25 Jun 2010

So You Think You Can Organise a Tournament? Part Three

The third and final interview for my So You Think You Can series: Jim McSherry is founder of the U.M.A. (United Martial Alliance) and organises tournaments covering a wide variety of styles.

The U.M.A. Championships

Meerkatsu: Tell me about the U.M.A. and your tournaments?

Jim McSherry: The U.M.A. is a multi-style martial arts association which began in 2003. The Association organises events every year, but our main tournaments are:

2 x Open Karate Events
2 x Open Grappling Events, one No Gi and one With Gi
2 x Open Groundfighting Events, again, one No Gi and one With Gi
2 x Open Judo Events, one Judo Tachi Waza (Stand Up Judo) and one Ne Waza (Groundfighting Judo)

Meerkatsu: Judo? Tell me more about that?

Jim McSherry: The U.M.A. Judo Ne Waza (groundfighting) events are very popular but entries from players for our Open Judo Tachi Waza (stand-up fighting) event is quite low -especially from judokas. The U.M.A. will continue to try and push Judo Tachi Waza, and hopefully one day succeed and become accepted in judo circles, especially if certain organisations can put egos, bullshi* and politics aside!

Meerkatsu: So with all your various grappling events, why not just do a specific BJJ event?

Jim McSherry: In 2011 the U.M.A. will replace our With-Gi Open Grappling Championship Event with the U.M.A.'s first ever Open BJJ Championship. It will begin with an event for white belts only, then include blue belts, and so on.

Our U.M.A. referee's are currently in training and will also hopefully be gaining IBJJF recognised qualifications. Myself, Carl Fisher, Steve Houchin and Dave Moore will be testing our metal by refereeing and mirror-refereeing at various BJJ events this year and in 2011, so we are already starting and preparing ourselves now, ready for 2011.

Meerkatsu: How many events have you organised?

Jim McSherry: Ok, I've been heading up/organising and running the Open Championship events for the U.M.A. since 2007, and I think the total to date is roughly 26. But one thing I really must emphasise and need to say, which is the most important of all, and that is, without the fantastic help and support of the great friends, family and U.M.A, members etc, who help and assist me to put all these events together each and every year, there would not be any U.M.A. events, as I can tell you for sure. It's not a one man show, far from it, I may be the organiser, but by name only lol!

Meerkatsu: Why do you organise these tournaments and what do you gain out of them?

Jim McSherry: Apart from trying to raise funds for the U.M.A, I myself really enjoy and thrive on the challenge of trying to do something a little different. I enjoy the buzz, the adrenalin, the friendships I make. I do it because I enjoy doing it, and because I do it not just for myself and the U.M.A., but mainly for the players and fighters first and foremost. It is they, along with their coaches, friends, family and supporters who make our Open Championship events the success that they are. It is the players, the fighters and the spectators who pay their hard earned money to step up to the challenge, watch, and support etc, and put on the show for us all. So really it's all for them. But wow! What a buzz I get when I get the many thanks, pats on the back, and handshakes from them. That makes it all worthwhile.

Meerkatsu: What are the hardest aspects to running an event?

Jim McSherry: Everything! From picking the right time of year, month, day and date, making sure it doesn't clash with other similar events, to organising the event, venue, equipment, personnel and staff, referees, judges, officials, security, safety and the well-being of all the players, fighters and spectators.

There is promoting the event, contacting and informing all the concerned organisations, clubs, players and fighters, getting the players to enter and part with their hard earned money, the logistics of organising all the entries, divisions and brackets, making sure it runs smoothly and on time, sorting out issues and problems, keeping everyone happy and interested, finding back-up contingencies, and any financial issues.

We have to work out whether the event pay for itself, make a loss or make a few quid. We have to make sure there are the funds to pay for everything and everyone; all the officials, medals, trophies, advertising/promotion, insurance cover, liability and member to member cover, venue and equipment Hire, First Aid support, security, transport and so on, the list goes on and on!!!

Meerkatsu: What do you think are the most important considerations when running a comp?

