2017’s biggest independent success story: LFA one year since LFC/RFA merger

LFA’s Sven Bean and Ed Soares

January 13th marks the one-year anniversary of Legacy Fighting Alliance’s first live event and what a year it has been.  30 LFA shows were broadcast on AXS TV so far with three more already confirmed for January while four champions already moved on to the UFC and a fifth signed with Bellator.  This success isn’t all that surprising considering LFA is not really a start-up but is a merger of two previously successful promotions, what is surprising is AXS TV’s other promotion CES MMA has been underperforming by contrast.

Roberto Sanchez

It was in September 2016 that Mick Maynard was announced to be the UFC’s next vice president of talent relations (basically matchmaker) replacing in title if not in specific duties Joe Silva to work alongside Sean Shelby.  At the time Maynard was the head of Legacy Fighting Championships which had been broadcast on AXS since July 2011 while Resurrection Fighting Alliance which was broadcast on AXS TV since November 2012 was headed by Ed Soares.  The two promotions had combined for a live event once before in May 2016 known as AXS TV Fights which consisted of the top fighters from each promotion squaring off.  With Maynard off to the UFC it made perfect sense LFC and RFA merged to form LFA with Soares in charge but it took three months for the first LFA event.

Andrea Lee

A press release from LFA in the summer of 2017 put their previous success building fighters in perspective.  At that time 19 fighters from LFC, RFA, and LFA competed in the UFC in the first half of 2017 alone while the first three episodes of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series featured 17 of 30 fighters or 56.6% of the competitors coming from the organizations.  Also at that time 19 fighters ranked by the UFC had experience in the three promotions.  Ring of Combat may have a higher total with over 100 fighters moving on to the UFC including three champions but in terms of rankings LFC/RFA/LFA had the lead.

Eryk Anders

Looking at LFA itself the amount of fighters who have already moved on to the UFC is respectable.  The men’s and women’s flyweight champions Andrea Lee and Roberto Sanchez joined middleweight champions Eryk Anders and Markus Perez in the Octagon role call while original bantamweight champion Leandro Higo signed to Bellator.  Meanwhile Sean O’Malley, Geoff Neal, and Julian Marquez all took fights in DWTNCS which resulted in UFC contracts.  Note Kevin Aguilar defended the featherweight title but with no word on his status the title is being fought for between Bobby Moffett and Thanh Le on January 19th so is apparently vacated.

Leandro Higo on left

That leaves only four current LFA champions:

  • HW: Jeff Hughes
  • WW: James Nakashima
  • LW: Robert Watley
  • BW: Ricky Simon

Jeff Hughes took the heavyweight title from Richard Odoms in November, James Nakashima took the title from Derrick Krantz in September, Robert Watley defeated Thiago Moises for the lightweight title in July and defended it against Daryl Wilson in November, and Ricky Simon defeated Chico Camus for the vacated bantamweight title in December.

By cont

James Nakashima

rast AXS TV’s CES MMA held only seven events in 2016 with most of their cards based around Matt Bessette and Greg Rebello.  Featherweight champion Bessette defended the belt twice then got a chance in DWTNCS only to take a “no contest” against Kurt Holobaugh.  Rebello also this year fought twice in CES then went on to DWTNCS only to lose to Azunna Anyanwu then return to CES.  CES’ welterweight champion Chris Curtis defended the belt in March then took a step backward to fight twice in regional promotions Premier MMA and Fight Night Medicine Hat.  Given how much CES MMA seems to be treading water it was little surprise the big news from CES MMA 46 was John Gotti III, grandson of infamous crime boss John J. Gotti, made his professional MMA debut.

Thanh Le

So far it looks like 2018 will be as busy for LFA and likely as successful for the fighters.  January 12th sees LFA head to Costa Mesa, CA for LFA 30 while the 19th is LFA 31 in Phoenix then the 26th is a return to Lake Charles for LFA 32.  So far the only title fight is the aforementioned featherweight class at LFA 32.