Mixed martial arts notebook IFL meets, then exceeds expectations in first year
Friday, December 29, 2006
International Fight League founders Gareb Shamus and Kurt Otto began with dreams of glory, but few others believed the IFL would have performed quite so well in its first year.
The world of mixed martial arts is filled with hopeful promotions that fail on the national stage. But the IFL consistently outpaced attendance projections and Fox television ratings expectations and doubled in size to eight teams with plans to expand to 12 in 2007.
By all accounts, one secret to the IFL's success has been keeping its fighters happy. Members of the Portland Wolfpack signed up for the IFL thinking it might be a short stay.
"When I started I thought, 'I'll be on national television and get some exposure and that it would open other doors,' " Wolfpack heavyweight Devin Cole said.
Cole of Medford quickly changed his mind.
"They treat us first class all the way," Cole said. "(Wolfpack middleweight) Matt Horwich asked for an (energy drink) at the hotel, and they didn't have it. One of the hotel guys drove down to the store to buy him a six-pack. That kind of stuff happens all the time."
Another unexpected bonus has been the quality of the fighters. Most began as virtual no-names in the sport, but have shown that there is an unexplored depth of talent in MMA.
"The IFL is not a 'builder of talent,' " Iowa Silverbacks coach Pat Miletich said. "The IFL has talent. I was very optimistic about the IFL when I began, but it has surpassed my expectations by far."
In addition to an expanded team competition, IFL fighters will be able to participate in the World Grand Prix, an individual tournament. Individual champions would then leave their teams and fight to defend their titles.
"Most organizations take the attitude of 'Why should we let you fight for us?' " Portland Wolfpack coach Matt Lindland said. "The IFL makes it so fighters want to fight for them."