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« | Home | »

IFL on MyNetwork TV

By Zach Arnold | March 12, 2007

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Post your feedback to this week’s show here. And I’ve also added a poll on the right side of the page.

I want nothing more than to see a second promotion cement itself as a successful MMA operation in the United States. I have friends who work in the IFL. However, there comes a time where you have to call a spade a spade.

Update: Pramit Mohapatra of the Baltimore Sun almost disagrees with my opinion on the IFL show entirely.

The IFL did a 0.8 rating for their debut show on MyNetwork TV. Take a look at some reader feedback.

Show reviews

Observer:

In a way, the show felt like MMA’s version of TNA Impact. Personality pieces are fine, but give the viewers time to learn. At one point, three fights from the original IFL show aired within six minutes.

MMA Weekly:

But on a two-hour program, not only were fights not shown in their entirety, most 4-minute rounds were edited down to 2 minutes and some change. The worst of it was that the rounds were edited in such a fashion that they appeared to be complete rounds, not highlights, and in my mind were presented as such.

My review of the show

After watching the debut of IFL Battleground on MyNetwork TV on Monday night, I was embarrassed to be an MMA fan. It was disheartening and comical at the same time to be an MMA fan watching this. This show was so ridiculous that I felt sorry for the fighters, coaches, and staff involved with the various IFL teams.

To set the stage as far as who was producing the IFL Battleground show, the producer is Jay Larkin of Showtime boxing fame. Dana White recently commented on Jay Larkin in a CBS Sportsline interview on March 9th:

DW: Not really, you know they’re just bad guys; they’re in it for the wrong reason. I mean, all these guys who are getting involved, they crack me up. You know you’ve got Gary Shaw and Jay Larkin now. You know Gary Shaw three years ago thought MMA was a joke. Jay Larkin is a guy I talked to five years ago that wouldn’t put it on Showtime; didn’t believe in it at all, now he’s getting a paycheck from one of the companies and now he’s all about it. These are all guys who didn’t have the passion for it, didn’t like it and didn’t see the future in it.

The show starts out with Frank Shamrock talking about how his fighters will fight to the death. Then a fighter is shown getting choked out while you hear flatlining sounds in the background as doctors rush into the ring. They focused on the ring girls throwing out gimmicks to the crowd, as they start off with a slick video opening package.

They immediately put over the team concept and then stated, “What you all tuned in for – the face pounding!” They focused heavily on the fact that they would be producing 9 ‘big bouts’ in the time span of 2 hours (or to be more specific, 85 minutes), claiming that these were the best 9 fights of the past IFL 2006 season. There were many video packages featuring fighters talking about how “I came to hurt somebody!” and another fighting stating calmly about “cracking the guy in the chin, watching his crippled carcass going face down to the mat, and showing him on the 40-foot screen — you got knocked out!” They pushed that this fighting is real and in a ring, and that they are not actors. They claimed to describe the rules of the IFL, but did a poor job of doing so. No real on-screen graphics that were simple and easy for the casual fan at home to understand.

The one clear highlight on the show (which is no surprise) are the promos from the coaches, with Don Frye once again being the stand-out star on the show. In a segment that is clearly out of boxing 101 marketing, they put over the fact that many IFL fighters were college dropouts and people who needed father figures because they had no dads. Put this in stark contrast to how UFC markets their fighters and their educational backgrounds (i.e. Chuck Liddell as the accountant graduate, Rich Franklin the math teacher, etc.) They showed a ton of fighters talking, but had absolutely no on-screen graphics or name labels for them whatsoever. Just a bunch of random guys talking. At the 10 minute mark of the show, they showed the following teaser:

And by the end of this show, someone’s going to leave… on a stretcher! (playing a black & white video of the stretcher job)

10 minutes into the show, and they were already doing a stretcher job teaser. We’ll keep count of the number of times they did this throughout the course of the show review.

