Fowlkes: How can WSoF avoid dying?

Monday, March 25, 2013

The fate of Henry VIII’s six wives is told in a brief rhyme:
Divorced, beheaded, died;
Divorced beheaded survived.

Likewise the fate historically of competitors to the UFC can be divided into buyed and died (hey, they rhyme :-). The poem goes like this:
Buyed, buyed, buyed;
Died, died, died.

For the record, the shows are WFA (bought), Pride (bought), WEC (bought), ProElite XC (died), IFL (died), Affliction (died), Strikeforce (bought).

MMAJunkie’s Ben Fowlkes asks where WSoF can fit into the national or international MMA landscape, given the dominance of the UFC. As a starting point, he notes that Andrei Arlovski was wearing UFC gloves in his WSoF main event, which illustrates the problem almost too perfectly.

The main card of WSOF 2 was 50% former UFC fighters, 70% if you include the ZUFFA -owned WEC and Strikeforce events:
Anthony Johnson  (ex-UFC) def. Andrei Arlovski (ex-UFC)
Marlon Moraes def. Tyson Nam
Dave Branch (ex-UFC)  def. Paulo Filho (ex-WEC)
Josh Burkman (ex-UFC) def. Aaron Simpson (ex-UFC)
Justin Gaethje def. Gesias Cavalcante (Strikeforce)

Just three fighters on the main card, Marlon Moraes, Tyson Nam, and Justin Gaethje had never appeared in a ZUFFA owned show.

Both main event fighters rose to prominence in the UFC, as did welterweights Josh Burkman and Aaron Simpson. And when Burkman won big, it was announced he would be fighting Jon Fitch next. Fitch too of course made his name in the UFC; and he already fought Burkman, in the UFC.

This is a problem not just for the World Series of Fighting, but for any organization that tries to cobble together its own product using UFC castoffs. The perception, whether right or wrong, is that these are fighters who are past their expiration date. They come with some baggage, even though that baggage is the same reason why they’re main card draws to begin with: We saw them in the UFC. In most cases, we also saw why they aren’t in the UFC anymore. Making them the stars of the show in a new fight promotion only furthers the perception that we’re watching imitation UFC, a cheap knockoff brand for the kids whose parents won’t buy them the real thing.

How do you draw a crowd without the UFC’s leftovers? And, if you can’t do that, how do you put those leftovers to work without drawing unflattering comparisons to the world’s No. 1 MMA organization (especially if the product you put on TV is littered with flubs and missteps)? If you can’t do either one, then how do you carve out a lasting niche that will keep you from falling into an early grave beside the likes of Affliction and the IFL?

I doubt there are any easy or obvious answers.

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