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October 30, 2007

UFC responds to Randy Couture

UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC President Dana White, and UFC CFO John Mulkey held a press conference today to respond to Randy Couture's statements about pay that were made last Thursday. White emphasized that much of what Couture said about his pay last week was false, and UFC provided proof in the way of forms detailing financial transactions between the promotion and Couture.

Here were the highlights of the press conference:

- Couture did indeed receive a signing bonus with his new contract (contrary to his claim).  The bonus totaled $500,000 -- half of it was paid upon signing the contract and the other half was paid after his UFC 68 fight against Tim Sylvia.

- Couture was also paid a salary of $200,000 per year as a UFC employee in 2006 and 2007 as well as $56,000 per year for his commentating gigs for the promotion.

- At UFC 68, Couture's purse was $250,000. His pay-per-view bonus was $936,000.

- At UFC 74, Couture's purse was $250,000. His pay-per-view bonus is calculated as $787,000. And he received a $35,000 bonus for fight of the night.

- Mulkey estimated that Couture's pay this year is just under $3 million to date.

- White said that none of UFC's payments to its fighters are "off the books" as Couture had implied.

- White would not discuss Couture's contract and would not say whether there are two fights left or if the contract expires in nine months.

- White considers Couture to still be the UFC heavyweight champ and said that he will offer Couture a title defense fight this week to be fought early 2008. He said that fight will likely be against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. If Couture turns down the fight, he will be considered retired and the No. 1 and No. 2 contenders will fight for the title.

- White also said he doesn't consider Fedor Emelianenko to be the No. 1 fighter in the world and only wanted to sign him to a UFC contract to satisfy Couture's desire to fight him.

- White and Fertitta don't consider this a "he said, she said" scenario and White said this will be the last time he will publicly discuss the Couture matter.

- White also revealed that UFC has 200 fighters under contract as well as 100 staff employees at the company.

Posted by at 5:14 PM | | Comments (3)
        

October 29, 2007

ShoXC recap

My recap of Friday night's event is up over at SI.com. Click here to read my take on the fights: submission of the night, fight of the night, fighter of the night, and more goodies including who Kimbo Slice's first EliteXC opponent will be.

And, for those of you wondering, I will be continuing to blog for The Sun so continue to look for original content on this blog as well.

Posted by at 9:14 PM | | Comments (0)
        

October 25, 2007

Thoughts on ShoXC's Elite Challenger Series Card

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am now covering MMA for Sports Illustrated (SI.com) as well as continuing to blog for BaltimoreSun.com. My first article for SI.com is a breakdown of ShoXC's third card, which takes place Friday night at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif.

The undercard, consisting of four fights, will be streamed live on ProElite.com starting at 9:30 PM EST.  The main card, featuring five fights, will be shown on Showtime at 11 PM EST.

Posted by at 7:51 PM | | Comments (0)
        

October 24, 2007

TUF 6 episode 6 recap

Not looking for a minute-by-minute account of each episode? Just want the basic facts so that you're all caught up for the next week? Well, you've come to the right place. Let's go straight to my quickcap of episode six of The Ultimate Fighter 6.

The Dan Barrera Show: Early on in the show we find out that Dan Barrera (Team Hughes) will be fighting Ben Saunders (Team Serra) for the sixth fight of the season.  And from that point on we are treated to the non-stop energizer bunny antics of the very entertaining Barrera. 

This guy wakes up at 4:15 every morning without aid of an alarm clock, runs 4-5 miles a day, exercises some more in the pool, paints, and probably shadow boxes in his sleep.  He is so wired and so amped that Coach Matt Hughes has to teach him a lesson in practice to get him to take it easy on his teammates.

Interestingly enough, Barrera complements this high-octane lifestyle with an ability to keep life in perspective.  First, he suffers tissue damage to his right hand with a possible infection the day before his fight. Then, he finds out that his wife is apparently suffering from some sort of illness. Neither appears to faze Barrera -- at least on the outside.

In a way, Barrera's reaction to life's less than ideal moments (including losing his firefighter job back home for joining the TUF cast) is refreshing, especially when compared to the way Joe Scarola faced up to his own challenges on the show.

And for the record, Barrera also has two horses and a dog back home.

Ben Saunders: On any other episode, Saunders probably would have gotten plenty of face time. He appears to be a very quirky individual and flashes a Joker-like smile at various points throughout the show. It takes the even bigger personality of Barrera to push Saunders into a bit role in this episode. 

The fight: The battle between Barrera and Saunders has to be one of the best fights in TUF history.  It is an all out stand-up war.  Barrera tags Saunders early in the first round and knocks him down.  However, Saunders is able to recover and pick at Barrera for the remainder of the round.  Both fighters are bleeding quite a bit by the end of the first round.

In the second round, Saunders absolutely dominates with knees, kicks, and punches. Barrera does very little in this round.  It's a testament to Barrera's will power that he doesn't go down after the heavy damage that is exacted on him. Saunders gets the majority decision.

The result is controversial in the minds of White, Hughes, and Serra.  All three feel the fight should have been a draw after two rounds and should have gone to a third sudden-victory round. Either way, both fighters are given $5,000 bonuses for their performances.

