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Random Rant: IFL Talking Points

l_77e643c1d1ed8d745e7572db1bf1eccf1.gif Here are some random thoughts regarding the IFL and their announcement yesterday that they’ve canceled their card that had been scheduled for August 15:

— The IFL has not filed for bankruptcy. I’m sure people will say the IFL is done, but it’s technically still alive. That being said, I do not believe we will ever see the IFL promote another show again. Time is not on the promotion’s side. With each passing day, a bailout of some kind becomes less likely.

— If the IFL never does another show, it will be a shame. Their recent shows have been strong and in my opinion, have been the best shows I’ve seen on HDNet. There’s also the fact that his sport needs as much competition to the UFC as possible. Less promotions mean fewer jobs for fighters and less leverage when it comes to contract negotiation.

While I think IFL co-founders Kurt Otto and Gareb Shamus greatly underestimated the learning curve of the MMA business, I feel that the company currently has some strong personnel currently steering the ship. IFL CEO and President Jay Larkin and the company’s PR staff are tremendous. It’s a shame so many members of the media were resistent to covering the IFL, because they are so media-friendly.

— The company not only has some top-notch personnel, but they’ve got a strong roster of talent. Unfortunately, their fighters weren’t marketed properly and with the exceptions of Chris Horodecki and Ben Rothwell, none of them truly became stars. But as far as credibility is concerned, the IFL has a few top ten fighters and many more that are top ten caliber. In my estimation, Vladimir Matyushenko, Jay Hieron, and Wagnney Fabiano are clearly top ten within their respective weight classes.

Roy Nelson, the promotion’s heavyweight champion improves with each passing fight and with a big win or two, he could easily find himself in the heavyweight top ten. Lightweight champion Ryan Schultz has also improved tremendously within the last nine months and can hold his own with any lightweight fighter in the world right now. Horodecki’s stock has dipped a little bit following his past two fights, but he’s only 20.

And while Bart Palaszewski’s win/loss record hasn’t been great recently, he’s a solid, well-rounded fighter who I’ve never seen had a bad fight. I’d be remiss if I left out two of the company’s better middleweights, Matt Horwich and Benji Radach.

The IFL also has some strong up and coming talent. Fighters such as Shad Lierley, Deividas Taurosevicius, L.C. Davis, Mike Massenzio, Danillo Villefort, Dan Miller (the promotion’s middleweight champion), Jim Miller, and Tim Kennedy are tremendous prospects who have the potential to be future stars. When you look at Jim Miller, he’s a fighter that I believe will be a top ten lightweight in two years. And Kennedy, wow, if he ever finds himself in a position where he can do MMA full-time, look out!

I just see some tremendous talent on the IFL roster and if a promotion is looking to upgrade its roster of talent, they should be on the phone with the IFL right now. I’d love to see Jim Miller competing against the UFC’s best at 155. A rematch vs. Frankie Edgar would be amazing. Wagnney Fabiano would be a great fit for EliteXC, because the promotion needs someone that can give Wilson Reis a run for his money. Right now, there’s no one in EliteXC at 140/145 that can even touch Reis. A Reis vs. Mark Oshiro matchup would be intriguing, but once Reis got Oshiro off his feet, it would be game, set, and match. But a matchup between Reis vs. Fabiano would be incredible. Of course, Fabiano would be a great fit in the WEC as a challenge to Urijah Faber. Kennedy would be perfect for the WEC. The promotion needs additional depth at middleweight and they’ve done a tremendous job with another member of our armed forces, Brian Stann.

— One silver lining to come out of yesterday’s conference call was Larkin’s revelation that the company has no debt. Yes, the company has gone through nearly $32 million since its inception, but they are not operating at a deficit. Larkin has done a tremendous job streamlining the company’s overall operations. I often wonder where the IFL would be right now if Larkin had been the company’s President and CEO from day one. His greatest attribute is his television background, which is an amazing asset to possess in a sport that is so reliant on television. The company was in such a hole when he took over that it was impossible for him to get potential television partners truly excited about the product. Had he been guiding the IFL from day one, I believe the promotion easily would be the number two fight company in MMA. Larkin also reminds me a lot of Larry Brown in that he’s honest to a fault.

— Call me crazy, but I actually somewhat enjoyed the team concept. When the IFL changed production companies last July, the team concept would added context to the fights being shown and made it easier for me to follow. However, at the end of the day, I just couldn’t get as excited for the fights the same way I did for individual matchups. There’s nothing quite like a big-time title matchup where you’re uncertain about the outcome going in. The IFL didn’t have that element until recently, and by that time, too much damage had been done. One innovation the IFL should be applauded for was its coaching concept. I really enjoyed seeing legends such as Pat Miletich, Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Renzo Gracie, and others be so visible. One of my biggest gripes about the UFC is that it fails to acknowledge its past. If you’re not a contemporary component of the UFC, it’s almost as if you never existed.

