Normally if you dilute something or split it up, it becomes weaker and less concentrated. However, not Aaron Chatfield, known by some as a coach, ring announcer, commentator and as an official, performing each role with dedication and professionalism.
Like many, Aaron was influenced with the martial arts films of the 1980’s and inspired by the trials and tribulations of perennial Karate Kid loser, Daniel Larusso. Chatfield started training in Shuko-Kai Karate but he lost interest after earning himself a green belt and moved onto the world of freestyle BMX riding. Despite dabbling in other martial arts, nothing stuck until Aaron found boxing and Thai boxing in 1990. After 8 years of Thai and receiving the red grade standard together with being awarded the instructors grade by the British Thai Boxing Council, refereeing, judging and teaching the martial art himself, Aaron again started searching for something new to inspire his interests in combat sports.
(C) Sean Keating, P4P PhotosAn old VHS tape in 1993 introduced Aaron to the Ultimate Fighting Championship and after a little online research he had discovered that the sport existed within the UK. Using the old SFUK forum, Aaron came across the Defence Unlimited facility in Marple, Cheshire, spending 6 months of his time training before arriving at Team Colosseum in Leigh where he has been ever since. Aaron fought professional MMA several times around 2003 but by that time he had turned 33, already feeling that his competition days were behind him.
Just like most combat sports it's a young mans game! Another dynamic was time. I have a pretty good day job, which needs a lot of focus.
I just couldn't train as a pro fighter and continue my career. I maybe stopped a little early, could have got another couple of years out of it. Probably wouldn't have achieved much more than a few wins and loses though!
Prior to Aaron’s arrival, Team Colosseum had been operating for many years before Chatfield was involved within MMA. Founded by Danny Rushton and Danny Wallace, who were both accomplished Karate Black belts; it was Rushton’s aspirations to fight within MMA that led to the creation of the team. Back in 1994 there were few MMA gyms: London Shoot, Andy Jardine’s Ronin, Lee Hasdell's gym and Ian Freeman’s. Essentially, Team Colosseum gave the two a focus for learning the sport, whether that was from books, seminars or videos; it quickly became a vehicle for Rushton to fight.
Rushton then went onto win European and British belts and likewise, Paul Ramsdale was a champion while at Team Colosseum, but probably the most prolific fighter was Matt Thorpe. Thorpe fought Dan Hardy, late 2005 loosing a five round split decision for the Cage Warriors title.
Still a fight I think Matt won, but there's no bad blood or anything. Dan has achieved so much and I still consider him a friend… plus he has a great taste in American muscle cars! Matt also fought in M1 and on Bodog in Russia, but ultimately he didn't get to the level he had the potential to reach.
Aaron naturally gravitated towards coaching due to his certification and experience within Thai boxing and therefore found himself delivering the techniques and skills of the eight limbs to mixed martial arts students.
I've always been a student of the sport, watching a lot of DVDs and reading a lot of books. I have a fairly analytical approach to it, so I have always been able to learn new techniques quickly, which means I always had new stuff to teach. I guess I just evolved in to a coach... it was never planned!
To support Danny Rushton, Chatfield now helps with the logistics of Team Colosseum and shares the head coaches vision that has ultimately led to many successes, the most current being that of Saul Rogers (4-0). When Saul first started within the sport Aaron had the obvious edge on him but in just 3 years they have turned Rogers into an undefeated MMA athlete across all 14 amateur and professional bouts. Moreover, the Team has supported Saul in his four title wins within that time and is a prospect that will hopefully be Team Colosseum’s first UFC fighter.
People probably think he is talented, but that’s not the full story. The guy trains his ass off. He is in the gym 3 times a day; he eats right, trains right, listens to game plans and everything. He is achieving great things because he works for them. I hope he does get that UFC shot one day; he deserves it.
However, the logistics of dealing with fighters and promotions is more work than people realise. For Aaron it’s a constant grind of managing people through swapping emails, texts, messages, calls and even smoke signals with MMA promoters everyday. Build into that schedule: a normal working life, coaching, training, family and hobbies, it can be a strain, especially for someone with Chatfield’s high standards. Both Aaron and Team Colosseum pride themselves when working with their athletes, wanting the challenges and match ups that best test their fighters.
