A Q&A with Mark Bader, a Wrestling Aficionado & FloWrestling’s Wild Child
Mark Bader is a wrestling aficionado. You can sense the passion. See it in his eyes. His hair long, parted in the center and straight with curled ends when he’s working, wild and energetic if he’s on the mat. His eyes and hair, they give him away.
The FloWrestling Premium Producer & Broadcaster is about to finish his seventh year working for FloSports. He has seen firsthand the transition from a ragtag operation with a big heart and dreams into a legitimate, budding sports media and events company.
Bader is Enthusiasm.
Listen to that rebel yell!
I caught up with Bader in between winning his first veteran’s title at the U.S. Open and another commenting gig the following weekend for a quick interview.
You’ve just come off your first Veteran’s US Open Title. Do you plan on wrestling in Greece this summer for a world title?
I've been on the fence. More likely than not I’m going. It’s the same weekend as Who’s Number One, so I've got to check in with Flo, but I’m confident they can get by without me.
It funny, in Vegas I ran into John Smith:
“So, you wrestling at World’s?” he says.
“I don’t know…we’ll see…”
“No you have to.” He gets serious, and looks me in the eyes. “You have to.” He says again. He said it three or four times.
He basically told told me — You’ll regret it if you don’t go. You never know if they’ll do this again.
Plus, wrestling again was fun.
It’s John Smith. It’s unfair. Now I have to go.
The Beat the Streets “Salsa in the Square” event in NY is coming up. What match or two are you most excited for?
Herbert and Salas.
And then Joey Davis and Alex Dierrenger. There’s always been some questions around Joey and how he would fair in D1. One of our best in D2 in a long time verse one of our best D1 wrestlers now.
Let’s get back to you. Broadcasting…I know you studied Phys Ed at Mizzou. Did you have any past broadcast or video experience before jumping into Flo seven years ago?
Zero. Didn't know what I was doing really. At the time there was a site called PureFight, an MMA version of FloWrestling. I used to go to fights and film them and cover that.
Martin took me to my first fight and showed me how to do stuff. It was the first time I commentated. I began: Blue Trunks did this, Red Trunks did that, Red Trunks takes him down, Etc.
Martin: Okay make your voice go high sometimes, low sometimes, change the tone, pitch, speed.
Two years later it went from fighting to wrestling, which I love even more. I don’t know how much of it’s formal training — practice is better than formal training.
The more you do it, the more comfortable you get, the more you’re at ease and can try to be yourself.
Why do you think you've found so much success as a producer?
I think the reason is: one, I've done it so long, two, I love wrestling so much.
I’ve always been very comfortable around people. I love wrestling, being around people. It’s a no brainer. Go to events and announce and interview people. Build relationships.
Our company’s culture, too. I’ve been around like minded people who are doing the same thing. Learned from Martin, the first ever to do this, and from the track and field guys, too.
Nobody knew for sure what we were always doing, but we were always getting better.
Flo seems to be taking over the world. You guys are expanding into other sports. You cover events, produce original content and series, put on your own events at the youth and senior level. What’s next for this enterprise? What’s next for you? Is there an upcoming project you’re partially excited about?
Over the last year or so I've transition from an Associate Producer — the guys who manage the content day to day — to more of a premium producer. I do more documentary style like the Mark Schultz series and The Program.
It’s awesome: I get to go on all these shoots and do professional interviews where they look good. I plan the story with Kyle Bogart, he’s a master storyteller. I give him all the info about a particular story or school or person, and then he structures that into a five act film so that it flows really well.
Do you enjoy it more?
It’s a totally different gig. It’s like documentary leads to reality show to an extent sometimes. We did one at the U.S. Open with Jake Herbert, followed him around. It’s pretty cool.
Is there a part of you who misses the underground or rogue feel of the beginning? You’re no longer the lone camera man fighting for a press pass….
I don’t know if I miss that. The company is growing so rapidly. We’re at one hundred or so employees. There’s people I don’t even know. I’m like, who are you? Are you new? What’s going on here?
That sense of we’re doing something. On the verge of building something because we didn't know what was going to happen. We all thought we were going to take off and be big, it took longer than we thought.
Martin and his brother have this vision, passion, drive that I've never seen. Just this belief that we weren't sure how, but we were going to make this work. We always believed we would.
There’s some of that I miss.
I hardly made any money at all, I don’t miss that, having to crash on everyone’s couches, sleeping in my car sometimes on the road. There was no way could I ever get a hotel the first year.
It’s exciting, that we’re growing. Always new and cool things. At the U.S. Open we had a dozen cameras. We've turned into a legit sports media company and it’s pretty exciting.
Today we got an email that our company has been announced as a top 100 tech companies in Austin.
A word of wisdom for those would be journalists out there?
A good question, Jason.
Follow your passion because, I don’t know, I never learned much about journalism. I don’t consider myself a journalist, even though to a degree maybe I am. I don’t know that I could do this in any other sport.
Experience, reps; gotta get in as many reps as possible whether it’s writing stories, interviewing people, or whatever. The more you do it the better you will get.
No substitution for experience.
I turned to twitter-land to crowdsource a few extra questions
Power to the people
I’ll meet him at 160 lbs., anytime.
A lot of them have been fixed. Sometimes we try to do too many things.
We have to focus and do what we do well.
Jimmy Kennedy was injured and a world team member. He’s one, just off the top of my head.
On Greco: Excited about it. USA Wrestling came down to the Flo HQ in Austin to meet with us for a full day, throw ideas around, collaborate.
One thing that stuck is that they’re going to let us organize and run the Greco World Team Trials in Ithaca. We’re planning on making it an entertaining show. Joe and his team will be dealing with that. Between FloNationals and Who’s Number One we’ve learned how to make an event look good, nice, packed.
We go to Ithaca, sell out 1,200 people, and then entertain them.
Hopefully someone gets thrown on their head.
It’s not my favorite, but it’s top 5. I would have to really reflect to choose just one, there’s been a lot.
That one, though. It takes me back to the old school feeling of 2008 and prior Flo, when it was just Martin on the road with a camera.
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Follow Mark Bader at https://twitter.com/MarkSBader
Follow Jason Welch at https://twitter.com/WelchsGrapevine or check out his website below