Roving MMT trouble maker and contributor LDF recently sat down with Clifton to talk about his upcoming event Champions of Champions 2.
By Laura Dal Fara
Recently I caught up with Clifton Brown InTheMiddleOfNowhere, Thailand, to discuss Champions of Champions 2, the upcoming event scheduled to be held in Jamaica on June 26. Clifton is both an organizer and a fighter for the 2009 showcase. Last year, in Jamaica, he lost to Kaoklai for the IKKC Muay Thai World Cruiserweight title, in a match where the result was heavily disputed. Having attended the event, I’m excited to see what will go down this month.
What can I say about Champions of Champions? A ton, but I’ll refrain and leave it at this – if you’re considering going and can make it happen, I suggest you do it. Work the overtime. Do whatever you have to. Go.
I’m out here in Bangkok and despite it being a bit left for me to jet, I’ve been trying to source a decent priced flight to make it again. Anyone know a decent Bangkok travel agent? An Asian travel website? I can’t believe the price of the flights I’ve been finding….anyhow……
LDF: Okay, maybe we’ll start with Jamaica.
CB: Sure, what about it?
LDF: Your involvement in it.
CB: Well, last year in about November, Richard Stephenson, who is the president of RISARC, CTGS, they had a surprise birthday party for him and I went to L.A. to the party. After we were just talking about the show last year in Jamaica and how he wanted to make it bigger and better and what sort of things we could do to improve it, just sharing his vision with me and we spoke for about three hours on it and at the end of it, he was like, “Okay. Well, I want you to do it.” and I was kinda like, “Excuse me?” (laughter)… “I want you to do it.” I was honoured and I was also very, very nervous but excited about the possibility of being a part of the show in a bigger capacity. So, as soon as he told me he wanted me to do it, I got right on it and contacted people from the WMC and people throughout the world and tried to organize the show and so far its been pretty good.
LDF: Is Dennis Warner a part of it the second time around?
CB: Dennis Warner was a part of it the first time and he’s not a part of it the second time.
LDF: Okay. Now having been at the first one, I was there last year, and, it was a great event, but I was surprised that the stadium was kind of half empty. What kind of changes are you going to make to ensure…
CB: …Well, the first and foremost, the venue is completely different. It’s a venue they’re building themselves, the CCGI. An entertainment complex on the beach and I think the maximum they can hold is five thousand people and I expect it to be a lot more intimate and a lot more energetic because it’s going to be packed. Last year was the first time that they did it, so I don’t think everybody was aware of how it would be received. People loved it, so I think that this year will be much better than last.
LDF: Last year, it was good to see a lot of Jamaicans there…muay thai in Jamaica is…?
CB: …it’s a new phenomenon…completely. I think the warrior spirit is definitely in the blood of the people, I mean if you go back a few hundred years, there’s stories of Jamaican people doing pretty extraordinary things to ensure their freedom or to be who they are. Jamaican people are definitely known to be expressive, so I think muay thai and the martial arts definitely fit in with the culture.
LDF: You’re fighting again this year and I noticed last year, after your fight with Kaoklai, the stadium emptied…
LDF:… you didn’t really see that on the video afterwards, but I mean, they were definitely behind you and being Jamaican, well having Jamaican roots because you’re born in Canada…
LDF: …your parents are from Jamaica…
LDF: How does it feel to go back?
CB: haauhh…Wow…well, you know it’s funny, I didn’t really feel a lot of pressure last year but I think that when I got in the ring, my performance was definitely enhanced by the people. You know what I mean? I didn’t recognize, in the moment, how much they affected me…I’m excited to go back and I’m excited to be fighting the same opponent and I think that, last year, there’s questions about the decision, and whether it was right or not….that’s last year. Now it’s this year and I’m not really concerned about last year anymore, I just want to prepare myself and be the best that I can for this next opportunity. Like a whole new fight and I definitely want to use the energy of the people cheering for me and I want to give them something to cheer about, so it’s an important moment for me.
LDF: Now the card has changed a lot, and it’s a card that a lot of people are excited about and it’s funny because some of the reading that I’ve done online, it’s a card people are so skeptical about, thinking it’s not going to pull through. Could you just give us a line-up?
CB: Yeah, well, from the original concept of the card there’s only one fighter who’s not fighting on the card and that’s Steven Waekling of England, and that’s because he has had some personal issues and he wouldn’t be able to make it. I’m disappointed about that, but we also have a great opponent for Yodesenklai which is Levin Artem. He’s from Russia and it’ll be a great fight. Buakaw Por Pramuk vs. John Wayne Parr which is a fight everyone has talked about since the first time they fought in 2004 in K1 and then Paul Slowiniski and Patrice Quareteron. Everyone in Jamaica loved him last year, and he’s a funny guy because he’s a BEAST of a man, and really, really gentle but a BEAST again in the ring, so…all the fights on the card have a question mark. There’s a no real guarantee that that person can win or that person’s going to win. It’s all speculation. So as an opponent, or sorry, as a competitor, it’s an honour to be on this card with all these fighters. And as a fan, for myself, I’m kinda like, well… I don’t know who’s going to win. It’s exciting and it’s all the big names in the sport – all of the people who have carried muay thai for a long time. John Wayne Parr. Carnage. Tyrone Spong. These are people who have been fighting muay thai when they were making very little money and now to a point where it’s making a little more money but it’s still sort of (crunched audio…sorry people) … MMAs gotten really big, and these people have sort of kept the good fight going, trying to maintain muay thai. Being the organizer of the show, it’s a big deal for me to honour these people because being a fighter myself, it’s not always easy dealing with promoters and politics and BS and all the other parts of the sport that aren’t good, so I really feel like it’s my honour to give these fighters an opportunity. I hope that the fact it’s going to be on the television throughout the world – it will be something that the fans would like to see again in the future and perhaps we can have a bit of a market for our sport.
