For those of you who don’t know, Mark Vaz is currently a matchmaker with the AFO (American Fighting Organization). A Mixed Martial Arts promotion currently based out of Mansfield, Massachusetts. When he’s not working with AFO, he’s working as a corner/cut man for professional boxers such as Glen Johnson, former world light heavyweight champion. He’s agreed to take some time to answer some questions regarding his work with AFO and boxing.
Q: How was it that you initially became involved with combat sports?
I began boxing as an amateur in high school, back about 1978. At the time, boxing was very popular, and I was always more interested in individual sports rather than team sports. I had a dozen amateur fights, and began training other amateurs shortly thereafter. From that point, things continued to build, from amateur coach to pro trainer, cutman, matchmaker.
Q: You’re currently working with AFO (American Fighting Organization). For those that are unaware, just what exactly is AFO, and what is your role with the promotion?
AFO stands for American Fighting Organization. 3 years ago, I helped launch an LA Boxing franchise in N Attleboro, and one of the managers, Pete DiLorenzo, approached me looking to open a promotional company. Pete, who is the wrestling coach for URI, had a few MMA fights himself, and always thought he could do a better job than the other local promotions. He knew of my reputation in boxing, and asked if I would work with him. I had some friends in the sport, so I agreed.
Pete, who’s a natural salesman, is more the front guy, handles the marketing, sales, and all, I do the matchmaking and handle the logistics of running the show. It’s a good partnership, we work well together. We just completed our 14th show, and have our 3rd anniversary show scheduled on Thanksgiving Eve.
Q: When looking at fighters, is there anything stylistically or in particular that you look for in the fighters when making a fight?
Matching MMA fights and boxing are, in concept, similar. I try to put styles together that will make for an entertaining fight. A good ground guy and a guy with strictly standup will not likely be competitive, but 2 with similar styles will be. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of matching experience levels to get it done, but for the most part, I try to put thought and care into matching them to make for an entertaining bout.
Q: Outside of your work with AFO, what other involvement do you have in the local and/or national combat sports scene?
Outside AFO, my work is strictly boxing. I work as cutman for many fighters, Glen Johnson, former world light heavy champ for one. Arena Box Promotions in Germany uses me for all their high-level guys, so I’m in Europe several times a year. I also matchmake for a number of promoters in the US.
Q: Last night AFO held “Halloween Havoc”. Any fighters during last nights event that really stuck out to you and made an impression? Or how about the local New England MMA and boxing scene in general? Any prospects out there that we should be keeping an eye on?
There are loads of very talented guys in New England. Sticking with our own shows (I don’t go to other promoters events), for amateurs I’d say Kin Moy from Redline is one of the most talented guys I’ve seen.
A bunch of South Shore Sportfighting’s guys are outstanding, Dave Lachapelle fought for us last night, looked phenomenal, Wai Kru has some terrific fighters, Peter Rogers from Connecticut has 2 brothers, Than and Tal Stimson who’ve fought for us a few times that are very exciting, Sityodtong, of course, always has a lot of talented, well-schooled guys. Allaire Fitness in Woonsocket and Team Rockstar have some great fighters coming up. Many good talents around and a lot of new gyms working hard.
For pros, Ken Stone, now training in Florida, is a very special fighter. Very instinctual, seems to be able to do things without any apparent effort. Brian Marino, who’s been with us since his first fight, improves every time. We’re delighted to have Paddy Thompson just regain his 170 pound title, he’s another guy who works incredibly hard and it shows in every fight. He’ll be defending his title on Nov 24 against Steve Dunn, whose like 7-0, and a very tough guy.
Q: What does the future hold for AFO? And where do you see the promotion 5 years from now?
AFO is still plugging away, and expanding every day. We are now broadcasting a weekly tv show, with the best fights from that months’ fights, every Saturday morning at 11 on channel 50 on my cable network. We will try to get champions in every division this upcoming year, and have accurate rankings for pros.
We like the Mansfield Holiday Inn, it’s a nice venue. Steady, consistently good fights are the key to success in my opinion. Deliver a good product to the fans; they expect a lot for their entertainment dollar, and we try hard to give them a good value.
Look for AFO to continue to be honest and hard working, which is the key to success.
For more on American Fighting Organization. Visit their official website at www.afomma.com
By Mike: Jabberhead/Admin & SJ Combat Contributing Author