Arizona's MMA Quandary Not Nearly As Deep As Its Success And Promise

Written by Hurtsbad MMA Senior Analyst Todd Jackson




  1. Perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation


Renowned MMA news source Sherdog recently ran an article focused around “Arizona MMA's Quandary” and reflected on the fight community with a fairly negative tone. While much of that tone was offered by representatives of the community itself, the approach of Sherdog seemed to be that of fishing for negatives and painting a picture of a community tearing itself apart. At least that was the reflection of the piece itself.


Certain promoters were offered a chance to reflect on their own critiques of the community and their perception of what complications were presented with regard to issues within the community. Of course as any face of any brand would do they spoke from the heart and discussed why their angle was best or what they might like to see changed, or what they themselves intend to change.


If you take any three representatives from any growing industry and ask them to reflect on not only their brand but their competitors of course no punches will be pulled. You can expect pride and candor from any CEO worth their weight in salt when asked why their brand is better and that is exactly what Sherdog got.


What they didn't get, and perhaps the right questions weren't asked, is what is right with Arizona MMA. Why is the desert becoming a mecca for fighters, or quite frankly providing waves of top talent from legends to current world champions.


Honestly where there is smoke there is fire. The politics and infighting among camps and organizations in the Arizona desert is quite frankly no mystery what so ever. The poor reputation surrounding the Arizona Boxing Commission itself is also no mystery if you ask the right people. The frustrating politics among fight camps can be maddening at times, and given the opportunity every promoter will tell you exactly what his opposition is doing wrong.


But this is like looking at the big picture of a fight community through a keyhole. It limits the scope of vision as to what is going on across a wider spectrum.


Furthermore the practices of promoters will never add up unless one is asking the promoter themselves and that is not just a quandary for Arizona MMA, that is common throughout the entire sport. Rarely are the practices of promoters without question, there are always critics who would say it could be done better, especially when money is the topic.


So in the end was Sherdog reporting anything that the Arizona MMA community didn't already know or was it just another attempt by an MMA outlet to focus on negatives to promote yet another controversial story to garner reads?


Hurtsbad MMA sincerely feels the story of Arizona MMA is not that of a quandary. Having been deeply entrenched in the industry from local Arizona shows to the top of the sport with shows like Bellator, WEC, and Strikeforce we see countless examples of promise and potential, not to mention legacy in this desert heat.


Such a trend of negativity in the business of MMA journalism comes as no surprise. It is par for the course and what sells better than bad news? While that is all fine and dandy what Sherdog failed to report is that while Arizona MMA has its share of faults that it also has provided the platform for the sport to thrive in the scorching desert heat and at times even hotter politics.


Consider for a moment that one's opinion of how another is doing business can lead them to make changes for the better and improve upon that which they choose to critique and hold in a negative light. So where one dark spot can be drawn on how certain individuals have done business, great light can be drawn on how others moved forward from the inspiration of never making the same mistakes.


Evolution, it's the very nature of this business.


Where one negative can be drawn from a handful of promoter's opinions on how business should be conducted, or how not to be conducted in certain cases, a positive can be drawn from the sheer competition. As a community Arizona MMA has learned and thrived as it has reflected upon itself and grown, evolved, and flourished in the process.


Looking at Rage in the Cage, sure it has its critics, but fighters compete for them and have for years. Names like Ed West, George Roop, Mike Whitehead, Seth Baczynski, and Rich Hale have fought there among legions of other fighters who provide the meat and potatoes of the event itself. Critics will have their say but they have provided many an MMA star an opportunity to cut their teeth and prepare to take the leap to the big stage and run their game.


Can contrasts be drawn between how critics would like to see them do business and how they actually conduct themselves? Of course.


But again, depending on where you look there are always countless critics who will paint a negative picture of how promoters do things. It spans from the most backwoods events to the top of the food chain with Dana White and the UFC, so again is this any news flash?


Where Rage in the Cage may be the most recognizable brand that casual fight fans may notice coming out of the desert, there are many more even if there are far too many to name in one piece. Certain events carry more weight than others among the Arizona fight community and others are on the rise.


Asher Lutz and his Coalition of Combat have big aspirations to become game changers in the desert. They want to re-write the story of Arizona MMA. With a dynamic business model and the determination of Lutz himself they may very well make a heavy mark on the industry within the borders of Arizona and perhaps beyond.


They are one show deep into their legacy and have big plans for the future with another show scheduled soon and no intentions of slowing down. They perceive mistakes within the industry and plan on offsetting them with their own approach to promoting MMA in Arizona.


Thommy Ortiz and his World Fighting Federation have exploded on the scene with stunning events that have simply captured the Tucson Arizona fight community which is an MMA hotbed within a hotbed of MMA. Planning two events over the next few months, including branching out to the Phoenix market, they are gaining momentum and picking up speed as they are deep in the hunt to crossover to television from local venues and take their brand up a notch.


For this organization and its aspirations for the future how can they do anything but thrive as a brand and provide a platform for fighters to thrive with them? MMA is a sport catered for sponsors and television and if the WFF's goals come to fruition fighters in the desert will have a solid option to begin crafting their own brands under the WFF banner.


A dark horse in the waters is Shane Dunagan's Xtreme Courage Fighting Championships. This promoter has made a reputation as a meticulous match maker who prioritizes the fighter above all else. He built that reputation for years in New Mexico and has now transitioned his brand to eastern Arizona.


His concern for his athletes is rivaled only by his the greatness of his humble nature. He has a deep loyalty among athletes who compete for him and has provided a solid option for rising fighters to test the waters of competition in a humble environment where they know they will be treated fairly and with respect.


Consider also Trilogy MMA in central Arizona, or All Powers Combat in northern Arizona, or Desert Rage out in the far west of the desert. When considering the vast majority of options for both the MMA athlete and fan it is hard to believe that the reflection that Sherdog put on a few words of three promoters represents the overall picture of the state of MMA in Arizona.


The fact that MMA is thriving, both for the athlete, for the fan, and for the promotion, tells us that Arizona MMA is not in any type of quandary, quite to the contrary it is blossoming. And hey kids don't take our word for it; the proof is in the pudding.


A few names have already been mentioned but here is a refresher in case you forgot. Seth Baczynski UFC, Aaron Simpson UFC, C.B. Dollaway UFC, Ryan Bader UFC, Eric Prindle Bellator heavyweight tournament champion, Jeremy Larson TUF Live, Ben Askren formerly of Arizona and Bellator welterweight champion, Ed West Bellator, Rich Hale Bellator, George Roop UFC, Eddie Arizmendi M-1 Global, Dominick Cruz formerly of Arizona and UFC bantamweight champion, Benson Henderson UFC lightweight champion, and mixed martial arts living legend and superstar Don Frye are all from Arizona or have Arizona ties.


That is a top of the food chain list and it represents the tip of the iceberg. The list of rising stars is mind numbing.


So again....what's the problem? Arizona may not be Rio De Janeiro Brazil and producing a bloodline of warriors but it has more than done its share to produce some of the top talent in the sport today and if the state of MMA were in the shambles Sherdog would have you believe none of those previous facts could possibly be true.


While the piece they ran reflected some very real and addressable issues within the community of Arizona MMA, once again the picture painted only tells a fraction of a much greater story. And for those who really understand what is going on down here in Arizona the word quandary is far from the most accurate description when talking about the state of affairs in this fight community.







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