Power Plays: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities for Beginning Combat Sports Promotions

July 17, 2023
From: Spartacus
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In the early 2000s, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), a small startup, was established in Las Vegas with a vision to spotlight underrepresented weight classes in MMA. Despite facing significant challenges and industry giants, the founders, Reid Harris and Scott Adams, successfully created a platform that launched many successful fighters’ careers and delivered exciting MMA matches to fans worldwide. Eventually, their success led to the acquisition of WEC by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Their journey stands as proof that with passion and resilience, even start-ups can make significant impacts in the combat sports industry

This is a testament to the potential that lies within start-up combat sports promotions. The story of WEC and other similar promotions remind us that with passion, resilience, and a little bit of grit, underdogs can rise to become champions of the industry. In this article, we take a closer look at the journey of these start-ups, exploring the challenges they face, and the innovative solutions they implement.

Challenges Faced by Start-up Combat Sports Promotions

When the bell rings and the combat begins, all eyes are on the fighters in the ring. Yet, behind the scenes, start-up combat sports promotions are fighting their own battles. These fledgling organisations grapple with a host of challenges as they strive to build their brand, develop talent, and captivate audiences.

Resource Allocation

In the world of combat sports, the fight isn’t limited to the ring. Behind the scenes, start-up promotions grapple with their own bout – making the most out of limited resources. But, as in any good fight, strategy and resilience can often turn the tide.

Consider the example of Invicta Fighting Championships. A start-up promotion in the male-dominated world of MMA, Invicta was launched in 2012 with a specific focus on female fighters. Despite tight financial constraints, the promotion has managed to make a name for itself and continues to host events, showcasing female talent in combat sports.

How did Invicta and similar promotions manage to stretch their limited means to achieve success? Here are some strategies:

  • Efficient Budgeting: The first step to managing financial constraints is to create a detailed budget. This includes understanding where the money is coming from and where it needs to go. It’s crucial to allocate resources towards areas that offer the highest return, such as fighter safety, event production, and marketing.
  • Cost-saving Techniques: These can include negotiating deals for venues or equipment rentals, using digital platforms for low-cost marketing, and relying on volunteers or interns for certain tasks. Invicta, for instance, made strategic decisions like holding events in smaller venues to reduce costs without compromising on the quality of the fights.
  • Partnerships and Sponsorships: Forming strategic partnerships can provide much-needed financial relief. This could be through sponsorships from local businesses or partnerships with other organisations for cross-promotion. Invicta turned constraints into opportunities when they announced a broadcast agreement with UFC’s streaming service, UFC Fight Pass. This not only offered financial support but also broadened their viewer base.

Talent Acquisition

Unearthing the next big star is an exciting yet formidable challenge for start-up combat sports promotions. Identifying and nurturing future champions requires a keen eye, strategic planning, and robust relationships within the industry.

One such success story is Cage Warriors, a UK-based MMA promotion that has become renowned for producing UFC champions. Names like Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, and Dan Hardy all fought in Cage Warriors before making it big in the UFC.

So how can other promotions replicate this success in talent acquisition?

  • Identify Promising Fighters: Look for more than just a winning record. Consider their work ethic, adaptability, and their willingness to learn and grow. Regularly attend local fights and gym sessions to spot potential talent.
  • Foster Growth: Once talent is identified, it’s essential to provide opportunities for them to hone their skills. This could include matchmaking that pushes their boundaries, providing constructive feedback, and giving them chances to learn from defeat.
  • Build Relationships with Gyms and Trainers: Gyms are often the first to spot promising fighters. Building strong relationships with local gyms and trainers can provide a steady stream of talent and ensure fighters are well-prepared for their bouts.

Audience Engagement

Building a loyal fanbase from scratch is a significant challenge but also a crucial aspect of a promotion’s success.

Consider the case of the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) in South Africa. Since its establishment in 2009, EFC has grown a loyal fanbase both domestically and internationally, hosting sell-out events and broadcasting to millions of homes worldwide.

How did EFC and similar promotions successfully engage and grow their audience?

  • Unique Fan Experiences: From meet-and-greet sessions with fighters to fan contests and behind-the-scenes content, providing unique experiences can foster a deeper connection between fans and the promotion.
  • Social Media and Digital Platforms: Utilising platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube can amplify reach and engagement. Regular updates, interactive content, live Q&As, and exclusive online events can help create a vibrant and engaged online community.
  • Community Engagement: Hosting open workouts, participating in local events, and collaborating with local businesses can help solidify a promotion’s presence in the community and grow a dedicated local fanbase.

