Showtime! ‘Tough Guys’ Tops Charts
Riding the Wave of the Showtime Documentary, ‘Tough Guys’ is a Hit.
By Clem Williams|
It was a perfect storm of mixed martial madness the past few months for Bill Viola Jr. Kumite Classic Entertainment published and released his book Tough Guys on September 15th 2017. The Amazon exclusive dropped simultaneously as the film “Tough Guys” made its network television debut on Showtime. Viola fancies himself as a serial entrepreneur, so its fitting that he not only co-authored of the book that inspired the movie, but he also served as consultant, associate producer, and even actor for the film. Timing is everything, and one month later on October 16th 2017, Viola’s book topped the Amazon charts as the #1 best seller in the sports category. We asked him what it took to earn best-seller status.
*Except used by Permission from Tough Guys:
Shortly after the exclusive preview run of Godfathers of MMA, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Robert Zullo stumbled upon the Tough Guys exhibit featured at the Heinz History center. Zullo explains, “I couldn’t believe I’d never heard about this story. I was enamored with the time, place and machismo of the whole thing. I just had a gut instinct to meet these guys.” Zullo reached out to his brother Will and childhood friend Craig DiBiase a producer [MinusL] and Director Henry Roosevelt from New York City. Two years later after 54TB of filming, the Tough Guys Doc was born. Initial praise attracted a star studded lineup of executive producers including Academy Award® Nominated Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) and Oscar® winning writer Ross Kaufmann (Born in Brothels). The world premiere of Tough Guys took place at the American Film Institute (AFI) Docs on June 15th 2017 at the famous Landmark Theatre in Washington, DC. It was screened the day after the mega Mayweather / McGregor announcement. The film sold out. One month later, Showtime bought the rights to broadcast Tough Guys. The purchase came amidst promotions of the “Money Fight,” the biggest PPV event in sports history; a story line Bill and Frank have been cultivating since 1979. Tough Guys will make its network debut September 15, 2017.
Viola Jr. explains, “It was a calculated maneuver. The original release my book was titled Godfathers of MMA back in 2014. It was a labor of love since I was documenting my father’s journey as the co-creator of a new sport–MMA. The book received critical acclaim and has become the ‘master text’ so to speak of mixed marital arts during that golden era [1979-1983]. Once Tough Guys got picked up by Showtime, I began working on bonus material and planned to ride the wave of Mayweather/McGregor fight. The allure of the May-Mac “contest” was built around a barrage of trash talking, media hype and a tough guy’s ‘puncher’s chance’. It was perfect stage for my work. Although Godfathers of MMA has already been written and published, I wanted this to be a commemorative edition to match the film. The book and the film documents exclusive untold stories of a completely forgotten time and place where the sport was created.”
*Except used by Permission from Tough Guys:
June 14th 2017: The climate has changed since the original release of Godfathers of MMA (2014) but the boxing / MMA dynamic has never been more prevalent. In 2016 the Feritta brother’s cashed out of the MMA game to the tune of an unprecedented $4 billion (with a “B”), passing the torch to WME-IMG. New ownership began cleaning house; trimming the fat by eliminating legacy positions and ousting everyone from commentators to matchmakers; but two things remained constant: 1. Dana White (who inked a 5-year deal) and 2. The haves and haves-not (underpaid fighters). As experts label the gap as exploitation; athletes have been forced to think outside the box.
While UFC 3.0 was busy adjusting operations, their biggest asset was flirting with the “enemy.” Connor McGregor, the UFC’s poster boy, began courting pretty boy Floyd, taunting him to come out of retirement for some “fantasy” fisticuffs. The industry response: “This is a joke!” A year later and the one they call “Notorious” was able to broker the most lucrative fight in HISTORY weighing-in with more twitter jabs than boxing wins. Mayweather Promotions and the UFC tied the knot. In the image of Ali vs Inoki, Connor scored the ultimate prom date and the two most polarizing figures in combat sports are set to dance August 26th at MGM Grand.
McGregor stands to be the wealthiest “MMA” athlete in history (his cut estimated upwards of $100 million) from a boxing contest? I say “contest” because “it is what it is.” Floyd is one of the best P4P fighters of all-time, and Conor is a 0-0 novice in the professional squared circle. The Irishman (who at one point was collecting welfare checks) earned a paltry $16,000 in his UFC debut (April 2013). Although he currently leads the roster (disclosed pay of $3 million for UFC 202), it pales in comparison to comparable boxers. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Conor is a marketing juggernaut. Win or lose, he wins! If by some miracle he lands the Hail Mary “puncher’s chance,” he’s instantly immortal. If he loses, he was supposed to! Either way he bags the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that “he” hustled: A big “fook you” to all his haters.
The entire scenario takes us back to 1979 and the allure of the Tough Guy Contest. McGregor vs Mayweather isn’t about boxing per se, it’s a “what if” contest. Boxing fans are salivating to see Conor get his ass kicked, while some MMA junkies still believe in Lucky Charms. Connor is an “average Joe” in the world of pugilism and yet the age old question still has a billion dollar answer.
I’d be remiss not give CV Productions a preverbal pat on the back; they created a business model and market share in line with other professional franchises at the time. In 1980 the average NFL salary was $78,657 and the Tough Guy Champion was slated to take home 100K. With a nearly 14-year jump start on the UFC, it begs to ask the obvious; would such a gap and disparity between boxing and MMA exist today if the sport wasn’t outlawed? Chalk it up to another reoccurring, “what if?”
Tough Guys reveals the untold story of the sport of mixed martial arts and portrays the life of his father and his father’s business partner, Frank Caliguri. The book which he co-wrote with his cousin Dr. Fred Adams also promotes Pittsburgh as the birthplace of MMA, which is now a billion-dollar business.
“Back then, my dad literally mixed up all the martial arts and invented the ‘Tough Guy’ competition not to be confused with Toughman, which was purely boxing,” Viola Jr. said. “Last year the UFC sold for $4 billion dollars.”
According to Viola Jr., in 1979, his father and Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom bigmouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers and brawlers, billed as a no -holds-barred new type of competitive fighting. “When the fights succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, they were swept up in a chain of events that ended in the first mixed martial arts ban in the nation when the Senate passed the ‘Tough Guy Law’ in 1983.”
“Tough Guys” recounts the inception of Caliguri and Viola Sr.’s first bouts and the colorful, crazy cast of fighters who made them a hit, as well as the politicians who prohibited it. The film brings to life a moment when the national martial arts craze was building to a crescendo as the economies of Pennsylvania steel towns were plummeting to levels of unemployment never seen before or since, breeding desperate men looking for a chance to prove their worth and earn some money in the ring.
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For more information on Tough Guys (book)
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