for what was about to happen. He called me on a Thursday evening complaining of back pain that would move to the lower part of his abdomen. We came up with the conclusion that he was extensively training and resting for a few days would be beneficial.

Friday evening came, and Brandon called me back because the pain had intensified. I advised him to get to the doctor or hospital if it is that bad. The following day he and his girlfriend at the time visited the ER. A few hours later I got the call and was informed that Brandon had to have an emergency appendectomy; his appendix was about to rupture.

Relieved that the medical staff pinpointed the problem, I was very concerned how Brandon would respond. We were literally only three weeks away from his debut, and he spent the last five weeks hammering away at an intensive and daily training camp.

It felt like an eternity, but Brandon finally called me after he was out of surgery and the recovery room. We talked for a few minutes, then his voice cracked. He was crushed that the doctors told him that he would not be able to train, let alone fight, in three weeks. He put a lot of time and effort to represent Madison County, Shamrock FC, and his sponsors for this fight, but now he would have to wait a minimum of six weeks before he could train, allowing his wounds to heal.

Depression seems to sit and wait for its next victim, and it found Brandon and hovered over him. On top of personal struggles not to be mentioned in this reflection piece, he couldn’t do one of the few things that he loved. My family and I encouraged him as much as we could, but he had to go through the motions. Stress isn’t fun while we are experiencing it, but if we push forward, we can learn and grow from the difficulties we face. That’s exactly what Brandon did.

Weeks went by, and Brandon felt good. We contacted the promoter and were eventually offered one of the biggest opportunities for anyone’s pro debut – a spot on the preliminary card for Bellator MMA at the Scottrade Center. HOLY SHIT!
Bellator was coming to town, and Brandon now had the opportunity to enter the professional MMA arena on an immense scale.

Brandon was offered a very tough opponent and had to consult with his coaches. After consultation with his coaches, we took the fight. I was nervous because I had to not only communicate with Rob from Shamrock FC, but I had to talk to representatives from Bellator MMA (to put my anxiousness into perspective, Bellator is the 2nd largest MMA promoter on planet Earth, next to the UFC).

Go big or go home, right?

Brandon began his rigorous training camp, and I went to work, gathering a few sponsors and securing local print media coverage. I was able to get three local news outlets to run a feature on Brandon, and I was able to get him a live radio interview with hosts Fred Slow and Matt Berger from 590 the Fan.

We secured a very humble and excellent sponsor, HW Armory (at the time it was Hollow Wear). The owner and operator, Mark, designed the 4 x 6 banner to Bellator’s specifications. He designed posters and had an official photo shoot for Brandon.

About four weeks into Brandon’s training camp, his frustration grew; he was having trouble shredding the weight he put on during his recovery downtime from his appendectomy. The pressure from the upcoming fight was hindering his focus. He continued to train, but his weight was slowly coming off.

The night before the weigh-ins, Brandon was extremely nervous. He did everything he was supposed too – eat clean, cardio, and train – but the weight was being stubborn as a mule. He had to weigh-in at the Ballpark Village in a little over twenty-four hours at 145 lbs. He was 160 lbs. He and his training partner, Patrick, got busy with the weight-cutting process. And, holy hell, let me tell you how determined any fighter has to be if they are serious about the sport of MMA (wrestlers, boxers, and kickboxers will understand, too). 15 lbs in twenty-four hours had to be removed from an already tired and worn out warrior.

Brandon and Patrick headed to the local gym to use the sauna and hot tub to undergo a process that would start cutting water weight quickly. The night turned into dawn, and he was down eight or nine pounds. They both came to my house to use my jet tub. They filled the tub with hot water, making sure the temperature was above 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brandon was lightly cramping. He had about six pounds to go, and the weight was now coming to an almost standstill. Slowly but surely, the weight came off, and it was 3:00 pm. He still had a pound or so to go, but he had to get to Ballpark Village. He was hopeful that he would float the extra pound he needed to make weight.

It was time to weigh-in as cameras were around to stream it live on the internet. His opponent went first and made weight. My wife, Patrick, and I waited in anticipation. DAMN IT! Brandon was a quarter of a pound off. They brought out the curtain and had Brandon remove his boxers; still overweight. They gave him one hour to lose what was needed.

