Regional mixed martial arts promotions are the lifelinesof the sport. Without them, fighters don't have a proving ground to help them grow and one day reacheither the UFC, Bellator, World Series or ONE Championships. But not enough fighters have a chance to show their worth as there aren't enough promotions available. Trying to help the cause, though, is someonein a prime position to assist rising stars. He feels it is time for the up-and-coming fighters to have a place to hone their craft.
Eric Del Fierro— who runs the Alliance Training Center in San Diego which is the home to the likes of former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and current Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis —is one of the top coaches in MMA. He noticed what was happening and decided to do something about it. The famed coach is now the promoter and matchmaker of Cage Fury Fighting Championships as the promotion holds a card on Saturday night in San Diego.
"I was approached by some people to bring CFFC to San Diego and I was looking to get back intodoing pro MMA again,"Del Fierro told Sporting News. "The timing couldn’t have been better. Young fighters need a place to grow. The regional scene is running a little dry and I want to help grow it back to what it used to be."
This isn't the first rodeo for the veteran coach. For several years,Del Fierro helped run an organization called Total Combat. MMA was starting to garner more support and regional promotions were at theirpeak. But as is the case with a lot of things in society, when something gains traction, everyone wants to jump in — even though they know little about it. MMA simply isn't that kind of sport. You have to deal with different types of personalities and how to run the business side of it. People thought it would be a way to make a quick buck, get in and then get out.
So many took that path, it made regional MMAdry out. Del Fierro knew it was time to go.
"When MMA was illegal, every now and then, you would see an underground show in (Los Angeles), but for the most part there wasn’t a lot,"Del Fierro said."King of the Cage used to do an Indian reservation, where that was the only place you could do a show. When MMA became legalized in the state, there was a humongous influx of everybody wanting to a show. They thought MMA would be a big gold rush. They thought since the UFC was growing, everybody else would grow.
"What ended up happening was the California commission, in my eyes, wasn’t ready to handle this influxeven though they were doing so many boxing shows. They didn’t have the structure to handle the influx of these MMA shows and the novice promoters who didn’t know the business, how to handle fighters. There were guys who had no business being in the MMA business where fighters' lives were at risk. What it ended up doing was drying out the scene. It started leaving a bad taste in both athletes' and fans' mouths. I just felt it was going in the wrong direction, so I decided to take a step back."
Re-energized and seeing the sport grow to all-time heights, Del Fierro thinks it's time for the regional MMA scene to get back to where it should be.
"Fast forward, five years later, I think it’s time for the worldto do more MMA professional bouts,"Del Fierro said.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can find his podcast, "The Fight Club Chicago," and subscribe on iTunes. You can email him at email@example.com and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA.