Before donning his fight promoter hat, Scott Kent toiled for years as a security mastermind for big league casinos in Las Vegas. It was there, as a casino executive for Steve Wynn and later Mandalay Resorts Group, that the Montana-born “Eye In The Sky” practiced staying a step or two ahead of troublemakers and was tasked with – if not taming the wildness that goes on behind the scenes in America’s most indulgent city – then at least managing it and trying to prevent a real-life Ocean’s 11 heist from unfolding.
Talking to Kent, a burly figure who favors jeans, designer cowboy boots and hip wrist bracelets, you realize he must possess a keen insight into human nature and what people might do when they think no one is watching or when chemicals have erased their inhibitions. He probably learned a lot of things about a lot of celebrities during his casino days, but Kent’s code of confidentiality means he won’t talk openly about such things. In his mind, those things are nobody’s business. When it comes to his current business, however, the CEO and founder of Lion Fight Promotions is happy to share why he believes his 4-year-old enterprise is destined for big things globally.
Amid planning his 19th show, Kent recently sat down with me to discuss how his casino background shaped his business and management style, and offered his vision for spreading the Lion Fight gospel internationally. Here is Scott Kent, the Lion Behind Lion Fight:
FC: Scott, you have a background as a security executive at major casinos. How has that background influenced the way you run Lion Fight?
Kent: I was the director of risk management for Mandalay Resorts and I worked for Steve Wynn for five years prior to that. So I was constantly dealing with assessing human behavior and how to handle situations and emergency situations. One of the things that experience gave me was understanding how casinos work and how to approach them for a venue or regarding the marketing for events, and a lot of details surrounding putting on an event.
And in Vegas, a lot of it of course is who you know, so that helps.
FC: You could have picked any combat sport to promote – there are a smorgasbord of them to choose from, in fact. Why did you choose to promote Muay Thai?
Kent: Well, I started training kickboxing in the early 1990s and I progressed into Muay Thai. I went to train with some of the best in Thailand, so that gave a deeper appreciation not only for the sport of Mua Thai but for the country’s culture as well. Muay Thai isn’t just a sport there – it’s their national sport and it’s a lifestyle. There is a lot of reverence and respect wrapped into Muay Thai and a lot of other sports lack that. So as I got older Muay Thai really effected me because everybody I dealt with was so respectful and I loved the sport. So I’m honored to take the national sport of Thailand and offer it to our audience in the United States.
FC: Let’s talk about the values inherit to Muay Thai. Thailand is said to be roughly 95 percent Buddhist and so a lot of Buddhist principles are tied to the sport.
Kent: Well, there are a lot of ceremonies that many fighters do before a fight where they are showing respect to their trainers, other fighters, and all of the fighters that have come before them (in history). So there is an inherent respect that is displayed in Muay Thai that you really don’t see much in other combat sports or sports, and a lot of people seem to gravitate toward the sport because of that.
FC: Smack talk is much more common in MMA but relatively rare in Muay Thai. As a fight promoter do you ever wish there was more smack talk in Muay Thai to help sell fights?
Kent: (Laughs). You mean like two fighters pushing and falling off the stage during a press conference at MGM? That obviously affects ticket sales but it’s not really in the make-up … it’s a lot less likely to happen in Muay Thai. You just don’t see those kinds of venemous expressions
FC: What are the defining memories you have about growing up in Montana and how did your upbringing there mold you as a man?
Kent: I grew up in a small town not too far from Helena, Montana. I grew up watching boxing on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and so I’ve always been drawn to fighting. I also played football and so I’ve always been involved in athletics.
My 6th grade teacher was a great mentor because he didn’t make us study, we just went fishing (laughs).
I always admired Winston Churchill because he was faced with so much adversity and lifted his country up during the war. I love when he said, ‘It’s OK to have enemies. If you don’t then you’ve never really stood for anything.’
So you need that kind of confidence in yourself. Not everybody is going to love what you do and there will be controversies and things like. But you must have supreme confidence and believe in what you’re doing and that’s what I find inspiring about Winston Churchill.
FC: How many Lion Fight events are scheduled for 2015?
Kent: We’re looking at hosting 10-12 events next year. We founded our company during one of the worst economic situations since The Great Depression, so we started out very lean, which I believe has been a tremendous advantage for us. Because a lot of fight promotions fail because they come out and burn through a lot of money. We’ve been very disciplined (fiscally) in how we’ve approached it. We wanted to establish Las Vegas as our home (for events) and then branch out. So we’ve done shows at Foxwoods Resort (in Connecticut) and now we’re looking at venues in California as well.
FC: Who is your favorite fighter to watch and why?
Kent: I have so many favorites. I love everything about Kevin Ross. I love watching Yodsanklai and Tiffany Van Soest fight, too. We’ve been very fortunate to attract some of the best fighters in the world and that has brought legitimacy to Lion Fight.