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February 27, 2008

Q&A with Maryland Delegate Reznik about MMA sanctioning

The Maryland Senate held a hearing Tuesday to discuss the legalization of MMA in the state. In the aftermath of that hearing, I caught up with Delegate Kirill Reznik about the next steps in the process. Here is the transcript of that e-mail conversation.

What are your thoughts on the Senate hearings on Tuesday?

I think the hearing went quite well.  There was no opposition that testified or submitted testimony.  The proponents of the bill did a great job in highlighting the benefits of Professional and Amateur MMA in Maryland, including the health, business, and fiscal benefits that it would generate.  Many of the members of the Senate Committee did not seem to know much about the topic, but seemed to appreciate the education and asked pointed questions dealing with safety, among other issues.

What is the next step in this process?

Next week, the same thing will happen all over again on the House side with my bill (HB 795), which is the companion bill to the bill which was heard [Tuesday].  We expect the same, or similar, groups will be represented to testify in favor of the bill.  Once all of the testimony is finished, each respective Committee will vote on the bills and they will go to the full Chamber vote.  Once those votes take place, (hopefully they will be voted favorable) they will go to the Governor for signature.

Do you think MMA sanctioning has support in both the House and the Senate, and from Governor O'Malley to become law in 2008?

I think there is good support.  Also, the MMA community in Maryland has been very active in contacting their respective legislators to make sure that they are aware of the widespread support.  The obvious benefits are clear, and the concerns that may be raised can be addressed.

When do you think we will see MMA sanctioned by law in the state of Maryland?

That is difficult to answer.  Assuming there is no opposition, and it passes both Chambers, the Governor will then undertake the signing process in the months of April and May.  Once it becomes law (which would be July 1, assuming the Governor's approval), then the State Athletic Commission will need to promulgate regulations on all of the details with regard to sanctioning, licensing, and promoting events, as well as training referees, ringside physicians, and others, as well as creating criteria for fighters dealing with physical examinations, fight matching, etc.  There is a lot to do and the process is, and should be very deliberative.  It may take the Commission as long as a year to get everything drafted, hold public hearings, and finalizing all of the rules.

When does the State Athletic Commission become involved? What is its role once the bill becomes law?

The Athletic Commission has been involved from the start and has been a tremendous help, which is why the hearing process seemed so easy and without opposition.  We have been working with them on bill drafting, to make sure that their concerns and requirements were addressed.  Its role after the bill becomes law is to draft all of the regulations dealing with MMA Professional and Amateur events in the State (as described in #4 above), and to regulate the events, fighter, trainers, and promoters once events begin.

What do you think is the earliest date that we can see a live professional MMA event here in Maryland?

Very hard to say, but it will definitely not be in 2008.  If the bill is signed into law it will take effect on July 1, 2008.  6 months is probably not enough time for the Commission to be able to accurately and professionally do their work.

Do you have any target cities in mind that you believe would make good hosts for the sport here in the state? Baltimore, for example?

There are no specific locations that are currently being looked at, to my knowledge.  There are MMA studios throughout the State and the venue will depend on the size and scale of the event.  Clearly, 1st Mariner Arena and the Baltimore Convention Center are great locations for large scale events.  But also, there are great locations in Montgomery County, such as the North Bethesda Convention Center, the new National Harbor (once completed) in Prince George's County, or Michael's 8th Avenue in Anne Arundel County.  As you may know, Michael Wagner's son, Scott, came to testify in favor of the bill to the Senate yesterday, and Michael Wagner is coming to testify for the House bill next week.  Also, University locations, such as the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland, would be good locations.  But again, much depends on the promoter, fight card, cost, and a number of other factors.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 5:29 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Faith-based fighting: Q&A with IFL champ Matt Horwich

While much of the MMA world is focused on this weekend’s UFC middleweight title bout between Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson, there is another middleweight title on the line the night before. On Friday, IFL champ Matt Horwich makes his first title defense against Ryan McGivern.

Horwich is a unique personality in the sport. It’s difficult not to root for a guy who seems so at peace with the world and so thankful for everything he has. But, don’t be fooled by his unflappable sense of optimism. Inside the ring, Horwich takes care of business, and last year was a breakout year for the Team Quest fighter. He went 4-1 in IFL competition and defeated Benji Radach for the title in December.

I had the opportunity to speak to Horwich by phone on Monday. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

This weekend you’ve got a fight against Ryan McGivern and you’ll enter the fight as the IFL middleweight champ. How does that feel?

It feels [like] all things are possible to them who believe. And, I’ve been telling my street-kid friends for seven years ever since I was almost dead hanging out in Seattle [that] I’m going to bring them a middleweight belt. And, I was blessed enough to bring them back one finally.

