Why Cage Fighter Mike is good for wrestling.

Author’s note: I am a CF sponsored athlete, but was not paid for this article and would never exchange my first amendment right to free speech for $.

Let’s get some things straight right away!

Do I agree with everything Mike says? Not a chance.
Do I think Mike’s twitter rants are ridiculous? 100%
Do I always agree with the way Mike treats people? No way.

There has been this long held vision of the poor wrestler who toils in obscurity and poverty striving for success. While I have no issues with that vision, I also don’t see what would be wrong with a wrestler who worked hard, but was well off and had some notoriety. As someone who has been both an mma fighter and wrestler I can tell you firsthand it feels better winning and going home with empty pockets. So I guess what I am trying to say is I am happy to see some senior level wrestlers being able to put some money in their pockets. What most people don’t realize is that started with CF Mike.

Rewind a few years to when I was coming out of college. I had just won 2 Hodge trophies and was ready to get sponsored, which would help me train for the Olympics. The first offer I received was from Asics (TW Promotions). It came in the mail as TW promotions (This is an Asics wrestling offshoot) I had no idea who this was from, but it offered $1000 per year. Since I didn’t know TW Promotions was, I threw this on mu counter and kind of forgot about it. Next, Adidas (Henson Group) called and offered 3k a year. Since they were polite enough to call, I was able to negotiate that number up a bit and ended up signing with Adidas. Sometime later, I received a call from Asics rep Bill Ferrell. Now I had never met nor talked with Bill before. His first question was “Why haven’t you sent the contract back?” I still vividly remember when I was in Schenectady, NY with Frank Popolizio being completely puzzled as to whom I was talking to on the phone. It took some time, but I realized this guy was with Asics, and Asics was TW Promotions. I informed him that I had signed with Adidas. He then proceeded to yell at me for signing with them before consulting him. I remember being disgusted with how entitled he acted after offering me a pathetic 1000k/year contract. Unfortunately these were all the options I had at the time. I enjoyed my time at Adidas, and I really liked everyone I dealt with there, but even as I signed the contract, I remember being disappointed with the amount I was being paid. That being said, I had no better offers, so I got what the market dictated I was worth. The thought I always had is if Adidas paid me what I thought I was worth, I wouldn’t have to hustle around the country doing camps or spending time being an assistant coach. Now, I LOVE both of these things. But my competition window was short, and being able to single-mindedly focus on my craft would have given me an edge and the ability to extend my international career.

In 2010, when CageFighter signed Jordan Burroughs right out of college 12,000/year (1k/month) against royalties, (he made way more than that with royalties) he was given the opportunity to focus exclusively on training. He made the most of it and succeeded where I failed. Did he succeed because of the time freedom that contract gave him? Well, there is zero way to quantify that, but I will guess it didn’t hurt him. In 2013, Cage Fighter signed Kyle Dake for $48,000 ($4k/month), which is a 4800% increase over what Asics offered me in 2007. Now recently we have seen Asics step up and pay Burroughs big money; Adidas stepped up and paid David Taylor big money. Would these companies have done this on their own volition? I doubt it. They did it because they had to outbid the competition, and this is great for wrestlers and wrestling.

Now, I could go into another long diatribe on how when companies are forced to pay more for athletes, they work harder to market and advertise, because they want to recoup their investment. Or tell you WHY this is good for wrestling…

OR talk about when more of our best athletes are compensated to wrestle, less will choose MMA, thus strengthen our international team…

OR go on about how more of our senior level athletes can focus exclusively on training, like a lot of successful foreigners do, will make the US more competitive…

OR, rant about how when a couple companies are able to successfully monetize the retail end of wrestling, more companies will be willing to invest in the sport…

Well you get my point. So as I stated in the beginning of this article, I don’t agree with a good amount of the things that come out of Mike’s big mouth. I do, however, I appreciate his willingness to break the status quo and invest his money into the athletes of our sport. CF single-handedly changed the landscape of sponsorship in wrestling. Even if you dislike CF Mike, you should give him the credit he is due for helping the sport of wrestling.

Excited to hear your thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Why Cage Fighter Mike is good for wrestling.

  1. Sonny Nieto says:

    Few points of contention:

    The Company is called Cage Fighter. For you, awesome! Dake, Burroughs, and others…awkward.

    I agree Mike has been a trendsetter and has made wrestling better.

    However, just because he made it better, doesn’t make him perpetually good for the sport.

    His actions as a person and his treatment of people make him a poor representative of our sport. Unfortunately, whether I or anybody else likes it, he represents Wrestling.

    Not cool…

  2. mmatelich says:

    Mike helped but did he help as much as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter)? Mike’s contribution is direct, Zuckerberg and Dorsey’s are indirect but huge. Taylor and Burroughs have 40K and 100K twitter followers, respectively. That kind of reach increases your value to sponsors.


  4. Ben Askren says:

    Sonny you are correct and I think if he wants to have continued success then he will have to amend some of the ways he operates. Nevertheless he is a forward thinker and understands how to market athletes correctly. As MMAtelich mentioned obviously social media is important as far as athletes being able to market themselves, despite that most in the wrestling community don’t know how to effectively use that.

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