It’s no secret that when most people think of MMA, they think of the UFC.
“It’s normal,” as Anderson Silva might say. The UFC is clearly on top of the MMA world.
That doesn’t mean they’re alone in the MMA world of course, and that doesn’t mean great MMA doesn’t happen elsewhere.
Hopefully we’ll get an example next weekend, as World Series of Fighting offers WSOF 7 in Vancouver, BC; their first show outside of the US. It’s the debut of WSOF Canada following the acquisition of Aggression Fighting Championship, includes some promising talent, and I’m excited for it.
Unfortunately, they seem to be struggling to find the rest of their audience.
WSOF shows are featured on NBC Sports Network, where Yahoo! Sports reports that they’ve averaged viewership figures in the 200,000 range. Their highest rated show is sadly lower than the lowest-rated WEC shows from back in the day of Versus TV.
Of course, WEC was trying to attract viewers during a different time, with a different MMA landscape. Maybe the UFC’s current dominance makes it a little more difficult? Maybe the WEC’s numbers, which include a time after ZUFFA took them over and began promoting with the UFC, aren’t what they seem?
Maybe WSOF isn’t doing too bad for an upstart promotion today?
Maybe. Unfortunately, though, the most recent WSOF 6 was a step backwards. Nielsen reports were the lowest ever at 161,000 viewers.
So, what to do if you’re World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo?
It seems that Sefo, himself the former Muay Thai champion and K-1 mainstay, is ready to start taking risks.
First, the introduction of Rousimar Palhares. The Brazilian grappler was let go by the UFC after famously holding his patented heel hook one too many times after a referee had signaled the end of a bout. He took it one the chin, showed remorse, and wants another chance. As Dana Becker reported here at Caged Insider, he’s getting one at WSOF. Palhares is said to debut with WSOF in March. It’s a good risk to take — for a top ten rated fighter.
Second, a partnership with Pancrase MMA to create WSOF Japan. Sefo, who made a home in K-1 during that promotion’s glory years in Japan, sounds particularly excited about this:
“I look forward to working with Pancrase CEO Masakazu Sakai and his team, and together we will produce amazing events for the Japanese fight fans, as well as big opportunities for both Asia-based fighters and MMA fighters around the globe.”
WSOF has already added Japanese talent Yushin Okami, among the top middleweights in MMA, to their roster. I like this move, too. Sefo may have connections and knowledge of the Japanese market that his opponents lack.
Third, WSOF has begun to implement women’s divisions. Earlier this month, Jessica Aguilar became the first woman signed to WSOF. She’s regarded the #1 straw weight (115 lb/ 52 kg) in women’s MMA by many ranking systems, with her most recent victory coming by TKO over Japanese legend Megumi Fujii. Sure, the UFC added a straw weight division to their roster this month, too. It’s a good risk though — they can develop at about the same rate and have a great foundation to start with.
So, WSOF is taking risks, but fortune favors the brave. Here’s hoping it pays off for Sefo the president, as it did for Sefo the fighter.