I wore it around New Year’s and went to Seattle and went out to dinner and everything, so it’s just awesome. Thank God for everything.

horwich-300.jpg

Do you wear your belt around a lot?

Not a lot. I did that time. I usually keep it in my room. I brought it to church and everything, which was a way rad feeling to show everyone. Got to go up and talk about the awesome things God’s been doing in my life and that I’ve been blessed with. I’m thankful to get to do what I like doing, make a living, dieting good, and training hard, traveling around, competing against world-class athletes, and training with my heroes in the sport -- Matt Lindland, Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Eddie Bravo, Chris Riley, a whole bunch of awesome fighters I’ve had the chance to train with. It’s awesome.

It sounds like you’re really proud of the belt. Have you ever had a belt before or defended a belt before?

I had the SportFight belt at light heavyweight, which I’m really light for that weight class. And, I lost it to Glover Texeira from [John] Hackelman and Chuck Liddell’s school [by] unanimous decision. So, I think that was the only belt I had before.

I was fighting every other weekend for $1000 a fight and right now I’m blessed enough to be making -- if this fight goes as good as I’m hoping, I’ll make about 26 times that much. The last fight [against Benji Radach at the IFL middleweight Grand Prix Finals in December] I probably made like 17 times that much. So, I’m thankful to get to make a living doing something [inaudible] instead of having a job I don’t really find [inaudible]…

Hey Matt, you broke up about thirty seconds ago…

Let me go stand outside. I’m in Team Quest, in the gym and it does that sometimes. I could use some fresh air anyway.

[Horwich heads outside of the gym]

How’s the weather out there?

The weather was cloudy the last I was out of the gym. It appears to be still cloudy. I know that’s a big surprise in the Northwest but I like that there’s a lot of trees and everything and good oxygen as a result of it being cloudy and rainy. The summers are way beautiful and I like winter time as well. I like the different seasons. It’s always cool to see a change of scenery. It’d be boring if it stayed the same all the time I guess.

Definitely. I enjoy the season’s here in Baltimore too. So, about McGivern. You lost to him at the end of 2006 by unanimous decision. Why do you think he was able to beat you?

Well, I think that some things I could have done better in that fight was not let him pass my butterfly hooks, have more of a sense of urgency to get back up and get on top and throw more combos at stand up. I think there were some things I could have done better that fight. I thought I was pretty blessed that fight. I thought it was a good fight. I land some good knees from the necktie [but] lost the decision as a result of getting taken down and controlled. I didn’t really get hurt in the fight or anything.

So, this time I’m hoping to be more improved than ever. I trained super hard for the fight. And, I knew Tim Kennedy or Ryan McGivern -- whoever is the number one contender for the belt -- is going to be a really tough fight so I’ve done what I could to be as well-prepared as possible. And, that’s a good feeling to go into the ring with versus going into the ring thinking, “Man, maybe I should have trained a little harder or focused more.”

So, what have you changed in your strategy or your approach since that fight that you think will allow you to create a favorable outcome this time around?

Well, I’ve just been working on improving all the facets of my game since the last fight. Working on improving my kickboxing, training with Chris Riley, Rob Kaman’s student as well as our boxing coach, Chris Wilson, learning all the information I can about kickboxing. I watch K-1 and write down the combos that Masato, Buakaw [Por Pramuk], Ernesto Hoost, and [Mirko] Cro Cop are throwing and try to work them into my game and move like they do.

As well as the top wrestlers like Matt Lindland and Randy Couture and MMA fighters [like] BJ Penn. There’s so much information available about our sport now. What makes it so exciting is there’s so many different facets.

Since the last fight with McGivern, I’ve been working on improving my wrestling, stand up, Muay Thai, and Jiu-Jitsu and growing in faith and improving everything.

So, how do you like being in the IFL?

I love being in the IFL. They treat the fighters really well. I’m making, like I said, probably 17 times as much as I used to make fighting every other weekend last fight. And, then this one will be like 26 times as much, if it goes as well as I’m hoping.

And, the IFL staff are way cool. I always enjoy hanging out with them when I’m at the motel and everything, waiting to compete. So, it’s way awesome. I’m thankful to be blessed to be fighting for a great organization and have a great group of guys here at Team Quest to train with -- Matt Lindland and Ryan and all the good middleweights that we have -- Chael Sonnen, Ed Herman. So, it’s a blessing to have really good people to work with. Like Randy Couture says, “Iron sharpens iron” so one man sharpens another.

What’s your contract status with the IFL?

Matt Lindland explained it to me. The way it works, if I successfully defend the belt, I continue to get raises each fight. I couldn’t tell you the exact amount. I just looked over the contract and it’s a way awesome contract. So, if this fight goes as good as I’m hoping I’ll make 26 grand on it. Then the next one will be more.

