After a brief hiatus, Legacy Fighting Alliance made a statement in its return event, LFA 78, which took place on November 15 from Belton, Texas.
In a main event that UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich called one of the greatest technical fights he had ever witnessed, former LFA bantamweight title challenger Adrian Yanez was able to get a split decision over rising prospect Kyle Estrada. The co-main event saw Jose Johnson deliver a devasting elbow to Rafael Costa that sent the Brazilian face down to the canvas, making it Johnson’s fifth consecutive victory by way of first-round finish. During an exclusive interview with The Body Lock, LFA CEO Ed Soares gave his thoughts on the promotion’s UFC Fight Pass debut.
“Overall, the event went off great,” Soares said. “There’s always little things I would like to improve one way or the other, but at the end of the day, it was a great event. The first three fights started off a little bit slow, but you know that’s the way the MMA goes. The first three fights took an hour and half, and the next three fights took 30 minutes.”
The move to the over-the-top streaming service comes after a tumultuous split with LFA’s former broadcast partner AXS TV. Anthem Sports and Entertainment purchased a majority stake in the cable channel back in early September and shortly thereafter canceled its deal with the regional MMA promotion. As a result, LFA was forced to cancel it’s original LFA 78 and LFA 79 cards that were scheduled to take place in early October, with fighters left wondering if and when they would be rebooked. According to LFA’s CEO, the promotion was blindsided by the decision.
“Not at all,” Soares stated when asked if LFA was given any heads up about the broadcast deal with AXS TV coming to an end, “They did us dirty, but it is what it is.”
Changes Under the UFC Fight Pass Deal
Despite the abrupt dissolution of the long-standing partnership, Soares was able to leverage his relationship with the UFC to secure a new broadcast deal relatively quickly, something he’s thankful for given the circumstances. He also believes that working with UFC Fight Pass is a better collaboration than AXS TV, especially given the amount of LFA fighters that eventually end up in the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization.
“I’ve had a long, great relationship with the UFC… I feel very fortunate to have the rug pulled from underneath our feet, ya know, and 45 days later for us to have a deal in place with the UFC,” Soares said. “It’s where we should be, it makes sense. The synergy of what we do and how much talent we produce for them, it just makes sense for us to be underneath that umbrella.”
The new deal between LFA and UFC Fight Pass will run through the next two years and will reduce the number of events for the promotion down from roughly 30 annually to 20 in 2020 and 24 in 2021. Soares believes this will be to the promotion’s benefit, however, allowing for LFA to put on more stacked cards rather than stretching fighters and resources across so many events.
“Really, what happens is sometimes when you’re trying to put on 30 high-quality events, and with the resources that we have, and the talent pool… we have a lot of adversities that we have to overcome, depending on where we are, where we’re going, what we’re doing,” Soares said.
“So now with 20 shows, we’ll really be able to fine-tune the cards and really put the best bouts possible [on]. Instead of spreading them out over 30, we’re gonna put on all the same amount of great fights, it’s just gonna be over 20.”
The lightened event load is a welcome reprieve for LFA given some of the changes they’ve undergone in the past month and a half. Whereas AXS TV used to run production for the company’s events, the promotion is now required to produce the cards themselves per the UFC Fight Pass deal. The Houston-based organization typically runs on a small crew, presenting new challenges for Soares and staff as they adjust to their new partnership.
“Well, I think there’s a lot of changes that people don’t know… Before AXS TV would run the production, we run the production now with the UFC, so there’s a lot more moving parts,” Soares said. “I’m just grateful for the team that I have… Our team pound-for-pound is the best team in the business, I mean the amount of work that we’re able to do with the amount of people we have is unheard of. Most companies would need double or triple the amount of people to do what we do, and we do it with a very skeleton crew.”
What’s next for LFA 78’s standout fighters
Even with the additional workload, LFA 78 went on without a hitch and produced arguably the best MMA card over the weekend. Given Yanez and Johnson’s success in the cage and the current vacancy of an LFA 135-pound champion, it’s possible that the two may face off for the strap sooner rather than later. While Soares wouldn’t commit to anything at the moment, he admitted that both had phenomenal performances and are definitely in contention for the promotion’s bantamweight title.
“Obviously both those guys put on great performances, and they’re definitely in the mix. We’ll just have to talk it over Mark [Bieri] and the team and see what’s next… Definitely some contenders came out on top today, and even Kyle Estrada with that loss, that was nothing to hold his head down about. That was a great fight.”
Exactly when Yanez and Johnson’s next bouts will be is anybody’s guess, but they won’t take place in 2019. LFA 79 on November 22 will be the promotion’s last card for the year before the company picks things back up in 2020. As to where and when LFA will start the new decade, Soares doesn’t know the location but has a target date in mind.
“It’s gonna be mid-January… We’re shooting for January 17.”