Timing is everything when jumping on something that is trending and with the rise in popularity in MMA, finding ways to separate a promotion from what everyone else is doing is a good way to gamble on success. This July the MMA Pro League will hold their first of five events in what is being billed as “the dawn of a new era in MMA”, according to MMA Pro League’s CEO Hani Darwish. The team-based MMA promotion is not the first time the idea has been presented, but now could be the right time to present it.
In 2006 real- estate developer Kurt Otto and Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus began The International Fight League, which many longtime MMA fans remember as the IFL. While the founders were passionate about the sport it seems MMA was not trending enough to make it last. Like the MMA Pro League will be doing in July, the IFL also held their inaugural event in Atlantic City. The IFL did make it on broadcast TV but being the first to try the team concept this early in MMA’s growth made it hard to bring in new fans of the sport. They held events in Las Vegas, New Jersey, and Connecticut and even crowned Roy Nelson as their heavyweight champion before it folded in July of 2008.
So what is different now?
For starters, the technology to live stream events and cast them on home screens or watch them on the go exists. Streaming services like FITE TV and UFC Fight Pass can bring events to fans wherever they are at and since 2008, the rise of MMA has never been better. The UFC deserves credit for drawing in new fans to MMA, those that are curious or looking for a change now might not mind different spins on how MMA is presented. Also, with the 4 billion dollar price tag the UFC sold for in 2016, getting investors interested in MMA is likely easier now then it was back in 2008.
With former HBO sports executive, Mark Taffet as president his experience in holding high profile combat sports events should prove useful for the future of the MMA Pro League. “After delivering 190 of the world’s greatest fights to fans of HBOPPV for 25 years, I am thrilled to begin a new chapter in MMA history with the launch of MMA Pro League,” said President of MMA Pro League Mark Taffet. The inaugural event will be held at the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino which Taffet believes will “create an atmosphere of excitement second to none.”
MMA is at a point now where there is already team based five vs. five events overseas and while fans in the US may not be there yet it seems the newer fan base can get behind fighters of a certain region. With team New Jersey facing Team Pennsylvania in July, it should get the northeast excited enough to try team-based MMA again. Timing is everything and the time could be right for The MMA Pro League.