Interestingly enough, I think the correct fighter won here.  While Barrera scored the knockdown in the first round, I think Saunders landed enough quality strikes in that round to make it very close.  You all know what I think about the 10-point must system.  We can blame the judges all we want, but they are handicapped by having to score MMA fights with a system that is not adequate.

John Philapavage of mmaopinion.com has proposed an interesting variation on the current scoring system that he calls flex scoring. You can read about his system here. Using his system, I could see giving Barrera the first round 10-9 and giving Saunders the second round 10-8.  Overall, Saunders wins 19-18, which I think is the proper score for the fight.

The score: Team Serra now leads Team Hughes 5-1. Team Hughes picks the next fight. Matt Serra will pick the quarterfinal matchups.

Next week's teaser: Hughes stresses out because his team is not performing up to his standards.

Posted by at 11:21 PM | | Comments (1)
        

October 23, 2007

It's official: UFC 79 to feature Liddell vs. W. Silva

Twenty minutes into Spike TV's presentation of Scream 2007, UFC President Dana White made the announcement that MMA fans have been waiting months if not years to hear: Chuck Liddell will finally face Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79.

Maybe one of the worst-kept secrets in recent UFC history, fans were tantalized by misplaced teasers over the last few days.  But, nothing was official until tonight.

This fight won't have quite the luster it would have had about 15 months ago when both fighters were champions of their respective promotions. Instead, we have a matchup between two fighters trying to end two-fight losing streaks (Silva has lost to Mirko Cro Cop and Dan Henderson and Liddell has lost to Rampage Jackson and Kieth Jardine). 

Still, this a fight White and MMA fans have wanted for a long time and now they get it. If the Internet forums and blogs are any indication, this matchup will have fans buzzing for the next two months.

Posted by at 10:27 PM | | Comments (8)
        

UFC to announce Wanderlei Silva's first opponent tonight

UFC has just notified me that president Dana White will be making an appearance tonight on Spike TV's Scream 2007 show to announce Wanderlei Silva's first UFC opponent.

Speculation has been rampant regarding Silva's debut ever since he was signed to the promotion a couple of months ago.  Most rumors have centered around him debuting against former UFC light heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell at UFC 79.

Scream 2007 will air tonight at 10 p.m. EST.

Posted by at 2:43 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Yet another MMA promotion launches

Yesterday, another MMA promotion was unveiled in New York City. The new promotion – M-1 Global – will be led by President/CEO Monte Cox and its first major signing – Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.

Signing the man commonly known simply as Fedor was a great move but here’s why I’m skeptical about the latest promotion to throw its hat into the wildly popular MMA arena:

1) M-1 claims it will be different from UFC because it will be global – Well, for one thing the headquarters of M-1 Global are in New York City. Sounds pretty American to me. And, outside of Fedor’s signing, what other evidence is there that the promotion actually has global reach?

In almost every other major sport (outside soccer, rugby, and cricket, all three of which simply haven’t taken hold in this country), the world’s most dominant league is in America. If you are a basketball player growing up in Croatia and you want to be known as the best, you go to the NBA. If you are a baseball player growing up in Japan, you go to MLB. And, if you are a hockey player in Russia, then the NHL is your desired destination.

While these sports leagues may have global reach now, they first started by conquering one of the largest consumer markets in the world – America. So, for M-1 to become global, I’m afraid they are first going to have to gain market share in America, because MMA has gotten huge here which means there are a lot of business dollars available here that aren’t available elsewhere.

But, M-1 is late to the game, very late. UFC clearly is the brand to beat in the States. It’s not even close right now. I’ve been to a number of MMA events in the past year and none compares in feel to a UFC event. A UFC championship fight feels like a real championship fight, whether it represents a battle between the best fighters or not.

MMA nerds can argue the merits of each of UFC's weight classes (and I'm one who has in this very blog), but the casual fan in this country equates MMA with UFC. There’s plenty of football played everyday during the fall, but the only games that truly count are played in the NFL. In MMA, that’s UFC right now.

2) M-1’s execs claim they will bring new, refreshing ideas to the sport, and that will help them capitalize on the expanding market. This includes paying fighters more and joining in cooperative efforts with other leagues. Where have I heard that before?

That’s right. EliteXC said the same thing one year ago. Is there room for two such leagues? And are two such leagues necessary?

The main problem M-1 faces is that EliteXC launched with the necessary TV deal with Showtime and currently M-1 has no TV deal. This is a huge difference. Regular TV exposure goes a long way to furthering the brand.

Even fledgling HDNet Fights has a TV deal in place and Mark Cuban’s money to boot. So, I’m waiting for something truly refreshing to come out of one of these new leagues.

3) I’ve argued in the past that multiple major promotions are a good thing for MMA, specifically for fighters and fans. However, the explosion we have seen in the last year takes this thought beyond reason. I don’t believe all these leagues are sustainable.

Think of MMA like our two-party political system. Independents sound like a great idea but the reality is that it’s hard to displace the incumbents. Right now, UFC is an incumbent. PRIDE was an incumbent but since its demise I think EliteXC is in the best position to compete for that second spot. (Note that while I think IFL has a good product I consider them a force in the team MMA space, which I'm not discussing in this entry.)

