I spent a very relaxing couple of days in Brighton this weekend past. The trip was organised around Cage Warriors 102 at the Indigo arena in London and it would mark my first visit to a UK Cage Warriors event. By Sunday evening, once I had negotiated the maze of security checks at Gatwick Airport and finally fell in a heap on my Ryan Air seat, I started to reflect on the event. It was not entirely what I had expected.
The Indigo arena has a capacity of about 2,350. It didn’t look fully sold-out and we were guesstimating a crowd of about 2,000. I peeled off to the left of the Arena to be close to the area from where all fighters made their entrance. It was a comfortable standpoint to watch the fights and also keep an eye on the giant TV screens that streamed the bouts live.
The Indigo has a natural disadvantage for cage fighting. People watching the fights from ground level are significantly below the action. It is very difficult to watch a full fight without relying on the screens in the arena. This is especially true once any action hits the deck. I am not sure how feasible tiered seating is in this venue but it would certainly help.
Bar one fight at the beginning, this was a full Pro card and I want to pay my respects to the people doing the matchmaking for Cage Warriors because most of the Prelims were very evenly matched and a lot went the distance.
Good matchmaking though can be a double edged sword. It doesn’t always lead to exciting fights. That isn’t a criticism merely an observation of the crowd. It seems to me that wrestlers and grapplers don’t get half the credit they deserve in MMA. There were a couple of fights, that were grapple heavy with long periods of wrestling and maneuvering for position.
You could feel parts of the crowd switch off like the flick of a switch. Audible murmurs of conversation breaking out as people took a break from the action. It struck me as unfair to the fighters who in this instance were on the main card.
I automatically cast my mind back to Bellator in Dublin a week earlier, where there were a lot of finishes during the preliminaries. My belief is, this was in part due, to bad match-making. Yet there is no doubt the crowd in the 3 arena were in electrifying form on the night.
It is a conundrum but I think Cage Warriors should take a bow as closely matched fighters is truly a commitment to fighter safety and one that doesn’t get half as much attention as say brain scans.
Rhys McKee vs Perry Goodwin was definitely Fight of the Night. A ferocious bloodbath of a fight. The proceedings were all the more enjoyable by virtue of the fact we were positioned behind a crowd of ‘Skeletor’ fans who flew over for the weekend.
After CW 102, we know for sure and certain Rhys can take a punch (or 5!). Perry Goodwin connected clean on more than a few occasions, but McKee finished clinically with a modified guillotine choke when the chance presented itself in 3rd round. As a package he has a bit of everything, not least a gas-tank. On the back of Saturday nights performance he is now a star of the promotion and his UFC dreams are a step closer.
Cage Warriors supremo Graham Boylan made the announcement on the night, that Cage Warriors would be expanding into Australia in 2019. The plan is for one event in 2019 and 4 to 5 events in 2020. My first reaction was that this is a very smart move. Distance not withstanding, it’s a big English speaking audience and convincing Aussies to attend MMA fights shouldn’t be a huge promotional headache!
My second reaction to the news was along different lines. Why have Cage Warriors announced no dates in the Republic of Ireland ? In fact a quick scan through the archives reveals that it is now 2 full years since Cage Warriors have held an event here. That’s over 25 events.
Obviously there must be a problem behind the scenes but it is a shame that an organisation of this stature is not showcasing in the Republic at least twice a year. Filling an Irish venue of 2,000 people every 6 months would not be a problem at any rate.
I can only guess that one of the difficulties, may be regarding different safety procedures that apply to amateurs in the Republic and the UK. CW 102 though, was in essence, a fully professional event and a similiar one could surely run smoothly here. It is also noticeable that Cage Warriors do not run one of their amateur academies in the Republic and that Cage Warriors Ireland is in fact operating from the North. Bottom line it is a shame as Cage Warriors is a great franchise and many amateurs here aspire to feature on it.
The last point I would make about Cage Warriors 102 is in relation to the media. This point is directed at all MMA Promotions in the UK and Ireland rather than specifically CW.
I was surprised by the lack of media at the event. Certainly in the Press Tent. There were a number of online media sources present and they did a great job from what I could see but only a few were present.
As the content that I produce is entirely written and largely interview based, the events themselves are not actually central to our output. They are fun to cover for us but we are not relying on them to generate the major chunk of clicks or content.
However the majority of media that cover MMA ARE relying on the events to generate content , especially on the video/streaming side of things. I would make the experience for media at events a lot more collaborative. Most on-line media outlets are fans as well as content providers.
Full Media Packs, a CW media manager co-coordinating the fighters, the fight camps, the media, the experience. Basics like tea and coffee in the Press Room. Set piece interactions between fans and media even. Open up these events to ALL Types of social media commentators with an audience, regardless of whether they have a massive MMA website presence. Look closely at inviting more photographers and Instagram influencers. Get media and fans interacting.
At the end of the day a full media tent is a lot more useful, promotional and productive for your event than a half full one.
Special thanks to Scott McKinnon and Fightbook MMA for arranging our tickets.