Iridium Sports Agency has been an increasingly vibrant player behind the scenes of the MMA world since 2009. Today, the agency manages dozens of professional fighters signed to the UFC, Bellator, and other major promotions. Iridium’s athletes include fan favorites such as former UFC flyweight champion Brandon “The Assassin Baby” Moreno, pole dancing maven turned UFC submission artist Vanessa “Lil Monster” Demopoulos, and crowd-pleasing jiu-jitsu veteran and undefeated MMA prospect Kody Steele.
So, what does it take to create – and manage – a talent stable of this caliber? According to Iridium’s CEO and founder, Jason House, it’s all a matter of doing right by your athletes. “I think for us, we’ve kept it really simple,” House tells the Jiu-Jitsu Times. “I think we’re put on this earth to serve and to give to others. I think that’s every person’s calling in life. I think if you put the athlete first, and you serve, and you give them your all, you’re going to have good success.
What’s House’s definition of success? “Honoring the process,” says House. “In our sport, you never know what’s going to happen. You could drop your hand an inch, and get knocked out, or make a mistake and get submitted – but if you honor the process, and you do everything right, you’ll never have a bad night’s sleep. If you leave no stone unturned, you’ll always be content with your life’s work.”
So how exactly did House get hooked on building MMA careers for a living? “December of 2006 was the first semester of law school for me,” House remembers. “One of my teammates from college was like, ‘Hey, I’m having the fights on at my place, come over and watch them.’” House didn’t even know whether the fights were boxing or MMA, but he was game for a break from his studies.
The fight, as it turned out, was Tito Ortiz vs Chuck Liddell 2. Unsurprisingly, House was entranced. An athlete in his youth, House had grown up wrestling, so the action on screen spoke directly to him. He began researching gyms in the area, and started studying jiu-jitsu under Team Oyama’s legendary Moises Muradi black belt Giva “The Arm Collector” Santana. House earned his own black belt from Santana in 2021. According to Iridium’s director of communications Ed Kapp, around that same time period, Iridium became the first sports agency in the business to represent over a hundred active UFC athletes.
The symbolism of the timing was perfect, considering the significance of the role Team Oyama had played in House’s professional development. “Through meeting Giva and Colin [Oyama] – I kind of call them my fight parents –” House explains with a laugh, “they really introduced me to the business side of the sport. They’ve both just been such huge influences in my life.”
While not every sports agent necessarily practices the same sport their athlete plays, in House’s case, he reaps the business benefits of speaking the same physical language as his clients. “I definitely think it’s helped build a rapport with our clients – being able to train with them and bond with them really helps create a better relationship,” says House. “Also, because our sport is constantly evolving, I just feel like it’s vital for an agent to be involved on the martial arts side – just so that as the sport evolves, your education on the sport evolves. That way, you’re able to do your due diligence and give your clients the best opportunities and best matchups to win.”
House was also a collegiate baseball player – a catcher, specifically – and to this day, believes the baseball world teaches useful lessons that translate effectively to combat sports: “For me, I was very fortunate to play with a very successful [baseball] coach in college, and he really emphasized having a strong culture among the team – and also that adversity is guaranteed, and that you need to turn adversity into a character building opportunity. Those are really things he hammered home for us, and I think in [MMA] today, with the way it’s growing, if you can create that culture – whether within the agency, or with a team at the gym – there’s a lot of cross-pollination where that will breed success.”
Shortly after he began training under Team Oyama, House also met Ken Pavia, formerly of MMAgents, a pioneer in the industry who spoke at House’s law school. “I just felt like it was fate,” says House. “I started talking to [Pavia], and called him a few times asking if I could intern for him. He gave me an opportunity, and that kind of jumpstarted my career.”
Which isn’t to say that House had no reservations at all about parlaying his legal education into becoming a sports agent. “It was really scary,” admits House. “Because I don’t think I started interning for Ken until my last semester of law school, so up until that point, you’re really terrified that you’ve spent seven years in school, and you’re not sure how that’s going to benefit your future.”
Fortunately, House’s leap of faith paid off. He’s quick to credit Iridium’s team of employees, who treat their work as a labor of love, with the agency’s success: “For us, I’m very lucky that we have a great culture with the team within the Iridium Sports Agency, where everyone at my agency, they love our athletes so much. They love our clientele so much, and they give their all to them, and I’m blessed to have found a team that is able to do that.”
That reservoir of enthusiasm isn’t always easy to come by, but according to House, it’s absolutely crucial to surviving as a sports agent in MMA. “I think sometimes, this sport can make people jaded,” he admits. “Emotions run high in this business. And you have to have that love and passion to show up every weekend, and give your all to your clientele.”
It helps that House and his team are also savvy to the relative youth of MMA as a mainstream sport in the US, even compared to other combat sports like boxing and wrestling. It creates a unique landscape for agencies like Iridium to navigate. “If you look at where football was twenty-seven, twenty-eight years in, or where baseball and basketball were at, you can see that [MMA] is still in its infancy,” he points out. “So we’re still on the learning curve right now – the learning curve is huge on both sides of the fence, both in martial arts and on the business side.”
So what’s the best way for an agent to market such a young sport – and do right by their athletes – against a backdrop of far longer-established athletic organizations like the MLB and NBA?
“I really think the numbers and statistics are the biggest thing,” says House. “Say you’re promoting it to a brand, maybe to market their products with your athletes, you’ve got to show them that this is the fastest growing sport in the world – that it transcends not just America, but through all the countries in the world, and that the demographics are there, that both males and females are involved in this, that [ages] eighteen to forty-four are right there for them. So I truly believe that once you show them the statistics – and show them that the major companies that have bought into our sport, ESPN being one of them, have benefited – and that it’s growing tremendously on a grassroots level, [brands] show up [for MMA athletes]. FloGrappling, UFC Fight Pass, and Fight TV are putting on these amazing grappling events that are growing the sport as well.”
House wants Iridium’s calling card to be one of integrity. “In college, my [baseball] coach would always say that talent will take you places where your character’s not ready to go to – and that he wanted us to be high-character individuals,” says House. “That way, when we developed our talent, we’d be ready for success. I’ve really built our agency like that, in the sense that obviously, I look at talent, but character is the first and foremost factor for me. I want high-character people for our group. Also, when you look at it from a gym perspective, I feel like gyms that have the highest character athletes are the gyms that are going to sustain success for a long time.”
House puts his money where his mouth is by signing a very particular type of fighter: “I feel like, if you only fought four times a year, you’d only be in a cage for an hour of the year – so what that person does outside of the cage is really going to dictate what happens inside the cage.”
He cites his client Brandon Moreno, former UFC flyweight champion, as a prime example: “Brandon Moreno was a champion in life before he was a champion in the cage. Everything he was. He’s a champion father, a champion husband, a champion teammate; as a client, he’s a champion – he’s a champion to me, you know, he did everything right. And I think when you start seeing this ‘good guy era’ we’re in right now – with Glover Teixeria, Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Brandon Moreno, and you see these athletes, like the Chito Vera and Alex Perez [types] of the world, you see that they’re very good human beings. And I think that’s a big reason for their success.”
Character, the way House sees it, is also a good barometer for a fighter’s longevity in a grueling and often cruelly unpredictably profession. “I think it was Chris Haueter who said, ‘It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left.’ And that’s really stuck with me in this business, because this business is very young, and as you see this next generation come up, you realize that it’s those who can just stay the course, weather through some adversity – those are the ones who are going to have the most success in the cage,” explains House. “Because success is never a straight line. It’s going to have its ups and downs. And you need high character to deal with that adversity.”
In other words, Iridium isn’t just out to represent good fighters – House also wants his agency to represent good people, both in and out of the octagon. Integrity and good sportsmanship are also a through line that’s stood out in interviews with several of Iridium’s fighters – including Vanessa Demopoulos, Kody Steele, and John Castañeda – all of whom express a genuine sense of respect for their opponents, and reluctance to manufacture beef or drama.
Does Iridium deliberately cultivate that “good guy” attitude among fighters on their roster? At the very least, it’s something the agency encourages. “I think authenticity is what sells the most,” says House. “I don’t think we need to talk trash; I think we need to be authentic. Brandon Moreno is Brandon Moreno. He’s a lego-playing, fun-loving person, and people resonate with that. Like, you know Vanessa, she fought Silvana, she won by armbar – and they did a photoshoot together two weeks after that fight.”
“That goes to show just the kind of human beings they both are,” House elaborates. “It was competition, it happened, but outside the cage, they’re still very respectful, still good humans, and I think that’s the key. Kody Steele, in my mind, is one of the top prospects – if not the top prospect – in the country right now. He’s going to transcend so many different markets with his grappling credentials, now that his striking’s come along, in MMA. And I think him just being him is marketable in itself.”
So how does House make sure that he’s building the kind of agency that authentic, marketable, “good guy” fighters will want in their corner? “It’s a two-way street,” says House. “I know I’m not for everyone.” He grins. “But for those I’m for? I’m going to be amazing. For those people who are about what I’m about, we’re going to accomplish some amazing things in sports. Different strokes for different folks. I think it’s really just that courting process: me getting to know them better like, ‘Hey, tell me about your life, tell me from birth on, so I can see what adversity you’ve lived through,’ and also, ‘Hey, what do you want to know about me? We can talk about my life too.’ I think when you’re about to get into a relationship of this nature, and you’re about to make such life-changing decisions together, that you have to really have that bond.”
That’s also why House emphasizes the value of growing and nurturing athletes from the ground up. “That’s why working with athletes when you’re so young – when they’re 0-and-0 – is so important,” says House. “It’s like, ‘You know what? Let’s grit our teeth together. Let’s live some life together. That way, when we get to the UFC and have to make some big decisions, we’ve been through some life together, and we understand each other.”
As for the future of Iridium, House hopes to build a legacy of service to fighters. “For me, I want to leave something that’s bigger than myself when I leave this world,” says House. “And I think that if I can create a legacy brand, a legacy agency that continues to serve and give, and affects generations of people, that’s where I really want to go. I want to expand into different markets and different countries – there’s some things we’re working on right now in different markets, to expand in other parts of the world, which I’m very excited about. But for me, it’s just to know that my footprint on this world is to touch others, to help others – I think it’s an amazing feeling to help others achieve their dreams.”
As Iridium has expanded, that goal has become twofold for House, as a CEO: “It’s so fulfilling to see [athletes] achieve their dreams and provide for their families – but also, you’re helping those within your company achieve their own dreams of being sports agents and building careers in the entertainment industry. So I think that’s very rewarding too, that we’re creating opportunities for others to do what I wanted to do when I graduated school. I really just get a lot of joy in my life from seeing everyone help each other and get good experience in the business side of MMA.”
House offers the following piece of advice for aspiring sports agents who hope to represent UFC fighters one day: “Spend as much time in the gym as possible with the athletes, and get to know them – because I think you have to see what they do on a day-to-day basis to really understand it, and to be able to serve them to the best of your abilities. I think, on a grassroots level, you have to know the regional scene. I think the regional scene is the lifeblood of the industry because they’re producing tomorrow’s stars, and you have to build a great relationship there. Attend as many events as possible, shake as many hands as possible, network – because in this industry, I feel like it’s very hard to get the experience anywhere aside from just being in it.”
Building relationships with fighters and their advocates, in other words, is key. And it’s what Iridium thrives on.
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