He’s done it again — one of the original minds behind the UFC has teamed up with super producers Bunim-Murray to create the new MMA reality show Combate Americas.
Ironically, after I covered Campbell McLaren’s new venture last week, I saw three huge billboards around Los Angeles with Combate Americas advertising, with the show premiering Sunday.
The show — which UFC President Dana White said he thinks it will be a hit — will be a story driven Latin America-based MMA show turned promotion. Last week’s feature breaks down the show featuring Royce Gracie, Eddie Alvarez and Daddy Yankee.
As not only a journalist but a fan of the sport I was intrigued with my interview with McLaren, as he broke down how the UFC came to be. We hear stories of the UFC being started by the Gracie family, but everything else is legend.
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McLaren made it clear — “There’s no UFC without the Gracies” — and revealed that before getting into MMA he was a television producer, worked with comedian Andrew Dice Clay, and was involved in the music industry.
“Music wasn’t making money in pay per views,” McLaren said. “So a guy named Art Davie was selling Gracie tapes and he calls me and pitches the Gracies to me and says they will fight and beat anyone. So I met with them and Rorion Gracie says it’s true, they will beat anybody.”
McLaren said he first brought them to a steakhouse in New York, thinking they would devour the meat raw, but learned “The baddest man I met is a vegetarian.”
As the wheels went in motion, McLaren started putting together the blueprint for the UFC.
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“I knew visually what the promotion would look like. A real life Mortal Kombat,” he said. “I felt we needed to do a tournament, but have fighters wear all their own stuff.”
McLaren’s friend John Milius, writer of Apocalypse Now, said he should use an octagon as the cage and put razor wire all around. “He said I should use real razor, I wasn’t going to tell him ‘no,’ but I did want to use wire that wasn’t real.”
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and famed commentator Joe Rogan were brought in by McLaren, with Rogan initially saying, “Oh dude, you don’t have to pay me. I’ll do this for free.”
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The catchphrases “Two men enter, one man leaves,” “Banned in 49 states,” and “There are no rules” are all slogans McLaren created.
“I really love the UFC,” he said. “I feel like it’s my baby, I feel like I created it.” McLaren was executive producer from UFC 1-22 and initially the promotion flourished.
“We were doing 350,000 PPV buys in 25 million homes. Now there are 100 million homes that have access to PPV.”
What wasn’t fun, he said, was the political heat from politicians that were trying to get mixed martial arts banned. That started to take a toll on him and the promotion was sold after UFC 28.
He said he has great memories from the startup days with one standing out in particular.
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“We were at the fighters’ meeting for UFC 1, no one knew what expect,” he said. “People wondering if we could tape hands, what do we do, what are the rules. That’s when Rorion spoke and said, ‘There is no biting. We are not animals.’ That’s when the big Sumo guy comes in, slaps his hand and said I came to fight. Then everyone walked out.”
McLaren had fun with the UFC — doing something that had never been done before — and bringing people together from all sorts of backgrounds. “Brad Pitt said the only bad thing about Jennifer Aniston is that she doesn’t like the UFC. Then he met Angelina Jolie.”
McLaren still stays in contact with those in the UFC and his new “baby” Combate Americas does not compete with the former, but is a different outlet for MMA.
Will his story driven new promotion be as successful as the UFC?
No one can say, but looking at McLaren’s track record… I would say it’s bound to be another success.
David Kano is lead writer for MMA Show News and co-host of The Hollywood MMA Show. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDKano.
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