WAMMA's Wish: To Unite MMA
NEW YORK, Nov. 14 -- A group of business and fight-sport veterans
launched a sanctioning body on Wednesday that will try to enable
cross-promotional bouts between top mixed martial artists.
The World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts will use a committee,
currently comprised mostly of journalists, to rank 10 fighters in
each weight division, recognize unified champions in each division
and suggest matches that should happen regardless of fighters'
In explaining the need for WAMMA, President and CEO Dave Szady
pointed to the multitude of promotions and champions in mixed
martial arts. WAMMA, said Szady, will attempt to bring more
credibility to the sport through inter-league competition and
"We view ourselves as a supplement, not a threat, to all the
promotional organizations and individuals who have brought MMA to
where it is today," said Szady, a retired FBI assistant
WAMMA will not promote fights. Rather, the sanctioning body hopes
its rankings will be embraced by fans, fighters and media to the
point that when WAMMA suggests a match, promoters will make it.
That is when WAMMA, a for-profit corporation, would make money
through the sponsors it brings to the table. A promotion would
still host the fight, Szady explained, but WAMMA, for instance,
could have a sponsor advertised on the ring canvas.
Szady also plans on world championship belts with a sponsor's name
on it for each division. He offered a few hypothetical examples,
saying the top two fighters in a weight class could meet for the
WAMMA-Budweiser title, the WAMMA-Toyota title or the WAMMA-Hooter's
"For the record," joked WAMMA founding partner Bill Goldberg, "I'm
already the WAMMA-Hooter's world champion."
Szady believes this sanctioning process appeals to promotions
because it can create mega-fights that will make mega-bucks for
The key question, of course, is whether promotions will play ball
-- with WAMMA and with each other.
"We have made contact with just about all the major promoters in
the sport," Szady said. "Their response has been cordial. We are
continuing to have ongoing discussions with them, and conclusions
will be reached as we move this forward."
But the question of how promoters have been reacting to WAMMA kept
coming up Wednesday at a news conference. Szady emphasized that,
for the most part, promotions had given "positive" responses.
"Most of them have a wait-and-see attitude," he said.
International Fight League executives attended the news conference
and were openly supportive of WAMMA, but they were also honest
about its chances of success.
"It's a big task, but I think it's worth exploring," said IFL
Commissioner Kurt Otto.
Jay Larkin, IFL chief operating officer, praised WAMMA's reasoning
and its intentions. "Having said that," Larkin continued, "I want
to address the elephant in the room that's not in the room."
He was talking about the UFC. The leading promoter in mixed martial
arts, the company with the majority of the top fighters in the
world, is hosting an event on Saturday in Newark, N.J. -- about 15
miles from Wednesday's WAMMA news conference in Manhattan.
Yet, Larkin pointed out, no one from the UFC had attended the
"I cannot imagine a scenario that would encourage the UFC to
participate in this," Larkin said, adding that the UFC's lack of
involvement appeared to be a "fatal flaw" in WAMMA's plan.
Michael B. Lynch, WAMMA's executive vice president, said that
refusing top fighters the chance to fight each other would be a
"tremendous disservice," but Szady interrupted him to say he had
met with UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III.
"They didn't bring the guards down and throw us out the door,"
Szady said jokingly before describing Lorenzo Fertitta as
receptive, appreciative and polite. "The door was left open."
The WAMMA president reiterated that the immediate participation of
all promoters was not necessary. "We're in this for the long haul,"
Szady said, explaining that his sanctioning body had the financial
backing to persist even if the UFC did not participate for a couple
"We understand that this is a very huge undertaking," Goldberg
added. "We understand that going up against an 800-pound elephant
-- a la Dana White and the UFC -- is going to take a bit of time.
There's no question about it. But we have no ulterior motive. We
are in it for the fighter and we are in it for the fan."
Pat Miletich (Pictures), who is also representing WAMMA,
has butted heads with UFC President Dana White before. However,
Miletich said that the super-fights WAMMA wants to sanction would
make promoters like White more money.
"Bob Arum and Don King are not buddies, but they work together
because they know they're going to make money together," Miletich
said. "That's what this is about."
WAMMA also plans on influencing standards for referees and judges
as well as the safety standards for fighters, but perhaps most
integral to its success will be its monthly rankings.
Sam Caplan, editor of ProElite.com and FiveOuncesOfPain.com, will
chair the rankings committee. He is joined by Nelson Hamilton, Todd
Martin, Mauro Ranallo, Michael Woods, Oliver Copp, Alex Marvez, Ann
Marie Lynch and Jeroen Winters.
Asked if this committee will be compensated, Lynch, WAMMA's
executive vice president, said that Caplan would be compensated for
performing managerial duties as the chair.
"No one's getting paid for their opinion," Lynch said.
WAMMA acknowledged that rankings are somewhat subjective, but said
an effort will be made to keep them as objective as possible.
Additionally, Lynch said that WAMMA administers the rankings but
will not influence them. He described the system as independent and
transparent, though WAMMA does not plan on publishing each
committee member's individual rankings.
The first rankings are expected Dec. 15. WAMMA hopes to sanction
cross-promotional bouts by the first or second quarter of 2008 and
eventually to sanction up to 25 world championship fights a
If successful, similar sanctioning bodies could proliferate. Szady
said the UFC asked him about such a development.
"What we're hoping to do is get out there in front of this, as fast
as we can, with the most reputable people in the world to rank the
fighters and with a sanctioning body that's recognized by the
promoters as the sanctioning body," Szady said.
Two WAMMA partners -- Fred Levin, an attorney who represented
Roy Jones, Jr., and Kay
Stephenson, a former NFL coach -- tried to create a similar
umbrella organization for boxing several years ago.
"In the boxing world, things were so entrenched that it was very
difficult to get this done," Miletich said, noting that mixed
martial arts is also splintered, though perhaps the sport is not as
deep-rooted in its ways as boxing. "Coming together with WAMMA --
that one sanctioning body that can help unify all of this -- makes
perfect sense to me. To be honest with you, there's no need for
another sanctioning body after this happens."
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