(Photo via Sherdog.)
By Andreas Hale
It only made sense for Ray Sefo to start his own MMA promotion. Well, it only made sense once the stars aligned in a unique way that told him he’d better start an MMA promotion or else. You see, back when K-1 was falling apart, Sefo happened to do an interview where he discussed how much money the promotion owed him and the possibility of starting his own company. The thought ran through his mind heavy after the call. After all, he has put on a successful K-1 event in New Zealand, and he had a pretty good idea how to handle the business. So he decided to sleep on it.
The next morning, a wealthy friend of his named Sig Rogich gave him a call out of the blue and invited Sefo to breakfast so they could discuss something. Mind you, Rogich had never heard the interview from the night before.
“(Sig) said ‘What do you think about starting an MMA fighting league?’” Sefo says when reflecting on the origins of World Series of Fighting. “I looked at him and said ‘Are you kidding me? That’s exactly what I was going to talk to you about on Monday!’ It was just meant to be. The stars aligned for us and this was meant to happen.”
Plans were laid out, business was taken care of, and fighters were signed. November 3rd marks the inaugural fight night, which will emanate from the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, and air on NBC Sports (formally Versus). It’s not your average rinky-dink startup operation, as WSoF 1 features a loaded card that includes the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Anthony Johnson, and Miguel Torres on the main card. While newer promotions may struggle to land talent, WSoF has had many of its fighters fall right into their lap. In particular, guys like Johnson and Torres had been cut by the UFC this year for weight issues but are still marquee names in the sport. Inking with WSoF made perfect sense for them, partly because of Sefo’s own background
“Many of them were up for it right away because of my involvement and with the understanding that I am a fighter becoming a promoter,” Sefo explains. “I understand what a fighter goes through to prepare for a fight. That appealed to a lot of the guys.”
Sefo also admits that he’s not done bringing in more high caliber fighters to the promotion. Once the debut is in the bag, he’s already plotting for another card in Las Vegas at the end of January.
“We’ve been very fortunate that a lot of guys came to us. After this first event, even more will come to us. I don’t think we have to look far,” Sefo says while noting that the abundance of talent in the UFC has left some great fighters out in the cold — talent that Sefo will gladly scoop up. “Everyone doesn’t have a home and if you’re a fighter that’s to be reckoned with, you will have a home with us.”
While most promotions come in with the goal to eventually topple the UFC, Sefo believes that idea is one that ends up with many of these promotions not living up to their own expectations. For the New Zealander, adding another promotion isn’t competition at all.
“It is good and healthy to have more than one promotion, especially with so much talent out there,” he says. “For those that don’t believe either of those statements, we wouldn’t have the card that we currently have if these fighters weren’t available. That’s the reason we can put on such a great card for our first show.”
It will certainly be an exciting and stressful week for Sefo and the WSoF as they inch towards their first event, though Sefo is quite confident that the 7,000 seat venue will be full on Saturday night. And with all the excitement in the building thanks to the compelling matchups — featuring Andrei Arlovski vs. Devin Cole in the main event, and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and D.J. Linderman trying to knock each other’s heads off in the co-main — not to mention the lovably spastic commentary duo of Bas Rutten and Michael Schiavello in the broadcast booth, you’ve got to wonder if Sefo will get the itch to return to fighting.
The short answer is “Yes.”
“Seven more fights,” the 2000 K-1 Grand Prix runner-up says when asked if he’ll continue fighting. “I’ve done 93 professional fights. I want to reach 100 before I retire.”
He admits that it will be quite a challenge to focus on training when he’s the President of the company but he’s certainly up to the challenge. After all, fighting is his first love. Sitting around in a suit making business decisions comes secondary.
“I was looking to fight again soon but I haven’t been able to focus on training like I want to with the company taking up a lot of my time,” Sefo says as he ponders when his next fight will be. Regardless of who or when he fights, Sefo has established that he’s not fighting arbitrarily to reach 100. “I want to go out on top. I’m not there just for a number, I’m there to win.”