IFL CEO and President Jay Larkin addressed reporters on the call, stating that in addition to canceling the event, the promotion will continue to downsize its workforce and is reviewing their contractual obligations with several of their coaches. There are no current plans to cut fighters from its roster.
While the IFL is not declaring bankruptcy and is technically not suspending operations, today’s news casts an even bleaker outlook for the company going forward. The primary reason behind the cancellation of the August event was because the show could put the company in financial jeopardy, according to Larkin.
Larkin stated that in recent months the company has sought out additional funding so that the company could continue operations. The former SHOWTIME executive indicated that when seeking new partners and additional financing, no stone has been left unturned. According to Larkin, discussions with major financial companies, competing fight companies, television networks, media companies, film studios, and celebrities have all taken place. While many of the prospective investors greeted the opportunity of working with the IFL with initial excitement, they’ve been unable to consummate a deal.
By cancelling the August show, Larkin believes that the IFL will have the needed cash flow to continue to seek out a new partner or a new owner. He would not give a timetable as to how long the company would operate before seeking protection from creditors, but insiders have indicated to FiveOuncesOfPain.com that it is unlikely that the IFL has the funding needed to keep its offices open past October.
Larkin refused to wave the proverbial white flag during Tuesday’s conference call, however, if the promotion could not secure a key strategic partner during full-scale operations, the likelihood of securing such a partner greatly decreases under the terms of what amounts to an indefinite hiatus. If the IFL is out of sight, it could be out of the minds of potential partners.
Larkin also addressed the status of the IFL’s roster of fighters, perhaps the company’s greatest asset. The fight promotion has plans to work with other promotions so that their fighters can remain active while the promotion attempts to restructure. When asked if he would consider releasing a fighter if said fighter received a lucrative offer that was contingent on the fighter being an unrestricted free agent, Larkin commented that they will evaluate the future of their fighters on a case-by-case basis. He stated that he’s not keen about the idea of selling off fighter contracts but that the promotion will not charge other promotions to use its fighters.
In general, Larkin expressed pessimism about the financial strength of the sport. He stated that with EliteXC’s debut on CBS, the IFL was looking for a win so that competing networks would have an interest in doing deals with fight companies. Instead of a win, Larkin believes that EliteXC on CBS was a draw, as he claimed that while the show was a ratings success, the criticism expressed by various members of the media not only has other networks cautious about getting involved, but that the brass at CBS is taking the criticism into consideration before moving forward with MMA.
He also expressed a belief that the majority of existing MMA fans may not be educated enough about the sport itself to appreciate MMA outside of the UFC and stated at one point that he believes many MMA promotions are either inflating or outright lying about their reported ticket sales.
Other interesting items from the press conference include Larkin’s statement that as of today, the IFL has no debt; his belief that the IFL and EliteXC appear to him as a natural fit for a rollup; and that he’s heard that network television is exploring the possibility of televising boxing again.