For the first time in almost two years, Shawne Merriman can finally turn the lights back to “Lights Out”.
It’s been a wild ride of engagement and uncertainty since the two-time NFL All-Pros and three-time Pro Bowl selections earned their nickname “Lights Out” after knocking out four opponents in one game as a high school student. Merriman knew as a teenager that there was more to the nickname than just a reputation for big hits. Merriman had been given a brand to represent power and strength long after his football days were over.
It started by looking for fabrics and logos to create its clothing brand Lights Out. While Merriman was practicing MMA behind the scenes to work on his sack skills that made him an NFL superstar during his eight-year career with the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills in the mid-2000s, he began playing with the idea of his own MMA organization.
In 2019, Merriman finally launched Lights Out Xtreme Fighting, a SoCal baaed MMA organization that hosted four events in 2019 and is returning on August 7th with LXF5 at the Commerce Casino in LA.
“I think it took me 16 years to be successful in this business overnight,” said the 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. “I’ve been on this lights-out thing for 15 years. Now more and more people are becoming aware of MMA, so it took me almost two decades to figure that out. If I had left just because something didn’t go according to plan, I would never have come here. “
A year ago, no one planned on COVID-19 as states like California began lockdowns in March 2020. Given the restrictions and closings on most people’s livelihoods, including live in-person events, affecting residents and business owners, Merriman has had to make its own decisions about the future of LXF. When doubts arose as to whether and when the next event would take place, Merriman noted the fighters’ commitment to training to earn their big break in MMA.
Merriman also continued to fight and his reward: he recently announced that LXF5 will be streamed live for the first time worldwide by Fubo Sports Network, a huge step in the further rise of LXF among combat organizations, especially with such a layoff.
“When we closed last March, I realized that the fighters were still preparing, still fighting, working their asses off but not being able to fight,” recalls Merriman. “For me it might just have been a monetary hit, but it was bigger for them. It was their careers. And now that I’m finally coming back and being streamed live on Fubo Sports, it’s bigger and I’m excited. “
With a nickname like “Lights Out” plus a stellar eight-year NFL career before injuries forced him to retire in 2012, the transition from all-pro to all business has been a little smoother than anyone else. But the career change took a lot of planning and mental toughness, as he explains in this week’s winning strategy. Merriman talks about the importance of having a blueprint before it’s time to hang the cleats, use hard negativity for fuel, keep in touch with your audience, and keep your body in order.
“I’ve always tried to stick to the schedule,” says the 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, who had 39½ sacks in his first three seasons. “My coaches have always told me that if you deviate from the script, you should make the game better. And I still have this approach to life. “
Courtesy Shawne Merriman
1. HAVE YOUR NEXT GAME BOARD READY
What makes a top athlete is great discipline, a work ethic, and the ability to overcome adversity such as injury. We should be ready to be successful in the next life – and planning for the next leg of our career is probably the most important thing you can do. But it could be scary because it is full of uncertainty as there is a lot of uncharted territory to go to the next level.
For a while, I had the mentality of being invincible. As a young athlete, you think early on that this cannot happen to you. If I moved something, I would just paste it back in and go back into the game. But having my knee blown out in 2008 and then having surgery really opened my eyes to the fact that football wouldn’t last forever. It resulted in a lot of downtime, and then I started refining the brand, researching manufacturers, and looking for clothes for a dollar or two less.
Now I advise athletes to put their foot in the ground immediately to allow for this smooth transition. I started pushing my Lights Out brand after getting the nickname. I realized the lifestyle was bigger than I would ever be and it kind of branched out.
2. BUILD YOUR OWN BRAND
To be successful, you need to find your brand’s DNA. How are people supposed to see what you are selling? People have always associated me with big hits, workouts, and high energy. So I want my brand to represent knockouts and power – it could never be Lights Out, the paper towels. For someone trying to build and spread a brand, you need to find your brand’s message.
When it comes to promoting Lights Out Xtreme Fighting, I see it this way: I’m just the name of the platform that is spreading the word. With all the things I do in the media, I’m out here promoting the league and the fighters – I just have the platform to do it. Some people might still recognize me in a restaurant, but a 17-year-old might not. But one day he’ll see Lights Out Xtreme Fighting on TV or on a giant billboard, and may never realize that the guy who built it was playing for the Chargers and Bills.
Remember, whatever brand you choose, don’t force an idea that is not you. Only you can represent it – you are the speaker. If you’re not sure what you’re talking and promoting about, it will resonate with your audience.
3. ALWAYS BE INVOLVED IN SOCIAL MEDIA
I love being a troll. I especially like other people’s teams. But it’s not about talking about rubbish, even when it comes to Raiders or Patriots or even Broncos fans. Fans answer me and I answer back often. And people appreciate it. When you get involved, people automatically know that you care and that you are not strutting around like a big animal.
But at the same time, use social media to your advantage in other important matters in your life. And you don’t need a billion followers, just one follower interested in keeping up with you. You can get a lot of attention from your core audience, and that can also draw them to the important things that are going on with you.
I had to go from Shawne Merriman with the Mohawk and Lights Out Dance in the field to Shawne Merriman, the businessman. I transferred the same intensity from soccer to business to show people what I am doing behind the scenes with my brand.
4. ‘GROW’ YOUR EFFECTS OF HATERS
People hate size, that will never change. And if you don’t get some level of hate then you need to look at what you are doing.
What defines some of the best athletes is that they can use all that negative feedback as fuel. Ultimately, you should always be your toughest critic. If you don’t succeed, you should already be disappointed – it shouldn’t matter what others say.
I always thought it was a cliché, but it’s so true: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. My thick skin developed when I grew up homeless for a while as a kid. I developed a second layer from saying the worst things in the world about myself and having to overcome. Again, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Once you’ve been through it and heard it all, you really won’t mind the little things.
5. RUN OUT FOR BIG
When it comes to training, training was never just for football. I trained for soccer to work on my craft and improve my position. But I trained because I always wanted to feel better and look better. And that still applies.
I tell people to look at exercise the same way they look at the air – both are necessities. Today I work out a lot of MMA to improve my skills and I go to the gym at Dragon’s Lair a few times a week[in Las Vegas]. You have to train your heart, your strength, your cardio – it’s about feeling better all around.[inLasVegasafewtimesaweekaswellYou’vegottoworkyourheartyourstrengthyourcardio—It’sallaboutfeelingbetterallaround[inLasVegasafewtimesaweekaswellYou’vegottoworkyourheartyourstrengthyourcardio—It’sallaboutfeelingbetterallaround
Think about it: if you are not working or sweating, you will build depression because you have no deliverance. I look at exercise the same way I see eating and breathing: I have to eat, I have to breathe, and I have to exercise. These are the priorities.