It’s a big week for the IFL, which is prepping for the finals of its World Grand Prix event this Saturday at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. The card, to be televised live on HDNet at 9:30 p.m. ET, will feature five title matches that will crown first-time champions in the featherweight, lightweight welterweight, middleweight, and heavyweight divisions.
Despite a crammed schedule because of the holiday, IFL co-founder and commissioner Kurt Otto still found time to do an interview with me to address a number of issues coming out of last week’s conference call with the media intended to give the public a better idea about planned changes for 2008.
Below is a transcript of my conversation with Otto.
Sam Caplan: The IFL World Grand Prix is this Saturday and will be going up against UFC 79. The WGP is scheduled to be televised on HDNet starting at 9:30 p.m. ET. Initially, I had heard that the IFL was looking to do a two-hour telecast starting at 8 p.m. ET so that the event could serve as a lead-in to UFC 79. Now, you guys will be going head-to-head for an hour and a half. Is there any concern about going head-to-head against the UFC pay-per-view?
Kurt Otto: No, I think that if you’re a true fan of MMA, in my opinion, if I was to buy the UFC pay-per-view, I’d be switching back and forth regardless because there’s such a time span in between the UFC fights that I would want to get everything in.
Sam Caplan: During the conference call last week you chronicled how Kurt Angle joined IFL officials in Florida during the team finals in September. You used the term “buyer’s remorse” in regard to Angle’s feelings about competing in MMA after he had watched the event live. Were you implying that maybe Angle is having second thoughts about getting involved in MMA as a participant?
Kurt Otto: No. I think what happened was that he was very enthusiastic initially and he came down just to see our format and to see some great fights, and to just see our system in place. He was very, very excited and very impressed. And then we had discussed getting him into some type of MMA training regimen with any of our coaches or athletes. At that point he was very busy with his new contract that he had with TNA and his first obligation is to them.
I think it (got) to a point where he started looking at this realistically (and) that there was a possibility that he could be injured and kind of screw up his existing contract that’s paying him very well. I think he just started looking at it realistically. Do I think he’s counting it (MMA) out completely? No, I truly believe that he wants to compete in MMA (but) I just think it’s a timing issue.
Again, when you go and see a fight live and you’re that close, it puts a little different perspective on things and you start to look at this realistically and I think he looked at it like “Wow, you know I could get screwed up here and then ultimately screw up my contract.” In my opinion, I think he held off on that point but he does want to do it. In his heart, I think he does want to do it.
Sam Caplan: Is there any chance of Angle being involved as a coach in 2008?