When they are not making music or trying to help improve the lives of fighters, Tony Savo and Coalition Fight Music getting help from fighters to shed light on a problem.
Coalition Fight Music (CFM), the premier music band for the MMA industry, is using its success to place focus on the silent epidemic of the trafficking of minors.
By heading the Man-Up Campaign, CFM is looking to bring awareness to human trafficking, particularly for the sexual exploitation of minors. The U.S. State Department estimates that 600-thousand to 800-thousand people are trafficked internationally each year, with 80 percent being women and girls, and up to 50 percent minors.
“Most people think that it happens in far away countries,” Savo (Twitter: @statecyde) explained to Mike, Brian and Amy on MMABeatdown Radio on the MMADieHards Radio Network. “But it actually happens here on Craigslist and other sites on the internet. It’s a silent epidemic. So we’re just trying to do what we can. For one, make a difference; for two, to spotlight the sport in a positive light outside of the cage.”
Having access to some of the toughest people in the world, MMA fighters, CFM had an idea to help get its campaign off the mat. By using influential names in the U.S. and across the pond in the UK, CFM is looking to make waves with their global initiative.
“We had the idea of saying these kids are in trouble,” said Savo. “What’s better than having the toughest guys and gals on the planet, being mixed martial artists, standing up and endorsing the campaign and making a presence felt for protecting the kids?
“It’s really taken off and we were fortunate to get the New York Badass, Phil Baroni, to kick it off and be our first spokesman. We also have British UK1 light heavyweight champion, Nick ‘The Head-Hunter’ Chapman, who is our UK spokesman, and also has a big title fight coming up next month.”
With the Man-Up Campaign only being in existence for roughly six months, CNN has started to take notice of the positive work coming from CFM. Because of this, it has opened up the possibility of CNN placing their cameras on scene to follow the band as they perform concerts to raise awareness towards the cause.
Joining Savo on MMA Beatdown was fellow entrepreneur and friend, Bryan Santee, who is the CEO of MMAConnects.com. MMAConnects is a networking site for not only fighters and promoters, but also for anyone who has an interest and wants to learn more about the growing sport.
The most recent initiative that Santee (Twitter: @BryanSantee) has been consumed with is bringing MMA to formative levels.
Santee explained the vision to MMABeatdown.
“MMA Connects, Inc., is working closely with the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) and the NCAA to develop and implement mixed martial arts programs for high schools and colleges throughout the nation,” he said.
Santee is taking the approach to completely organize and sanction amateur programs. He sees the organization enabling competions between schools, leading to the first state, regional, and national championships of MMA.
Going through the same processes that collegiate athletic programs went through with the development of conferences, the mixed martial arts program must endure the same growth – which figures to take time – but Santee is confident it will be up and running by the spring.
“We’ve been working diligently all year round with them as well as the ISCF (International Sport Combat Federation) to go ahead and develop this whole program and how it needs to be taught, which schools are going to go against which,” said Santee. “This is just the next thing that is in line for the progression of the sport and we definitely think that it’s the best thing for it.”
They are already addressing concerns with the sport from factions across the country, with some states — most notably New York — still not sanctioning.
“We have already gone through a whole mess of obstacles to get to where we are at now and we know that more is going to come,” Santee explained. “We especially know that the voice is going to come from concerned parents. Granted, these programs aren’t for everyone, just like football isn’t for everyone, neither is wrestling or basketball, but if your kid wants to come out, train, practice and even compete — when they’re of age — by all means you should let them do it.”
Schools generally require student-athletes to hold a GPA of 2.0 or higher if they want to participate. Holding students to a 2.5 GPA to perform in the MMA program is one of the keys to going above and beyond typical thresholds.
“First and foremost,” said Santee, “we definitely hold our students and participants to a higher disciplinary standard. This is all in writing, to go with the many other forms that they have to fill out, such as the general sports waiver.
“We definitely want to go above and beyond on this, and the first thing that you learn when you step into a martial arts class is about discipline and respect. You’re not to be using it outside. We bring on the right people, the right coaches and committee. We’re making sure that its all in place.”
One of the key differences in rules between the two levels of academia is that in high school, the fighters will only be participating in three 2-minute rounds, as opposed to three 3-minute rounds. All other rules are the same and will follow the ISCF rules and regulations regarding amateurs.
These rules also include no strikes while on the ground, only allowing room on the mat for grappling.
While there may be some differences in the rules, one thing is for certain: the cost to the schools will be only student participation. With the program being fully sponsored on all levels, the schools receive the benefit of the revenue streams for the first year.
“First of all, we’re completely sponsored by Millennium Martial Arts Supplies, so there really isn’t anything that these schools need to pay for,” Santee said. “Even on a high-school level, we’ve partnered up with a bunch of the local MMA gyms. Atlanta is the city for mixed martial arts, it is booming everywhere and we partnered up with a bunch of them to be on a rotation and to be able to come in and teach at each school during different days of the week. So at least for the first year, schools won’t have to pay to even have a coach, either.”
While it’s still the dawn of MMA into the mainstream, Santee and Savo are proof that there is more to cage fighting than blood and broken bones.