Matchmaking can be hard. Team Colosseum don't want easy fights, we don't want padded records, so it's finding the good matches that are around a 50/50. That's how fights should be 50/50 and then it comes down to the guy who can put it together on the night. Anyway, I get offered some stupid fights; either overmatching guys or even worse for me, offering us bums and cans. No thanks. There are also the last minute changes, which present problems. We've had fights we weren't happy with, simply because of a last minute drop out
As a coach, Aaron is a strong believer in learning the craft of MMA and ensuring that any new students understand that their first fight is a long way off. Through beginners sessions, the focus is on base fitness and basic techniques, with most people spending 6-12 months at that stage before moving up. Participants can also supplement their training with Thai classes with Arron and Ste Hazeldine or with wrestling as coached by former Team GB wrestler, Scott Gregory. Advancing to the next class can be quite a shock with the fitness requirements being so tough and Team Colosseum has a strength and conditioning warm up lasting 30-40 minutes that can crush the fittest of participants.
Deliberately known as a gym with solid wrestling and a strong top game, the coaches at Team Colosseum aim for their fighters to have good stand up, taking opponents down and punishing them; highlighting the team ethic which is to be on top. Chatfield and the coaches’ search for those with potential, suggesting that they might want to consider fighting and for those that do, Team Colosseum push training up another notch.
All our guys start in amateur, no exceptions. We fight under Unified Amateur style rules (we've had other rules in the past, but only cause getting unified rules has been tough) and we make all out guys have AT LEAST 10 fights. We want them to learn their trade, experience all they can, at amateur. So they are really ready when it comes to pro. The amateur career needs highs and los, decisions, KOs and submissions, upsets and bad decisions. You need to experience what the sport offers; so none of it is a surprise when you are getting paid to fight in the pros.
As a pro fighter, I expect the fighter to be able to train to a minimum standard and be open to have his fitness assessed at any time, achieving an acceptable standard. We match our fights carefully in pro, develop specific game plans to beat opponents, with a focus on progressing our pro fighters careers. For us, pro is a time to get serious!
Apart from what happens today at the gym and reflecting on some earlier highlights, Aarons time with Matt Thorpe are some of the most prominent, ranging from when they first started trained together at Defence Unlimited to when they made the transition to Team Colosseum.
Together we travelled the world as coach and fighter, Japan, USA, Holland, Russia, Sweden... awesome times. I miss them a lot. Matt's got his own team now, 12 Gauge MMA, so I don't see him as often, but he's still a good friend. Actually if he reads this, I'd just like to say thanks for the great times.
(C) Sean Keating, P4P PhotosOutside of the gym, people will be more aware of Aaron as a ring announcer, introducing the action for UK MMA promotions across the breadth of the country; representing himself and the sport with the upmost of professionalism. Everything started for Aaron as an MC a few years ago, while he was trying to experience the different roles that MMA had to offer. Despite his Thai boxing background, refereeing within MMA did not settle with him but he did enjoy the judging aspect the sport; analysing the bouts and considering the technical aspects of the judging criteria. Promoting a few small shows with a friend actually led Aaron to the opportunity to MC for the first time. After landing the occasional commentary role, it was ring announcement that seemed to secure itself more for Chatfield, with everything growing from there and leading to where he is now working several shows a month as an MC.
Much has changed since the first time that Aaron stood with a microphone in the octagon. Today he prepares by arriving several hours before; spending time with the promoter and fighters, obtaining details and using his personalised announcement cards to keep everything consistent.
I love it, I really do. It's hard though. Sound easy, but it can be murder on your throat, hot work under the lights in a suit and the pressure is quite high. It’s easy to fuck up a name or weight or something. Some of the fighters are funny to. I try to see every fighter before the show, to get his details exactly as he wants and learn the pronunciation of his name, etc. Some fighters don't bother to give me their time, but they are the first to complain when I get their team name wrong or miss their nickname off.
Being an MC keeps Aaron right in the thick of MMA, allowing him to see some awesome fighters, great bouts and meeting a lot of excellent people along the way. Although, as with everything there is always a downside to things and for an MC, that’s information. When things change and Aaron is not up to date or when he gets duff information, he's the man standing in the middle of the cage with a microphone taking the brunt of it. However, as Aaron says, that’s pretty rare today and with the level of experience that he has it does allow him to bring things back on track effortlessly.
