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Eric Del Fierro getting back into promotional waters with CFFC 64


On Saturday night, the East Coast-based Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) will make its inaugural visit to San Diego — a city in Southern California that has traditionally supported professional mixed martial arts. And why not? San Diego has long been synonymous with professional MMA. The Alliance Training Center, which is located in nearby Chula Vista and houses the likes of Dominick Cruz, Brandon Vera and Phil Davis, has been a pipeline to the bigger promotions for years.

And Eric Del Fierro — the head coach at Alliance, and the General Manager of Alliance MMA, one of the country’s top feeder organizations, in which CFFC operates — is only too happy to bring the cage back to his neck of the woods.

“We took a hiatus from that and stuck with coaching,” Del Fierro told MMA Fighting. “And when these guys decided they wanted to get into this market, I said let’s see if we can make it happen. We were in desperate need of some pro shows, for sure.”

CFFC 64 will be the first professional show Del Fierro has ran in the market in half-a-decade. Back then, Del Fierro ran the Total Combat promotion, doing over 30 shows from Mexico and into California. He says the plan is to grow it slowly, to do “at least a couple of shows” per year in San Diego, and ideally four.

“We were doing shows in Mexico when it was illegal, and then we slowly progressed into being one of the first shows in California when it became legal,” he says. “And even then, MMA was in its infancy when it came to being regulated.”

Del Fierro said that the MMA boom period around 2010 created a perfect storm of opportunism and commission tinkering.

“We got a humongous influx of professional promoters,” he says. “Meaning, guys who didn’t know anything about the sport but they got in and started promoting pro MMA because it was the next big hot thing, the next gold rush. And it kind of did a lot of damage to the pro scene in California. I think the commission, doing the best they could, they tried to regulate it, and by raising the bond, raising the fees, just trying to get control of it, but in turn it actually did opposite. It really killed the pro MMA scene.

“And at that time they allowed regulation of an amateur system. So with all these fees coming up, it killed the pro MMA show and promoters started promotion amateur MMA. And that’s kind of what the big thing now in California, is amateur MMA.”

Courtney Henderson

CFFC 64 will feature six professional bouts, featuring bouts between Matt Sayles (4-2) and Christian Aguilera (7-2) and Charles Johnson (1-0) and Miles Hunsinger (5-0). It will be held at the Observatory North Park, an intimate concert venue that stays in keeping with Total Combat's exclusive “fight club feel.”

“Our old Total Combat shows, we were actually known for being a club show,” Del Fierro says. “We started in Mexico doing them at a night club. This venue is a small concert venue, that maybe seats about 1,400 people. It’s going to be real intimate, a lot of standing room only, and that’s kind of how we liked it back then. That’s what we’re shooting for again. Because it’s our first show we didn’t want to go big and try to get a sports arena or something like that, even though we’ve done those before.

“We want to re-introduce the club nights to where we got the small venue. The goal is to fill it up and showcase these guys.”

For the last five years, Del Fierro has become recognized primarily as a coach at Alliance. Among some of the names on his roster are Cat Zingano, Angela Hill, Jessica Penne, Jeremy Stephens and Ross Pearson.

Yet he says he’s always been equally passionate about running a show of his own, and is only more so now with the amount of talent coming up all over Southern California and the relative lack of platforms to showcase in the area.

“I loved it [back in the day],” he says. “It was a key part of coaching as well. We knew that every three to four months we were doing a show, and all the guys had something to shoot for. Right now, most of my up-and-comers in the gym stay ready, along with anybody in Southern California, because we don’t have these outlets. Now knowing that there’s a show people are emailing and calling and saying, ‘hey man, I want to get my guys on there, and we want to get involved.’

“And that’s what it comes down to, just a place to showcase these guys and hopefully get them to bigger and better things, whether it be the UFC, or Bellator, or any of the big shows popping up.”

CFFC’s CEO/Alliance MMA President Rob Haydak runs the promotional side of the enterprise, and Del Fierro is the regional ambassador. He says his job is to provide the fights and use his local connections in San Diego to generate enthusiasm and support.

He’s also the matchmaker for CFFC 64, and will continue to be once there’s “distinctive brand” in San Diego, operating under its own name.

“Matchmaking and analyzing fights and game planning fights, they kind of call go hand-and-hand,” Del Fierro says. “You can kind of see which fights should be pretty good, and which fights are meh. That’s a fun part of it. As far as the promoting aspect of it, as far as all the intricacies that go into promoting the show, CFFC and Alliance MMA have a huge support system. You know, [long-time UFC ‘babysitter to the stars’] Burt Watson is coming down and running the show for us.”

Overall, Del Fierro says it’s long been a goal to give fight fans in San Diego — as well as the up-and-coming fighters in the area, training at Alliance or any other gym — a place to gather round the cage and for meaningful action.

“I’ve personally been in this sport for over 17 years, and been coaching martial arts as a whole longer than that as a whole,” he says. “So, it’s needed. I’ve had fighters on our team traveling around the world at the lowest level to get professional experience. So, having a regional show again and having a place where these guys can get on and perform and be seen, it’s a good thing.

“And I’m hoping it works out for everybody and it goes smooth and the commission is happy with us and the audience is happy with us.”

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