John Prisco, the well-known Tampa-area mixed martial arts promoter who launched the highly-successful XFC, will make his return to the scene tomorrow through the highly-anticipated V3Fights 61 at the Tampa Convention Center.
V3Fights, a Memphis-based MMA promotion and Alliance MMA Inc. company, will be making its first appearance in the Florida market and Prisco is confident that local combat sports fans are in for a true spectacle.
“I’m excited about being the Alliance and I like what they’re doing,” Prisco said. “I like the people that are involved so I’m happy to be a part of it and I think we can all grow together.”
Back in 2006, Prisco made his presence known when he secured a deal for a massive XFC show – drawing around 13,000 fans in attendance – at the stadium now known as Amalie Arena, the largest venue in the area and home to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. After four or five events, Prisco was able to land a television deal which went on to include more than 30 live shows on the network that would become AXS TV, owned by Mark Cuban.
During his tenure with the XFC, Prisco was heralded for his ability to identify talent.
“We wound up sending a lot of our roster on to the UFC,” Prisco said. “The [Tampa] fans were able to benefit from those exciting fights so it worked out well.”
One of Prisco’s fondest memories from his tenure with XFC was discovering and later witnessing the blossoming of Nick “Notorious” Newell (13-1), who many MMA fanatics will recognize as the fighter with a partially-missing limb.
Newell and his best friend Abi Mestre attended an XFC tryout, where they both faired well.
“Nick placed in the top 10 but to be honest with you, I was leery about promoting Nick,” Prisco said. “I wasn’t sure about putting this guy on TV. He was missing half his arm and I didn’t want to be seen as a promoter who was exploiting him.”
Mestre ended up winning the tryout and was scheduled to fight in the promotion’s next show. One night after training wrapped up, Mestre left the gym to head home but unfortunately never made it. Along the way, he lost control of his motorcycle and perished when he collided with a tree.
“He was such a nice kid and I didn’t know what I should do,” Prisco said. “I decided to ask Nick to fight in his place because he had almost won the contract anyway. Nick was conflicted at first. He ended up signing the contract at Abi’s grave.”
Newell went on to win that event and many more down the line including a Lightweight title bout over Eric “It’s A Wrap” Reynolds in XFC 21.
“He wound up choking Eric out and winning the belt,” Prisco said. “You can find that clip online. I mean, it was tremendous."
“There’s actually going to be a major motion picture released in [December] 2017 called Notorious Nick, which will tell the Nick Newell story.”
Prisco had suggested Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise to play his part. We were not able to reach the production company for comment.
Prisco notes his family history of managing boxers as his true inspiration for getting involved in MMA.
“My uncle used to take me to his gym in Jersey City on the weekends when I was young so I always had that love of being around athletes especially in combat sports,” Prisco said. “I’ve owned a nightclub in the past so I’ve always been good on the promotion side.”
Promoting events including sports has always been challenging in the state of Florida as people like Prisco are also competing with an array of recreational activity including miles of beautiful and enticing coastlines. He attributes his ability to break the barrier on the over-saturation of leisure activities by providing a solid product.
“I always knew I had a good fight because I was the matchmaker as well,” Prisco said. “I was not just the promoter and to be honest with you it was the matchmaking part that I enjoyed most. I would put two guys together and I wouldn’t know who was going to win. That’s when I knew I had a good fight. That was my criteria.”
When the XFC was offered a contract in Brazil, Prisco decided to pass on the opportunity due his belief that the U.S. market overwhelmingly dominates the sports landscape and in order to reach the pinnacle, leagues and promotions “have to make it” here at home.
Enter Alliance MMA Inc. and their promotion V3Fights. Prisco believes he has found the opportunity that with ignite his second act. And for MMA fans lucky enough to be in the Tampa region tomorrow, the original local matchmaker himself has put together an exciting card.
“I wanted to bring back some of the fighters that I worked with at XFC because there’s a comfort level and I know how they perform,” Prisco said. “Eric Reynolds was the first fighter that I thought of because he had been a main event with XFC probably five or six times. Then, I had this other kid locally who I was very impressed with. That’s Billy Quarantillo.”
Tomorrow’s main event will feature Billy Quarantillo (9-2) and Eric “It’s A Wrap” Reynolds (17-9).
“Billy was on The Ultimate Fighter at one time and he's very popular locally,” Prisco said. “They happen to be in the same weight class and I said, ‘this could be like the old guard versus the new guard,’ so I knew I had a solid main event.”
But Prisco is equally confident that the matches leading up will produce a whirlwind of entertainment.
“A lot of the fighters on the card are guys that are prospects and top prospects in our sport,” Prisco said. “I wouldn’t be shocked if many of them do move on to UFC and I can tell you that one of them who’s in the main event was actually approached only two nights ago by UFC to be on The Contender Series. I was blown away by the fact that he said he would have to pass because he’s obligated to fight for V3. It just tells you a little bit of the character and size of the card.”
WHAT: V3Fights 61: Quarantillo vs. Reynolds
WHEN: Saturday August 19, 2017 | 3:00 pm doors open (for amateur fights | 7 pm pro fights start
WHERE: Tampa Convention Center | 3335 Franklin St | Tampa FL
ADMISSION: $35 general admission | $55 reserved seating | $85 cageside seating