Shamrock 329 was supposed to happen this past weekend, but due to the sweeping closures of events due to COVID-19, the event was canceled by the Missouri Athletic Commission. That didn’t stop us from speaking with president of the promotion, Jesse Finney. Finney is a fighter turned promoter who has some of the best young talent in the martial arts world. Even the coronavirus wouldn’t stop us from speaking with Finney and got to know where he came from and what he gets his hands in outside of promoting Shamrock FC.
Jesse Finney: The Beginning
As mentioned earlier, Jesse Finney was first a fighter. He was around in kickboxing for some time before transitioning to mixed martial arts. He recounts his dad being his inspiration to get involved in combat sports.
“What inspired me the most was my stepdad. He was a former kickboxing champion, Trevor Biggs. He fought Bill Wallace for in Bill’s retirement fight. He lost in a split decision. For me I was always an athlete in high school and played collegiate baseball. Then I got out and started competing full time. I was 22 and I started when I was 8. I got out of college, it was always a passion of mine. It was something I always loved. Then I was kickboxing all over and that was before MMA was around. Then when that came around, some guys I was training with were doing MMA. They were doing all their stand up with us. I told them they were crazy, there is no way I was getting into all that stuff. Well slowly but surely it became more mainstream. Back then it was kickboxer versus boxer or wrestler. So I was like, ‘You know what, I’ll give this a shot. I’m a decent athlete.’ Then I worked on my wrestling and my jiu jitsu. I got into mixed martial arts. I had 6 or 8 amateur fights. Then I had 6 or 7 professional fights. That was when a professional kickboxer could fight an amateur MMA fighter. There were no regulations. It was just whatever you get.”
Finney went on to compete in Strikeforce and have a 6-1 in professional MMA. But his last fight wasn’t the end of his journey in combat sports. Finney began Shamrock FC, which originally started out as a kickboxing promotion in 1998. But as MMA thrived in the early 2000’s, Shamrock became a multi-sport promotion.
”Then I got into it and it was more and more of me seeing the promotion side. There were small promotions everywhere. So Shamrock FC evolved essentially. We were doing kickboxing at the time and we got into mixed martial arts in 2002. Then it got legalized for amateurs in the state of Missouri. We’re always about the entertainment value. I come from the Scott Coker era, where Coker was my promoter. We don’t just want to put a show, we want make it about the event as well; the lights and the production value. It’s about the experience and the fans and the fighters as well. I truly am a big fan of making it a great event for the fighters. They deserve to be on that stage. They deserve to get all the recognition they get. And I am a fighter’s promoter. Not many guys from out there competed on the level I have and had a successful promotion. It sounds arrogant but I know what the fighters really want. I know how to treat them, I know what they want. I can talk their lingo. I know small things mean a lot to these guys as far as communications all the way back to the dressing rooms.”
The Shamrock Advantage
Having been a fighter first, Jesse Finney has a leg up on many regional promotions. He has been where his fighters have been, he has a good business head on his shoulders and knows what his fighters are looking for.
“I’m lucky enough that I’ve been a promoter and a fighter, a gym owner, a trainer. Now I’ve managed guys. I’ve seen every aspect of the game. I think that is a real advantage that everyone doesn’t have. I feel like you have to see both sides. At the end of the day, you’re not going to make everybody happy. But as long as everybody is transparent, everyone will feel good at the end of the day. Or it’s not going to work for everybody. That means my partners at the casinos, my partners as far as my fighter, my partners as far as the managers and trainers, everybody. You’ve got to make everybody feel special and at the same time make everybody get the recognition they deserve.”
Philanthropy with Guns N Hoses
When Finney is not promoting fights, he’s making an impact in the community. Jesse Finney is on the board of Guns N Hoses, a first responders charity that helps said first responders and families of fallen first responders. The organization raised $900,000 for their cause last year and had brought in over $8.5 million total.
“I’m on the executive board for Guns N Hoses here in St. Louis. We support Backstoppers, 100% of our proceeds go to first responders, fallen first responders. I say this all the time and it’s kind of our slogan, it’s the best insurance policy that we hope we never have to use. We’re there for the families. If something tragic would happen, we are with the families all the way through college for the kids, we are there and we take care of them. Something that’s going for 33 years. For me, I’ve been around for a little over 10 years now. I’m the secretary of the board which is essentially third in charge. Basically, it’s a bunch of older school guys back in the day and they brought me in 10 years ago and it’s been nothing but dynamite. It’s a very old school way of thinking. These guys brought me in and these guys are just dynamite humans. We need to respect the authority. I really am a big believer in that. You take care of the people who take care of you. They have our backs in our time of need when you call 911. Well, guess what? We have their backs as well.”
The Future of Shamrock FC
Shamrock FC is nearing event number 330. Having been around for so long, Jesse Finney feels as if Shamrock is just now hitting their promotional stride. With several deals in place with FITE TV, Shamrock is getting to more households than ever right now. And that is not looking like it’s slowing down.
“For us right now, we’re really hitting our stride with FITE.tv. It’s a great partnership with FITE.tv. We’re a little bit different, we stream everything live through them. It’s a dynamite team. We have a partnership with over 133 million homers we play on tape delay. Our shows are 2 weeks after that. They go from the show to 133 million homes. We’re looking to pick up probably another 15-20 million homes by the end of the second quarter. Then we are going to be announcing some new venues that we’re going to be going into soon, a couple cities we’ve had our eyes on with our casino partners.”
Jesse Finney on UFC 249
There has been so much turmoil around the UFC with the coronavirus and whether or not events will go on and how they will go on. Regardless of what happens, it is fun to speculate on how Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will go down. Finney weighed in
“I’m a big fan of Khabib. The way he’s come out. He could probably out wrestle anybody in the UFC in his weight class. What I really appreciate and love is the fact that he’s went in there and worked on his hands and gotten better. I am a huge Khabib fan, I really am. Personally, I think he wrecks Tony Ferguson, and I don’t say that lightly. I really can see that happening, I can see a second round TKO by Khabib. He’s a different animal, he is a different human. They’re all both so great for the sport the way Khabib is with his family. I look for Khabib to wreck him. Second round, TKO.”
While Shamrock 229 was postponed, something Finney wasn’t happy about, he was still not happy. Shamrock 330 is scheduled for April 4th and that remains to be seen if that fight happens. Regardless, Shamrock FC will chug on. Stay posted to My MMA News to follow more Shamrock FC events. Thanks for reading!