The Ultimate Fighting Championship announced an Indian TV deal today and, with the Super Fight League, exposing the entire country to some of the most dreadful MMA fights imaginable, it cannot come soon enough.
First impressions count, and anyone who is unaware of MMA or unsure whether they like it or not could well be put off for life by the fare on offer at the SFL.
There is a time and a place for beginners to start to compete, and it is in an amateur-rules fight in a small venue, not in the biggest show in an entire country.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden pretty much summed up most of my thoughts on the SFL 1 event in this article (5 Reasons India's Super Fight League Was One of the Most Epically Bad Shows Ever), and I don't want to hate on a brand-new organization, but he really hits the nail on the head.
The sooner the UFC starts to be shown on TV in India, where there is a vast market of 18- to 30-year-old men, the better, because the SFL is in danger of putting potential fans off of the sport for life.
Anyone who tunes in expecting to see high-quality fights and is greeted by the sight of two fighters with zero professional experience swinging hail-mary punches is hardly going to form a high impression of MMA.
Many of the fighters on SFL 1 were getting in the cage for the very first time. I've been to some MMA events which were held in small, seedy clubs or discos, and had amateurs debuting in their first fight, and they can be fun, but they aren't the reason I got into MMA.
Instead of being exposed to MMA for the first time by seeing the best fighters go head-to-head in the UFC, the 300,000 Indian fans who reportedly watched SFL 1 on YouTube were treated to a bunch of amateurs with basically no experience, not to mention the ongoing embarrassment that is Bob Sapp.
SFL 2 could be even worse, because seven of the fighters on the card have never, ever won an MMA fight, five of them have never had a proper MMA fight, and three of them have negative records. Have a look at the event page on Sherdog and you will see how low the bar is set for fighters wanting to get into the SFL.
No wins? No experience? No problem.
What makes it worse is the SFL make no effort to differentiate between the fights involving serious professionals like Todd Duffee and Neil Grove, and the fights involving out-and-out rookies. As shown by the above-referenced Sherdog link, the six fighters who are on immediately before the main event have a collective record of 2-5-1.
It is a really awful way to introduce fans to MMA. Unless a fighter is already very good at a respected combat sport such as boxing or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, they are unlikely to set the world alight in their first ever fight. Yet this collection of newbies is being promoted as the face of MMA in India.
And don't even get me started on the Bollywood theme. I really don't see how MMA and Indian musicals mix, and the "come for the concert stay for the fights" plea just sounds downright desperate as if no one would ever turn up to watch without the Bollywood bit.
People in India who had never seen MMA before SFL 1 are going to be in for a revelation when the UFC starts appearing on their TVs. I just hope by then it is not too late, first impressions stick and anyone who is introduced to MMA by the fights the SFL is putting on could lose interest in the sport forever.