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January 31, 2008

UFC 81: Tim Sylvia then and now

Just a year ago today, Tim Sylvia was the UFC's reigning heavyweight champion. About a month later, he lost the belt at UFC 68 to an un-retired (and apparently still-happy-with-the-UFC) Randy Couture. Shortly after his loss to Couture, I interviewed Sylvia for baltimoresun.com. It's interesting looking back on that Q&A because Sylvia was clearly bummed about losing the belt and he was also suffering from a back injury that eventually required surgery.

One thing Sylvia felt at the time was that he would be back in title contention, even though readers weren't so sure. And, who could blame the readers? After all, Mirko Cro Cop had joined the ranks and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was on his way to making his UFC debut. With Couture as the champ and the new influx of talent, it was possible Sylvia wouldn't get a chance at the belt for awhile.

Instead, after one victory (over Brandon Vera last fall), Sylvia is back in a title fight, this time against Nogueira Saturday at UFC 81 in Las Vegas. In addition, Sylvia called out Frank Mir in this interview. If Mir defeats Brock Lesnar this Saturday, we could surely see a Sylvia-Mir fight in the near future.

Here's my Q&A from March 16, 2007:

First of all, how is your body feeling 10 days after your UFC 68 fight?

I got injured during the fight and I had a doctor's appointment today. I have a herniated disc in my lower back.

And this happened during the fight?

Well, I was injured before the fight and we weren't sure exactly what happened but we had an idea that that's what it was. I just got diagnosed with it today -- [I've] got a herniated disc pinching my sciatic nerve.

So, I couldn't train. I trained my [butt] off for the fight cardio-wise. But I couldn't do a lot of stuff on the ground because my sciatic nerve wouldn't let me.

How are you feeling mentally?

Um, I was pretty bummed out -- [I] couldn't believe I lost. But I went home for a week to Maine and hung out with a lot of close friends and family and they were really supportive. They don't give a [darn] if I win or lose. As long as I stay the same, and I've stayed the same, you know?

Before you fought Couture, there were reports that made it seem like you coveted the heavyweight belt. For example, there were reports that you carried it wherever you went.

Yeah, none of that stuff is true.

What did it mean to you to have the belt?

It meant a lot. It meant I was recognized as the best guy in the world. It means a lot. I still feel I'm one of the best in the world. I had a bad night.

How does it feel now to have lost the belt?

It sucks. I come home and I have two other belts on my TV that I look at. And it's like, [darn] I'm no longer the champ -- it sucks.

After the match, in your post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, you alluded to your back injury. Do you think it was a mistake to bring that up right after the fight?

Yeah, not that it was a mistake Randy beat me fair and square. Plain and simple. He was the better man that night. He beat me. So, I shouldn't have even brought it up.

Could you give us more details about the injury, for example when it occurred and how it occurred?

It happened about four weeks ago during training for the fight, defending takedowns and stuff like that. Wrestling with big guys you get hurt. I kept training, and [the injury] got worse and worse.

So you're saying it happened about three weeks before the fight itself?

Yes, that's exactly when it happened.

Did you consider pulling out of the match?

Yeah, I did.

How is your back feeling now?

It hurts. It's the worst it's been right now. I just got my MRI yesterday and I got diagnosed with everything so they put me on the pain medication -- some oral steroids, [I] go in for a cortisone shot [March 16] -- and they're hoping if I take one month off from training that it should get better.

UFC President Dana White said in the UFC 68 post-fight news conference that he thought you were "overconfident" going into the fight. Do you feel you were overconfident?

No, not at all.

White also said in the UFC 68 post-fight press conference that you have an "image problem." Do you agree with his assertion?

I have an image problem? What does he mean by that? Explain it to me.

He didn't elaborate on that.

Well, if he can't elaborate, neither can I. I don't know. I always have a self-esteem problem. I was physically and mentally abused as a child, growing up with my mother. So, I think it still sticks with me to this day that I have a problem with that.

As a fighter, what do you do when you hear the booing from the crowd?

I just block it out, man. That's gonna happen. A lot of the fans still aren't quite educated about all the stuff that's going on in a fight.

Did the booing surprise you at all?

A little bit.

Why do you think the UFC 68 crowd was so merciless to you?

I was fighting a legend, a Hall of Famer -- Randy Couture. He's everyone's idol. He's 43 years old, coming out of retirement, fighting me and everybody was rooting for him.

Given the outcome of your UFC 68 fight and some of the criticism you have received for your previous two title defenses, are you planning on changing your game plan or changing your style in upcoming fights?

Not at all. Not at all.

At a time like this, having just lost the title, where do you draw your strength to move forward?

I want to win my next fight. I'm on the road back to the belt. That's what I want to get. Every fight is one step closer to the belt.

What's the next step for Tim Sylvia?

Just to get healthy -- 100% -- and get back in the gym and start training and working on my next fight.

How much time will you take off before you start training again?

They told me I'm going to take at least one month off. I have another appointment [sometime in the next] two weeks after my cortisone shot [March 16]. Once that's done I will figure out what I need to do.

Have you had any conversations about when your next fight will be?

Nope. I haven't talked to the UFC at all.

What is your contract situation with the UFC?

I have three fights left on my contract.

Do you think you deserve an immediate title rematch?

I would like to think so. I think I do. But, I don't know if they are going to give it to me or not. I don't know.

If you can't get an immediate title rematch, which UFC heavyweight would you like to fight next?

I want to fight Frank Mir. He broke my arm a couple of years ago so we have some unfinished business to take care of.

A year ago the Miletich camp had two titles -- Matt Hughes and you -- and three titles if you include close associate Rich Franklin. Now, your camp has none. What is the mood of the Miletich camp right now?

No one cares about that stuff. We're all in this to fight and all fighters lose at some time. Just because no one is wearing the belt in our camp anymore doesn't mean anything. We're all out there to have fun and get up every morning and do what we love to do and that's fight.

Do you guys feel like your day to reign supreme will come again soon?

Oh, it sure will.

And you mentioned the word "fun." Are you still having fun fighting?

Of course I am. I love to fight.

Posted by at 5:45 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Q&As
        

Former UFC owner starts new MMA promotion

It's a slow week in MMA. Most of the chatter centers around the Brock Lesnar-Frank Mir fight this weekend at UFC 81 but it sure feels like the Super Bowl has taken center stage, even for MMA fans.

I've actually been sitting on this for a couple of days but I thought I would share with you that Bob Meyrowitz, the original founder of the UFC (pre-Zuffa), has decided to start a new MMA league. A news release sent out Tuesday states that the new league's name is Yamma Pit Fighting and it will hold a series of pay-per-view events, starting April 11 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J.

