All the fans know the UFC and all the press report on that promotion but where do their fighters come from? What else is going on now? Perhaps most importantly what shows should fans watch to see tomorrow’s stars develop? The Declaration of Independents is a monthly snapshot of what is going on in “independent” scene from major events on Spike TV to smaller non-UFC events webcast at UFC Fight Pass.
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series is still the big news. Fourteen fighters earned contracts over the eight episodes of Season 1 while Mike Santiago and Zu Anyanwu who both didn’t get contracts on the series have already made (and lost) their UFC debuts. The season started out seeming like the long-sought “independent Olympics” with champions from Titan FC, CES MMA, CFFC, ROC, and more clashing but by the end of the season was down to standouts from Looking for a Fight, White’s previous series. No word is currently available on the second season but expect more of the standouts to be called up to the UFC in the fall, especially as replacements for injured fighters.
Here is a list of the top confirmed independent MMA events on TV and the internet for the next six weeks:
- September 22nd LFA 23 (AXS TV)
- September 23rd Bellator 183 (Spike)
- September M-1 Challenge 83 (webcast)
- October 6th Bellator 184 (Spike TV)
- October 13th LFA 24 (AXS TV)
- October 20th Bellator 185 (Spike TV)
- October 20th LFA 25 (AXS TV)
- October 27th CES MMA 46 (AXS TV)
- October 27th M-1 Challenge (webcast)
Bellator MMA (Bellator) – The second-largest promotion has ten more events scheduled for this year if one includes the non-broadcast “race nights” such as the Alabama 500 coming up on October 15th. Up first is a split kickboxing and MMA Bellator 172 headlined by former UFC champion Benson Henderson taking on Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. The next title fight is at Bellator 184 where Eduardo Dantas defends the bantamweight belt against Darrion Caldwell.
Combate Americas – The Hispanic-oriented promotion started off the year with an average of one show a month but skipped August, when they returned last weekend Jose Estrada defeated Izic Fernandez. The next event has been announced as a one-night $100,000 grand prize bantamweight tournament in Mexico but the card so far has not been announced.
Classic Entertainment and Sports MMA (CES MMA) – August 11th was the latest CES MMA event, a show where Juliano Coutinho won the heavyweight title by defeating Ashley Gooch. AXS TV’s “other MMA show” return October 27th, at this time no fight card is available.
Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) – Derrick Krantz and Andrea Lee are set to defend the welterweight and women’s flyweight titles respectively this weekend at LFA 23. After that LFA travels to Arizona on October 13th for Mackenzie Dern’s debut at flyweight.
Professional Fighters League – At the second PFL event on July 29th Andre Harrison remained undefeated by picking up a unanimous decision over Steven Rodriguez. The inheritors of WSOF return on November 2nd when Blagoi Ivanov faces Caio Alencar then the “regular” season starts in January.
UFC Fight Pass
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship (CWFC) – The CWFC bantamweight title was defended by Nathaniel Wood on September 16th with a defeat of Josh Reed. At this time there is no word on the next event for the UK’s biggest promotion.
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (DWTNCS) – The first season of the most intriguing MMA series is complete, no information is available on the second. See above for more details.
Invicta FC – Yana Kunitskaya won the bantamweight title of the all-women’s promotion in August with a defeat of Raquel Pa’luhi. At this time there is no information available on the next event.
Titan FC (TFC) – The August 18th TFC 45 show was headlined by Valdir Araujo defeating Adriano Capitulino but it was Gustavo Balart in the co-main event defeating Jorge Calvo Martin that may turn out to be the bigger news. With that win Balart earned the #1 contender slot to the flyweight title current held by Jose Torres. Torres stated on the webcast he is looking forward to returning on the September 29th event but now that date appears to have fallen through, no event is currently scheduled.
Other webcast shows
M-1 Challenge – Russia’s leading promotion returns September 23rd when Mikhail Ragozin faces Bellator vet Brandon Halsey. That is by no means all M-1 Global have in store as nine more events fill out the fall schedule including a “20 years of MMA” event on October 27th.
ONE Championship – An atrocious ref blunder handed victory to Kairat Akhmetov over Geje Eustaquio on September 16th. Next up Aung La Nsang defends the middleweight title against Alain Ngalani on November 3rd.
Ring of Combat (ROC) – Three national and two regional titles were on the line September 15th with the big news actually coming with the regional lightweight title won by Stephen Regman. At this time no information is available on the next event for the Atlantic City legends.
Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin) –The bantamweight grand prix opening round kicked off July 30th with half the tournament fighters competing, the other half of the tournament’s opening round takes place October 15th while the semifinals happen December 29th and the finals December 31st. So far Takafumi Otsuka and Khalid Taha advanced in July while in October Erson Yamamoto takes on Manel Kape while Shintaro Ishiwatari fights Akhmed Musakaev. Notably the 15th also holds a grappling event between Kazushi Sakuraba and Dan Henderson.