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UFC matchmaker sends emphatic message to prospects hoping to get noticed and signed

UFC 207: Hyun Kim v Saffiedine Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

From Joe Silva to Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard, UFC matchmakers are notoriously tight-lipped — and essentially forbidden — from speaking out publicly about their work behind the scenes.

But a new video from TKO Group Holdings — the merged company between UFC and WWE — posted a brief clip on Wednesday with Maynard discussing what he’s looking for when scouting potential prospects. Maynard’s job beyond matching fights across several divisions (he splits those duties with Shelby), involves identifying up-and-coming fighters who are worth signing to UFC, The Ultimate Fighter, and the promotion’s Contender Series.

While there’s no exact checklist on what a fighter needs to achieve to get noticed, Maynard — whose actual title is UFC vice president of talent relations — lays out a pretty clear roadmap, one which includes an impressive résumé with plenty of knockouts or submissions.

“There’s so many aspects that Sean [Shelby] and I really concentrate on,” Maynard said. “Obviously, you’ve got to look at the record. You have to look at, are they finishing fights?

“Quite frankly, if they’re not finishing fights on the regional level, they’re not going to come into the biggest league in the world and finish people. That’s important.”

In addition to scouting fighters on regional shows across the globe, UFC has also started cultivating prospects locally after building Performance Institutes in China and Mexico.

The UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas has served as the gold standard for training, preparation, recovery, and rehabilitation ever since the facility first opened, and now the promotion is looking to duplicate and grow that success internationally.

“Even if you look at the level of talent now, I believe, from eight years ago, obviously the sport continues to evolve, we have the Performance Institute here in Vegas, one in Shanghai, China, just opened one on Mexico,” Maynard said.

“What it does for the region is unreal. I was just at the one in Mexico City and there was a lot of people trying out for the opportunity to get a scholarship from the Performance Institute.”

According to Maynard, the UFC scholarship sounds similar to what a student might receive attending college.

Fighters are provided with food, housing, and training in hopes that at least some of them eventually earn a spot on the UFC roster.

“They get a scholarship, they’re fed, they’re housed, they have world-class coaching, they have world-class physical therapy, world-class facilities,” Maynard said. “So after seeing the growth, especially in Mexico City, to be off the charts — obviously when you look for talent with us, we want them to be the best fighters in the world.”

For all the ways an athlete’s record and finishing rate matters to UFC matchmakers, Maynard admits there are still those rare instances when they really discover a diamond in the rough.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, UFC loves to pounce on those opportunities.

“Every now and again, you’ll get a Conor McGregor who has his personality that’s off the charts and you have a whole new animal,” Maynard said. “A superstar. All of those things combined, we take into account.”

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