— The biggest lesson learned from the IFL is that if you’re a multi-millionaire looking to get involved in MMA, do not go the Dan Snyder route. Just because you love watching the sport and have trained a little bit does not mean you’re ready to run an MMA promotion. This business is more difficult than it looks. There’s only so much you can learn as an outside observer. There are so many lessons that can only be learned from the inside. If you have the capital and the urge to invest in MMA, make sure you go out and hire someone who has an established track record in the fight game to run your promotion.

  • Evan says:

    I agree with everything you wrote here, Sam. The current IFL is the one of the best shows outside of the UFC in my opinion. I’d put it right below the WEC and right above EliteXC. They finally got things figured out but it took them too long. What a shame.

    I completely understand why the UFC won’t cross promote but I would have loved to see a WEC/IFL card so I’m hoping the WEC absorbs a lot of their talent.

  • DPK says:

    I’ve said on a few occasions that Zuffa should use WEC as a developmental league. This would be the perfect time for Zuffa to pump alot of talent into the WEC ranks, and even pick up a few of the fighters for UFC (seriously, who doesn’t want to see Roy Nelson and his ripped body stand across the ring from Brock Lesnar or Shane Carwin). Maybe we will start seeing a monthly WEC show on Versus.

    I’m sure EliteXC and Affliction are looking to add to their roster’s as well, and the overall quality and depth of all of these organizations should improve.

  • Zack with a ck says:

    If you believe what Jay says about the MMA landscape, more promotions are going to be dying off. That said, what the fighters desperately need is a union. If Tito wants to make his final mark on MMA, he could make it his legacy to be the one that got it started. He has the charisma and standing in the community, and it would make Chuck eat his words about Tito only caring about himself.

  • Andrew says:

    The IFL killed itself earlier with their mind boggling event scheduling. Remember the IFL, scheduled an event on the same night as UFC 79 and scheduled an event during the weekend of UFC 81 and the Nascar event in Las Vegas. They could of gained some media attention and expose their product to the widest amount of people as much as possible, but they killed theirselves with choices of dates.

  • Matt C. says:

    Andrew makes a good point. When IFL launched there was a buzz about it. But going head to head with UFC pay-per-views and other major events for the 18-34 audience was suicide.
    I’m in the boat of those saying they enjoyed the quality of the IFL, especially of late. It’s too bad they didnt hook up with HDNet from the beginning. Hindsight is 20/20.

    If Affliction has any plans to last long term, they need to snag some IFL talent ASAP.

  • Evan says:

    I still say one of the biggest mistakes the IFL made was the season two opener promo “SOMEONE LEAVES IN A STRETCHER” or something like that. It really turned me and a lot of other fans off..I didn’t give the show another shot for awhile after that.

  • matt says:

    I’d like to see the WEC absorb the talent and the worthwhile HW of the IFL UFC bound. I don’t think Jay Heiron could compete with the top WW of the UFC, but in the WEC he could definitely compete. Same with alot of the IFL talent. In my opinion, the WEC needs depth at all weightclasses and the IFL could fill those holes.

  • bjjdenver says:

    TUF 10: Free Agency!!

    Seriously, I agree with this article completely. They have a great, clean product and their fighters are starting to make names for themselves. Unfortunately, it may be to late and as I’ve said many times before, there just aren’t enough eyes on their product.

    I didn’t really care for the old IFL, but their new format is great. I like their straightforward approach to the sport and always felt this would be the way to sway boxing fans over to mma.

    Their 2008 shows have been consistently very good, about the level of the WEC, which most people seem to enjoy. I just think their downfall at this point, is only showing their live cards on HDNet, which is still not widely available.

  • mike wolfe says:

    By the time IFL moved to HDNet, it was already circling the drain. I am a Comcrap customer, and despite my repeated suggestion, it doesn’t carry HDNet. (Yeah, I know, I’m shocked and outraged the company doesn’t snap to attention when I make suggestions) I watched it regularly before that, but thought its format was a problem. The team concept never caught on, and didn’t make much sense. MMA has always a series of one-on-one contests, so teams don’t resonate. I didn’t like the ring, either, because of the need for re-starts.

  • bjjdenver says:

    #9, Mike, this is exactly what I’m talking about. So many people have not had the chance to give the IFL a try again. I didn’t care for it, but when they started showing the live cards in HD, I had to give it a shot, and I am happy I did.

    I think if they could put their live cards on Saturday on HDNet and replay them Sunday night on FX or Fox Sports or something, it might help.

    It just doesn’t matter how good or bad your product is if nobody is aware of it. Unfortunate.

  • Evan says:

    Hey mike…there’s a sticky on the sherdog forums you should read about hdnet with comcast.

    As awful as that site is there is some great info on that thread.

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    #10 Man, I’d love to give it a try, but the dang cable company won’t work with me.

    #11: Thanks for the tip, I’ll check into it. I don’t often check that site, because the decontamination process–pressure wash with harsh chemicals–is time consuming and painful.


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