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Sunday, Sep 15, 2013

Setbacks Alongside Entertaining Headliner at WSOF 5

Arlovski kicking Kyle (photo via Lucas Noonan / WSOF)

By Kelsey Mowatt

World Series of Fighting has built some momentum over its last few events, likely to the surprise of some of its critics, but last night’s card in Atlantic City featured some setbacks. Yes, even though the headliner between Andrei Arlovski and Mike Pyle was an entertaining, wince inducing slug fest.

Now, Americans may be unaware,  but it looks as though certain international regions were unable to watch parts of the main card stream. In the U.S. of course, fans had to tune into the NBC Sports Network to catch the main card, and fans abroad were supposed to be able to watch the action online. Judging by my own frustrating experience here on the west coast in Canada, and comments from international fans on Twitter, the main card remained geoblocked for some time.

During the card, WSOF President Ray Sefo tweeted the following in response to clearly annoyed fans:

Everyone overseas I’m truly sorry about the streaming but someone put some new guy on the job and obviously isn’t doing a good job…

While the WSOF is based in the U.S., it goes without saying that building an international audience is extremely important. Sure, it was just one night, but how many fans just gave up in frustration and moved on with their evening? The WSOF has branded itself as a big stage promotion, and its roster includes many top tier fighters, but setbacks like this don’t leave a ‘UFC-ish’ feeling with fans. This isn’t ten years ago when any MMA fan was pretty much a hardcore one, who was willing to refresh a page a bazillion times just to catch a fight. When there’s cards on every week, it doesn’t take much for the casual fan to find something else to watch.

Then of course, there was the bizarre incident involving Elvis Mutapcic’s removal from the card (which many of us outside the U.S. had to find out about via Twitter…). The rising middleweight was prevented from fighting Jesse Taylor, due to the commission’s suspicion he may have taken a prescription drug that wasn’t cleared by the New Jersey officials. Now, Mutapcic has denied he took anything, and the promotion did do a good job at disseminating comments from the fighter, Sefo and the commission, but it certainly wasn’t a good thing to have happen. Even if the blame doesn’t lie with the WSOF directly, it was another setback for the card that likely left a bad taste with fans.

Now of course, the main event between Arlovski and Kyle featured plenty of thrilling exchanges and tense moments, as “The Pitbull” had to battle back from being knocked down on a couple of occasions. Although Kyle is the type of powerful slugger fans like to watch, there’s no question that the WSOF has hung one of it’s promotional hats on Arlovski. The former UFC champ is one of the company’s biggest names, and as a result, he’s been tapped to headline three of its cards. Thanks to his unanimous decision win last night, the WSOF has the possibility of booking a rematch between Anthony Johnson and Arlovski, or using him in another main event.

That said, Arlovski has looked vulnerable in back-to-back fights now, and it remains to be seen if he can be the draw moving forward that the WSOF clearly hopes he can be. Last night’s fight was unquestionably a positive in terms of entertainment value, but you have to wonder if the promotion might have been better served, if Arlovski had gone out and scored a dominant, stoppage win. If he had, the ‘Arlovski is back’ angle would have been much more convincing.

Up next, the promotion will turn to Josh Burkman and Steve Carl, who will headline WSOF 6 on October 26th. Hopefully the event features entertaining action as per usual, but less distractions and setbacks.

posted by FCF Staff @ 1:46 pm
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