As reported by Fighters Only earlier this month, Indian show Super Fight League is changing its format.
Instead of staging events in arenas, as it did for its first three shows, the promotion will be holding its events in a television studio in front of an audience of invited guests. The move follows poor ticket sales for the arena shows and the recent departure of CEO and matchmaker Ken Pavia for “family reasons”.
Starting October 12, the SFL will air its events free on NeoSports in India and live online via its own YouTube channel. There will be eight fights per show, two of which will be female fights under a talent-sharing deal with the women-only promotion Invicta.
“I have worked very hard to get the format right for this sport which is currently in its infancy stage in India. I have delivered three successful world-class stadium events and an MMA reality show, which has taken everyone by storm and changed the face of reality TV in India,” Raj Kundra, Founder Chairman, Super Fight League said.
“SFL partnering with NeoSports will give the league a national reach on a single distribution platform. This strategic tie up will give SFL the opportunity to give MMA fans in India and abroad the best fights starring some of the best names in the industry.'
Sanjay Dutt, Co Founder, Super Fight League said, “Get ready for some serious action as SFL will be live and kicking from October 12th 2012 all year round. No other sport in India promises their fans and sponsors such a format.
“I am very passionate about my league and as promised have developed some world-class Indian fighters who now have a platform to showcase their skills. I also welcome Mary Kom to the Super Fight League Family.”
Kom, who won a medal in boxing for India at the recent Olympics, has been signed up as a brand ambassador, to capitalise on her current high profile within the Indian media. “I am very proud to be ambassador of India's only Pro Fight League. It's a great synergy for me and I am happy to see Super Fight League doing great things for our Indian Male and Female fighters,” a press release quoted her as saying.
Despite Kundra’s rhetoric about taking India “by storm” and creating an appetite for MMA in his homeland, its hard to see the restructure and recent personnel changes as anything other than a downsize in the face of a failure to take off in the manner that had been hoped for.
SFL did not sell tickets for its third arena event, it gave them away. The ticket sales for the first two events had been poor but SFL said the reason it decided to give them away for the third event was because sales weren’t a part of the business model anyway; it claimed that sponsors and advertisers were the real revenue streams that had been targeted from day one.
That of course begs the question as to why they bothered selling tickets at all, and the answer of course is that gate money represents a significant stream for any promoter, despite what they say to the contrary. The fact that SFL has downsized from arena shows to in-studio shows in front of a small invited audience - with no more than 200 capacity - is also telling.
The promoters behind SFL are successful figures in the Bollywood film industry and Kundra also has the hugely popular Indian cricket league in his portfolio, so if SFL goes under it will not cause severe financial detriment. But there are issues of pride at stake and SFL must also be looking over its shoulder at the UFC, which has announced a partnership with the Sony6 channel in India and will be launching an Indian version of The Ultimate Fighter soon.
For the last two years the UFC has repeatedly stated an intention to establish a presence in India, and has now taken its first steps. But looking at the track record of the SFL thus far one has to ask - why bother? India certainly doesn’t look like its going to be a lucrative market for anyone involved in fight sports.