So, all these other promotions such as BodogFight, Strikeforce, HDNet Fights, and M-1 really appear to be squeezed out by UFC and EliteXC. These other promotions are then fighting for the scraps and are looking like minor leagues right now.  At best, I believe there may be room for a third major promotion, but even this I doubt. 

I also don’t think money alone is going to make any one of these leagues successful. And, I’m not quite sure that UFC is paying that poorly either. Either way, Dana White seems to have been able to procure most of the best fighters in the world.

So, what we have then is a number of smaller promotions, each built around one or two good fighters. Each promotion comes up with its own belts and its own events and every once in a while, the promotions send their champions out to fight the champions of other promotions.

You know what that sounds like? It sounds a lot like the confusing mess that is the sport of boxing. And I reject it as a desirable option.

I’ll give M-1 and all these other leagues some time to prove themselves. But, right now – outside of a major fighter signing here and there – I haven’t seen anything that impresses me yet.

Posted by at 2:20 PM | | Comments (1)
        

October 21, 2007

UFC 77 Recap: Silva shuffles to victory in the jungle

Rich Franklin entered US Bank Arena to Guns 'n Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" and sported orange-and-black trunks, both homages to the Cincinnati Bengals teams of yesteryear.  But, it was Anderson Silva who did his own version of the Ickey Shuffle midway through the first round of their bout en route to yet another dominating victory over Franklin.

In a fight that ended in remarkably similar fashion to their first bout about a year ago, Silva actually knocked Franklin out twice.  One can argue that Franklin, a former math teacher, was “saved by the bell” when Silva dropped him to the canvas just as the first round ended.  But the reality is that the one-minute intermission between rounds only prolonged the inevitable.  Franklin was hurt when he came out for the start of the second round and it didn’t take much for him to succumb to Silva’s flurry of strikes to end the fight.

Silva proved again last night that he is a consummate professional.  Possessing sublime all-around skills, the Brazilian entered the Octagon confident, calm, and humble.  After winning, he appeared almost apologetic for defeating the hometown boy in such devastating fashion.  The two hugged as worthy competitors.

But that could not mask the fact that Silva has no true competitors in UFC’s middleweight division or the fact that he is running through the weak division in Liddell-esque fashion.

What else can UFC’s middleweight division offer Silva?

As far as I can tell, not very much.  UFC tried to convince us last night through the televising of two other middleweight bouts that Alan Belcher, Kalib Starnes, Demian Maia, and Ryan Jensen may give Silva a run for his money.  But, what was mystifying is the fact that Yushin Okami’s decision victory over Jason MacDonald was not aired on the pay-per-view telecast.  After all, that was the bout purported to determine the next No. 1 contender for the title.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who UFC throws at Silva from its current ranks.  The gap between Silva and Franklin is more like an abyss.  And, as Franklin proved by defeating both MacDonald and Okami earlier this year, there is another gap between Franklin and the rest of the field. 

Still, I would like to see UFC put Okami up against Silva because if the No. 1 contender position goes to the victor of a war of attrition, then Okami has staked his claim -- even if in unspectacular fashion -- to the opportunity.

What I hope doesn’t happen is that Silva’s most dominant years are spent fighting also-rans.  After all, there are other intriguing middleweight matchups for "the Spider" – they’re just not in UFC.  For example, WEC champion Paulo Filho, EliteXC champion Robbie Lawler, Strikeforce champion Frank Shamrock, or K-1 HERO’s Denis Kang might provide nice matchups.

However, only Filho would appear to be a realistic opponent at this point, simply because WEC is also owned by Zuffa, the parent company of UFC, and I imagine he would be the easiest fighter to bring over.

Sylvia grinds out victory over Vera

In a heavyweight division also in turmoil, Tim Sylvia held rising star Brandon Vera down for a methodical unanimous decision victory.  Sylvia didn’t earn too many style points with the fans, but he did at times show the hand quickness and kicks that helped him rise to the top of the division.  Fresh off back surgery, Sylvia spent most of the night clinching the smaller Vera up against the cage.  Vera scored one takedown but didn’t do much with it and appeared to have no answers for the giant.  The few times the two fighters separated, the exchanges appeared fairly even.

Sylvia’s flurry at the end of the third round, which opened a cut on top of Vera’s head, solidified the win for the former champion.

Now the question is where does the heavyweight division go from here, assuming Randy Couture doesn’t return?  Was Sylvia’s performance enough to put him in a title bout?  Can UFC stomach another title reign by Sylvia?  After all, his last four fights have all gone to decisions.  And, where does “Minotauro” (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) stand in all this? 

Brock Lesnar joins UFC

In a rather understated announcement made during the telecast, former amateur wrestling champ and professional wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar was announced as UFC’s newest addition to the heavyweight division.  Lesnar only has one pro MMA fight under his belt but it was a submission victory over Min Soo Kim at K-1 HERO’S ill-conceived Los Angeles show in June.

I wonder who will have the bigger impact.  Kimbo Slice, who signed with EliteXC a couple of weeks ago, or Lesnar?  I can say that I’ll be following both career paths with considerable interest.

No Wanderlei Silva announcement

Although PRIDE superstar Silva has been under contract with the promotion for a couple of months now and he was on hand live for UFC 77, we still don’t officially know who his first opponent will be.  Speculation is rampant that his first fight will be against Chuck Liddell at UFC 79, but no official pronouncement has been issued by Dana White.

