Robin Black is a well known media personality who has fronted a glam-rock band, appeared in his own television program on MuchMusic, called Robin Black: Cage Fighter, and been a featured MMA columnist for The Globe and Mail. He's also a professional bantamweight MMA fighter, and a color-commentator for The Fight Network. He just so happens to also be the media relations guy for an Alberta-based fight promotion known as Aggression MMA. He took some time out of his undoubtedly-busy day to speak with this site's Josh Oliveira, but most of the discussion revolved around Aggression and their recent announcement that their third show will take place in the great little Okanagan fight town of Vernon, British Columbia.
J.O.: Hey, it's Josh Oliveira from B.C.MMAFan.com and MMACanada.net.
Robin Black: Hey man, how are ya?
J.O.: Not too bad, you?
Robin Black: Doing great. Everything is going good her for the Aggression MMA thing and I work at The Fight Network too, so that's been really great.
J.O.: Okay, so are you a press relations/media guy for Aggression, then?
Robin Black: Yeah, I fought for them and I loved Harvey [Panesar] and Moin [Mizra], who are the two guys that run it. I loved their passion and drive so I just said, "I'm a guy with a unique skill set. If there's anything I can do for you guys, I'd love to be involved." So, they got me to take care of the publicity stuff. I'm friends with a lot of that crowd, anyway, and it's great to talk to you, too. I've met most of the people who write on MMA across the country and its just a relationship game. If you give people good information, they'll want to run it.
J.O.: Okay, for people who may not be familiar, can you explain a bit about how Aggression MMA got started and maybe talk a bit about what you guys have achieved in just your first two shows?
Robin Black: Aggression MMA was started by two very passionate mixed martial arts fans in Moin Mirza and Harvey Panesar who loved going to like events and loved MMA. They are very smart, savvy business guys who just wanted to put on the best shows possible-- first in the Edmonton area and then right across the country. So really, it was two guys armed with just their drive who have now put on two of the best cards, for sure, that western Canada has ever seen. So, it's been a learning curve for it to develop, but there's people who are so passionate about the sport involved. That's it's been so successful already, and it's only going to grow.
J.O.: When it was first announced that Aggression was planning to hold a show in B.C there was some initial speculation that they were attempting to get out of the crowded Alberta MMA market, but that has since been denied by the organization. Can fans expect that the majority of their shows in the future will still take place in Alberta?
Robin Black: Yes, mostly. In fact, we already have three more shows booked. We're excited about going to Vernon on May, 21st, though, so we've actually already booked a follow-up show. Really though, we just had a great opportunity to take this a little bit west and still put on a show with the kind of energy level that the Aggression shows have had. So, when Vernon came up, we jumped at it, but Edmonton is home for Aggression and it's going to continue to be. We have upcoming shows, July, 9th back in Edmonton at the Expo Centre, then August, 24th we're going to be returning to Vernon, and on October, 1st we'll have our Aggression 6 show back in Edmonton's Expo Centre again.
J.O.: Oh, okay. So you're kinda going to be bouncing back-and-forth between the two cities for the next little bit here, then?
Robin Black: Yeah, Edmonton is still the anchor and it's going to be home. There are the best mixed martial arts fans in the world there and a whole infrastructure for putting on shows there. Everyone in Edmonton understands what MMA is and it's been a long-running successful city to put on shows because it's filled with fans. But, we're going to move into other territories, too. There's been talk about going out east and taking it across the country to give people the type of shows that we think they want to see.
J.O.: From the initial Internet and early fan reaction, or any kind of market research you guys may have done, what kind of response do you expect from the B.C. fans to your upcoming show?
Robin Black: Well, often I find that the smaller or mid-sized cities, like Vernon or Victoria, will just have thousands of ravenous MMA fans who wouldn't necessarily have thought that there were going to be live events coming to them. Then, when they find out about it, they're just pumped. I guess, Vernon has probably had, what? Six or eight MMA shows before?
J.O.: That's probably about right, but there have been none so far that have been quite this size. I mean, they have been mostly "King of the Cage" and "XFC" shows, which are great, but just not really the same.
Robin Black: Yeah, we're going to try to put on something a little bigger and a little more high-energy. It will be a bit more of a show. We've already got a great main event for it, and a great semi-main event. To round out the show we're going to mix it between names people know and the best up-and-coming guys.
J.O.: How about yourself, do you think you might make an appearance? [Robin Black (3-3) fought at both AMMA I and AMMA II]
Robin Black: I'm definitely going to be in Vernon, but I'm looking to do colour-commentary along with Bas Rutten, and I'll be doing the in-ring interviews after the fights.
