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WSOF must find right balance
Andrei Arlovski and Anthony Johnson headlined the World Series of Fighting's second event Saturday night in Atlantic City. Two fighters who long ago established their names -- Arlovski a former UFC heavyweight champion, and Johnson a former UFC welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight whose multiple failures to make weight often overshadowed his considerable fighting skills.
The rest of the WSOF 2 card was a mix of fighters you may have heard of and those that make you whip out the smartphone and Google their names while watching them fight.
In other words, the expected scale of contracted fighters for the newbie MMA organization headed up by the well-known kickboxer Ray Sefo.
"If the signing is right for us, and the guy is right for us, we'll make it happen," Sefo said "We have a lot of contacts worldwide. We have fighters names being sent to us, like, 50-60 fighters a day."
Striking the proper balance should be paramount for WSOF and Sefo. Established fighters attract more viewers to broadcast partner NBC Sports Network, more press and more fans, all of which produces more revenue. Ratings for WSOF reportedly jumped from 180,000 viewers last November to 210,000 viewers last Saturday.
The signing of Jon Fitch, ranked as the No. 9 middleweight in the UFC at the time of his release last month, is a perfect example. Twitter erupted in outrage when he was released.
"Absolutely we'll sign the names like Jon Fitch and so on," Sefo said.
But the more WSOF brings in names you know, the more it resembles fired NFL head coaches interviewing for the same position with other teams. "Retread" is often the cry from fans and critics in the sport.
WSOF must also work to establish its own stars, something Sefo understands and is doing. Just Gaethje and Brensen Hanson are two such examples, both of whom won by stoppage Saturday night.
"We want to create our own champions," Sefo said. "We have a lot of young guys signed who are 4-0, 6-0, 8-0. I see [Hansen] train in the gym every day, and he's another name to look out for."
Sefo said he wants to be able to crown a champion by the fourth event, which should occur later this year.