World Fighting Alliance eyes battle against UFC
Las Vegas-based group has cast of top fighters
The Ultimate Fighting Championship remains the world's best-known mixed martial arts organization, but with the emergence of the World Fighting Alliance, the UFC no longer has a stranglehold on the best fighters.
The WFA, co-owned by Las Vegas attorneys Ross Goodman and Louis Palazzo, will host a pay-per-view card July 22 from the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles that features several men who have defeated the UFC's best.
Goodman, the son of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, said the WFA plans to be a direct competitor with the UFC, an organization so hot that its May 27 pay-per-view show reportedly sold more than 600,000 subscriptions.
The WFA has contracts with light heavyweight Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who knocked out UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell in 2003; Machida Lyoto, the only man to beat UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin; and Jose Landi-Jons, who has a win over UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
It has a 30-minute preview show that is airing on Showtime and eventually plans to host 10 live pay-per-view cards a year.
"The UFC is the most established brand in MMA and they've done a great job of bringing the sport to a wider audience," said WFA chief executive officer Jeremy Lappen, a veteran movie producer and the former manager of UFC Hall of Famers Ken Shamrock and Randy Couture. "We're just at the beginning of where this is going.
"This is about to explode. One of the lures of boxing was that the heavyweight champion was considered the toughest guy in the world. But this sport has shed light on the fact that that's just not true. A skilled MMA guy in a fight with a boxer would destroy the boxer in seconds, and people are gravitating toward that."
Lappen said reports he has received are that the UFC's May 27 show in Los Angeles between Hughes and Royce Gracie sold between 600,000 and 800,000 pay-per-view subscriptions.
That is evidence, Lappen said, of the phenomenal and fast-growing popularity of mixed martial arts fighting.
But Lappen said the WFA wants to brand its fighters and not its organization, pointing out that the UFC name is better known than any of its athletes.
"What we're doing with this preview show on Showtime is we're trying to make these guys into attractions so that people have to see them fight," Lappen said. "We want the names of the fighters to sell tickets and pay per views, not the name of the WFA.
"Our premise has been that a reason why promoters are afraid to build the profile of a fighter a lot of times is because they don't want to have to pay them that much. But if we're successful as promoters, then we have no problem paying the fighters more, because we're both winning."
In the main event July 22, Jackson will meet Matt Lindland, a former UFC fighter who has moved up from middleweight. The co-main event will feature Bas Rutten, a one-time UFC heavyweight champion, against Kimo Leopoldo.