According to the release:

YAMMA Pit Fighting will return to the popular origins of MMA by reviving the Tournament format, in which fighters will participate in multiple fights on their way to claiming the ultimate YAMMA victory, the title of YAMMA Heavyweight Champion.  In addition to the exciting Tournament, YPF will also host two “Masters Superfights,” one-on-one matches between some of MMA’s most illustrious and legendary fighters.

In addition to the tournament format, which was prevalent in the UFC's early days, the league is introducing a new fighting surface called "The Yamma":

The YPF surface, known as “The YAMMA” is an evolution of the traditional fighting ring that will greatly alter the current basis of MMA by changing how the fight is fought and the strategy the fighters must use to win.  This new surface has been specifically designed to keep the fighting more explosive and continuous. The YAMMA will change the face of the sport and will challenge the relevance of the fighters’ trademark tactics, as methods that were previously successful may be rendered useless with the new ring. This twist on an already successful sport will prove hugely popular with fighters and MMA audiences alike.

When I inquired further about the fighting surface, I was told the innovation has more to do with the shape or format of the fighting area rather than the physical surface itself.

I sat on this information for a couple of days because there are a lot of people starting MMA promotions these days only to fold a few months later or eventually become insignificant. But this is Meyrowitz, after all, and maybe he can bring something extra to table so I thought it was somewhat newsworthy.

I wonder how Meyrowitz feels seeing his baby become the most successful promotion in a rapidly emerging sport. Does he have any regrets about not sticking it out with the UFC? And, is this his last-gasp effort to get back in the game (probably too late)?

I don't believe the casual MMA fan really associates Meyrowitz with the original UFC so I don't think his re-entry into the sport buys him anything. The only hope is that his ideas such as the tournament format and the new fighting surface spark some interest.

I'm skeptical. At this point, YPF is just another promotion in an already crowded field. At the very least, it's more MMA on the East Coast but I doubt the league will be anything more than a sideshow attraction. But we shall see. Meyrowitz believed in a very good idea once, maybe lightning can strike twice.

Posted by at 7:54 AM | | Comments (1)
        

January 27, 2008

MMA blogosphere showcase (Week 2)

Welcome to week 2 of a new feature in which I showcase some of the past week's best work in the vast MMA blogosphere.

-- Tommy Hackett, Total-MMA.com: Mario Sperry: Setting a new foundation

-- Justin Goff, MMABettingBlog.com: UFC 80 betting action surprises online sports books

-- Adam Swift, MMAPayout.com: Zuffa Promotional Model Under Attack: Ortiz to follow Couture?

-- Dann Stupp, MMAJunkie.com: Fabricio Werdum earns title shot -- and the reasons why

-- Brandt DeLorenzo, MMAOpinion.com: Dojo Busting Gone Bad (with video) (Alternate title: So you really think you want to be an "ultimate fighter" or are you just very drunk?)

-- Billy Gamble, FightTube.tv: Brock Lesnar's New Year's Resolution

If you are a MMA blogger and you would like your work featured here, please e-mail me at pramit.mohapatra@gmail.com.

Posted by at 11:50 AM | | Comments (0)
        

January 26, 2008

Hits from the mainstream MMA Media (week 3)

David Avila of MSNBC.com joins Carlos Arias of the OC Register and me this week.

-- Carlos Arias, OC Register: Notes and audio from the UFC 81 conference call

-- David Avila, MSNBC.com: Two big MMA shows by Pro Elite this week

Posted by at 3:54 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 25, 2008

Binky Jones triumphs in ShoXC debut

I'm here live at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City for Pro Elite's latest installment of ShoXC. In his first fight of 2008 and his ShoXC debut, Baltimore's Binky Jones easily defeated his opponent from Philly, Mark Getto. Jones started the bout off with a high kick (as he told me he would beforehand given Getto's wrestling background) but once the match went to the ground, it was clear Jones had the advantage there. He finished Getto off with a kimura at 1:12 of the first round.

I talked to Jones' trainer and Ground Control co-owner John Rallo before the fight and he told me this was Jones' chance to show Pro Elite his skills. I would have to assume that based on his performance tonight the promotion was quite pleased. 

Jones sure loves Atlantic City. He won three fights in the Ring of Combat tourney in AC to win that title in 2007 before heading to Trenton, NJ and Russia for BodogFight where he lost twice. He's now back on the winning track with a very good win for a top promotion.

For those of you wondering, Jones tells me his next fight will be March 7 back in AC in this year's edition of the Ring of Combat tourney.

Here's my report for the rest of the night's undercard fights:

-- Matt Makowski defeated Joe Schilling at 4:01 of the first round by rear naked choke.

-- Brett Linebarger defeated Sergio Vinagre by vicious knockout at 2:29 of the third round. Vinagre was on the canvas for a few minutes after the fight being stopped.

-- Wilson Reis, cheered on by a strong supporting contingent, defeated Zach Makovsky via side choke at 1:15 of the second round. The compact and muscular Reis' clearly had a gameplan -- take Makovsky down and go to work on the ground.

-- Charlie Brenneman defeated Drew Puzon by split decision.

Check out Showtime at 11 PM ET for the main card fights. I'll have my thoughts on that portion of the card later this weekend.

Posted by at 8:47 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 24, 2008

Binky Jones fights on ShoXC Friday night

Baltimore's submission machine Binky Jones fights Friday night at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on Pro Elite's ShoXC card. Pro Elite is the parent company of EliteXC and ShoXC serves as somewhat of a farm system for EliteXC.

Jones will be fighting at 160 lbs against Philadelphia's Mark Getto, who sports a rather unremarkable MMA record. ShoXC is a big step for Jones, who last year won the Ring of Combat lightweight tournament title before ending the year on a down note with two straight losses in BodogFight.

Regardless, 2008 looks promising and it has been reported that Jones also has the opportunity to fight for the IFL, the team-based MMA league.

While Jones won't be fighting on the televised portion of Friday night's card, that portion of the card will be aired live on Showtime beginning at 11 PM ET. The main event pits Eddie Alvarez against Ross Ebanez and the co-featured bout is Paul Daley vs. Sam Morgan. Another intriguing matchup is the women's bout between Julie Kedzie and Tonya Evinger.

If Jones can string together a couple of wins in ShoXC, we could see him in EliteXC soon enough and possibly even on Showtime.

I'll be live at the Trump Taj Mahal covering the event. If you can't make the 150-mile trek from Baltimore to Atlantic City, check out the action on Showtime. It's a good card and some of the best MMA action in Atlantic City in a while. For the entire card, go to EliteXC.com.

Posted by at 9:12 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 23, 2008

UFC Fight Night random thoughts

Submission of the night: Nate Diaz with a textbook triangle choke. When he tucked his left foot under his right knee, you knew it was over.

KO of the night: Patrick Cote. Three straight wins for the resurgent fighter nicknamed "Predator" and a GSP sound-alike.