Posted by at 10:11 AM | | Comments (1)
        

October 20, 2007

UFC 77 Preview

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” 

This year, I’ve proven to be very human with my MMA predictions. Thankfully, however, I have some of the most divine readers in the world. Besides, I argue, what’s the fun of reading Randy Couture’s picks, unless you’re a gambler? Couture takes all the fun out of the whole prognostication business by being so prescient with his predictions. With all that said, please don’t go anywhere near a bookie with my picks.

So, let’s go straight to my preview of UFC 77, a card which promises to be one of the more intriguing of the year.

Middleweight title: Champion Anderson Silva vs. Challenger Rich Franklin

Most fans remember the first Silva-Franklin fight just about a year ago at UFC 64. Silva dominated that encounter, controlling Franklin in a Muay Thai clinch and pounding the former champion with a series of knees to the body and finishing Franklin off with knees and kicks to the head.  

Since then, Silva has continued to demonstrate his impressive all-around skills, first by getting Travis Lutter to submit in a non-title fight and then defeating Nate Marquardt by ground-and-pound in his first official title defense. 

Franklin has not looked nearly as able. While he pounded an overmatched Jason MacDonald in his first fight back after losing the belt, Franklin had quite a bit of trouble with Yushin Okami in his next fight. Okami was very passive in the first two rounds of the fight, but when he became aggressive in the third round, he was almost able to get Franklin to submit. I believe that Okami would have won that fight had he been more aggressive earlier on in the fight. 

Tonight, I simply don’t believe Franklin will be able to handle Silva's all-around superior game. Whether or not Franklin has learned how to deal with Silva’s clinch is almost irrelevant. Silva has too many other weapons.

Prediction: Silva by TKO in the second round

Heavyweight: Tim Sylvia vs. Brandon Vera

This is a fantastic matchup between two fighters now poised to challenge for the UFC heavyweight title after Randy Couture’s abrupt resignation from the promotion close to 10 days ago. The last time we saw Sylvia in action, he lost the heavyweight title to Couture in Columbus, Ohio in March. Since then Sylvia has had back surgery, correcting an ailment he claims hindered him in the Couture fight. Sylvia also promises to return to his old form of defeating fighters by knockout rather than being content with five-round decisions. 

Vera, a local product who came up through Lloyd Irvin’s gym in Camp Springs, is one of the division’s most promising fighters. However, Vera hasn’t fought in close to a year. His last fight was a dominating performance against former heavyweight champ Frank Mir in 2006.  Since then, Vera has been embroiled in a dispute with his management at City Boxing in San Diego (which Vera has since left) -- a dispute that Vera claims is the reason he didn’t re-sign with UFC earlier.

This fight is a match-up between the biggest (Sylvia) and the smallest (Vera) fighters in the division. Both are outstanding standing up, but I believe Sylvia’s reach and height will be too much for the athletic, charismatic Vera. While Vera has been impressive and is currently unbeaten in MMA action, Sylvia is his first true test. From everything that’s being said, the winner of this fight will fight for the heavyweight title next.

Prediction: Sylvia by KO in the second round

Light heavyweight: Stephan Bonnar vs. Eric Schafer

First, let me come out and say that Schafer is a contributor over at MMA Madness and that I’ve gotten to know him and his brother Nathan through e-mail correspondences over the last few months. Schafer isn’t just a witty, articulate fighter who at one time aspired to a career in medicine. He is also an outstanding up-and-coming MMA fighter who has worked well on his ground game (see his arm triangle choke against Rob MacDonald at UFC 62). 

However, Schafer’s last fight came at UFC 66 and it was a loss to Michael Bisping, a fight Schafer says he came into injured. The injury bug struck again when Schafer broke a rib training for his UFC 71 fight against Sean Salmon. So, this will be Schafer’s first test of 2007.

Bonnar, on the other hand, served a nine-month suspension for testing positive last year for performance-enhancing drugs at UFC 62. He returned to action at UFC 73 and was impressive, especially on the ground, in submitting Mike Nickels. Apparently, Bonnar has taken the last year to work on his game and move beyond being a brawler.

This promises to be an exciting fight, but I believe Schafer has more tools in his toolbox at this point in his career.

Prediction: Schafer by submission in the third round

Middleweight: Yushin Okami vs. Jason MacDonald

The winner of this matchup could very well be fighting for the title in his next fight, which makes UFC’s decision to put this on the dark portion of the card rather strange. Both fighters have lost to Franklin this year, but I think Okami came very close to pulling a victory out. Both fighters have also won every one of their other fights in UFC’s weakest division.

MacDonald is very well-rounded and has a superior striking game to Okami. Okami is very strong, however, and loves to ground-and-pound. The major knock on Okami is that his fights are boring. However, I think Okami has learned his lesson from the Franklin fight and I believe he will start fast and eventually finish off MacDonald.

Prediction: Okami by TKO (ground-and-pound) in the second round

For the rest of tonight’s card, please visit UFC.com.

