Life after the cage isn’t really something that fans of the sport think about. Until recently, it wasn’t even something many fighters wanted to consider. There wasn’t a front-office job with the UFC or a spot in the broadcast booth awaiting them even as recently as just a few years ago. Fans never want to see their favorite warriors grow old, and those warriors chase the dream of eternal youth until their bodies can no longer keep pace. Yet, the question of what comes next is a reality that every fighter must eventually face.

In 2008, Charles McCarthy was one fighter that had to come to terms with the end of his competitive days inside the cage, and he was forced to do so a little earlier than he expected.

“It was really depressing at first,” McCarthy, who is just 32 years old, revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “After I lost to [Michael] Bisping, I knew that I was never going to be a world champion and I was pretty far off being the best fighter in the world. It was different then to what it is now, though. There wasn’t really a career path for me. It was just something that I wanted to do my whole life.

“I was raised by a great family and I was always taught that as a man I had a job to do, and that was to always be able to provide for my family, and I wasn’t really doing that as a fighter. For me, I want to be the best in the world at whatever I am doing. I wasn’t going to be the best fighter in the world and I knew that, so I looked at other projects that I could get involved in.”

Each and every day, thousands of fighters wake up in the morning to endure their daily grind in an effort to chase their dream of signing one day with the UFC. No matter who they are, their goal is always the same. They want to fight the best people in the world and they want to take what was once a pipe dream and turn it into reality.

Over the years, McCarthy has seen fighters come and go. He has seen people’s hearts broken right before his very eyes. With every new up-and-coming fighter, there are at least four others behind him, just as hungry, if not hungrier.

“If you’re not fighting to be a world champion then you are wasting your time,” McCarthy said. “There is no point going through the very long and very hard sacrifices knowing in your heart you aren’t going to be the best fighter in the world.

“At the same time, though, it’s important to know where you are skill-wise and to fight the fights that make sense to you. There is no point just sitting around making five grand for a fight on your local circuit and not be sure if you are going to win it. You need to keep getting better and be confident that you can make it to the big show.”

After spending a year working with leading management company Alchemist Management, McCarthy decided to go out on his own and create a company that put the fighters’ best interests first. Along with Steven Berkeley, McCarthy created Guardian Sports Group.

“It’s called Guardian because I feel that the fighters need to have a layer of protection around them,” McCarthy explained. “We are there so that the fighter doesn’t have to worry about getting fights, sponsors or anything like that. I feel that it’s important that I am partnered with someone who is willing to bleed for the fighters just as much as me and—myself and my partner, Steven Berkeley—we have a shared passion for the best interests of the fighters.

An important part of what McCarthy does for the fighters under Guardian Sports Group is to prepare them for not only the hardships of the mixed martial arts industry, but to gives them as much fight experience as possible. It’s not uncommon to see a fighter that McCarthy has put his faith into build up an extensive amateur career.

“It’s so important to have a well-rounded game and to be ready to fight the best fighters in the world. To a degree, I like to look at what boxing does to build up a guy,” he admitted. “Yeah, it may be filled with corruption and there may not be legitimate wins over the best competition, but they know how to take a guy and make him marketable and build him up with win after win and build up his confidence. They really have mastered the art of building up the brand of a fighter.”

McCarthy is as passionate about the careers of the fighters that he looks after as he once was about his own. Having being around the industry for such a long time, McCarthy has a keen eye for talent. Like most sports agents or managers, McCarthy thinks that he has some fighters in particular that are going to make it big in the very near future.

“I have three guys right now that are absolute stars,” he revealed. “Kelly Anundson is a three-time All-American and heavyweight Golden Gloves state boxing champion and also a two-time no-gi grappling World champion. His record is 6-2 and he is one of the toughest light heavyweight prospects in the world.

“Charles Rosa is undefeated as a pro, he’s running a 3-0 pro record after going 15-2 as an amateur. He is going to be tearing up the UFC lightweight division in the next couple of years.

“Then there is Walt ‘Big Ticket’ Harris. I guarantee you that this guy is going to be knocking dudes out in the UFC’s heavyweight division really soon. He’s a true heavyweight and he is also very athletic.”

The story often goes that professional fighters are not paid enough by the time they hit the big time. With so many years spent working hard for very little in return, there are very few fighters who can walk out of the fight game as rich men or women. Everyone needs a plan for what comes next. McCarthy formed his plan and has found success. If there is one thing that people can learn from him, it’s that the same fundamental principles of preparing for a fight can be taken to a career after the cage: If you arrive well-prepared, then when the time comes to face that challenge, you can meet it with a knockout blow.

Keep up to date with McCarthy and his up-and-coming fighters through the Guardian Sports Group on Facebook

Photo: Charles McCarthy (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.