Tough guy of the night: Kurt Pellegrino. Now we know what it looks like to bite straight through your lip. And Pellegrino fought like that for almost two rounds.

Thoughts on Mike Swick fighting at welterweight: Swick looked disturbingly thin. Even worse, his profile bore an eerie resemblance to that of former Seinfeld star Michael Richards.

Thoughts on Never Back Down: Spike TV viewers saw trailers of this MMA-based flick during commercial breaks. Apparently it's targeting an audience way younger than my demographic. I'd watch it on DVD, but I'm pretty sure my wife won't go with me to the theater to see it and I'm definitely not going alone.

Rambo, on the other hand -- I'll be there! Stallone still rocks despite his association with The Contender.

Posted by at 11:17 PM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC Fight Night tonight

The UFC continues its quest for world domination (of MMA) tonight with a very nice UFC Fight Night card that will air live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. EST. This is the second of three UFC cards in a two-week span (sandwiched between the UFC 80 and UFC 81 pay-per-view events.)

While it's easy to say that the UFC is trying to shove its product down our throats (and I am a bit weary of oversaturation) right now, the promotion is giving us some very nice cards that demonstrate the promotion's depth. In recent memory -- outside the lemon that was UFC 78 -- the TUF 6 Finale was very entertaining (including one of the fights of the year in MMA between Roger Huerta and Clay Guida), UFC 79 was a monster card, UFC 80 had potential going in (though most of the fights ended up being lopsided), and UFC 81 is quite intriguing.

In fact, based on the UFC's published schedule I don't see a bad card coming up. In fact, tonight's event will be at least the third straight live Spike TV card that should be enjoyable and provide fans with some decent action.

Don't expect big-name fighters on tonight's card but for basically free, you will see some very good action. Mike Swick debuts at welterweight after realizing that even in a weak middleweight division, he would never attain the 185-pound belt. His opponent is Josh Burkman, who may be best known for at one time dating UFC Octagon girl Arianny Celeste.

Other notables on the card include Patrick Cote (coming off a TKO victory over Kendall Grove) against Drew McFedries; TUF 5 alum Nate Diaz against Alvin Robinson; and a number of other TUF 5-ers including Corey Hill, who has a lot of potential and very little experience.

For tonight's full card, go to UFC.com.

Posted by at 5:51 PM | | Comments (1)
        

January 21, 2008

One-on-one with Mark Cuban

 

(Photo courtesy of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)

Mark Cuban is the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and the co-founder of the high definition television channel HDNet. In October 2007, Cuban built upon HDNet's past mixed martial arts telecasts, diving head first into the MMA ring with the start of his promotion, HDNet Fights. I conducted an e-mail interview with him this past weekend in which he discussed everything from entrepreneurship to pro basketball to where the sport of MMA is headed. What follows is the transcript of that interview.

You’ve made your fortune through entrepreneurship in technology companies, most notably MicroSolutions and Broadcast.com. Has technology always been an interest of yours or why did you decide to go in that direction with your companies?

I've been a tech geek for a long time. So it was natural for me to pursue tech-based businesses.

What do you think are the keys to enjoying success with a startup?

Loving what you do. If you start a business that you find fun and interesting, it’s never work.

In recent years, you’ve become a more visible member of the sports community, first through your ownership of the Dallas Mavericks. Why did you decide to become an NBA owner?

I was always a [basketball] junkie. I still play as much as I can. I couldn't pass up the chance to buy my favorite team.

When I was growing up, the Mavericks were the laughingstock of the NBA. Now, the team is a hotspot for top talent. What are the essential ingredients in running a successful NBA team?

Having fun, always put yourself in the shoes of your customers and do what you can to give them the best possible value and experience.

Also going back to my youth, I used to love watching Bird and Magic duel in the spring and later watch Jordan battle the Pistons’ Bad Boys.  These days, I can’t even watch a full NBA game. Conventional wisdom says that the regular season is too long and only the fourth quarter of a game really matters. Why do you think the pro basketball game is so maligned these days and do you think this is deserved?

Because people like you jump to conclusions without actually watching games. [It's] that simple.

How did you become interested in MMA?

We started broadcasting MMA on HDNet a few years ago.

Why do you feel that this is the right time to get into MMA?

Because the UFC is a single leader and I think they have left the door open.

I recently interviewed UFC president Dana White and he says he respects you as a businessman. What do you think of the job White has done with the UFC?

His success speaks for itself. That said, no business is perfect. It’s hard to grow, expand internationally, keep all your employees happy as new competitors enter the market, keep regulators happy and the list goes on. Challenges change over time. It will be fun to watch him address all of these issues. Plus he has to be concerned over his ratings. If [The Ultimate Fighter] ratings drop materially, his whole game plan will have to change. That won't be inexpensive or easy.

That said, there is plenty of room for more than one company.

What flaws do you see in the UFC’s game that you think can be exploited?

The biggest is that their contracts don't adhere to the [Muhammad] Ali [Boxing] Reform Act. There will come a time in the not distant future when they will be required to.

Are you looking to defeat UFC or co-exist with them?

There is plenty of room for multiple companies.

What do you bring to the table that will allow you to overcome the perception that UFC = MMA?

My experience in marketing, technology, pro sports and a vertically integrated entertainment company.

What do you think are the keys to running a successful MMA promotion?

Being patient.

How big do you think MMA can be in this country? Can it be one of the major sports (with football, basketball and baseball)?

I think it will have a core following that can [be] bigger than it is today and then build marquee events that are mainstream.

I’ve read reports that you’ve had discussions with Floyd Mayweather regarding MMA. How far are you in those talks? Would he be a fighter or a business partner in a MMA venture with you?

Stay tuned.

I’ve read that you were once in talks with WWE to form a MMA company. Do you believe MMA draws its fan base more from pro wrestling or more from boxing?

I think WWE fans graduate to MMA.

Do you enjoy the more theatrical PRIDE-style MMA production or the more toned-down UFC-style production?

I like both. I don't think, however, that one size fits all. Different markets require different presentations.

Posted by at 10:33 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Q&As
        

January 20, 2008

MMA blogosphere showcase (Week 1)

Today, I'm starting a new weekly feature on this blog called "MMA blogosphere showcase." Every week I'll be collecting entries from throughout the non-mainstream MMA blogosphere sent in by the bloggers themselves. There's a lot of good writing out there and I think it's nice for my readers to see what else is being written.

Here are this week's entries. Enjoy!

-- Adam Swift, MMAPayout.com: Tough sledding: UFC finding international expansion isn't easy

-- John Chandler, MMAonTap.com: Frank Shamrock faces biggest test since return in Cung Le

-- Dann Stupp, MMAJunkie.com: Tamdan McCrory puts UFC career on hold (to graduate college)

-- Billy Gamble, Billy's MMA Blog: MMA upsets in 2008?

