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What: Combate Americas continues its ascent in the mixed martial arts world with new deals, programming increased audience.
Why it matters: The Latino MMA franchise and media company has mixed reality TV programming, live events and mobile content to find bigger numbers in the second half of 2018 than ever before.

The fighting space has never seen more engagement, or more buzz, than in the past year. From traditional networks like FOX (@FOXTVand NBC (@nbcupping their interest with promotions like Pro Fight League (@ProFightLeague), to ESPN’s UFC (@ufcpartnership to the continued work Bellator (@BellatorMMAis doing with Paramount Network (@paramountnet) (and now DAZN) to streaming and pay per view, those getting in the ring and the cage are certainly finding new and engaged audiences.

One that continues to fight through the choices, especially with a Latino audience, is Combate Americas (@combateamericas). The Latino MMA franchise and media company has mixed reality TV programming, live events and mobile content to find bigger numbers in the second half of 2018 than ever before.

On our platform, you have the opportunity to see some of the sport’s best, new athletes proudly representing their respective countries against each other.

Case in point was their recent Copa Combate show, which averaged 451,000 total viewers on Univision (@Univisionand Univision Deportes Network (@UnivisionSports) at 12 am ET on Friday, December 7.  Viewership was up over 60 percent from last year’s Copa Combate viewership of 280,000 on Telemundo in the same time slot and beat Telemundo’s boxing program on the same night, in the same time slot (start time was 11:35 pm ET) by over 50,000 viewers.

When comparing these figures to general market sports programming ratings in the same time slot on the same night, Copa Combate was second to only ESPN, beating FOX Sports 1, NFL Network and others. Viewership beat that of Bellator 209 on Paramount on Nov. 17 by 70,000 as well, giving Combate a nice leg up and a solid “one to watch” as 2019 rolls around.

How have things been on the upswing? We asked Campbell McLaren, CEO of Combate Americas.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

Portada: How has Combate grown audience…what is the difference maker?

Campbell McLaren

Campbell McLaren: Combate Americas uses a soccer model – country versus country, like World Cup and the most classic soccer rivalries – as a major point of difference.  On our platform, you have the opportunity to see some of the sport’s best, new athletes proudly representing their respective countries against each other.

Our “Copa Combate” one-night tournament is essentially our World Cup competition, filled with national pride and excitement, and has been extremely effective attracting superfanaticos to our brand.  We went a step further at this year’s tournament, unveiling a 5-foot tall, gold ‘Copa,’ the largest winner’s trophy in sports.

We also expanded our TV programming dramatically in 2018, with a new, multi-platform deal with Univision that included premium-level shows airing live on both Univision and Univision Deportes Network (UDN), and weekly programming on UDN.

Combate Americas also opened its own multi-media studio, La Jaula Studios, which has been responsible for producing original, digital and linear content geared towards educating our target audience about our brand, live events and athletes and giving a reason for both new fans and avid fans to care about our talent and our shows.

Portada: What brands have migrated to the shows?

CM: This year, we secured national partnerships with AT&T Cricket Wireless (@Cricketnation), Monster Energy Drink (@MonsterEnergy), Warner Bros Studios (Aquaman @aquamanmovie) and Acronym (@anotheracronym), on behalf of the digital agency’s “Knock The Vote” campaign to drive voter participation from Hispanic millennials in the U.S.

Portada: How has Combate found a way to reach the Latino audience and what can be done to grow that audience in 2019? 

CM: We have created a product that is authentically Hispanic, and embraces key elements of Hispanic culture, beginning with a country versus country format in our events that is easily recognizable and has long been embraced by fans of soccer, the number one sport with Hispanic fans.

Our live events mix MMA competition with other, popular forms of Hispanic entertainment, including live music, such as mariachi band performances and ROC Nation Mexican recording artist Victoria La Mala (@lamalasinging the U.S. national anthem; our “La Jaula dancers;” and appearances by some of the biggest Lucha Libre stars, all of which enhance the fan experience beyond a typical live sporting event.

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What: Ray Flores has become one of the most prominent broadcasters and ring announcers in MMA and boxing.
Why it matters: Flores has set a high standard and serves as an outstanding role model for Latinos in the sports broadcasting word, particularly in combat sports.

The sport of mixed martial arts has grown a lot in the last decade. Top stars have become more recognized outside just its main fandom and the UFC, the sport’s leading organization, is covered by most major media outlets, in line with other top leagues.

As a teen growing up in East Chicago, Ind., Ray Flores‘s love of boxing grew from his family’s fandom and frequent gatherings to watch big fights. When a fellow East Chicago native, Miguel Torres, broke into the sweet science (and eventually moved to MMA), the 17-year-old Flores (@SBRFlores) decided to bring his love of combat sports and intrigue with the world of broadcasting together.

“It started at smaller shows, at the Hammond (Ind.) Civic Center, I did a local interview with Miguel, then I started doing commentary for his fights, that was back in 2005,” Flores told Portada this week via telephone from his current Chicago home, in between international trips to cover the sport. “I paid my way to cover fights in Las Vegas, Columbus, wherever, got to meet the UFC people, and finally got to cover my first UFC fight in 2011, Miguel vs. Antonio Banuelos in Las Vegas, UFC 126.”

Flores […] was tabbed last July as the in-arena host for the whirlwind, four-day Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor press tour which included stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn and London.

Through this and other experiences, Flores caught the attention of MMA’s most influential executives. It’s led to work as a ring announcer on the fast-growing Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on NBC, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and NBCN, and last June the now 31-year-old was selected as the lead play-by-play commentator for PBC on FS1.

Boxing: His First Love

Flores has kept to his boxing roots as well, as he was tabbed last July as the in-arena host for the whirlwind, four-day Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor press tour which included stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn, and London.

And while Flores believes boxing is still supreme among the Hispanic fan base, he thinks that with the right marketing MMA can achieve the same level of success in the community.

“I definitely see going ahead more people getting involved,” he noted. “The UFC is trying to expand to Mexico, Latin America. ‘Goyito’ Perez, Cain Velasquez, they’re out there educating the fan base about what’s going on. With the right marketing, the UFC and Bellator can do that. There’s so many boxing fans, they just need a big star to come to the forefront and mobilize fans towards MMA.”

Though he downplays his role, Flores is paving the way for Hispanics on the broadcasting front in the sport. His work with mainstream outlets like ESPN Radio, CBS, NBC as well as top Hispanic media such as Galavision and Telefutura have gained him acclaim.

“A lot of other people have paved the way,” added Flores, “like [ESPN and ESPN Deportes’] Bernardo Osuna. I’m just trying to carry the torch in combat sports.”

Fans can catch Flores’ work on beIN Sports on February 8 for Roy Jones Jr. vs. Scott Signon, PBC on Fox on February 17 and on Facebook Boxing on February 24 alongside Paulie Malignaggi.