By Zach Arnold | November 5, 2012
There’s some good… and curious… developments that came out of the first World Series of Fighting show from Las Vegas that aired on NBC Sports Network/Versus this past weekend.
First, the skinny. Ray Sefo’s name is on the MMAWC LLC along with Sig Rogich, who’s an establishment Republican backer but is also an ally to Harry Reid in Las Vegas. In other words, a long-time political player with some juice. But, as we know from the history of money marks in the fight business, even rich people hate losing money and don’t always have the strongest of stomachs to burn cash long-term. There were murmurs behind the scenes before the first show on Saturday that Rogich & company were contacting some big sponsors to put up some cash in exchange for joint ventureship. Whether WSOF got anyone to bite on that, I don’t know. The sales pitch allegedly was that WSOF had a year-long deal with NBCSN, but as we all know that deal is basically a per-show contract in regards to whether or not NBCSN will push events long-term. You could tell some bets were hedged based on the fact that the second show date for WSOF wasn’t pushed hard on the television broadcast.
The show itself came across as an upgraded, cage version of the IFL. They ran Planet Hollywood and had a different kind of crowd than a typical MMA show. Tim Hughes and Keith Evans from the IFL are involved. The set-up was kind of weird — the crowd looked real small for the fighter introductions but then they had some cut-away shots during Andrei Arlovski’s win and it looked like an entirely different crowd for a different show. Don’t ask me.
Every time a new start-up emerges, there’s always a rush to judgment as far as whether or not to push the next league as a potential rival to UFC. It’s not going to happen here at all. The matchmaking gave us a clue as to why. There were three routes: 1) book fights with exciting finishes (i.e. mismatches), 2) book the most competitive & even fights (UFC philosophy), 3) book some cornerstones and build for the future. In the case of the first WSOF show, we got more of option 1 but it wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world to watch. Tyrone Spong basically had a sparring match with an easy target in the cage. Anthony Johnson had his KO moment. Miguel Torres lost in excruciating fashion. Andrei Arlovski fought Devin Cole. Seriously, Devin Cole, a guy with a legal record who isn’t a great fighter. Who on Earth thought that it would be a good idea to put Devin Cole in a main event of a debut show in order to attract sponsors to buy into the promotion for future shows? Why don’t we have a Gilles Arsene cameo while we’re at it.
Does anyone consider Arlovski or Rumble Johnson to be ‘cornerstone’ fighters for an upstart promotion? If that’s the plan, then this isn’t going to go far. Plus, if the second show goes head-to-head against a UFC show on Fox broadcast TV, it will get zero coverage. The fact that people were excited about Devin Cole trending on Twitter is alarming. Every Monday night, Vince McMahon & WWE are trying to trend on Twitter and look where that has led their business. Business for him now is as rough as it was during the Ludwig Borga (Tony Halme) days. Feed me? No, don’t feed me… any more Twitter crap to try to claim that because something is trending on Twitter that it somehow computes into being a big deal.
So, I’m just like you when it comes to WSOF. I have no idea what the future is and I don’t think the promoters involved are sure, either.