22 Facts About the International Fight League (IFL)

By: Albert Miller – I don’t think I’ve made it a secret: I loved the IFL and I still miss it very much to this day. The whole “team” concept got lost on a lot of people, but MMA is very much a team sport, just like wrestling is an individual competition on a team platform; collegiate boxing, collegiate fencing, even collegiate debate teams follow the same format.

The real heart breaking aspect of the IFL’s ultimate demise was that it had so much potential. Maybe the IFL was before its time or maybe because we as fans just didn’t get it, but there could have been so much more than what we got! Just imagine, packing into the Consol Energy center to see the Pittsburgh IFL team take on the Baltimore IFL team; it would have been tremendous!

To honor the memory of the fallen MMA promotion, we’re counting down twenty-two facts about the International Fight League!

The IFL was founded by Gareb Shamus (founder of Wizard Magazine) and Kurt Otto (a real estate developer)
The IFL had a TV deal before anyone had actually seen what the IFL product was going to look like. All that anyone had to go on was a logo that looked nothing like the finished logo.
The IFL’s inaugural season started with four teams: The Quad City Silverbacks, the Los Angeles Anacondas, the New York Pitbulls, and the Seattle Tiger Sharks
When the Sabres were announced as an expansion team, combat sports legend Antonio Inoki was announced as a special ambassador for the Tokyo Sabres
The coach of the Tokyo Sabres was Ken Yasuda, who was a bodybuilder and not a martial artist at all.
The IFL had a promotional partnership with the producers of the movie “Never Back Down,” even featuring actor Sean Ferris on one of their shows and logos for IFL teams were included in the movie
The Los Angeles Anacondas was the only team to have a head coach change; “El Guapo” Bas Rutten stepped down as coach and gave Shawn Tompkins the reigns to the team
The first round of expansion teams included the Nevada Lions, The San Jose Razorclaws, the Southern California Condors, the Portland Wolfpack, the Tucson Scorpions, the Chicago Red Bears, and the Toronto Dragons
The Razorclaws were coached by “The Legend” Frank Shamrock, and the Nevada Lions were coached by “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock. The teams fought, the coaches did not.
Many feel that the beginning of the end for the IFL began when they abandoned the traditional team format for “camp” format. Instead of the Portland Wolfpack, you’d have Team Quest; instead of The Anacondas, you’d have Team Thompkins, and so on.
Former IFL Heavyweight Champion Roy “Big Country” Nelson had to compete on the Ultimate Fighter in order to get into the UFC.
At one point, the IFL was a publicly traded company with the stock code IFLI.
The IFL was sued by the UFC; the suit claimed that the IFL had obtained proprietary information by hiring former UFC executives and that the IFL was trying to buy out UFC talent. The IFL responded with a lawsuit that stated that the UFC was trying to leverage pressure on potential partners with the IFL.
The IFL had plans of abandoning their traditional ring for a six sided ring that was called “the Hex.” The IFL would cease operations before the Hex could ever make its debut.
Seattle Tiger Shark Brad Blackburn tried to taunt Los Angeles Anaconda Jay Hieron with a picture of an Anaconda being eaten by a larger predator on MySpace. Hieron claims that he didn’t have a MySpace profile and has no idea who Blackburn sent that picture to.
The Southern California Condors had the only female coach on staff: Debi “Whiplash” Purcell.
The IFL crowned their inaugural champions by having them compete in a Grand Prix that spanned two events.
The first IFL champions were Roy “Big Country” Nelson, “The Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko, Dan Miller, Jay Hieron, Ryan “The Lion” Shultz, and Waggney Fabiano.
The IFL had actually planned to have a draft, where talent could vie to be on one of the IFL teams. The draft never came to fruition.
There were only two teams to ever win IFL team championships: The Quad City Silverbacks and the New York Pitbulls.
The IFL had a penchant for having big named coaches to train the talent. The team coaches were: Pat Miletich (Quad City Silverbacks), Renzo Gracie (The New York Pitbulls), Maurice Smith (Seattle Tiger Sharks), Bas Rutten (Los Angeles Anacondas), Don “The Predator” Frye (Tucson Scorpions), Carlos Newton (Toronto Dragons), Frank Shamrock (San Jose Razorclaws), Mario Sperry (Southern California Condors), Igor “Houdini” Zinoviev (Chicago Red Bears), Matt “The Law” Lindland (Portland Wolfpack), “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (Nevada Lions), Ken Yasuda (Tokyo Sabres).
The IFL’s last day of operation was January 31, 2008

To quote a good friend of mine, you can’t recapture the magic of the first kiss. Even if someone new came along and tried to make the IFL happen, I think we’d all be disappointed. On the other side of that coin, I think the IFL concept with amateur rules would be perfect for collegiate MMA, so let’s keep that on the burner.

Until next time: Fights, Cameron, Action!