Zovko: ’FFC fighters will also fight at FFC events in the US’
In a big interview with Fight Site, the owner of Fight Channel and the FFC President, Orsat Zovko, talked about all current important topics for his company. As announced, Fight Channel and FFC are to be launched to the American market which is a big deal for a Croatian company. In order to successfully adapt to the local conditions, Zovko signed a partnership deal with renowned production company Hoplite Entertainment.
Will it change the concept of the FFC events? Will there be a space for Croatian and regional fighters? What's with the UFC event in Croatia? Find all the answers in this big interview…
You spent more than a month in the USA before you returned to Croatia. What was the purpose of your stay in Los Angeles?
“The primary goal of my visit to the United States were health reasons and a surgery. After three surgeries in Croatia, I decided to have a surgery in the United States and so far this has proved to be an excellent decision. I hope that it was successful; that there will be no complications and that I will be able to do everything normally in the future. As soon as I felt a bit better, I started working on some things that I planned for a long time which concern the American market and the launching of the Fight Channel World and FFC in the US.“
Could you reveal more about these plans?
“We've been working on bringing the Fight Channel World and FFC to the US for quite some time already. Our plan is to hold six FFC events in the US, while Fight Channel World should be available on American platforms by the end of this year. On the occasion of the launching these brands to the American marked we held big red carpet VIP party in Hollywood. We had a lot of distinguished VIPs from the world of show business and sports. The reactions were beyond all expectations, not only from the guests, but also from the media who were extremely interested in everything that was going on. Again, I'm more than happy with the way everything went. "
What exactly does the launching of the Fight Channel World to the American market imply?
"Just like we have deals with largest TV operators such as Bnet, VIP TV, Optima, H1 and the like in Croatia, we have similar deals with the platforms all over the region. Our goal is to offer Fight Channel World to the American TV operators. Negotiations are in progress and the first contracts might be concluded by the end of this year. "
In order to facilitate your breach to the American market, you made a partnership deal with big production company Hoplite Entertainment.
"Yes, Hoplite Entertainment acquired a certain percentage of our company and became a very active partner when it comes to the FFC from the very beginning. We definitely need a strategic partner in the US primarily because of the huge logistics that this project requires. American regulations and laws are quite different from the European, not to mention they are also different from state to state. For serious business in the United States you need a strong team of lawyers that we gathered in cooperation with our new partners since event organization in the US is far more complicated than in Europe. The events in the US are also regulated by different Athletic Commissions that also have their own regulations. Since recently FFC is an American company based in Los Angeles. "
What will this particularly change in the very concept of events?
"The very concept of FFC events will remain the same as before, but there will probably be some minor changes, particularly when it comes to our roster. We will have to bring in some American and probably Brazilian fighters. But when it comes to the concept, it is too early to speculate since there are specific regulations in each state.“
How did it come to the partnerships with Hoplite Entertainment?
"Jon Smith is my longtime friend and just a little over a year ago we started to talk about cooperation. He has been already persuading me for some time to start with the organization of the events in the US. Jon is a producer and he has recently won the biggest television award in the world, Emmy. It's the equivalent of Oscar, if we talk about the film industry. Jon was impressed with two things in the FFC. First of all, with the production of our events and then with excellent and attractive matches. He is also into combat sports and a frequent guest of the world's largest fighting sports events and he was simply impressed with 'match ups' at FFC events. "
Will the events in the USA be similar to those in Europe?
"At least for the time being, the scenario for all the FFC events around the world should be the same. The concept for 2016 will be improved, but it will all be done in Zagreb and then the American team will carry out the work according to these instructions. We are happy to have professional production team on our disposition. If not, we would have to fly our team from Croatia every time which would be a huge and insurmountable cost. "
It seems that both Glory and Bellator were impressed by this concept since they decided to join forces and organize events with both MMA and kickboxing matches. Is this a coincidence or…?
“A few months ago I spent a whole day with Scott Coker in the United States, more precisely in San Jose. So when I read that Bellator and Glory would do combined events, it is not surprising to me at all why he was so impressed with the concept of the FFC. I'm not saying they ripped us off. We are very pleased that they have recognized our ideas. "
The spring part of the FFC season did not go as you imagined and out of four planned events you held only two. What is the situation with Bulgaria?
“According to all the information that we have so far from our Bulgarian partners, it seems that everything is OK now, at least when it comes to the legal side of the organization. We booked the venue for December 4. It is the biggest venue in Sofia with the capacity of 15,000 visitors. The first event of the second part of the 2015 season will be held in Linz, September 18, and then we will have events in Greece and Italy, plus the one in Bulgaria I already mentioned. Despite the fact that we said we do not plan to do more events in Croatia, it is very likely we would do an event in Zagreb. Many fans asked us to do it. It does not mean we would change the concept of our business and return to Croatia, it just means we will do one event in the Croatia's capital.“
When you announced FFC is going to the US, many speculated that there will be even less opportunities for the Croatian fighters as well as for the fighters from the region.
"Yes, I've seen some comments that imply that Croatian fighters will lose a lot with FFC going to the US. I think it is quite opposite. In 2016 we plan to organize eight events in Europe and 6 events in the US. Promotions rarely have that many events in one year, so every fighter will get a shot. In fact, this is a great opportunity for those who stand out to make a step forward and show the American public what they can do. It's a big thing for FFC fighters from the region and I can definitely confirm that they will fight at the events in the United States. "
Glory also had some problems as well as Mladen Brestovac whose career you manage.
"All the major production companies and organizations have problems. FFC is not an exception and neither is Glory. Therefore, fighters must have understanding and they must adapt to this situation, which is not always easy. I always tell fighters that they must be at least 65-70% ready all the time to step up in case an opportunity emerges. Mladen lost some gigs, not by his fault, but the situation is improving. He will surely do a match this fall in the US. In case he wins, it will be a big deal for him since it will launch him to the top of the Glory's heavyweight division. When it comes to the FFC, it is hard to say for sure, but we will do our best for him to do at least one match by the end of this year.“
Can you tell us more about the event in Linz in September?
"I still do not want to reveal too many details as the fight card has not been revealed yet, but Linz will be very interesting and I can already tell you it will be Alessio Sakara's comeback. This excellent fighter sustained a difficult injury in Vienna and went through a very long and complex rehabilitation. I think many fans can't wait for him to come back.“
What about the UFC in Croatia?
"Nothing has changed, and Croatia remains a desirable destination for the UFC. Although, as time goes by, it is less and less likely that they would come to Zagreb this fall when they booked the Arena. However, the Arena is still booked so it is possible. If you ask me, it is more realistic that the first historical UFC in Croatia would take place in the first half of 2016. This will, of course, depend on their internal policy and various financial and strategy analysis. The UFC invited me to their event in Glasgow this month and after we meet I will know more.“
Let's leave the UFC, Glory and FFC for a minute. Do you think that K-1 and Pride era might come back with 75,000 spectators in the arena?
"From today's perspective these times seems to me like ‘Star Trek'. I don't believe it will happen ever again. I was there during the K-1 fever. Back then, the combat sports world was reigned by certain people and stars that retired in the last decade. It will take some time for the new managers, production companies and new stars to emerge in Japan. It does not happen overnight. But, as I said, those days seem so far away now, like science fiction.“
How come FFC is not aired on the Croatian national television channels anymore? You have to admit it is somewhat strange since TV stations in the region and well as wider broadcast FFC live.
"I can agree that it's a little weird. But that's how it is. Due to great ratings and popularity FFC had on Nova TV, we believe that we offered a very fair deal for 2015. We did not manage to agree on some details and that's why the FCC is not aired there. At this point I have nothing more to say, but we are working on the FFC's return to a national TV channel. "
You are the manager of Samo Petje who is soon to fight in Japan. What about his plans?
“Samo Petje will soon have the most important matches of his career. I am already discussing a new deal with the Japanese and Samo will soon make his Glory debut. In case he remains down to earth, I believe there is a great future ahead of him.“