It's great as well, as I work with some really good guys. Like a little family, Brad Conway and Dan Mellors at Combat Officials, Ian, Andy and Simon Butlin at MMA Consultancy, Darren Sherlock at Combat Cams and the rest of the guys. Can't forget the main guy, Marc Goddard. I've known him since we fought on the Ultimate Combat show and we always have lively discussions. He's a good friend and I owe him a lot. He has shown great faith in me and I hope I can return that faith in the future
Wanting to move away from the dinner suit look of boxing shows, Aaron took inspiration from the Hitman games for his own MC attire.
White shirt, red tie, bald head... Agent 47!! So yes, the look is based on that. I even wear a tie grip to finish it off. I guess it's important to have a brand or an image. Look at Bret Freeman, sparkly jackets and Jeffery West Boots are his thing, he is recognised for it. I just thought I wanted to have a recognisable image
For those that don’t already know, Aaron is also known as red mist; a nickname given to him due to his temper but one that cools as quickly as it enrages. With all of the hard work, effort and time that he puts into MMA, all of his roles and building the reputation of himself and Team Colosseum, it can be very disheartening when others use those names within the sport.
The only Red Mist issue I've had is with that Joker in Sheffield who started a clothing brand and a show. Lots of people pointed out that the name was kind of taken (I don't have it registered though, so I rely on good common sense and morals to keep hold of it!), so he called me. Instead of dropping the name, he offered me the MCing job on his show. I guess that would have given the name credibility. I turned the show down (see... standards!). I think he ripped a few people off and he has gone... good job, people didn't think it was me.
The Colosseum one comes up all the time. It doesn't surprise me that people come up with that name for their MMA venture, but seriously, type "Colosseum" and "MMA" into Google.... not hard to see the name is being used. We've used it in this sport since 1994... since before the sport was even called MMA! Usually when it happens, I just contact the people and ask nicely if they would reconsider. That usually works, for example the promoter of Dome MMA in Liverpool, was originally Colosseum MMA. He was happy to change it to avoid confusion. The same approach didn't work with Colosseum in Wales, they opted to ignore my request and pressed on with the show. They then didn't pay a chunk of people and there were a number of people who thought we were behind the show. That's the confusion we want to avoid. We've been in this sport since day 1, at least respect that history
Aaron’s attention to detail and absolute dedication to doing things by the book led to providing a pivotal moment for Aaron’s judging career. In June 2012, he was invited to be an official for UFC 147 in Brazil but it was a journey that was built on the right foundations. Correctly, Chatfield started by shadow judging at events that eventually gave Chatfield the experience to be able to be paid and recognised for his work. Furthermore, Aaron watches each UFC bout on TV as if he were judging; applying the criteria and discussing it as needed.
It's something that often gets questioned or discussed, it always will. That's good, debate over these things is important so that it evolves. But it needs to be an educated and positive debate, not just singling out a judge and throwing insults, how would that improve the judging?!? I've had many conversations with fighters, coaches, fans and peers. I usually start by asking them if they understanding the judging criteria, surprising how many don't! How can someone coach or fight in MMA and not understand what criteria is being used to judge the winners, that's plain stupid! There will always be mistakes by officials, everyone is just human and it will happen. All we can do is continue to discuss, study and learn to lessen those mistakes.
(C) Sean Keating, P4P PhotosWith many UK MMA shows, the need for good officials is paramount now more than ever and for Aaron the key to the job is to distance yourself from the moment. A judge does not watch a fight and takes no enjoyment from it; they have to judge it, separating the experience from emotions and focusing solely on applying the criteria. Learning the rules, taking the time to judge sparring sessions, shadow judging and working with the right people within the industry is how Aaron now recommends getting into judging MMA for those who ask. However, the pressure is tremendous and rightly so.
Seriously, you are in charge of a guy’s career. If you fuck up badly, the wrong guy could win. That's big! Now one of the reasons you have three judges is because mistakes happen and hopefully the two other judges haven't made an error and the right guy wins. That's the most important thing that the right guy wins. The points aren't as important, provided the right guy wins. At the UFC level, the pressure is much much higher. Your performance is assessed and post show; Marc gives feedback to all the officials. At this time, you need to explain how you came to your decision and if it wasn't the right decision, then that is made clear to you. That's a good process. UK shows could learn from this, feedback post even for all the officials, give the team a chance to see where they did well and not so well and give them an opportunity to learn. That kind of process will improve individuals’ capabilities.