These challenges, while significant, are not insurmountable. Many start-up combat sports promotions have turned these trials into opportunities for growth and innovation. Their stories serve as a testament to the tenacity and resilience inherent in the world of combat sports, not just inside the ring, but in the business behind it.

Turning the Tides

In the challenging world of combat sports promotions, the fight isn’t limited to the ring. Behind the scenes, start-up promotions grapple with a host of formidable challenges. Whether it’s financial constraints, talent acquisition, or audience engagement, these fledgling organisations have their work cut out for them. But, as the saying goes, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ And in this battle, the start-up promotions have proven that they’re not going down without a fight.

So, let’s step into the ring and uncover the power plays that are driving the success of start-up combat sports promotions.

Embracing Technology

As digital transformation sweeps across industries, combat sports promotions are no exception. By leveraging technological advancements, start-ups can overcome challenges and unlock new opportunities for growth. A prime example of this tech revolution in the realm of combat sports is the advent of Spartacus, a streaming platform tailored for combat sports.

  • Event Streaming: In the past, geographical limitations confined small-scale combat sports promotions to a local or regional audience. However, with Spartacus, these promotions can broadcast their events to a global audience. Take, for example, a small-scale boxing promotion tucked away in the heartland of America’s Midwest. Thanks to Spartacus, they’re no longer limited to their immediate surroundings; they can now share the thrill of their bouts with fans around the world. This not only expands their reach but also dramatically enhances their visibility.
  • Fan Engagement: But Spartacus does more than just stream fights. It facilitates an immersive and interactive fan experience. Real-time chats during events foster a sense of community among viewers. Instant access to fighter stats deepens the audience’s understanding of the sport. Replays allow fans to relive the most exhilarating moments of their favourite bouts. Through these features, Spartacus helps start-ups to enhance fan engagement, which in turn, helps in building a loyal and passionate fan base.
  • Revenue Generation: Another crucial aspect of Spartacus is its potential for revenue generation. It facilitates PPV models for events, a luxury once exclusive to bigger promotions with significant resources. Through PPV, even a small-scale promotion can generate substantial revenue, helping to alleviate financial constraints and paving the way for reinvestment into the growth of the promotion.

Forming Strategic Partnerships

In addition to embracing technology, forming strategic partnerships is another innovative solution that can fuel the growth of start-up combat sports promotions. These partnerships can provide a multitude of benefits, helping to transform challenges into opportunities:

  • Local Businesses: By partnering with local businesses, promotions can secure event sponsorships, venue procurement, or assistance with marketing initiatives. Besides providing financial relief, such partnerships can also strengthen the promotion’s ties to the local community. These symbiotic relationships can help in growing a dedicated local fan base and enhancing the promotion’s standing in the community.
  • Larger Promotions or Leagues: Collaborations with larger, more established promotions or leagues can significantly increase a start-up’s visibility. An alliance with a global organisation like UFC, for instance, can offer unparalleled exposure. UFC’s Fight Pass has broadcast deals with several small promotions, providing them with a platform to showcase their talent to a global audience.
  • Tech Companies: Partnerships with tech companies can significantly enhance a promotion’s digital presence. A collaboration with a platform like Spartacus, for instance, can streamline a promotion’s operations, from ticket sales to fan engagement, all the while offering potential revenue streams. Such tech alliances equip start-ups to compete in the digital age, turning technological limitations into a strength.

Innovation and resilience are at the heart of these start-up combat sports promotions. With technology like Spartacus and strategic alliances, they’re not just tackling challenges; they’re transforming them into opportunities for growth and success. These small-scale promotions might be underdogs in the industry, but they’re putting up an impressive fight. Their journey is a testament to the fact that in the battlefield of combat sports, the bell hasn’t rung on these start-ups; they’re just getting warmed up.


After exploring the world of start-up combat sports promotions, one thing becomes abundantly clear – these underdogs have the potential to become champions. Despite the many obstacles that lie in their path, they continue to grow, innovate, and make their mark on the industry. They’ve shown us that with grit, determination, and a bit of ingenuity, challenges can be transformed into stepping stones to success.

These start-up promotions play a crucial role in the combat sports industry. They nurture talent, enrich the sport’s diversity, and create opportunities for fighters and fans alike. As they continue to grow, they need our support. By attending their events, following their fighters, and spreading the word about their work, we can help them continue their upward trajectory.

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