Josh Samman did it all in the world of mixed martial arts.
Samman, who unfortunately passed away this past October, was a fighter who competed in the highest level of MMA — the UFC. He was an author, with a published memoir and journalistic work for UFC.com and Bloody Elbow to his credits. But Samman was also an MMA promoter, as he ran a successful amateur organization called Combat Night in Tallahassee, Fla. with his friend and business partner Mitchell Chamale.
Samman’s vision and ultimate dream for Combat Night was to one day turn it into professional MMA organization. This Saturday, Jan. 21, Chamale will be honoring Samman’s wish, as Combat Night will host its first professional MMA event, Combat Night Pro. The proceeds of the event will go towards the Samman MMA Foundation, a foundation created to help young MMA fighters pay for equipment, gear, tuition, gym fees, and even traveling expenses to their fights. The first scholarship of the Samman MMA Foundation will be given out on fight night.
Everything will go down at The Moon in Tallahassee, the same location as Samman and Chamale’s inaugural show. And with the event landing on the date of the company’s fifth anniversary, Chamale recalled how this venture began for he and his friend.
“We cornered a guy named Ralph Valdez for his first amateur fight in Fort Pierce,” he told MMA Fighting. “He’s actually fighting in our pro card, and it really started as a competition thing because we went to this show and we were like, ‘man, we can do better than that.’ This was a great show, but we knew we could do one better. And Josh was like, ‘yeah, only if we had money.’ I was like, ‘well, I have money in the bank account,’ and he was like, ‘bro, that’s going to cost like 10 grand’. And you know how fighters are, they live by the day and they don’t save money and that kind of stuff, so I was like, ‘well, I got 10 grand in my account, so lets do it’. He didn’t believe me at first, he thought I was joking with him, but we got back home, and the next day he called and said, ‘you’re ready to to this?’ And we did it.
“When we started doing the events the vision kind of changed from just wanting to do something well, to just change the sport and help out a lot of amateur athletes. Like I said, there were a bunch of shows that were just kind of half-assing it and not doing the right thing. And when we came in, we both had the experience, we both had fought for Bellator, he [Samman] was just outside the UFC, and we had both fought for a lot of local promotions, so we knew what we didn’t like and we knew what we liked at the shows. So our goal was to take everything we did like and use it, and everything we didn’t like, we made sure we weren’t doing it. So I guess it started as us just wanting to do something better than the next guy, and once we started it, after two or three events in, we realized we could really make an impact in the sport in Florida and we wanted to help change people’s lives.”
Over the years, Combat Night became one of the most well known and successful amateur promotions in Florida, hosting 67 events and more than 500 amateur fights. But despite its success as an amateur organization, Combat Night’s first professional show almost didn’t come to fruition.
“We actually had this planned,” Chamale said. “Josh was at my house, he stayed with me for two or three days, about a week before he passed. He came over and we just talked about what we wanted to do for 2017, and we’ve been talking about this show for about a year now. It’s been a good year where we’ve been like, ‘oh, we’re going to do it on this date. No, we’re going to do it on that date.’ And we’re really big on not announcing anything unless we’re actually going to do it.
“There are way too many MMA shows that are just trying to make money and they’ll announce a date and move it, and to me, it just does a disservice to the industry and we don’t want to do that. So we kept pushing it back, and we talked, and we were putting it together, and said that we were going to announce it at the beginning of November. And obviously, at the beginning of October, the tragedy struck and changed everything.”
Samman’s unexpected passing devastated Chamale, and the thought of continuing Combat Night alone was a difficult one. But that same grief later turned into motivation, with Chamale simply hoping to host events that his friend would be proud of.
“At first, the motivation was gone,” Chamale said. “I didn’t really want to do the event. I talked to a couple of people close to me, and I was thinking about closing the doors, taking some time off. One of my buddies, Matt Munsey, had talked to Josh about the event too, there were some people that knew about the pro event, and he was like, ‘you’re still doing the pro show, right?’ And you know, we’re all broken up, and he was like, ‘we got to do it, man. We got to do it.’ And I was like, ‘man, I don’t know, it’s a lot of work for one person.’
“That’s not something I wanted to get into, specially with everything going on. Like, I had a hard time just looking at Facebook, and much less multiple pictures of us, and just everything has Josh’s name attached to it, every email had him CC’ed. So every contact, every sponsor I had to get in touch with, I’m looking at these emails and of course it takes me down memory lane. So I went back and fourth for like two weeks and wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not. And then, it kind of came down to the fact that I knew it was what Josh wanted, and in my head, it was kind of like his last wish. His last wish was kind of telling me, ‘hey man, do this pro show.’ It was a big deal to him and it was a big deal for me too, but it became much less of a big deal once he was gone. But then I realized that it’s even a bigger deal now, and now I have to do it.”
Chamale said he will continue to run Combat Night and plans to do somewhere between 16 to 20 events this year, with two or three being professional shows. He also has plans of expanding out of Florida and into Georgia, helping more fighters launch their MMA careers.