When it comes to mixed martial arts, AXS TV is proactive. Since it’s inception as the well-known HDNet, the thriving network has showcased a multitude of rising MMA promotions and continues to add more at will. In 2012, the regional MMA boom found its way into the homes of AXS/HDNet subscribers more than twice a month. And during the month of August, AXS treated fight fans to a different brand of quality live MMA every Friday night. Did I say proactive? I meant ambitious.

Over the past fifteen months, AXS has stretched its banner to include three new promotions in its recurring MMA lineup. In late 2011, United Kingdom’s BAMMA secured a deal with the burgeoning network. In the summer of 2012, AXS flew north and rounded up its second Canadian promotion, Score Fighting Series. And most recently, wunderkind promotion Resurrection Fighting Alliance—after only its third event—inherited a home on AXS by acquiring Titan FC. Rounding out the cast are the veterans, each having at least ten events in with AXS/HDNet: Legacy Fighting Championship, Maximum Fighting Championship and Xtreme Fighting Championships. The network has also been known to feature special events from promotions like Dream and Shooto Brazil.

This pattern of risk-taking leads me to believe AXS is already on the hunt for the next ‘Legacy’ to welcome into the fold. No question Invicta FC is deserving, but I think the women have something bigger in store for them. It’s not inconceivable that Invicta could be the one to fill the void left by Strikeforce. But that’s not to say AXS TV is anything to sneeze at. The self-described “largest independently owned and operated network” is an attractive place for any sports league to call home. With that, here are three promotional hopefuls that have scrapped their way to the top of the regional scene, edging closer to a spot on the AXS grid.

Championship Fighting Alliance

CFA has rolled out a nice mix of veteran-prospect match-ups since day one. Names like Valdir Araujo, Luis Palomino, Sean McCorkle, Gesias Cavalcante, Toby Imada and Luiz Firmino have all graced the CFA stage. In 2012, the promotion catapulted both Yoislandy Izquierdo and Abel Trujillo into the UFC and brought several other fighters a step closer to the big stage.

2013 already has CFA soaring to new heights. An event held two weeks ago featured four title fights, multiple Bellator vets and a packed house at the Bank United Center in Miami. An online pay-per-view was made available. In its tenth event, slated for next month, CFA will do what any vibrant, flourishing young business does—diversify.

Recognizing the emerging success and popularity of WMMA, CFA 10 has been outfitted with round one of a women’s featherweight tournament. It will mark the first event of its kind to take place in a North American promotion and is another smart move on CFA’s road to a wider audience.

The stars look favorable for this alliance as it claims the position of front-runner in the race for the next TV deal. Will AXS shake hands with these allies and strike up a treaty to bring a new brand of MMA to hungry fight fans? Stay tuned.

Showdown Fights

Showdown Fights places quality before quantity. The promotion held just four events in 2012, but those were four events that offered some of the best—and most relevant—MMA action to be found outside a major promotion.

Although the promotion has been known to sign a seasoned vet or two, Showdown’s underlying success is centered on breakout prospects like David Castillo, Kito Andrews, Jordan Clements and Jason South. It took only two events for Showdown to launch local prodigy Ramsey Nijem into the UFC, where he’s since gone 3-1 in the Octagon. Brother Adam Nijem will look to follow in Ramsey’s footsteps as he debuts on the upcoming Showdown card.

An event that put Showdown Fights on the radar, held last spring, was aptly titled “Uprising.” The event featured many of Showdown’s current stars and sparked a call from UFC President Dana White to a victorious Brock Jardine. This month’s event—Showdown’s tenth—takes a minor hit with the loss of UFC vet DaMarques Johnson. However, the card still has several solid match-ups to offer, including a clash between prospects Jordan Clements and Clay Collard.

2013 will be a pivotal year for Showdown as it begins to really spread its wings. If the show from Orem, Utah, can maintain the intensity and round up a couple more exciting prospects, it could soon receive an all-AXS pass into our living rooms. And if Showdown does get the call, expect the promotion’s AXS debut to include latest rising heavyweight sensation Jan Jorgensen.

Cage Fury Fighting Championships

Cage Fury is our third and final contender in the bid for a partnership with the ever-expanding AXS TV. The Atlantic City-based promotion has made solid strides since its debut in 2006 and has arguably surpassed arch rival Ring Of Combat. But it hasn’t come easy.

After putting together some nice shows for its home base in the early part of 2012, CFFC gathered the confidence to go where few regional promotions dare to go—on the road. Jabbing its way into untapped markets like Richmond, Va., and Dover, Del., CFFC showed strong intentions of making its presence felt in the world of MMA. As of last fall, Cage Fury had eighteen shows under its belt and the future looked bright.

However, the momentum would come to a sudden halt when, in late October, the promotion came up against a different kind of fury—one by the name of ‘Sandy.’ CFFC’s 19th event would have to be postponed multiple times in the aftermath of the perfect storm. Months passed and the promotion’s future became uncertain. Yet not only did CFFC pick up the pieces, it even launched a cohesive initiative to help other Sandy victims do the same. A true show of courage and class.

Saturday night, Cage Fury rose from the ashes and CFFC 19 finally came to pass. The show marks the first step in an offensive that may have CFFC making waves of its own in 2013. Cage Fury already has two sequels to number 19 lined up for the next two consecutive weekends. The successful completion of this triple-play would be a landmark achievement in the world of regional MMA; and the very act of scheduling such an audacious comeback is a huge statement to both the MMA world and the forces of nature that would have kept the promotion down. That which doesn’t kill us makes us furious.

After a fourth show in March, I expect Cage Fury to take a breather and then make another big push this summer on the return of top prospect Aljamain Sterling (currently out for surgery). Continued heart and determination could certainly see the East Coast promotion through to a fall debut on AXS. But there’s still work to be done. CFFC’s upward mobility will depend largely on its ability to replace prominent names like John Cholish and Dustin Jacoby, who have moved on to bigger stages. For now, it’s nice to see Cage Fury back in the saddle and pressing forward with such tenacity.

Given the volatile nature of regional MMA, the future holds no guarantees for our three contenders. One wrong turn and it could be “goodnight Irene” for any of them. Having said that, just what is the secret to landing a TV deal with the world’s largest independent network? My bet is on doing the work that’s in front of you. Sure, it’s important to have a goal to shoot for, but many promotions have fallen by the wayside simply by getting ahead of themselves.

It’s crucial that these aspiring promotions stay focused on their current events, in the same way that it’s crucial for a fighter not to look past any opponent. However, if last year is any indication, each of these rising promotions could be only one big event away from inking its access. Who will take it to the next level, and who will be forever lost in the pixels of a poorly produced online stream? It’s a question that’s best answered in the cage. And whether that cage is in Miami, Utah or bouncing around the northeast, AXS TV is sure to be watching.

About The Author

Robby Collins

Robby Collins considers himself a johnny-come-lately to the sport of MMA. He was introduced to it less than three years ago but has since delved into the sport at all levels. As an aspiring fiction writer, Robby adapted his skills to promote his latest passion and landed with The MMA Corner by way of personal initiative and auspicious timing. Robby has dabbled in karate and wrestling, and is currently learning to kickbox.