If you are a MMA blogger and you would like your work featured here, please e-mail me at pramit.mohapatra@gmail.com.

Posted by at 9:57 AM | | Comments (0)
        

January 19, 2008

UFC 80: Event preview and Dana White Q&A

UFC 80 in Newcastle, England is today and I've got quite a bit of content up at SI.com. First, you can check out my preview of the event. I specifically look at the lightweight title fight between BJ Penn and Joe Stevenson, the heavyweight rematch between Gabriel Gonzaga and Fabricio Werdum, and the welterweight bout between Marcus Davis and Jess Liaudin.

In addition to those three fights, I'll be interested in watching middleweight TUF 3 champ Kendall Grove in his first fight since losing to Patrick Cote last year. Grove takes on Jorge Rivera today.

I also had the opportunity to talk to UFC President Dana White by phone on Thursday. White was already in London at that point and we discussed both UFC 80 and non-UFC 80 topics such as Randy Couture, network TV, and Mark Cuban.

Because of the time difference, UFC 80 will actually be televised twice today. The show will be carried live at 3 p.m. ET on pay-per-view and then replayed at the more familiar time of 10 p.m. ET. For more information on the event and the card, head over to UFC.com.

Posted by at 11:58 AM | | Comments (2)
        

January 18, 2008

Hits from the mainstream MMA media (week 2)

This week it's just Carlos Arias of the OC Register and me again. However, reinforcements are on their way! Until then, Arias is holding down the fort with a feature on BJ Penn in advance of Saturday's UFC 80 lightweight title fight against Joe Stevenson.

Click here for Arias' entry.

Come back here Saturday for my UFC 80 post.

Posted by at 7:41 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 16, 2008

The UFC takes Randy Couture to court

According to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the UFC filed suit against Randy Couture on Monday:

Lawyers for Zuffa, LLC, the UFC's parent company, on Monday filed suit in Clark County District Court, alleging chiefly that Couture's comments about the UFC and its senior management caused the business irreparable damage and that he is in breach of the contract he signed with the company in December 2006.

The article later states the ultimate goal of the suit:

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $10,000 and states that the amount of both compensatory and punitive damages would be proven at trial. It also seeks an injunction restraining Couture from participating in any way in any promotion competing against the UFC.

This is the latest in the sad saga between the UFC and its current heavyweight champ that began last fall. Hill details the early days of this conflict fairly well toward the end of the article.

Unfortunately for UFC fans it looks like Couture certainly won't be fighting in the promotion any time soon and it doesn't appear that he wants to. Whether he feels that the UFC has underpaid him, not shown him enough respect or simply doesn't have worthy competition, Couture appears content to sit out most of 2008.

With more players in MMA, Couture would be a prized recruit for a number of other promotions, and most would pay top dollar to sign him. Couture appears to know this and he is using that as leverage against the UFC. This lawsuit is the UFC's way of fighting back.

And, now that the conflict has reached the court system, the gulf between the two sides will likely only grow larger and the path to resolution will only be messier.

Welcome to the big stage, MMA!

Posted by at 7:52 AM | | Comments (2)
        

January 15, 2008

Analysis: The Shamrocks join EliteXC

I received a press release yesterday from EliteXC announcing that the promotion had signed living legend Ken Shamrock as well as his 19-year-old son Ryan. According to the press release, EliteXC Live Events President Gary Shaw said, “We’re thrilled to have signed Ken and Ryan Shamrock. Ken is one of the most recognizable and popular figures in MMA. He has fought the biggest and some of the most important fights in MMA history."

Both Shamrocks are scheduled to make their EliteXC debuts on March 18 in London, England at "EliteXC Presents: Cage Rage 25."

The elder Shamrock last fought in October 2006 and lost in the first round to Tito Ortiz. In fact, he lost his last four fights and six of his last seven, including three to Tito Ortiz. However, even in his final fight against Ortiz, in which the only uncertainty going in was how quickly Ortiz would win, Shamrock proved to be a very, very strong draw. That fight, televised on basic cable's Spike TV, did extremely well.

So, while it's unclear whether Shamrock truly has anything left in the tank, this is a good move by EliteXC. Why? Because the name Shamrock is one of a few names closely associated with MMA, much like the Gracie name. EliteXC is banking on the fact that the Shamrock name itself will draw fans to its promotion. And, given Shamrock's history, Shaw could be right about that.

In fact, in many ways this is the perfect deal for MMA. Shamrock had no place in the UFC light heavyweight division but at EliteXC he gets to fight again and the promotion benefits. We the fans can continue to satisfy our urge to watch him fight in what will amount to spectacles, and the integrity of the sport's top promotion, the UFC, is unhurt.

The signing of Shamrock follows the signing of Kimbo Slice late last year by EliteXC -- another signing meant to attract fans to the promotion, in this case all the online viewers of Slice's fight videos on YouTube.

One question is, will Shamrock fight in the light heavyweight division, which is very thin at EliteXC, or will he fight at heavyweight, which is only slightly deeper?

Either way, the signings show Shaw's true colors as a man with roots in boxing. With the high-impact name-value signings of Slice and the Shamrocks, it's clear Shaw believes, as he has stated, that the fighters are the stars. While I wouldn't say UFC President Dana White is on the other end of the spectrum, White appears to believe that the UFC brand name can carry that promotion and allow it to develop new young talent that will be tomorrow's stars.

Interestingly enough, it's hard to see either Shamrock -- father or son -- making an impact in the next couple of years inside the cage. While the father is too old, the son is too young.

According to the press release, Ryan is 5'9" 135 pounds. He also has only one pro MMA fight under his belt -- an August 2007 win by rear naked choke over Josh Besneatte (according to Sherdog.com) in a small promotion.

So, the reality is we don't know what kind of fighter Ryan is and more likely than not he still hasn't even reached his potential in terms of physical stature. He may gain 30 pounds in the next few formative years and end up fighting at a much higher weight class. And, he is just beginning his career so we don't know if he even has the talent to become a star like his father.

And, if Ryan does progress, will White come in and snatch him up, rendering EliteXC merely a farm system for the UFC?

Posted by at 9:34 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 14, 2008

Melvin Guillard Q&A wrapup

Well, there's no doubt that my interview last week with Melvin Guillard caused quite a stir in the MMA world. That blog entry was my most commented entry since I began blogging for baltimoresun.com (second place goes to two entries in which I discussed the Hamill-Bisping judging controversy at UFC 75).

Commenter sentiment was decidedly anti-Guillard. Reading through the comments, it appears that Guillard's statements fed into an already negative impression readers had about him. And, boy were commenters colorful in their responses! Many commenters seem to want the UFC to cut ties with the lightweight as soon as possible and clearly won't miss him. A number of you feel that Guillard doesn't represent the UFC or the sport of MMA very well.