Jim McSherry: Total commitment to our paying customers - the players, fighters, supporters and spectators. Without them all, there is no event. Other important considerations are the affordability, the safety, security and enjoyment of the whole day by everyone. We want to make sure they all want to come back.

Meerkatsu: How much does it cost you roughly?

Jim McSherry: Lol, a lot of money Seymour! Ask any promoter or organiser. All I will say is if you are doing events looking for a quick £ or profit, then you're doing it for the wrong reason, and you will be very disappointed. Our U.M.A. accounts for the past few years are:

April 2007 to March 2008 just above break even point.
April 2008 March 2009 Net Loss
April 2009 March 2010 Net Loss

Meerkatsu: So you don't make any money out of it?

Jim McSherry: The U.M.A. do make money, but after everything has been paid for, the U.M.A. do not make a profit from most of the events we hold. And it'll probably be that way for a lot longer while to come. As you can see above, the U.M.A. are running at a loss, even now, so our events need to grow for us over the next 10 to 15 years to be able to make a decent turnover and generate a profit for the U.M.A.

Meerkatsu: What makes your event in particular a good one to take part in?

Jim McSherry: I think that if you ask any player, fighter, supporter or spectator who has attended any U.M.A. event, whether it be karate, judo, grappling or groundfighting, they will tell you that the atmosphere is electric and exciting, but very friendly. I personally will not tolerate anyone with an ego, and I feel that anyone who has either met me or knows me understands that. Our events are very friendly, fun and enjoyable. Yes we all have our moans and groans at the refs etc, but you will see at our events we try to handle any situation with sympathy, kindness, politeness, respect and total professionalism. The worst thing anyone can do is get someone's back up even more if they have a gripe etc. People skills are very prominent, and I feel the U.M.A's events team have them in abundance.

Win or lose, everyone has a great and memorable time, and we here at the U.M.A. ensure that we show them that we are extremely appreciative for the fantastic and valued support we get from them all. Lastly, we try to give everyone fantastic value.

Meerkatsu: What are the kinds of numbers of competitors you require to make an event successful (either in terms of profit loss or just in terms of enough people to create a good buzz to the event)?

Jim McSherry: I like to think that the U.M.A. Events have been successful from day one really, when we had just under 50 Players on two small matted contest areas at the local community centre, and that's when the buzz started, and it has continued to the present day etc. So really size is and should never be the issue, however, success breeds success, and hence, naturally any successful event will grow, just as the U.M.A. events have done so.

The U.M.A. Events have gone from under 50 Players in 2007 to an average of 100+ Players in 2009. At the last few events in 2010 we've had 120 to 130 player entries, which is great, so the growth is slow but sure and steady. As the Championships are still continuing to grow, our current venue is now not big enough to cope with our current numbers, so we are now moving yet again - to a bigger and better venue with bleacher seating alone for 500+ spectators, and a main sports arena which will cover 4 to 8 full sized contest areas.

We would really like a minimum of 200 players for any one individual event to help cover this move in 2011. Basically we need to nearly double our current player entry numbers to make it cost effective enough. We feel that now is the time to seize the opportunity and grasp it with both hands, so the move and venue change is definitely on for 2011.

Carl fisher  (left) and Jim McSherry (right)
Meerkatsu: Wow Jim, that's an amazing interview, thanks for your time. Do you have anything else to say?

Jim McSherry: My pleasure Seymour but please, its not about me, its about the U.M.A. and the people that make it tick and what it is today, however, one man is very instrumental indeed, my friend, colleague, U.M.A. Chief Officer, Fellow BJJ'er and MMA'r, and my right hand man here at the U.M.A.; Carl Fisher, he is the man that has helped guide me and the U.M.A. to where we are now, so Carl defo deserves a well earn't mention and credit please Seymour, I would be most grateful, thanks.

For more information about the U.M.A. and their tournaments, visit the website: http://www.umauk.co.uk/

All photos by Carl Fisher - The Fighting Photographer


About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


isaninja said...

These articles have been great Meerkatsu!


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