(Not really sure who these guys are. But you just might see some of them fight in the IFL this year.)
When the IFL announced that it was shifting focus from its fairly arbitrary city-based team format to a more natural camp system, it seemed like a good idea — but only if the nation’s top fight camps agreed to play along. If we were stuck watching Mario Sperry’s Worldclass MMA crew face off against Ian Freeman’s UK posse every show, there would be problems. Fortunately, the IFL has scored the biggest coup possible, locking down the involvement of Xtreme Couture. Now, obviously you’re not going to see Forrest Griffin and Wanderlei Silva doing battle in the IFL ring, but it’ll be interesting to see the young, hungry kids that Randy sends in to represent his Las Vegas collective. Just as Pat Miletich proved there’s more to Bettendorf than Tim Sylvia and Jens Pulver during the Silverbacks‘ steamrolling of the IFL, we could potentially be witnessing the first wave of solid professional fighters to be forged completely under the guidance of Randy Couture and Shawn Tompkins.
The IFL’s 2008 season kicks off in Las Vegas on February 29th [Ed. note: Oh shit it's a leap year again?] and will feature the Xtreme Couture camp, Matt Lindland‘s Team Quest (formerly known as the Portland Wolfpack), Ken Shamrock‘s Lion’s Den, and one more yet-to-be-named team.
Despite its plummeting stock value, the IFL is still making all the right moves in terms of its product and could potentially turn its fortunes around in 2008. If team-based MMA was to ever catch on, this is how to do it. Ask yourself, what would be the better showcase of fresh MMA talent — a bunch of guys who send in videotapes to get on a reality show and are chosen for their “colorful personalities” (i.e., The Ultimate Fighter), or a competition between guys who really want to compete and are hand-picked by the greatest living legends in the sport. If you honestly care about the next generation of MMA fighters, you’ll be watching. Now if they could only replace that silly boxing ring with a cage…