In a move that strangely acknowledges just how talented the IFL's roster is or at least once was, the UFC has been signing several IFL fighters recently and not all of them standouts. To wit:
The inclusion of Andy and Blackburn is very intriguing, as they were two of the IFL’s better fighters. In the past, it has been said that the UFC has such a bias against the upstart New York-based fight promotion that it wouldn’t sign any of its fighters.
However, there doesn’t appear to be a bias, as in recent months the UFC has selected former IFL fighters such as Gerald Harris, Mike Dolce, and Dante Rivera for the cast of its seventh installment of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality TV show. Now, with the recent signings of other former IFL fighters such as Blackburn, Andy, and Andre Gusmao in recent weeks, the anti-IFL theory has been blown completely out of the water.
That "Andy" is Reese Andy and the "Blackburn" is obviously Brad Blackburn, two former IFL aces. On top of that, Sam Caplan is reporting the UFC recently signed Rory Markham, a Miletich product with explosive boxing and heavy hands, who could make his UFC debut as early as July 19th.
One could argue that it's merely the fevered push to get a July 19th show together that's forcing the UFC to reach for the most available and usable resources. In other words, it's not from a strategic standpoint that the UFC is seeking fighters who've competed and done at least moderately well in the IFL. That argument could be true and until we see what sort of contracts these fighters have or how quickly they are cut if they lose, we don't yet know. But there's clearly some merit to the position. You have to think the UFC wants Vera to trounce Andy and much of July 19th's undercard will be filled with newcomers and virtually anonymous IFL stars.
But the interesting thought here is what would happen if a similarly positioned "rival" league went belly up. Would EliteXC's stars be snatched up by the UFC? Maybe, maybe not. Some of those fighters in EliteXC are stars that simply haven't made their way to the UFC yet like Jake Shields. But others - Scott Smith, Robbie Lawler - are either UFC washouts or fighters who chose to leave the UFC for more hospitable pastures. Ultimately it speaks strongly of the IFL's roster that so many, so quickly are making their way to the UFC and other promotions. One has to wonder how many of the top talent in the IFL are chomping at the bit for Zuffa to give them a call. Wagnney Fabiano, anyone?