MMA organization teams up on rivals

Ordinarily, mixed martial arts is the ultimate individual event.

But the International Fight League has brought the team concept to the sport.

The organization will kick off its third season with its second visit to Las Vegas tonight at the Orleans Arena.

The season will be the first in which teams will represent the camp or training center where they are based instead of the past formula of naming teams such things as the Quad City Silverbacks and the San Jose Razorclaws.

“The new format works a lot better because all the guys come from the same gym and they actually work together every day. There’s more of a brotherhood to it,” said Shawn Tompkins, coach of Team Tompkins.

The three-man team comprises fighters from the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas. Tompkins, an MMA veteran, is a trainer at the facility.

Tompkins knows individualism still exists in the IFL but pointed out the benefits of buying into the team concept.

“Fighting is a selfish game. It comes down to you and that other person that wants to tear your head off,” Tompkins said. “In the IFL, if your team does well, you are going to advance and get more fights and more bonuses, so there is incentive to get behind your team.”

Josh Haynes, a member of Team Tompkins, knows in the end that it’s still every man for himself.

“I love my team and my gym,” he said. “But as soon as I step in there, I don’t care how team-oriented it’s supposed to be — it’s just me and that guy.

In addition to Haynes, the team features Santino Defranco and Lew Polley.

Team Tompkins will take on the team from Mario Sperry’s World Class Fight Center.

Ken Shamrock’s Lion’s Den team will take on Team Quest, coached by Matt Lindland.

In addition to teams, the IFL has a few minor differences from other promotions.

“It’s in a ring, and we have four-minute rounds,” said Bas Rutten, the IFL’s vice president of fight operations. “But the biggest difference is we took the elbows out because if you just cut someone with it, it’s kind of a cheap way to win.”

The organization still recognizes individual champions, and the card will feature three IFL title matches.

Heavyweight champion Roy Nelson will take on Fabiano Scherner, and Ryan Schultz will defend his lightweight crown against John Gunderson. Middleweight titleholder Matt Horwich will fight Ryan McGivern in the main event.

The card will start at 7:15 p.m. The live HDNet broadcast will begin at 8.

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