They came back with fighters talking about how “someone’s going to get hurt,” “unchecked aggression,” and other fight game cliches. They started pushing Rory Markham on the TV show, with him talking about how he liked Arturo Gatti. Ben Rothwell came on and said that his last name meant “river of blood” and how he liked “to split opponents open and draw blood… knock them out cold.”

They aired a video message from Bas Rutten (which would be replayed again during the show) talking about how you should leave MMA to the professionals and a do-not-try-this-at-home message.

They promised to show three back-to-back-to-back fights and then they did stretcher job teaser #2:

“and the IFL world team championship, it ends in an ambulance!”

They spent time on the TV show pushing 18-year old ‘Polish hammer’ Chris Horodecki, marketed as the IFL’s youngest and most devastating fighter. Then, stretcher job teaser #3:

And we promise you, we will be calling 9-1-1… (video of the stretcher job) with “911, what’s your emergency?” voice from an operator.

They showed a quick ad for the Los Angeles Forum event coming up this week. They spent next-to-no time building or promoting this show at all.

They showed footage of Horodecki beating Erik Owings. Then the announcer says (stretcher job teaser #4):

After Owings lost, no champagne, no laps around the ring, because… it ended like this (video of the stretcher job).

They showed footage of Rory Markham’s illegal hit on Keith Wisniewski after the bell in a round of their fight, which forced Keith to quit the match. Don Frye comments and says, “They’re wearing a mouthpiece fighting in their underwear.”

The show pushed the Shamrock family feud, including a very quick profile about John Gunderson wanting to fight for Ken Shamrock’s team. The IFL TV show had a kneeslapper of a statement when profiling Frank Shamrock. “He told the UFC to call him when they found someone to beat him… he’s still waiting for the UFC to call!” They did a review of the other IFL teams, including the Tokyo Sabres (now with only one Japanese fighter in Kazuhiro Hamanaka). At the end, they did stretcher job teaser #5:

Coming up, the IFL world team championship… and the moment you’ve been waiting for (video of stretcher job).

Throughout the show, they spent air time building up Rory Markham as a star fighter. Then they proceeded to show him losing to fighter Chris Wilson at the Mohegan Sun Arena event. During a lot of the fights on the IFL show, they didn’t bother to label the fighters on-screen at all. It was very confusing and impossible for the casual fan to keep score. After Markham’s loss, they did stretcher job teaser #6:

…and this knockout! Someone’s not getting up! (siren blares)

They did a “we aren’t actors!” promo and then stretcher job teaser #7:

The fight to end all fights… this is how the IFL’s 2006 season ended (video of stretcher)… the IFL finals we’ll never forget!

They closed out the show with Bart “Bartimus” Palaszewski KO’ng Ryan Schultz and Schultz leaving out on a stretcher. They ended the show with Bas Rutten previewing next week’s fights while they showed backstage footage of Schultz being loaded into an ambulance.

Closing thoughts

Frustrating is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings about this IFL Battleground TV show. Every possible negative stereotype that MMA enthusiasts and backers have been trying to fight against for the past decade reared its ugly head on this show. Portraying fighters as uneducated college dropouts needing father figures, stretcher job teasers everywhere, mostly stand-up fighting and little ground work, it was the complete definition of dumbing down the way you present a sport.

Watching IFL Battleground is the MMA equivalent of watching TNA Impact, produced by a boxing guy who picked up a tape of UFC in 1993 and decided that this is how you market an MMA product on free-to-air television. Let me explain further.

If you’re a pro-wrestling fan, you know that consistently each week the worst wrestling show produced on a major scale is TNA Impact. It’s a pro-wrestling show booked by former WWE writer Vince Russo that features logic from the mid-to-late 1990s that has no application in today’s business. Storylines that are stupid and insulting to the intelligence of the viewers. Tons of matches crammed into 60 minutes that get absolutely no workers or concepts over. It’s the kind of show that you watch after 60 minutes and say to yourself, “I know I watched the show, but I have no idea what I just saw or who fought who.” It’s a ton of random guys thrown out to perform on TV without any sort of promotional build whatsoever to create individual characters or stars. When you watch the program, you sit there and hope that they give you a chance to take a breather and try to absorb what they are pitching to you on the show. TNA has argued over and over that if they only had two hours, they wouldn’t be cramming as much content as they do in 60 minutes. It’s an argument that few pro-wrestling fans buy into.

