The promotion announced Monday that the first-round matchups for its eight-man, one-night tournament, scheduled for Sept. 10, will be chosen by fans through an online voting process.
The tournament format seems to be gaining some traction in U.S.-based MMA promotions. The UFC used single-night tournaments from its inception until UFC 18, then held one more at UFC 23. Since then, however, it has abandoned the format.
Bellator is in its third season of season-long tourneys, and Strikeforce just held a four-woman, one-night tournament in Phoenix and has a men's middleweight tournament planned for the fall – though the exact format has not yet been decided. And in a similarly unique bit of marketing, the WEC recently teamed with major sponsor Amp Energy to allow fans to choose the location for its December card. The fans picked Phoenix, which will now host a Zuffa event for the first time.
Shine Fights announced its lightweight tournament earlier this month and has added a wrinkle with the fan balloting. In a release from the promotion, Shine said it wants to become "MMA's most fan-friendly organization" and believes allowing fans to pick the first-round bouts heads it down that path.
The eight competitors for the tournament have already been chosen. But fans can set the matchups they want to see in the first round and e-mail those to GrandPrixPick@Shinefights.com. According to the promotion, the fight combinations that get the most votes will be the ones used in the tournament's opening quarterfinal round.
"Every MMA organization tells fans what fights they are going to see, even though the fans are the ones paying the money," said Shine Fights COO Jason Chambers. "We are saying, 'You are buying the pay-per-view, you are buying the tickets, so you tell us what you want to watch. We feel it's one of the most unique opportunities fight fans have been given to date."
Shine put together a tournament field that includes veterans of the UFC, WEC, and Pride: Marcus Aurelio, Charles Bennett, Dennis Bermudez, Rich Crunkilton, Drew Fickett, Carlo Prater, Josh Shockley and James Warfield. Bermudez replaces Hector Munoz, who was recently announced as one of the eight fighters in the tourney.
"We decided to go with a one-night, eight-man tournament because we wanted to give fans what we knew they really wanted," Shine CEO Devin Price said. "By having the fans choose the first-round fighters, we are involving them in a direct way. We value their opinion and respect their knowledge."
The last major promotion to hold a one-night men's tournament in the United States was Strikeforce with its "Four Men Enter, One Man Survives" card in San Jose, Calif., in 2007 – a middleweight tournament won by Jorge Santiago. As first reported by MMA Fighting last month, Strikeforce hoped to reprise that format at its Houston card this past weekend, but Texas MMA rules prohibited it. Instead, new middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza is likely to defend the title he won against Tim Kennedy on Saturday against the winner of a tournament the promotion hopes to either start or hold in full on Oct. 9 in San Jose.
Shine's Lightweight Grand Prix Tournament will be broadcast on pay-per-view on Sept. 10 from the Patriot Center on the George Mason University campus in Fairfax, Va.