“Anyone who says they aren’t a student of the game is lying.”
Interview by: Barry Laminack
Brett Boyce is a busy man. Between his day job as a landlord, his budding clothing line, his job as a tournament director and his MMA management company, Brett has his fingerprints all over the Houston MMA scene. We had a chance to sit down and talk about how he got started and how he balances everything.
TCD: First, talk about how you got your start in Houston MMA. How did you get involved in the scene and how far does it go back?
Boyce: I was born and raised in New York City and I trained judo with a very prominent judo family up there. I moved to New Orleans and continued studying judo there. I was also introduced to Chinese Kempo there. After I graduated college I kind of stopped doing that stuff. After Katrina I left New Orleans and moved to Houston. I was eating a lot, drinking a lot and smoking a pack a day. I stopped smoking two months before Katrina. I joined a 24 Hour Fitness and just started working out. I quickly got bored running on treadmills and stuff. I was a fan of the early UFC and for a number of years I didn’t pay attention to it. Several years later I think it was Melvin Guillard taking on someone, and I saw it and said “Man I have to get into this.” I called around and the first guy to call me back was Scott Sullivan and I have been training with him ever since.
Boyce: I am a two stripe purple belt (BJJ) in the three years I have been working with Scott. I have done private lessons with Scott, Frost Murphy, Robert Drysdale. I really have tried to get as much training and knowledge in as I can in the short time I have been training. About a year and a half ago we unleashed our first guys for MMA. Our first fighters were Evert Guttierez and Matt Stevenson. They both fought in Louisiana. Cody Phillips and I drove over there and watched them fight. Shortly thereafter we started training Cody for his first fight. Cody was the first guy I started training in MMA and BJJ. I teach everything now, but lately I have had a lot of guys coming in to train MMA with me. Jason Sullivan, Alex Black, Lee Higgins, Justin Reiswerg, John Malbrough, Chico Young, Cory Allmand, Jeremy Hunter. A lot of great guys who have told me they have learned a lot from doing some MMA jiu jitsu with me.
TCD: What was it that transitioned you into wanting to do jiu jitsu?
Boyce: Seeing it on television started it. Then going in there to Scott’s, and I had no intention of doing jiu jitsu. But I was hooked from the first day. I had been boxing for a while when I came to Houston. I wanted to go and start doing kickboxing, and Scott said, “Listen, you have to try jiu jitsu.” I didn’t want to, but once I did it I was instantly hooked.
TCD: Do you prefer the learning or teaching aspect of jiu jitsu at this point?
Boyce: I love both. Every single day you can learn something new with jiu jitsu. It isn’t always a new move, but maybe it’s just something you can do better. As a teacher you are still learning. Anyone who says they aren’t a student of the game is lying.
TCD: How did you get into putting on tournaments?
Boyce: There was a tournament a couple years ago. I won’t name any names, but I remember thinking that the tournament was horrible. There were people sitting around all day waiting. It was my first tournament and I thought it was awful. I told Scott, “I can do better than this!” So Scott told me to do it. About 6 months later I put on my first tournament, the Houston Jiu Jitsu Championships. I was still a white belt when I put it on. My first tournament had 350 competitors. When I was in New Orleans I worked for NBC, and I was an avid marketer. I used those skills to push the tournament. No one really knew who I was until I started putting on these tournaments. Then I started doing stuff for Abu Dhabi and the Atama Open.
TCD: Talk about your time doing the Abu Dhabi tournaments.
Boyce: I got hooked up with them and started doing their tournaments all over the country. I have done a couple of them here. My official title is “vice president of Abu Dhabi North America.” I appreciate what they have done. I would like to see them grow. Right now they are their own worst enemy. I think it could be a huge brand. Right now it is an elite brand, but it should be a lot more popular. I will still continue to do what they need of me, and hope that they start heading in the right direction. Recently I have taken a bit of a backseat and concentrated more on my tournaments here.
Boyce: Working with Cody [Phillips] and Matt Stevenson and Justin [Reiswerg] and Angeles, I was helping them all out with some matchmaking, and helping them make decisions on potential fights and who to fight. I finally said to myself, let me just dive into this. I love the MMA scene. I contribute in a lot of ways, the teaching, the tournaments, why not one more. Let me work with a few guys and see if I can help them. I figured I might as well give it a go. I had a great group of starting guys who really felt enough respect and trust to sign with me. Right now I am trying to keep my number of guys small because I don’t know what I am capable of yet. I want to make sure I give everybody their just due. I’m not in this to make a bunch of money. I have a learning curve and I am just trying to make it happen. I am working with 11 or 12 guys now.
