by Ryan Bennett – MMAWeekly.com
It was a crazy weekend for MMA, with the IFL launch and plenty of shows in California, but let’s start with the Brock Lesnar story. I received a ton of emails like this one:
“Ryan you were at the K-1 event where former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar jumped in there, what did he say and is he fighting for K-1?” – Matt Hattifield – St.Petersberg, Florida
Lesnar, the former WWE star, appears to be headed to K-1 to make his MMA debut for the Hero’s promotion in a couple of months. I talked with Lesnar briefly this weekend before he left Las Vegas, and he said that he is trying to work out a deal for an MMA match against Bob Sapp. The Japanese press reported the same thing. It’s still very early in the process, but Lesnar could be interesting in MMA with his wrestling background.
As far as what he said at the live show, I was there doing play-by-play for K-1 with my broadcast partner, Ray Sefo. Ray and I both made the comment that Lesnar had a microphone in his hand before he got into the ring, so it was definitely planned by K-1 to have Lesnar speak, which could mean that they have a deal in place. Lesnar basically said that the ring felt good and, “Who knows, maybe I will get in here and give it a go.” There is plenty of speculation that he will be a part of an upcoming K-1 Hero’s show (under MMA rules) in the summer, so don’t be surprised if we finally see the former WWE star compete in MMA under the K-1 umbrella very, very soon. The “angle” already started this weekend in Las Vegas.
As far as the attendance for the K-1 USA event, they sold out 5,000 seats for the event at the Mirage Hotel. Actor Bruce Willis and NBA All-Star Ray Allen were both there to take in the show. For you K-1 fans out there, you have to see the fight between Hong-Man Choi vs. Sylvester Terkay. Unbelievable and shockingly entertaining! Also, Gary Goodridge had the tournament won if he would have just coasted through the third round. Instead, it was a tremendous comeback for Chalid “Die Faust” Arrab, who had wrecked his car earlier in the week at 150 miles per hour and WALKED AWAY FROM THE CRASH. It was a pretty good event overall for K-1, and the best tournament final in years.
Let me switch gears to more MMA stuff. It had to be a disappointing weekend for many promotions, especially the IFL and Raze’s first show. It was a tough start for both organizations, as ticket sales were not good for either event.
The saving grace for the IFL is the fact that it’s going to be on television regardless of the ticket sales. They have a TV deal in place with Fox Sports Network, so even though the live gate was not good for the organization, at least the name brand will start to get out once it hits television.
The bottom line is that you have to be able to sell tickets. I heard that less than 1,000 paid tickets were sold for the IFL event. They announced a total crowd of 3,000 in attendance. The IFL will have to do a better job of establishing what their product is, and I’m not sure the “team” concept is the answer. The East Coast fan-base was not there for them, and it doesn’t matter how great of a product you have because you’re still in trouble if no one is there to see it. Once again, the TV deal can help them out, but it was a rough start for the new organization and I personally think that the “team” concept is a bit on the cheesy side for a one-on-one fighting sport. Maybe it will grow on me, but it’s going to be a tough sell to the hardcore MMA fans.
In Southern Califronia, the Raze promotion held its first event, with Matt Lindland defeating Mike Van Arsdale in the main event. Lindland won the fight, but once again not many people were in attendance for the fight. The Raze event drew less than 2,000 fans based on preliminary reports, and that was in the current hot-bed of MMA in California. It was not a good weekend for MMA as far as ticket sales go.
“Since Lindland beat Van Arsdale will he go back to the UFC or head to Pride?” David Frank – Amherst, New Hampshire
Lindland is in a great spot to pick either organization. The rumor that I’ve heard from Las Vegas is that the UFC has offered him a spot on TUF 4. Nobody from the UFC or from Lindland’s camp will confirm that. The idea is that if Lindland does shun Pride for the UFC, and if he goes on to win the TUF 4 competition, he would get an automatic shot at the UFC Middleweight Title. I haven’t heard any other names for the 185-pound weight class on TUF 4 other than Tony Fryklund, so we shall see. The UFC has been good at keeping everything under wraps for TUF 4, so we probably won’t hear anything until June.
“Is the WFA still having a show? I’ve heard for weeks they were going to sign some big names, what is the latest?” Teresa Espinoza – Henderson, Nevada
Yes, the WFA will have a show and the latest news I’ve heard is that it will be in Southern California either in late June or early July. They have secured an arena but have not officially disclosed which arena it is. As far as fighters, the WFA still hasn’t officially released the word on who will be competing, but based on conversations that I’ve had with a few people, look for Quinton Jackson and Ivan Salaverry to be the two big dogs in the organization. Quinton would not confirm who he has signed with, but from all accounts he is still the front-runner with the WFA.
“What is the second most successful MMA organziation behind the UFC in the United States right now?”
If you look at it from a pure numbers standpoint, I would say that ROTR and WEC each have to be considered the number two North American MMA promotion for the simple fact that they sell out every show that they run. ROTR has averaged 8,000 fans for the past five shows (with the exception of the last one, which still drew 6,500). WEC has sold out 17 of 19 shows, with most of those shows in an outdoor venue with 5,000 fans. There are plenty of new organizations, and StrikeForce could be the next top dog. The first StrikeForce show had over 18,000 fans in attendance, which is still the North American record. They have their upcoming show with Vitor Belfort vs. Kevin Randleman as the main event, and if they draw more than 12,000 fans for that show, then I think Strikeforce would immediately jump to the number two spot because no organization other than the UFC has done back-to-back 12,000-seat shows. One thing that all three organizations have to do is get on television. The IFL did not have a good LIVE gate this weekend, but they may be able to create a bigger fan-base nationally with the television exposure. The other three big North American MMA organizations need telelvision to make their organizations grow. WEC does have a deal with HDNet, but not many people have high-definition telelvisons yet.
(Ryan Bennett is the founder of MMAWeekly.com and a sports broadcaster formerly for an NBC affiliate on the Central Coast of California. He is now the lead broadcaster for The Fight Network, the first 24-hour combatant TV channel in North America).