The following “Six Questions” short interview with Audie Attar, NFL Player Agent, MMA Agent, and President/Founder of Paradigm Sports Management, was conducted by Belmont University Law School student and aspiring sports/entertainment agent Mark J. Burns. Connect with Audie on Twitter and LinkedIn.
1. You founded your very own sports agency in 2009 with Paradigm Sports Management. Why did you decide to start your own agency after working for two others during the earlier part of your career?
I started my career in sports management immediately after college with a start-up agency, Gametime Sports International, led by a successful entertainment and trial attorney. Shortly thereafter, I joined All Pro Sports and Entertainment, a larger and more established agency based out of Denver, Colorado. During this time, players would always confide in me about needs that weren’t getting met, i.e. individual focus, post-athletic career development, social media marketing. I noticed a void in the industry; players were only truly serviced if the 3% they paid to their agent was worthwhile and forgotten about when their playing days were over. So, after seven years I decided to launch Paradigm Sports Management in an attempt to fill the void that existed in our industry. I’ve always considered myself more of an entrepreneur as opposed to just an agent, so I felt that building a company with the right team, clear vision and professional processes would ensure that I could provide 100% full-service to all of my clients. I wanted my next venture to mean something more than just dollars and cents; I wanted to add substantive value to each client’s career while also building a successful agency.
2. How has your MBA degree from Pepperdine University assisted you in your role as an agent?
When I was looking into ways on how I could further my career and be a better agent, I wanted to create a competitive advantage for myself. The growing trend in sports was the ability to quantify player value and therefore player contract comps. My MBA allowed me to hone in my analytical and quantitative skills. Additionally, most agencies claim that they have full marketing and PR services, but yet I was noticing a growing trend of players who hired an outside marketing firm or PR agency for additional support. So effectively, the player was paying their percentage to their agent, but then also incurring additional costs on outside PR/Marketing agencies. I wanted to master the science of marketing and brand building. Lastly, most agents have a law degree, but in the NFL you don’t litigate, but rather, arbitrate cases through the CBA’s prescribed grievance process. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a general counsel (I call him my “Pit Bull”) who leads the charge if, and when, we have legal disputes. But the majority of legal work is in the form of contract negotiations, so in addition to my MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, I also received a Masters Certificate in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine Law School’s Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution.
3. If you could change one aspect of the sports agency industry, what would that be and why?
I think the industry is evolving in certain sports like football and has a long way to go in newer sports like MMA, so it’s tough to pinpoint one thing I’d want to change. One thing I’d like to continue to see is agents and agencies focus more on post career development, off-season education and put a heavy emphasis on financial planning, especially for the guys who aren’t making millions. A good agent is a mentor and a life coach as much as he is a negotiator and a brand builder.
4. What is one big challenge you had to overcome in regards to progressing in your career? What did you learn from that challenge?
Early on in my career I unfortunately had to deal with unethical individuals who tried to take advantage of me. I never gave up, stood up for what was right and in the end I was triumphant.
I learned to always treat people how you want to be treated and not to let the negative experience or people change the person or businessman I wanted to be. I learned I wanted to build a legacy that existed long after I’m retired. It starts with building the right culture within my firm, where every team member subscribes to the same practices and buys into what we are doing without being manipulated or lied to.
5. You have a fairly extensive list of MMA clients. How did you enter that specific niche? How does representing a MMA client different from representing an NFL client, for example? Or is it pretty similar?
When I started Paradigm in 2009, it started out as a boutique NFL agency, with a handful of players and coaches I worked with. I quickly put my business acumen to work and set out a goal to build an international sports management firm. I knew that I had to employ both a growth through acquisition model and grow each business unit organically.
Many sports biz pundits regard MMA as the fastest growing professional sport in the world, and the catalyst for that growth is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). I studied the market and saw that the major sports management firms had not entered the space. I saw this as an opportunity for me to be one of the first to enter into such a rapidly growing market. The sport of MMA transcends languages, cultures, and religions and is rapidly growing all over the world.
We are now regarded as one of the top MMA management firms, which is such an honor and a testament to my team’s hard work and dedication. There is no season for this sport; it operates year around, so it requires a lot more work and consistency on the agency’s part. You also have to understand international business and law since you operate in different countries and represent athletes from all over the world. You see several NFL athletes, especially defensive players, training in MMA during the offseason, because of the numerous similar body movements the two sports share, in addition to the great conditioning an MMA workout offers. Furthermore, you are seeing many MMA endemic brands starting to cross over and market with football or baseball players and conversely, the major sporting brands like Nike and Under Armour are starting to take interest in MMA as well.
I think there are several similarities between MMA and football clients of ours, as there are with so many high-level athletes: great work ethic and discipline along with incredible mental toughness, passion, and drive. Given my unique background, I truly relate to my clients in so many different ways. This allows me to help guide them both personally and professionally with a genuine approach.
6. In 140 characters or less, what advice would you give to aspiring sports/entertainment business professionals who want to work in the agency world?
Be courageous, be persistent, outwork your competition. Always be critical of yourself as opposed to blaming outside forces and go get it!