What we saw with IFL Battleground is exactly what TNA Impact would look like in 2-hour format. The IFL pushed 9 fights, most of them edited, in such a rush job that it was impossible to figure out and keep up with the names of the fighters. They made absolutely no real effort to individually label fighters during the fights outside of last-name graphics before the first round of each fight that lasted for about five seconds on camera. It was one fight after another, back to back to back, and it had zero character build. Outside of ineffective, edited video packages at the beginning of the show, a casual fan watching this show had no clue who the fighters were or what they were watching. You just had a feeling that you wanted to give up after seeing it. I wanted to scream SLOW THE PACE DOWN often at the TV during IFL Battleground.

There will be MMA fans who will try to claim that the IFL used pro-wrestling style marketing for this TV show. Speaking as an experienced pro-wrestling guy, the answer to that is no. The way IFL Battleground was marketed on Monday night is the same way that the early UFC events in 1993-1994 were marketed. In pro-wrestling booking, you build characters and storylines. You try to make sense in a logical manner with how you book fights. You pace things out so that fans can understand simple matchmaking and have a reason to want to see fights. The marketing style of the IFL Battleground show on Monday night was a throwback to the heyday of the early UFCs, where it was entirely focused on seeing someone get maimed, killed, crippled, or bloodied up. At least in the early UFCs, you had a tournament storyline and you had the storyline of a smaller fighter like Royce Gracie facing the giants. On IFL Battleground, you had no normal storylines. You just had a phony emphasis on pushing violence. There’s a difference between pro-wrestling style marketing and the old early UFC marketing, and it was clearly on display with the IFL Battleground show.

A major problem with IFL Battleground is that the drama and over-the-top intensity on the show is so manufactured and so fake. At no point do you get the sense that the promotion is really letting the fighters truly show all of their charisma. Don Frye stands out as a positive, but we only get to see 5-second snippets of him throughout a show. Either a fighter has charisma or he doesn’t, and you have to let the fighters and coaches produce their own heat. You can’t manufacture it. People like to rip on the Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz storyline from UFC last year, but those guys had the natural charisma to carry the storyline and build up their fights. They knew how to sell match-ups. At no point during the IFL Battleground show did the fighters (outside of terse comments from Rory Markham and Ben Rothwell) have a chance to show who their characters truly were. If it wasn’t about pushing the team concept, it was about doing seven teasers to put over a stretcher job on the show. It almost came off as a parody of an MMA show.

This was an embarrassingly produced show by Jay Larkin and associates. It did a real disservice to the progress of MMA in the United States. The fight quality displayed was not that great, mainly because we didn’t get the chance to see fights in the proper context or with any sort of build. Quantity does not equal quality. At the end of watching this program, I felt sad for the fighters, commentators, and staff members of the IFL for the product that was presented on IFL Battleground. They didn’t deserve this kind of Monday debut on free-to-air television.

Topics: All Topics, IFL, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 30 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

30 Responses to “IFL on MyNetwork TV”

  1. Kev says:

    PBBBBBT.

    IFL is now my least favorite promotion. Screw them and their stretcher lust.

  2. Rollo the Cat says:

    I’ll post a slightly edited version of what I wrote on another board.

    I really wnat this to work, team concept and all, but as I am watching the first show, I can’t help but be ticked the heck off.

    1. The broadcast takes an underhand shot at the whole sport by implying that other MMA is fake. The announcer says something to the effect of, “unlike other fighting you may have seen in a cage, the IFL is real. The fighters are not actors.” Excuse me? Blast the UFC if you want for marketing or matchmaking, but that is a shot at the integrity of the sport.

