The UFC, Pride, Strikeforce, Invicta, Bellator, OneFC, Bamma, CWFC, WSOF. Each a facade, a thick veil placed over a cage in order to gain as many viewers as possible for the callow sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Each with their own triumphs, flaws, support, opposition, characters and history. All have contributed to the sport. All in positive and negative ways. Some have risen to the top of the pool while others have fallen victim to an alpha predator. A company lead by businessmen with the timing and efficiency of merciless sharks.
Of the companies remaining who may lay claim to the largest portions of the market share pie, just one seems still to be experiencing teething problems unbecoming of a promotion deserving inclusion in the list above. Creases one would simply scoff at the thought that a majour sports network could fail to iron out. That network is NBC Sports and it's featured promotion is the World Series of Fighting.
As a viewer of every other WSOF event since the first, and including number 8 which took place in Florida this past Saturday, I can't help but notice a number of issues the company is yet to address (or perhaps, has addressed poorly). The issues, while some minor, give rise to the far greater debate of whether or not WSOF is really deserving of the media attention it has garnered in just a year's promotion. The intention here is not to disparage the organisation as any and all promotion of the sport is valuable to all involved. It is merely to highlight some perceived shortcomings that do not bode well for a start-up promotion.
Bas Rutten and Kenny Rice
Ok granted, Bas is entertainment personified. He has the likability of a professional comedian working part time at the Make-A-Dream Foundation. He is not the same commentator he once was. It's hard to tell whether there has been a lack of enthusiasm developing or the game has moved on to a slightly more advanced level than Bas is comfortable explaining but, it is clear he can't quite call the fight as accurately as he once could. However, let's not allow him to undeservedly bare the full brunt of the debacle that was WSOF8 commentary.
Kenny Rice has no business calling live fights. None. Zip. The man is capable of playing the counterpart to Bases' crazy character on Inside MMA but live fights are a different game entirely. One which require at least partial knowledge of nuances and positions that Rice does not and will never possess. The only explanation for his position as play-by-play guy in the recent event is his relationship with Bas. However, this is a moot point when trying to reach a new audience who may not understand the intricacies of the sport. He looked even less comfortable on camera.
WSOF behind the scenes makes an unwelcome appearance
Between each fight Bas became somewhat of a statistics vending machine. Stats are always welcome but, why not produce them live, during the fight? Producing them after seems anti-climactic and amateurish. Not, however, as anti-climactic as Bas explaining to the audience that he had just been handed the results and that he was now being told by a member of staff to read them out. Bas was ill-informed on his supposed duties throughout the entire night in fact. Which leads me to the most unprofessional 5 minutes of MMA promotion I've witnessed thus far.
The unscripted script during post fight recaps
After certain fights on the night there was a recap of the fights and/or preview of the night's future fights. Some of these recaps began by showing a full screen WSOF logo. The problem was...it never finished. Bas and Kenny began their speeches only to realise they were not on camera halfway through. Their conversation (believing they were off camera) could be heard loud and clear before the logo was removed and they began their spiel again. When they were done, what happened? Nothing! They were left staring into the camera by the WSOF production team. This prompted Bas who asked Kenny "Is that it, what do we do now?". Try watching that live without cringing for the MMA legend.
A name I have known to exist for little more than two weeks. One that, in said time frame, has become synonymous with WSOF. A matchmaker who can promote, regardless of how ridiculous the promotional terms. An opinionated vice president with thrice the linguistic skills of the company's head honcho, and an even larger ratio of cockiness. In the two weeks his name has hit media outlets big, he has managed to rock the boat with Bellator fighters, claim the WSOF is the number 2 promotion in the world, set out...haha...a fight card to prove it and take personal shots at the BMMA CEO while namedropping the now retired UFC welterweight Georges St. Pierre as though he is Kevin Costner and the former champ is a 28 year old black woman with the voice of an angel. It's obviously working. He is garnering attention. It remains to be seen if he is up to the challenge of building a net profit making company which currently, the WSOF is not.
I, like others believed in WSOF as a viable contender in the market share wars if it received the right pushes. I have not mentioned financial issues, the absence of a 'San Jose-like hometown advantage' Strikeforce used as a catapult to stardom or the currently thin divisions. I'm willing to give it time. I'm willing to watch the development of their champions and any potential match ups involving more UFC veterans versus their up and comers. I am no longer willing to watch every other event unconditionally. So, to Ali, the conditions are clear. Clean up or shut up.