New WSOF signee Miguel Torres
I used to live in Las Vegas. I think I've told you this before. I moved out there to cover the sport full-time, and it was quite the experience.
I can't really tell you any horror stories about living in Vegas because I don't have any. I tired of drudging penniless out of casinos after about 30 days there, and I only gambled sporadically after that. And I was never one for the club scene because I'm in my 30s, and let me tell you right now, I really love to sleep a lot of hours at night rather than spend my time sipping incredibly overpriced alcohol and pretending I can hear what the girl sitting next to me is screaming in my ear.
Vegas was fine. I lived 25 minutes from the strip, and I never set foot in the MGM Grand or Mandalay Bay or Luxor unless I had to work, which ended up being more often than you'd think. I can't complain about living there, and in fact, I'll probably end up moving back at some point next year.
Living in Vegas and operating in the MMA scene, you don't just become a "local" in the way that Vegas people describe other Vegas people; you become a fixture. You start to hear things. Most of the time, these things are rumors, and oftentimes, these things are not something that you'd ever repeat to another living soul—much less actually report on them. You don't want to get caught in those crosshairs, let me tell you.
Sometime last summer, I first heard that Ray Sefo was pitching an idea for a new mixed martial arts organization around town. The idea was pretty simple: a tournament held entirely in Las Vegas, with the winner receiving one million bucks in cash.
It didn't make sense then, and it doesn't make sense now. And somewhere along the line, Sefo either decided it didn't make sense or he was told, outright, that it was a silly idea. I know this because Sefo trotted out a few fighters—including former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres—out on a stage today at the Planet Hollywood casino for the most awkward fight-related press conference in the history of fight-related press conferences.
I like the idea of alternative programming to the UFC. Businesses rarely thrive without competition to push them ever onward, and so the WSOF seems like a pretty good idea. They're starting off with a nice television deal—they'll be aired on NBC Sports, which used to be known as Versus and is still a much better television station than Fuel TV—and they have a couple of big-name fighters to throw on their broadcasts, including Torres and hulking former pro wrestler turned pretty terrible MMA fighter Bobby Lashley.
Sure, the press conference was not without its hiccups, most of which were due to Sefo apparently never having spoken in public before. Sefo needs boot camp training in public speaking, and he needs it badly, if he's going to continue being the public figurehead for this company as it tries to get off the ground in an increasingly-crowded marketplace.
There was also the matter of some confusion on my part concerning Sefo's pronunciation of the word "decagon," but we'll chalk that up to my poor listening skills. Yes, the WSOF is going to use a decagon, which has 10 sides, which is two more than the UFC. So you know they already have a leg up on the competition there.
But I do foresee some problems here.
Sefo said several times that the top goal of the WSOF is to be fair to the fighters. He's a fighter himself, and so I can understand why he wants to stick up for them. He said that if any of his fighters are unhappy and want to leave, he'll simply allow them to walk away.
These don't seem like sound business decisions, and they aren't decisions I can see Sefo's new partners at NBC taking very well. The goal of any fight promotion must be—simply has to be—making money and creating new opportunities to make money. It's all well and good to be noble about taking care of your fellow fighters, but the only thing that'll do for you is ensure that your fighting career must continue long past its expiration date because you screwed up your chance to run a promotion with a nice little television deal.
I'm always glad to see that fighters have options. And as someone who has known Miguel Torres pretty well for quite some time, I'm glad to see him get the chance to stay on television, to prove that he's still got something left.
The World Series of Fighting may have a long shelf life. They have good financial backing, they're paying competitively for the fighters they're signing and they have an outstanding local Vegas partner in Planet Hollywood. They're all set to be a success, at least on some level. They'll never be the UFC because nobody is going to become the UFC at this point, but they can strive to be the best alternative available.
I, for one, hope they can make it happen.