Road FC: An Inside Look At Their Failed Openweight Grand Prix

In May, 2018, Road FC had the opening round of their Openweight Grand Prix. At that time, Grand Prix’s were a thing of the past in MMA and the excitement for a throwback was tangible. The first night went brilliantly, and out of the five scheduled fights, none of them went the distance. The world of MMA couldn’t wait for the next installment and it looked as though Road FC would make a name for themselves putting on such a tournament.

Included in the winners that night and as a result headed to the semi finals was British Heavyweight legend, Oli Thompson. Thompson had signed for Road FC after reaching an agreement with FNG.

“I had signed a deal with FNG in late 2017 for a fight in Brazil in early 2018 and a 3 fight deal for great money and potential for huge fights. They asked me to take my debut at 205, a big cut, but I like the extra challenge,” said Thompson.

Road had been in touch soon after and I had told them I wasn’t available as I was in an exclusive deal with FNG. As the fight got closer, there were a few delays and my weight cut had been so tough that my body was suffering a lot. After the 2nd or 3rd delay I decided I would ask for my release and speak to Road about the Openweight GP that they had announced. I had heard that Le Banner had to pull out injured.” Thomspon continued. 

Although Thompson had a great contract with FNG, he decided that the opportunity for the chance to win a tournament with a big money prize was too good to pass up.

“We made the deal with Road FC for a lot less money. However, the Openweight Grand Prix had a big prize for the winner at the end. I was told it would take place over a max of one year.”

A former strongman champion, Thompson was one of Road FC’s big signings coming into the tournament, particularly at such a late stage. Other winners that night included MMA legend Gilbert Yvel, Chris Barnett, and Aorigele. Every fighter in the tournament was a character and every fighter was the type to look for a finish.

With the semi finalists in place, fans couldn’t wait to see the next installment. However, things started to fall apart “as weeks, then months passed and there was no contact from Road. Only contact myself or my manager made to them. Eventually, we were told that the semi final and final would be on one night and likely to be in September or October, so I kept my diary free even though I was allowed to fight elsewhere. I wanted the big prize.”

September rolled around quickly and there was no word from Road FC. Thompson explains that “as September drew closer, no announcement was made and again after my manager and myself got in touch, Road confirmed that the grand prix was not going to happen yet. This was apparently because a sponsor had not paid them.”

Thompson wasn’t concerned with their sponsors and was starting to see Road in a different light and said emphatically: “I’m still unsure why this is the fighters problem? Surely the commitment was from Road FC? How they fund it is their issue.”

It appeared the writing was on the wall already for the Grand Prix. Thompson though was still holding out hope the Grand Prix would continue and if not, still have a fight set up for him with the promotion “So 2018 became 2019..but I still reach out to road once in a while. Road still say the Grand Prix has some problems, and if they continued, that they will give me a fight as contracted anyway”.

“Obviously I know this Grand Prix isn’t happening” Thompson continued. “It was strange as they made no announcements to anyone or the media about the Grand Prix and seemed happy to keep us with a little hope so we would not speak about it!”

With months of no contact, Thompson tried to reach out one more time.

“Only as we approached mid-2019 did I go to them again, and finally he had the courage to tell me the Grand Prix was off and that they would resume being a local Asian show without foreign fighters.”

It took over a year to let the fighters know that the tournament wouldn’t be happening as Thompson explains. “They hoped no-one would care to talk about the failure so long after.” Worse yet, it appears they also reneged on their offer of a fight with themselves regardless of the Grand Prix, previously stating there wouldn’t be foreign fighters.

To add insult to injury, Thompson was once again lied to by the promotion. “I saw my friend Chris from the Grand Prix was matched up on Road, not only was he a Grand Prix entrant but obviously not a local fighter.” Thompson continued. “I am pleased to see him get the fights of course, but its clear that they use small amateur behaviour and communication in order to hide embarrassment and avoid people talking about the mess.”

Why would Road FC do this though?

“In my opinion they want it to disappear but not lose any credibility from it. They have made no statements at all to explain, I only know through chasing them many times, and they kept me quiet for as long as they could by promising they would arrange another fight that never came to be,” said Thompson.

Now that the dust has settled, Thompson holds no grudges, but he did learn a huge lesson. “It’s just sloppy work from a small company and it’s good for people to know the truth. I’m not trying to really help anyone, just making it clear how people act and also good to let people know that occasionally message me asking when the finals are, seeing as Road won’t tell the fans anything. I’m not even really thinking about them anymore, I have some good and bigger better things in the pipeline, but I did waste a lot of time waiting for them, as I should have won that Grand Prix.”

Thompson clearly wanted to win the tournament and put himself in the upper echelons of MMA history with fellow Grand Prix winners such as Mirko Cro Cop, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, and Fedor Emelianenko. He was denied this opportunity as well as the shot at a big money prize.

For promoters in this era, this behaviour is quite frankly despicable. MMA fighters put their health, livelihood, and lives on the line each time they fight. The business side should take care of them and not the other way around.

If you want to see Thompson fight soon, you don’t have to wait much longer. Thompson has stepped up on two days notice to fight Ante Delija at KSW 51 in Croatia this Saturday night. Best of skill to Oli.

Written by Sam Vickery
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Interview

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