Photo: Jeff Sherwood
Christopher Schnake -- best known to mixed martial arts fans by his
ring persona “Big Poppa” Schnake -- died Monday morning. He was
Sherdog.com confirmed the news with Schnake's longtime friend and
business associate, Victory Jay, who wished to be referred to by
Jay learned of Schnake's passing on Monday, when he received a call
from Schnake's roommate. Schnake was returning from a trip to
Texas, where he announced King of the Cage “Kingpin” on Saturday,
Aug. 27. Jay recounted the days surrounding Schnake's passing to
Sherdog.com on Thursday evening:
“[Schnake] called me after the show from his hotel room, just to
shoot the s--t. We were catching up, and stayed up until about two
in the morning watching the ProElite stream,” Jay told Sherdog.com.
“And he mentioned that he had collapsed at the show. He told me,
'Man, I gotta get my diabetes under control. But that was it. It
wasn't so serious. It was just him saying, 'I really feel like
s--t, you know?'
“He flew out to Milwaukee the next day. I tried getting a hold of
him, but his phone went straight to voice mail. I didn't think much
of it. Then I tried calling [later] about five times and even left
him a Facebook message. Then I got a call from his roommate at
about four in the morning on Monday.
“Schnake lived between Chicago and Milwaukee. It's about an hour
drive. He pulled over to a rest stop to take a rest and just passed
away in his sleep. There aren't really any details yet. The family
is doing an autopsy, and that hasn't come back yet, but I have to
assume it was health-related just given that he spoke to me the
night before about getting his diabetes under control.”
Known for his colorful on-air persona, Schnake served as both an
in-cage announcer and a radio personality. Before becoming a cult
icon in the MMA world, however, he was working for little-to-no pay
at local shows in the midwest.
“Back in 1996 or 1997, when we got our start, neither one of us
were promoting. We were setting up the cage and tearing it down. I
got my start selling T-shirts, and he would announce,” recalled
Jay. “Probably for the first three years [of our relationship], we
would travel show to show, and that's where we developed our
friendship, in the trenches.
“We were living out of my van, sleeping at rest stops. It wasn't
until about 2002 when I started promoting my own show that Schanke
would announce those shows. And then it was really kind of a co-op
business. But even today, Schnake wasn't in this for the money. He
loved the sport. He is MMA.”
Shortly before his passing, Schnake started a business with Jay
called CageTix, a service designed to effectively streamline the
selling of tickets for local shows. Fighters forward friends and
fans to the website, with the fighter receiving a cut from every
ticket sold at no extra cost to the promoter.
Jay hopes that the company will serve as a lasting legacy for
Schnake's impact on the sport and will also serve to benefit the
surviving members of Schnake's family.
“We put our heads together and agreed that there are still [things]
wrong with MMA promoting, and asked ourselves what we could do to
fix them. This is what we came up with, and it works brilliantly,”
said Jay. “On his end, Schnake was bringing in all the shows that
he promoted and would receive a kickback from that. Now that he's
no longer here, I still want to honor that.
“For any show that Schnake dealt with, or any show that wants to be
a part of Schnake's memorial fund, we're going to donate to
Schnake's family for every ticket sold. The service is at no cost
to the promoter, and this is a way that Schnake's family can
continue to receive donations for years to come.”