Ray Sefo, right, leads World Series of Fighting into 2014 with lofty goals and ambitious expectations.
World Series of Fighting (WSOF) president Ray Sefo and executive vice president/matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz created a hit product, and they want you to watch it.
A six-time Muay Thai world champion and decorated K-1 veteran, Sefo understands the combat sports game well, and his latest endeavor as president of WSOF sees him step out of the cage and into the executive's chair, a position that he commands with an expert's touch.
"The good thing about my history as a fighter is that I get to see where the guys are coming from. I understand it from a fighter's perspective," Sefo told Bleacher Report. "But I also see it from an executive's perspective. When I combine those two things together, it allows me to make the best decision that benefits the fighter and the company."
As a self-described "open book," Sefo is happy to offer advice—both inside and outside the cage—to better his fighters' careers and to maintain the peace within the organization. This sense of friendship and understanding, he feels, is vital to WSOF's success.
"I always say to my guys, 'anything you want to talk about or get off your chest, I'm here,'" Sefo said. "I understand the game. I understand what these fighters go through day in and day out for 10 weeks of camp. It (this understanding) plays a major role in the way I operate and the way I run things and the way I make decisions that benefits our fighters and also, obviously, our company."
Sefo's formula has worked well to this point.
In a little over one year, WSOF has stormed the scene, becoming one of the world's premiere MMA organizations. The company's roster boasts well-known names and world-class talents such as Jon Fitch, Anthony Johnson, Nick Newell and Yushin Okami, and matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz dedicates his life to crafting fights with these men that resonate with audiences across the globe.
"I sit down at midnight every night, and I watch a lot of videos. I'm a big fan," Abdel-Aziz told Bleacher Report. "I love this. It's never too much, it never makes me tired...I believe every match we've put on so far has been great except two matches, which, for seven shows, is pretty good."
While Abdel-Aziz works every night to ensure a quality product for the consumer, he can not say the same for a particular rival organization.
"The UFC puts on great matches, but you see the guys in Bellator, they put on mismatches all the time," Abdel-Aziz said. "It's ridiculous. There's no entertainment. You see guys go and knock somebody out—there's no competition, and we have to put on equal competition."
Now a little over one year into business, Sefo and company host their eighth event—WSOF 8—Saturday, Jan. 18. Headlined by a lightweight title fight between undefeated powerhouse Justin Gaethje and 6-1 Richard Patishnock, Saturday's event affords Sefo a rare opportunity to relax and to reflect on his organization's accomplishments.
"We've come a long way in one year," Sefo said. "We've crowned two champions already, and we're going to crown another one Saturday, so everything's exciting. We're working hard to put on fan-friendly, entertaining events, and that's what we will continue to do."
But Sefo is not a man who finds satisfaction in the past.
A moment after relishing in his promotion's accomplishments in 2013, he turned back to the future to the work at hand.
"I want to be on every TV around the world," Sefo said. "I don't care where you are, where you're from, where you live—if you have a television, I want to be on that TV."
And with a product crafted after hours of studying, hard work and deliberation, they expect you to tune in and watch.