I knew as I was doing the interview that Guillard's statements were explosive, but I also think he may have been joking in some instances. Now, I don't know Guillard personally (and I'm certainly not trying to defend him) but I don't take his claim that he would "kill" Rich Clementi or his claim that he would be robbing banks if he wasn't fighting at face value. But, his comments about "killing" Clementi were taken seriously by a number of you.

What I do take seriously is that Guillard doesn't like Clementi at all. And, I do think his responses in the second half of the interview were quite instructive (and a few of you noticed.) Guillard appears to recognize that he must improve his game and also appears to understand that he has made some mistakes. Of course, by that point in the interview, most of you were seething.

Just as a note, I did indeed confirm with the UFC that Guillard has been given permission to fight outside the Octagon to get some wins under his belt and that once he does, he'll be allowed back.

But, even his comments about only fighting strikers for a while irked many of you who believe that MMA is an all-around sport that includes the ground game.

Guillard also mentioned Roger Huerta as a future opponent. As some of you rightly pointed out, Guillard and Huerta have already fought, once in 2005. Initially, Guillard won a split decision but the result was overturned to a "no contest" after it was determined that Guillard had greased his body, making it difficult for Huerta to grasp him. For those of you already down on "The Young Assassin," this news may come as no surprise. Unfortunately, the recent pattern of behavior may have roots from at least that long ago. Here's video of that Guillard-Huerta fight:

http://www.veoh.com/videos/v1619042pNPc4TfW

Anyway, I hope to catch up with Guillard later in the year to see how he's doing with his comeback. Be sure to stay tuned for that interview...

Posted by at 7:25 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 10, 2008

Hits from the mainstream MMA media (Week 1)

As I mentioned a week or so ago, a group of MMA bloggers from throughout the mainstream media are getting together to swap our best content every week. This week, it's just Carlos Arias of the OC Register and me. Next week, however, we should have at least one more writer in the fold.

This week's submission by Arias are his notes on the UFC 80 conference call, which took place today. UFC President Dana White, and lightweight title fighters BJ Penn and Joe Stevenson were on the call. Click here for his notes. Arias also has a link to the audio from the call at the top of his entry.

---

And, for those of you wondering, I will have some final comments on the Melvin Guillard Q&A from yesterday.

Posted by at 7:27 PM | | Comments (1)
        

January 8, 2008

One-on-one with UFC lightweight Melvin Guillard

Melvin Guillard

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)

Editor's note: The following Q&A contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

TUF 2 alum Melvin Guillard is a young, colorful fighter in the UFC's jampacked lightweight division. 2007 was a rough year for Guillard, who suffered two first-round losses -- both by submission -- as well as an eight-month suspension for testing positive for cocaine. Guillard talked to me by phone ten days after losing to Rich Clementi at UFC 79 on Dec. 30. What follows are the highlights of the interview.

I was at UFC 79 and I saw your fight against Rich Clementi. How did you feel going in against Clementi?

Same as I feel in every other fight. I’m always ready. No matter who it is, I’m always ready to fight. I went into that fight the same way I would have gone into any other fight.

What was the beef you had with Clementi beforehand? You were talking a lot of trash to him and he was going back and forth with you. What was the origin of that?

He’s just a snake. He’s a backstabbing bastard. He likes to get over on people. I grew up around him all my fighting career and I thought we would have been cool but he’s jealous of my success at an early age with The Ultimate Fighter and just stuff like that. He would act like he’s my friend when he sees me and then when I wasn’t around – from other friends of mine who knew him personally also – he would always cut me down. He was talking bad about me and saying I wasn’t going to make it in the UFC, and [that] I was just a young kid who was going to throw his life away. [Stuff] like that.

So, I just got tired of hearing the [talk] and I confronted him about it last February at some fights at home (New Orleans). When I saw him [and had a] fistfight or whatever and I beat his ass then, I told him after that, “Every time I see you, we’re going to fight.” And, that’s how it’s been ever since then. Of course, everybody saw that he was the victorious one [at UFC 79] but he sits up there and says, “I’ll stand toe-to-toe with Melvin,” but everybody with their own eyes saw he wasn’t ready to stand up with me. He knew my weakness was my submission game as far as fighting him because he’s a seasoned jiu-jitsu guy -- I’ll give him that. As far as me putting my hands on him, I got my respect out of him. So, I’m not even tripping, you know?

So, in a way, it sounds like you don’t even think he won the fight.

He really didn’t. He didn’t take my heart. I took his heart before he got in the ring. He was scared to fight me before he got in the ring. And, it’s like I tell everybody – and I’m going to keep saying it – when I see him again, I’m going to fight him again. When I get ready to go home for Mardi Gras, he just knows not to be seen. I went home for New Years and the places he wants to go, he wasn’t even there. He knew I was going to be there looking for him. He never showed up anywhere. As long as he keeps hiding from me, running from me, I’m winning the war every day. Eventually, we’ll get another rematch in the UFC ...

How would a rematch be different? Are you working on your submission game right now?

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I’m working nothing but my jiu-jitsu. ... I got all the good guys around me ... so I’m just working the weaknesses in my game. I’m going to give myself six months to a year before my jiu-jitsu is 100 percent.  I’ve wrestled my whole life and I know you can’t learn wrestling overnight, so jiu-jitsu is not something you’re going to learn overnight either. And I was already working my jiu-jitsu prior to that fight. By me being a state champ in wrestling, an average wrestler is not going to come beat me at my own game. It takes time for them to develop a game.

I wasn’t surprised by the submission. I tried to shake him as much as I could off my back. But, he was holding on like a scared little bitch. He was holding on for dear life as if if he let me go, he knew he would lose the fight. So, I don’t look back on it. It happened last year, of course. 2007 is over. I got a new year in front of me and I’ve got another year to get better at my weak game. When I do fight the next jiu-jitsu guy, I hope they have a prayer for him -- I’m not going to be so nice anymore.

After Clementi won, he did that crotch grab and that pissed you off. But, after all that trash talking, can you kind of understand why he did that?

No, I can never understand that and nobody is ever going to make me understand that. He disrespected me after the fight. He put his nuts on the back of my head. When I catch him, I’m going to kick him in his [expletive deleted] nuts. I can’t look at that and respect that.  Because of the beef we have? Naw, I can’t. That’s honestly like me seeing him next time ... and I spit in his face.  My dad always told me if a man spit on you or slapped you, [expletive deleted] kill him. And if he put his nuts on my head on national TV, I’m going to [expletive deleted] kill him, period. So, there’s no way I’m ever going to overlook that and be like, “Naw, it’s cool because we were having problems.” Hell no. I ain’t ever gonna let another man do that to me and get away with it.

