On June 8, 2019, Massachusetts native Calvin Kattar took center stage at UFC 238 with a first-round knockout against Ricardo Lamas in Chicago, Illinois.
The win had high stakes for the featherweight’s MMA career, both from a rankings standpoint and for his marketability as a potential UFC card headliner. After such a big victory, both Kattar’s fans and friends alike immediately began to wonder what was next.
Before a post-fight interview, one of those friends was advising Kattar on next steps, and pitching an idea about calling for a main event fight at the upcoming UFC card in Boston that October.
That friend was Tyson Chartier.
The man behind multiple familiar faces in the New England MMA scene, Chartier serves as both a coach for fighters like Kattar and UFC bantamweight Rob Font, and an agent for a variety of others through his work at TopGame Management.
In this case, Chartier’s role as a coach had paid off in the form of a first-round finish, and it was now time for him to shine as a manager.
“Calvin’s not one to call people out, right?” Chartier said. “So, he beat Ricardo Lamas, and right away I said, ‘Listen, we know they’re coming to Boston in the fall, just say you want to headline it.’ We knew it wouldn’t happen, they probably already had a headliner, but just throw it out there in the universe that you want to headline that card in Boston. Let people start writing stories about Calvin Kattar with the word ‘headline’ in it. Just manifest it.”
Chartier’s advice paid off, albeit in a different way than initially imagined. Kattar landed a fight with Zabit Magomedsharipov as a co-main event for UFC on ESPN 6: Reyes vs. Weidman in Boston, pitting the 11th-ranked Methuen native up against the 5th-ranked Russian in a bout with major title picture implications.
A blood infection forced Magomedsharipov to withdraw in September 2019, just a month before the Boston card, and Kattar was left without an opponent for an event in his home state. Instead, the bout was made the main event for a UFC Fight Night card in Moscow, giving Magomedsharipov his own home-field advantage.
Finding those fights is one of Chartier’s strong suits, which makes sense given his experience in his field. Three years after taking his first Jiu Jitsu class in 2006 and beginning his own MMA career, the New Hampshire native was landing fights for his training partners, and a new career path was born.
“After my third amateur fight, I went to Sityodtong, and then I started training there,” Chartier said. “Little by little, I started coaching more. Next thing you know, I was helping all the guys with grappling, and then cornering a lot of the fighters. I was always managing myself, and then a couple of the guys asked me to get them fights, so I got them fights.”
It was there that Chartier met Font, and a bond that has lasted almost a decade began.
Chartier convinced Font to start training with his MMA team, and six months later, Font was asking about the potential for booking an amateur fight. When Font stepped into the cage for that bout, Chartier was in his corner.
Fast forward to 2013 and 2014, and Chartier found himself in a unique dilemma as he began to pick up steam as a manager. He began to hear rumblings about a potential fight between Font, and a big name in New England MMA: Kattar.
“I was like, ‘No, you’re not fighting Calvin,'” Chartier said when recalling a conversation with Font. “‘I like Calvin, he’s good enough to go to the UFC if he decides to get active again. Obviously I want you to go to the UFC. You guys don’t have to fight each other to get there.'”
“That was an uphill battle,” Chartier continued. “The promoters wanted the fight, Calvin’s team wanted the fight, Rob wanted the fight, Rob’s other coaches wanted the fight, and I was the only one saying no.”
Chartier said other coaches did their best to work around his opinions in order to book the New England-based superfight, but Font stood his ground and sided with his manager.
“He put that trust in me even that early to say, ‘No, if Tyson doesn’t think it’s a good idea, let’s not do it,'” Chartier said. “Now, Rob and Calvin are basically best friends and they’re each other’s number one training partners.”
Both Font and Katter made their way to the UFC, and Chartier’s duties continued to grow. As he worked through the growing pains of balancing life as both a coach and manager, his days continued to get busier.
“I never had any delusions of going to the UFC, I was really just trying to help my friends,” Chartier said. “I kept learning more and more, and fast forward 14 years later, we got guys ranked, headlining UFC cards that are asking me, ‘What do we do? Should we take this fight?’ It’s a cool responsibility, but it took a while to get where we’re at.”
So, what does the typical day in the life look like for someone who serves as both a coach and manager for fighters? Chartier said it’s all about staying on top of your phone as an agent, and putting in work both in the gym and in the office to prepare his fighters as a coach.
Even with all of his success, Chartier admitted that there are things that he can improve on as he learns the in’s and out’s of the management scene.
“It’s a very unique role that I have,” Chartier explained. “There’s not a lot of people that are trying to manage people, but also coach a few. It’s tough and there’s no right way to do it and I’m learning as I go, as well. I think I just need to do a better job probably proactively reaching out to fighters even when there’s no news to update, because I think fighters need that touch.”
Another challenge of managing fighters, especially as they climb rankings, comes with handling the rumor mill. In some cases, unconfirmed reports of a future fight may help an up-and-coming fighter gain some excitement. In others, it may hurt a star’s pursuit of a bigger fight, or their ability to work as the “A-side” in a negotiation.
Chartier himself had to shoot down a rumor about a potential bout between Kattar and former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway, labeling the report as “Fake News” on Twitter before telling The Swing of Things that “we’re not sure what our next fight is going to be, but it’s not booked yet, so that was fake.”
“You can let it marinate and let everybody think its true and build some hype, or you say no right away and then that gets the fighter hype,” Chartier said. “I don’t even think there’s a right or wrong way to do that.”
“If they’re talking about him, then it’s good, right?” Chartier continued. “It’s a good problem to have, you know? I wouldn’t even say it’s a problem, it’s like we’ve earned the right to get rumors. There’s a lot of people who don’t have any rumors because they’re not important enough yet. So, it comes with the territory, we embrace it, it’s just part of the job.”
At the end of the day, the future is always up in the air in the MMA world. Bouts fall through, and some fighters fizzle out for a variety of reasons throughout their respective careers. No single fighter’s journey is the same as another, and success is tough to achieve, let alone maintain.
But, it’s a warzone that Chartier has maneuvered through for years, with some useful analogies to keep in the back of his mind.
“It’s like an iceberg, right? There’s a lot that goes on beneath the water that you don’t see,” Chartier said. “We’re writing a book of the fighter. One chapter might be their amateur career, one chapter might be this promotion that they turned pro with, then another chapter is the next promotion. Every chapter thinks that they’re the book, and that’s fine because that’s part of their journey. But at the end of the day, before we got to chapter eight, there were seven chapters that I was there for that chapter eight wasn’t, and there’s a lot of work that went into that.”
Despite all of the question marks surrounding the future at any given moment, one thing is clear: Chartier won’t stop working anytime soon, especially as it relates to his goal of making the New England MMA scene as good as it can possibly be.
“I just think we don’t have any direction, I think we’re finally getting there,” Chartier said. “The whole mission statement of TopGame Management at the beginning was to put New England MMA on the map where it should be on the national level.”
“I think now, there’s never been a better time for New England MMA. We’ve never had this much traction in the northeast.”