Middleweight Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald returns to his roots Friday night when takes on Travis (The Serial Killer) Lutter in the main event of MFC 22 in Enoch, Alta. (HDNet, 10 p.m. ET).
MacDonald (21-12) helped Maximum Fighting Championship owner-president Mark Pavelich build the Alberta-based mixed martial arts organization from the ground up. The former Alberta corrections officer appeared in MFC 2 through 10 before making the jump to the UFC.
Ten fights and three years later, MacDonald is back. Three losses in his last four outings led to a pink slip from the UFC, just as Lutter (9-5) was let go. Both have something to prove and Pavelich is only too happy to give them a stage on which to do it.
"I believe I try to sign people that are mad," Pavelich said in an interview. "Like right now MacDonald's mad, Travis Lutter's very upset. I sign guys like that."
Pavelich's combination of hard work and disgruntled fighters has proved to be a recipe for success. Friday's show at the River Cree Resort and Casino in suburban Edmonton is Pavelich's 18th straight sellout. Tickets at the 2,250-capacity venue range from $75 to $600.
The card is being shown live on HDNet, which belongs to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Pavelich also has a deal to show archival material on The Fight Network.
Pavelich hooked up with Cuban the simplest possible way. He wrote him a letter.
"I'd never wrote a letter in my life, I wrote one to Mark Cuban . . . I saw that he was very passionate about basketball."
Pavelich also saw Cuban as a smart businessman.
"He's one of the best at it, to run professional sports operations. Not mixed martial arts, professional sports. And that's a really key point to what we need to do, we have to run it as a professional sports operation."
For his part, Cuban saw the future of MMA and wanted it on his network.
Pavelich wrote into their contact that Cuban had to come meet him. Cuban said no one had ever done that, but Pavelich wanted to pick his brain. MFC has already incorporated some of Cuban's ideas, decorating the hall with huge banners of fighters and offering fans season tickets to fights.
Pavelich also looked to learn from the UFC.
"UFC's so far ahead and they're such a powerhouse .... I'm never going to overtake them but I'm going to be the other choice."
"They're a very honest organization, contrary to a lot of people's talk. They are," he added. "(Matchmaker) Joe Silva is very ethical. He's a pleasant person to do business with for me. "
The UFC, brimming with fighters, continues to furnish MFC with talent. Pavelich just signed Brazilian middleweight Thales Leites, who was cut recently despite fighting for the title at UFC 97 in Montreal in April. Leites is expected to make his MFC debut in December.
Other former UFC fighters on Friday's card include Canadian John Alessio, Luigi Fioravanti, Marvin (The Beastman) Eastman, David Heath, Mike Nickels and Pete Spratt.
Pavelich, who puts on eight to nine shows a year, has some 80 fighters under contract. He divides them into A and B classes and his attitude towards moving from one to the other is pretty basic.
"Go out there and beat somebody that's an A-class, and now you become an A-class fighter."