As far as the fight, though, honestly, I was going to be the bigger man about it and give him that victory -- congratulate him on his win -- but let him know that we’re still not friends and we’re going to fight again. But, as I’m getting up, it’s like he kicked me in the back of the neck, and it pushed me back down a little bit. So, I’m like, “What the [expletive deleted]?” And, I jump up like, “No, he did not just put his nuts on my neck.” So, that’s why I went after him like I did.

I had a few opportunities where I could have hit him but I had just got off an eight month suspension from [president] Dana [White] and the UFC and the [Nevada State Athletic] Commission. I wasn’t going to be stupid and let him win again by me putting my hands on him and then they dock me some more pay. If I had done that to him, he’d still be winning. So, I just kind of let it go, let it ride just for now. Just for now.

Now, I noticed that also before your match with Joe Stevenson, you like to talk trash. Do you enjoy that part of the game?  I also notice that the fans tend to boo you before your fights. Do you enjoy being the heel?

Is that what you think? Do you think I just talk trash? Do you think I’m just trash talking? What do you think?

Well, I think MMA fighters in general seem to play it pretty safe. You stand out ...

Let me ask you this. If I wasn’t who I was, if I didn’t talk trash to these fighters, would you have a story to tell? Would you have a reason to call me? No. See what I’m saying? It comes with the game.

The only people I have to respect and obey are my fans and my friends and family. As far as fighters go, I don’t have to respect or be friends with any of them. As far as I’m concerned, I might stand in front of them and face them one day. I pick and choose who I want to be cool with and that’s who I’m cool with.  I don’t go befriend everybody but when it’s time to fight, yeah of course, I’m going to talk [expletive deleted]. Rich's talking [expletive deleted] now ‘cause he won this fight and that’s cool but he’s still a poor fighter. I lost the fight and people still hate him more than they hate me. He’s an arrogant bastard. And, he contradicts himself. How are you going to talk [expletive deleted] about me and say you don’t like me, and then a couple of interviews later you're going to say, “He’s a cool kid.”

And, when he talks to me on an interview, he’s like, “Hey, what’s up Melvin? What’s up buddy?” I’m not your [expletive deleted] buddy. And, he’s done that a few times, so to me, that’s fake. If you’re going to not like somebody and create mischief and create that problem, then you keep it that way. You don’t keep going back and forth.

I got booed before the fight, I got booed after the fight, but I’m still one of the crowd favorites. They booed him even more for him talking stupid, saying “Yeah, I told him I’d stand up with him.” And everybody that was there saw that when he stood up with me, I almost knocked him out. If I’m not the person I am, then you all wouldn’t have a job.

Yeah, I like to talk [expletive deleted] but I also back it up. I haven’t gotten my ass beat. I haven’t been in a fight yet where somebody has outclassed me or just beat me down. Every fight I’ve been in, the ones I’ve lost have been from submission or a close judges’ decision. When you really look at my record and all the losses that I have, I’ve lost to jiu-jitsu guys. Nobody is ever going to stand in front of me and beat my ass. My mom did that all my life so those days are over with. If I’m going to lose a fight because of somebody submitting me, I’ll take that any day over somebody beating my ass. 

Back to the original question, is this the real Melvin Guillard? You’re not putting on a show? This is the real you?

Yeah, it’s me, man. When I have to fight, bro, it’s a business. Me and Joe [Stevenson] are cool. That was some made-up beef to get a little tension going. With Rich, man, none of that is fake. People were like, “After the fight, you’re not going to be cool.” Hell no, I’m not going to be cool! They were asking, “Are you all going to let it go? Is that the end of it?” No, it’s not the end of it. Win or lose. If I’d have won that fight, I still would beat his ass every time I see him. That’s just how I feel about him on a personal level.

From the outside it would seem like 2007 was a rough year for you, with the two losses and the suspension for cocaine. How would you describe it since you lived it?

Well, it was a learning experience. I did a lot of growing up. I realized what was important. I had my fun. I happened to be the fighter that got caught. Like I said before, there are a ton of us that go out and party and have fun and do all those crazy things. I just happened to be the one to get caught. So, it was my bed -- I had to lay in it.

2007 was a rough year. I had a rough three years. 2005 was Katrina. 2006 was my dad passing away. 2007 was the suspension. I had my three years bad luck. It’s behind me now. So, now I look forward to having a great 2008 and getting back on the winning track.

Speaking of 2008, since it looks like you have a positive outlook on the year, what do you have in store for this year?

I’m going to take a few fights outside the UFC to get back some of my wins. Hopefully, it’s not any all-around chumps. I’m not going to take any fights at 155 [pounds] outside the UFC. I want to fight at 170 [pounds] -- a weight class above mine outside the UFC. I’m probably scheduled to fight again in the UFC late March, early April if they bless me with that.

Other than that, I’ll take a lot of side hustles, make some money this year.  Being suspended for eight months really hurt my pocket. You can put in the article [that] anybody [who] wants to donate to the Melvin Negro Fund, they can donate to that too because right now my pockets [are] hurting. Being suspended for eight months ... I almost had to go work a regular job to survive. I don’t want to have that feeling again.

So, the UFC has agreed to let you fight some outside fights?

Yeah, they did. But, I gotta be careful who I fight for and who I fight. It’s not one of those things where I can just go fight any show or fight anybody. I gotta be real careful how I pick the fights. It’s like taking a gamble because if [I] do that, I have to win. I have to win these fights. If I gotta fight two weight classes up -- to fight 185- [pounders] -- I’ll do that to protect what I have in the UFC. I’ll fight a 185-pound guy if I have to. It’s not one of those things where I can just go jump and say, “Here, I’m going to take this fight or that fight like I used to.” If something goes wrong -- God forbid something goes wrong -- and the UFC’s not happy, they can ... put me on a break for a long time from the UFC and I can’t live with that.

So, the deal you have with the UFC is that you cannot fight lightweight outside the UFC?

Well, they never technically said that. They never said I couldn’t fight lightweight. But, that’s a decision I made on a personal level. I don’t even want to mess with my lightweight status -- whether it’s a win, whether it’s a loss, whether it’s a draw. I don’t even want to play with that outside the UFC. I would rather keep my 155- [pound] rankings only in the UFC. So, me going out and fighting heavier guys in different weight classes, I figure they’ll be a lot more lenient on me, to say, “OK, that’s no problem.”

Plus, I don’t want to cut 25 pounds every time I have to fight. That’s not that fun. Fighting in the UFC is worth it. But, anything outside of that, I don’t feel like it’s worth it. I’d rather just fight at the weight I walk around at. So, that was kind of a personal decision. 

Have you started talking to other promotions? Would they let you fight for EliteXC or IFL?

