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WSOF President Ray Sefo dishes on 'weird' conflict of interest for Bellator MMA's Chael Sonnen

World Series of Fighting

World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 33: "Gaethje vs. Dugulubgov" goes down at Kansas City Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., in little more than two weeks (Fri., Oct. 7, 2016).  It's a big card for the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, featuring two title defenses for both Justin Gaethje and David Branch at Lightweight and Light Heavyweight, respectively.

Accordingly, what better time then than to catch up with WSOF President, Ray Sefo? Sefo, an accomplished combat sports veteran in his own right with more than a half-dozen championships to his name, "Sugar" now spends his days putting together deals for exciting fights inside the Decagon.

We've talked to Sefo several times over the years, but something big just happened that affects both WSOF and Bellator MMA ... and it's fairly unprecedented in combat sports. Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star Chael Sonnen -- who currently serves as WSOF announcer and interviewer -- recently decided to put the four ounce gloves back on and fight under the Bellator MMA banner.

Even though Sonnen said the move didn't affect his contract as a WSOF announcer, it was time to hear from WSOF's President about Sonnen's status and his thoughts on "American Gangster" returning to the cage.

"It's something that Chael, myself and Carlos Silva need to sit down and finalize. Although we knew Chael wanted to fight -- and we knew that was in the works -- it was also a little bit of a surprise that it was announced he had signed with Bellator. We've got to sit down and really be clear on where that situation is at."

The careful choice of words raised more questions than answers. Can Sonnen be both a WSOF announcer and an active Bellator fighter at the same time? I asked Sefo to be as concrete about it as possible.

"That's the thing -- I can't say yay or nay to that because that's something that both Carlos and I and Chael need to sit down and be very clear how that would work. Personally, it's kind of weird to me that he would be an announcer for one league and then fight for another ... don't you think?"

Clearly, there are some things to iron out with Sonnen in the near future. In the meantime, Sefo offered his thoughts on the upcoming main event between Gaethje and Dugulubgov.

"Ozzy has obviously proven himself to be the No. 1 contender, and what can I say about Justin Gaethje? I mean the guy is just a complete beast. He's one of the best Lightweights out there. Just his style itself, he's such a fan favorite and such a promoter favorite because his style of fighting everybody wants to watch. That guy doesn't understand warming up into a fight. The bell rings and that guy just goes right to the fifth gear."

Sefo also acknowledged that Gaethje often takes chances in fights more conservative fighters would not.

"You could say (he's) reckless, but the guy is an All-American wrestler and said it himself -- he likes to knock people out and he likes to put people to sleep. It's always fun to watch that kind of fighter because you know as a fan you're going to expect a great fight."

Even though Gaethje is "The Highlight" reel of WSOF, the showdown between David Branch and Vinny Magalhaes is not a fight to sleep on, either, especially with Branch putting his Light Heavyweight title on the line. Sefo likes Magalhaes' chances.

"One thing about Vinny -- not many guys can actually roll with him, be on the ground with him that long. Perfect example was Matt Hamill. I'm not sure if Matt Hamill had ever been submitted, but that was definitely fast work for Vinny. Just as soon as he hit the ground he went for that leg lock and before you know it (Hamill) tapped."

Sefo is correct -- that was Hamill's first and so far only loss via submission. Branch is no slouch on the ground, though, showing off those skills in previous title fights.

"David is a very known grappler, he's a black belt in jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie, he has great striking. In terms of the champion staying champion, I think he's got to keep the fight standing. That being said, I've seen Vinny in the gym and the guy's looking really sharp and looking like a beast. It's a fight that I think right now I would say (is) 50/50."

Indeed, Sefo acknowledges that both men have improved since their UFC days.

"It's no secret that UFC is the monster in the space, so I think some guys they overthink certain things in that space. When they're in the No. 2 or No. 3 fight league in the world, I think it allows them to relax a little bit more and then they hone in more into their talent and they come out and perform to the best of their abilities. When you're on NBC Sports or NBC (though) it doesn't get any bigger, you know what I mean?"

One thing is certain -- if Branch is able to get out of WSOF 33 injury-free, the native New Yorker (Boogie Down Bronx) would like to be on the New Year's Eve "mega card" at Madison Square Garden.

"What better way of finishing off the year of 2016 and beginning 2017 other than Madison Square Garden? Every fighter on our cards is calling me wanting to be on that card. That is very true. We've had that conversation with (Branch) already."

Sefo doesn't mind the pressure from the fighters at all. He's a man who truly loves his work.

"If I was to go back when I was 10 years old, I couldn't have thought of anything better to do than what I'm doing right now. I love what I do, I love working with the fighters, I love giving fighters opportunities. Life is great -- no complaints whatsoever."

The complete audio of our interview is below and complete fight coverage is HERE on


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