As Ring of Combat prepares to host its 50th MMA event, Lou Neglia speaks about why his East Coast show has become known as the American Idol of MMA.
A milestone for any sports promotion comes when it puts on its 50th event, and that’s precisely what will take place on January 23, 2015, when Lou Neglia’s Ring of Combat 50 unfolds at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fight card will feature the best MMA prospects from around the world and include six title bouts. Ring of Combat is one of the longest-running and most successful MMA shows in the United States — and for good reason. The East Coast promotion has sent more fighters to the UFC than any other MMA series. To date, more than 90 ROC alumni have gone on to compete in the UFC. All the athletes Neglia sent to the world’s largest MMA promotion are enjoying successful careers. The latest ROC-trained fighters to level up to the UFC include current middleweight champion and 2014 Black Belt Hall of Famer Chris Weidman, as well as Al Iaquinta, Ryan LaFlare, Eddie Gordon, Costas Philippou, Edson Barboza, Uriah Hall and Chris Wade. As a former world kickboxing champion, Neglia knows what it takes to build combat athletes. “The recipe is very simple,” he said. “Competitive fights challenge you. If you’re not challenged, you won’t change. You get more out of losing competitive fights by improving your game. You gain nothing winning a hand-picked opponent for an easy fight.” Left to right: Frankie Edgar, Matt Serra, Lou Neglia, Chris Weidman. (Photo by BrendanOrmsbyPhotography, courtesy of Lou Neglia/Ring of Combat) Neglia recalled one instance when the UFC came calling: “The UFC took an ROC fighter who was eight wins with four losses as opposed to a fighter who was 10-0 in another promotion. The matchmakers at the UFC know just as well as I do that it’s who you fought and how you fought that matters.” Neglia’s matchmaking skills are so solid that the UFC recently announced a bout between two ROC stars who’d already fought each other: Uriah Hall and Costas Philippou. Their first encounter took place at Ring of Combat 34, with Philippou winning a majority decision. Their long-awaited rematch was to be a featured bout for UFC Fight Night on January 18, 2015, but an injury suffered by Philippou has caused it to be postponed. “When I first heard that the UFC was putting on Hall vs. Philippou, I was very proud,” Neglia said. “These guys are true champions and gave their all at Ring of Combat. The have both come so far since then, and I know they are going to put on a good show for the UFC.” Neglia’s matchmaking skills and top-notch fighters are causing many to wonder why he hasn’t decided to go head-to-head with the UFC. For Neglia, it was an easy question to answer. “Not too long ago, I was approached by three very successful businessmen,” he said. “They asked me if I wanted to join forces with them in the world of MMA and [said] their goal was to compete with the UFC and eventually become bigger than them. I thanked them for their time but declined. I am very content with what I am doing and have no desire to compete with the UFC. They have an all-star team with Dana [White], Lorenzo [Fertitta], Marc Ratner and Joe Silva and are doing great things in the world of combat sports. I enjoy finding great but unknown talent and developing them for the world’s biggest stage, and I am happy with the place Ring of Combat has in MMA history, being the American Idol of the sport.” Neglia is hard at work to develop the next generation of MMA stars, and he believes that many of them will be competing at Ring of Combat 50 on January 23. “Our next event is a very special one,” he said. "Not many promotions have made it to their 50th event, and many have not produced the superstars that Ring of Combat has. I am very proud of all Ring of Combat alumni but also very proud of the new generation of ROC fighters that, by accepting tough fights in the Ring of Combat, is also preparing for the road that leads to the octagon.” (Featured image at the top of this page by Rich Villa Photography, courtesy of Lou Neglia/Ring of Combat)