MMA Goes Hollywood
If you can make it in
While other MMA players are getting their first taste of
The UFC’s relationship with Endeavor, home to
Chris Rock, and Jessica Alba, started when a mutual friend brought White and Endeavor president Ari Emanuel together. White is effusive in his praise for Emanuel, noting that he is the basis for Entourage’s Ari Gold, and calling him, “the best agent in
When asked about the advantages of working with Endeavor, White said, “When you have an agency like them, you can work on running your business and let them handle all the bullshit for you.” The agency handled all of the UFC’s recent negotiations with HBO and SpikeTV, allowing White and the UFC to maintain a good relationship with the network.
But it’s not just the sport’s premier promotions that have gone
The first agency to take the plunge into fighter representation was the Gersh Agency, which boasts a client list that includes Jamie Foxx, Dave Chapelle, and Megan Fox. Matt Walker, vice president of Extreme Sports at Gersh, has become a champion of the agency’s involvement in MMA, thanks to his relationship with Randy Couture.
“I told him I’d get a bow for free from this company called Hoyt, but the guy that I knew at Hoyt happened to disappear at that time, so I ended up calling probably thirty times before I finally got his bow and got it to him,”
After ten years in the baseball industry,
“Most of these athletes, at the end of the day, want to take the celebrity that they’ve built through their sports and translate that into other opportunities, whether that is business, entertainment, or whatever they may want to do,”
to go outside of this offi ce; all I have to do is push the buttons, find the people here that believe in MMA, believe in my client in the same way, and then you can do it all internally.”
The relationship is already paying dividends for Couture, who recently sold his memoir to Simon Schuster. The book was a hot property when Gersh Literary agent Margaret O’Connor took it to the market earlier this year. According to O’Connor, “MMA is the new big realm in publishing right now. The sport is becoming part of the cultural zeitgeist; it’s infused in popular culture. It’s not a direct comparison, but seven or eight years ago, there was this huge flurry of books on the personalities of the WWE. This is like the next wave.” Becoming the Natural, co-authored by Loretta Hunt, will be available in June 2008.
On the acting side, Couture has just finished filming Scorpion King: Rise of the Acadian and Dave Mamet’s Redbelt, in addition to a spot in recent episode of The Unit. Couture’s acting career is off to a promising start according to his acting agent at Gersh, Brett Norensberg. “The interest is great, the opportunities are plentiful, and the appetite out there is quite strong,” said Norensberg. “The studios are willing to not only cast him in roles that are lead roles, but they are willing to develop features for him. So you’re going to see a lot of Randy in the next couple of years.”
Couture originally didn’t consider acting as a potential career, but he realized that,
“The more opportunities I got, I enjoyed the experience, enjoyed the process of making films, being involved with TV shows, and I started looking at it differently. I started saying, ‘you know what, I fi nd this very intriguing, this whole process, the finished products are really cool, it’s something I think I’d like to try.’”
His early roles were mostly as tough guys and thugs, with a focus on fight scenes, but since then, Norensberg says Couture has proven that he can act while building an impressive resume that can overcome typecasting. “I have to tell you that a lot of the roles that we’re talking about now are not necessarily roles where he is a big tough fighting guy. It’s not just marching into a room and beating up a bunch of people.
He’s cast more as the thinking man’s hero.”
Couture said that the reception he receives while making his rounds in
At first glance, acting and fighting may seem like polar opposites, but Couture says there are more similarities than you might think. “You need to have focus in both. There is an intensity that I think fighting presents that I can now translate to acting, that a lot of actors don’t have the advantage of. Certainly work ethic. You either have some natural abilities and can wrap your brain around it and do it, or you can’t. Fighting is the same way.”
Norensberg says the goal is to have Couture starring in a variety of features, but shies away from comparisons to former pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, insisting that Randy will make his own way. “A lot of people make that comparison, but you could also make a comparison to Vin Diesel who is an educated, strong, thoughtful protagonist.”
When asked where he sees himself professionally five years from now, Couture responds,
“I’ll definitely be considered a bona fide actor and be more in the acting world, but I’ll always be involved in MMA and training, managing, helping fighters train, and seeing them progress in their careers. It’s a sport I love.”
As a fighter, Couture sees Gersh’s involvement as a welcome development. “I think that there are a lot of athletes out there in our sport that are being misrepresented. They’re not being done justice in their fight careers. I think a lot of those purely fight managers don’t have the capability of helping athletes try to diversify and make the transition somewhere else.”
But not everyone is excited about the prospects of an army of
“They’re parasites, and what their job is, is to tell you how fucking great you are, how many other things you could be getting, how badly you’re getting fucked, and how much better they’re going to make your life,” White said. “That’s their job. But with most of the things that these guys tell the fighters, they’re lucky if thirty percent of it comes true. There are a lot of different agencies out there and when you get on the phone with them they’ll send the shivers down your spine, they’re so sleazy. The other ones are straight up guys who are looking to do business. Fortunately for me, I’m in a very lucky position; I don’t have to deal with any of them. I have people who work for me that have to deal with them.”
However, despite how difficult it is to break into the entertainment industry, White believes that someday someone will become a true crossover star. “I guarantee you that one of these guys, at least one of these guys, will break out of this thing and end up like the Rock. I guarantee it. Which isn’t a bad thing, I don’t frown on that. If some guy breaks out of fighting and ends up like the Rock, good for him, that’s awesome. You’ll never here me bitching about somebody making his life better. I’ve got no problem with that at all.”
When asked if he cared about
Regardless of White’s sentiments, it’s inevitable that other agencies will follow Gersh’s lead into fighter representation, especially with the early success Gersh has enjoyed. The agency’s investment in the sport is already paying dividends with an ever-expanding client list as well as interest from some of the top names in the sport. It has produced results not just with Couture, but also with Gina Carano, who is in talks to star in a major primetime network television series, and Cung Le, who has landed several movie parts prompting comparisons to Jet Li. Walker has also recently secured a trading card deal with Donruss, a poster deal with Wall Bangers, and an action figure deal with Round 5.
For his part, White said that
For better or worse, wherever MMA goes in the years to come, it looks like