The Business of MMA: Alchemist Management, Part Two

Brendan Schaub facing Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 116

Building Brendan Schaub and the influence of MC Hammer

In Part One of our feature, Alchemist Management President Lex McMahon explained the creation of the company, how they identify fighters they’d like to work with, and the relationships they’ve build with their clients.

In Part Two, we focus in on the teams efforts to build the name of heavyweight Brendan Schaub, the finalist from Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter who is 4-0 in the Octagon and faces MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 134 on August 27. McMahon also gives us some insights into what the iconic rapper who heads the company — MC Hammer — brings to the table.

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Training, fighting, and winning – those were the three elements McMahon said he and the rest of the Alchemist management team wanted their clients to focus on.

Their responsibility and efforts need to be confined to what happens in the cage, not worrying about sponsors, endorsements, and appearances. If the athletes work to realize their full potential inside the cage, the Alchemist team will do the same to help them reach those marks outside the cage as well.

“We want to help our clients develop as fully in their professional careers as they can,” McMahon explained, speaking with Heavy MMA last weekend. “A great example is Brendan Schaub. Here he is, fighting “Big Nog” on the 27th. As soon as we got the bout, we started a campaign titled “Operation: Rio” that was built on a lot of previous work that we had done in terms of raising his profile, building more brand awareness around him. But “Operation: Rio” involved video, social media, getting him on the cover of MMA Worldwide. That was one of our goals — get Brendan his first cover, and we accomplished that.”

While newspapers are dying a slow death, there are still some positive elements to print media, especially gracing the cover of a magazine. For fight fans, seeing three or four Brendan Schaub’s starring back at them from the shelves at Barnes & Noble or the local 7-11 reminds them that “The Hybrid” has a fight coming up. It also says that Schaub has made the step to the next level — regardless of whether you agree he has or not. Only athletes of a certain level get to be on the cover of magazines, and now Schaub is officially one of them.

The plan to help build his name and showcase Schaub extends well beyond a magazine cover though.

“He’s now one of the faces of Six Star’s Pro Nutrition MMA program, joining Nate Marquardt, so that’s an exciting thing because they market their guys incredibly well. You’ll see a lot of Brendan as well as Jon Chaimberg, another one of our athletes. We’ve been fortunate to place three of our clients with a great company like Six Star.

“Brendan is also the first non-Brazilian fighter to sign with Bony Acai,” said McMahon. “They work with Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, the Nogueira brothers, Shogun — fighters that have been champions or are champions.

“Brendan is the first guy who has not been a champion, is not a current champion, and is not Brazilian. He’s the first fighter that breaks that mold that they’re used to working with, and that says a significant amount about the growth of Brendan and his marketability.” That growth is the combined results of his success in the cage and the efforts of the Alchemist team.

The 28-year-old Schaub has strung together four consecutive victories since losing to Roy Nelson on the finale of Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, culminating with a third round technical knockout of Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 128 back in March. Each of his last two fights have been the toughest of his career, and he’s passed both tests with flying colors.

Next weekend, Schaub steps up again, facing the Pride legend in his home country. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the former University of Colorado running back, one the mirrors the opportunities he’s being present outside the cage.

“There’s so many exciting things going on for Brendan,” continued McMahon, his enthusiasm transferring through the phone. “He fights; he does the three things that he’s supposed to do — train, fight, win — and we do the business and the brand-building side of things, he becomes the champion, and all the related business aspects that we’ve been working on come together, that would be the realization of one of our goals as well.

“Broadly speaking, our goal is just to continue to strive for excellence and build the brands of our fighters, and create success for them. If we do that, we’ll be around as an organization for a long time, and I look forward to that, that’s for sure.”

Since their creation in June 2010, there have been a lot more sightings of Alchemist CEO MC Hammer at UFC events. There are surely those who can’t shake their recollections of Hammer in the 90s from their memory banks and view him as anything more than the guy who was “Too Legit to Quit.” Understandable as it may be, it sells the Alchemist CEO short according to McMahon.

“There’s a lot of value that people don’t see and understand. Hammer is certainly a celebrity, but he’s also a brilliant marketing mind; the man sold 50 million albums. He invented himself as a social media expert, and he speaks around the world — Harvard, MIT, Stanford, you name it — he speaks at all these prestigious universities at their business schools on social media and marketing. He looked at social media as an emerging technology and realized that was a great way to distribute his music, and built from there.

“He learned everything he could about social media, and now he’s one of the foremost experts in the world on it. You can Google `MC Hammer Stanford business school social media” and it pops up; it’s a great conversation of Hammer talking about social media.”

Hammer was one of the first celebrities to embrace Twitter, and boast more than two million followers. Not many fighters have that kind of reach or the ability to put their message, their brand before an audience of that size.

“Most fighters have anywhere from a couple thousand to — the top fighters in the industry — have 100,000 followers. So imagine taking whatever they say and having a conversation with Hammer who has two million followers, and having all of them? You’re putting our fighter, their message, the sponsors that they’re working with, the promotions that they fight for in front of an additional two million fans. Maybe those are new fans because it’s not a direct demographic overall, those are some new fans that come to the sport because of Hammer.”

But there is much more to Hammer’s role with the company this his impressive Twitter following and social networking savvy.

“He’s a very, very hands-on CEO,” offered McMahon. “I’m the President of the company and responsible for day-to-day operations, but Hammer and I talk all the time. When there are strategic decision to be made, Hammer’s vision is the one that is implemented. I’m the guy who goes out and executes it.

“When everything transpired with Nate, Hammer got on a plane and flew to Pittsburgh. He was there and he was very hands-on with what was going on. He was subsequently very involved in all the negotiations that we had to find the right place for Nate to go fight, and to craft the right type of agreement.”

“Here’s the thing,” McMahon continued, summing up what the Alchemist CEO brings to the table. “Hammer is an incredibly savvy businessman, very sharp with the use of media, incredibly bright with the use of social media. He also has these amazing deep relationships to political figureheads, to corporate figureheads. He is at the forefront of working with us to find new opportunities, to cultivate new opportunities for our fighters.

“He works consistently with some of the biggest names in venture capital, some of the biggest names from the Silicon Valley and the technology side. People consult Hammer on the use of social media and marketing. If you get someone that sharp, to me, I’m honored and humbled to be able to work for him; it’s a tremendous experience.

“To those who look at Hammer and say, “What is he doing in MMA?” I say, “Why aren’t there more people like Hammer in MMA? Why aren’t there more great marketers and brilliant minds like MC Hammer in the sport of MMA?” because I’ll tell you what — if there were, the sport would be better.”

For more information on Alchemist Management, check out their website.

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