Undertones of MMA: The Flood Gates Are Not Open

June 15, 2008

When the IFL announced it was canceling its August show during a conference call last Tuesday, it really did come as a surprise. Sure, there have been rumblings that the league was in having financial troubles. But little more than a month ago, the struggling promotion held a conference call in which they announced their new fighting surface, “The Hex,” and that they were not only planning the August show in New Jersey, but were looking even further into the future and planned to do a show in Miami.

With the Jersey show dead on arrival, a show in sunny Miami seems to be implausible. So what happened in the course of that month, that the IFL could go from big announcements to big cancelations? It’s more a matter of what did not happen: The flood gates did not open.

Some well-informed speculation is that, financially, nothing changed for the IFL. Instead, IFL CEO Jay Larkin was hedging his bets that after EliteXC’s CBS debut all the competing networks would act on the “monkey-see, monkey-do” nature of network programming, and be compelled to add the IFL’s brand of mixed martial arts to its programming. But that didn’t happen.

According to Larkin, “We’ve had conversations with media companies, film studios, television networks, individuals, celebrities. Every time we have one of these conversations, the interest is very high, but they’re all being very cautious,” said Larkin.

As usual, the networks are playing it safe. They are waiting to see if the ratings from the EliteXC CBS show were a one-time fluke, with fans tuning in from morbid curiosity, or if the curious watchers became legit, car d-carrying MMA fans. On the bright side, negative reaction and backlash to the event seemed to be minimal. Of course, Billy O’Reilly and his minions had something to say about it. But even O’Reilly admitted he “didn’t hear any complaints from anybody about the show.”

But in order for the sport to grow the next live network show needs to be on the up-and-up:

1. MMA information is all over the net. All those new fans from the CBS EliteXC show who logged into read the MMA media’s account of the CBS broadcast now feel a little slighted by an overblown main event. Kimbo Slice has been thoroughly debunked by fans and writers across the web. Fans, both new and old, are going to be looking for a legit main event from EliteXC’s next network show, or they may go elsewhere.

2. Or, the UFC could land a network deal. Given the UFC’s deep roster of talent, a quality card is not an issue.

But the bottom line, is that for the sport to grow, for the IFL to stay alive and for fans to have affordable access on a regular basis, the floodgates need to open.

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