---

On a personal note, I would like to let my readers know that this will be my final MMA preview for Baltimoresun.com. Starting next week, I will be doing much of my MMA writing for Sports Illustrated (SI.com). However, please come back to Baltimoresun.com tomorrow for my UFC 77 recap (which will also be my final recap for The Sun).

Posted by at 10:56 AM | | Comments (2)
        

October 18, 2007

TUF 6 episode 5 quickcap

Not looking for a minute-by-minute account of each episode? Just want the basic facts so that you're all caught up for the next week? Well, you've come to the right place. Let's go straight to my quickcap of episode five of The Ultimate Fighter 6.

Reality strikes: Early in the episode we find out that Team Hughes' Paul Georgieff's 19-year-old cousin has died. The choice for Georgieff becomes should he stay in the house or go to his cousin's funeral? UFC President Dana White steps and eases the decision by informing Georgieff that he can attend the funeral and return to the house, provided he is Team Hughes' next fighter.

This was a classy move by White but it still forced a decision on Team Hughes' part because Coach Hughes had been planning on going with Jared Rollins as his next fighter. Regardless, both Hughes and Georgieff accepted White's proposal, even if it was less than ideal.

Danzig-Bowman saga: I've liked Mac Danzig until this week, but he came off as immature and a bit heavy-handed in the way he talked to episode four fighter Blake Bowman.  Danzig clearly feels that Bowman doesn't belong on the show and Bowman ticked him off by cheering buddy Cole Miller's victory over Danzig friend Andy Wang in the TUF 5 finale.  Regardless, Danzig's Q rating took a hit this week in my book.

Much like Danzig didn't appreciate Hughes pushing the bible on his team, Danzig will learn that if his opinion on a topic -- whether it's bees, flies, or Bowman -- isn't requested, he should just keep it to himself.

The fight: Team Hughes was forced to pick Georgieff as its representative and they chose Team Serra's Tony Mandaloniz as his opponent.  As Coach Hughes made clear to Georgieff, this was a must-win for their team.  The apparent game plan was for Georgieff to take the fight to the ground where he is the stronger fighter.  Though he tried to do so and looked comfortable there, in the end the shorter Mandaloniz was good enough on the ground to force the fight back to its feet.  On his feet Mandaloniz caught Georgieff with a solid right that knocked him out.  Georgieff, an engineering student who admitted before the fight he wanted to get out with minimal damage, appeared to be coming to grips with the reality of MMA as he lay there on the mat.  Good fight and a gutsy one for Georgieff to take on short notice, especially considering his family circumstances.

The score: Team Serra now leads Team Hughes 4-1. Team Serra picks the next fight.

Next week's teaser: I must have turned off the TV a split-second early or spaced out, so I guess we can all wait intently until next week to find out what happens in episode six.

Posted by at 8:33 AM | | Comments (0)
        

October 15, 2007

UFC endures tough week

While UFC remains the No. 1 domestic MMA brand in the U.S., last week's announcement by Randy Couture that he is resigning from the promotion wasn't the only bad news for Dana White.  A couple of other domestic and foreign competitors made moves that only compounded the shock of Couture's departure.

EliteXC signs Diaz and Slice

Last week, EliteXC -- a promotion I consider the No. 2 domestic MMA league in this country -- made two significant signings.  The league re-signed Nick Diaz to a long-term contract, and it also signed Internet phenomenon and former street fighter Kimbo Slice to a deal.  These signings are significant because former UFC bad boy Diaz is a very familiar fighter to MMA fans.  Slice, on the other hand, is new to MMA (with only one MMA fight -- a victory over Ray Mercer back in June -- under his belt) but has legions of fans who have watched his numerous streetfights on YouTube.

M-1 signs Fedor and Arona

Fedor Emelianenko is widely regarded as the top heavyweight in the world.  While he is an unfamiliar commodity to the casual MMA fan in America, he is very well-known elsewhere, especially in his home country of Russia and to the worldwide fans of PRIDE.  After an attempt by Dana White to sign Emelianenko to UFC failed, the Russian chose to sign with M-1, a previously Russian-owned promotion that is now reportedly backed by an American investor with global MMA aspirations. 

M-1 followed that signing up with another signing of PRIDE star Ricardo Arona, as reported over the weekend by "Vale Tudo News" and translated by mma-europe.net. 

While neither fighter is a big name in the U.S., if MMA is viewed as a global sport, the signings are certainly big ones for M-1. 

IFL to hold first-ever live MMA event on network TV

As if the rival signings mentioned above weren't enough to worry about for UFC, the only major domestic team league, IFL, will be holding the first-ever live MMA event on network TV.  On November 3, MyNetworkTV will be televising one hour of IFL's first-ever individual World Grand Prix semifinals.

So, what does all this mean?

A commonly-held belief is that MMA is in its infancy as a sport.  Think of it much like football before the AFL-NFL merger.  While UFC is clearly the dominant brand right now, there is no reason to think this has to be the case in 10 years.  Just as easily as PRIDE has become a memory, the same could happen to UFC.  All it takes is a series of unfortunate events to trigger a downward spiral.  Of course, let's also be real.  The sky is certainly not falling any time soon.

