F2W Pro CEO Seth Daniels Wins Fans’ Hearts After Stepping In To Compete Last-Minute Just 48 Hours After Being Robbed

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Fight to Win Pro
Photo Credit: Mike Calimbas Photography

Fight to Win Pro CEO Seth Daniels is one badass dude. In addition to being a brown belt in jiu-jitsu and giving everything he has to make F2W one of the most successful jiu-jitsu promotions in the country, he’s also proven that he’s willing to do just about anything for his fans and competitors… even if that means putting his own neck on the line.

Literally.

Daniels and his crew experienced a promoter’s idea of hell in the days leading up to last weekend’s F2W Pro 36 in Atlanta, Georgia. Things were already a little hectic due to five brown and black belt matches falling apart the same week the show was scheduled, but having dealt with numerous competitors pulling out last-minute over the span of his career, this was nothing that Daniels couldn’t handle.

But on Thursday, just an hour after pulling into Atlanta, the unthinkable happened.

Daniels had sat down at a restaurant to eat something other than “almonds and gas station snacks” with a few crew members after finally confirming that he wasn’t going to have to replace any competitors and cut weight. When they came back out, they discovered that the back window to their truck had been smashed, and thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, including a Macbook Pro, a Macbook Air, a tablet, a laptop, and a Nikon camera with multiple lenses had been stolen. The police took nearly an hour to show up, only to tell Daniels that there was really nothing that could be done aside from filing a police report, providing serial numbers, and hoping for the best.

It wasn’t just the cash value of the stolen items that affected Daniels, though. “It’s a very violating feeling to be robbed; it’s the second time it’s happened to me. I couldn’t sleep, kept waking up to see if someone was breaking into the truck again at the hotel,” he says.

Still, he put aside his own emotions to keep things moving forward. The very next morning, he withdrew enough cash to pay his competitors and spend the $10k needed to replace all the stolen equipment, then cancelled his cards. And then he got to work.

Anyone who’s seen a F2W show before knows that the fighters walk out to music and a flashy display on a massive LED screen behind them. Well, when all that equipment was taken, so was all the hard work that had been put into the video, sound, announcements, and back end planning. Somehow, Daniels managed to get it all done the Friday night before the event.  By the time Saturday rolled around, the crew (appropriately nicknamed “Team No Sleep”) had miraculously managed to get everything set up on time. When the show started, everything was running great. Better yet, lots of submissions were being hit, making for an event that was both entertaining and ahead of schedule.

And then, yet again, the unthinkable happened.

Daniels announced F2W Pro veteran Todd Kornfield and UFC veteran Diego Saraiva to the stage, but as he was getting ready to announce the match, he noticed Kornfield on the ground.

I thought he was asking the referee a question, which was weird since he knows the rules and has been part of a lot of F2W Pros. [Referee Vellore Caballero] ran to the front of house and told me that Todd blew his knee out.

In a freak accident, Kornfield had been jumping around on stage to warm up, landed wrong, and seriously injured himself.

I ran up to Diego, told him that we could wait to see if someone else wanted it, or I could throw my gi on and fight him right then. He was very hesitant at first due to our size difference, so I had to sell him a little on it, reminding him that he is Diego Saraiva and I’m just a fat brown belt. His coaches agreed with me and he said yes, so I threw my gi on, drank the rest of my 5 Hour Energy and went out there.

Daniels says he knew his chances of winning were “slim to none”, especially after running on no sleep and dealing with all the chaos of the previous days, but that didn’t faze him.

I did not have any nerves; I just wanted to go out there, have some fun, and give Diego and his fans a show.

And that he did. Saraiva started out by pulling guard, and although Daniels had the opportunity for a slam, which is legal under F2W rules, he chose not to take it due to the size advantage he had over his opponent. He spent about two minutes in Saraiva’s guard before getting swept, and although he did his best to work his game and attempt a kimura, Saraiva was able to get to his back and finish the fight with a choke. After it was all over, Daniels wasn’t shy about giving credit where it was due.

The whole situation was ridiculous, so I figured why not announce him as the winner while on stage? There were a lot of smiles on the mat and in the crowd. I did not care at all that I had lost — I was just happy that he got to perform and worried about Todd.

Last night at F2WPRO36, one of our competitors got freak injured during warmups so Seth Daniels, on no sleep, dealing…

Posted by Mike Calimbas on Sunday, June 11, 2017

Once he stepped off the stage, he changed back into his t-shirt and continued running the show. For most people, taking a high-pressure match on such short notice after dealing with a week inspired by Murphy’s law would be unthinkable, but for Seth Daniels, it’s just part of the job.

[Team No Sleep Members] Vellore, Brittney [Elkin], Troy [Everett], and I will always be willing to step in and fight if we have to. I would do it again a thousand  times over. Super fun experience… well, except for the injured fighter and getting robbed.

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