WSOF CEO Carlos Silva: Promotion to Hold at Least 12 Events, Explore New Venues in 2016

By Tristen Critchfield Dec 18, 2015
In June, World Series of Fighting announced the hiring of Carlos Silva as its CEO. While Silva’s tenure is still in its infancy, his background -- he was the president of both NBCU’s Universal Sports and Back9Network -- suggests that he should be able to improve the promotion’s business model.

Ahead of WSOF 26, Silva spoke to about a number of topics, including WSOF’s long-term future, upcoming changes to the Las Vegas-based organization and more.

Sherdog: Since you were appointed as WSOF CEO in June, what has your role been within the company?

Silva: I’ve been in media and technology and sports my whole career. I got a great opportunity here to meet the owners and join the end of summer to help out. I’ve run and launched and founded television networks that were in 70 million networks and became part of the NBC family in the case of Universal Sports. I’ve been in and around fighting from being a sports executive and seeing what has happened to MMA, especially on the back of UFC over the last 15 years. You keep track of all the sports and the trends of where things are going. I really felt like World Series of Fighting was for sure one of the three players with a national presence, with UFC being so big and Bellator doing so well now on Spike, that there was a great opportunity with our partner NBC here in the states and me knowing all the guys over there from my past. There was a great opportunity to take WSOF from an event company and turn it into a multi-platform league in MMA, really being one of those top three.

Really over the last five months I’ve been laying the foundation for 2016 to make that happen. I’ve brought in some production folks and started to do some more things online. I’m a really big believer in building the brand in between the fights as much as at the events themselves. I just think it’s really important to get to know these fighters and athletes and understand what they’re doing before they get in the cage. I’m a big believer that it is a lifestyle now. We saw it in such a huge way over the last couple weeks in Vegas with the last couple things that happened. Now we’re here to finish our season [in Las Vegas], and I think it propels us into 2016 as one of those players. It’s a pretty exciting time. I’ve got a great fight team and a great production team.

Sherdog: What, if any, significant changes have you made thus far?

Silva: The website was pretty well a site with a bunch of posters on it. The guys would sort of ramp up a few days before the fight, but it was very much a circus-event focused kind of platform. It’s a small team, by the way, so they did a great job putting on fights before I got here. No disrespect to it. If that was 1.0, since we’ve got to 22 and 23 [events] and now we’re on WSOF 26, we’re starting to get into that second phase in providing more platforms for sponsors, being more creative, working on some new packages with our partner at NBC for 2016 with some new venues. I think it’s very much about filling out that digital and international package. That’s what I added to the team. I think it was a great team, but I added that media, television, production and digital focus that gets added to the event focus that the team had.

Sherdog: What can you say about WSOF’s profitability at this point in its existence?

Silva: Not really a lot. It’s a privately-owned company. I can say it’s got some great backers that are very supportive of giving me and the team the tools to continue to build this past being just an event company. Along with some great support from NBC -- they’re not just our television distributor; I treat them as our partner. They help me promote; they help me distribute; they help me to get more audience knowing about WSOF. A small example of that is we’ve got the fight on NBCSN on Friday, but on Dec. 27 we’ve got a best of 2015 show that’s on NBC. That’s a great support from a great media partner that we’ve got a one-hour show....kind of recapping the 2015 season on NBC on a Sunday afternoon. It’s just great from a promotional and partner standpoint. That helps us continue to grow and be financially stable.

Sherdog: What kind of schedule does WSOF planned for 2016 in terms of number of events?

Silva: We haven’t announced our 2016 calendar. We’re going to in the next couple weeks. We’re going to have a fight every month. We’re going to have a couple of specials on NBC. We’re just finalizing some of it, particularly the second half of the season. We’ve really got the first and second quarter laid out.

Sherdog: Why will WSOF continue to exist and thrive next year and beyond?

Silva: I think it will continue to thrive really as we build on these platforms in the kind of world we live in now. I know this world well. I’ve been in the interactive space. I’ve been in alternative distribution. I’ve built and launched television networks. Throughout all those pieces and puzzles that I’ve built, it’s always been about how you do just enough on these new platforms to bring audience to the traditional platforms. NBC is at the center of our distribution and letting people know about WSOF. But now it’s how do we build these spokes off the wheel, in digital and streaming and providing day-to-day content from our stars and our hosts as well as being in and around the fighting lifestyle.

If you go to our website today you’ll see that we don’t shy away from talking about other promotions. This is about fighting. This is about the World Series of Fighting and our events, but it’s also about fighting in general. I’m happy to tell them about what else is happening in fighting; that doesn’t hurt me. This is about continuing to grow MMA into what I think it’s started to become, which is a top 5 sport. You put UFC, Bellator and WSOF together, it’s right there with the other NHL, NBA, NASCAR, PGA Tour and the other big traditional sports that are here in the states. You can’t deny the numbers of MMA up against those sports.

Sherdog: What other changes can we expect from the promotion going forward in 2016?

Silva: There really isn’t any yet. We’ve done a couple things here. We launched a new logo that was released over the last couple days, but that’s really gonna take effect in 2016. That’s kind of a fresh new look. I think it raises the fit and finish of the look of our promotion in a way that we’ve never had before. I think that’s a big part of your brand. We’re going to be opening an office in New York City [in January]. We do a lot of work in New York; hopefully there’s going to be an opportunity to fight there soon.

Everybody in the fighting world is doing a lot to make that happen. We’re there anyway with sales and marketing and P.R. I think in the next few weeks you’re going to see some other exciting announcements around some really interesting venues.

Sherdog: WSOF has a number of interesting prospects on Friday’s card. What is the plan for acquiring talent in the coming year?

I think we pride ourselves on building talent from the gym all the way into the cage. I think we’ll continue to do that. At times there’s some opportunities with some names. In the business you have to keep your eye on that. We often use guys like Marlon [Moraes] and how Marlon’s been with WSOF throughout his career and grown into our world champion. I think you’ll see more of those. We’ll keep trying to bring along young talent that are really authentically great athletes. At times if there’s an opportunity [to sign a big name], we’ll take the opportunity. But I think that is part of our brand and will continue to be a big part of it in 2016.

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