However, here are some questions to consider as the sport continues to grow leaps and bounds and attracts new fans who don't associate MMA with UFC as strongly as older fans.  What if the numerous fans who followed Slice's exploits on the Internet follow him to EliteXC and make that promotion their MMA destination?  What if EliteXC continues to aggressively pursue co-promotions and figures out a way to co-promote a Fedor fight and thus brings international MMA fans under its cooperative tent?  What if a casual fan sits down to a night of TV-surfing on November 3 and lands on MyNetworkTV and falls in love with IFL's product?

Some of the answers to these questions won't bode well for UFC.  So, while the promotion has enjoyed unrivaled success in the last couple of years, there are still reasons for White to be on guard.  Couture's decision to leave at the height of his popularity shows just how fragile things can be, even for the sport's top dog.  But, if you were paying attention last week, you realize that this wasn't White's only reason for concern.

Posted by at 3:43 PM | | Comments (10)
        

October 12, 2007

MMA timeout for a worthy cause

Even with the surprising events of this past week -- Randy Couture leaving UFC and Fedor Emelianenko signing with M-1 Mix Fight -- I'm pausing this weekend to do something for myself and for others who are less fortunate.

Saturday is the Baltimore Running Festival and I will be participating in the event as a member of a four-person marathon relay team.  I'll be running the last leg (7.3 miles) of the relay and I've been training for this for the better part of the last two months.  I'm excited because, for those of you who have never participated in an organized race, Saturday will be equal parts running and equal parts festival.  According to the Festival's web site, there will be close to 15,000 runners between the full-marathon, half-marathon, marathon relay, 5K and kids' run. 

The race itself is exciting and it's the culimination of a lot of hard work, but quite frankly I feel like I've already finished a more important race.  That's because I'm running on Saturday under the banner of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program.  As a member of this program, I was tasked with raising $1,500 -- an amount that will go towards the research and hopeful eventual discovery of cures for blood diseases.  When I reached my fundraising goal two weeks ago, the jubilation I felt was one that I can only hope is matched on Saturday when I cross the physical finish line.

I've come to realize through this program how much I truly have to be thankful for and how good it feels to give, especially to those who aren't afforded the luxury of worrying about quality of life issues (like, for example, will we ever see Fedor fight Randy?) but are instead struggling every day just to survive.  Efforts like those of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and so many other charities do so much to put everyday trials and tribulations in perspective.  Seeing beyond my own rather trivial day-to-day struggles is something I now strive to achieve on a more consistent basis.  And, I'm beginning to learn that one way to look beyond myself is through the simple but enormously helpful act of giving.

So, on Saturday when I cross the finish line, I will be satisfied (for the time-being) in knowing that I did my part in helping those who can't help themselves. I will be bouyed by the tremendous outpouring of support from my family, friends, and colleagues, who all donated so generously to my fundraiser.  And, I will be humbled by the thought that I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to participate in such a running festival.  

Rest assured, however, that an even larger slice of humble pie will undoubtedly be served by my wife, Sarah, who will have completed 13.1 miles in running the half-marathon -- she is, after all, the true long-distance runner in this relationship.

Posted by at 5:58 PM | | Comments (0)
        

October 11, 2007

Shocker! Randy Couture quits UFC

FightNetwork.com is reporting today that UFC heavyweight champ and legend Randy Couture is leaving UFC. Apparently, Couture sent a letter of resignation to Dana White. From the article, here is an excerpt of Couture's letter to White:

“I appreciate this opportunity the sport of MMA and the UFC has given me,” the UFC Hall-of-Famer said. “However, I’m tired of swimming upstream at this stage with the management of the UFC. It only makes sense at this point in my career to fight Fedor Emelianenko, and since he’s now signed with another organization, I feel like it’s time to resign and focus on my other endeavors.”

Sherdog.com has more on the breaking news here. According to Sherdog.com's article, relatively low pay and UFC's inability to bring top heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko into the promotion were two of Couture's main considerations in retiring.  Here is an excerpt from that article:

"The motivation for the decision is two-fold," he continued. "I know Fedor (Emelianenko) just signed with another organization and that's the only real fight that makes sense for me at 44 years old as the heavyweight champion of the UFC. That's the fight I wanted and if that can't happen it doesn't make sense for me to compete with all these other guys. And then obviously that's not going to happen now. And, two, I'm tired of being taken advantage of, played as the nice guy and basically swimming against the current with the management of the UFC. I have a lot of other things going on in my life that I'm doing just fine with. I don't need the problems. I don't feel like I get the respect I deserve from the organization, and that's motivation No. 2 for the letter of resignation that was sent today."

And, finally Dana White released a statement on UFC.com regarding Couture's resignation.  White acknowledges the resignation with the following statement:

I'm not surprised at all by Randy’s decision. I talked to Randy several weeks ago and he said that if he couldn’t fight Fedor, then he has nothing left to prove in the sport of mixed martial arts.

According to reports, Couture had two fights left on his contract with UFC.  Therefore, it doesn't appear that Couture can jump to another promotion (for example, M-1, which is where Emelianenko signed this week).  In other words, if Couture does want to come back to MMA, he will apparently do so only with UFC.  And, a Randy-Fedor fight appears completely dead in the water.

