This new series “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” will focus on various MMA promotions from across the globe. The premise will be taking a step back and looking at the wider picture of what they are doing well and not so well (in my eyes).
For the first installment I will be looking at Cage Warriors Fighting Championship. Founded in 2001 Cage Warriors have quickly become one of, if not the leading MMA promotion in Europe. The promotion was founded by Dougie Truman but it was in 2010 that Graham Boylan took control that the promotion really established itself as a big player in Europe.
During Boylan’s four year tenure the promotion grew rapidly putting on shows across the EMEA region and building huge international stars. But with Boylan’s exit at the end of 2014 there has been a huge uncertainty left about the future of the promotion with many of its staff leaving and no official word from the promotion on its future.
Aside from the current position there are a number of things they did good, bad and ugly.
For me the best thing about Cage Warriors was the opportunities that it gave to its fighters. In later years it really provided a stepping stone for the stars of today (Conor McGregor, Neil Seery, JoJo Calderwood, Stevie Ray), but not forgetting the path it paved for many of the longstanding European household names (Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, Jim Wallhead, Rosi Sexton). Those opportunities were also backed up with solid matchmaking from Ian Dean who is never one for putting the bigger name fighters in an “easy fight.”
The sheer amount of shows that Cage Warriors put on was great and not just for their fans but also for the fighters which enabled them to stay active which is often an issue within European MMA. Thirteen shows in 2014, fourteen shows in 2013 just speaks for itself. It’s something that other European promotions are unable to offer and ultimately provided a much more attractive offer to its roster which was fundamental in securing a number of big names.
The huge amount of yearly shows also played a big part on Cage Warriors international footprint expansion with the promotion having to look outside of the UK and Europe to host its huge volume of shows. Jordan, Denmark, Chechnya, UAE, Bahrain, Ukraine just a handful of countries which played host to a Cage Warriors show in the last few years. A true first for a European promotion and for me a huge support for driving the expansion of MMA across the globe.
Just tell me one person who went to a Cage Warriors show and was not blown away by the production values of the shows. From its excellent promotional videos, to its smooth time transitions between fights, to its commentary and post-fight interviews the list could go on and on. The word that I often hear banded about is “Professional” and for me that is absolutely it. Every member of Cage Warriors staff was 100% professional and only focused on delivering the best show they could each and every time. And this attitude certainly fed down to the fighters.
It comes as no surprise that with constant shows, international expansion and a huge ever growing roster that Cage Warriors needed lots of cash. And in the world of MMA we all know that there isn’t always a huge amount of money to be made. Whilst Cage Warriors appeared to have a number of sponsors at every show (MMAJunkie, ESPN, Premier Sports, The Hippodrome Casino and many more) it begs the question, at this moment in time unsubstantiated, as to how many of these sponsors were financial contributors and if any were paid for by the promotion in exchange for global coverage.
Attendance figures are always tough in a sport which is still very young and Cage Warriors like everyone else suffered at times with attendance figures. Whilst the promotion found a home at the Kentish Town Forum in London which was always very well attended, it was when they ventured into other venues such as the Newport Centre, Metro Radio Arena and latterly the Copper Box where the attendance figures dipped drastically.
There was a noticeable decline in the number of UKMMA media members attending Cage Warriors shows at the end of 2014 and this may have been caused by the various spats that former CEO Graham Boylan had with various media outlets. Whilst Boylan may have not appreciated the coverage which those outlets offered, any coverage good/bad is better than no coverage and a testament that your product is a worthy talking point. So in hindsight Boylan’s falling out with various media outlets, although immeasurable, had an impact on Cage Warriors.
The main thing that the recent Cage Warriors hiatus has really had an impact on is the fighters. And noticeably those fighters who are not part of Boylan’s Intensiti Fight Management seem to have received the brunt force of the lack of direction from the promotion and in many ways left to fend for themselves. After stepping away from Cage Warriors, Boylan has secured a number of Intensiti fighters big deals, including Nicholas Dalby, Tom Breese, Laura Howarth & Pannie Kianzad to name but a few. But for those not part of his management team it seems the harsh reality is that they have been left to fend for themselves.
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