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The Team Concept In MMA: A New Promoter Emerges

The International Fight League introduced the concept of team mixed martial arts to the world and the format has been an experiment with mixed results. Hardcore MMA fans for the most part did not take to the team concept as presented by the IFL. The reasons are legion, the teams for the most part were contrivances, the events featured too many mismatches and despite claims to the contrary, the fighters stood in the shadows of their more famous coaches.

Recent changes announced by the IFL seem to indicate that the organization is aware of the criticism and taking steps to right the ship. The changes go as high as the front office, where the long time driving force behind Showtime boxing, Jay Larkin has replaced comic book mogul Gareb Shamus as CEO of the company.

Larkin plans to make several changes within the IFL, including an emphasis away from the local city team concept toward teams comprised from one training gym against another famous MMA training gym.

The IFL has bled money so far, has been unable to capture large audiences on television and could be near the top of the MMA deathwatch.

All of these problems didn't prevent a Brazilian promoter from trying to emulate the IFL format. The Mo Team League gathered four top Brazilian MMA fighters to coach teams for a series of events culminating in the MTL: Finals on November 10th.

After their first season MMAWeekly reported the news that the MTL had reached out for help:

Two of the biggest mixed martial arts companies in Brazil have combined their efforts and decided to make one single event. MTL (Mo Team League) – once headed by Wanderlei Silva, Murilo Bustamante, Pedro Rizzo and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – will now work together with Predador FC.

MTL was managed by the company B-Tough, but the business didn’t work good enough according to MTL owner Monica Marquetti. She decided to move forward and contacted the president of the FPMM (Sao Paulo Federation of MMA), Alessandro Renner, who is also the owner of Predador FC. Together they decided to make MTL vs. Predador, which is scheduled to hold its first event in late January 2008.

"The idea is to make a crossover between our champs, and it has everything to do with big fights and huge success. Monica and me are expecting a very good event with great fights," said Renner, now responsible for MTL and Predador FC.

Several world-class fighters have contracts with Predador and MTL. Pancrase and K-1 Hero’s fighter Fabio Silva (Chute Boxe), Luciano Azeredo (RFT Luta Livre), Alexandre Cacareco (BTT) and Helio Dipp (Chute Boxe) are a few of the fights currently under contract.

That brings us to the newest player to try and promote MMA under the team format, Platinum Fighting Productions a Las Vegas based fight promotion recently announced their intentions of running a series of team vs. team MMA events across Asia.

Their event entitled Platinum Ring of Fire features at least 4 known teams. Coaches Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Josh Barnett, and Gokor Chivichyan will lead teams consisting of LW, MW, LHW, HW and Female 130 lbs. fighters.

Platinum Ring of Fire's first event is scheduled to take place December 9th, 2008 at Araneta Stadium in the Philippines.

MMA Weekly confirmed much of the details regarding Platinum Fighting Production's plans.

A mixed martial arts promotion based out of Las Vegas is starting a new event using a team format with MMA legends as coaches. Platinum Fighting Productions has named its event Ring of Fire – not to be confused with the venerable MMA promotion of the same name based in Denver.

PFP announced Royce Gracie, Josh Barnett, Gokor Chivichyan and Ken Shamrock as its first four coaches. Its first event is Ring of Fire, Manila, scheduled to take place Dec. 9 at Araneta Stadium in the Philippines, the home of the historic Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier fight known as "The Thrilla in Manila."
International Fight League commissioner Kurt Otto acknowledged Shamrock’s involvement and confirmed that he is still a coach for IFL as well.

Each team will battle in four events to be held in the Philippines, Macau, Japan and China; with the best two teams progressing to the Final Ring of Fire event slated for December 2008...

The Dec. 9 event features Team Barnett versus Team Gokor

  • Koji Oshi (Barnett) vs. Karen Darabdeyan (Gokor)
  • Yuki Kondo (Barnett) vs. August Wallen (Gokor)
  • Renato "Babalu" Sobral (Barnett) vs. Rodney Faverus (Gokor)
  • Jeff Monson (Barnett) vs. Hakim Gouram (Gokor)
  • Ginele Marquez (Barnett) vs. Amanda Buckner (Gokor)

Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Zach Light will also participate in a separate bout on the Dec. 9 event and will reportedly be coached by UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson.

The teams as of now look like this:

Team Gracie

  • Cleber Luciano (1-2)
  • Jorge Patino (20-10-1)
  • Daniel Sarafian (1-0)
  • John Marsh (7-6)
  • Katrine Alendal (0-1)

Team Shamrock

  • Evan Dunham (4-0)
  • Kyacey Uscola (13-10)
  • Mike Whitehead (19-5)
  • Ricco Rodriguez (26-7)
  • Tonya Evinger (4-3)

Team Barnett

  • Koji Oishi (15-7-4)
  • Yuki Kondo (47-20-6)
  • Renato Sobral (28-7)
  • Jeff Monson (23-7)
  • Ginele Marquez (5-7-1)

Team Chivichyan

  • Karen Darabedyan (2-0)
  • August Wallen (2-1)
  • Rodney Faverus (24-13-3)
  • Hakim Goram (3-1)
  • Amanda Buckner (10-4-1)

The Platinum Fighting Productions website also lists an alternate team:

Team Gamboa alternate team

  • David Gardner (12-7-0)
  • Steve Headden (7-7-0)
  • Fernando Gonzalez (12-5-0)
  • Carmelo Marrero (7-2-0)
  • Sherri Thompson (7-2-0)

Team MMA is a concept that won't seem to die, despite it's unsuccessful implementation thus far. I personally don't see a future for the format, as a long term, viable, business model for any organization but only time will tell.