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Overanalyzing the overanalyzing of the World Series of Fighting debut event

By Zach Arnold | November 5, 2012

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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.

List of (reported) salaries from Saturday’s show.

Topics: Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 10 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

10 Responses to “Overanalyzing the overanalyzing of the World Series of Fighting debut event”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    The event looked much better then a typical Bellator show. But we all know Versus (errrr NBC Sports) is a dead end. And we also can assume if hockey comes back that the WSOF could be gone….

  2. Chris says:

    Hey Zach,

    I thought the show was enjoyable for what it was. And it was being offerd on basic cable. I hope they have a second and third show.

  3. edub says:

    Vote vote vote vote vote vote

  4. Chuck says:

    It was a fun event. I’m sure the TUF and TapOut fanboys/nuthuggers/whatever-other-derogatory-term types would have loved all the brain damage-inducing 1st round kayos. For a second show they really should put together more competitive fights, but for a first event, I think they accomplished what they clearly wanted to establish. Which was a spectacle of glorious kayos. Hell, the event probably over-achieved on that front. And they have a potential star in Moraes.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    The show only did 198,000 average viewers. I would be surprised if they did a second show now.

    • Robert Poole says:

      Yeah but 198,000 compared to what in that regular time slot? Nothing on Versus aside from Hockey draws any sort of regular viewers and I would guess they’re paying more for their boxing shows than WSOF cost them.

  6. anon says:

    people want to watch fighters, not MMA.

    If you don’t have the names this sport doesn’t sell. WSOF had the names and some fun fights.

    • Chuck says:

      How true is that really? Bellator is doing fine and they don’t really have “name” guys. Affliction had a ton of “name” guys and they crashed and burned after two shows (more to do with the over-inflated salaries than crappy buyrates. I think the ppv number were actually pretty good for both shows. Over 100k each).

      Let’s use a pro wrestling comparison; why isn’t TNA coming in sniffing distance of WWE’s tv ratings and ppv numbers? Hell, their ppv numbers are abysmal, and their tv ratings merely adequate. And they have a ton of “name” guys. Don’t over emphasize the need for “major” names. Solid match-making and good fights will bring in the fans. Having names is a good thing, but can WSOF really depend on Arlovski in the long run? He will get knocked unconscious again, mark my words.

  7. RST says:


    1) book fights meant to showcase specific fighters with exciting finishes (i.e. mismatches/current ufc philosophy),
    2) book the most competitive & even fights (former pre-twitter UFC philosophy)

    • RST says:

      Oh yeah,

      and 3) publicly bash and then book fighters who you’re mad at into no win matchups to make them look bad and lower their bargaining value. (current post twitter UFC philosophy.)


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