Full Metal Dojo is looking to take MMA back to its roots while simultaneously broadening its horizons

American promoter Jon Nutt is developing a circuit in Thailand that combines a party atmosphere with some of the most bad ass fighters around

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 November, 2016, 1:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 November, 2016, 8:28pm

Not only will there be blood, there almost has to be. Welcome to the world of Full Metal Dojo. A fledgling part of the combat sport fraternity, it’s raw but with integrity. Based out of Thailand, Full Metal Dojo (FMD) was founded three years ago by American Jon Nutt, a man of irrepressible spirit and unabashed passion.

“I want to be the Quentin Tarantino of combat sports,” says Nutt. The mere mention of the legendary American film director invokes images of blood splattered, gratuitous violence. But Nutt claims that is not necessarily the association he is thinking about.

With the UFC now an integral part of American sporting landscape and One Championship covering the Asian scene, Nutt understands his organisation’s place as well as their ambitions.

“The talent pool of fighters is not that deep, especially in Asia, and even the UFC has had to cancel a few events out here,” he says. “Luckily One Championship is here and I want to be like the feeder organisation for all these groups, the “B” movie. But the real thing, a party atmosphere and maybe occasionally some crass language. Tarantino’s edginess with the same rule set as the UFC.”

Their events have mostly been in large nightclubs around Bangkok in front of raucous crowds in the high hundreds, not thousands. Nutt prefers the intimacy for a number of reasons, least of all proximity of the crowd to the fighters.

“You can hear the sound of the punches landing and almost feel them,” he said, and feels the exoticism of Bangkok combined with the ancestral history of combat sports in Thailand is an intoxicating blend.

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Currently, the events are broadcast live on Thai TV and Nutt sees potential for regional interests, particularly doing future events in Macau.

He begins each broadcast by inviting viewers to come with him “to the underground of Bangkok’s fight game,” and it’s impossible not to draw parallels with the 1999 cult film Fight Club. Starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, the brutal film focuses on a group of young business types who want to fight recreationally. But Nutt is quick to point out that his events feature highly trained and full-time fighters, and not a bunch of sadistic good time Johnny’s.

Currently, Nutt is a studio analyst on Fox Sports UFC broadcasts. More passionate than insightful, commentator Nutt is basically indistinguishable from promoter Nutt. He keeps it real, even if it means showing up on air at Fox Singapore studios in a plaid lumberjack jacket and blue jeans.

“The UFC was just sold for US$4.3 billion, and that is big, no doubt,” he said. “But that is for the leading promotion in the whole industry. The Dallas Cowboys alone are worth $4 billion. It is all to scale and really I got into this business because of my passion.”

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He points out that in the NFL, players get 55% of revenue while in the UFC it’s reported to be around 10 percent.

“The UFC is a major sport, it has a network contract with ESPN, and yet all the other major sports pay close to 50% in wages,” he claims. “If I could have it my way, the fighters in combat sports would get much more.”

It’s a sentiment that is not surprising considering Nutt’s history. The Boston native grew up practicing Kung Fu before working in California with some of the biggest names in the burgeoning UFC.

After arriving in Thailand in 2005, he became involved in the Muay Thai scene and had an 11-2 record, before realising he was not good enough to take it to a higher level.

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These days though he is strictly a promoter, and as such has much sympathy for that side of the equation as well.

“Do you know how hard it is to do a promotion?” he asks. “A lot of the promoters who seem to be doing well, their side gigs are often paying for things.”

It is also next to impossible to compare the level of compensation for the athletes from the other major sports to a group like the UFC. Baseball dates back to 1869 while the NFL is coming up on its 100th year anniversary.

As a generation weaned on UFC moves into positions of greater affluence and the sport truly becomes part of the national fabric, expect the salaries to greatly increase commiserate to revenue and profits.

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For now, though, despite his edgy mantra Nutt still has a grand vision. “You can literally get peace on earth through combat sports,” he says.

“It’s the most humbling thing there is getting punched in the face. And if more people did martial arts, we would have a much calmer and respectful world.”