After a weekend of various complaints from fighters in attendance at the UFC’s big retreat, Neil Magny had an epiphany. It was the type of thing that in the heat of the moment he had to jot down, and once he had it down it blossomed into a desire to deliver it before his fellow fighters on stage.
His would-be speech was about how fighters could help one another, if they only banded together. What better way to communicate with them than at a weekend getaway in Las Vegas, right before a private Snoop Dogg concert after a weekend of workshops, bickering, seminars, drinking and — for many — silent seething?
“I got all fired up, and I was trying to get to the stage to get the speech out, but it was so many hoops I had to jump through,” he told MMA Fighting. “At first it was, alright, who has the microphone? So I went to the DJ booth, got a hold of the DJ, and was like hey, I have this speech, I’m really excited about it, I just want to get a chance on the mic, and get it out to as many fighters as possible and let them know to start working together now.
“So the DJ booth sent me over to the sound guy, and sound guy sent me over to this guy. I was jumping through hoops trying to get a hold of someone, and by the time I got it I said you know what, I’m not going to risk getting in trouble, I’m just going to go directly through the UFC, and just ask them permission to do so.”
The UFC at first granted him the permission, and even gave him a time slot, but his chance evaporated when Snoop Dogg arrived with his security detail in tow.
“They said right now we have to lock this space down because we got Snoop Dogg and his security staff and stuff like that, and for security reasons we can’t allow you to go up on stage use the microphone,” Magny said.
“Immediately after that, they said if I want to stick around afterwards and give the speech then, I was more than welcome to do so. I was like, alright, I’ll hang around until afterwards and do it. But by the end of the evening with Snoop Dogg being on stage, open bars and being there a couple of hours and him coming out two-and-a half hours late, it was just way too late in the evening. At that point, the people who were standing around weren’t interested and weren’t in a position to even take in what I had to say.”
His speech, which he sent to MMA Fighting and can be read below, was a call for fighters to stop grousing about the Reebok deal and the treatment the fighters had been receiving and any of the condescending seminar talk that they had just withstood. Had he had a chance to deliver it, here’s what he was prepared to say:
“First I want to thank the UFC staff for working so hard to put this event together. Thank you guys, we really appreciate all you do.
“Second, I want to address fighter issues. We don’t need a group of fancy lawyers to speak for us, we need to speak up for one another. There are deals in place that may not please everyone and there’s not much we all can do about it. Instead of bitching about the things we can’t change, let’s work on the things that we can control within our reach. There are about 300 of us here this weekend posting about this athlete retreat on social media. By the end of the weekend, our posts will have reached millions of people.
“What if we all came together to support our colleagues the same way? If, say, Matt Brown has an idea, how well will it do if we supported it? And when the next guy has an idea, we support him or her? Let’s stop beating each other down outside of the cage and start helping each other.”
The rally cry that Magny was hoping to present was, in spirit, the reason for the retreat to begin with — a bonding weekend for the UFC family to all get on the same page. He said he had listened to the UFC’s seminar about its social media reach, and came to the realization that things didn’t necessarily have to be doled out through the UFC.
That the fighters themselves could propel one another to greater heights all on their own.
“It was probably too much Monster [Energy Drink],” he laughed. “But it was one of those things that during the weekend I realized there was a lot of finger-pointing going on. Whether it was fighters being unfair to other fighters, or fighters and the UFC and Reebok about pay or whatever. I just realized there was a lot of finger-pointing going on, and that if we as fighters just took the initiative and took the blame for some of the things going on in MMA, it could benefit a lot more fighters in the long run in the bigger picture.
“There was 300 fighters in Las Vegas or so this past weekend, and every last one of us had our cell phones out, recording different things and posting different things about the fighter retreat. During one presentation the UFC PR department pointed out how far the UFC can reach by using social media. And one of the things that was interesting to me is like, one weekend of fighting, millions of fans are reached, not through broadcast, but through social media.
“So we’re sitting here at this retreat, and while the fighters were complaining about what the UFC was doing and what the UFC was not doing, I realized all of us had our phones out and were helping promote the UFC.”
That’s when Magny wrote his speech that ultimately got snuffed out by Snoop Dogg, the finale of the weekend’s festivities.
“It just finally hit me, like hey, what if we took this same kind of attention that we’ve given the UFC, we took that same kind of mentality, that same man power, and put it towards some of the other fighters to get recognized,” Magny said. “So if somebody like Matt Brown or Cat Zingano or whoever it may be had an appearance coming up, what if we all got behind that person and pushed that appearance? Wouldn’t that appearance do that much better, and that company that hired that fighter for the appearance want to reach out and do it again?
“Even for the business venture, let’s say a fighter has a business venture — even if that guy’s not my training partner, if he’s a fighter and he’s trying to find a way to go out and make a living for himself other than get punched in the face, why shouldn’t I support that if it’s going to help him get paid? Even if it doesn’t bring me a single dime, if he’s able to do well financially, and it’s a small effort by a lot of us, at the end of the day I think it’s a positive for all of us, not just the person involved.”
Magny’s message was simple, really. The kind of message that would have played better over a crowd warmed by drink and camaraderie in the moment.
“There are people on the UFC roster that have millions of followers, and there are fighters who have only a couple hundred followers,” Magny said. “If the guy with two million followers can push the guy with 200 followers and get him up to a thousand or whatever it may, that fighter is just that much more marketable. That fighter can just reach that many more audiences, and in the big picture being able to push the mixed martial artists in the UFC that much more and be able to add more money for himself.”