    2. Blood and Gore. I know it is a combat sport, but the presentation I just saw in the first 15 minutes is setting the sport back. Frank Shamrock seems to promise DEATH!!! Can’t wait. The sound effects of a flat liner heart rate as guy is choked unconscious, “somebody is gonna leave on a stretcher” comment by the announcer. “Bone breaking, blood splattering, etc” No indication of the skill involved, just Team Toughman. “Unchecked aggression!!!” Unchecked? Not checked by tactics or skill?

    3. Are MMA fighters uneducated losers in life who can’t do anything else? The IFL wants us to believe they are. Don Frye tells us that his fighters didn’t have fathers. Another fighter says that he wasn’t college material, he is a fighter. So you can’t be both, like so many MMA guys are? Then they pull the old story about fighters being poor and growing up with nothing. One poor guy never had ice cream as a kid. I almost cried. That is Boxing’s story, not MMA’s. There are so many guys in MMA who grew up right, did the right things, and represent the sport well. Why give the impression that MMA fighters are losers? It just isn’t true.

    We just had a Randy Couture making appearances on major media outlets. An educated, well spoken gentleman who has done as much to advance the sport after his victory at UFC 68 as he did in the Octagon against Tim. Thanks for helping to destroy that positive image of fighters, IFL.

    4. Is the IFL MMA or bad Muay Thai? Is there any gorund fighting? Could they perhaps show some? If you are ashamed to have groundfighting in your league, then don’t call it MMA. The fights looked like something from a small local promotion.

    5. Is there anyone form the Tokyo team who actually is from Tokyo?

    I turned it off about 2/3 through. I pray no newcomers were watching that show last night. Any one with knowledge of MA or any striking arts would be laughing their heads off at that stuff .Those with no knowledge of MA were probably repulsed if their IQ was above plant life.

    I am not joking when I say I was ashamed to be a fan of this sport watching that broadcast.
    Absolutely disgraceful

  3. Jordan Breen says:

    It’s scientific fact that when a Scorpion, a Condor, a Silverback and a Lion get into a motherfucking rumble…

    … SOMEBODY IS LEAVING ON A STRETCHER!!!11

  4. Zack says:

    ” If you are ashamed to have groundfighting in your league, then don’t call it MMA. The fights looked like something from a small local promotion.”

    I disagree. Most of the fights shown were really good.

  5. JOSH says:

    Also to let ya know Hamanaka and the alternate fighter are both from Japan in the Tokyo Sabres (but yea only two is a far stretch from an intl team).

  6. Royal B. says:

    Who produced that countdown show?

    I want them shot like dogs.

  7. Jordan Breen says:

    The real question is whether or not Eddie Goldman can blame Dana White for this.

  8. Jordan Breen says:

    I will pay $10 in American funds, via Paypal, to the first person to create a YTMND page for the “SOMEONE’S GONNA LEAVE ON A STRETCHER!!!” bit.

  9. Luke says:

    Jordan – Dana White can be blamed for ALL thats wrong with MMA. Everything.

  10. Jonathan says:

    To clear up some controversy here, the “Actors” that they are referring to are TV shows such as “Battledome” and “American Gladiators”, where regular people would compete against larger then life characters that were usually paid by gruff, ripped actors. That whole genre, if one could call it that, was two or three steps past Pro Wrestling, and I believe that the IFL was wanting to make the understanding clear that what they do is real…not scripted nor fake.

    The comment about the “not being college material” irked me to. I believe it is Nick “The Goat” Thompson who talked about doing mixed martial arts AND college all at the same time. So much for that theory…

  11. grafdog says:

    I just watched 3 IFL shows in a row tonight, shamrock vs shamrock frye vs inoki and most of tonights show, i must say the fights were pretty good. A lot of action and technique. The ring is a welcome change from the cage, and the ground fighting was overall more advanced than the other “cage events”. The foolish intro was bad and was contrary to the feel of the actual broadcast.

    Overall it had a lot of positives…
    The team format gave a cohesive feel to the shows.
    Rather than a bunch of one off fights on the typical card, it was reminiscent of the old tournaments.
    Rutten and Quadros are the best team out there.
    Don Frye was lol funny.
    I look forward to Smith vs Ruas this weekend.

