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The case for the IFL

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Sam Sheridan makes it in his new column over at Inside Fighting.  Notable quote:

My first impression was that the camaraderie level is astronomical, the fighters love it. Mike Ciesnolevics, the Silverbacks 205 lb-er. who was sitting out the fights with a broken nose, commented that he preferred the team fighting to fighting on his own.

"Everyone in the gym is on the same schedule, pushing each other, training hard, cutting weight and suffering the misery of starvation," he said.

They all suffer the horrors of cutting weight together; which is hard to understand unless you've gone through it. Consider that a fighter usually is going to make weight at something that is ten to twenty pounds less than his "walking around" weight.

For the weeks before the weigh-in, the fighters begin to scale back what they eat, increase cardio, generally manage the weight; and they get meaner and hungrier as time goes by.

The team can help keep a fighter on track, losing a few pounds every week as opposed to having to do it all in a few days. The few days before and the day of the weigh-in are consumed by "cutting," the process of dehydrating the water out of the body, which sheds an additional 6-8 pounds (or more).

There's the hunger, and then the dehydration, working out in sauna-suits, turning your hotel bathroom into a sauna, all to cut the water. It's a thoroughly miserable process, and having teammates going through it with you, shares the pain: misery loves company.

After everybody "makes weight" comes the joy of the post-weigh-in eating frenzy, and the group mood changes like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.

The morning of the fights, they all meet for a big breakfast and talk strategy. The long day of waiting, the building stress of the fight, it's all made a little easier by having your training partners around you, everyone going through the same thing. For many, the worst part of fighting is the waiting, especially the day of the fight. Some of the intense loneliness that fighters deal with is abated.

When the fights are over, everyone gets the same time off, to re-charge the batteries.You get a chance to get away from these guys who you spent so much time with, but soon enough, you'll all be back in the gym together. Going through an ordeal together, as a team, will always be easier than doing it alone. They gain strength from their teammates.

UPDATE: One note. Sheridan's argument makes the case for the team on behalf of fighters, not fans. For the fighters, the help and camaraderie that comes from mutual suffering is a wonderful thing. But for the fans, does it really make a difference? Do the fans feel the same need to rally around certain teams? Maybe. But ultimately, what the fans want is ultimately what's going to make or break the team concept. I'm willing to give the team concept a pass provided the teams themselves designate something fans care about. So far the Tigershark vs. Red Bears format isn't doing much.