by Ryan Bennett – MMAWeekly.com
Kurt Otto and Gareb Shamus are the co-founders of a new league called the International Fighting League. Their goal is to create a league of different fight teams, not to mention putting fighters on salary.
MMAWeekly.com caught up with Otto and Shamus and got their insight to the new IFL and what fans can expect with the newest MMA organization in the United States. If you missed Part 1 it’s up on Wednesday’s Daily News. Here is Part 2 of the IFL interview….
MMAWeekly: We hear you have a TV network in place. I’ve heard the new TV network is Fox Sports Network? Can you comment on the TV deal?
IFL: We can’t confirm the network right now. We can say it’s a major sports network. It will be announced over the next couple of weeks.
MMAWeekly: So you do have a TV deal already worked out?
IFL: Correct. We will make that announcement soon.
MMAWeekly: Will your competitions take place in a ring or a cage?
IFL: A ring. The reason why we chose a ring vs a cage is for many reasons. Number one, since we are taking this sport more mainstream and for the grass roots fans, it’s more conducive to fighting. And more familiar seeing a ring instead of a cage. It’s also easier to see a fight at a live event with a ring. I’ve been to many live UFC events and it’s exciting but it’s tough to look through eight posts and a chain link fence compared to an open rope ring. The cage also has a negative stereotype to it. While I don’t agree with that stereotype we’ve heard the ridiculous statements that people think it’s “cockfighting” etc. I don’t agree with that, but I do have to respect peoples opinion. I look at the fighting sport and think it’s easier to tie it into a ring.
MMAWeekly: What kind of ropes will you have three or five?
IFL: The fifth rope is what we will have. It will be an oversized ring. It will be 24 x 24 inside, with a 3 foot apron around the perimeter.
MMAWeekly: So if guys get tangled in the ring, will it be like Pride and move it to the center?
MMAWeekly: How will you acquire your fighters. Will you be looking at the UFC free agents?
IFL: Fortunately enough. The coaches we have been working with and you know this since your in the sport, a lot of these coaches have their own stable of fighters. They have their own current gyms, current camps, etc. There are plenty of fighters looking to get ring time and advance in the professional fight sport. This is a situation that because there are a lot of other organizations they are limited because of the amount of shows they put on.
There aren’t enough shows to give these guys expierence to get in there and become a hero as well. We aren’t going to be looking just domestically for people to fight in the IFL. We will be looking internationally as well. It will be important to bring fighting cultures from all over the world. The one thing I want to stress is the fact we really respect the sport and other organizations. We don’t want to try to come in and steal talent. We are about giving the new guys who are on the edge of going to the big show and give them some opportunity to bring them in and give them a shot. We aren’t going into other organizations and try to convince them to come with us. That’s not what it’s about. The coaches we have know whose on deck and who can come into the professional fight game and shine.
MMAWeekly: Will there be tryouts for the IFL or is it just fighters from the coaches you picked?
IFL: At this time they will strictly be from the coaches gyms. We are relying on the coaches to bring in the best fighters they can produce. We feel the coaches will bring the best they can, because it’s a reflection on them as a person and as a coach. We are making the coaches accountable for developing brand new talent.
MMAWeekly: Let’s say Pat Miletich is a coach, because that’s a name we’ve heard. He wouldn’t bring a guy like Jens Pulver into your organization?
IFL: There might be some fighters that aren’t under contract with any organization that would love the opportunity to come and fight. We would welcome them, but as well as developing brand new talent. That’s what we are trying to do. Give these young guys an opportunity to get in there and be a part of something big.
MMAWeekly: Who are the official coaches?
IFL: I can’t say anything right now. I think you guys and the entire MMA world will understand that once we announce the names, there will be overwhelming support for the IFL. These are the greatest guys of the sport.
MMAWeekly: You can always announce it right here on MMAWeekly…or MMAWeekly Radio of course…. (laughs)
IFL: We respect the press and we will be extremely press friendly in the IFL to all of our events. We would love to have you guys at our events. I respect the way you do business Ryan and we respect Frank Trigg as well. He did a hell of a job with the Pride broadcast.
MMAWeekly: Anything else you want to add before we let you go?
IFL: Yeah I do. I think that we are aware that a lot of people think this is an individual sport. I would like to say that we feel at the IFL, once they see our system, they will be very attracted to a team environment concept. Just like Collegiate wrestling. You have individual guys going on the mat and competing for a win, but it’s also for an overall team win. I was accountable as a former wrestler with my performance on the mat and I had to come back to my chair with a win. That’s important. That ties in how our bonus system works. It’s really exciting to see how the guys get paid. That’s going to step it up in competitiveness.
I also want you to know that there will always be a need for individual bouts as well. We are the new kids on the block and we are not trying to take over the industry. We are just trying to give another point of view and something a little different. Once people get a chance to understand it we think they will embrace it. The other thing I want to say is that Industries do well and don’t do well together. We are coming into the sport trying to make it a better environment for everybody. From a business standpoint as well as a fighters. That’s our intent. Because of my media background we can bring a lot of value to the sport with the kinds of companies we bring to the sport. I have access to a lot of people from different demographic.
MMAWeekly: So you still embrace the individualism of each fighter, but you want to see how a team concept works as well?
IFL: Absolutely. We believe the sponsorship will be attracted to a team concept just for the fact you have the NFL or NBA excel as leagues, not individuals. From a licensing opportunity it could be successful because of team names etc, come with that package. You take Michael Jordan for instance, if he was at a park playing one on one against somebody, that would be ok to watch. But because he was on the Chicago Bulls, that individual now became part of a bigger thing. Really that is the analogy I love to use…. otherwise he’s just Michael Jordan at the park playing basketball against somebody else one on one.
Think about it. I go to New York Giants games. It amazes me to watch 60 thousand people at a parking lot, eating hot dogs and freezing their butts off and they just want to be part of something big. I believe everybody wants to be a part of a winning team.
MMAWeekly: You brought two guys from the UFC on board in Keith Evans and Steve Tornebene. Two very talented individiuals that were a big part of the UFC. I know them personally because I worked with them. I know they are great people. Talk about them coming to the IFL and what it means for you.
IFL: It’s so important to bring in great people and surround yourself with great people. We want people that know what they are doing and that they love what they do. These two individuals know what they are doing. It just so happens they were available and we were fortunate to get them. We are very excited to have them on board.
MMAWeekly: When will we see the first IFL event?
IFL: Very soon. We will be making an announcement very soon.
MMAWeekly: Thank you for your time and we look forward to the launch of the IFL.
IFL: No problem. We look forward to having MMAWeekly and the other media at our events.
(Editor’s Note: The IFL will be making an official announcement when the first show will be. MMAWeekly.com has heard it could be as soon as April. We should have confirmation in the upcoming weeks.)