Scott Heckman believes competing for CFFC has helped him get noticed by larger promotions. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
There’s this belief that all aspects of life must fall in balance with one another. When one part is out of balance, then so is another. It becomes a delightful game of Jenga in a sense. So when the UFC ramped up its efforts to go from super promotion to uber promotion, you’d figure smaller promotions would suffer as a result. The UFC needed more talent and quicker than ever before. So what’s the “little guy” to do?
“I believe fighters are starting to realize that we are setting ourselves apart from the other regional promotions in the area,” Cage Fury Fighting Championships general manager and matchmaker Arias Garcia told Sherdog.com in a recent interview.
How do you set yourselves apart in an environment where the UFC has more than 400 fighters under contract? To get a call to the big show now may require nothing more than a loud personality [see Browning, Junie]. Yet just in 2014 alone CFFC has seen three fighters – Aljamain Sterling, Charlie Brenneman and George Sullivan -- get the call from the UFC. It’s a feat that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“You’re being noticed -- not just in Bellator or regional promotions -- but in national promotions, the UFC,” CFFC featherweight champion Scott Heckman said. “That’s great for this promotion. It’s only going to make this promotion grow. Tougher talent and more competition for CFFC [will come in], and I think that’s good and positive.”
Flyweight champion Sean Santella concurs.
“Right now until the UFC calls, my home is the CFFC. They’re bringing in the best talent and they’re bringing in the top prospects,” he said. “If the CFFC doesn’t have them they’re looking to bring them in. In one month they have three guys get picked up by the UFC. In the last six months there have been five or six guys. This is definitely a breeding ground for the UFC.”
Since its reboot back in 2011 with CFFC 6, the organization has expanded from shows in New Jersey to include Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Its last show, CFFC 33 , was the first time it went into Philadelphia, a foray which Garcia called “a huge success.” Signing fighters to exclusive multi-fight deals with an out only if the UFC comes calling has allowed them to build a base of strong local fighters. Once in the fold, fighters have all come away marveling at their time with a promotion that understands its standing in MMA.
“You don’t want to be treated like garbage; you want to be treated with respect. You’re a professional and want to be treated like one. I’ve had six fights here and have never had an issue,” Santella said.
“They’ve been nothing but generous to me, finding me tough opponents that they know can move up my career,” said new CFFC lightweight champ Paul Felder. “They take care of you everywhere you go. The organization brings in crowds like these. They’re always branching out moving to other cities. They’re very good about trying to move guys up to the big show and to the big paydays.”
“My dreams are UFC,” Heckman said. “I’m not doubting CFFC -- they’re a great promotion. But they know this is a steppingstone for a bigger and better promotion, and there’s no other place I’d rather be before the UFC than CFFC.”
Flyweight standout Travis Wynn - a man who is nicknamed “The Total Package” and comes out to professional wrestler Ric Flair’s theme music - also appreciates the production value by the CFFC.
“CFFC has been great for me because as an amateur I fought on a lot of small dungeon shows with not a lot of production value. I made my debut here [in February 2012] and have seen the company grow a lot,” he said.”When you’re out there you see the lights, the production value, doing interviews and having media time. It’s preparing me for the bigger stage. It’s preparing me to deal with nerves. When I get out there now I have no nerves. You have a couple of thousand people screaming out there, starting chants and it doesn’t affect me whatsoever because I’ve been in these big fight situations and I’m very comfortable. CFFC helps me grow every fight.”
It’s that treatment of their fighters and how the CFFC runs its business which finally brought CFFC president and AMA Fight Club figurehead Mike Constantino to the promotion’s business as well.
“I always had a desire to promote shows. I promoted one show back in 2012, and I wanted to move forward with it. The situation just wasn’t right at the time,” Constantino said. “I feel that as a manager and a trainer, I know all facets of the game. I’ve been with the UFC for over six years. I see how professional they are and how they run things, and I wanted to provide a platform for fighters regionally to be able to have that same type of experience and professionalism.”
Despite the ever-expanding UFC, Garcia looks at the promotion less as a threat to the business and more as an asset. With about 12-15 event on the docket in 2014, the increased notoriety only serves to aid what CFFC is going to do.
“It’s an honor that the UFC looks at us a proving ground type of promotion,” Garcia said. “Our agenda is to sign local good guys for exclusive deals for as many fights as we can. If they get picked by the UFC then more power to them. No matter what we always have another guy waiting in the wings.”