Jesse Finney: Shamrock FC’s Return From Coronavirus ‘Proudest Weekend’ in Fight Game

Shamrock FC
Left to right: Dillon Tolbert, Jesse Finney, Erion Zekthi at the Shamrock FC 329 weigh-ins. (Credit: Mike Hume)

Shamrock Fighting Championships, a Missouri-based regional promotion, recently hosted its first events since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic rocked the world in March 2020.

The Return of Shamrock FC

For Shamrock FC CEO Jesse Finney, the promotion’s return with Shamrock FC 330 on June 25 and Shamrock FC 329 on June 26 marked an amazing weekend. Finney rated the shows’ success with a 9.5 out of 10, though he said he never gives a 10.

“It was amazing,” Finney told MMASucka. “It was probably the proudest weekend that I’ve ever had in 23 years of doing this. Everything about it felt great. Everything fell into place. It was amazing and top-notch all the way around.”

The Ameristar Casino of St. Louis, Missouri, sold out its 1,700-adult capacity for both cards, according to Finney. The CEO said his favorite part of the night was the bright mood and smiles of everyone – from the fighters to the corners and the fans.

We didn’t have as much of an argument in the crowd or backstage,” he said. “Everybody was in great spirits. I feel like everyone has really taken the 16 months where he haven’t had a show, and everybody really appreciated the show itself. Including myself. To be honest with you, a lot of times, when it comes to fight day, I’m excited for the fights, but I’m also ready to get it over with just because it’s been so much build-up to get to there. I really didn’t want any of it to end.”

Shamrock FC and the Coronavirus

Shamrock FC was set to host an event on March 14, 2020, though it was canceled due to the worsening of the COVID-19 outbreak at the time. Slowly, over the next several months, the MMA world began to spin again, and different promotions of different magnitudes across the world began to host events again – many of them without a crowd.

The biggest obstacle to the return of Shamrock FC, Finney said, was the timing.

“For us, we could have went the way of being very frugal in a sense of smaller fighters, smaller production, smaller everything,” he said. “I think we could have. But also, I did not want to do something unless it was 100 percent right.”

For Finney and the promotion, that meant full-sized cards in front of a 100 percent capacity crowd. The end result, he feels, exceeded the expectations of himself, the fans and the Ameristar Casino.

There was never a doubt the day would come when Shamrock FC would start hosting shows once again, Finney said.

“It never crossed my mind that we weren’t going to be back,” he said. “We just had to come back in a different way, which turned out to be even better. We honestly upped everything.”

The Standouts of Shamrock FC

Between the two Shamrock FC events held, three fighters’ performances stood out to Finney: Evan Elder, who took a unanimous decision off CJay Hunter at Shamrock FC 330, Corbin Howard who finished Lantz Nave at Shamrock FC 329, and Erion Zekthi, who submitted Dillon Tolbert with a Von Flue choke in the main event of SFC 329.

Howard, Finney believes, is a superstar in the making, while he said Elder’s win against a veteran like Hunter was amazing.

Finney gave credit to Zekthi for his technical submission of Tolbert in the first round:

“Erion Zekthi looked amazing. The choke that he pulled off, the Von Flue, that just doesn’t happen, right, against an opponent like Dillon Tolbert. If you would’ve asked 10 people in the audience who would’ve won that fight, five would say Erion, and five would say Dillon. ‘Erion was going to get knocked out, or Erion was going to lay on him.’ Those were the two. That’s what everyone said. For Erion to pull that off with a Von Flue choke is just crazy.”

Finney said he would like to see both Zekthi and Elder stay busy.

Zekthi said he is eyeing a shot on Dana White’s Contender Series, but if that doesn’t happen, he and Elder will likely both compete at Shamrock FC 331, set for Sept. 25, Finney said.

Finney said he would consider title shots for both Zekthi, a bantamweight, and Elder, a lightweight, at Shamrock FC 331.

“I think that definitely has to be considered. Who else are they going to fight? That’s what it comes down to. If we’re going to sit down tomorrow and plan it. Do those guys want to go to Bellator? Do they want to go to the UFC? … It’s going to be up to them.”

Shamrock FC is tentatively planning another event for Oct. 9, according to Finney.

Finney wanted to thank the media, fans, and fighters for the success of the two recent shows.

“When we did this show, it was a true partnership with the group of fighters we had on Friday and Saturday night. They supported us, and we supported them. It was an amazing experience. It was the most proudest moment of my life in the fight game. I’m 46 years old. I’ve been in the fight game since I was 9 years old. So that really means a lot. I’ve been involved in a couple 1,000 shows when it’s all said and done. And this was the proudest weekend for sure.”

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