by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It’s just about half way through the broadcast schedule for the second season of the IFL and things are rolling.
Live shows have seen increased attendance, shows on Fox Sports Net have become more expansive and tighter at the same time, and the fights themselves have exceeded all expectations.
With the new season in full swing Shannon Knapp, IFL reporter and fighter liaison spoke to MMAWeekly about how things have been going so far in the IFL and what fans can look forward to next year.
“Every time I watch the show I’m impressed,” said Knapp of FSN’s broadcasts of the IFL. “I think the feedback that comes from the fans in what they’re seeing and saying about the show makes a big difference. I think we’ve come a long way, you’re watching a quality production when you watch the IFL on FSN.”
Not only is Shannon pleased with what she sees in the television production of the IFL, but the second season of live shows have also improved.
“I think we’ve worked to make the in-house production even better,” exclaimed Knapp. “I’ve seen a lot of changes on that level from what we do in-house to keep the show moving. When you’re shooting for television sometimes there can be times when you have down-time, but I think overall the in-house show is just as exciting as what you see on FSN, if not more exciting.”
Shannon also feels that the fighters’ performances in the ring have stepped up thanks to the IFL’s commitment to them by fallowing through with everything that was promised in the early inceptions of the promotion.
“I think coming into any new job, such as the fighters did, you’re a little apprehensive at first,” explained Knapp. “But once the fighters started to embrace the team concept and they see the IFL is fallowing through with everything they so and more so in the promises that were made. So I think you’ve seen these fighters get even more motivated.”
Shannon continued, “I think it’s every guy’s childhood dream to be a professional athlete and these guys are actually having an opportunity to fulfill those dreams in a sport they love. They’re being taken care of and are getting the respect they deserve so I think they’re going out wanting to have a great performance and do their best.”
When it comes to the broadcast team itself, Knapp explains that aspect of the production also continues to evolve and improve each time out.
“I think we work well together as a team and we’re always trying to find different ways to improve our performances,” said Shannon. “I think Stephen [Quadros] and Kenny [Rice] have created good chemistry together and have started to have a nice flow. Adding Bas [Rutten] is an added bonus all the way around, he’s extremely funny and knowledgeable.”
“We’re always trying to work out a few kinks here and there, but that’s the same as the fighters, you always look back with an open mind and work to improve at what you do,” added Knapp.
One aspect of each show that has been expanded upon this season is the growing emphasis on showcasing fighters’ personalities. As Shannon explains it’s an opportunity to not only show who the fighters are as people and it allows for a deeper fan connection.
“I’ve always been an advocate of the sport and one thing I thought was lacking was that the fans never got to know enough about the fighters themselves,” commented Knapp. “I think by profiling them more, letting the fans find out more about these guys it humanizes the fighters more. I think that’s good for the fighters, fans, and the sport. It’s great to find something in the fighters you can identify with and it can be motivational also.”
This season has also seen the addition of superfights to the broadcast slate along with the already established team battles.
“I think it was very important to broadcast them,” said Knapp of the inclusion of superfights to the TV show. “One thing we’ve always strived for in the IFL is to let the fans see all the fights. The superfights are definitely an added bonus. Matt Lindland and Jeremy Horn’s fight was tremendous and we’d never have any intention of denying fans to see those types of fights. If the fights are good and the fans want to see them, we’ll put them on FSN.”
The backbone of the IFL’s broadcast and entire concept is of course the team battles. Shannon has noticed that it’s something that the fans have responded to both in a broadcast sense but even more so in the live setting.
“We listen to what the fans say,” exclaimed Knapp. “We certainly take everything into consideration and evaluate what the feedback is. For example, when the fans kept telling us that they wanted cities attached to the teams, that they felt it would benefit our concept, we took their advice and there are cities attached to the teams now.”
Shannon further commented, “To walk into that arena show night, like in Moline, and the crowd are chanting, “Silverbacks, Silverbacks!” that’s incredible. It’s not a football, basketball or baseball game, that’s in our sport. That’s unity between the fans, fighters and teams, and you’ve got to love that.”
As for the future of the IFL, Knapp perceives things to only be getting better.
“We had the two-hour Best Damn IFL Special that just debuted and I think fans who haven’t seen that will be very excited to see the Pat Miletich VS Renzo Gracie fight and the Silverbacks VS the Pitbulls,” said Shannon. “We’ve got the Wolfpack VS the Tiger Sharks and the Dragons VS the Razorclaws coming up and there are some very exciting match-ups on those episodes. We have the playoffs upcoming and the championship at the end of the year, so there’s a lot of exciting things on the way.”
“I think also with the 2007 season coming up, the fans are going to be amazed with the superfights, the new coaches and teams that are coming. It’s going to be worth waiting for, so keep tuning into the IFL on FSN. I want to say thank you to the fans for their input and support, without them there is no sport. And as always, if you get the chance to see the IFL live, don’t miss the opportunity because you won’t be disappointed,” concluded Shannon.