Matt Frendo returns to launch Lights Out Championship on October 13
For over three years Matt Frendo served as President and Matchmaker of KnockOut Promotions (KOP) but on July 5, 2018, he stepped down. It wasn’t something he wanted to do, rather it was something he felt he had to do. Frendo stepped down because the founder of KnockOut Promotions, Josh Medley was using racist language with fighters and Frendo couldn’t deal with the culture that Medley was fostering. He decided he was done.
“He went off on this racist tangent on numerous different fighters and once that happened, it’s time to break away from that. I can’t be associated with that, there is no place in this sport in the world for people like that. It was a really tough decision but at the end of the day you gotta do what’s right more than what you want, that’s why we had to do it.”
Frendo doesn’t regret his time with KOP, he made friendships that he is proud of and helped KOP develop into one of Michigan’s top MMA promotions, getting a distribution deal with FloCombat and helping athletes such as Cody Stamann pursue their dreams. But with the culture becoming what it was he couldn’t stay quiet, so he released the messages to the public. The only regret he has is that he stayed quiet longer than he believes he should have.
“I don’t regret my time at KOP, I just regret staying quiet for as long as I did. It was something that should’ve came to light sooner than it did.”
He also believes it was important that he was the one that released the messages.
“I was the one that put them out there. I knew I needed to be the one that spoke up about it. I think it carries more weight if it comes from me. I just think it needed to come from me so nobody could twist it and somehow say I was involved with any of that. That’s not how it works.”
With the dreary situation behind him, Frendo was looking to take time off before working in MMA again, at the time he quit KOP, he was a few months away from getting married and he wanted to put all of his attention on that before starting again. But he kept getting messages from coaches and fighters asking him not to. One of those people was Moe Williams, who helped Frendo put things in perspective.
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“I just told him, I said man I really think I should take some time off and really let people digest what happened. Kinda let things cool off a little bit before I jump right back into it. He just told me man, people are going to have their own opinions and their own adjustments no matter what, you can’t base your life or decisions based off of what other people are going to think. Something like that really put things in perspective for me and how I need to approach things going forward.”
Because of the support Frendo received and the insistence that he needed to start sooner than he planned to, he announced on August 12, 2018, that he created a new promotion called Lights Out Championship and the first event would take place on October 13.
Now, Frendo is the sole owner of a promotion and he could pick each direction the organization would go in. He also wanted it to standout from other promotions and be innovative. He has started by providing individual fight kits for fighters to wear (they are optional not mandatory to wear so they can have sponsors), they will raffle off a 2018 Chevy Camaro at the first event (a ticket is an entry into the raffle), have a $2,500 knockout of the night bonus, more competitive fight purses and ensure fighters receive a higher percentage of money on the tickets they sell.
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“I’m trying to reinvent the MMA business in our area and I’m trying to do things outside the box to make this more exciting for fighters, fans and everybody.”
Most importantly, he is trying make the promotion fighter centric.
“I’m trying to really gear the promotion towards taking care of fighters and making it more worth it to them and motivating these guys to do better in all aspects of the business.”
Most regional promotions are reliant on ticket sales to create revenue and cover costs. That responsibility mainly falls on the fighters and often times fighters who don’t sell many tickets have a hard time getting on cards. While knowing he still needs fighters to sell tickets, Frendo is trying to avoid placing all the pressure on the fighters which will enable him to use fighters that don’t sell well.
“One of the main things I’m focusing a lot more on is taking care of fighters. Every business has to make money and each business does have its own way. With KOP, it became too reliant on ticket sales. If a fighter didn’t sell x amount of tickets we wouldn’t put him on a card. I think that’s not the way I want to do things. Everybody has to carry their weight obviously, but I think there are certain opportunities for people that shouldn’t necessarily be solely based on if someone can sell a million tickets. I’ve really had some really good support from sponsors which are making it possible for me to book fighters that I haven’t been able to book in the past.”
The promotion has received a lot of support from fighters, fans and coaches since the announcement but it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing. Frendo originally booked a venue in Holland, MI and stacked the card with Holland based fighters, including a rivalry match up in the main event between heavyweights Ray Lopez (9-11) and Ruben Esparza (3-1). However, the venue became difficult to work with which forced Frendo to find a venue. Now the event will take place at the Delta Plex Arena in Grand Rapids, MI.
But the bad news also brings good news as Lights Out Promotions signed an agreement to host all of their 2019 shows at the Delta Plex Arena. Including the show on October 13, Lights Out Promotions will host six events through 2019.
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The card is a pro-am card, featuring fighters young into their amateur careers all the way to fighters with twenty professional fights which is what Frendo believes is the right card for Lights Out’s first event.
“I tried to put a mixture of everything because I truly do think that on this level of regional promotion that we are, I think there’s a spot for all types of fighters like we have on the show.”
The event was supposed to take place in Holland so Frendo filled it with many Holland-based fighters. None more so than the original main event. but it will have to be enjoyed forty minutes away in Grand Rapids. But, by the time the main event starts, everyone from Holland to Grand Rapids will feel the heat between the main event combatants.
“These guys are both from Holland, MI, they’ve both had a lot of success in their past on the amateur and the pro scene. These are guys that they absolutely hate each other. This has been a heated rivalry in the city of Holland dating back almost ten years ago. These guys have an idea in their head that they are both the greatest pro fighter from Holland, MI. To somebody outside of Holland, MI, what does that mean? Probably not a lot, but these guys are very big on pride, they’re very big on where they came from and they both want to be considered the best from where they came from. In their eyes, this is the fight that will determine that.”
However, the main event of the show won’t happen as Ruben Esparza was injured during a training session and had to pull out of the main event. Now a middleweight contest between Erick Lozano vs. Marcus Mauilding will be the new main event.
A match that Frendo believes will be a a show stealer is, t between amateur fighters Idris Perry and Jesse Droast (3-0). He also believes the winner of the fight to become the next fighter to garner a lot of hype when they decide to turn professional.
“I think the winner of that fight there is going to have a ridiculous amount of hype going forward and I think they’re both going to have a lot of success anyway.”
With the promotion up and running, the first date and venue booked and the fights set, Frendo believes this is only the beginning of something great.
“I think you’re going to see some really cool fights, some really cool things going on. This is going to be a start of what’s to come for Lights Out and Michigan MMA as a whole. I’m excited to get to it.”
For those who can’t make it in person to see Lights Out 1, they can watch on PPV through Fite.TV.
Lights Out Championship makes its debut on October 13 at the Delta Plex Center.
Most Up To Date Fight Card:
Erick Lozano vs. Marcus Mauilding – 185Lbs Main Event
Kenneth Cross vs. Luke Hnevsa – 155Lbs
Ryse Brink vs. Antoine Blassingame – 155Lbs
Randy Patino vs. Michael Gilmore – 170Lbs
Josh Zimmer vs. Terry VanAvery – 165Lbs
Jesse Walthers vs. Justin Overton – 205Lbs
Coty Lopez vs. Kory Wertz – 160Lbs
Mando Gutierrez vs. Andrew Muyskens
Cora Thomason vs. Claire Guthrie
Idris Perry vs. Jesse Droast
Abasi Perry vs. Matt Hooper
Matt Christensen vs. Michael Thompson
Shane Rodenburg vs. Bryn Tiemeyer