No, and that’s another thing. I cannot fight for any competition organizations like IFL or EliteXC. I won’t do it anyway because all those other guys, they’ll try to put me on a contract. Plus, they’re all televised. The only way people will see me televised in a fight on TV, it has to be in the UFC.

So, we’re talking local promotions?

Right, I’m talking about local, backyard [expletive deleted], something like that. That’s how I started out fighting. I don’t mind a couple of backyard fights. You got anything lined up where you are at? We can do it in the backyard.

[Laughing] Unfortunately, I live in a state where they don’t have MMA sanctioned.

Really?

Yeah, Maryland ... We have it in Washington D.C. though, so if you want to come out to D.C. ...

I’m going to jump around a little bit, man. I’m just trying to stay loyal to the UFC because that’s my home. To me, there’s no other organization bigger than that. So, if you ain’t fighting in the UFC, then your life as a fighter has got be very [expletive deleted] boring. You ain’t going to get that kind of publicity or that kind of fame. And, they got so many guys now trying to get to that level -- they’re trying to get to the big show -- it would be naive and stupid of me to take it for granted. It’d be like, “I fight in the UFC already, so I’m just going to fight over here, fight there” – I don’t think like that. I’m blessed to be in the UFC at an early age so I’m just going to leave it like that.

How many fights do you have left on your current UFC contract?

Right now, I have about two years left on my deal. I don’t have, like, so many fights, you know what I mean? They do kind of guarantee us somewhere [between] three to four fights a year.  They kind of space it out on the average because the UFC has so many shows, the healthier you are the more chances you get to fight. But, I think the way they stretch it out, you’re lucky if you get four. You’re real lucky if you get four fights [a year].

Are you back in the gym training already?

Oh yeah.

Would you say you’re mostly working on your jiu-jitsu and your ground game right now?

Yeah, I’ve been focusing a lot more, even going back to my wrestling. Because I was getting away from my wrestling too. I started standing up so much. I got careless with guys taking me down. I wasn’t going for no takedowns. I’m really trying to work my wrestling game and my jiu-jitsu. I already know I can box and kickbox. That’s not something everybody needs to try and figure out. I need to sit down and reassess my situation with my ground game and actually focus a lot more on it. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing -- focusing on my weak spot, my hole in my game.

Do you know who your next UFC opponent will be?

No, not as of right now, I don’t know. I’ll probably know within another few weeks, a month or so, something like that.

Do you have a preference?

Well, I wanted to fight Roger Huerta, but they said he’s on vacation right now. So, that fight’s up in the air. Other than that, man, I don’t care. As long as they put me back in. I’d prefer to fight a few strikers for a while until I can get my jiu-jitsu game up. Because, my last two fights, they gave me mat rats -- they just wanted to hug me. I get enough hugs at home. I want to fight some people that are ready to stand up and trade punches and kind of put me to the test.

Do you have input with the UFC in terms of what kind of fighters you want to fight or who you fight?

Yeah, they’ll call and they’ll ask us [if] we want to fight this guy, that guy. They’ll call my agent, he’ll call me, and then I’ll sit down with my coaches and we really just think about if it’s a good fight for me. So, yeah we do have say [into] who we fight.

The lightweight division in the UFC is one of the toughest divisions in the world. Where do you see yourself?

It used to be the 170- [pound] class was the toughest. Now, with all the guys like Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, [Tyson] Griffin, the 155- [pound] class is probably the top class and the hardest weight division in the UFC right now. At first it wasn’t. At first, it was almost like, man, the 170- [pound] class was still strong. But, the only guys you see winning the 170- [pound class] are Matt Hughes and [Georges] St. Pierre. They keep trading the belt back and forth. I don’t see nobody that’s going to beat them.

But, at the 155- [pound] weight class, you got Joe fighting BJ Penn next for the title. I really think Joe can beat him and everybody’s telling me he can’t. But, dude, Joe has a good well-rounded game and his stand-up is great now. I got to visit with Joe while I was getting ready for my fight. ... He’s looking good. All around. His whole game is looking good.

And, I sit back and I thought about it and that’s what I need. I got me a few new trainers now and I need to create me a training area around me where I don’t do nothing but just train ... and not worry about everything else. I got caught up worrying about everything surrounding these last three years. I was worried about everyone and everything around me instead of worrying about myself, and what’s my main objective. And, I think that’s why I lost sight and that’s why I fell short these last two fights.

Now, I finally got my mind ready and right. I’m focused on what’s important to me. Without fighting, I don’t know what I’d be doing ... I’d rob a bank or some [expletive deleted]. I’d probably do something that desperate because there’s nothing else I want to do. So, as long as I stay focused on what’s important, man, I think I’ll hold up pretty good.

Whoever they give me the next fight, I’m hoping and praying it’s a striker ... hopefully fight a couple of strikers. Give the crowd what they came to see me do best. The people come to see me stand up and trade punches ‘til I knock someone out. When I’m fighting and struggling to get guys off my back, to try to keep me off the ground, it takes away from what I’m really good at -- for the fans. With that, I’m hoping I get a decent fight next time around.

Posted by at 11:35 PM | | Comments (93)
Categories: Q&As
        

January 6, 2008

MMA's growing celebrity

As the sport of mixed martial arts grows in popularity, some of its biggest stars are enjoying some crossover celebrity success.

In fact, right now there are two shows on NBC that include MMA stars in them. The first one is Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, which airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. Unlike previous seasons, there is no job working for Trump at stake. Instead, the contestants are all competing for their favorite charity. MMA is represented by Tito Ortiz, and the first episode took place this past week.

I have to admit, I watched The Apprentice the first couple of seasons it came out but lost interest over time as the show became a bit repetitious. The celebrity hook, however, has me back watching. In the first episode, the teams were divided into men vs. women, and the task was to make as much money as possible selling hot dogs. The men crushed, raising about three times as much as the women. The first eliminated contestant was former Playboy playmate Tiffany Fallon (who, by the way, could be considered a member of the MMA community given her role on IFL Battleground.) 

Ortiz had a minor role in the first episode, though girlfriend Jenna Jameson did make an appearance.

The other show featuring a MMA star is American Gladiators, a revival of the show I loved growing up. The Gladiators on the newest season of the show are celebrities for the most part, including Leila Ali and Hulk Hogan. MMA is represented by Gina Carano, the EliteXC fighter who is well-known as much for her looks as her skill. On the show, Carano plays the role of Crush. The first episode airs tonight at 9 p.m.

I'll definitely be watching...

Posted by at 2:27 PM | | Comments (1)
        

January 5, 2008

IFL Grand Prix Finals video

While most of the MMA world was focused on UFC 79 and the marquee matchups on that card (including me, quite frankly), there was other good action taking place right around New Year's Eve.

