Some roles in MMA are meant to be larger than life, like world champion, or, say, UFC president Dana White. Some roles are supposed to be nearly invisible - the best referee for example is one so skilled he is not noticed.
UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby (Shelby does the 145 and under fighters of both sexes, Silva does the rest) are lifelong martial artists, and rank #2 on MMA Junkie mags 25 Most Powerful People in MMA list. However, you hear little in the media from or about Shelby, and less still from Silva. That just changed with this tremendous, must-read profile by MMAJunkie's Ben Fowlkes, very briefly excerpted below.
The job, in a nut shell
"The thing is, there's so many different combinations of styles and martial arts, you really don't know," Silva said. "Some fights you think will be boring, they turn out to be 'Fight of the Night.' Some fights you think will be good turn out to be boring. Our thing is, are we creating legitimate contenders?"
As Shelby put it, the job of the matchmakers is "to bring challengers to the champion."
Worst part of the job - Firing fighters
"That's the worst," said Silva. "It's the absolute worst. I've almost quit this job multiple times because of that. People have broken down and cried."
"Dana's Captain Kirk, and we're Scotty. Dana's always asking for crazy, impossible stuff, and we're going, 'Captain, we can't go any faster!' He's the one saying, 'Dammit Scotty, make it happen!'"
"If everybody only took fights that they thought they had a really good chance of winning, nobody would ever fight. When you look at the odds, they almost always favor someone, even if they end up being wrong. But if you're in the UFC, you're here to fight who I have. If you're going, 'I don't think I can beat that guy,' then maybe you should be doing something else."
"I really don't consider myself a mean person at all, but I am very honest. I won't lie, and I put things very straight. And fighters, they have a lot of buffers around them, sort of 'atta boy' guys. They're not used to someone telling them, 'No, this is how it is.'"
Parting advice to managers
"You cannot find a single fighter ever in UFC history who will say that they told me they were injured and I gave them s--- about it," said Silva. "Not ever. ... The only time I've ever yelled, and I have done this, but you'd be shocked how many times I get a call where they say, 'Hey, sorry, but he's got to pull out of the fight. Two weeks ago he really messed up his knee.' It's like, really? Two weeks ago? Why didn't you tell me then? I wouldn't have pulled him from the fight, but I could have started thinking about a replacement. It's always, 'Oh, but we thought he'd be OK.' You thought wrong. And you thinking wrong screwed the show, screwed me, screwed his opponent. Don't think. If he's got a hangnail, just let me know."
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