Shawne Merriman explains how he got into MMA, hopes to make Lights Out XF the premier feeder promotion

By Cole Shelton - June 12, 2024

Former NFL star Shawne Merriman didn’t expect to be running his own MMA promotion, but he is doing just that.

Shawne Merriman

Merriman, who was drafted with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft and spent eight years playing in the National Football League was also around the sport of MMA. During his offseasons, Merriman would train MMA with Randy Couture and other fighters, which sparked his love for combat sports.

Then, once he retired from Football, Merriman got into TV to broadcast the NFL, so combining his passion for combat sports with his new knowledge of TV production, he figured it made sense to start his own promotion, Lights Out XF.

“I started training in the mid-2000s. My first day of training was with Randy Couture, I started training in the offseason to help me with football. I didn’t think I was going to fall into the sport the way I am,” Merriman said on Just Scrap Radio on BJPENN.com. “What happened was I started to train with everybody, from the Chuck Liddell’s to the Tito Ortiz’s, a lot of those guys would come to the Chargers games. That was my way into combat sports. Then, when I retired I got into TV broadcasting. I understood the TV business more than anything, it was a combination of knowing how TV works and the love of MMA so I launched Lights Out Xtreme Fighting.”

Although starting a promotion is tough, Merriman has found a lot of success, but admits the beginning days were definitely hard. Merriman says things began with just a lot of local fighters, but since the promotion has started to get bigger, he now has fighters reaching out to him. That includes some UFC veterans, such as Jared Vanderaa, who competes on this Saturday’s event.

“It’s completely different than what it was a year-and-a-half, two years ago, it’s night and day. Obviosuly because I played in the NFL they know who I am but they didn’t know the promotion and what we do,” Merriman said.

With Shawne Merriman getting Lights Out XF off the ground and evolving to a premier regional promotion, the plan is to have events all across the United States.

But, Merriman says his ultimate goal is to become the top feeder promotion to the UFC and get as many fighters signed as possible.

“It’s big for us. I got in this space because I wanted to provide a platform to get more guys into the UFC. I know there are very good promotions out there that have been around longer than us,” Merriman said. “Giving these guys a platform to get to the UFC, because we get a lot of viewership. I talk frequently with Dana and everybody knows what we have going on. They know if they come here, they have a real shot at getting signed. That is what this whole thing is about. For me, a successful promotion is we can get as many fighters as possible from us to the UFC. That is a massive win.”