Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The NYFE Experience: How One Promotion's Online Presence Is Rising Above


A funny thing happened when I went to the New York Fight Exchange's website to check out videos of their last show. There were all the usual bells and whistles, such as links to social media accounts, a background soundtrack, and video players offering up highlight reels. But mixed in there was something else, something special. When I went to the NYFE's website, I saw the future.

Back in the late '90s, when regional MMA was in its infancy, local fight shows advertised by word of mouth, with the rare one creating a hard-to-find page on AOL crafted with all the expertise and intricacy of a Paleolithic cave drawing. The Internet was something very different then, and much how the sport as evolved, so too has its digital footprint. Nowadays, everyone has etched out their own spot on Facebook, with some venturing into the realm of Twitter or Instagram, and others maintaining a web presence with a run-of-the-mill template site that could just as easily be advertising the menu of a tiny French bistro in Greenwich Village than cage fights.

And yet, just as how the UFC sets the business practices and standards that trickle down to the minor league world, so too has their subscription service Fight Pass impacted the regional scene. More and more organizations are utilizing online broadcast services like GoFightLive or UStream to get their brands into the homes of viewers, while others are making sure YouTube videos of their events are up as soon as humanly possible after the cages are taken down and packed onto the truck.

Then there's the NYFE site, which seems to be the closest approximation to the UFC's Fight Pass yet.

Although the site layout is new and only the most recent of the NYFE's five events is on it, the readability is a breath of fresh air. First, there's the fight card...

...And then there are videos of the fights, broken down into easily digestible chunks.

It may seem like such a small thing to have an event's fight videos laid out this way, but in the realm of regional MMA, this is akin to going from a MS-DOS user-interface to Windows. For those keen on easily finding fight footage - whether they be fighters scouting opponents or just fans catching up - it's a dream come true.

"Our platform is unique," says Mike Washington, who, alongside Tom Sconzo, is the driving force behind NYFE. "We have looked at so many promotions' websites and it all looked so cookie-cutter, which inspired us to think as we have always done, outside the box. Our website interacts with our fighters and fans. It engages them as well as entertains them."

According to Washington, there's also an element of giving the NYFE fighter more bang for their proverbial buck. "We want them to leave with getting as much as possible from the experience," he says. "As our fighters advance in their careers and eventually pursue their dreams as pro fighters, it is crucial they build their "fighter portfolio" with quality videos, images, highlight reels, etc." And what better way to do that than arrange it in an organized fashion online?

Sadly, the four NYFE installments that took place before their website was put together won't be added to their library. Says Washington: "There are no plans of re-releasing them due to previous agreements we had in place with our production team."

Since the UFC's Fight Pass has an extensive selection of fights from other organizations, will NYFE's site do something similar with other New York-based organizations? "There is no plan to include any other promotions video library," Washington says. "However, if in the future if we co-promote an event, or if we acquire another promotion, then it would be a possibility."

Just a little over a decade ago, the vast majority of MMA events that took place throughout the world were available only to those who'd been fortunate enough to be sitting in the audience for them. But the evolution of the Internet and technology itself has turned phones into both cameras and TVs, so recording, uploading and watching video can be done almost anywhere. This has opened up a whole new world of MMA content for the digital consumer - a world that NYFE's website layout ventures forth into boldly.

Hopefully, for the sake of getting product and brand out there via the best means possible, other organizations will follow suit.

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