Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 | 2 a.m.
A handful of mixed martial arts promotions based in other cities around the country have found success as secondary outlets to the UFC in recent years.
Now one will try under the bright glare of the UFC in Las Vegas. A new league, the World Series of Fighting, officially announced its entry into the world of mixed martial arts Thursday afternoon during a press conference at Planet Hollywood.
The World Series of Fighting plans to hold eight to 10 fight cards per year, exclusively at Planet Hollywood’s PH Live Theater for the time being.
“I understand the goal for every fighter is to go to the UFC, or at least most fighters,” said WSOF President Ray Sefo. “It’s the beast of the MMA world, but we’re not focusing on that. We’re focusing on what we’re bringing to the table, and that’s creating new opportunities for fighters.”
The inaugural card is slated for Saturday, Nov. 3. Former WEC champion and UFC veteran Miguel Torres will headline against an opponent to be announced in a bantamweight bout.
Several other former UFC fighters — including main-card welterweight opponents Gerald Harris and Josh Burkman — are signed to contracts with the WSOF.
Partnerships with Caesars Entertainment and NBC Sports Network provide legitimacy from the beginning. Caesars will host the cards at Planet Hollywood, and NBC Sports Network signed the WSOF to a one-year television contract.
“It’s a new future,” Torres said. “It’s a bright future. Being on NBC Sports is a huge thing for me. It’s a big deal for all of us.”
Sefo, who also is a former professional fighter and current striking coach at the Xtreme Couture gym, said it took more than a year of planning to get the WSOF ready to go and into agreements with Caesars and NBC. Both companies were eager to get involved with MMA, according to Sefo.
The UFC never has staged a card at a Caesars property but holds events every year at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Mandalay Bay Events Center and the Pearl at the Palms.
Before the channel was rebranded to NBC Sports Network, Versus televised UFC cards for two years. It hasn’t aired mixed martial arts since UFC entered into a new television deal with Fox at the end of 2011.
“It’s one of the key ingredients here to the success of the promotion in the world of fighting,” WSOF CEO Sig Rogich said. “We’re blessed to have NBC.”
The promotion was originally conceived as a tournament, with the winner of an eight- or 16-man bracket taking home a large sum of money as the champion.
Sefo said the WSOF could revisit the single-elimination idea but would go forward without a bracket for now. The tournament idea was partly responsible for the name of the promotion, though.
A Caesars executive recommended World Series of Fighting, not unlike the company’s Word Series of Poker tournament series, in a meeting nearly a year ago.
“We were like, ‘That’s it,’” Sefo said. “It was one of those things where it just sounded right.”
When asked if he had spoken with anyone from the UFC, Sefo grinned and responded, “Not yet.” He emphasized the WSOF’s focus was on building gradually, not challenging the industry’s giants.
He feels the company is off to a good start, especially considering the support from Caesars and NBC.
“We’re a group that put things together and feel very passionate about the sport,” Sefo said. “When they officially came on board, it confirmed that we were doing something right.”