    Its on broadcast tv.

  12. Jordan Breen says:

    “Monday night was a throwback to the heyday of the early UFCs, where it was entirely focused on seeing someone get maimed, killed, crippled, or bloodied up.”

    Not even. A lot of the early UFC’s were almost farcical and intentionally tacky in their “THERE ARE NO RULES!!” type advertising. This IFL garbage was much more akin to monster truckin’.

    SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY. MAYHEM MAYHEM MAYHEM. STRETCHER STRETCHER STRETCHER. AND GRAVEDIGGER!!

  13. Zack says:

    Good article, Zach.

  14. CapnHulk says:

    I watched the whole thing in disbelief. It’s like watching all the progress the sport has made in North America in the last few years unraveling onto the floor.

    I understand that in order to get the American audience familiar with the brand they have to market themselves in an over-the-top way, but this was ridiculous. I really hope the next show isn’t like this.

  15. MMAGame says:

    “The real question is whether or not Eddie Goldman can blame Dana White for this.”

    - I like that a LOT! :D Goldman is really going to spew over this – it will be one show of his I will look forward to greatly!

    I havent seen the show but it sounds absolutely horrific from the commentary above.

  16. YONE says:

    This sounds awful – what is going on here! And TNA Wrestling comparisons… good God – that show is beyond atrocious!

  17. DarthMolen says:

    If you didn’t like the show, tell them. Be civil. Don’t be an @ssh@t and they will probably listen to you. Here is their contact form.

    http://www.ifl.tv/Forms/contact-form.html

    I have found the IFL group to be quite open to suggestions. They ARE a new promotion trying to feel their way around the broadcasting world.

    I can personally tell you that the actual fights are exciting to watch. I was personally covering the IFL Houston event and it was REALLY good. The team concept had me riveted at the event where I would wonder, “ok, this third match is the kicker… are they gonna win?”.

    It is disappointing to hear that they went the route of “Pro Wrestling” marketing for their 2 hour show IFL Battlegrounds.

    It is inexcusable that they edit the fights up with 2 hours to work with…. I can understand them editing the content on the 1 hr FSN show to fit 4 or 5 fights but not on the 2 hrs they have on MyNetworkTV…

  18. Slo says:

    still in disbelief…

    wow.

  19. Zach Arnold says:

    It is disappointing to hear that they went the route of “Pro Wrestling” marketing for their 2 hour show IFL Battlegrounds.

    Read my review again — the IFL did not produce a pro-wrestling style show. This was a badly produced show that used the kind of early-day UFC hype that everyone now dreads to hear.

    I’m going to keep fighting the comparisons of the IFL marketing strategy to pro-wrestling. Because the pro-wrestling marketing route would have been a lot better than what they produced.

  20. PizzaChef says:

    Jordan: If I had the skills I would thrown in a burning cat into the mix and call it a NEDM site. :P

    And ugh, IFL just pisses me off. I saw one of their FSN shows and the opening was ugh. They show guy giving someone a flying knee then you see the label “JIU-JITSU” WTF?

  21. David says:

    That was appalling. I don’t have any interest in watching any of their programming ever again. Zach is right about the pacing; it was atrocious. We had no reason to care about any of the fighters or the teams or anything. That show was a disgrace to MMA.

  22. Mike says:

    I agree with all the criticisms of the show. I do think that there is hope in that the majority of the coaches are reputable MMA fighters. The fanbase needs to let their complaints be heard. I truly hope that the production and editing of the show changes drastically or else the IFL is done.

    MMA would benefit greatly if this concept succeeded so let’s hope it does.

  23. Matt Boone says:

    I wanted to do a column on this too so bad, but the more I thought about it – it doesn’t deserve one. The show was a f’n joke, period.

  24. David says:

    “Be sure to tune into IFL Battleground next week, when somebody WILL DIE! Check your local listings for details.”

