In my eyes the role of an MMA matchmaker is one of the most overlooked and under appreciated jobs going and it inspired this article to highlight some of the best match makers across the UKMMA scene. To put a bit of a spin on things I have rated them in the school report style giving them a grading in addition to my overview in the fashion you would expect to receive from your secondary school teacher on your end of term report card.
So sit back and enjoy the UKMMA Matchmaker’s School Report;
Ian Dean – Cage Warriors Fighting Championship
Dean needs to turn up to class more often than he currently does
Well it’s tough not to overdo it when throwing superlatives at Dean who is truly one of the best match makers in his class in my eyes. He has been around the sport for longer than most just don’t let his youthful looks and trendy haircuts fool you. He knows the game inside and out. In recent years he has really made a storm on the European scene matching some world class bouts in the Cage Warriors cage across the world with far too many bouts to even mention. Cage Warriors have hosted a number of successful one night tournaments, which must really be a matchmakers nightmare, and come through the other side with dominant Champions (Stevie Ray & Brett Johns spring to mind). What really impresses me with Dean is his ability to bring in relatively unknown names on the UKMMA scene and give them the platform to become stars, Nicholas Dalby, Cathal Pendred and Joanna Jędrzejczyk spring to mind. Dean keeps his cards very close to his chest since skipping school last November but aside from that it’s nearly impossible to say anything bad about the man.
Jude Samuel – BAMMA
Samuel is a personable guy everyone wants to be friends with after they slated his employer and stabbed him in the back
Like Dean, I rate Samuel very, very highly and am more than impressed in what he has been able to do at BAMMA in the last few years. Not only is Samuel the matchmaker but he also makes sure that BAMMA runs smoothly on fight night and is often seen pacing around backstage shouting around to make sure the right people are in the right place at the right time. He has definitely put on some huge bouts with Tom Watson Vs Alex Reid still holding the record for the highest television viewing figures in UKMMA history. He is someone who is certainly willing to take a risk on a fighter aswell which hasn’t always worked in the promotions favor when the result has not developed according to plan, but hey that’s MMA for you. Samuel has built an incredibly strong lighter weight roster in recent years and is now reaping the rewards of his investments in talent such as Marc Diakiese, Jack McGann, Kane Mousah and others. With BAMMA 24 featuring Ireland Vs England he may well have his toughest night ahead of him but one thing is for sure, regardless of what hands he is dealt with in the lead up to the event, he always remains calm and professional and puts on the best fights he is able to.
Harry Shoebridge – Warrior Fight Series
Some good early work but needs to be less reliant on copying homework submitted for marking
Young Shoebridge has taken on the reigns of new promotion WFS and it has gone down a storm so far in its first few shows. Patrick Vallee Vs Jake Bostwick turned out to be a blessing in disguise and has really received some outstanding feedback proving that Showbridge deserves the recognition as a great match maker. Being both owner/promoter and matchmaker might become a difficult task to manage for Shoebridge and he needs to be careful that he doesn’t look for easy options which may come back to bite him (i.e. attaching himself to one specific gym when hunting for fighters. Another constructive aspect of criticism I’ll level at him is that he should steer any aspect of his brand looking like his former employers UCMMA and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming shows for WFS. WFS have clearly delivered some great fights so far in their very early days and I am hopeful that Shoebridge will be able to continue this journey and build himself into a role he is clearly destined to fullfill, one of the best matchmakers in the UKMMA scene.
Dale Percival / Steve Scott – Made 4 The Cage
The cheeky northern lads often caught having having a cheeky smoke behind the bike shed
M4TC as they are better known have been putting on steady and consistently entertaining fight cards for a while now and in the light of Cage Warriors disappearing from the scene, have been able to tap into a number of top UK talent to boost their shows. The promotion have always been good in matching local Northern talent and encompassing a decent amateur lower card to give the amateurs a chance at performing on a big show. One thing that they perhaps do struggle with is keeping that talent and my fear is that when Cage Warriors return there will be a number of fighters they will not be able to call on. But as far as match making ability, they do a sterling job with the roster they have and have really helped to build up the likes of James Mulheron into a serious name at Heavyweight. Percival and Scott are dark horses and definitely a promotion not to take lightly.
Dave O’Donnell – UCMMA
Not the most popular in class but certainly the most consistent in delivery of output
Either way you look at it, O’Donnell divides attention and like he will always comment, any press is good press. O’Donnell has been around since the beginning of time and is a true pioneer of the sport. He has put on some excellent shows throughout the years and is never one to hold back on his ideas once he gets them in his head (Ultimate Ball anyone?). There are a number of fighters who have made their way up through Cage Rage/UCMMA to the UFC which proves that O’Donnell definitely has the ability to build stars. But on the flipside there are often questions around some of the match ups that appear one sided. One of the most impressive things that O’Donnell has done recently is signing a deal with UFC Fight Pass. The entire UCMMA and Cage Fighter back catalog on this platform will be a huge deal for him.