OK, is that 13 [grand] to show and 13 [grand] to win?

12 [grand] to show and 14 [grand] to win.

How many fights do you have left on your contract with the IFL?

I get three more fights this year from what I understand, so a lot of it is based on how well my performance goes. Either way, it’s a really good contract so if it goes as good as I’m hoping hopefully I can put a down payment on a house and develop it and put so more rooms on, knock out some walls, expand the kitchen, and make the land value go up. Rent out some rooms and then eventually get a couple of properties going and get into real estate, make wise investments with the money. What I can, I’d like to donate to the International Children’s Care, which is a Seventh Day Adventist group that has orphanages all over the world, ones in Africa, Central America. They get cows and stuff and grow food to make the orphanages self-supporting and educate the orphans and everything. So, that’s a way rad organization. So, that’s a lot of what the money I make is going to.

It sounds like you have a lot of plans even beyond your fighting career already in place.

Well, it’s wise to invest the money as wisely as possible because no one can stay on top of the competition forever. So, I would like to get into real estate…as well as start another Team Quest school. And I’m hoping that I can get a farm and grow some organic food and have an organic food restaurant in the Team Quest school and coffee shop place. So, it’ll be that business as well. And, it’ll be doing something positive hopefully, getting people into the benefits of eating healthy, training hard, and making positive choices. So, that’s some of the stuff that I would like to do.

Do you have any aspirations to move over to the UFC or to any of the other leagues? Or, are you pretty content in the IFL?

I’m just taking it as it goes, kind of going with the flow. The IFL is a great organization. They’ve treated me really well so I’ve been really happy with them. And, I’m signed another year. And, then I got to look at who’s offering me the most money and what’s going to be the best contract to sign. I think the IFL will have a whole lot of success with their business because they’ve got a lot of great fighters and a lot of TV coverage. So, who knows what’s going to happen in the future. I’m a big fan of all the organizations -- the IFL, UFC, WEC. They’ve all got a lot of great fighters to learn from. All of them are awesome.

Who do you think is the best middleweight in the world?

In my opinion, the best middleweights in the world are Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland. One of my favorite fights ever to watch was Matt Lindland versus Quinton Jackson [in the WFA in July, 2006]. And, I like Quinton Jackson. He’s an awesome person -- he’s always way fun to hang out with. But, I thought Matt Lindland won that fight based on the fact that he had Quinton on the defensive most of the fight and scored takedowns, almost had a rear naked choke, was going for submissions. That was way awesome to see Matt Lindland do that well against a bigger, stronger opponent like Quinton.

The one with Dan Henderson and Quinton [at UFC 75] was way awesome as well. And, I’m looking forward to seeing him fight Anderson Silva. And, Anderson Silva’s up there as well. I’m a big fan of his stand up. There are so many great fighters out there now. I’m also a really big fan of BJ Penn. He’s one of my heroes…

It sounds like you think Henderson is going to beat Silva this weekend. Is that what you think?

Yeah, I think so. I’m a little biased because Henderson’s my teammate. I have no doubt Henderson can beat Anderson Silva. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Everyone knows Anderson Silva’s one of the best middleweights out there. A tough fight for anyone. But, I think Dan Henderson will beat him. No disrespect to Anderson Silva. He’s a nice guy. I went to one of his seminars but obviously I’m pulling for my teammate.

I know your faith is important to you. Was there a defining moment for you in your life that led you to be so spiritual?

Well, when I was a street kid in Seattle, a family at the drop-in for street kids invited me to dinner and ended up renting me a room and they were really nice people and had an awesome family an everything. So, I decided that I want what they want or what they have as Christians -- good faith, good family, good spirituality. So, I became a Christian then.

I tried to be a musician a while in Seattle and learn how to play. Then, me and my friend TJ started grappling after we’d have a couple of beers. I had learned a little bit from the Gracies when I saved up enough to train with them. And, I decided I want to be a professional fighter and heard about UFC making a comeback and Randy Couture being the heavyweight champion back then.

I signed up at Northwest Fighting Arts so I could find Team Quest because they weren’t listed. Then I eventually found Team Quest and Matt Lindland and I’ve been here pretty much ever since. I went to AMC awhile. Then, Matt Lindland adopted me back onto the team and picked me up at one of my fights. So, I’ve been here fighting for Matt Lindland ever since. It’s a blessing to have a great group of guys to train with here. That’s how I got spiritual and got to Team Quest.

Do you think there’s anything inherently contradictory between your deep faith and the fact that your job is to inflict damage on your opponent? Is that an issue for you at all or something you have to grapple with?

