Yesterday the IFL’s newest executive addition, former Showtime boxing producer Jay Larkin, held a media conference call to discuss the goings-on in the IFL. As most of the readers of this blog know, I am employed by the IFL. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent much of the past year getting frustrated with some of the wrong turns the organization has made. There have been unnecessary contract troubles, a horrible start for “IFL Battleground” (the “stretcher episode”, as it has come to be known), and other minor miscues that are fairly typical of a new organization feeling its way.
But I’ve been encouraged by the talk I’m hearing from IFL executives about how they plan to change the league in 2008, and yesterday Larkin told members of the media to expect a different look and structure when the new season begins.
A lot of people are turned off by the team format. I think it’s a good idea that can work, if only it isn’t adhered to in such a rigid manner. The IFL is realizing that right now. They saw that because of the set schedule they often had mismatches come up while they missed the opportunity to make some exciting rematches happen (Rothwell-Nelson, for example). What they need is more fluidity within the structure that would allow for better matchmaking instead of simply lining up whoever Pat Miletich has at one weight class with whoever Ken Shamrock has at that weight class.
They also realize that the pay structure is off. Some guys are getting too much, others aren’t getting enough. When Chris Wilson left the league after the 2006 season he told me it was because he realized in order for him to make more money one of his teammates would have to make less. Understandably, he didn’t want to do that. Now that Rothwell has voiced concerns with his pay as well, the IFL sees it will become a recurring problem if they don’t fix it. They simply can’t pay everyone the same when some fighters clearly have more value than others.
Larkin touched on these subjects with a very subtle brush, which seems to be his style. What he did for Showtime’s boxing programming cannot be underestimated, and he brings a professionalism to MMA that the sport needs. He also commented that while he couldn’t say which side balked on the UFC-HBO deal that never went through, whoever it was “did a disservice to the sport.”
I can’t say exactly how the IFL is going to change under his watch in the coming months, but the fact that the executives are trying to sort between what’s working and what isn’t is nothing but encouraging. Stay tuned, is all I can say.
In other IFL news, I’ll be blogging from the World Grand Prix in Chicago later this week. Those of you who enjoy reading detailed descriptions of hotel bars and the local chapter of Buffalo Wild Wings will surely enjoy that. The rest of you, probably not as much until the fights get started, although it’s always interesting what you can hear just hanging around the lobby a day or two before the fight.
And if you missed last night’s presentation of ESPN E:60, check out this great segment on Pat Miletich’s gym. Very well done.