by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
As mixed martial arts continues to grow and become one of the hottest commodities in sports, there are several promotions trying to build a niche in the what is left of the market ruled by the Ultimate Fighting Championship juggernaught.
The American Fight League is one such promotion that has steadily been working to add solid talent to build an organization that MMA fans want to watch. In recent months, the promotion has signed former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) professional wrestler Bobby Lashley, hoping to reach a crossover audience, and Tara LaRosa, widely regarded as the top female fighter in the world, to spearhead it’s women’s division.
The AFL on Thursday announced the addition of UFC veteran Mike Van Arsdale to its growing roster. “Mike Van Arsdale is a done deal. This is huge for us,” stated CEO B.J. Santiago. “Van is a scary, freak of nature type athlete who has a terrific wrestling and MMA pedigree. He is a Class A fighter with unbelievable potential. Like I said, this is big for us and I think MMA in the long run.”
With longtime UFC poster boy Tito Ortiz on the free agent market, the AFL has its sights set on him as a potential opponent for Van Arsdale, especially as the promotion nears a November date for a pay-per-view offering.
“Tito Ortiz,” said marketing director Sean McClure of who the AFL would like to match up with Van Arsdale. “Mike’s wrestling is sick and Tito is a really tough guy. It would be a good fight for Mike. I would also love to see Mike fight a guy like Trevor Prangley or maybe even drop down to 185 to fight say a Renzo Gracie or someone like that.”
In addition to signing Van Arsdale, McClure also told MMAWeekly.com that the promotion has been aggressively working to fortify its women’s division. With the UFC foregoing the female side of the sport at this juncture, along with EliteXC, the women’s division is something that could potentially help set the AFL apart from competing directly with the UFC.
In addition to its crown jewel signing of Tara LaRosa, McClure said that the AFL has also added highly regarded women such as Roxanne Modaferri, Julie Kedzie, and Emily Ann Thompson to its burgeoning roster.
He also indicated that the promotion was deep into negotiations with veteran fighter Amanda Buckner and hopeful that a signing would be announced soon.
The signings would give the AFL one of the stronger rosters of female talent in the sport.