Not so much anymore. It says in Exodus 15:3, “God’s a warrior.” And, also in Psalms, David says, “God trains my hands for war, gives me strength for battle, makes me swift like a deer.” So, David’s war was a lot more intense than me going into the ring to compete against athletes. I think it’s really good for us, what we do in the sense that it’s got us into dieting good, training hard, making positive choices, keeping our bodies and minds as healthy as possible. So, I think it’s a good thing, competing in MMA and influencing people positively and giving all the glory where it’s due to God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. So, I’m thankful for that.

Also, there’s the parable in the Bible about the shrewd manager that when he’s fired from his job, he has people pay half of what they owe his debtors so he’s welcomed into their homes so he won’t have to beg or anything. And, the manager applauds his shrewdness and in the same way, we’re supposed to be shrewd with our blessings and wealth here to win people for God. So, I like to use my blessings in the ring to give the credit where it’s due, influence people positively, and it’s an honor for us as fighters to get to be role models to kids. It’s way awesome.

How does music relate to quantum physics?

Well, it’s all interconnected. According to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, energy equals mass as constant magnetic field squared times the speed of light squared. What that means is it’s all connected -- energy and mass’ constant magnetic field, which is gravity… and electromagnetism and String Theory possibly. So, everything’s interconnected. Time, gravity, speed of light, flowing on technique in the ring, or flowing on chords or notes on guitar or music, flowing on spirituality and it’s a beautiful universe. God is love and all things are possible to them who believe. We can all make our dreams come true and make a big difference and influence a lot of people positively and do awesome things. We all have a lot of awesome potential when we tap into God’s abundancy and blessings, use love as our motivation and fight the good fight. Thank God for everything and we’re going to rock ’n' roll these next couple of years.

Now, I understand you’re getting married the day after this upcoming fight. First of all, congratulations on that. Second, why not do what Ryan McGivern did last fall and skip the fight for your wedding?

The reason that I’m fighting is for the orphans and the International Children’s Care, to influence people positively. So, I’m thankful for the opportunity to do that. Whatever happens in the fight, by Jesus’ grace I can still have a good time at the wedding and get married. I’m thankful to have met a way awesome wife. Proverb says, “He who finds a wife, finds a treasure and wins favor in the eyes of the lord.” So, I’m going to do my job and try to be the best that I can be for the orphans, the churches, and God and Jesus and all my family and friends. Then, get married the next day and then we’re going to hang out in Las Vegas and have the honeymoon. And, I’m going to train a couple of hours a day with Mario Sperry and Randy Couture and see what kind of new information I can learn.

“By many wise advisements and counsel battles are won”, it teaches us in Proverbs so I always like learning all the new stuff I can. The good thing about our team at Team Quest is that we encourage keeping an open mind and learning new stuff to bring back to the team from people like Randy Couture, Mario Sperry, BJ Penn. So, yeah, I’m way thankful for all the opportunities.

[Pramit Mohapatra]

(Matt Horwich photo courtesy of the IFL)

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 10:03 AM | | Comments (1)
        

February 25, 2008

Chillin' with the Tapout crew

Tapout crew pic by Tracy Lee

 (Tapout: From left, Punkass, SkySkrape, and Mask. Photo courtesy of Tracy Lee.)

The “Tapout” brand is synonymous with mixed martial arts. Venture to any MMA event and you’ll see the Tapout logo emblazoned on any number of fighter shorts inside the cage and T-shirts in the stands. Go to a WEC or a UFC show or other smaller shows and you just might see the costumed crew sitting somewhere near the cage.

And, for good reason -- the Tapout crew, consisting of Mask, Punkass, and SkySkrape (no, that’s not a misspelling), has been on the scene since the early days of the UFC. Their clothing and gear could very well be considered the granddaddy of MMA apparel. Since its humble beginnings, the company has blossomed. Along with a successful clothing line, the crew now has a TV show on Versus, a magazine, and other projects in the works.

I had the opportunity to interview all three members of the crew on February 13 by phone. The three were in a Las Vegas hotel room at the time, having just returned from a day at the MAGIC convention, a fashion clothing expose. If you’ve watched the Tapout TV show, you know the guys don’t take themselves too seriously and have fun with their work. You can also tell that the three are good friends. And, this was quite evident during the interview. Mask and SkySkrape cracked jokes while Punkass was allegedly texting during the interview. There were enjoyable interruptions during which the three tried to hatch a plan to cover up for all the f-bombs they’d been dropping. (Thankfully, I wield the power of “[expletive deleted]”). And, there were humorous stories including the crew’s propensity for getting lost despite the advice of the female voice in their GPS navigation.

But the crew did find time to be serious and to talk a little about where their company has been and where it’s going. What follows are some of the highlights of a conversation that spanned about 40 fun-filled minutes.

I read that Mask started Tapout in ’93 selling shirts out of the trunk of his car.

Mask: ’94.

How did Punkass and SkySkrape come on board?

