By WILLIAM D’URSO / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
It’s 9 a.m. and Fight Club OC promoter Roy Englebrecht has already had his morning workout and his coffee, and responded to at least 20 emails in preparation for the rest of his day.
Now he’s staring down the end of a contract, at two fight managers in his Fountain Valley office: a man with a biblical tattoo scrawled on his forearm and his slick-haired associate.
It’s Englebrecht playing politics.
With a low rasp of a voice, the tattooed man told Englebrecht that “you got to come up on this.”
He pointed a short, thick finger at the two-year contract proposal, to a number that asked him to front some of the travel cost for opponents in the deal.
The 67-year-old Englebrecht, leaning back in his chair, agreed right away. He would shoulder some of the cost.
“Oh yes, yes. You’re right. I’ll absolutely come up on that,” the long-time fight promoter said.
That’s when the slick-haired man with the polished black shoes and pink button-down shirt chimed in about their prospect, a 5-0 18-year-old with a budding pro career.
“Roy, you’ve known me for 20 years,” he said, leaning back himself. “He’s different. He works hard and he has the potential to be a world champion.”
The other man barks, “He’s got the goods!”
That’s what all the managers say. But Englebrecht believes them. They agree on the deal, but don’t sign on the dotted line. They wait for the final draft.
It’s a normal day at the office for the Newport Beach resident. Sauntering around in his All-Star shoes and un-tucked, tropical themed button down, Englebrecht is the picture of calm.
He just remembers his success. Like when he had top fighters Shane Mosley, Genaro Hernandez, Johnny Tapia and Carlos “El Famoso” Hernandez come through his fight cards when they were just making their names. He remembers the $15,000 in profits he raked in at his “Battle in the Ballroom” at the Irvine Marriott before the shows ended in 2010.
Now it’s just about 9:30, and Englebrecht is already getting ready for his next appointment. That’s the temperment that has helped him stay around all these years, the attitude that has allowed him to survive years in a business fraught with variables too impossible to forecast.
A broken hand, a weight problem, a managerial snag – all are issues that could derail a fight that took months to line up.
But Engelbrecht has dealt with it before.
He’s been in the business over two decades, not as a brilliant boxing or MMA match maker, no, Englebrecht is an entertainer. Now he’s doing what he can to shape the promotion game in Orange County in his image. It’s his region, where people come by the hundreds to watch his shows at venues like the Hangar at the Orange County Fair Grounds.
He never took any marketing classes, or boxed as a kid. In the mid 1980s, he just figured it out.
“I’ve always had the ability to put butts in seats,” he said. “I don’t know good fighters from bad fighters. To me if a fighter has a nice pair of shoes on and he’s got nice hair and good looking trunks, he’s a good marketing guy.”
The experience. That’s what Englebrecht sells.
“I like to sell the ‘wow’ experience,” Englebrecht said. “These are minor league fighters… so fans are coming to watch the fights but they really want to be entertained.”
His shows at the Hangar have a jumbo screen and a cacophony of lights that accompany the fighters to the ring. He gives away free pizzas, and imports talent like celebrity MMA referee “Big” John McCarthy.
Paul Edward, the trainer and manager of several fighters who compete in Fight Club OC shows, said Englebrecht is focused on accommodating the fighters so they remain relaxed and focused.
“I thought, that’s really smart, impressive, and cool,” Edward said. “He gets it. He gets these guys and women are stressed and anything he can do to make it easier for them will lead to a better show.”
At 10 a.m., Englebrecht has a chat with a New York City fight manager who wants his advice.
For 15 minutes, the veteran offers the rookie his thoughts, and offers his help.
It’s not long after that Englebrecht is embroiled in a conference phone call involving a fight related reality show with a top reality star.
The conversation goes well. Everyone likes what they hear.
It’s before noon and Englebrecht has accomplished what may be a full day’s work for some people, but he still has a fight venue to check out and he’s toping off the final details for his Aug. 15 show at the Hangar.
Whatever he does, Englebrecht will keep looking for ways to make his fans say ‘wow.’
How to sign a fighter
1. “I sign fighters that are local because that turns into families and friends and coworkers buying tickets to the show,” Englebrecht said. “It wouldn’t make any sense for me to sign someone from Texas or Illinois because they don’t sell any tickets. There’s no return on the investment.”
2. If there’s a good local kid, sign him. That will bring a built-in audience and keeps him away from the competition.
3. Structure the contract right. It’s common for promoters to work in a termination clause he can use if the fighter suffers a bad loss.
4. “If a fighter presents himself well, and is fairly mature, those are attractive qualities to me,” he said. “I would sign a kid who could sell 75 tickets even if he didn’t have a lot of ability. What I would do is match the kid properly so he doesn’t get beat and embarrassed in front of his friends and family.”