For NAAFS matchmaker Nichole Long, being a woman in a male dominated business was tough at first, but she’s persevered and has become one of the most respected matchmakers in the Midwest.
“It used to be a lot harder when I first started about seven years ago than it is now,” said Long of her beginnings. “It was terrible. Everybody wanted to speak to my boss or ask who the man who in charge was.
“It probably took about a year to two years across the board,” for her to be embraced as a legitimate businesswoman in MMA. She notes, “(It was quicker) here locally, but pretty much any time you go out of state it takes longer.”
In her time with the NAAFS, the promotion has grown large enough to be broadcast on television and has become a home for many fighters to start their career on a strong note before moving on to larger promotions.
As Long pointed out to MMAWeekly.com, that’s a big part of the promotion’s goal, to get fighters to where they achieve the most; starting with an extensive amateur program.
“I feel it definitely builds us as a company to be stronger, but it also builds our fighters here locally in Ohio and Pennsylvania to be greater competitors when they go out in the world,” she said. “Our goal is to get them further on to Bellator, Strikeforce and the UFC.
“The whole idea is to propel them to the next level.”
Another big crusade for the NAAFS, and Long in particular, is building women’s MMA.
“I’m huge on having them on any fight cards we can with as many fights as we can,” said Long. “There aren’t quite as many female fighters as there are men, but I can see it happening where there will be just as many.
“With promotions such as us, Bellator, Strikeforce and Invicta, I think it’s definitely grown in the past few years, and it makes the sport well-rounded when everyone has a chance: men, women, all of them.”
It’s clear how passionate Long is about MMA when you consider she recently had a baby and still couldn’t stay away from lining up fights.
“I couldn’t do it,” chuckles Long. “In fact, even in the hospital there were a few people I had to get back to. There are also pictures of me on my wedding day matching fights on one phone and trying to give directions to one of my bridesmaids on the other.”
With one event in the books for the month and two more coming up, Long is going to be a busy woman for quite some time.
“I know it will wind down after September, but it’s extremely busy, especially with one being an all pro card and the others being pro/am; it’s harder than it is when it’s just an all amateur card,” she said.
“We have two events coming up: Aug. 17 in Cleveland and Aug. 25 in Charleston, W.V. If you can’t make them in person, most of our shows stream at GoFightLive on any given date we have an event.”
(Photo courtesy of Nichole Long)