The Ultimate Fighter
Another season of Dana White’s Contender Series is under way and another batch of fighters are gunning to make themselves household names.
Chances are, however, if you have UFC FIGHT PASS, you’re already familiar with many of the names on the weekly cards. Of the 186 men who have stepped into the Octagon on Tuesday nights, just over 20% of them have spent time fighting for Titan FC or Cage Fury FC.
Titan FC COO, Lex McMahon, expresses no shock to the fact that Titan is among the highest producing so many contestants of Dana White’s Contender Series. In fact, Titan boasts over 80 fighters in the UFC in the last three years.
“I did have an idea, but I didn’t realize in depth that it was actually 22 that went into Contender and the number of our athletes who were former champions for us went to Contender or went directly to the UFC,” McMahon said.
But what is the secret?
Titan and CFFC continuously pump out talent for Dana White’s Contender Series and never seem to skip a beat. McMahon explains that while it’s a culmination of several different factors to sustaining success and having a stable of UFC level talent, but the major factor was a decision made back when he first got rolling at Titan FC.
“I’m pretty comfortable in my ability to assess talent and I really focus on the UFC,” McMahon said. “That’s the pinnacle of the sport so I don’t spend a lot of my time talking to other promotions about anything. As a promoter I decided I wasn’t going to try to compete with the UFC, I was going to align with them and try to be their strategic partner.”
CFFC President Rob Haydak also attributes a working relationship with the UFC to prolonged success and almost looks forward to the call that some of his top talent will be needing a release to fight in The Octagon.
“We’re basically the proving grounds to get guys to the next level so when that call comes in, we’re happy to see them go,” Haydak said. “We tune in, we absolutely love it when the call comes in and one of our CFFC gets the call to compete on the Contender Series. Our entire organization gets behind it to support the show.”
It’s a process that’s as rare in society as people wanting to get punched for a living. A fighter’s manager receives a call from the UFC expressing interest in a fighter. After that, the manager relays that to the fighter and after the inevitable “yes” from the fighter the manager will call the promotion and request a release. In the cases of CFFC and Titan, it’s an overwhelmingly supportive release. While that’s the goal that the two promotions share, it does come with a period of reflection when a promotion staple gets their time in the sun.
“It’s definitely happened where there are prospects for us that are regional heroes that are a big draw and when you lose them, you have to take a step back, but we realize that’s what our job is,” Haydak said.
The key to not letting the well run dry and always having UFC talent seems somewhat counterproductive. Selflessly be the guy who isn’t afraid to let the well run dry.
“Titan’s going to advocate for them,” McMahon said. “I’m personally going to advocate for them and that if there’s an opportunity to go, even if it comes at our expense, I’ve let fighters go from title fights within a week’s notice. I’ve let fighters go with days’ notice. They know we’re going to advocate for them the next progressive step.”
Now that the teeth are cut and the hard work is done, CFFC and Titan FC are left with simply assessing talent properly and maintaining their reputation of having the fighters’ best interests in mind and the talent will continue to funnel their way. With weekly results on Dana White’s Contender Series to prove that it is, it’s also clear by the amount of returning athletes and relationships that have continued even post UFC debut.
“We’re really good about maintaining our relationships,” McMahon said. “We’re very supportive on social media we invite them back, sometimes to guest commentate for us and we try to keep that bond because as their star rises it kind of helps us grow as well.”
With both promotions over a decade old and still growing, there seems to be plenty of reason to believe in the system they have laid out.
For more on Dana White’s Contender Series, Titan FC and Cage Fury FC tune in to the only place to find all three, UFC FIGHT PASS!