For example, the same night as UFC 79, the IFL held the finals of its individual World Grand Prix tournament. As lesser-known promotions like the IFL compete for fan interest, they are forced to resort to creative ways of publicizing their events. In this case, the IFL has decided make a number of the fights from that night available in their entirety on YouTube for free viewing. It's a great idea and the IFL picked a great night to showcase their product to the masses.

Many of the results from the Grand Prix Finals are upsets. While being able to build around one or two superstars always helps, the IFL was becoming a bit predictable. So, the upsets are a good thing because they demonstrate growing depth in the league.

Anyway, here's video from four fights that night. Watch and enjoy! (Click on a round number to view the video)

Heavyweight Title: Roy Nelson vs. Antoine Jaoude

Round 1  Round 2

Middleweight Title: Matt Horwich vs. Benji Radach

Round 1  Round 2

Lightweight Title: Ryan Schultz vs. Chris Horodecki

Round 1

Welterweight bout (non-title): Brett Cooper vs. Rory Markham

Round 1  Round 2

Posted by at 12:17 PM | | Comments (1)
        

January 4, 2008

Baltimore MMA update

About a month ago, I mentioned that Baltimore had two representatives in the top 32 of the TUF 7 tryouts -- Lee Synkowski and Tenyeh Dixon. While Spike TV has been understandably mum about which fighters will actually be on the newest season featuring the middleweight division, all indications are that neither Synkowski nor Dixon will make their small-screen debut this spring. Still, both did very well in the initial tryouts and both are part of a growing contingent of Baltimore MMA fighters that is enjoying success.

Speaking of Baltimore MMA, I received a press release from EliteXC today and it turns out Binky Jones will be fighting at the January 25 ShoXC event at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Jones is coming off two straight losses in BodogFight to end 2007. Still, ShoXC is a step up from BodogFight and the event will air live on Showtime, though Jones' fight is not scheduled to be televised.

ShoXC is essentially a feeder system for EliteXC. If Jones does well in a couple of ShoXC events, he may very well get the opportunity to advance to the big stage of an EliteXC show. That also means he could eventually end up fighting on Showtime.

Jones is scheduled to fight in the 150-pound weight class. EliteXC is deep in that weight range with a number of other fighters fighting in and around 155 pounds, including 160-pound champ KJ Noons as well Nick Diaz and "Krazy Horse" Charles Bennett. (By the way, it is just as confusing writing about these non-standard weight classes as it must be for you to read about them. I'm keeping an open mind, but I'm not a huge fan so far.)

While it hasn't been confirmed yet by EliteXC, I'm being told that Jones' opponent will be Mark Getto, who has a losing MMA record including a TKO loss to current UFC fighter Frank Edgar in 2005 (before Edgar began fighting in the UFC.)

ShoXC is big-time MMA action and outside of UFC 78, there hasn't been anything bigger in recent memory on the East Coast. So, if you are interested in checking out a quality promotion and some quality fights, head over to EliteXC.com for more information.

Posted by at 8:27 PM | | Comments (1)
        

January 3, 2008

UFC 79 wins over yet another fan and much more

Ahhh, it's a new year. Which means the holidays are now over and I'll be back to blogging regularly again. First, I hope you enjoyed your holidays and I also hope you enjoyed the plethora of MMA action on display right around New Year's Eve throughout the world.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'll be adding a couple of new features to the blog. But, before I talk about those features, let me make a couple of final points about UFC 79. My recap of the event is up here at SI.com and I specifically focused on what the results of that event mean for some of its fighters in 2008.

Now, back to the event itself. As I mentioned previously, my wife was in the arena that night and it was her first UFC event ever. And, she came away very impressed. I consider my wife a casual MMA fan. She knows the sport but she's by no means planning her life around events or TV shows. Given the choice between a shopping spree at Caesar's Forum or a UFC event, she'd most likely choose the former.

Regardless, she knows the main actors and enjoys the sporting aspect of the fights. And, she came away from UFC 79 wanting more (as in "let's attend every UFC event from now on!"). Some of her comments were instructive, though. To her, the only fights that really mattered were the three main fights. Outside of those fights, she indicated she wasn't that interested in the rest of the card. I believe her sentiments can be applied to much of the general MMA audience right now. Marquee matchups are what these fans look for. Can the UFC brand carry a night of fights? Sure, for hardcore fans it definitely can. But, to convert the casual fans into hardcore fans, UFC needs to continue to put at least one or two GSP-Hughes or Liddell-Silva caliber fights on each card.

No matter what the purists say, MMA is a combat sport, and traditionally speaking, combat sports require a storyline that heightens the drama of the fight itself. Along with that, the fight itself has to pit fighters who are considered intriguing, at least in part because they are at or near the top of their games.

UFC 79 had all these ingredients and more. There was energy in the crowd going into the fights and the fights themselves didn't disappoint. It was MMA at its finest. If mainstream America sees more cards like this, there is no reason the sport can't continue to grow. But, yes, matchmaking is of the utmost importance. Do the fighters have to cooperate and put on great performances? Sure, but as we saw Saturday night, the great ones usually oblige.

Walking through the Mandalay Bay after the fights, I was stopped a couple of times by strangers who had no idea if I was a MMA fan or not, but who asked anyway if I'd been to the fights and if Chuck had won. Yes, to mainstream America, he does indeed have one name. Liddell (or Chuck) alone can carry most cards. These strangers also wanted to find out about the GSP-Hughes fight. Beyond that, not much interest.

Of course, that doesn't mean there weren't other intriguing fights on the card. But it does mean that for UFC and other promotions to grow, there needs to be a hook. Chuck, Tito, GSP, Rampage -- these guys sell tickets and bring new fans in.

Dana White also said something interesting about attracting blue chip sponsors at the post-UFC 79 press conference. He said that once the execs at these companies attend a UFC event, they are hooked on the product. I can believe it. It happened to my wife, but as many noticed Saturday night, it also happened to the execs at Harley-Davidson and Lumber Liquidators.

---

Now, about this blog. A couple of other writers in the mainstream media are forming a network and we'll be sharing our top material from each week. So, every Friday you can come to this blog and get a sampling of what some of the other MMA writers throughout the country are talking about. It's a great idea and I'd like to thank Carlos Arias of the OC Register for approaching me with the idea and really organizing the effort. Start looking for this to start soon (maybe tomorrow?).

---

And, as some of you may remember, before I began covering MMA for the Sun way back in November 2006, I had actually started taking BJJ classes with Lee Synkowski at Baltimore BJJ. Well, after a year hiatus, I went back into the gym about a month ago and I'm now regularly attending classes again a couple of hours a week. I hope to incorporate what I'm learning into the blog, whether that be through a discussion of technique or some other manner. So, look for that. And, if you have ideas on how I can use my personal BJJ experiences in my writing, feel free to drop me a line.

Take it easy and happy new year.

 

Posted by at 8:17 PM | | 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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