By PHILIP ESQUIBEL/ MMAFIGHTERSPIRIT.COM
COSTA MESA, CA- Fight Club OC is a local Orange County MMA and Boxing promotion that has been running shows out of The Hangar at the O.C. Fairground and events center in Costa Mesa, CA, since February of this year. Fight Club OC is the third largest fight promotion company in California, with a very unique concept in that they run both Boxing and MMA fights on the same card.
Fight club OC is the brain child of Roy Englebrecht. Englebrecht has a long history in the fight game. He had been longtime partners with Oscar De La Hoya and was the COO for Golden Boy promotions from 2001-2004. At the end of his tenure Englebrecht reestablished Roy Englebrecht Promotions and Roy Englebrecht Events as owner and CEO. Before launching Fight Club OC, Roy Englebrecht Promotions promoted the “Battle in the Ballroom” series. In 2007 the highly successful Orange County event became the first boxing promotion to integrate Boxing and MMA.
As part of mmafighterspirit.com local promotion profile we took a trip down to the O.C. Fairgrounds and landed in The Hangar.
The Hangar , which literally is just that, a big airport hangar. is tucked away on the grounds of the O.C. Fairgrounds. It has a mystic feel to it, of being this underground place that you would only know existed if someone invited you. Imagine if Brad Pitt and Edward Norton’s characters in “Fight Club” had established Fight Club in a hangar and hired event coordinators. That’s what you get with Fight Club OC, a nice mix of underground feel with high level production value. The music is loud, the lights are bright, the giant screen on the wall of the hangar allows anyone in any seat to see the action. Englebrecht does a great job incorporating his knowledge and experience from promoting high level boxing with Golden Boy and weaving them into his hybrid “Fight Club.”
The big question on everyone’s mind is: “How do you have Boxing fans appreciate MMA and how do you have MMA fans not come in with a chip on their shoulder, due to the negative comments from many of boxings well know fighters and promoters?”
That is the challenge that Fight Club OC and Englebrecht have. It is His expierence in boxing and open minded approach to MMA that makes Fight Club OC a success. True fans of boxing understand Englebrecht’s roots in boxing and trust him with what he is presenting them. With MMA fans, Englebrecht doesn’t’ treat them as second class citizens, He keeps the two on par. The approach of equal amount of fights for each sport, one after the other, helps to keep the balance of the two and keeps the crowd involved in the action.
As I watched the fights I studied the crowds reactions. The division of Boxing fans vs MMA fans could be seen throughout the crowd. The interesting thing I noticed was that both the Boxing fan and MMA fan had the same reaction to each others sport. As one of the boxing fights had ended and was transitioning into MMA, the boxing fan sat patiently as the fight was proceeding, Vice-versa, as the MMA fight had ended and was transitioning into Boxing, the MMA fan sat patiently. The interesting part was that as the action progressed for each sport, the more the opposite fan got more involved and began cheering along. Most fans at The Hangar are already conditioned to go from Boxing to MMA, it was that first time fan that proved to be the most surprised to be rooting the opposite sport they came to see. This was evident in the group of couples that sat in front of me, there to cheer on a friend’s brother in one of the Boxing match ups, they began to ask me questions about what was transpiring in one of the MMA matches. As the nights fights went on their casual curiosity transformed into genuine interest in the sport of MMA. As the MMA fans approached me and asked questions, I began to ask them what they thought of having to watch a Boxing match to get to the MMA fights? The universal answer I got was. “It’s cool”.
That simple, “It’s cool.” I think that is what allows Fight Club OC to house the two sports under one (hangar) roof. The fights are cool to the fans, and that’s all any contact sport fan wants, is good entertaining fights, whether it be MMA or Boxing. Judging by the reaction of the 1,500 plus fans in The Hangar, Fight Club OC and Englebrecht did just that.
If you’re in the Orange County area I recommend you check out Fight Club OC’s December 9th card. Go to FIGHTCLUBOC.com for events, times, and tickets.