By: Patrick Courtois
November 15 will be explosive! Three of the big four; Nevada based UFC, California based Bellator MMA and Nevada based World Series of Fighting (WSOF) will go head-to-head live, on PPV and network television. Which begs the question, was this a deliberate attempt by the three to match wits against each other? Doubtful. There are only so many days in a year to match make, announce and promote events. Inevitably paths will cross. Further, the disparity between the three is still too stark to offer any tangible, viable competition between them. Having said that, what each offers is unique and entertaining both in terms of the caliber of fighters and the quality of events and bouts. They each occupy unique spaces and excel at delivering fire.
Fans do not necessarily offer their allegiances to one promotion. They crossover, attend and watch all promotions, reveling in the options available, quantity and variety of fights to choose from. They enjoy pro and amateur events. MMA has ballooned into a monolithic giant that keeps growing and expanding with every passing year. And the list of successful promotions continues to grow. Invicta FC, based out of North Carolina, the first and—as of this writing–only exclusively female promotion has made tremendous strides in the last few years. Enough to garner a spot as the fourth of the esteemed group of four. Among its business forays was brokering a deal to stream its content live via the UFC’s Fight-Pass online subscriber service. Another very viable promotion making its way is Singapore based One Fighting Championship. With its fights broadcast live on ESPN, the future looks bright for One FC
A competitive MMA market is key to continued growth of the sport. Competition fosters innovation, allows the development of creative thinking, helps identify strengths and weaknesses, helps focus on core audience, stops complacency, helps identify potential threats but most of all, competition is great for the consumer. Fight fans come out on top. Every promotion relies on and competes for fan dollars. As such, bringing ones “A game” is no longer an option, it’s an absolute necessity. Quality & value perception are key in marketing. In order to be top dog, those precepts must be front and center.
WSOF has shown a proclivity for applying a successful formula to its brand and has grown exponentially since its inception in 2012, as a result. So much so that it can credibly vie for identification as the 3rd largest and most successful MMA promotion.
The concept promulgated by Ray Sefo, president of WSOF and his brass so successfully was brilliant in its simplicity and application. It involved cultivating new talent and not being afraid of giving veteran fighters—whether they be ex-UFC or ex-Bellator MMA–a shot at the gold. Further, they embraced promising fighters who’d been around on the MMA circuit and gave them a pathway up the ladder by having them sign on the dotted line. In short, pragmatic risks were hedged and ultimately helped create an outstanding talent pool for the promotion. Chew on these names; Aguilar, Gaethje, Johnson, Palhares, Burkman, Cooper, Carl, Glenn, Spong, Newell. All elite fighters at the top of their game. Hungry, passionate, driven and skilled to no end. This is just the tip of the proverbial fight pool WSOF commands. And just the beginning of a virtually limitless, rich talent working its way in.
With none other than the always amusing and charismatic 2nd degree Black belt, ex Pancrase and UFC luminary, Bas Rutten as color commentator and veteran Aussie commentator Michael Schiavello—AXS TV, K1, Dream, King of the Cage– the promotion has truly found its footing. Schiavello is a master at this game and brings a lot of weight and credibility to the promotion as commentator.
At the core of every successful MMA promotion sit match makers. Theirs is a near sacred calling which can make or harm promotions. It requires skill, forethought, patience, discipline and the ability to elicit passion and excitement with every fight card delivered. Enter WSOF’s Executive VP and match maker extraordinaire, Ali Abdel-Aziz. Delivering the goods consistently and with aplomb. He is where the buck starts and stops. Talent acquisition? Lands on his desk, he signs the fighter is in.
Whilst UFC 180 will offer a monster bout–sold-out in 8 hours–Heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez (13-1-0) succumbed to injury. Without hesitation, Samoan monolith Mark Hunt (10-8-1), accepted the challenge and will now face Fabricio Werdum (18-5-1).
Bellator MMA 131 will offer a much hyped and intriguing fight between ex-UFC alumni, Tito Ortiz (17-11-1) and Stephan Bonnar (15-8-0).
Not to be outdone and joining the hysteric frenzy for out of this world fights and entertainment value, WSOF offers up a killer card featuring three championship belts on the line.
The headliners leading these bouts need no introduction. Their resumes speak volumes for their fight pedigrees.