Posted by at 5:36 PM | | Comments (6)
        

TUF 6 Quickcap

Not looking for a minute-by-minute account of each episode? Just want the basic facts so that you're all caught up for the next week? Well, you've come to the right place. Let's go straight to my quickcap of episode four of The Ultimate Fighter 6.

How badly do the Matts hate each other?: One of the most enjoyable parts of this season is watching the two coaches poke at each other.  It's obvious they hate each other and this week Matt Serra continued calling Matt Hughes a "jerk" and questioning his intelligence.  Serra also relished the fact that Hughes was not pleased with Billy Miles' loss the previous week.  I don't believe there's anything evil about the hatred between these two -- in fact their antics kind of give me a chuckle.  These are two very passionate individuals and I think they are looking for any edge they can get. I'm not saying the two will become friends like BJ Penn and Jens Pulver did after the last season of TUF, but I don't think their animosity is malicious in any way.

Reality drama: This week's drama involved Dorian Price, who was eliminated in the second episode.  Price had a beef with a cameraman he felt was overzealous in filming him when Price was feeling ill. So, Price made what appeared to be a threatening move towards the cameraman before being cut off by Miles.  In my opinion, this was an honest mistake made by someone feeling the pressure of being on a reality show.  Price snapped because he was injured and emotional.  I like Price's attitude about training and I think he is on the show for all the right reasons and I believe Dana White handled the moment perfectly.  Besides, I'm beginning to enjoy watching Price talk himself into a frenzy almost every week.  He has an amusingly vivid imagination and with Joe Scarola gone, we need someone else to psychoanalyze.

The fight: Last night Team Serra chose its own Richie Hightower to take on Team Hughes' Blake Bowman.  Bowman was apparently one of the least-experienced fighters on the show and came off more as the house's court jester than anything else.  Unfortunately for Bowman, Hightower got the last laugh with a very quick first round TKO.

The score: Team Serra now leads Team Hughes 3-1. Team Hughes picks the next fight.

Next week's teaser: Mac Danzig (who is quickly establishing himself as the respected leader of the house) gets really annoyed with Bowman.

Posted by at 8:16 AM | | Comments (0)
        

October 10, 2007

Binky Jones headed to Russia

Baltimore's Binky Jones will be traveling to Russia Nov. 30 to fight in BodogFight's next event there, according to Ground Control co-owner John Rallo. Jones, a lightweight, will square off against Vladimir Zenin and will be looking to rebound from a split decision loss to Nick Agallar in his last BodogFight bout.

Zenin actually defeated Agallar in his last BodogFight fight.  Zenin has spent most of his MMA career fighting in the Russian promotion, M-1.

---

Two more interviews up at MMA Madness.  The first one is with UFC light heavyweight sensation Houston Alexander, who has risen rapidly up the ranks with two explosive victories.  In this quote, Alexander discusses how he got his first UFC fight and the fact that he didn't know who Keith Jardine was:

I fought on one of Monty Cox’s shows [Extreme Challenge 76] just before the first UFC fight. And I ended up winning it [Alexander actually won one match against Joe Murphy and he fought Todd Allee to a no contest]. And these were guys twice my size. I thought I would get a PRIDE contract. A couple of weeks after that, Monty called me and asked if I wanted to fight in the UFC. And I told him, “Hmmm, let me think about that one. Yes!” So it was fairly quick. They told me I had to fight Keith Jardine and I said, “Who?” I didn’t know who he was. Previously, I didn’t watch that many UFC’s in the first place. The fights that I did see, I knew I could get in there and do some damage. So I said, “Let’s do it.”

You can read the rest of Jeff Hamlin's interview with Alexander here.

---

The other interview is with UFC and PRIDE veteran Josh Barnett.  Barnett currently doesn't have a deal with a promotion and hasn't fought this year.  In this interview, Barnett also tells Ben Zeidler why he and Dana White don't get along:

When I think somebody says something that's B.S., or if I think that something isn't being done up to par, then I say something. That's probably why. I've been in this business longer then he has, and there's just a certain amount of respect that I expect, and I don't necessarily feel like I get that from him all of the time. He says some things and that's fine. He's allowed to make any statements he wants; I'm going to make a rebuttal. It's up to him if he wants to get real torqued off about it, not me.

To read more of Barnett's intriguing thoughts on a number of subjects, including how to change MMA's scoring system and what he thinks of Renato Sobral's dismissal from UFC, click here.

Posted by at 7:52 PM | | Comments (0)
        

October 9, 2007

Tuesday hodge-podge

I have to give a shout out to my boys from down on the Farm -- the Cardinal football team -- for pulling off one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Yes, the oddsmakers had the team from Palo Alto as 41-point underdogs to the mighty Trojans of USC, but somehow the good guys won. To top it off, all this went down in front of a partisan crowd at the Coliseum.

And, in case you haven't noticed, alum Trent Edwards isn't doing so badly either as a rookie for the Buffalo Bills...

---

Anyway, on to MMA news. 

MMA Madness's Ryan McKinnell has an interview with TUF 6 episode three eliminated fighter Billy Miles here.  At one point, Miles is asked about coach Matt Hughes' assessment that he didn't gave it his all against John Kolosci.  Here is Miles' response:

Well, if you watched the fight, it looks like I didn’t, ya know? He knew what I could do and I didn’t do it. His opinion is very valuable to me and, you know, I think he was right. I didn’t perform the way I can perform and he knows that. You know, what can I do now? It is what it is.

