by Damian James
Their slogan says it all: “Fights Guaranteed”. The business: fight promotion. The brand: Fight Club OC. Not many people know this business better than Roy Englebrecht.
As founder and CEO of Fight Club OC, an Orange County, Ca based boxing and MMA fight promotion, Roy has a proven track record of success as a promoter in the fight game. A former Director of Promotions for the LA Lakers and Forum events for 7 years, Roy knows promotion like Jerry Buss knows championships. “I just had a knack for coming up with promotions that could put people in seats” he states. In 1985, he shifted his efforts full-time to boxing. He started his monthly “Battle in the Ballroom” boxing show at the Irvine Marriott, and ran it successfully for 25 years. “It was just finding a business that not a lot of people were doing, not a lot of competition, and doing it right.” says Roy.
In 2006, after seeing the potential of the newly-regulated sport of MMA in California, Roy introduced a new concept to his shows: boxing and MMA on the same night. “We were the first boxing promoters ever to do a hybrid show, and are still one of the few that do it.” he says. With MMA as the fastest growing sport in the world and Roy’s reputation cemented as a great fight promoter, the formula was a no-brainer. This added a unique element to his shows, which continued to sellout, and in 2011, it was time to take it to the next level. With the help of his son Drew, now Vice President of Operations for Fight Club OC, Roy moved his events to a brand new home at The Hangar in Costa Mesa, and Fight Club OC was born. The hybrid fight concept would remain, but The Hangar would add a whole new “wow” factor to the event. “It was the best move we ever made” says Roy. “It’s our building. It’s got an arena feel to it. 50-foot ceiling. 40-foot video screen. It’s a Vegas or a Staples Center show in miniature.” With the addition of a cigar lounge, VIP suites, open hangar doors and plenty of great fight action throughout the night, the bi-monthly Fight Club OC shows definitely deliver on a level that no other minor league fight promotion can match. When speaking about The Hangar, Drew says: “Everything about it was built and set up for what we were looking to do, to take it to that Las Vegas style look.” Roy adds: “It’s like that building was made only for fights because it sets itself up so well. And we’re proud of that because we developed that look.”
With the success of his shows, Roy Englebrecht has turned Orange County into a legitimate fight market. “We’ve made it a big market for 28 years. We still have the only regular show. There’s no other competition in the county” he explains. “It’s a bigger MMA market. Orange county is a younger audience. I’m an old traditionalist and that’s why it’s nice to have Drew who is a lot younger and has a feel for the younger crowd.” Together, they’ve had a successful 3-year sprint out of the gate with Fight Club OC shows that have sold out for the majority of 2013. With their final show of the year happening on Dec 5, Roy expects it to be their best yet. The Dec 5 card will feature 3 undefeated local prospects in Alex Flores, Curtis Millender and Dwain Victorian, all of whom are signed by Roy Englebrecht Promotions, and an additional line-up of great fights that will include a female championship bout that is set to be a sure-fire crowd pleaser. When asked about the addition of female fights to their shows, both Roy and Drew respond favorably. “When you see a girl who looks dainty putting gloves on and getting in the ring to fight, exchanging blow for blow, and money being thrown into the ring because the fans loved it so much, that’s the answer right there.” Drew explains. “We have girls who put on better fights than the guys do.” Roy adds: “We do more female (boxing) fights in the history of the sport than anybody else.”
It’s a challenging business, but a simple formula that Roy executes to a T: Keep the fans happy. “We really are into having the fans play the game along with you. We do the giving away of cash with our KO giveaway, so fans actually get to come into the ring. You can’t go during an Angels or a Dodgers game and go onto the field. We let them do that in the ring.” With the giving away of money, pizza, rib dinners, t-shirts and several pre-event promotions, Fight Club OC definitely honors the “fan experience”. “It’s just getting the fans to laugh or enjoy themselves.” Roy explains. “We wanna get our fans engaged and laughing, and if we can do that with a little kid winning $50 or something, that’s what it’s about.”
Roy sums up the overall importance of putting on top quality shows with every effort. “We only do this 6 times a year. We can’t hit stand up doubles, we have to hit a home run 6 times because we only have 6 times to do it. And so far we’ve been doing it.” One thing is for sure, there’s no mercy rule in the fight promotion business. You go hard until the final bell. And one last thing…don’t forget the first rule of Fight Club OC: Tell everyone!