Mask: Punkass ... I needed protection when I was out there in my car so Punkass always carried loaded guns (laughing). [I needed] Punkass to hang out with me and SkySkrape was just a fast runner so while Punkass would be shooting I’d throw the stuff to SkySkrape because he could get it out of there, away from the cops.

SkySkrape: I’m like a [expletive deleted] gazelle bro ... really fast.

Mask: He just jumps over bridges ... just with one leap.

OK, anyway. Now, I’m going to give you a B story to that (laughing).  

Punkass has been my best friend [for] 17 years. After about a year, year-and-a-half, he kept hitting me up, saw what I was doing and digging it and wanted to get involved. And, at the time, man, I was way worse [of a] control freak than I’ve learned to be. And, I just wanted to do everything solo. I wanted to be by myself, do it myself, my own vision.

But with him being so close to me and being such a good friend and honestly knowing him that good, I knew, “Man, I need help, I’m running out of money.” There’s still always the things that we’ve adopted so good now which is I always was a team player although I was trying to be a solo artist. ...

Later -- a couple of years later down the line -- as we started doing shows, by then everything I had [was] repossessed bro. By the time I brought Punkass on, [I was] actually living out of the car and on couch to couch. Punkass was basically working three jobs and supporting me and supporting the [expletive deleted] company.

So, I would end up going to these shows, the kid in the neighborhood – crazy ass in the neighborhood – happened to be my boy SkySkrape and he said, “Hey man, I dig all those UFC fights. I’ll help you. I’ll help you get down.” So, he started helping me and so it would be Punkass was working and taking care of the shipping -- because we were online -- and he was working supporting me and supporting Tapout financially and SkySkrape was carrying everything I told him to carry to the show. I’m just kidding. SkySkrape was helping me sell at the shows and helping me go search out fighters.

SkySkrape: I really tried to steal something from Mask and I said, "Hey man, I’ll work for you, but just don’t beat me up."

How did each of you become interested in MMA?

Mask: I saw the first UFC in '93 on pay-per-view. I was doing something and a buddy of mine taped it and knew I was into martial arts and fighting and said, "You gotta come see this [expletive deleted] ... basically there’s no rules ..." I went and saw that, thought it was crazy that a little skinny kid, little Brazilian kid, was beating all ... the fighting styles that I loved and he was doing it with some jiu-jitsu. I was like, "This [expletive deleted] is cheating." 'Cause he was taking people down on the ground and choking them.

Well, I went straight from there and went over to where Punkass was working the next day [and] told him about it. Within three weeks of seeing the first Ultimate Fighting champion in UFC, Punkass and I had found where Royce Gracie was teaching at the Gracie schools about an hour away from where we were living at the time and we were up there doing privates [lessons]. It was instantaneous.

Punkass: We basically started training right after the first UFC. We were going down there two, three times a week driving an hour there, hour back to go do this training and still trying to -- I had a job at the time and so did [Mask]. So, we were both working our jobs, trying to train, and we just fell in love with the sport. Actually, Mask was one of Royce’s training partners for UFC 5 when he was training for his next fight. So, we were down there a lot for that because he was having to get some extra time to work out with Royce because he was about Royce’s size -- he was closer to Royce’s size for the training.

We met a lot of people and we networked a lot with the right people and it later helped with what we were doing in Tapout, in the business.

In your own words how would you describe your own job titles?

SkySkrape: Mine is simple bro. All I do is clean toilets and mop floors. That’s all I do. My job title is janitor.

Mask: And, Punkass yells at him all the time, makes sure [to tell him] he misses a spot here, misses a spot there.

SkySkrape: [Punkass] doesn’t yell it though. He texts it to me. He doesn’t say anything. He texts it to me.

Punkass: Well, I would say we do have our own things that we do. That’s kind of why this relationship works so well for us, because when you have a company you don’t want three people doing the same thing. I think we each do our own thing; we complement each other. There’s some overlap there. We’ll help each other out. When we were doing this business with only three of us and no financing pretty much when we started out -- we were financing our own capital -- we had to kind of wear a lot of hats, where we were doing a bunch of different type of things. Mask was maybe designing clothes but he was also dealing with fighters and I was dealing with fighters and handling the shipping and lots of the financing and the business. And, ‘Skrape was handling fighters and helping out with the shipping and some of the business.

We had some overlap, but for the most part we complemented each other because we were doing our own things: Mask was 100 percent handling the design and the focus of what Tapout was going to be and my control was going to be in the business aspect and I think ‘Skrape was really good at taking up where we had some slack. He was coming in handling any of the things that we were leaving out or not able to handle at the time.

SkySkrape: They didn’t like to clean, bro ...  

What’s your favorite thing now about being involved with Tapout?

