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WSOF's Ray Sefo glad to watch a one-night tourney from the outside for once

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It doesn't take a genius to realize why World Series of Fighting president Ray Sefo is looking forward to the eight-man, one-night lightweight elimination tournament which will headline WSOF 25 on Friday night in Phoenix.

Sefo, after all, is best known as a regular in K-1's legendary Grand Prix kickboxing tournaments in Japan, most notably the 2000 version, when he fought three times on the night of Dec. 10 in Tokyo before losing the finals to Ernesto Hoost.

So he's uniquely suited to understand what all of the competitors -- from the guys who lose in the opening round, all the way up to the finals winner, who will earn a future shot at champion Justin Gaethje after competing three times in one night -- will experience during the NBC Sports-televised card at Comerica Theatre.

"'Gladiator,' that's the only world I can use to describe it," Sefo told "It was crazy back then in Japan because after you won your first fight, you never knew if you were going to go back out there five minutes later or if you were going to sit around for a couple hours. That messed with your head a little bit. Here, the way it's structured, they know it's going to be about 30-45 minutes between fights and they can plan accordingly."

While one-night tournaments were the staple on which the original UFC was built, they fell out of favor for plenty of valid reasons. Too many things can go wrong. from injuries to poor pacing. September's Bellator four-man light heavyweight tournament served a great showcase for the debut Phil Davis, but even that was marred somewhat when "King Mo" Lawal had to pull out of the final due to a rib injury.

Sefo, though, thinks the potential rewards outweigh the risks, especially with safeguards in place. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds are two, five-minute rounds each, with the final set for three, five-minute rounds. Elbows, with their propensity to cause deep, slicing cuts which could keep a fighter from returning, won't be allowed in the first two rounds.

"This isn't like the old days, when there was very little attention given to safety," Sefo said. "Yes, injuries can happen in the fight, yes, we could end up with an alternate fighting in the main tourney. But the chances of a night that's memorable and fun are pretty high. You wouldn't want to run a show like this every night, but the safeguards are in place to do our best to ensure the fighters' safety."

As the boss of the promotion, Sefo isn't going to openly rootfor any particular competitor. But out of the eight fighters -- Islam Mamedov vs. Jorge Patino and Mike Ricci vs. Brian Cobb are in one first-round bracket; Luis Palomino vs. Richard Patinshock and Brian Foster vs. Joao Zeferino on the other -- Sefo admits one kind of reminds him a little of himself: Palomino.

Palomino, of course, had a pair of memorable bouts with Gaethje this year, both of which would probably be seriously considered for Fight of the Year in a year which didn't also feature Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald. Palomino lost both times, but Sefo feels that the fact he wants to get back into the fray means Palomino hasn't been mentally broken by losing both times.

"Luis asked into the tournament," Sefo said. "We wanted him to take a bit of a break, but he wanted to be a part of it and he was cleared by his doctors. I think if Luis and Justin fought each five or six times, they'd still put on good fights, it's just the way their styles match up. Justin won both times, but even though that's usually a tough sell for a third fight, if Luis was able to get through the tournament and win, I mean, how could anyone say at that point that he didn't earn it?"

It could be Palomino, it could be the rest of the field, it could be an alternate. Sefo's looking forward to finding out.

"We've talked about holding other one-night tournaments in different if this works out," Sefo said. "Let's see what happens in this one and then we'll move forward from there."

Just don't ask Sefo, who does admit he's not closing the door on his fighting sports at age 44, to get involved.

"I'm done with tournaments," Sefo laughed. "I'm looking at fighting one more time next year, but three times in a night is something I'm retired from."

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