His body drained of much-needed fluid and energy, Brandon, exhausted, feebly put on his sweatsuit. His lips were cracked, dry like a desert wasteland, and a white, gummy substance sat in the corners of his mouth. We decided to move toward the exit of Ballpark Village so Brandon could sit in Patrick’s truck with the heat on. We stepped out of the door, and Brandon sat on the ground. His muscles ached and screamed for water, as they brutally punished him for his neglect. Cramps ravished his body. He rolled on the ground, shouting “Just give Rashard a percentage of my purse. AHHH!”

I wanted to agree with him, but Patrick and I looked at one another.

“Come on, B, it’s only a quarter of a pound. You got this!” Patrick said, encouraging Brandon to push forward.

I watched as Brandon looked to be in disarray. The brother that I held on April 24th, 1990, was in pain. I had to take a deep breath.

“Come on, QuickDraw, you got this. You have come this far. We have the Pedialyte ready and the waitress on standby,” I said, attempting to root him on.

He stood up and threw his arm around Patrick’s shoulder. They walked to the truck only to return forty-five minutes later. We had to go to the second floor of Ballpark Village where a room was designated for those that missed weight.

The moment of truth… 145 even!

Brandon ran out of the room, chugged a glass of water and orange juice, then drank some of his Pedialyte mixed with water and chowed down on the food we ordered him.

Brandon could finally hydrate and put some nutrition in his body.

The morning of the fight came, and Brandon stopped by my house to eat some sweet potato pancakes. He was calm, and we talked about how far he had come. He didn’t want to let Madison County down. We sold a little over 125 tickets to supporters of his MMA career, so he wanted to represent everyone with a win.

We all packed into the Scottrade Center and found our seats. QuickDraw shirts were everywhere in our section as we watched the other preliminary fights, anticipating Brandon to come out any minute.

The lights dimmed, and Eminem’s Phenomenal blared from the speakers, filling the Scottrade Center arena. Brandon walked out with his coaches, and everyone there supporting Brandon loudly cheered and clapped, letting everyone know we were there.

It was his opponent’s turn to walk out. We carefully watched the two meet in the cage. The staredown. The touch of the gloves. The bell.

They sized each other up and shuffled their feet. A few jabs from Brandon. A few counters from Rashard.

Check the kick, Brandon, I thought to myself. He checked Rashard’s kick. He rechecked the kick. Brandon tagged Rashard with a few jabs and shot too early. They sprawled. Brandon’s fans in the section were shouting “Come on, Brandon! Come on, B!”

Then… Brandon froze. Everyone was confused. His opponent, Rashard, even looked stunned for a second before he came crashing down with a brutal elbow to Brandon’s head, rendering him unconscious. And, just like that, within less than two minutes, it was over. I almost wanted to cry after everyone gasped when the ref stopped the fight. I didn’t want to cry because Brandon lost. We all lose at something on a daily basis, but I wanted to cry because of how hard I knew he would be on himself. He tried to represent Shamrock FC and his hometown with integrity, class, and skill. He spent eight weeks training every day and twenty-fours cutting 15 lbs. for this fight.

I whipped out my phone and texted Rob – That wasn’t Brandon’s best, Rob. We will want another fight SOON. Thxs for the opportunity! 

We waited what felt like forever for Brandon to come out of the locker rooms. He walked out with his head hung low, sporting a complimentary Bellator 145: Vengeance t-shirt. He looked at me and just shook his head.

The most amazing thing happened; everyone that was there to support him circled him and told him that it would be okay. They said to keep your head up. They took pictures with Brandon. They huddled him like the champion he is. “You can only go up from here” a family member shouted. An unfamiliar voice screeched, “a small setback for a major comeback.” Someone I had never met before walked up to me and asked if I could get them a picture with Brandon, which Brandon obliged.

This happened in 2015. We put together another fight in April 2016, but Brandon was struggling with some personal issues that were hindering his training and focus. He was trying to push through the malady, but he couldn’t seem to shake it. After the fight, which Brandon won, we were offered many fights by Shamrock FC.

Brandon had to take six months off due to the personal health issues that most of us close to him knew about. I kept turning down fight after fight with Shamrock FC, and in the business of MMA, if someone doesn’t want to fight while under contract, the promoter will shelf the fighter. I advised Brandon that we needed to tell Shamrock FC what was actually going on, which he finally agreed.

I ended up speaking with the owner and President of Shamrock FC, Jesse. Once I explained everything that was going on with Brandon, Jesse was nothing but professional and supportive. He told me that they support Brandon 100% and wished him a speedy recovery.

Six months went by, and Brandon was ready to return to the cage. We accepted a fight in December 2016 for March 2017. We were eleven weeks out from his return, and he had 31 lbs. to lose to make weight. New sponsors, reenergized spirit, and more determined than ever, Brandon made weight.