Mask: Yeah I love being able to have an extension, of being involved in something that creatively is its own monster. I like to think of musical terms – if you’ve seen the show you see that I like to think a lot about Jimi Hendrix and people that weren’t as scared to go out there and take chances creatively. I feel hopefully that we are doing that with the clothing company. Obviously myself and ‘Skrape are a lot more flamboyant where Punkass is real hardcore. I hope I’ve infused that into the clothing and the mixed martial arts world and blend fashion with fighting.

But, my favorite, man, is in doing the show I hope somebody somewhere, some kid in a Midwestern town, Oklahoma, or down South, or West Coast, or North – somewhere gets motivated to take a chance and believe in whatever it is that they want to do in life, like we’ve believed for the last ten years what we wanted to do and the impact we wanted to make.

I’d like to say on top of that, we believed in a sport that nobody believed in and [have] become an extension of it and now we’re going and finding the fighters that maybe haven’t been found and believing in them and helping them get to the top shows and being a backbone to the sport.

We don’t [have] to be front men, we don’t [have] to be quarterback or number one fullback, or wide receiver. If we can just be water boys to the UFC, the WEC, to the fight world -- hey, everybody needs that water boy. You come in off a hard play, you’re looking for that water. And, if we can just be an extension of touching someone’s life and maybe they laugh at me and ‘Skrape acting silly or dig the way Punkass handles himself or maybe got encouraged by ... seeing us take chances ... that’s my favorite part.

Punkass: You know people say, “Living the dream” and that’s kind of what we’re doing. It’s the American dream. We believed in something, we believed we could do it, we put our money where our mouth is. We didn’t have much money to put up. We put our time, our money, and our beliefs and put it all on the line and made it. We’re kind of an American success story. And then, we get paid to now go out and travel and help people and do this television show and watch fights. I couldn’t think of a better job to have. So, that’s what turns me on every day and makes me get up every day.

SkySkrape: People say, “When you love what you do, it’s not work.” We bust our ass, we work hard, but to us it’s really not work. We love doing it. We have fun. We’re all best friends. So, that’s how we can get on Punkass and joke with him and ... play hard with him ... he doesn’t get mad because he knows we’re joking with him. ... And, then helping the sport. We all love this sport and we like acting stupid and just bringing a laugh to it. The sport is such a tough-guy sport but we like to have fun and make it a little more exciting. ...  

How did you come up with your Tapout names and personas?

Punkass: I think it was just an extension of our personalities. In a weird way, if you really know us, if you’ve hung out with us day to day, everything that we do or how we look is just an extension of each of our personalities.

Mask: And, understand the fact that SkySkrape is 6-9 so that’s a pretty obvious one.

What was the pivotal moment for your company, when you knew you guys had something big and that you were on the road to success?

Mask: Back in November ’97, if you get what I’m saying. I knew when it started, bro. You ask Walt Disney, when did he believe in Disney Land; ask the Wright brothers when did they believe they were going to fly; ask Jimi Hendrix even though he never took lessons when did he think he could play guitar? Bro, it’s always 100 percent known. There’s nothing else to be said. And, I can tell you its going to be so much bigger. TapouT’s going to touch, change lives, be a part of the sport, and live long after we’ve come and gone.

A big issue right now is how much fighters get paid. Can you roughly break down how you pay fighters?

Mask: We can’t say exactly what we pay the fighters. If you have a B-level fighter, an A-level fighter, or C-level, or Triple-A that’s going to be all different. But, you have guys like Chuck Liddell who drives a Ferrari or a Porsche, [who has] two and three homes, so he’s not making $1.59 and eating a Taco Bell. They’re making good money. The UFC’s paying big, big money. We can at least say that they’re paying at least half a million for their top fighters because they’ve already said that.

Based on companies like us, based on where we’re at, it depends on the level fighter and the level of exposure and what the contract says. It’s all different amounts.

Punkass: I would say that comparatively – I’ve looked at some of the other sports that are out there – and especially like the extreme sports I would say our industry is paying better than a lot of the extreme sports, unless you’re talking about the very, very top guys. But, for the most part, our sport is paying comparatively better than the extreme sports market. I don’t think we’ve quite touched some of the guys that are playing some of the professional sports but we’re definitely close. We’re right there. I mean specifically baseball or basketball.

Do your sponsorship deals reach six figures, seven figures? Can you give a number like that?

Mask: Aaaah. Nice try. That was good. I like that. That’s like when I tell a girl, “Wait, what’s that over there?” and unbutton her belt buckle.

SkySkrape: Let’s just say everybody can go get a big-sized drink now. ... You know when you used to go to a fast food place and you’d order, “Can I get a water?” and they’d give you a water cup and you’d put Coke in it? Well, now they can actually go order Coke and pay for a Coke.

