There may be photos from the fights out there, but who cares?
Last night, Norfolk, VA played home to M-1 Global’s first solo endeavor on Showtime. Many fans look upon M-1 as nothing more than a small stain on the MMA landscape, like that thing on Gorbachev’s head. But there’s no need to rehash any of M-1’s previous dealings and maneuvers, as we now have an actual body of work to dissect and discuss. This event marked their first notable attempt to make a splash in North American MMA alone. No Fedor, no Strikeforce, no co-promotion. No one to blame for their shortcomings and no one to steal credit for their success.
With Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce, there’s a surplus of promotions striving to claim the #2 spot in the MMA food chain. So was this M-1’s Sputnik moment, or more of a Chernobyl style disaster? Am I done with these terrible Russian analogies? Keep reading to find out.
Job well done:
Production Value: Those expecting a shaky hand held camera from a dungeon in Stary Oskol were pleasantly surprised. The production was on par with everything we’ve seen from Showtime and indistinguishable from the Strikeforce Challengers series. There were a few questionable camera angles and technical glitches here and there, but nothing outrageous or unforgivable. Mauro and Miletich were a solid team and add a professional credibility to any event. Overall there was very little time wasted between fights, but as we’ll discuss shortly that’s not always a good thing.
The Ring: You undoubtedly have a strong opinion in the whole cage vs. ring debate. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but my point isn’t a matter of philosophy, it’s one of marketing. Right now most promotions are known best for being a shittier version of the UFC, which is not the strongest selling point out there. Strikeforce has already adopted the Unified Rules and will likely begin to resemble the UFC more and more until ultimately being wholly consumed. It’s vitally important for other organizations to get out of the UFC’s shadow and differentiate themselves. Many casual fans might not have seen an MMA fight take place in a ring, and if the sight makes them pause before changing the channel, more power to M-1.
The Fights: Evgeni Kogan boasts about his exciting stable of fighters going for finishes, and this was largely the case last night. New Middleweight Champion Magomed Sultanakhmedov put on a power-striking tutorial in his two-round routing of the much more easily-typed Tyson Jeffries. Jose Figueroa was outgunned early on the feet by Lightweight Champion Artiom Damkosvsky, but that didn’t’ stop him from taking the Russian down and bloodying his face to close out round one. Round two saw some hard shots from Damkosvsky followed by another takedown and ground domination by Figueroa as he took the belt via ground and pound halfway through the second stanza. Viewers were treated to exciting bouts featuring very competent fighters well versed in the game.
Room for improvement:
Event Promotion: The key job of a fight promoter is to promote. All you really need for a fight to take place is two dudes and a parking lot, but if you want to make money in this business you’ve got to get the word out. M-1 has a great stage in Showtime, but they’ve got to get more active. Other than a short Twitter war with Ariel Helwani on this very subject, there wasn’t much publicity or hype surrounding what is surely a huge event for the Russian outfit. Great fights don’t sell themselves, which is why the UFC crams reality shows, pre-fight shows, fighter specials and more down our throats for each event. You can’t expect M-1 to be at that level of promotion in just their first Showtime card, but still, even a little effort would go a long way.
Fighter Promotion: M-1 prides itself on introducing young, exciting fighters to the fans, yet they totally drop the ball on introducing them properly. Many of the evening’s fighters have competed under the M-1 banner countless times, so why not show some of their highlights before the bouts? Instead we rush into each fight with a completely blank canvas, not having a reference for their styles or abilities other than what information comes through the commentary team. Hopefully that will change moving forward with Showtime at the helm of the production.
Big Name Fighters: Other than The Ultimate Fighter alum Vinny Magalheas there weren’t any “established” fighters on the card. This doesn’t mean you can’t have great fights, and you can slowly try to build your own stars, but to really flourish in this sport and pull in the ratings you’ve got to attract a mainstream audience with some recognizable names. Hard core fans will watch just about any fight, but if you want to dance on the main stage you’ve got to beef up your roster with some known commodities.