World Series of Fighting CEO Carlos Silva is happy. Why? Well, it’s because his organization is mentioned in the same breath as organizations like the UFC and Bellator MMA. Silva is happy, but he’s not content. The status quo isn’t good enough. Silva wants more for his company.
By capitalizing on his background in sports media as a member of America Online/Time Warner and Universal Sports, Silva, the WSOF’s CEO since August, is looking forward to make the promotion a “multi-platform sports league,” he told Combat Press.
“We have a good live-TV experience and have experienced quadruple-digit growth with our website traffic,” Silva said.
The WSOF plans to launch a digital platform by the end of 2016, and it is considering following the UFC’s lead and looking at possibilities with outfitting its fighters with apparel, similar to the UFC’s current partnership with Reebok.
“Having a major brand creates a level of professionalism,” Silva said of Reebok. “There may be some good and bad with it, but we would do it in a way that makes sense, and we would learn from other sports leagues.”
Silva competed in wrestling in junior high and high school and played tennis at Boston College University before committing himself to endurance sports like Ironman competitions. It was before Silva’s time at AOL/Time Warner and Universal Sports that he was introduced to the world of combat sports.
“I followed UFC in the early 2000s when they had guys like Chuck Liddell,” Silva said. “I took a look at it while working at AOL/Time Warner sports media and watched the growth of MMA.”
During Silva’s time at Universal, the network pursued broadcasting Muay Thai events. Silva was soon contacted by Mike Stevens, the current chief marketing officer of the NFL’s New York Giants. Silva was told the WSOF was looking for someone to join its management team.
“I had a relationship with NBC Sports and knew they were a known quantity,” Silva said. “I liked the WSOF board and knew the passion of the athletes.”
If you ask Silva, MMA is currently a top-five sport, looking up at leagues like the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball but on par with the NHL and PGA. Silva is excited to bring his background in digital programming to the WSOF and described the organization as a “really good, authentic form of fighting,” which Silva attributes to other WSOF leaders like president and co-founder Ray Sefo.
Silva also credits the WSOF’s authentic form of fighting to a roster made up of young fighters on the rise, like lightweight champion Justin Gaethje and bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes, as well as veterans like Jon Fitch, Jake Shields and Yushin Okami. Moraes is scheduled to defend his title at WSOF 28 on Feb. 20 against Joseph Barajas.
“Now we need to build on the relationships we have with NBC and NBC Sports Network,” Silva said. “Our product looks better on TV, our ratings are bouncing back and we have a great relationship with our sponsors.”
Silva would also like improve the WSOF’s worldwide distribution through its sister organization, WSOF Global, and said there are a lot of new markets for the WSOF to break into, including countries like Germany.
Another way Silva plans to boost his organization’s profile is through the use of a digital platform to allow fans to get to know fighters outside the cage.
“We want to talk about fighters’ training and fitness,” Silva said. “Fans see fighters as amazing athletes, and people want to know how fighters prepare. A key part of our strategy is working with gyms at a grassroots level.”
Silva also lauds the WSOF’s ability to work with local and regional MMA promotions to bring fighters up to the WSOF stage.
“We’re a little more like a boutique,” Silva said. “We put on 12-14 events a year, which allows us to spend more time with the fighters. That’s one difference between working for a larger company than a smaller one.”
Silva also confirmed the WSOF’s interest in current MMA free agents Aljamain Sterling and Alistair Overeem. Sterling recently fulfilled the terms of his UFC contract and tweeted that he will announce his decision of where he’s going next on Monday, Feb. 15. Silva even floated that it would be a great opportunity to have Sterling fight Moraes.
“All of our jobs are to create great fights,” Silva said. “If fighters need a home, we want to talk to them.”
In addition to offering great fights, Silva again stressed his desire to make the WSOF a digital destination for fight fans. The organization recently began promoting content from other organizations, including the UFC, on its social media channels. Silva noted that other sports leagues, like Major League Soccer, link to news about Olympic soccer and Premier League soccer on its website.
“If you’re taking a coffee break at your job, then why wouldn’t we want to be a purveyor of news in the fighting world?” Silva said. “We’re not scared to promote others, because it still gives us an opportunity to talk directly to consumers.”