The International Fight League is a mixed martial arts promotion billed as the world's first MMA league. Instead of the established norm for MMA events, where matchups are strictly one-on-one affairs, each IFL card is a showdown between two teams of five fighters, each fighter fighting one match against another on the opposing team. The IFL is televised in the United States on Fox Sports Net.
The IFL was founded in January 7, 2006 by real estate developer Kurt Otto and Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus, two well-financed devotees of mixed martial arts who were inspired by the Mark Kerr documentary The Smashing Machine to elevate the livelihoods of mixed martial arts fighters, many of them living meagerly, training without steady incomes and only earning small fight purses when they do fight. With the IFL, they intend to create a system not only showcasing mixed martial arts action but also to provide a business plan that will allow fighters to also share more of the profits of the sport. In a marked contrast with the rest of the industry, instead of paying fighters only purses after fights, they are given a salary and health benefits to train and fight. The team concept is also conducive for television, where episodes can be regularly produced with a continuing storyline.
It has been widely speculated the IFL, with the deep pockets of its founders, television deal and innovative business plan, may become a major circuit for MMA in North America, directly competing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Already, the UFC and IFL have a hostile relationship, as the UFC have accused the IFL of and sued them for illegally using proprietary information obtained by hiring executives from the UFC organization. The IFL shot back with their own suit claiming the UFC was threatening potential partners to not work with the IFL, including Fox Sports Net (a deal with Fox Sports was later signed before resolution of the suit).
The inaugural event was held on April 29, 2006 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, featuring Silverbacks vs Anacondas and Tiger Sharks vs Pitbulls, with a superfight between Jens Pulver and Cole Escovedo.
The IFL currently consists of eight teams, all owned by the league, and each coached by a veteran MMA fighter. Currently, city names do not refer the 'home arena' of each team, but rather the city in which they train out of. The current teams for this current season are as follows:
|International Fight League
|Los Angeles Anacondas
|New York Pitbulls
|San Jose Razorclaws
||Ken Yasuda *
|Quad City Silverbacks
|Seattle Tiger Sharks
|Southern California Piranhas
- Antonio Inoki will serve in an 'Ambassador' role with the Tokyo Sabres.
- Future teams announced at the IFL event at the MARK of the Quad Cities will be coached by Don Frye (Scorpions) and Marco Ruas (Piranhas) and based in Arizona and Southern California respectively.
The IFL follows the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts established by the New Jersey Athletic Board, with several exceptions.
- Matches consist of three rounds of four minutes instead of the usual five,
- Elbows are not allowed to the face or head,
- If the match is initially scored a draw after three rounds, there will be a three-minute sudden victory round to decide a winner.
In contrast with most mixed martial arts promotions in the United States, the IFL stages their fights in a five-roped ring similar to the one used in PRIDE.
The IFL currently uses five weight classes:
- Lightweight: (146–155 lb.)
- Welterweight: (157–170 lb)
- Middleweight: (171–185 lb)
- Light Heavyweight: (186–205 lb)
- Heavyweight: (207–265 lb)
In addition, there are four other weight classes specified in the Unified Rules which the IFL does not use: Flyweight (125 lb. and below), Bantamweight (126–135 lb.), Featherweight (136–145 lb.), and Super Heavyweight (266 lb. and above).
Each team consists of five fighters, one from each weight class, plus one alternate of any weight class.