The International Fight League on Tuesday announced that it has canceled its planned August 15 event at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., signaling what seems to be the inevitable conclusion to the imploding fight promotion.
In a prepared statement, the IFL said that it continues to explore options for maximizing shareholder value in the publicly traded company, but if the IFL is unable to leverage any of those options, the company may seek protection from its creditors through a court proceeding, otherwise known as bankruptcy.
During a media conference call on Tuesday, IFL CEO Jay Larkin addressed the concerns around the company's future and although things look admittedly bleak, he was unable to set a timeline for the status of the promotion.
"It's an ongoing process. Something could come into place tomorrow morning, something may not come into place at all," Larkin stated. "We're constantly talking to people, and we've managed to generate a good deal of interest. But I couldn't tell you that any one of them are ready to come riding in on a white horse right now. We're going to stick around as long as we possibly can, and that's the major reason for canceling the August show."
The prepared statement also indicated that the IFL will "continue to downsize its staff to reduce costs," which is the corporately correct way of saying they will be laying off more of their employees.
The downsizing, according to Larkin, does not include any fighters on their roster, but he did mention contractual obligations with the coaches in the league, and other employees that could be casualties of the changes.
"We are exploring our contractual relationships with our coaches. We're looking at that, but we certainly are not cutting coaches," said Larkin. "We're trying to minimize with the heads that have to roll because everybody's been in this together for a while and everybody has a great deal of respect and affection for each other, but if we don't take some radical steps there won't be a company."
Several IFL athletes are already scheduled to fight for other various promotions. Bart Palaszewski, Rory Markham, and Mark Miller are all fighting on this weekend's Adrenaline MMA debut event in Chicago. Andre Gusmao recently signed to fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
While the IFL has ruled out the current possibility of selling off fighter contracts as a part of their asset liquidation, Larkin said that they have no intention of holding back their athletes from being successful.
"We'll treat every case on a case-by-case basis, and the fighters are certainly a priority of ours," he said in regards to fighters leaving the IFL for a different promotion. "We certainly would never hold anybody back from an opportunity."
During the call, Larkin also alluded to the fact that the IFL has struggled to catch on with fans and become a successful business model in mixed martial arts, and he blames part of that on the success of the UFC.
"I think there is a halo effect over the UFC and there are fans of the UFC who are not necessarily fans of MMA, but they appreciate the UFC product, and not necessarily the quality of the fights," commented the IFL CEO. "They certainly have good nights and they have bad nights, just like anybody else. But I do believe there is an element of the MMA fan base that believes if it's not UFC, it's crap. And that makes it very difficult for anybody to operate a business in that environment."
The IFL was originally created by Kurt Otto and Gareb Shamus under the guise of adding a team concept to mixed martial arts, similar in mind to that of other professional sports league's such as the National Football League or National Basketball League. Combat sports by its nature being an individualistic pursuit, the concept never really caught on with fans.
The IFL CEO mentioned several times during the call that the previous model and "team concept" were a large part of the company's struggles, but also seemed to fault fans for their criticism of the IFL product or other shows, such as the recent CBS-EliteXC Saturday Night Fights broadcast on CBS Televsion.
"Suddenly, everybody who has an Affliction t-shirt and drinks energy drinks is now a television producer," Larkin snapped about fans reactions to the CBS show.
The promotion has gone through several changes and facelifts over the past year to try and rescue it from its turbulent beginnings, but such attempts have not gained traction and everyone is left to wonder if an upturn will ever come.