While some MMA fans are happy to limit themselves to the roster of fighters signed to the UFC, various other promotions proved to also be capable of creating stars that people can get behind. Poland's KSW is one of the leading organizations to do so.
Over the years, KSW rose from a struggling promotion with a minute fan base to a well respected sporting event with a national TV broadcast deal. Apart from savvy business decisions, the reason behind their thriving market is the likes of superstars Mariusz Pudzianowski and Mamed Khalidov.
Pudzianowski, a record-holding five-time World's Strongest Man, debuted in MMA seven years ago and brought over a curious fan base that had followed him from his bodybuilding days. KSW then eventually began to stack their Pudzianowski shows with fighters like Khalidov, who later became stars of their own because of their in-ring performances.
Khalidov, now KSW middleweight champion and arguably the biggest star in the promotion, discussed Pudzianowski's influence in a recent interview with Olga Hasky.
"If we talk about Mariusz, first everyone laughed - oh, strongman, and so on. But it should be noted that he has done a lot for this sport. He is a five-time world champion strongman sports. Everyone was interested to see how he fights, and this is how he drew all his fans - all these grandparents were now watching KSW."
Though Khalidov admitted that Pudzianowski's first few fights were far from impressive performances, his determination to compete helped attract an entirely new audience for KSW.
"At the beginning, he was not a spectacular fighter or a specialist. It looked like a brawl in a disco. But he still did his job - he attracted new fans, these people who followed him were now watching our sport. Today Mariusz is a complete MMA fighter. I think that it turned out well."