A global mixed martial arts organization with direct ties to West Michigan is poised to return from a years-long hiatus on Nov. 11 with a night of fights in Atlanta.
Xtreme Fighting Championships is slated to take over Atlanta-based, Live Nation-owned concert venue The Tabernacle this week for an event called XFC 43. The event will be the league’s first action since Dec. 5, 2015 when it held XFC International 13 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Spring Lake resident Myron Molotky will be front and center as the organization’s president. Molotky became the face of the company in 2011, and he — along with some West Michigan brethren — are aiming to recharge a brand that sat on the shelf for nearly half a decade.
The XFC will compete in an increasingly crowded market of leagues and independent promotions, which are all positioned behind undisputed industry leader Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“UFC has done a fantastic job keeping their brand moving (through the pandemic) — so of course I have much respect for that,” Molotky said. “From our standpoint, there is a lot of space in MMA right now. When we were in Brazil, we were considered top three of four in the world. Our goal is to rise to that level or beyond.”
Resurrecting the brand
The XFC was established in 2006 in Florida. The fighting promotion operated on a regional level, extending up the East Coast.
Molotky became involved in 2011, teaming with league CEO Steve Smith, who has a background in finance and was also a former executive with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Before becoming XFC president, Molotky was a former Golden Gloves boxer and also a lifetime hockey player. He was the back-up goalie for both the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Muskegon Fury during his tenure.
“Being around professional athletes for quite some time, I knew what their driving force was,” Molotky said. “Being the older guy in the locker room, I got a really good sense of the mind of the athlete.”
The new leadership at the XFC was focused on taking the organization to an international level, which is why it planted its flag in Sao Paulo, inside the country considered to be the birthplace of MMA.
It then gained significant exposure through RedeTV!, one of Brazil’s five major television networks, and fielded a roster of 180 fighters. However, the market would eventually sour, leading to the hiatus.
“Brazil went through the World Cup and went through the Olympics and just the devastation financially in the Brazilian markets, we really had to take a look,” Molotky said. “Do we continue a money dump growing the brand or do we go on the sidelines? The investors at that time said we’re going on the sidelines. “
Fast forward a few years later, and the XFC has retooled itself. One of the primary differences between the XFC and similar leagues is that Xtreme Fighting Championships Inc. (OTC: DKMR) is a publicly traded company.
Riding the MMA wave
The XFC jumps back in the market as the sport is more popular than ever. According to data from Nielsen Sports, MMA has become the third most popular sport in the world, trailing only soccer and basketball. Nielsen estimated that roughly 451 million fans were interested in MMA worldwide.
The XFC will not only compete for eyeballs, but also to coax investors to scoop up shares of the company. To help in those efforts, XFC recently inked a partnership with Grand Rapids-based public relations and investor relations firm Lambert & Co.
As part of that partnership, the XFC will leverage TiiCKER, a fintech start-up launched in July by Lambert & Co. CEO Jeff Lambert.
TiiCKER helps publicly traded companies streamline the usually daunting task of marketing directly to shareholders. This comes with offering incentives to those who choose to buy shares through TiiCKER.
Ultimately, XFC’s approach to the business side of its organization is what spoke to Lambert & Co. and TiiCKER.
“XFC (has) a different model where they are empowering their fighters to own a piece of XFC,” said TiiCKER COO Mike Houston. “And, we think that’s fantastic — that’s really the upside. The fighters are incentivized to help build that brand and their own brand.”
Another big way XFC will reach MMA fans nationwide is through a broadcasting deal with NBC Sports, which was announced in September. The final two hours of XFC’s Nov. 11 event will air on NBC Sports Network.
“We’re really excited about it,” Molotky said. “They had gone through a little bit of a phase with MMA where they, to be honest, weren’t excited about talking about it at first. We settled on NBC because we developed a strong level of trust between their leadership team and our leadership team.”
Tom Sullivan, owner of LEAD Marketing Agency in Grand Rapids, has extensive experience in sports marketing. He saw the benefits of a broadcasting deal when his firm worked with the now-defunct arena football team the Grand Rapids Rampage. The Arena Football League signed a deal with NBC, and he said the exposure that comes with broadcasting could give the XFC a nice boost.
“It’s a win for NBC because they get sports programming and it’s a win for XFC because they get exposure,” he said. “They can also then monetize sponsorships broader because more people will see it on television than what they would have seen in a small, local arena.”