TCD: You’ve really bolstered your MTW Roster as of late. What’s been key in signing new talent?
Boyce: I think the biggest tool I have had to signing new talent is the talent I have. The best advertising is word of mouth. My guys have been talking to their friends about the job I am doing for them and I have been flooded with calls and e-mails. I love it.
TCD: What do you look for when considering signing a fighter?
Boyce: I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t look at records, but that is not the major factor. I have signed a few guys who have never fought and have signed guys who never won. I really want to say that I look at the man. How is this guy going to represent me? How is he going to represent himself? I have guys that don’t want to do anything but fight in Houston. They have no desire to fight in the UFC and that is ok with me because I know that I am helping a person who deserves my help. I say that it depends on who the man is, I should say the person. Would love to add a female fighter one day.
TCD: What do you like more, doing the tournaments of doing management?
Boyce: Tournaments or management, funny question. I work harder in the management game, make no money and work longer hours. So I will say the management game. I don’t really help many people in the tournament industry. I love doing it, and I love doing a great job at it, that will never change. I feel like I touch more lives in the management, When I started I said that I would only take on 10 guys, well I am over 14 now and that’s ok. I may be working harder but I feel like I am helping more people.
TCD: What else are you working on these days?
Boyce: One of the other cogs in this thing is that there will be a clothing line that will hopefully benefit the fighters. I am going to use the same philosophy with my clothes as I do with my tournaments. Great quality at a great price. I am not trying to overtake the established brands. Own your Atama gi and own your Dom gi, but get a couple of mine and just use it as training gear. Another big project is my wife, Shari. With the ring girl stuff we are trying to redeveloping what we are hoping the ring girl could be. A lot of girls just come in and flash their cards. What we are trying to do is make the promoters search out ring girls who can help them sell tickets and create a buzz for their event. She has a national ad campaign coming up with Defense Soap, and I am handling her career too.
Boyce: I have been doing real estate ever since I have been in Houston. I own some rental property. I used to be an agent, but I got bored with the day to day of it. I decided to by some investment properties. I buy distressed properties, fix them up and rent them out. Right now I have 18 properties.
TCD: How did you and Seth (Daniels) find each other, and how does your partnership work?
Boyce: Seth is from Houston, and trained his whole life with Paul Thomas. He moved out to Colorado. Scott was my partner when I started, but then Scott pulled out and gave me Seth’s number. I called him and he gave me a lot of advice. For the next year we called each other bouncing ideas back and forth. Seth was coming down to Texas to do tournaments. We tried to not step on each others toes, and eventually we just decided to expand together. We partnered up. I will tell you this. Seth and I are completely Yin and Yang, but it all works. He concedes on some things, I concede on some things. He does a lot before the tournament like helping set up and put together the brackets. Then that morning, he turns the tournament over to me and the tournament is mine the day of. We have a great relationship doing this.
TCD: You recently talked about the value of having competition in business on your facebook. Expand on that if you can.
Boyce: Funny how FB can come back to haunt you. I am glad you asked that so I can be upfront about this. I hear all these people complain about stealing business, stealing students, the new gym that opened up down the street and how dare they. Point Blank, do your job and you don’t have to worry about losing clients. Work hard, value their business and look to get better at your business. The minute you sleep, someone steals your business. That’s life. Burger King does not call McDonalds and asks if it is ok if they open a store down the street. McDonalds does not tell a customer not to come back because they heard they had a Burger King burger the other day and then questions their loyalty. They just come up with a better Kick Ass Burger to get your business back if they lose it. DO YOUR JOB OR SOMEONE ELSE WILL!!!!!
TCD: Anyone you want to thank?
Boyce: Obviously I want to thank Seth and Shari, who have been my incredible partners. Especially Shari for making me a better man. I would also like to thank my mentor Scott Sullivan.
I want to thank all the Made To Win fighters who have put their faith in me. They always tell me how I help make their dreams come true, but they really also help mine come true. I still want to do my 1 cage fight, but my dream of being a fighter passed a long time ago. Management let’s me continue to live my dream through my fighters. Wins, losses, doesn’t matter. As long as we do it as a family MTW will be victorious in the end. As we like to say, Born to Fight, Made To Win!
I also want to thank everyone who has patronized my tournaments. Even when they criticize, they usually are constructive with it. I also want to thank you guys at TheCageDoor. You keep us informed and entertained, and I really appreciate it.