— 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.