When Aaron got the call concerning UFC 147, he was fairly speechless and as you can imagine things didn’t sink in for a while. He then had to be interviewed, providing his experience in MMA, which was supported by a good recommendation from Marc Goddard before Marc Ratner eventually gave Aaron the sign off.
The UFC expect their judges to take high levels of responsibility for their actions. You are expected to be able to quantify and explain how you arrived at your decision. Knowing that means that you really feel the pressure to get the right score. As I do more shows, I am really looking forward to the opportunity to benefit from Marc Ratner's experience and also that of the other UFC judges and officials
Aarons Final Thoughts on MMA
You always speak passionately on social media, on forums and face-to-face concerning the sport. Often speaking out when something isn’t happening, as it should be correctly. Can you summarise your top 5 gripes with the UKMMA scene and how things happen/don’t happen?
I know. I am a loud mouth! Sometimes I wish I could not get involved in these discussions, but as mentioned earlier, a man should have standards! Anyway, here goes... top five gripes
1 - Rules - The Unified Rules represents the BEST set of rules for global UK MMA. I really hate all the different rules that we have in the UK. The no head shot, 4 min round semi-pro bullshit that takes place. How can UK MMA expect to compete on a global stage if we don't operate within the global rules standards
2 - Weight divisions - There may be an argument for more divisions, but at present the Unified Rules are clear. No reason for catchweight bouts 8 weeks from fight day! Catchweights should be for a reason, i.e. a show match between two marquee fighters or a last minute replacement
3 - Weight divisions again - The unified rules are clear on the limits, so Flyweight is NOT 57k and BW is NOT 62k. There is also no reason to have more than 1lb allowance
4 - Lbs. not kilos - If promotions weighed in using pounds, many of the issues around a weigh ins would be easier. Weighing in with 10ths of a kilo is always going to cause problems. Weigh in pounds, is clear. Who can't understand 205lbs, plus 1lb allowance is 206lbs, simple!
5 - Title weights - Just to be clear, there is NO ALLOWANCE in a title fight. If its LW, then the weight is 155lbs, no allowance.
Likewise what are the priorities within the UK scene for the sport, who are doing things rights and where can and should we be looking for answers from?
I'd like to say governance, but I can't see that happening. I think that initially those in the sport need to start self-governance. It is in the hands of promoters, fighters and coaches. If we all have standards, then self-governance will evolve. So if fighters insist on Unified rules and proper weigh ins and promoters only offer the same, then the standard of the sport gets raised and we start to self govern. It's not difficult. Everyone should have a professional attitude, set good standards and work to best practices, after that, governance will be simple
How do you see the use of forums in the sport are they a positive or negative and why do you think that?
I don't use them as much as I used to, but I think that MMA has evolved based on forums, probably more than any other sport. The fans and the professionals are connected via the forums, so it’s a good place for feedback. The problem is that the forums also are used for personal agenda, which do not progress us in anyway. Bottom line is that they are part of the sport, so we have to accept them and utilise them
Are there people inside or outside the sport that you respect and feel need some shout out, thanks or credit for the things they do for yourself/MMA?
No, fuck 'em! lol Seriously though, there are people putting their life and soul into this sport that will never get the credit that they probably deserve. Whilst there are also people that have set the sport back on multiple occasions who get the adjuration of the masses. Take someone like Darren Sherlock, he's lost fortunes by promoting Fight Ikon, but kept on going for the love of the sport. He's not on his own, but there are too many to mention
Have you any positive or horror stories to tell?
Nope! Ian Butlin and I are saving them for our UK MMA Expose book. A lot of people should be worried; we have some meaty stories involving many of the faces of UK MMA!!! ha ha
Aaron thank you for the time and if there is anything else you want to add or say then please do
This is the bit where I thank people, but always miss someone out and they get all upset. So this time, just my wife Lesley Chatfield and my daughter, Calleigh Chatfield, both of whom give me the freedom to spend all my spare time in service of this sport. A big thanks out to everyone else who considers me a friend.