Small Circuits And B-List Fighters: This Fan Weighs In

Brad McCrillisContributor IMay 5, 2009

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 28:  Pat Healy from the Lion's Den during the IFL weigh-in at the Orleans Hotel February 28, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images for IFL)

This weekend a new MMA Circuit, UMMAXX, opened. The main draw of this card was Junie Browning’s little brother, Robbie “The Heartthrob” Browning.

Cleveland has had two MMA circuits that I have actively followed in the past: Golden Lotus, which runs a small circuit on the west side of Cleveland and the bigger NAAFS circuit, which is televised locally. Both of these groups have very active followers.

I have trained with camps from both of these circuits, and I am currently training with a school that is in the NAAFS.

Most followers know the fighters, friends, and family, or they are people such as me that train with them at the same schools, gyms, or clubs.

These smaller circuits concentrate more on their own backyards; they know where their bread is buttered, so to speak. They stay with fighters from the area that will bring their own “fans” to help fill the arenas.

UMMAXX's event held UMMAXX 7, “Out of the Cage,” recently.

Although this was the first event, it was extremely well run. When one fight was over, the next was ready to go. There was no dead time and the 11 or so pro fights were all very competitive.

That is the good news. Of course there is some bad news.

The event, although well publicized by local radio stations, fell far short of the intended crowd.

The expected draw of the B-list Browning frankly did not happen.

For his part, Browning played his trailer trash self to a tee. Piggy-backing off of his brother’s foolishness at the UFC House, Robbie carried on the family name.

He played the bad boy act to the cage. Once in the cage, he showed that he might have hope as a fighter, winning decisively—albeit over a rather inexperienced opponent.

When the fights were over, I was left with a series of questions.

Are the Browning’s really ahead of everyone in understanding that MMA is heading towards pure entertainment value?

Professional Wrestling has its “Heels” or Villains. Of these types of “Heels” in Professional wrestling there are various types. Crazy Heel, Comic Heel, Cowardly Heel: The Browning’s play, the Delinquent Heel.

Isn’t that what they both remind you of? A couple of juvenile delinquent punks that seem more interested in getting drunk, causing trouble and acting the tough street punk more than acting like a professional fighter.

I think we are being played.

I suspect that both the Browning’s have followed professional wrestling and at heart understand the role of the “Heel”.

No, I do not think they are choir boys, but I think they are playing their role to the max.

And it has worked.

Could Robbie Browning, with time and experience, actually become a good UFC-caliber fighter?

I will admit that Robbie Browning looked to be a totally different fighter in person than he showed on the Ultimate Fighter Series. His punches looked crisp and had some pop to them. He looked to be in total control of the stand up part of the fight.

This control continued to the ground and Browning showed very good, deliberate technique when turning his dominate top mount position into an arm bar.

I did not see the same fighter that I saw on the TV show. Was Browning so into playing the Heel that he lost focus of the fight itself?

Based upon what I saw I believe this to be the case. Although even at cage side you could hear Robbie Browning stating that he was going to drop down to 135.

That weight would put him out of the UFC.

While the UFC Ultimate Fighter Series has helped the growth of the UFC and MMA, has it actually started to undermine the sport itself?

Before the last few episodes of the Ultimate Fighter I would have stated an unequivocal yes, Each new cast seemed hell bent on out drinking, out punking and out vandalizing the previous cast.

In fact, watching Robbie Browning stand on the balcony and in a drunken stupor tossing eggs at his fellow fighters had me convinced that this would just be one more season of idiocy.

However, the other fighters then banned together. Team USA and Team Britton set ground rules and both sides supported Jason Dent in his quest to defeat Robbie Browning.

For one of the first times I saw the attitude that I so commonly see in MMA clubs. People frankly do not like to work with knuckle heads. There have been multiple times that I have seen the MMA people collectively drive them out.

Finally, I saw this collective effort on The Ultimate Fighter. For the first time in a few years I have hope that the TV Reality Series will resemble what I see in real life.

UMMAXX 7, a one-shot wonder or will it withstand its initial obvious cash loss and return with UMMAX 8?

This may be a one and done situation. To build a local following takes a great deal of effort, time and patience. If the promoters do hang in there I think the word of mouth of this event will spread.

Of all of the people that I spoke with after the fights there was one comment that was consistent. The event itself was well run.

If there is another card for this circuit, will it stay with the same pro fight card or have a mix of local amateurs?

I think there should be some amateur fights with the next card. Once the local MMA Community saw the quality of the event itself I do not think the promoters should find the need to draft as much outside talent.

If there is another card for this circuit, will it stay with the same pro fight card or have a mix of local amateurs?

The local MMA fans follow by the MMA clubs, the local fighters, word of mouth, and quality of the events. If there is another UMMAX, I suspect the turnout will be much better.

Is it possible that the MMA fans stayed away from the event as a statement about what is wrong with the sport when a Robbie Browning is the main draw?

As much as I would like to say that yes, this was the issue I know it was not. It comes back to gaining the trust of the local MMA fans. Building a following and stay in for the long haul.

That is how the other local MMA circuits have been built. Not with a big splash, but with consistence and time.


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