Englebrecht Begins New Era at Fight Club OC By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Feb 23, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
After more than a quarter-century at the Irvine Marriott, the “Battle in the Ballroom” series, which began under the watchful eye of promoter Don Fraser in 1985, is now beginning a new era after 196 shows at the venue. Tonight, they begin their new look as the “Fight Club OC” at the Orange County Fair and Events Center.
"26 years we were in a ballroom; we couldn't expand," explained Roy Englebrecht, who began as the marketing and operations director for Fraser before buying him out in 1991 and taking over the program. "We were selling out but to now present boxing and MMA on the same card and just elevate the whole show, we needed a new venue. And until last April, less than a year ago, there wasn't a venue that made sense for us down here in the Irvine, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa area. But last April, the hangar was opened at the Orange County Fair and Events Center. We had done shows during the Orange County Fair, so they told us about this phenomenal building and when it was finished, we looked at it and we said, 'This is the place.'
"What it does, it allows us to do everything that the Staples Center or the Honda Center does for the fights,” Englebrecht continued. “We will become- and this is not a shot at Staples Center or the Honda Center- we will now have the premiere fight venue in Southern California. The Honda Center has suites; the Staples Center has suites and ‘Fight Club OC’ has suites. The Honda Center has a JumboTron; the Staples Center has a JumboTron and ‘Fight Club OC’ at the hangar will have a 40-foot high-definition JumboTron. We will do boxing and MMA, where they do boxing and MMA. The difference is our worst seat is 45 feet from the ring. Their worst seat is 300. So where do you want to go to see fights? So we're very happy. We have a club show with a major arena feel."
When asked how long he had been contemplating the move, Englebrecht said, "We've been looking for a new place for the last five years, except there wasn't any place to go to that we could stay close to our roots, which is Irvine, the Irvine Marriott, the 405 Freeway at the John Wayne Airport. But there just wasn't a venue that made sense for us. We didn't want to go to Anaheim; we didn't want to go to Fullerton."
This new facility is less than two miles from the old joint.
"It's better parking for the customers; it's cheaper parking for the customers. Right next to it is a restaurant where they're going to have a happy hour. It provides six additional creature comforts for the fans and that's all we have in this economy is- how can we give the fans a better experience? That's what ‘Fight Club OC’ allows us to do," said the promoter, who made the decision to combine boxing and MMA on his cards.
He admits it's a necessary move.
"If you want to be a fight promoter, fine; if you want to be a boxing promoter, fine; if you want to be an MMA promoter, fine. I say I'm a 'fight promoter,’" said Englebrecht, who presides over “Fight Promoter U.” "I do both and we're one of the few that does this. But absolutely, if you want to be able to be a full-time fight promoter- not a part-time guy trying to do a couple of shows- you have to think about doing a hybrid show."
At the local, grassroots level, you have to do shuffle the deck and continuously evolve.
"Top Rank, Golden Boy, they don't need to do this because they have the TV money coming in, which pays their bills," Englebrecht states, "but if you're a club promoter, that you have to pay your bills through ticket sales and sponsorships, you need to think about doing a hybrid show- which is boxing and MMA. We were a boxing promotions company for 20 years before MMA was approved in California. Our primary audience is boxing season ticket holders. Since we've added MMA and we do two MMA and four boxing matches, our boxing fans haven't complained. Maybe two of our 800 season seat holders have complained, 'Roy, what is this MMA? We're boxing.'
"Nobody has complained,” he asserted. “I would have never been an MMA promoter and try to put boxing on an MMA show. Fans would throw stuff into the ring but you can do MMA on boxing because you go ahead and match make MMA fighters who like to stand and fight. So what you're doing is having some boxing but it's MMA; they got no shoes on, small gloves and the fans are loving it. It works extremely well. A lot of boxing promoters are traditionalists; they will not do this. I say, 'Fine, I'm in business and business has never been better.'"
Capacity at the hangar is 1,475, according to Englebrecht, who staged the final show at the Irvine Marriott in mid-December. He also admitted to some bittersweet feelings from a business and personal perspective.
"I was very concerned when I sent renewals out in December announcing, 'Hey, we have a new name and a new venue. ‘Battle in the Ballroom’ is now 'Fight Club OC' and the Irvine Marriott is now the Hangar at the Orange County Fair and Events Center.' I did not have one complaint. We did a pretty good job. We had architectural renderings done to show what the new venue would look like. On December 16th, our last show at the Irvine Marriott after 26 years, I was there for the first show and I was there for the last show. That's a long time, 26 years.
"Y' know, I felt a little sadness but it wasn't very long because I'm so excited about the new venue."
Call it the price of progress.
"Absolutely on that," he agreed. "And today, I've had suite holders calling me, saying, 'Roy, I need a couple more seats. Can you put it in my suite?' I mean, there is a momentum. I'm not short on words or speechless very often but what's going to happen on Thursday, we're going to do things that have never been done on a Golden Boy, Top Rank- you name it- major show. We're doing things you can't do on a pro show. That's why I love saying, 'We're the kings of minor-league fights in the United States' because I come from a minor-league baseball ownership background and I know what minor-leagues are all about. It's entertainment first, sports second. It's low ticket prices; give the fans a good show and action.
"And what we're going to do on Thursday- and I don't want to give it away- is something I think will be copied by other promoters because it's so novel and unique and really elevates boxing and combat sports. You couldn't do it at a big show."
For more info on this series log on to: www.fightcluboc.com...The main event is a bout between Aris Ambriz and Hector Serrano, also on this card is Miami Hurricane-turned-heavyweight Quadtrine Hill...It looks like the return of James Kirkland will see him in against Jason LeHoullier on March 5th at the Honda Center...After watching the Mike Jones-Jesus Soto Karass fight, I think Jones’ moniker should be “Movin',” not “Machine Gun” (that will always be Mike Mungin, to me)...In addition to the show in Orange County, the 2011 premiere of the “Fight Night Club” takes place at the Club Nokia and at the San Manuel Casino (which has an award-winning ad with Manny Pacquiao) has James Toney-Damon Reed...My mighty Montebello Oilers put up a helluva fight against the nationally-ranked Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits in the CIF basketball playoffs. Eventually, they were vanquished by a team that has guys going to USC and Boston College but my alma mater did me proud. They gave Poly all they could handle. Hey, you just don't walk into the 90640, put on your Nikes (and trust me, they had some really nice green ones) and pick up an easy “W” at the Oiler Dome....