  25. Hey Zach, why not have one of the IFL people on the next FOR and ask whem “What the Dilly, yo?”

  26. Scott White says:

    Monday night marked the IFL’s debut on MyNetworkTV with their new show IFL Battleground. The IFL left their mark on the MMA world but not necessarily in a good way. The show sent shockwaves around the MMA community as fans watched in horror to see their sport portrayed as a blood sport.

    While watching the show I sat back and picked out what I thought was the good, bad and ugly.

    The Good

    From a fans perspective I saw some potential with the show. The production values seem to be pretty good but obviously there are some seriously problems with the people editing the show. After watching the show it was evident that the editors knew very little if anything about mixed martial arts.

    They made a solid effort promoting their concept even though some of the clips may have been in bad taste. It was nice to see MMA legends like Bas Rutten, Pat Miletich and Ken Shamrock pushing the organization and portraying it in a solid light.

    The Bad and Ugly

    Where do I even start!

    The IFL immediately shot themselves in the foot when they kicked off the broadcast by showing Wes Sims laying on the canvas unconscious with the sound of a heart rate flat-lining as the voiceover.

    Not that I expected anything different but Frank Shamrock graces the camera and says “My guys are ready to fight to the death for their team and that’s what it’s all about.”

    The IFL had a number of quotes that rubbed me and many others the wrong way. Many of the comments on the show should have never made it through the editing process.

    “The inside stories, the family rivalries and of course what you’ve all tuned in for, the face pounding, the intensity and the bone crushing of IFL team fighting.”

    “After dozens of fights and pints of blood, it’s time for the IFL Championships.”

    “Rothwell doesn’t fight opponents, he mauls them.”

    “You’ve seen the backbreaking takedowns, lethal submissions, and bloodstained fists.”

    Keep in mind when the above quote was said they showed the following clips in this order:

    - A fighter being suplexed and landing heavily on his neck.
    - A guillotine being applied with the sounds of bones cracking being added in. So in bad taste they tried to make it seem as if the fighter’s neck was breaking.
    - Finally the last fighter was shown on his knees with a bloody face.

    “There is no better feeling then cracking a guy in the chin and watching his crippled carcass go face down on the mat, waking him up and showing him on a 40 foot screen, “you just got knocked out.””

    One of the worst parts of the broadcast was the fact that they kept showing Ryan Schultz unconscious on the canvas while their voiceover would say “And by the end of the show someone’s going to leave on a stretcher.”

    If things couldn’t get any worse, they went on to tell fans to call 9-1-1 because someone would be leaving on a stretcher.

    “We promise you we will be calling 9-1-1. 9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

    The end of the show featured highlights from the fight between Bart Palaszewski and Ryan Schultz. The end result was Schultz out on the canvas thus giving us the now infamous stretcher clip. The episode ended with Schultz being taken out of the arena on a stretcher.

    Here are a few other things that I noticed:

    - They spelt Horodecki’s (had Horodeski) name wrong during a few of the fights. Also they had him listed as an 18 year old (really 19).

    - A lot of the clips shown really left a bad taste in my mouth. They stressed the fact that the IFL and MMA was all about guys being knocked unconscious and being beaten into a bloody pulp. The would replay a punch to the face ten times, all in succession. A good example of this is Rory Markham’s battle with Keith Wisniewski.

    - Please do not do a feature on Don Frye again. As entertaining as he may be, he comes across as an uneducated hillbilly.

  27. [...] Dave Melzter discusses the episode in the notes section of his latest L.A. Times column. FightOpinion.com discussed it earlier this week, and its review was as damning as MMAWeekly.com’s. Even the Baltimoresun.com’s Pramit Mohapatra, who labeled the show “a good first episode,” was nonetheless critical of the constant emphasis on violence and aggression. [...]

  28. EDITOR says:

    Hi Guys, I just wanted to let you know that we read the boards and appreciate the feedback. We value your comments and will act on them.

  29. John darius says:

    Hi,
    Watched show on 8/20 and please just show fifghts, shows are like reality tv replaying what we just saw before commercial. People want to see fights, in two hours there should be at least 5 COMPLETE fights, please.

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