Jason Chambers on life, and the death of Shine Fights

Thursday, July 04, 2013

This is number sixty-five in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature, retired MMA fighter, television personality, entrepreneur, and UGer, Jason Chambers.  Chambers is currently the CEO of Apex Sports Agency, managing a talented roster of fighters.  In the worlds of both Hollywood and MMA, Chambers has been there and back.  Please enjoy the conversation below.

Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?

Jason Chambers: I began studying martial arts when I was six years old.  I took Judo for a few months, but it was nothing too serious.  Like most kids in the 1980s, I was swayed by the images of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Karate Kid movies.  I was also influenced by my uncle, Dean, who was a martial Arts practitioner, but he lived too far away for me to have a consistent training regimen with him.  In 1993, I met my good friend, Shawn Terrance, who had studied martial arts formally and informally for several years.  He introduced me to this “new” style of fighting that he had learned from a friend of his who had attended a seminar.  That seminar was conducted by Rickson Gracie.  I loved all the aspects of BJJ, and some of the striking techniques, that Shawn introduced to me.  However Shawn was not a local guy either, and when you are thirteen, going three miles might as well be the other side of the world.  So I explored some local martial arts schools before ultimately landing at what I considered my “home base,” a JKD school run by Joe Goytia.  The classes were broken up into thirty minutes of striking, thirty minutes of clinching, and thirty minutes of grappling. 

JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?

JC: My first “professional” bout was in 1998.  It was really a different world back then.  A legitimate fight was a black belt in Karate vs. a boxer, or a Judo guy fighting a Wing Chun practitioner.  I had just turned eighteen, and I fought some athletic black kid that did what most people did back then.  He trained with his friends in a garage.  At the time, I felt very prepared.  I had several BJJ tourney wins, and that was all that you needed to be successful in the 1990s MMA scene.  In hindsight, I wasn’t really prepared.  The amateur circuit nowadays is ten times tougher than the “pros” were back then.  It was really just an exploratory event where everyone was still working out what worked and what didn’t. 

JB: Over your ten plus years of fighting professionally, you had 25 MMA fights, and an overall record of 18-5-2.  What were your most satisfying performances?

JC: Fighting locally in Chicago was always fun with the home crowd.  My most satisfying performance was my fight with Adrienne Serrano, who was a legend in the early days of the Midwest MMA circuit.  He was a UFC veteran, tremendously experienced, and someone I watched fight for a few years before I ever did.  It was the first real step up in competition for me.  My other most memorable moment was the Twister I pulled off in a bout.

JB: Your last fight, in 2008, was a submission win.  How did you arrive at the decision to end your fighting career? 

JC: Truth be told, I never set out to be a fighter.  I was bullied in grammar school and really just needed an outlet for channeling my frustration.  I came to a point when I needed to make a life decision.  I had signed a UFC contract, and was set to make my debut at UFC 60, vs. Spencer Fisher.  But it was a bout I later pulled out of because Human Weapon got the green light.  I had to choose stage or cage, and it was much more difficult than I thought it would be.  I felt like I would be letting a lot of people down if I didn’t fight.  In the end, it was the right decision.

JB: You’ve trained extensively under Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu, and you even submitted an opponent with the Twister.  How did you first connect with Bravo, and what was it that made the 10th Planet system particularly appealing to you?

JC: I was in LA before a fight of mine, and I wanted somewhere to train.  I called the Machados’ Academy, and they recommended that I go check out Eddie’s because I didn’t want gi training.  I felt very welcomed there, and I liked the idea that a whole system could be formulated without a gi.  Eddie is an easy guy to like, and his class’s style is very informal and friendly.

JB: You’ve studied acting and worked in television as an actor, broadcaster, and in other capacities.  You were particularly successful as the co-host of “The Human Weapon” television show on The History Channel.  What was that experience like for you, and how would you compare your work in television to being a fighter?  

