The UFC, not normally known for brokering friendly relations with other organizations, has been very amicable to new kid on the block, World Series of Fighting. It's not the first time we've seen the phenomenon, but it is rare, especially in light of their proclivity to either buy out other promotions or simply put them out of business.
The two promotions do seem to share a united opinion on rival organization, Bellator MMA, and there has been no mincing of words, as evidenced by recent interviews. Rising from all the chatter is the speculation that WSOF might be a feeder promotion designed to provide a talent exchange for the UFC. In an effort to clear up the rumors, I interviewed WSOF matchmaker, Ali Abdel-Aziz who stated unequivocally that they are not a farm league for anyone, nor do they ever intend to be. Here's what he had to say:
We're not the feeder league for the UFC at all. It's like this; if a guy's contract is over, and he wants to go somewhere else, we won't hold him against his will. Some guys want to go to the UFC, and work toward that. We're not trying to hold these guys back from their dreams. If they want to go to the UFC, they can. If they want to stay with us, they can. Holding guys back from moving on when they want to is bad for the promotion and the sport.
If you're not happy where you're at, you shouldn't be fighting for that organization. As long as you respect your contract, fulfill it, you can walk away. Everybody has a dream, and I don't think anybody, myself or anyone else in the business, should stand in the way of that. If the contract is complete, the choice is yours.
Those guys doing all that stuff to their fighters, it just makes me sick. Sometimes, I get emotional and I shouldn't, but I just feel for these fighters and I don't like the way they're being treated. I know what they go through with the training and sacrifices. Look at Ben Askren; he made the Olympic team. That's not an easy task. It's so hard to do that. Then he becomes a world champion after that, but they're over there saying, ‘He's not good enough to be my champion.' That's just ridiculous.
Competition is great. The more places these guys have to fight, the better, but it needs to be clean. We don't need dirty competition. That's why boxing is having such a hard time. Everything is dirty there. MMA is so new, and we need to keep the sport we love clean.
We tried to sign Ben Askren, but guess what? If we don't sign him, and he goes somewhere else, I wish him the best, and I know he'll do well wherever he goes. I hope he goes on to achieve all his dreams, wherever he ends up. I think we'd be a good fit for him because we have contenders. We've got Palhares, Fitch, Burkman and Carl. There's plenty of guys he could fight to make people see that he's a legitimate Top 10 guy.
When Rousimar Palhares was first released from the UFC, the bigger promotions didn't want to put him under contract, including WSOF, however, they changed their minds, in large part due to the Big Nog and Renzo Gracie's counsel. He was recently signed to a fight deal, and will appear on one of the 2014 fight cards.
People have different opinions. From Day 1, I never said that I didn't like Palhares. Ray was very honest about it, and said, ‘Listen, I'm not a grappling expert' and he listened to Renzo's interview and he changed his mind. Renzo's grappling experience is extensive, so that made the difference. Ray and Shawn and myself had a conversation and came to an agreement as a team to bring Palhares onboard with WSOF.
The thing that made me feel so much better about the signing is that I spoke with Big Nog and his management, and they said it couldn't hurt to give him a chance. Whatever Renzo tells me is gold, because he's my master, and I couldn't imagine finding anyone more qualified to give me the green light than him. So, between him and Nog, that's how it all came to pass.
World Series of Fighting will be putting on it's first event outside the confines of the United States this coming Saturday, December 7, and will be broadcast on NBC Sports.