The UFC is the Michael Jordan of mixed martial arts, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other good companies out there doing great things for the sport.
Yesterday the World Series of Fighting held a card in Canada live on the NBC Sports Network, the 7th show for the promotion, which launched in 2012. The company will continue its momentum in 2014, with several shows on the cable network and two live on NBC.
Whether it’s last night’s or the events next year, there’s a lot of reasons to watch the World Series of Fighting.
5. It’s on NBC
There’s a great legacy and history of combat sports on the network. Back when boxing was big, Marv Albert and Dr. Ferdie Pacheco called the great fights on NBC. Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini battled Arturo Frias in a live classic. There’s something to be said about a network with a history behind it and a list of legends who have fought on the network. When MMA is on NBC, either through its broadcast or cable arm, it feels important and legitimate.
4. Bas Rutten
Have you heard this MMA legend call fights? He combines a strong knowledge of the sport with an entertaining delivery and recognizable accent. Here’s what you want in a color commentator: Knowledge of the sport; entertaining to listen to, and someone who doesn’t overshadow the action in the cage. Rutten has it all. He brings a rare combination of fan and fighter knowledge to his calls, and it means something when one of the sports biggest stars is calling the action.
3. Nick Newell
The undefeated one-armed fighter continues his rise with the World Series of Fighting. With a 10-0 record, he’s impressive on his own, but throw in the fact that he is missing most of arm below the elbow, his accomplishments are even more impressive. With seven victories by submission and another two by knockout, Newell has stunned the MMA community with his ferocious attack. How long will it last? Who knows. But for now Newell is an inspiration, and a very scary one to go up against inside the Octagon.
2. Ray Sefo
How many of us would love to see UFC President Dana White get inside the cage and put his money where his mouth is? You don’t have to worry about not being able to back up your talk when it comes to the company brass in the WSOF. With nearly 100 kickboxing, boxing and MMA fights, Sefo, the president of the WSOF is a guy who has the legitimate respect of the fighters on their roster. They aren’t nice to him because they have to be to keep their jobs. They respect him because he has waged the same wars they have in the sport. Sefo is a six-time Muay Thai champion and championship-level K-1 fighter. Sefo can be both the company’s spokesman and the company’s butt-kicker. He last fought in August, and although he lost, it’s amazing to thing that the company’s president is competing inside the cage. When was the last time you heard Sefo blast one of his fighters? He doesn’t need to. He has their respect already.
1. Raw, Gritty and Not Bellator
If there was something resembling a grass-roots MMA organization, it would be the WSOF Fighting, and certainly not Bellator. When Bellator was purchased by Viacom, it lost a lot of its underdog-taking-on-the-world mentality. It became owned by one of the biggest media companies in the world. While Bellator has great fighters, it is first and foremost a well-produced and polished television show. The quality of production outshines the content inside the cage. With the WSOF, it’s gritty, raw and grass-roots. Anyone remember the WSOF’s debut press conference. It was rough, but yet endearing. These were guys looking to make a run in big-time MMA, and they clearly didn’t have a whole lot of money behind them. At the end of the day, what gets fans excited about watching MMA is a feeling of being able to relate and understand the fighters. When a fighter is interviewed with nothing more than an WSOF NBC Sports Network banner hanging behind them, it feels authentic and real. The fighters seem accessible. With Viacom and all the money behind it, it’s almost as if people expect Bellator to be better than it is. With the World Series of Fighting, people just accept what they see and every broadcast is a small victory for the company. The WSOF is true underdog in the MMA wars, and taking it slow and steady so far appears to be working.