JC: On some levels it is very similar.  The work ethic involved, the sacrifice, and the competition for notoriety in both arenas was very high.  I was very lucky to get Human Weapon.  Anyone that you see on TV is lucky.  There are probably a hundred different guys that could play any given role.  You have to just happen to be the one that didn’t look like the casting director’s ex-boyfriend, or you were just having a good hair day.  It’s crazy really.  Five hundred guys will send in headshots for a role that is two lines.  You can leverage your talent to some extent, but, ultimately, working in TV has a huge luck factor.  MMA is more organic.  There are no shortcuts or ways to one-up the food chain.  You have to put in your blood, sweat, and tears.  I don’t say that to devalue acting or hosting.  There absolutely are technical aspects and training that goes into it.  The easier acting looks, the harder that person worked at it.

JB: Looking back, how would you characterize your experience as Chief Operating Officer of the Shine Fights promotion?

JC: It was the best thing that almost never happened.  It solidified several key principals in business for me that I won’t get into, but it was a great experience.  I was basically handed a cruise ship that was rapidly turning into a submarine.  Logistically, there were a myriad of issues.  I was acting on false information that was being told to me as fact.  Checks were not being sent when I was told they were.  Paperwork was not being filed with commissions, etc.  It was the most catastrophic behind the scenes event in my life.  We had a tremendous amount of potential, and I owe a great deal of thanks to Santino Defranco, Jeff Haugen , Nate Veeh, and the other warriors that helped us get the PPV off the ground.  If one key individual had been completely removed from Shine, they would still be in business.  However, doing things the right way proved too difficult for some.  I mean, even after the laundry list of BS we had to deal with, Shine still had a bright future.  I met with G4 and sold the next six undercards to them to carry in a buildup to our PPV streams with built in E! Entertainment and other marketing money allocated from sister channels.  I structured our financials in a way that all but broke even before our first PPV buy, we had a TV deal.  We were very well positioned to move forward.  Why didn’t we?  I was sick of the bulls—. 

I basically said, “Look, here’s what my team and I were able to do even though you created a million hurdles for us.  Here is what we can do moving forward, but I need you to do what you said you were going to do and pay this guy this and send that guy that.” 
“Ok, then I…I am never putting myself in a position to not be able to execute on my word.” 
“Okay, I’m leaving.” 
“Fine.  Shine will go on without you.”

Within three days everyone left with me.  It was the matchmakers, the event planner, the PR, the TV deal, the media, everyone.  I don’t say that to sound arrogant, but it saddens me and pisses me off to have seen all the hard work that the fighters and my staff put into Shine and all for naught.

JB: You are currently the CEO of Apex Sports Agency, and you have a number of veteran MMA fighters on your roster of clients.  How is business going and what exciting things are coming up for some of your fighters?

JC: Slow and steady wins the race.  Business is great.  I knew getting into this that it would be five years before we really had a hold on the community, and a little over a year and a half in, we are on pace.  We have some tremendous partnerships with HUGE game changes that we will be announcing soon. 

JB: What else do you enjoy doing outside of anything MMA-related, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?

JC: I play poker very frequently and read a lot.  I am an entrepreneur by nature so I always look for fun, innovative ways to create additional income streams. 

Different areas of my life have been impacted by different people, namely my mom.  She has been a pillar of love and support for me through the years.  Living in LA, and seeing the “inside” of the entertainment world, can really make you appreciate true friends.  They are the ones that help you move, pick you up from the airport, things like that.  “Supported in life” is a funny phrase.  Things need support when they are not at their best, right?  Anyone can be a friend when you are riding high.  It’s the ones that are there when you need them that matter.  I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of many others. 

JB: Last question, Jason, and thanks for taking the time to do this. Though you’ve experienced much, you are still a very young man.  What plans or goals do you have for the future?

JC: My goal for the future is to be the best Dad I can be for Declan and Danica.  Everything else filters through that.  Do I want to build an empire to give them?  Yes, of course!  But I also want to spend more time focusing on the now and less on the yesterdays and the tomorrows. 

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