Noted MMA manager Ed Soares had a surprising answer this week when I asked him what, exactly, he was hoping to accomplish as president of Resurrection Fighting Alliance – a relatively young MMA promotion that holds its seventh event this Friday night in Denver (AXS TV, 10 p.m. ET).
“My vision for this is, I want to build a developmental league for guys who want to move up into the UFC,” Soares told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “That’s what my goal is.”
Sounds reasonable, right? Realistic, even. And, honestly, that’s what was so surprising about it. One thing I’ve learned from talking to MMA promoters who are not named Dana White is that the quickest way to tick them off is to refer to their organization as “local” or “regional” or “small-time.” All that will get you is a lecture about how many fights they’ve promoted in how many states, complete with ambitious assertions about how their fighters stack up against those in the UFC. Some will tell you they’re in business to compete with the UFC. Others will merely imply it.
But Soares – who manages fighters such as Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, just to name a couple – isn’t one of those, and that’s probably a good thing. If nothing else, having such relatively modest goals as an MMA promoter means you’re more likely to accomplish them. Becoming a developmental league for the UFC is something that several MMA promotions have achieved to one extent or another, regardless of whether they meant to. But at the same time, setting out with that aim in mind puts Soares and RFA in kind of a tough spot.
Think about it: If things go according to plan for Soares, he will lose all the fighters he spends time and energy and money to build up. His best-case scenario involves his best employees leaving for greener pastures. Isn’t that a problem for a fight promoter looking to build from one event to the next?
According to Soares, it all depends on how you look at it.
“I don’t really look at it like I’m losing them,” he said. “If they go off to the UFC, to me, I still look at like, hey, that was an RFA fighter that fights in there. Hopefully he’ll become super successful in the UFC and that will give more credibility to our event. … We’re not trying to tie up fighters. We’re not trying to keep them from advancing their careers. We’re really, truly here as a developmental league to try to bring guys up. And also, when guys get cut from the UFC and they want to test to see where they’re at in the game, it’s a place where guys who are veterans can test themselves against the guys who are coming up to see if they really have it still or if maybe they should think about doing something else for a living.”
Maybe what it comes down to is a question of expectations. If you’re a promoter of relatively small, regional events, you have a choice to make. You can either knowingly and willingly become a stepping stone for fighters hoping to make it to the big time, or you can end up becoming one against your will. There doesn’t seem to be a viable third option, at least for the moment.
That’s why, Soares claimed, if his fighters get an offer to fight in the UFC, regardless of their contract situation with RFA, “I let him go, man. That, to me, would be a success. That’s our goal. We want the guys who want to fight in the UFC.”
So what’s in it for RFA? For one, the opportunity to make some money promoting potential future stars before they have the leverage to demand big paychecks. Soares, who said he owns “a good piece” of RFA, has a broadcast deal with AXS TV and hopes to hold eight to 10 events in 2013, in cities such as Denver, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.
“Obviously, our show has to be profitable,” Soares said, but it also has to keep costs reasonable.
After all, if you plan on eventually giving up your best talent, you probably aren’t telling yourself that you’ll be zipping around on your own private jet any time soon and challenging the UFC for pay-per-view buys. Maybe that has to be your take on it if you’re not one of the big shows in this business. You can either know your limitations, or be repeatedly reminded of them. Given those options, Soares might have the right idea.
For more on RFA 7, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.