Promotion Showcase: Fight Exclusive Night (FEN)
An extended hiatus for all of MMA’s most prestigious promotions would have been an ideal time for some of the up and comers to break through and attract more eyes to their shows. Unfortunately, the relentless spread of the Coronavirus has put a halt to all sporting events — preventing some smaller promotions from getting the spotlight. But we’re going to talk about them anyway. Under the loop this week: Poland’s Fight Exclusive Night.
Better known locally as FEN, it is an organization that specializes in MMA and K-1 styles of combat. It was set up back in 2013 by Pawel Jozwiak, Rafal Sawicki, Kamil Birka, Bartosz Szuba and Lukasz Paluch and it has since become Poland’s lone second biggest promotion trailing only KSW. But in terms of quantity of events, FEN is still a baby. A work in progress.
Over a span of just under seven years, FEN have organized 29 events. With KSW hoarding all of the Polish spotlight, it was always going to be difficult for any other promotion to break through, but FEN continued to chip away. There was a clear opening in the market for them to step right into. There are a ton of fighters, mostly young and local, who are perhaps not quite good enough for the big bucks yet, but certainly with enough potential there to build around. FEN pounced on that.
Persistence and a clear plan landed FEN a deal with one of Poland’s leading television stations, Polsat, in 2014. Initially, the shows were often re-aired on some of Polsat’s sub-channels, but eventually, FEN landed on the big stage during prime time. People were beginning to take notice of what was going on there. As much as FEN’s financial capabilities were nowhere near KSW’s, what they were doing inside the cage and ring was significant for Poland’s fight scene.
Combat sports went on a wave of popularity in Poland after KSW nailed a few high profile signings (former StrongMan Mariusz Pudzianowski to name one) and threw some marquee events to get people talking — and FEN also benefited from that. More and more people became interested in fighting and FEN were able to accommodate that lower-level demand. Also, bare in mind, lower-level fighters don’t necessarily mean lower level entertainment. FEN were putting on some good cards and began to gain national traction.
On March 6, 2015, FEN 6 hosted the promotions inaugural title fight. The Bantamweight title bout featured Poland’s Tymoteusz Swiatek and Portugal’s Victor Marinho. The fight lived up to the billing. It was entertaining and it was a war. It was also significant for Poland to have a representative in that milestone event. It showed that there was talent out there to be looked at. Eventually, Marinho secured the victory via KO in the fifth round, but it was the perfect start for FEN’s championship journey and an enticing advertisement of their product.
Since that memorable bout, FEN has continued to make steps forward financially and in terms of overall organization. The next big step for the promotion, naturally, is to begin attracting bigger names. They were on the verge of landing Norman Parke at one point, but the negotiations fell through, leaving FEN without a widely known name on their roster. But in spite of that, they have been able to build a few good prospects of their own.
Michal Oleksiejczuk, to name one, is a fighter currently on the UFC’s Light-Heavyweight roster. He most recently suffered defeat at the hands of Jimmy Crute in February, but he has shown that it is possible to bounce high after featuring on a FEN card.
FEN are stable and quite established now. The promotion currently has five active champions. Two in MMA and three in K-1. And they are continuously looking to improve.
The promotion was keen to pounce on the lack of events caused by the Coronavirus on March 28. Plans were in place for the FEN 28 event to take place in a television studio, behind closed doors, and in a pay-per-view format for the first time in their history. Unfortunately for FEN, looking out for the well-being of fighters and staff became a strict priority and the event had to be canceled, but PPV is something that the promotion is looking to implement in the near future.
The level of MMA and K-1 in Poland is not of the highest quality outside of the KSW. Therefore, there is room for FEN to continue to rise and prosper. Securing a few marquee free agents would be an ideal scenario for the promotion in the foreseeable future in order to propel them to the next level and bring even more eyes to their events.
But as it stands, their popularity is rising. FEN have impressed by showing a formula for developing fighters and giving local talent a chance — and so long as they continue to stick with those principles and keep working within their niche — they may very well soon become better known on the European and perhaps even global stage.
.@KamilGniadekMMA tym duszeniem pokonał swojego rywala i zgarnął bonus za najlepsze poddanie gali #FEN27 😎🔥 Było na co popatrzeć w sobotę!@BorekMati @Jurasmma @TomekHajto7 @m_turski @polsatsport @MMARocksPL @InTheCagePL @myMMApl @MMA_PL @MMAnewspl pic.twitter.com/QDhX1vJUaR
— FEN MMA (@FENmma) January 21, 2020
Sports journalist based in CA, USA.