LDF: So it will be televised?
CB: Yeah, it will be on PPV throughout the world.
LDF: And will people be able to get it online?
CB: We’re not quite sure about the online thing. Last year, it was a great concept but it’s really, really difficult to maintain quality throughout the whole event. It’s challenging to do it online. It costs a lot of money and PPV is satellite - on television and on demand – a far more common medium, so it’s just a matter of getting it to all the various areas so that everybody can see it.
LDF: Being on both sides, being a fighter on the card and an organizer, was there any issue with that?
CB: Well, I mean it’s always dealing with the business side of this sport…the fight between Tyrone Spong and Nathan Carnage Corbett is a fight that’s been talked about for many years and it’s been extremely challenging to organize a fight to appease both sides. If they fight with elbows then it’s an advantage to one fighter and if they don’t fight with elbows, it’s an advantage to the other fighter and then there’s all sorts of fallout on online forums about this and blah blah blah… but at the end of the day there was going to be no way this fight was going to happen if it didn’t happen now, because they’re both going in different directions, and different weight classes and basically have different paths in their careers. So it’s like their last chance that they get to meet. So it was challenging to make this fight happen. There were lots of times throughout the negotiation process where other people who I had working with me had given up, and said, “Oh, it’s never going to happen.”, “It’s ridiculous.”, or “This person is too expensive.” or whatever, you know, but at the end of the day, as a fan, you want to see the impossible happen, you want to see the best possible match up happen, and I think that for both of their careers, this is very important.
There’s speculation about another big fight between Buakaw and Yodsenklai and I don’t think that fight will ever happen, and I really don’t think it’s necessary either, both of these fighters are great on their own and I think it’s not necessary for both of them to fight each other for it to be. Fans want to see it, yes, but it’s not really necessary for them to define their careers like Carnage and Spong. I think it’s important that the sport has something like that and I hope that next year, if I have an opportunity to do this again, that we are able to give the fans a fight of this magnitude again.
LDF: Is there a fight that you’re looking forward to the most, other than your own?
CB: As a fan?
LDF: Yeah, as a fan.
CB: As a fan, ah man…..
LDF: Yeah, the line-up is beautiful…
CB: …I couldn’t really tell you because any one of these fights could be a main event at any event and it would be worthwhile, you know, so I’m looking forward to all of them. I’m looking forward to seeing it all and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone is bringing to the table. I think Anuwat and Liam Harrison is a big question mark. That’s a great fight…
LDF: How many title fights are there?
CB: Every fight is a title fight.
LDF: They are…okay…yeah…
CB: Ten fights are title fights. There are WMC sanctioned fights. Eight of them are World Title fights and two of them are special belts that are for this occasion and yeah, every single fight on this card is worthy of being one. So, it’s not like…there’s no tomato cans on this line up.
LDF: Changes to the event…last year there was a pre-fight fight, a couple days before…
CB: The CCGI in itself is a charity right, the Caribbean Classic Golf Invitational. Its been a charity event that’s been happening in Jamaica for the last five years, last year was the first year muay thai was added to the schedule. This year muay thai was added to the schedule as well as a comedy night with Cedric the Entertainer hosting it and there will be other big name comedians on it. There’s a black tie event to close the proceedings and there is a concert and beachathon. So, it’s a big celebration and festival and it’s all to raise money for the education of the kids in the Caribbean, Jamaica as well as the Caribbean to get them computers in their schools. That’s what the event is all about.
LDF: Amazing. You have other things going on as well…could we touch upon those?
CB: The television show? Road to Greatness?
CB: So, Road to Greatness, RTG, the concept is something that we came up with originally to promote this event in Jamaica but its sort of grown into something on its own. The concept of the show is to link a legend, or someone who has achieved great things already with a muay thai fighter who is on their way to greatness and then a little child in the beginning, who is just dreaming about greatness and linking them all together on the common path on the road to greatness. We came to Thailand originally to film this show, the first episode and it featured Buakaw Por Pramuk, John Wayne Parr, Carnage, Yodsenklai, myself and then we broke them down…
The first episode is Carnage and Pelle, who is a famous soccer player from Brazil and a young kid named Tutu from Bangkok. Each episode of the show is broken down that way – with a different legend, a different fighter and a different child and just connecting them, again on the road to greatness. It’s really an inspirational piece based on the spirit of the martial arts. That perseverance and hard work and desire, no matter what your circumstances, can bring a person to grand things and that’s the message we want the world to understand about muay thai and that’s the message that I think the history of the sport shows. So it’s important for us to ensure that we show it the right way and that we expose muay thai to the world in a way that makes their children and people that want to be a part of it, know that it’s not just about fighting, that’s it’s not just about raising your hand as the victor in the ring and beating the crap out of each other, it’s really a lifestyle about making yourself better each day. I think that if people were to understand that’s what the martial arts are about, a lot more people would have their children involved and I think that, in itself, gives hope to the children and it allows them to keep themselves out of trouble.
LDF: Is this something that will be on weekly?
CB: Yeah, yeah, the show will be running weekly leading up to the event in Jamaica and we’ve talked to quite a few people about the possibility about carrying it on after the event.
LDF: Nice…and do you know when it will go to air?
CB: Yeah, actually it’s starting in North America in… I guess we’re on the second week of May now, so it should be starting now.