As fight towns go,
"That was one of the reasons I knew this would be a good place to start the company out of," the Shark Fights president said last week as his promotion prepared up for its debut pay-per-view event.
Since 1997, when the Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation first held fights in roping arenas and dusty fairgrounds, the Texas panhandle town has propelled mixed martial artists to the highest perches of the sport. Respected names.
Waldburger, the Shark Fights 170-pound champion, heads to Austin on Wednesday for his UFC debut against highly regarded Californian
Judging by the names Medley promoted over weekend, however, he has more ambitious goals. Working with single-fight contracts, sometimes in conjunction with willing promoters, Shark Fights, which debuted in 2008 and just held its 13th event, is yet another organization in a crowded field attempting to differentiate itself from the pack. Few, if any, have ever had a mascot (for what it's worth, Shark Fights is set to unveil one in a few weeks), which Medley sees as a way to reach mainstream viewers with a product he wants to believe is family friendly. (If you watched the pay-per-view for $29.95, you know that's not true because of the indelicate
Promoters can dress up their show any which way they like, but in the end the amount of attention they're paid should be based on the quality and relevancy of the fights they produce.
If there was news to be had Saturday night, it came out of
Medley intended to mix local Texas flavor with national talent to further brand Shark Fights in Amarillo, which routinely turns out a crowd approaching 10,000, and gain attention among larger MMA media. He accomplished both.
"I knew eventually we'd push to a network or pay-per-view," said the promoter, who hoped for 30,000 to 50,000 buys. "I wanted to do it backward from some of the other promotions we've seen. I wanted to make sure we had packed houses and the live gate was built up enough. The only difference is you come in and plug your cameras into something that shoots it out across the nation."
Even if he's unable to convince consumers, whose dollar is stretched like a locked armbar, to purchase pay-per-views not any better than Wednesday's free
McKee, 40, destroyed
Heavily criticized and largely ignored by MMA's biggest promoters because of his penchant for playing it safe, McKee (25-3-2) has scored consecutive opening-round victories and is finally emerging in the public consciousness.
It's time for promoters to give McKee a chance, just as it's time for McKee to step in with a ranked fighter and prove how good he really is.