The MMA apparel market is becoming crowded with new companies forming all the time. What’s your attitude about this growth and who do you think is your biggest competitor?

Mask: Biggest competitor? Nike. Reebok. I don’t really pay attention to who else is out there doing whatever they’re doing because somebody has to be numbers three, four, and five and nobody’s going to be number two because we’re doing it so well we’re taking up the one and two spot. I don’t care who else comes in and does whatever they’re going to do because I’m just focused. My boy here Punkass is focused, SkySkrape is focused. We want to do something new, we want to do something different and if twenty other people want to play guitar, that’s cool. We’re just going to play ours our own way.

Affliction is a pretty big name (in MMA clothing). What do you think of them?

Mask: I don’t think of them.

Punkass: Affliction’s nothing, bro. They’re their own market. That’s fine. Let them do what they’re going [to do]. They’re not us. They don’t do what we do. They can’t do what we do. They’re not going to make gear or clothing like we make clothing. They can’t expand into some of the markets we can go in. It’s just apples and oranges pretty much. I think they basically capitalized on the fact that they can sponsor in the UFC -- maybe they knew some people or something -- but from what I hear they’ve gone a different direction and they’re not sponsoring fighters in the UFC anymore. It doesn’t really matter anyways.

Some of the rumors related to why you don’t see their sponsorship logo [at UFC events] is that they might be getting into promoting events or starting their own league. Has there been any thought on your guys’ part in terms of starting your own league since you know so many fighters and you’re so deep in the industry?

Mask: Never ever. We support the UFC and the WEC and any other mixed martial arts [league] that wants to do their promotion. We’re just here to be an extension and help the sport grow. We’re not a fight league. We’re not doing that. We do clothing. We find fighters. We help people achieve their dreams. That’s Tapout.

Punkass: We sponsor what is the biggest show and the most popular show out there right now -– the WEC and UFC. We’re big sponsors of those shows. We have a commitment with the UFC to be the official clothing of the UFC and also the WEC. And, we’re sponsoring the upcoming season of [The] Ultimate Fighter so that’s where we want to place our sponsorship money. We’re not trying to do our own shows. We’re not trying to recreate the wheel. There’s already successful companies out there doing it. Just let them do it. We’re going to concentrate on our own goals.

Outside of your magazine and your TV show and your clothing line, what can we [expect to] see from Tapout in the months or years to come?

Mask: We signed with Creative Artist Agency, which is huge, and the deal’s going through right now. I’m going to be designing and doing a Tapout comic book with SkySkrape, Punkass, and Mask in it and some other things so that will probably be pretty bitchin’. I know we’ve got energy drinks coming at us. We just want to be an extension of the sport and the name Tapout is always going to mean fighting but Punkass is really excited about the comic book deal we have coming because that’s like a little bit of fantasy and a little bit of dreaming right there. We can blur reality with unreality -- it’s always kind of cool.

Punkass: In the future, we’re going to expand into a lot of categories like Mask was talking about, between the comic books and energy drinks and our gear line expanding. Expanding categories is a big thing for us because Tapout can attach our name to a lot of products that we feel like represent our customer and it’s going to sell those products. We want the brand to live on and I think the way to do that is to become more than just a T-shirt company. And, that’s by attaching ourselves to products that can live on forever. And, keep us core or real careful to protect the brand and to only attach ourselves to products that we feel can relate to our customer.

About your show on Versus, what sort of creative input do you have with the show?

Mask: It’s all dictated by what we do. They haven’t said, “Do this” yet ... Everything you see us do, when the cameras stop rolling we continue doing. Nothing’s different. All the direction that Pilgrim Films gets to have is tell us what’s our call time, so we know be down there twelve noon because none of us get up earlier than that anyway and then, they just start filming bro. That’s it. We find the fighters, we pick the [fight] shows, we irritate Punkass, Punkass drives and gets us there on time -- and he can drive good while he’s texting as you’ll see next season.

How have you been able to maintain the mom-and-pop feel [with your company] while also becoming so successful?

Mask: This is something I noticed back in Boston. This is coming from my heart. We got through filming one day and just think of this for a second. We had a long day. They were filming basically in five days what we normally get two weeks to do. Long, hard days man. It’s freezing cold. It’s three hours difference. We’re from California -- we’re on the East Coast [in] Boston. It’s snowing. Punkass is driving in the snow and rain. Everything is really intense and we’re really trying to do very well for the company and for Zuffa having faith in us and for ourselves.

At the end of one long, hard day I became aware -- because Punkass and SkySkrape are my best friends -- I became aware that at the end of our hard day when we were completely done, we were like, “OK, now what are we going to do?” Now, let me tell you this again! We had just been together all day, man, and filming, acting stupid, on each other’s nerves! And, at the end of the day, we were like, “Hey, where do you guys want to go eat?” We still wanted to hang out.