Miles' response, while disarming in its honesty, also makes me wonder what some of these fighters are doing on the show.  It's the chance of a lifetime.  How can you not give it your all?

---

In addition, MMA Madness has an interview with UFC's Din Thomas, who lost to Kenny Florian at the UFC Fight Night 11 main event.  In the interview, Thomas explains why he lost the bout the way he did:

...I tore my meniscus in two, among other structural damage to the inside of my knee during that first round and had to lay down and take a beating...

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And, finally we have Toe to Toe Radio's interview with Frank Shamrock.  In the interview, Shamrock discloses that he very well may not be back as a coach of an IFL team in 2008.  Of course, he has plenty of other good things to say -- it's classic Shamrock.

Posted by at 8:55 PM | | Comments (0)
        

October 3, 2007

TUF 6 Quickcap

Not looking for a minute-by-minute account of each episode? Just want the basic facts so that you're caught up for the next week? Well, you've come to the right place. Let's go straight to my quickcap of episode three of The Ultimate Fighter 6.

Notable Matt Hughes quote of the week: A week after holding bible study and comparing himself to the Queen in the parable he had his fighters read, Hughes continued with more memorable quotes this week.  Hughes claimed to his team that he only has two or three fights left in his career and that he didn't train up to his standards in his last four or so fights.

Will Joe Scarola finally leave the house?: It didn't take long for the real-life Matt Serra protégé to finally call it quits.  After whining about wanting to go home for the better part of an episode and a half, even a visit from Dana White couldn't ultimately stop Scarola from leaving the house on his own in episode three.  Serra claimed that if Scarola, the best man at his wedding, left he would no longer be Serra's trainer.  Alas, nobody could convince Scarola to stay.  I'll miss watching him slowly throw away the best opportunity he may ever have in his life.

TUF fighters meet their 17th cast member -- alcohol: Reality TV wouldn't be what it is without alcohol and hot tubs.  In the third episode, we finally got some alcohol.  And the fighters did what we would all do -- they banged their heads against large metal shields, they tossed punching dummies into the pool, they climbed the roof of the house, and they "painted" the walls.

The fight: Hughes picked Billy Miles from his team to fight Team Serra's Joe Kolosci.  It seemed as though everyone including White believed Miles would win.  Everyone, that is, except Kolosci and coach Serra.  Even suffering a cold or the flu on fight day, Kolosci defeated Miles by Guillotine choke in the first round.

The score: Team Serra now leads Team Hughes 2-1.  Team Serra picks the next fight.

Next week's teaser: Apparently, week two's eliminated fighter, Dorian Price crosses the line and attempts to or actually does assault a member of the show's filming crew. 

Posted by at 11:04 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Global MMA news

While MMA has clearly taken hold in America, it's quite popular overseas as well. MMA Madness' UK Correspondent Mark Pickering is on top of events across the pond. First, he has a report on an Ultimate Force matchup between Abdul Mohamed and former PRIDE fighter David Baron. And he has another report on Cage Rage's Contender Series, which will hold an event Nov. 18 in Wales.  Mark has the partial fight card here.

In addition, Japan-based K-1 and all its subsidiary leagues have been busy lately.  Tonight, K-1 MAX holds its 2007 World Tournament Final in Tokyo.  MMA Madness' Royal Burnell previews that event here

Back here in the States, don't forget that episode three of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter season six airs tonight at 10 pm.

Posted by at 7:56 AM | | Comments (0)
        

October 1, 2007

One-on-one with TUF 6's Dorian Price

As many of you following this season's The Ultimate Fighter show know, Dorian Price was eliminated in last Wednesday's episode.

According to a Spike TV news release, Price was born and raised in Baltimore.  He received his undergraduate degree from Hampton University before moving on to Ohio State University, where he earned his MBA.  According to the release, Price currently trains full-time in MMA in Cincinnati, Ohio.

MMA Madness' Ryan McKinnell went one-on-one with Price after his recent elimination from the show.  In the interview, Price sheds some light on what it's like being in the TUF house.  When asked what bothered him the most when he was on the show, Price responded by saying:

...the cameras drove me nutty a little bit. So, it’s the cameras and the fact that you’re not in control of your own destiny, you know? There’s no telling how they are gonna edit this thing or how it’s gonna turn out. I think that’s unfortunate because we all know how it really happened. Ratings sell, you know, so a lot of the time they try to make something out of nothing. So it is up to them to make TV because ratings sell, and like I said I could have stayed in that house for a year if it hadn’t been for all the cameras. I could have done without the phones and outside contact, training twice a day -- nothing better than that.

For the rest of the interview, click here.

Posted by at 7:27 AM | | Comments (0)
        
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Kevin Richardson has been a fan of mixed martial arts competition ever since UFC 3, when 600-pound sumo wrestler Emmanuel Yarborough was beaten by Keith Hackney. Kevin will cover the world of MMA — in Baltimore, nationally and internationally. He plans to take readers into the locker rooms and MMA schools, where they'll hear from local fighters and trainers. If you have a news tip or suggestions for the blog, please e-mail him.

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