On fight night, Brandon dominated his opponent in the first round from his newly ignited passion to MMA glory.

In July 2017, Brandon was offered a fight with a very strong and tough opponent, and we accepted the fight that took place on September 22nd, 2017, on the Shamrock FC 295 card.

Brandon was ready and stepped into the cage. His opponent, Malcolm, came out strong and dominated the first round. Blood trickling down his forehead, Brandon never backed down.

In the second round, around the 2:55-minute mark, the crowd started chanting, “Brandon, Brandon, Brandon.” The commentator made mention of the crowd’s excitement. “This crowd is going nuts here,” said the commentator, Jeremy. From the bottom, Brandon held his composure and was able to secure a locked position of Malcolm’s head, firing off elbows. The ref rushed in to stop the fight. The room exploded with EXCITEMENT! The biggest fight of Brandon’s career was secured with the BIG W.

After the fight, Malcolm and Brandon ran into each other getting a drink. The amount of respect that these two men had for each other after a grueling and impressive showcase of skill and tenacity by both of them was astounding. I was in awe as I watched the two warriors thank and hold each other in high regards. They even agreed they needed to get together and train.

You might be thinking, Well, what have you learned as an MMA manager?. 

I have learned so much from being an MMA manager. I have learned more about the technical aspects of the sport and business side of it. But, most importantly, I have learned how to continue to build on my strengths, lessen my weaknesses, and that success takes work.

Shamrock FC has been in business for 19 years. From their dedication and hard work comes a fruition that not only their internal staff like Rob and Jesse get to benefit from, but the fighters have a great organization to build their MMA career around. It could be a wise old tale, but it is said that we need to put ourselves around the winners. Shamrock FC and the many great fighters are winners. The fighters get to build brother or sisterhood around a sport that teaches determination and a will to continue to grow if you put in the effort.

Brandon said in an interview, “It’s how you build yourself up from the losses.” If he had given up when he had to have the emergency appendectomy, he wouldn’t have fought Rashard. If he would have given up after losing against Rashard, he wouldn’t have fought Montuelle. If he had given up after his health conditions that were a heavy burden on him, he wouldn’t have fought Auschton. If he had given up in the 1st round when Malcolm was pulverizing him, he wouldn’t have got the biggest win of his professional MMA career thus far.

Brandon “QuickDraw” Lowe now has a great team behind him. One of his biggest sponsors, DCS Cleaning & Handyman Services, offers various services and one of them is being a massive support to Brandon’s career. Other sponsors include Kirby Little at Grand Piasa Body Art, Sherer Chiropractic Center, Whole Street ProductionsHW Armory, and Head Nod Squad. Team QuickDraw consists of these sponsors (and growing) and the uber amount of fans Brandon has collected over the years of competing in the cage of MMA. If we were to combine Brandon’s last ten fights (ammy and pro), he is 9 and 1 with a 3-fight winning streak in professional MMA. He is indeed a fighter in and out of the cage.

As an MMA manager, I have reinforced the idea from my own personal battles that it takes action and sometimes losses to gain strength and growth. It’s what we do with our losses like Brandon said. I have learned to love more frequently, respect with more honor, and cheer even when someone might seem down for the count. Everything worthwhile in our lives is going to take time, effort, failures, losses, and the will to move forward when it feels that the universe just wants to hold us back from succeeding. The most prominent lesson I have learned from being an MMA manager and reflecting on my own life is that failures are necessary for success.

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned as an MMA Manager.

Stickers, what’s the point?

I try to pull back carefully the edges of the cartoon character staring back at me, and only half peels off!!! Then, I try to use what little finger nail I do have to remove the rest. Ugh… I am left with a bigger blemish. It was bad enough some pink pony was on my laptop; now a blemish, of the sticky residue with dirt and germs, is all that is left.

Since my recent health kick, I am now enjoying fruit after my 10 minute battle of removing the sticker off of each piece every morning. I know a simple remedy-grab a knife and cut the little section off, no big deal. It is a problem. It is a piece of fruit. It is already hard enough to convince myself to keep eating them. I don’t need any additional reason to justify why I shouldn’t.

Stickers are about as pointless as this blog. Lisa Frank can kiss off.

Thanks for reading “Let’s Ty One On.” Keep coming back and read as I attempt to have an epiphany. All seriousness, everyone have an awesome day.

Stickers, what’s the point?