With an explosive Fight Card on the agenda, CENTURION FC is pulling out all the stops for their first event outside of Malta. Taking place on the 24th of August, the LEO Rudit tournament promises to bring the best of MMA to Belgrade. SIGMA News sits down with industry legend and founder of Centurion FC, Gallo Roberto.
You’re back and coming to Belgrade! In fact, the tournament will take place on the last day of the SiGMA Belgrade Summit. Can you share some of the highlights our delegates can expect?
Yes, Centurion FC is back, and just being able to say those words puts a big smile on my face! Belgrade will be our 2nd event in the New Era. We ran our comeback event at the National War Museum in Malta in July, and it was truly spectacular!
Centurion FC aims to fully showcase this amazing sport, from the spectacle of the fighters being escorted to the cage by our Roman Centurion Soldiers, to their passion, emotion and raw power in the ring.
Delegates have the opportunity to enjoy the event right next to the cage from our Executive tables, taking in the adrenaline and excitement while being served drinks of their choice by our table waiters.
For some lucky delegates, there will also be the opportunity to get their picture taken inside the cage with our fighters and our gorgeous ring girls.
There are some big names lined up – who’s leading the pack right now?
We have a great card lined up of 9 bouts with 18 fighters, including Vlastislav “El Chapo” Cepo, one name that all Balkan MMA fans will know. We also have Jovan Marjanovic, a local MMA hero who will defend his 6-2 record, and Nikolay Grozdey, an up-and-coming fighter who is sure to soon be in the top 10 in Europe.
Centurion FC has also embarked on a side project to sign up-and-coming fighters into our own Legion. We have signed 6 fighters already, and we are scouting around Europe for new entries. We will train our Legionnaires at their home gyms, and also at our new gym in Malta, and have great hopes for them at our forthcoming events.
What kind of purses are the fighters competing for?
The European MMA world historically offers a low rate of remuneration compared to the large US MMA events, and that is something that we want to change. At Centurion FC we want to bring our purses level with the largest of the US events within the next two years. As our events grow in size we will give an ever-larger share to our fighters, and will also continue to support them in terms of training, expenses and sponsorship, the last of which makes up a much larger percentage of a champion fighter’s income than the prize purse.
Who is your target audience? How has your audience changed over the last few years?
MMA as a spectator sport has traditionally been skewed towards the male 18-45 audience, though as a participation sport, it is very popular with the ladies.
Centurion FC aims to provide an “in-house” entertainment experience to be enjoyed by people of all genders, ages and social status.
On the online side we aim to increase our fan base of young males, and to also entice more female fans who can get behind the increasing number of professional women fighters and who personify the virtues of discipline and dedication to being the best at what they do.
What inspired you to use the Latin motto LEO RUDIT – it’s a pretty powerful message!
Centurion FC’s brand is rooted in the bygone era of the Roman Legionnaires, the most feared fighting force in the world at the time.
Each of our events aims to have a different sub theme and motto, and the motto for the Belgrade event, LEO RUDIT, which roughly translates as “The Lion Roars Again” is a good fit for our second event in the New Era.
As the saying goes, when two worlds collide a better one is formed. Both the MMA and iGaming are giants in their corners – what can we expect from such an exciting partnership?
Centurion FC sees the mix of MMA and iGaming as the perfect fusion, as both industries are extremely complementary to each other. The iGaming industry is one of the most technologically advanced, and the fact that Malta, where Centurion FC is based, is a global iGaming hub, enabled us to easily identify the ideal partners.
We are currently working on various projects to bring MMA to the iGaming masses, including partnering with companies specializing in Fantasy Sports, Sports Betting, Esports and other peripheral technology companies.
Within the company we now have in our hand over 35 years of experience in MMA and more than 30 years experience in iGaming, so the new world being formed is going to be out of this world!
How will Centurion FC help bring the world of MMA to European sports betting?
Centurion FC is currently in late-stage discussions with both betting feed providers and sportsbook operators with a view to enabling betting in various jurisdictions in time for the event due to be held at SIGMA in November.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in Malta this November – what can you tell us about this event?
Yes, we have hired the arena in the Intercontinental Hotel, which was the largest venue we could find during Malta Week! We are working on a Top Card with some of the biggest names in the MMA industry – Watch the Centurion and SiGMA websites for updates nearer the time.
How has Twitch changed the relationship MMA has with their audience? Has it helped their champions connect with a wider fan base?
The July event was the first time we have worked this way with Twitch, in partnership with our supporters from Platin Casino. Despite a couple of minor technical problems with the feed being cut off for a few minutes (as Twitch thought it was a stolen feed!), we are extremely pleased with how it performed. We have big expectations for Twitch and other streaming platforms, as it enables us to reach a wider MMA & iGaming fan base.
MMA-style tournaments are rising in popularity – what has made them a first choice for bettors?
MMA is the fastest growing sport around, and subsequently is getting more attention on the betting side. The ability to be able to bet in-fight on fast paced events requires new technology, and Centurion FC is in active discussions with several partners on how to enable that, from real time AI analysis of the live fight to enable capture of event points, to a new Centurion App that allows for various types of wager to be placed, including Fantasy, Pool, Live and Pre-Match betting.
The past few years have been a challenging time for sports, was Centurion FC affected?
The pandemic was a very tough time for a Centurion FC, as the various lockdowns meant that we couldn’t even train for much of the time, let alone run tournaments to allow fighters to compete in the arena. Obviously if we aren’t running events, we aren’t making money, and nor were our fighters, so many of them struggled financially. In addition, when an MMA fighter cannot train and compete, it can begin to weigh on them mentally too.
However, we are forward looking people, and so we don’t want to dwell on past hardships and instead prefer to look to the New Era!
You’ve had a long career in the mixed martial arts sector – how have the values and discipline this sport teaches helped you navigate your way to success?
I have been involved in this world for the past 25 years, as a fighter, trainer, and promoter. I always say MMA is much more than just the physical fight, it is a constant mental challenge, with only a relatively small physical part.
In MMA, to get a win in the cage you need two things – firstly dedication and resilience, and secondly a good team behind you. It is the same in business! I have always had the former, but now I have the second part too – Centurion FC has the strongest team that we can possibly have, and we are going to do great things!
Looking at 2023 and beyond, what’s in the pipeline for Centurion FC?
We are running 9 events in the next 12 months, including one at each SIGMA show.
Our stable of fighters will continue to grow, along with the ability to allow their fans to follow them on various forms of media, and we will also be looking to challenge fighters from other well known tournaments.
We will be announcing new partners and technology on a steady basis as each sub project comes to fruition – you can expect to see Centurion FC on sportsbooks, Fantasy Sports platforms, eSports games, TV channels and the Metaverse before the end of 2023!
Join us in Belgrade, Serbia from the 22-25th August:
Renowned for its beautiful scenery and rich culture, the Balkans have been sought after by entrepreneurs with an eye on the growing iGaming ecosystem calling the region home. As the home to the global gaming community, the SiGMA Conference is known far and wide for its enlightening panels, inspiring speeches, ample opportunities to invest and network, and the ability to do it all while having the time of your life. Join us in Belgrade for the best the industry has to offer and for a window into the future of worldwide gambling. To learn more about sponsorship and speaking opportunities or to inquire about attending the event, please contact Sophie at [email protected].