October 25, 2005
Ready for all fights, all the time?
By GORDON MACFARLANE - Winnipeg Sun

In today's burgeoning world of cable and satellite television, consumers can tune in to channels dedicated to almost every theme imaginable. From politics to porn to poker, the new on-demand universe seems determined to offer something for everyone.

That said, it may well have been inevitable someone would eventually come along with the idea for an all-fight network.

Martial arts movies have long been a staple of North American viewers, as has professional wrestling and of course boxing. Recently, live mixed martial arts competition has also become something of a sensation, even boasting its own reality television show to help spread the word.

Still, while the notion of an "All fights all the time" network may seem a timely and obvious idea, one doesn't just wish it so. In order that those interested might tune into a scrap morning, noon and night, somebody out there has to have done a lot of work.

Based in Toronto and called The Fight Network, this new Canadian venture is the brainchild of Mike Garrow and had its official launch Friday, Oct. 21. As is often the case with great Canadian ideas, the notion for an all-fighting network was first conceived over post-hockey beers between Garrow and his pals.

"None of us could understand why somebody hadn't done it yet," Garrow explained, "so we figured why not?"

With Garrow on point and friend Sandy Winick taking care of the financial details, they set out to see if it could be done. The further they looked the more excited they became and, as of Oct. 21, the first all fight network in North America will be on the air. Broadcasting an ambitious schedule of recent live events and the taped catalogues of various promotions, The Fight Network will augment its lineup with martial arts movies, documentaries and other related programming.

Though not yet available here in Manitoba, the network has received positive reviews in Ontario and the Maritimes. An integrated multimedia service combining television, radio and the internet, The Fight Network has been several years in the making and Garrow strongly believes his product will prove able to sell itself.

With the slogan "All Fights all the Time" being as much mission statement as catchphrase, The Fight Network will have a lot of air time to fill. Along with established internationally known brands like Showtime boxing and Pride Fighting Championships, The Fight Network also plans to work with various promoters across Canada to provide programming.

One such partnership is with AWE wrestling here in Winnipeg. According to Garrow, AWE will produce and provide episodes of their wrestling show to The Fight Network, which will add them to their programming loop. Such co-operative ventures will, eventually, make shows like AWE wrestling available to both their established fan base locally and nationwide to the curious.

Another local promotion, T.C.W. Extreme Entertainment, also welcomes the development of The Fight Network. Working in the relatively new field of mixed martial arts, T.C.W. matchmaker Krzysztof Soszynski sees the network as a way to both cultivate an audience and market his events. Busy preparing for their upcoming Ultimate Cage Wars show at the convention centre this Saturday, Oct. 22, Soszynski feels educating fans to the athleticism, discipline and sportsmanship of mixed martial arts can only help his sport grow locally and nationally.

In this its early days, The Fight Network is an intriguing notion with a legitimate chance to succeed if they are able to deliver a popular product and do so long enough to develop an audience. The network is hoping to cross-pollinate their existing fan base by getting loyal fans of one fighting style interested in other types. They are also, of course, hoping to expand beyond traditional parameters and bring combatant sports to a whole new audience.

Winnipeg specifically and Canada in general has long been known as "friendly" territory for pro wrestling promoters. Professional boxing, while hardly a runaway success, has also developed a strong core of supporters. When one further considers the growing support for MMA shows like Ultimate Cage Wars it would seem likely that The Fight Network may indeed be an idea whose time has come.

With any luck it will soon be an idea whose time has come here in Manitoba too.

Gordon MacFarlane is a Winnipeg Sun columnist, and this column originally appeared in the Monday, October 17, 2005 newspaper.


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