J.O.: Okay, sounds good, maybe I can just get a few of your comments about the announced matches. First off, the Matt MacGrath vs. Chris Brennan fight-- what are your thoughts on that?
Robin Black: That's a great fight. Matt MacGrath (8-3) is pretty high in the top-ten welterweights in Canada, but this is a big test. Chris Brennan (19-13-1) is a UFC veteran and a PRIDE veteran, who has been in there with some of the toughest fighters in the world. So, for MacGrath to beat him he's going to have to be on his best game, but when the two of them face each other it's going to be pretty serious. I mean, Matt MacGrath wants to take that next step to the UFC. In fact, Nick Hinchliffe (12-5), Jason Day (18-9), and Matt MacGrath are all guys on that doorstep. Jason Day was even told after his loss to Kendall Grove (11-6) that if he gets a couple of wins he would be right back in the UFC. Then here's Nick Hinchliffe in front of him who's also on the doorstep. So that's kind of where Matt MacGrath is sitting right now. He's a nice win or two away from moving to a huge show, but he's got "The Westside Strangler" in front of him and he's got to get through that.
Robin Black: Also, Matt's coming of a loss against Claude Patrick (11-1) [at AMMA II] where he looked great. I think that's the first time, other than Claude's one one loss to Drew McFedries (8-6), that Claude has lost a round in three or four years. MacGrath was able to really take control of the second round and looked great against Patrick who is now in the UFC.
But he's got Brennan, "The Westside Strangle," in his way, who, I think he has seventeen submissions, right?
J.O.: Yeah, I believe so.
Robin Black: Anyway, he just wants to add to that.So, MacGrath has to be on his game or he's gong to find himself strangled out on the west coast. Chris Brennan will be "The West Coast Strangler" if Matt MacGrath isn't careful.
J.O.: Still, there are a lot of unknowns about Brennan right now. Mostly because he hasn't fought much over the last couple of years and, when he has, he hasn't won much. So, he'll be looking to make a pretty big statement with a win in this comeback fight.
Robin Black: That's just it. Chris Brennan has been out of the spotlight for a while, but he's a seasoned veteran who wants his place back in the game. So he is going to be looking to make a big statement. Like I said, though, Matt MacGrath is looking to make a big statement, too. So I don't think this will go the distance. Somebody's getting strangled or knocked out.
J.O.: Then, in the main event, this is just sort of my observation, but Hinchliffe is pretty well-known around here in B.C. and lately, especially, he has been fighting exclusively against big-name fighters. So, he has been gaining a fair amount of momentum in this province. Then you have Jason Day who is obviously very well-known and loved in the Alberta MMA scene. So it seems like you guys have set up a bit of a west coast showdown between the arguably two of the best middleweights from the two main provinces out here. Was that your intention?
Robin Black: I think you're bang on with that-- Hinchliffe against Jay Day is a western Canadian showdown. I love it. We've got the guy who is the number one fighter in Alberta, except maybe Jason MacDonald (22-13)...
J.O.: But he's fighting everywhere now it seems...
Robin Black: Yeah, and Day has been an amazing fighter for a long time. Right now, he's coming off a really tough loss at the last Aggression. He lost to Jesse Taylor (14-5) pretty early in the first round and that changed his life. Had Day beat Jesse Taylor and won maybe one more fight he would have been right back in the UFC, which is where he's just dying to be. So, Jason Day is looking to really show people how tough he is by beating Hinchliffe who is one of the toughest guys at 185lbs. out there right now who's not in the UFC right now.
J.O.: Yeah, and he's had his own close brushes with the UFC. He was very close to being on The Ultimate Fighter 10, and when he fought Rory MacDonald there was some talk that whoever won that fight might get a UFC contract.
Robin Black: Right, and it turned out Rory did win. Did you see that card by chance? Was that in Vernon? I think it was King of the Cage...
J.O.: It was definitely a King of the Cage show. I didn't get a chance to see it live, but I think it was actually in Alberta [Macdonald and Hinchliffe met at KOTC: Disturbed in Edmonton, AB on Sept. 25th of 2009].
Robin Black: yeah, I think you could be right. I would have loved to see that fight and I agree that with a win over the young, talented Rory MacDonald, Nick could have been in the UFC. Even with the loss, right now, he's still maybe just a win away, but Jason day is nobody's stepping stone and he should make that pretty obvious on May, 21st. So, something's gotta break and it should be a really exciting fight.
J.O.: I definitely agree. I can't wait, personally, and I think that fight fans in B.C., if they're tuned in at all to the scene, should recognize that this is probably the biggest card to come here, if not ever, then certainly in the last several years. I think I can safely say that we're all looking forward to Aggression MMA III in Vernon, and it was great to talk with you about it today.
Robin Black: Yeah, excellent.