THURSDAY NEWS DIGEST 4/20: World Series of Fighting is making a bold rebranding move to carve out a niche (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

By Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch contributor

World Series of Fighting is making a bold move to try and carve out a niche for itself in an increasingly crowded MMA marketplace.

WSOF officially announced Wednesday that they have rebranded as the Professional Fighters League. The new PFL will hold ten month seasons in seven different weight classes where each fighter will compete three times. The fighters with the best records will move on to a playoff round, with the winner of each tournament winning $1 million. $3 million will be shared between the rest of the roster.

Also, an email from WSOF President Ray Sefo sent to fighters and obtained by MMA Fighting stated that fighters will be paid a monthly salary and that “every fighter will have the opportunity to become champion,” a thinly veiled dig at UFC’s current trend of “money” fights.

The new seasonal format will kick off in January and four events are still scheduled for 2017 in the interim.

One important detail that remains up in the air is the WSOF/PFL TV contract. The current deal with NBC Sports Network expires at the end of 2017 and negotiations for a new deal are reportedly underway, but no announcement has been made.

Securing a new TV deal, whether it’s with NBC or elsewhere, will be crucial to the survival of the new league.

Hiscoe’s Analysis: I applaud the PFL for trying something different, but history tells us that this isn’t going to work. This new league has a lot of elements of the IFL and the old Bellator format, both of which failed financially and critically. On paper, the idea of fighters competing under a structured format and building towards a clash of the two best fighters makes all the sense in the world, but it has never worked in practice. UFC reduced and eventually ditched their tournament format early on once it became apparent that injuries would keep fighters from being able to compete two to three times in one night. Bellator then operated under a long-form tournament format for some time, but  they eventually scrapped that as injuries still hampered tournaments and it handcuffed them from making the fights fans most wanted to see.

With Bellator becoming increasingly aggressive in recruiting name fighters, it’s become tough for WSOF to compete and have fallen from being in the same league as Bellator as a number two American promotion to being no more relevant than any of the regional promotions who air fights on UFC Fight Pass. The new format may appeal to sports networks and help them get a TV deal, but in the long run, history doesn’t appear to be on the Professional Fighters League’s side.

THURSDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…

-Dana White told Colin Cowherd on “The Herd” that he will iron out details for a Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather boxing match “in the next couple of days” with McGregor’s side and then go to Mayweather to finalize the deal. He estimated payouts, which he said would depend on how the fight sells on pay-per-view, as $100 million for Mayweather and $75 million for McGregor.

-Jimi Manuwa told ESPN’s “Five Rounds” podcast that he thinks Jon Jones should take a warm-up fight before moving on to a championship fight. Manuwa also claimed that he’s “the Mike Tyson of the division now.”

-Marcos Rogerio de Lima told MMATorch earlier this week that he will be rooting for his former “Ultimate Fighter” coach Chael Sonnen over fellow countrymen Wanderlei Silva when the fight in June. He called Silva “an important figure in the sport in Brazil,” and said of Sonnen, “[he] was a great mentor, and taught me a lot in the house.”

-Dominic Mazzotta, who is fighting A.J. McKee on Friday’s Bellator card told MMATorch last week that he expects to win by second round submission and that he is looking to fight either Daniel Straus or Patricio Pitbull, who are fighting in the night’s main event, in his next fight.

FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENT ROUNDUP

-Elias Theodorou vs. Brad Tavares is now official for the Ultimate Fighter Finale on July 7 from Las Vegas.

-Curtis Blaydes vs. Daniel Omielanczuk at UFC 213 on July 8 from Las Vegas.

THROWBACK THURSDAY

Watch UFC Fight Night Nashville main eventer Artem Lobov take on Chris Avila at UFC 202 last August.


NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: WEDNESDAY NEWS DIGEST 4/19: Preview of tonight’s season premier of The Ultimate Fighter: Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw, plus Notebook (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)


(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)

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