THE RUKUS PERSPECTIVE- WSOF- “CASTOFFS” CAN CAUSE SUCCESS
So, I waited a bit before I spoke on this topic, as I wanted to digest everything that had to be said about this particular promotion and its business model. And while everyone is talking about the TUF Finale this morning I decided to shift gears. After Rey Sefo’s World Series Of Fighting 2 took place, I have to say, the Internet went off the deep end talking about the use of “UFC Castoffs”. You took a card, picked it apart and then came to the conclusion that the WSOF, or any other promotion that isn’t the UFC for that matter, would not be successful due to its use of former UFC contracted fighters who have subsequently parted ways with the company for one reason or another. History within MMA as well as another realm of “sports entertainment” (yes I said it) will prove that the seemingly impossible CAN be done.
I will say it now, and you can hate away, but there is a direct correlation between professional wrestling and MMA. If you cannot see that then I suggest you do some research, admit that you at least WERE a fan of pro wrestling either in the 80’s or during the WWE “Attitude Era”, see the statistics of years of steady declining WWE PPV sales versus the rising UFC PPV numbers and see that we the fan base are all one in the same. I’m going to show you how WSOF in fact does stand a chance to be successful with what you, the media have dubbed as “UFC Castoffs”. If you are one of those anti pro wrestling trolls, then stop reading and go play World Of Warcraft. Otherwise, hear me out.
First, I find it extremely disrespectful to call these fighters “castoffs”. These men have dedicated themselves to their craft, and for some reason the media has created this myth that if a fighter is cut from the UFC they suck. While I admit, maybe some do, maybe some have lost their heart or their will to compete at the top level. But what about those guys that are still learning, or what about the late bloomers? What about those who take a loss and a subsequent release as the wake up call they need to really dig in? The fact of the matter is, just because you’re not in the UFC doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to be a star.
At the heart of the Monday Night Wars between the WWF and WCW during the late 90’s going into the turn of the century, Eric Bischoff masterminded a plan that would forever alter how we viewed the traditional professional wrestling. With Ted Turner’s bank roll, Bischoff was able to net some of the WWF’s top draws at the time, to include Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and a host of others. The interesting thing that Bischoff did, wasn’t just the fact that he was able to snatch big names away from their previous employer, but rather, was able use them as an integral part of a larger machine that would be the WCW at that particular time. Bischoff realized that he couldn’t hang his hat on the former names and their past accomplishments alone to push the WCW further. In order to build a complete package, he started implementing new faces, new stars to create. The age old saying of “passing the torch” was in full effect (setting aside the politics of pro wrestling for a second). While Bischoff and the WCW used the big names to sell tickets, they used the TV time to build new stars, as well as catapulting some of their existing stars into the stratosphere. Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T, Chris Jericho….and a man they would call Goldberg. The big secret to their success, they had stars they wanted to build, they brought over stars that we were already invested in. Those who we were invested in(the WWE guys), told us why we needed to care about they stars that were already there and those who were coming up (the WCW guys). In turn, this would eventually turn us into viewers, PPV purchasers and thus making WCW a force, which would actually beat the WWF/WWE for 83 weeks straight in ratings. Of course I’m speaking in terms of the storylines built between the WWE invading the WCW, with the WWE being the bad guys trying to take over, gave you a reason to care more for the WCW, and that compelling story created success.
Let me switch gears over to Strikeforce. Gimmicks aside, the once small organization who would slowly build their mixed martial arts brand on guys like Frank Shamrock, Nick Diaz and others. Former UFC fighters who came in, fought not only each other, but the younger guys coming up. Maybe there was a young prospect that needed to be tested by a strong name, hoping that some of the so called journeymen or gate keepers would provide the draw, and the up and coming young lions would have their stock rise by beating him. It worked. Strikeforce would begin to cultivate stars, and even though some panned them as being nothing more than the equivalent to UFC prelim fighters were in for a rude awakening when another invasion angle, this time Strikeforce invading the UFC, would show the fire and the hunger these guys/gals had. They brought us names we were familiar with, people we cared about, were invested in, and put them with young fighters who they believed we needed to see, and when they became victorious, they made us care about them, turning them into stars in their own right.
Do you see where I’m going with this? The WSOF, or any promotion employing UFC “Castoffs” isn’t a bad thing. The UFC themselves have fighters that we know as gate keepers to the top 10, veterans that are mid card status that are used to test the younger guys. A win for the younger guy, his stock rises, a loss would prove they are not ready. But with those wins, we invest in them, we want to see them against tougher competition. We want to see him succeed, or fall depending on their personality. If the WSOF does this, it can and will be successful. Bring in the names for the draw, and cultivate new talent within the mix. Granted, maybe there needs to be improvement on the production side, which will come, and it does play a huge part on how the fighters come off on TV as well as the overall presentation. But there is not a media member out there that can disagree with this next line: It doesn’t matter whether you love these guys or hate them, if you care enough to feel either, then they will be successful.
Reality may prove that promotions like WSOF may be no more than regional successes, or “feeder” leagues for the UFC, but I’m sure that if you ask Rey Sefo himself, that he will tell you his goals, and those goals are bigger than that. Who are we to tell anyone that their goals are achievable or not? I was told that not every company or fighter needs a custom walkout song for their brand package. I beg to differ. For me, I think every MMA company as well as every fighter on the face of this planet not only needs but deserves their own theme song. Even if I have to be the only person to ever feel that way, I will go after the industry, one fighter, one company, at a time. I will educate them on the importance, make them care about it by building the value in it. I will then create music for them that will touch their core audience on a sub conscience level, with the music being the connection between fighter and fan, which is a smaller piece of the puzzle. The more they make us care about it, the more they will succeed….
*Mikey Rukus creates Custom Theme Music and Walkout Music for MMA Companies and Fighters Worldwide- to view his body of work please visit www.soundclick.com/mikeyrukus
*You can also follow Mikey on Twitter: @MikeyRukus
*Mikey has just released the first ever “The Mikey Rukus Remix” Album which is a collection of hit songs that have been re-imagined and re-recorded by Mikey himself. To download it free: http://mmalinks.com/services/mikeyrukus.php
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