Wednesday, January 9, 2008

WCO show in my backyard

I was aiming to attend the WCO "Return" card that's being staged right here in San Diego, in my very own backyard. I've missed Total Combat cards and other small orgs, but this card features Babalu vs. Tiger White, Mark Kerr, David Louiseau, Drew Fickett, Cabbage, Ricco, etc. and I thought it would be a cool one to catch. Sadly it looks like I won't make it. While the talent featured isn't exactly elite A-list across the board, as an MMA fan it's compelling enough for me to want to invest a few buck in. Shit, I paid full price for Rashad Evans vs. Michael Bisping...a chance to see the legendary Smashing Machine, however diminished, should be enough for me to shell out the bucks. Right now the main issue is my wingman can't go, and I'm basically unwilling to go to the show without my bro. Rhyme rhyme rhyme.
Well, there's an option. Ringside Junkie is offering the show using something called Microsoft Silverlight, which I've never heard of but apparently works on OSX. Preorders are $5, night-of-the-show $8 (which is confusing since it's an internet broadcast, but whatever). I don't know if you can order it after the fact and watch it "like live", but I may get it anyway. I've watched a few events on the web and while it's not the same as the big screen it's not terrible, and fuck it, free or cheap MMA is awesome. I pay almost the cost of this event a day for my cable/internet anyways.
As for other shit, the UFC looks to be on a full-court press to put some killer events on for free. From shelving a belt (again) for the duration of their reality show to putting the #1 lightweight contender in my mind against basically a popular also-ran on their Fight Night Live event (free on Spike), they're going after the casual MMA fan like a house on fire. 2008 could be the year where we see the challengers shake out. EliteXC is positioned extremely well, with a lot of good fighters and a cable deal with Showtime. Of course they're nowhere near the UFC, which boasts a successful PPV business as well as the Ultimate Fighter franchise and basically the most impressive fighter stable on the planet, but of the contenders they're on top. Whatever FEG decides to do in Japan with K-1 Hero's (stupid apostrophe...possessive? plural? what? Pay me to spell check your shit!), or Mark Cuban and Floyd Mayweather get up to in Dallas, EliteXC is the one with some serious fighters and the willingness to work with and/or buy out competitors. The UFC's "no quarter given or asked" policy is good in that it protects the brand and builds a fortress of a sort in their fans' heads, but it also leaves the ground outside that fortress unguarded in a lot of ways. While that fan, the one who enjoys TUF so much that he starts digging through looking at other promotions (the guy who ten years ago ran across PRIDE and immediately started telling people how shitty UFC fighters were because they couldn't head stomp while holding the ropes), is rare compared to the basic "I like Forrest Griffin cuz he has funny ears and punchzorz" fan, their relative sway over other viewers in their circle can be much greater (compare an evangelist to a casual viewer). I know that's splitting hairs and running on sentences in a cruel and unusual way, but that's an important way that sports (and any other business venture) grow, through the evangelist or story-teller. Marketers KILL for those people. I haven't (or have I? No), but I might.
That is a long and overly complicated way of saying that the UFC is top dog now, but the talent base is growing too fast for them to hold every great fighter, and I believe eventually they'll form some relationship with other promotions as a pure necessity. Combine that with the possibility of fighters pooling their influence in either a union or some facsimile thereof, and you see an increasingly hash landscape for the UFC's "go it alone" stance that has served them so well. I'm not casting judgment on how they've done business by any stretch, that's their own knot to unravel. But I see the landscape getting a lot more labyrinthine, and the fighters getting more savvy. 2008 will be the year when we see a significant bloc of fighters wresting some serious control away from the promotions. I'd guess Couture and Lindland will be at the tip of this.

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