It is no secret that the Super Fight League (SFL) has yet to live up to the owner's lofty expectations. Both the opening shows only sold a handful of tickets and the reaction from the Indian public and media has been muted at best.
However, Sanjay Dutt and Raj Khundra, the Bollywood stars who provide the substantial financial muscle behind the SFL, are not ready to give up just yet -- even if it means abandoning all attempts to actually make the business profitable for the time being.
SFL 3 is taking place in just under two weeks time at the 25,000 capacity IGI Stadium in Delhi and the organizers have taken the unusual step of making tickets available completely free of charge. This is from the SFL facebook:
SFL3 comes to IGI Stadium in New Delhi on May 6! Everyone, collect your free passes from all VLCC and Fitness First centers across Delhi. Hurry, before they run out of passes!
PS: Every party/ person can collect as many passes as they like. We've got a capacity of 10,000 people. What're you waiting for!?
While I am sure that the SFL would not have envisaged needing to give away tickets when booking such a large venue at least the people behind it are adapting to the challenge and looking at alternative ways to lure people into attending their events.
The first two shows sold less than 1,000 tickets between them but Delhi has a population of 16 million and New Delhi, where the IGI Stadium is located, is home to plenty of people with the sort of disposable income to potentially purchase tickets to an MMA event one day.
They won't need to make any sort of purchase to see SFL 3 because it will be streamed live on YouTube completely free of charge and the tickets themselves are also being given away. It is a positive move by the SFL but it does make it highly unlikely that the event will generate enough income to cover the cost of the venue, let alone the fighter's purses.
Considering that the show is completely free, both to attend and view live, the caliber of the card is surprisingly strong with heavyweights headlining once again.
IGI Arena, New Delhi
May 6th, 2012
Bobby Lashley vs. James Thompson
Trevor Prangley vs. Baga Agaev
Doug Marshall vs. Zelg Galešić
Lena Ovchynnikova vs. Joanne Calderwood
Gary Mangat vs. Liu Siong
As a former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar Bobby Lashley cannot come cheap and between them the purse demands of James Thompson, Trevor Prangley and Baga Agaev must also add up. Allowing people to view the event for free is presumably what is known in business circles as a 'loss leader,' spending money with no hope of immediate return on the investment in the hope that it will lead to long term profitability.
Dutt and Khundra both have deep pockets and the former is no stranger to adversity having served prison sentences for both drug dealing and possession of illegal firearms. However they probably didn't plan to lose quite as much money staking the SFL as they are at present and even paying Bollywood's brightest stars and international artists like Jennifer Lopez to perform pre event has not translated into decent ticket sales.
The SFL also plan to launch their own reality show and will be well aware that without the success of 'The Ultimate Fighter' the UFC would never have become a multi-billion dollar business. This would require significant investment as reality TV is extremely expensive to produce, even in India, and it will be interesting to see where the limit to the largesse of the SFL moneymen lies.
With a three month break between the third and fourth events the SFL has time to go away and assess what went wrong and formulate a new strategy, possibly one which involves downsizing the venues at least until MMA catches on in India.
The UFC took years to turn a profit and perhaps it will be a similar story for the SFL. Regardless of whether he Indian promotion does stand the test of time the good news for people in the New Delhi area is that they can go and see next month's show for absolutely nothing.