By BOB EMANUEL JR. | Scripps Howard News Service
Traditionally, a new fighting organization takes a regional approach, slowly building the company.
Not so for the World Series of Fighting. The start-up promotion, which will hold its first event on Saturday, has already aligned with a national network and signed numerous big-name free-agent fighters to deals.
WSOF Ray Sefo, a six-time Muay Thai World champion and eight-time K-1 World Grand Prix Finals tournament participant, directed the national push.
“I know what it takes to be a fighter,” Sefo said. “I know the type of discipline it takes. I know the type of dedication and sacrifices that is involved in being a full-time athlete. I have no doubt in my mind that all the fighters we’re going to sign will know they’re in good hands. They’re going to know that I have their best interest at heart.”
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship performer Anthony Johnson, who will fight D.J. Linderman on the debut card, said Sefo “can understand where we come from as far as fighters and what we go through and what we need and what we deserve.”
Sefo’s experience helped him form instant bonds with the fighters as they came under contract.
“I think, with the guys that we have already, they feel they can trust the situation,” Sefo said. “They have a guy who’s a fighter, who’s going to have their back. I swear, 100-million percent, that I will always have the fighters’ back, no matter what.”
So far, the WSOF has landed former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, who will fight against Devin Cole, and former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Angel Torres, who will fight Marlon Moraes.
“We were very fortunate,” Sefo said. “Ali Abdel-Aziz, our matchmaker, obviously had done a great job. We both reached out to fighters, they were available as free agents, and we were able to sign a deal. I feel very blessed to have the guys that we have. The question has been thrown at me a lot of times, ‘Is there room for another league?’ All you have to do is look at the card, and that explains that there’s a lot of room for another league.”
The WSOF pursued a television partner for distribution. NBC Sports Network, which previously expressed an interest in MMA, was a natural target, and Sefo and his partners flew to New York earlier this year to secure a deal.
“After our presentation, there was another two fight leagues that were trying to get that deal,” Sefo said. “Obviously, they liked our presentation, what we provide and what we bring to the table. That was pretty much done within a week of that meeting.”
Sefo, a 41-year-old native of New Zealand, said the WSOF signed a 10-fight deal with NBC Sports and will re-evaluate the agreement going forward.
“After this first event, we’re all sitting down and discussing the further relationship, where we’re going and what we’re doing in the future with them,” he said.
A pair of Season Seven tournament semifinals headlines Bellator 79, which will take place in Canada at the Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario. Heavyweight semifinalists Richard Hale and Thiago Santos will face each other in the main event. The winner will fight next week’s winner of the Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz-Alexander Volkov semifinal. Mike Richman will fight Shahbulat Shamhalaev in a featherweight semifinal, with the winner to meet next week’s winner of the Wagnney Fabiano vs. Rad Martinez bout. The main card can be can be seen live at 2 p.m. HST on MTV2 and will feature a pair of welterweight fights — Douglas Lima vs. Kobe Ortiz and Ryan Ford vs. Kyle Baker.