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Bad Times for the Little Guy…

(And now it’s dead.)

After only four events, all held last year in Las Vegas, the International Fighting Organization (IFO) has thrown in the towel. Co-owner/CEO Steve Oshins said he plans to sell the company’s assets to another organization:

“I have an extremely successful law firm, and running the IFO was too time consuming for me. I decided to work in a much more limited capacity with another prominent organization.”

Translation: “Why am I wasting my time on this unprofitable bullshit? This is affecting my billable hours!”

The IFO’s Vice President John Stachofsky will also be working with the mysterious “prominent organization”:

“We cannot comment at this time, because we have something in the works that will be announced in the next few weeks. It’s going to be big, and it’s going to be better,” Stachofsky said.

Our guess is that the IFO’s assets will be sold to a larger MMA company in the habit of buying out smaller promotions, most likely EliteXC, which picked up King of the Cage, Rumble on the Rock, and Cage Rage last year. For a local MMA league without a TV deal or a name big enough to generate significant revenue from merchandising and licensing, being bought out by a large corporate entity is the best-case scenario. Other outfits aren’t as lucky.

On Friday, it was announced that Florida-based fight league Bonecrunch Fighting had canceled its 2008 season and would be liquidating its assets. Bonecrunch had an IFL-like team approach, had tapped Seth Petruzelli and Din Thomas as coaches, and had even reached a deal with Sun Sports to broadcast four cards; and of course, it was hemorrhaging cash. The WCO’s recent nonpayment fiasco signals the probable death-knell of that company as well. Even M-1 Global will fail as a business if it keeps it’s focus on occasional one-off cards in random locations. The IFL learned the hard way that not establishing a geographical home base is a good way to burn through money; if their new format changes don’t succeed in ramping up interest, they’ll be gone by 2009 as well.

And as for Pro Elite, EliteXC’s parent company? Their savvy regional-show-buyout model hasn’t boosted their bottom line quite yet. Last week, Pro Elite’s stock dropped 60% in one day. All of this supports the opinion that the UFC is — and will continue to be — the only profitable show out there. We think one of the main reasons for that is its well-established and hip brand name. We’ve never seen anybody walking around with an “EliteXC” t-shirt, and we don’t expect to. With MMA-awareness spreading in the public consciousness, it may seem like an ideal time for an entrepreneur to try to cut out a piece of the action. But the sport still has a long way to go before there’s enough general interest to make new leagues profitable.

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