The King of King of Kombat

What Ron Hernandez has learned about being an MMA promoter

Ron Hernandez: Learning the ropes that he owns
Ron Hernandez: Learning the ropes that he owns (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

It seems like it's a good time to be Ron Hernandez, the mastermind behind rising Austin-based MMA fighting league King of Kombat. Saturday night, April 5, sees the third KoK event, World War III, at the Crockett Center, and there couldn't be a better time to be in the fight game.

"Did you hear about Strikeforce getting a TV deal?" he said, as the eight-sided ring was being constructed behind him. The California-based promotion now has a late-night slot with NBC, and that's got to be good for the whole industry. With this being KoK's third event, there's been a momentum shift, because now Hernandez and his fighters are a proven force. But he's not resting on his laurels, and Hernandez says he's learning from experience. "For the last fights, I had some partners helping me out that I don't think lead me in the right direction. This time, it's all me," he explained.

The first big difference will be how the card is structured: last time around, it was clashing styles, which lead to some very brief bouts. Not this time. "I go with my heart, and I go with the better fighters. I have six undefeated fighters on this card, and I'm matching up striker to striker, wrestler to wrestler, not striker and wrestler. You get an opportunity for these fighters to excel in their arts."

The learning curve goes out beyond the ring. Being 2-0 on events, Hernandez has attracted more sponsors, (going from two in November to 15 now), has a better grasp of running a promotion, and has the equipment to do it. "I own the ring, I own the linens, I own the lights," he said.

The biggest change isn't what he owns, but the relationship with the fighters. "I'm getting my Austin league guys signed on a four-fight contract. They'll fight for me for the rest of the year," he explained. "That helps build up the fighters. The crowd knows who they're going to see and they get to follow their careers, and not see different guys every time." According to Hernandez, this means not only does he gain, but the benefits of having sponsors can be passed on, like having a chiropracter around. "My goal is not just to sponsor the fights, but to get these fighters supplements on their expenses so they don't have to worry about their high income."

Being a bit more established means it's easier to get international talent (this card sees fighters from Brazil, Mexico, the UK and Africa), but Hernandez is formalizing that with some interleague deals and talent exchanges ("We'll rotate, east, south, west and Japan.") Getting the KoK name out there will be easier with new national DVD distribution deals and, before the end of the year, the big game plan – pay-per-view.

As far as the event itself, Hernandez is a fan as much as he is a professional, and is marking out for some expected high-points. "I'm excited about the welterweight championship, Kamal (Shalrous) against Jeff Davis. Those guys are neck-and-neck as far as skills, their records are very similar, and I think it's going to be a great bang-out." The other big match-up brings 16-time Muy Thai champ Chidi Njoku to the ring: after a victorious MMA debut, he faces 3-0 Conan Cano, who comes with a remarkable reputation that belies those stats. "Conan? In his last fight, we had five fighters who didn''t want to fight him. He's a monster, but we've got two monsters in the ring that aren't scared of each other."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More MMA
<i>UFC Fight Night</i> Pounds the Erwin Center
UFC Fight Night Pounds the Erwin Center
Edgar dominates, but it's a mixed night for Texas fighters

Mac McCann, Nov. 24, 2014

Fighter Inside and Outside the Octagon
Fighter Inside and Outside the Octagon
Cub Swanson talks UFC Fight Night and how MMA saved him

Mac McCann, Nov. 22, 2014

More by Richard Whittaker
Ritesh Batra Has a <i>Photograph</i>
Ritesh Batra Has a Photograph
Indian-American director dismantles the tropes of the romantic movie

May 22, 2019

First Look at Lucky McKee's <i>Kindred Spirits</i>
First Look at Lucky McKee's Kindred Spirits
Austin filmmaker's latest to debut at Cinepocalypse next month

May 21, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

MMA, Mixed Martial Arts, King of Kombat

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle