Fresh off what can be considered a success in their debut, the World Series of Fighting needs to capitalize on the mostly positive press and entertaining fights they put on at their November 3rd event. Starting a new promotion is clearly a monumental task and any misstep along the way can be catastrophic. So it is imperative they make all the right decisions going forward if they want to establish themselves as a legitimate brand.
Of course, a talented stable of fighters is essential, since without them, no matter how good the production and promotion, nobody will tune in. Further complicating things is the UFC, who is likely to snatch up any fighters that taste success and are entertaining. In the premier event, Anthony Johnson and Andrei Arlovski lived up to or exceeded expectations, leading many to speculate a return for them to the UFC may be in the near future.
Replacing their top stars may be the biggest problem the WSOF faces as fans appreciate the name value of fighters almost as much as their talents. This is why fighters like Bob Sapp, Tank Abbott and others continue to receive fights long after their peak years have passed.
Finding marketable fighters who are still able to compete at an elite level is going to make or break the World Series of Fighting, so here are some recommendations for the promotion going forward. These five fighters are all potential breakout stars or have already established themselves. Signing them could be the key to short term success, allowing them to have a long term to worry about.
- Robert Drysdale – Some speculate the boat may have already sailed on Robert Drysdale, as it’s highly likely the UFC has their radar set on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace. A 5-0 record with five first round submissions is hard to overlook for sure. However, without having faced any credible opponents up to this point, it’s likely the UFC, and Drysdale himself, thinks he needs to step up the competition at least once before going all the way to the top.
Signing Robert Drysdale would immediately put all eyes on the WSOF since everyone is wondering if he is the real deal. A showcase bout on the main card against a tough challenger would certainly get people to tune in. Depending on his contract situation with Legacy Fighting Championships, getting him signed sooner rather than later is a no brainer.
Chidi Njokuani – Anyone who saw his destruction of Phil Dace at RFA 4 on November 2nd couldn’t help but to have been impressed by the brother of UFC fighter Anthony Njokuani. In a fight that closely resembled the beating Anderson Silva but on Stephan Bonnar (a fighter Chidi ironically helped prepare for that fight), Njokuani toyed with his prey for two rounds until mercifully and spectacualrly finishing him off early in the third.
You have the built in interest of a sibling competing at a higher level as well as a fighter who is willing to put on a show, making Chidi ‘Bang Bang’ Njokuani a natural fit for the World Series of Fighting. While he may or may not be among the super elite, putting him in there against someone who probably is should lead to an entertaining, fan friendly encounter.
Bubba Jenkins – Any organization trying to market itself as elite needs to have top shelf prospects. Tyrone Spong was certainly a nice start. And even though Spong is a veteran of combat sports, he still likely will need another fight or two before the UFC knocks on his door. So with a top level striker on board, why not add one of the top wrestlers out there?
Bubba Jenkins was the 2011 Division 1 wrestling champion at 157 lbs. Three early first round victories to start his MMA career suggest those skills are translating nicely. Although he probably wouldn’t stick around for the long haul, he probably would be there for several fights while working on improving his skill set.
Walt ‘Big Ticket’ Harris – Americans love heavyweights, so it takes no genius to recognize that the World Series of Fighting needs to build the division. Harris is just the kind of guy that would fit nicely in the WSOF. Sporting a 4-1 record, all four of Harris’ victories were by knockout in under two minutes. With Harris on your card, you don’t have to worry about a boring fight.
Harris has been inactive for awhile now due to difficulties in securing fights. Getting him on board now would be easy, and with his hosting an MMA radio show, you have a win-win situation as you are obviously going to gain a lot of extra promotion to the organization. Harris may not have a lot of name value now, but that’s more likely due to a lack of opportunity rather than lack of talent. In Harris, perhaps the opportunity exists to create a new star.
Mariusz Pudzianowski, Bobby Lashley, Dave Bautista, etc. – Names like these always stir up huge debates. MMA ‘snobs’ like to dismiss them as side show attractions not worthy of taking up space on a legitimate card. Those people would be wrong! It isn’t whether or not they belong, it’s how they are used. Clearly, putting any of these guys in a main event will tell the masses that your organization is not to be taken seriously. If these guys with fame achieved outside of MMA, and little to no success in it, are the star of the show, then certainly fans should not consider your brand as elite.
However, how many times has the UFC or some other brand put ‘elite’ guys out there who only served to stink up the joint with a boring fight? Nothing can ruin the success of a show quicker than two guys nobody cares about fighting for fifteen minutes in a bout that has no energy or excitement, no matter how impressive their credentials may be. People care about these guys, whether positively or negatively, and every time they fight, message boards are flooded with people arguing over their abilities, or lack thereof.
Properly marketing fighters such as these as added attractions, and not as the centerpiece of the show will build interest in the brand without hurting credibility. Of course the preferable option is to get them to square of with each other to gain maximum interest. Sure some MMA ‘elitists’ may complain, but they always do anyway. The one exception to these types of fighters would be Bob Sapp. At this point he is clearly not taking the sport seriously at best, and throwing fights at worst. Adding him into the mix would hurt the brand. At least the others, no matter their faults are still competing to win.
This surely is not a complete list of fighters who would be a great fit for the World Series of Fighting, but it’s a start. They really need to focus on a true balance of established names with followings and up and coming potential superstars. Losing talent to the UFC is going to be an ongoing problem, but with smart additions to their roster, there is no reason the WSOF can’t keep putting on stacked cards full of interesting fights for years to come.