The sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has seen dramatic growth in the past decade. Through great marketing and promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has become the leading MMA organization in the United States.
But as the sport grows at an incredible pace, public demand from fans and fighters alike are creating a need for more venues and events across the country.
One Southeastern-based organization, Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC), has seen tremendous growth since it being founded in 2006 by John Prisco, and is helping to fill the void.
In 2007, the organization set a Florida statewide record for attendance of an MMA event by drawing over 13,000 fans to the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
Based out of Tampa, XFC has produced fight cards in Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and even held an event in South Africa on Feb. 19, 2010.
Prisco, a native of New Jersey, recently said he hopes to bring the XFC into the northeast region of the United States next.
"That was one of the reasons I wanted to do XFC open fighter tryouts in the Northeast," Prisco said. "We have existing and still forming TV relationships which will allow our weekly show to be seen there.
"It's all about branding our product, and you must lay a solid foundation before doing shows 1,000 miles from your homebase. We are hoping to possibly do a promotion in northeast New Jersey in 2010."
Prisco was joined by Rob Kahn from Gracie Tampa as XFC held an open tryout at American Top Team in Danbury, Conn., on Jan. 16, 2010.
Over 100 hopeful amateur MMA fighters showed up to battle for two spots on the televised XFC 11 fight card on July 9, 2010. Ryan Quinn and Abi Mestre won the honors after the grueling 12-hour event.
“I was hoping to win it and finally fight for the XFC,” Quinn said afterward. “They are an outstanding promotion and I am very proud to finally make it here."
"This is my once in a lifetime opportunity and I promised myself I would never look back and regret not doing everything in my power to be successful."
Due to the great turnout, American Top Team has agreed to host the XFC Fighter Tryouts annually from now on. "Reaction was incredible," Prisco said, "Our Production Team filmed it and you will see some clips soon on our website. A lot of talent was there."
A week later, Premier Mixed Martial Arts in Knoxville, Tenn., hosted the second XFC Fighter Tryout with 50 fighters competing for one spot on the XFC 11 card.
Ultimately, the last man standing was Joseph Ian Stephens with Jonathan Burdine scoring the alternate spot in case Stephens was not available.
Tennessee is familiar with the XFC. In April 2009, XFC held its first televised fight card in Tennessee, airing on HDNet.
HDNet aired four live XFC Fight Cards on the network in 2009, and has plans to air four more live XFC cards in 2010.
HDNet has been a vital part of the growth of XFC.
"It gave us the credibility we needed," Prisco related. "We were already doing big shows, great production with very talented fighters. People just needed to see our product. HdNet has been a tremendous partner for us and we are very thankful."
As the XFC continues to grow, Prisco has great plans to expand beyond just top quality events.
"We are opening up XFC Training facilities, and franchising them now," Prisco explains. "How can you go wrong running an XFC Training franchise when we are all over TV? The XFC branding makes them very difficult to compete against. TV, big shows and training facilities, that's the model and it is working.
According to Prisco, XFC just did a show in South Africa and is planning to break ground on a new XFC training facility there as well."
"We are dedicated to launching the careers of the champions of tomorrow," Prisco has said.
The next XFC event will take place on March 19 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. The event, XFC 10 “Night of Champions” will be televised live on HDNet. There will be two title belts on the line.
When asked what people who watch XFC 10 should expect to see, Prisco said, "A show that is top notch, very entertaining with some of the best young talent this sport has to offer. Add to that the incredible production HDNet brings to your product, and the viewer walks away very satisfied."
Among the fighters on the card, are some familiar names to UFC fans. Shane Primm was a cast member on season eight of the Ultimate Fighter on SPIKE TV. He will battle Gerardo Julio Gallegos in the 185 pound weight class.
Another UFC veteran, Junior Assuncao, will battle John Mahlow for the XFC Lightweight Championship belt.
The XFC featherweight title will also be on the line as Jason Wood takes on Jarrod Card.
Also among the fighters on the 10-bout card are Jay White, who is a trainer for Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas; and Jason Carapelluci, who hails from Boston.
The first bout begins at 7:00 PM and the televised fights will start at 9:00 PM. For those that cannot attend the event in person, it can be seen live on HDNet, available to Dish Network, DirectTV and Verizon Fios customers.