Moving from the octagon to organising fights was the challenge set in 2016 by Manu Pezouvanis, creator of the European Beatdown. This MMA event organised in Belgium is constantly growing and is a great example for anyone wishing to organise a sports event — and more particularly in combat sports. Curious to understand how he had achieved this success with 7 events in just 3 years, we asked him how he is organising the European Beatdown. Here are his responses.
- Know your subject
- Take action
- Communicate effectively
- Offer a different experience
- Set achievable goals
- Choose a ticketing and access control solution
- Find tips to sell more
- Believe in your passion
Can you tell us about the history of the European Beatdown? What led you to create this event?
The story started with a friend with whom I used to do MMA. We had both stopped for some time and had separate jobs. He ran a CrossFit gym and various shops. I was the sales manager at a radio station. We realised that by bringing together our contacts – with his sporting experience and my logistics expertise – we could create something solid. I organised concerts so I knew all the technical logistics and the media and communication approach.
Is this how the first European Beatdown was born?
Exactly, in December 2016. We challenged ourselves to launch it in 3 months and we attracted about 3,500 people. The aim was also to plan a different MMA event from what we usually see. For example, in France, MMA is prohibited, so people organise Pancrase competitions instead. And in Belgium, events happen in multi-purpose sports halls with a maximum of 300–500 attendees. We wanted to do an American-style show. When you come to the European Beatdown, it’s really a sound and light show. We’re going all out! It is an event that costs us about €150,000 for one evening so it’s a significant budget
It feels like everything went perfectly from the very first time! Is that really the case?
That was the case, yes. Not necessarily in terms of profits, but given the enthusiasm, we immediately understood that there were things to be done. It was an advantage to be familiar with the sport, as that meant we knew a lot of people. All the venues in the region and in the north of France quickly got on board. We quickly set standards with video communication campaigns. We promoted our fighters directly, in order to attract people who knew them. As time went on, thanks to the media, everyone knew that there were cage fights in Mons with a real American-style show. Now we rely less on the fame of the fighters, and more on the fame of the event.
What is your recipe for making every event a success? Do you do the same thing Americans do?
We don’t really copy the US shows. Instead, we apply the technique I used for music shows, in terms of sound and light. For the show, it’s a little bit like all other combat sports. Then, we try to add a more fun dimension, with contests or dancing during the events. In parallel, betFIRST, a large online betting company in Belgium, organises on-site betting. It attracts a different audience. They don’t have that at the UFC, for example, and they are the international reference for MMA.
Your events bring together between 3,000 and 5,000 people, which is a great turnout. What would be your goal for the future?
The goal is to continue growing, knowing that in October 2018, we hosted 4,300 people. We’ll soon reach maximum capacity with our venue, but we’ll keep planning several events there to get a series of sold-out events. And once we’re confident, we’ll move up a level. We may go towards Brussels, or even to France, where MMA is slowly being legalised.
If we did this event in Lille, for example, we could imagine attracting 9,000 people. We work with all the clubs and fighters in the north of France, and sometimes in Paris. We are the event of choice for the French audience because we are the closest and best organised.
Why did you choose Weezevent to manage your ticketing and access control?
We used Weezevent from the first event because I used the free version in my previous job — for customer invitations. And as the system is nice, and I was able to test it, I moved to the paid version. And I prefer Weezevent to Eventbrite because it’s better to use a European solution.
So far, we’ve sold tickets online, in gyms and at a few points of sale around the event. Then, on the day of the event, I rent Weezevent’s professional terminals because we have to let in 3,000–4,000 people in an hour. I usually rent 5–6 each time. I saw that you also offer cashless payments at events. I’ll take a look at it.
Do you think you have a trick of your own to sell more tickets?
Yes, I think I’m doing something that’s not in Weezevent’s standard uses — I add a field in the purchase form that I call “fighter code”. Each attendee gives a code obtained through the fighters’ communication channels. This way, I can pay my fighters according to the number of seats sold thanks to each of them. It helps us to fill the venue more easily, and it gives them an extra bonus. It’s a win-win situation.
For all the event planners — or aspiring event-planners – out there, do you have any last experience to share?
I think that to organise events, you have to have a passion in you. Everything that revolves around events takes a lot of time. It is well-known that first events are often unprofitable, this must not discourage you. You have to keep going until the event really takes off. And then I think that Weezevent is a good solution to make it easy to manage your ticketing. Once we have set our event up, all we have to do is follow the flow and receive money transfers every 2 weeks. It’s very convenient.
Thank you Manu, and congratulations on all the past and future editions of the European Beatdown!
Find out more about the European Beatdown on Facebook and YouTube — where videos get millions of views! To organise similarly successful sporting events, discover all the benefits of Weezevent by clicking below: