International Fight League

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International Fight League
International-fight-league.jpg
Sport Mixed martial arts
Founded January 7, 2006
CEO Jay Larkin
No. of teams 10
Ceased July 31, 2008
Last champion(s) New York Pitbulls

The International Fight League was an American mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion billed as the world's first MMA league. It was founded on January 7, 2006 and closed on July 31, 2008.[1] Instead of the established norm for MMA events, where matchups are strictly one-on-one affairs, each IFL card was a showdown between two camps of at least three fighters, each fighter fighting one match against another in the opposing camps.

History[edit]

The IFL was founded January 7, 2006 by real- estate developer Kurt Otto and Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus, two well-financed devotees of mixed martial arts who were inspired by the Mark Kerr documentary The Smashing Machine. With the IFL, they intended to create a system not only to showcase mixed martial arts action but to also provide a business plan that would allow fighters a greater share of profits. In a marked contrast with the rest of the industry, instead of paying fighters only purses after fights, the IFL paid a salary and health benefits to train and fight. The team concept was intended to be conducive for television, where episodes could be regularly produced.

It had been widely speculated that the IFL, with the deep pockets of its founders, television deal and innovative business plan, would become a major circuit for MMA in North America, directly competing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The UFC and IFL had a hostile relationship, as the UFC accused the IFL of and sued them for illegally using proprietary information obtained by hiring executives from the UFC organization.[2] The IFL shot back with their own suit claiming the UFC was threatening potential partners not to work with the IFL, including Fox Sports Net (a deal with Fox Sports was later signed before resolution of the suit [3]). The tension between the IFL and the UFC worsened with accusations that the IFL has attempted to buy out several top UFC fighters.

The inaugural event was held on April 29, 2006 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, featuring the Quad City Silverbacks vs the Los Angeles Anacondas and the Seattle Tiger Sharks vs the New York Pitbulls, with a superfight between Jens Pulver and Cole Escovedo.

On August 31, 2006 publicly traded (OTCBB) company, Paligent Inc., principally held by New Jersey developer and real estate industrialist Richard J. Kurtz,[4] authorized a merger agreement that coincided with its acquisition of the IFL. The IFL became the parent entity as Paligent agreed to change its name to International Fight League, Inc. Subsequently, on November 29, 2006, the IFL became a publicly traded company, under the symbol IFLI.[5][6] Their market capitalization as of 2006 was around $150 million.[7] In September 2007, Kurtz sold his interest in the IFL.

Changes in 2008[edit]

On December 20, 2007, IFL Commissioner Kurt Otto made an announcement in regards to some major changes for the 2008 season. First and foremost, the team concept would be changed to instead focus on distinctive MMA camps. Otto reasoned that many of the teams did not train together, nor did many of them live in the respective cities they represented. Instead, the new concept of the IFL would focus on camps and the fighters that already train in those camps. Also changing will be the five on five format to a more simplified three on three format. This was designed to allow more flexibility in matchmaking, as the teams would not be confined to pick one fighter in each weight class. Instead the three fighters can be from any weight class or they can all be from the same class. The "team" concept would still be somewhat intact as the camps would compete with each other for points in a final standing. Otto also announced that the IFL would extend an open invitation to any camps not already affiliated with the IFL to participate in "one off" events, where a non-IFL camp could challenge an IFL camp for supremacy. Similarly, any of the title defenses could also involve fighters who were not currently signed with the IFL in a "one off" fight. Otto announced that there would be eight shows in 2008 with no plans for a GP final.[8]

On May 8, 2008, the IFL revealed during a conference call that their August 15, 2008 event would feature the debut of a six-sided cage called "The Hex."[9] This event was cancelled due to the company's financial problems, and no announcement was made in regards to when or if it would resume full-scale operations again.[10]

In July 2008, there were reports of the IFL's possible purchase by the UFC.[11] That same month, Joe Favorito, former IFL senior vice president, cited financial troubles for the closing of the company on July 31, 2008. Anonymous sources stated that parent company of the UFC, Zuffa, had bought the IFL.[1] Other reports cited the UFC's airing of IFL footage on its programming, and the signing of previous IFL fighters, as an indirect confirmation of the purchase.[12]

Television[edit]

In 2007, the IFL made a television deal with Fox Sports Net and MyNetworkTV. This made it the first MMA promotion to appear regularly on broadcast TV in the United States.[13]

The premiere of IFL Battleground on March 12, 2007 on MyNetworkTV scored a 0.8 household rating (1.12 million viewers), and gained 250% in all key male demographics (0.7 vs. 0.2) over February. This represented a new MyNetworkTV high for male 18-34, a 17% rise over the previous record of 0.6.[14] However this episode was criticized by MMA journalists and fans, saying it glorified violence and brutality.[15] Kurt Otto apologized to fans, their fighters and coaches, and critics for the content of that show, and that "we made a mistake with some parts of the show, but we will learn from this and grow."[16]

On February 5, 2008 the IFL announced a partnership with the HDNet to air the first three events of their 2008 season live.[17]

On February 15, 2008 MyNetworkTV cancelled IFL Battleground.[18]

Camps[edit]

The IFL consisted of nine camps, all owned by the league, and each coached by a veteran MMA fighter. Originally the IFL had teams that were associated with cities but that proved to be a lark as many of the teams did not train in their respective cities nor did all the fighters live in those cities as well. Thus in 2008 the IFL changed the format to revolve around existing camps and their established fighters. The camps for this season were as follows:

Camps for the 2008 season
Camp Coach
Team Tompkins formerly known as the Los Angeles Anacondas (Was called Xtreme Couture but had to change name due to lack of fighters from Xtreme Couture[19]) Shawn Tompkins
Renzo Gracie Academy formerly known as the New York Pitbulls Renzo Gracie
Miletich Fighting Systems (IFL camp) formerly known as the Quad City Silverbacks Pat Miletich
Team Quest (IFL camp) formerly known as the Portland Wolfpack Matt Lindland
Ruas Vale Tudo formerly known as the Southern California Condors Marco Ruas
Lions Den formerly known as the Nevada Lions Ken Shamrock
Midwest Combat formerly known as the Chicago Red Bears Igor Zinoviev
World Class Fight Center² 5 Mario Sperry
Team Bombsquad Ryan Citolli
Team Prodigy Hector Pena
Camp based out of Britain6 Ian Freeman
Former Teams
Team Coach
San Jose Razorclaws7 Frank Shamrock
Toronto Dragons Carlos Newton
Tokyo Sabres Ken Yasuda
Tucson Scorpions Don Frye
Seattle Tiger Sharks Maurice Smith
Camps outside of IFL
Team Coach
American Top Team (IFL camp) Ricardo Liborio

1 Antonio Inoki was originally going to be the Tokyo Sabres' coach and mentor but has since been dropped by the IFL. Japanese bodybuilder Ken Yasuda is now the head coach.

  • Future teams announced at the IFL event at the MARK of the Quad Cities will be coached by Don Frye (Scorpions) and Marco Ruas (Piranhas) and based in Arizona and Southern California respectively.
  • On 11/2/06 the IFL announced two new teams to join the IFL ranks. Recently retired and former UFC superstar Ken Shamrock will coach the Northern California Lions. British MMA legend Ian Freeman was announced as the coach to the British based British Bulldogs.
  • 11/06 the IFL announced the 12th and final team of the 2007 season, the Chicago-based Red Bears who will be coached by Russian MMA fighter Igot Zinoviev. The team, though based in Chicago, will be composed mostly of Russian fighters (somewhat similar to the Renzo Gracie-led NY Pitbulls who are composed mostly of Brazilian fighters)
  • 11/06 The Southern California Piranhas apparently changed their name to the Orange County Condors as well as the Northern California Lions are now being relocated to Nevada.

² The Bulldogs will participate in a few matches in 2007 but won't start officially for the IFL until the 2008 season. The San Diego, France, South Korea and Brazil teams have yet to have a team logo and name.

  • 12/06 The IFL confirmed that four new teams will take part in extra league events during the 2007 season (similar to the British Bulldogs status). One team will be led by BJJ specialist Mario Sperry and will be based in Brazil, a team based in San Diego will be led by PRIDE superstar Dan Henderson, K-1 superstar Jerome Le Banner will lead a team based in France, and Olympic Judoka Doo B. Park will lead a team based in Korea. None of the teams have names yet.

³ At the 3/17 show in LA, Bas Rutten stepped down from being the coach of the LA Anacondas to become the "face/spokesperson" of the IFL as well as the co-host of the "IFL Battleground" show on MYnetwork TV. Rutten was replaced by assistant coach Shawn Tompkins.

4 On 9/13/07 it was announced by the IFL that Shawn Tompkins was let go from the IFL and removed from his duties as coach for the Los Angeles Anacondas. Reasoning was that Tompkins has "spread himself to thin" between his duties of coaching the Anacondas and becoming a new trainer at the Randy Couture owned gym in Las Vegas. A replacement has yet to be named.[20]

5 On 9/20/07 IFL commissioner Kurt Otto announced in an interview that the IFL will stay at 12 teams in the 2008 season with one or more franchises moving from their current location and at least one of them closing down. To replace the closing team will be a team coached by Mario Sperry based in either Florida or Las Vegas.[21]

6 On 9/25/07 IFL commissioner Kurt Otto reiterated that in the 2008 season there will only be 12 teams in the IFL with TWO new teams emerging. One of them coached by the already mentioned Marrio Sperry and the other by Cage Rage veteran Ian Freeman.[22]

7 On 10/10/07 Frank Shamrock revealed that he and his team, the San Jose Razorclaws, were let go from the IFL. Shamrock thought that Razorclaw Brian Foster might still be offered a stay in the IFL but will join a different team due to his successful 2007 season and his entrance into the 2007 GP.[23]

IFL World Team Champions[edit]

2006(first half)- Quad City Silverbacks

2006(second half)- Quad City Silverbacks

2007- New York Pitbulls

IFL Individual Champions[edit]

Main article: List of IFL champions
Division Champion Camp Since Title Defenses
Heavyweight United States Roy Nelson Lions Den Dec 29, 2007 2
Light Heavyweight Belarus Vladimir Matyushenko Midwest Combat Nov 03, 2007 1
Middleweight United States Dan Miller Renzo Gracie Academy May 16, 2008 0
Welterweight United States Jay Hieron Team Tompkins Dec 29, 2007 1
Lightweight United States Ryan Schultz Team Quest (IFL camp) Dec 29, 2007 2
Featherweight Brazil Wagnney Fabiano Renzo Gracie Academy Dec 29, 2007 1

Grand Prix[edit]

In order to appease the many MMA critics who felt that the team concept the IFL displayed had no place in the one-on-one sport of MMA, the IFL decided to conduct an end of the year Grand Prix which will take the four best fighters of each weight class to fight it out in a mini tournament that will be conducted over two events. The first event took place on November 3, 2007 and the second on December 29, 2007. Each Grand Prix winner was crowned the first IFL champion of their weight class and awarded titles to defend during the 2008 season.

IFL Schedules/ Seasons[edit]

IFL Draft[edit]

As announced on September 25, 2007, the IFL underwent their very first IFL draft to find new talent to fill the ranks of fighters that were cut from their IFL contracts (due to poor records).[citation needed] The draft took place in the three different locations on October 13, 2007.[24]

Super Fights[edit]

Along with the traditional five on five team system matches the IFL also has occasional super fights between various fighters that do not count towards any team system and may include fighters not associated with any IFL team. So far these superfights have occurred along with their results:

Rules[edit]

The IFL followed the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts established by the New Jersey Athletic Board, with several exceptions. In addition, the IFL was also sanctioned by the *ISCF - International Sport Combat Federation

  • Matches consist of three rounds of four minutes instead of the usual five,
  • Elbow strikes are not allowed to the face or head,
  • If the match is initially scored a draw after three rounds, there will be a three-minute sudden victory round to decide a winner.

Ring[edit]

In contrast with most mixed martial arts promotions in the United States, the IFL staged their fights in a five-roped ring similar to the one used in PRIDE.

On 5/08/08 the IFL announced the unveiling of a new six sided ring that will be used for the IFL. Nicknamed the "hex", the ring was created by Throwdown, an MMA equipment manufacturer. The ring allows more surface area to fight and gives fans a better view of the action. This never came to fruition as the IFL soon folded.[25]

Weight Classes[edit]

The IFL used six weight classes:

There are three other weight classes specified in the Unified Rules which the IFL does not use: flyweight (125 lb. and below), bantamweight (126–135 lb.), and super heavyweight (266 lb. and above).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Zuffa Purchases IFL
  2. ^ "The UFC files case against International Fight League". 
  3. ^ IFL Inks Broadcast Deal with Fox Sports Net
  4. ^ Houston Business Journal, Chemical maker mixes in martial arts, - by Greg Barr, March 2, 2007
  5. ^ SEC filings
  6. ^ IFL internal press release
  7. ^ Solly Granatstein, Scott Pelley (2006-12-10). "Mixed Martial Arts: A New Kind Of Fight". 60 Minutes (web site). p. 2. Retrieved 2006-12-11. 
  8. ^ International Fight League
  9. ^ IFL to unveil six-sided ring during Aug. 15 show :Five Ounces of Pain
  10. ^ Mixed Martial Arts – International Fight League – MMA League Events | IFL.tv
  11. ^ "Hope For KO-ed International Fight League (IFLI): UFC Might Buy It" Clusterstock
  12. ^ IFL: Going, Going...Gone! UFC Here We Come?
  13. ^ ""International Fight League's Total Impact" Program to debut on March 12th on MyNetworktv". www.ifl.tv. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2007-02-01. 
  14. ^ "MNT Gains With IFL But Ratings Remain Small". www.broadcastingcable.com. 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  15. ^ Pishna, Ken (2007-03-13). "IFL BATTLEGROUND PREMIERS TO... 911?!". MMAWeekly.com. Retrieved 2007-03-14. [dead link]
  16. ^ Pishna, Ken (2007-03-14). "IFL COMMISH KURT OTTO APOLOGIZES". MMAWeekly.com. Retrieved 2007-03-14. [dead link]
  17. ^ IFL, HDNet Fights Team Up to Televise First Three 2008 IFL Events Live
  18. ^ "Breaking News". The Futon Critic. 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  19. ^ http://xtremecouture.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/statement-on-team-name-change-from-xtreme-couture-to-team-tompkins/
  20. ^ IFL RELEASES ANACONDAS COACH SHAWN TOMPKINS - MMA WEEKLY - Mixed Martial Arts & UFC News, Photos, Rankings & more
  21. ^ More exposure for IFL? • Alex Marvez's MMA Blog - FOX Sports Blogs
  22. ^ MMA Madness - MMA Insight News - IFL Conference Call Sept. 25, 2007
  23. ^ FRANK SHAMROCK & RAZORCLAWS RELEASED - MMA WEEKLY - Mixed Martial Arts & UFC News, Photos, Rankings & more
  24. ^ International Fight League
  25. ^ Mixed Martial Arts – International Fight League – MMA League Events | IFL.tv

Additional references[edit]