So, bro, it’s just my boys with some cameras following us. We’re just going to do what we do until the damn thing gets done because we’re doing it. ...

A cool thing on your site is that your motto is “Bad for the sport.” I’m assuming that’s tongue-in-cheek. Explain why you came up with that as your motto.

Punkass: We see on the forums sometimes – we don’t really pay attention too much but ... ”Hey man, check on the forums, they’re talking [expletive deleted] about Tapout on the forums because you guys are wearing makeup and [expletive deleted] and running around with Afros” and they think we’re just playing games .

Our whole attitude is those [expletive deleted] don’t know us. They’re working at McDonald's and typing [expletive deleted]  – you know, keyboard warriors – talking [expletive deleted] on the [expletive deleted] Internet. They’re calling us bad for the sport and we just embraced it. You want to call us bad for the sport then [expletive deleted] call us bad for the sport. We don’t give a [expletive deleted].  

Let our actions speak louder than words. We’re out there putting our money back into the fighters. We’re out there supporting the shows. We’re out there supporting the fighters. I’d give my shirt off my back for any of our fighters. We’ve put up our fighters and given them money we didn’t even have. I bounced checks just so we could pay fighters because we said we were going to pay a fighter. We just put our money where our mouth is.

They can talk [expletive deleted] if they want. That’s on them. We’re comfortable. I can wake up every day knowing we’re doing everything we can to help people and help this sport grow. So, it’s basically just us embracing their [expletive deleted].

“Here for you to hate” is one of our other mottoes that Mask came up with during that -- [expletive deleted] them for not knowing about [TapoutTapout] ...

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Q&As
        

February 24, 2008

MMA Blogosphere Showcase (Week 6)

-- Josh Stein, MMA Opinion: In Rio, the Spider steps on you and Making Dangerous: Why Dan Henderson wins

-- Adam Swift, MMA Payout: Upon closer examination: Impact of HDNet vs. Zuffa on Couture-UFC dispute and New details on Zuffa's $325 million loan

-- Dann Stupp, MMA Junkie: Mark Coleman set for UFC Hall of Fame induction at UFC 82

If you are a MMA blogger and you would like your work featured here, please e-mail me at pramit.mohapatra@gmail.com and put "Sun cooperative" in the subject line.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 7:47 PM | | Comments (0)
        

February 23, 2008

Hits from the mainstream MMA media (Week 7)

-- David Avila, MSNBC.com: Will sanctioning organization help MMA?

-- Larry Vollmer Jr., Inside the Octagon blog for The Journal News: Thankfully, the UFC teams with Yahoo! Sports to broadcast online PPVs and Does anyone really want to see Tank Abbott continue fighting?

-- Steve Sievert, Brawl Sports blog for the Houston Chronicle: Noons, Edwards set for lightweight showdown in April

-- Carlos Arias, Keep Punching blog for the O.C. Register: Dan Henderson media day

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 8:53 AM | | Comments (0)
        

February 17, 2008

Thoughts on EliteXC: Street Certified

Well, well. Just a couple of days ago, I wrote that the WEC is this country's No. 2 MMA promotion. Not so fast!

EliteXC held its latest event last night in Miami (dubbed "Street Certified") and the promotion appears to be improving with each event. Now in its second year, EliteXC appears to be doing a number of things right and it's starting to show in these events. So here are my thoughts on the event in general, some of the fights, and some of the fighters.

The event itself

Positives: Last night's event was marked by smart matchmaking, the appropriate choice of venue and location, and good use of local fighters. As long as the UFC continues to ignore the East Coast, this remains a major market still in play for other promotions. Last night's event was the second Showtime/Pro Elite venture to the East Coast this year and the live attendance was quite impressive.

In addition, Showtime appears to be televising a minimum of one MMA event a month right now (with two scheduled for March) and this is a very good thing for fans and EliteXC alike.

As far as I can tell, EliteXC is really working to build its heavyweight, middleweight, and 160-pound divisions. Last night illustrated that these are their deepest divisions. I don't know if the promotion is ignoring the welterweight and light heavyweight divisions on purpose or if that's just where talent acquisition has taken them, but I don't see too much of a problem with the way they are building up their roster. It's better to be able to create a lot of good matchups in a few divisions than to say you have a couple of decent fighters in a lot of divisions.

Negatives: The rapping interlude must go! Much like the dragon, Pitbull had no business being on the live portion of the card. Stick these acts between the dark and live portions or before or after the event. But, don't waste viewer time with them.

The dancers still don't add much to the event production. And, they may be turning off potential viewers who see EliteXC as a gimmicky promotion. One, maybe two, ring card girls should be enough. In this case less is more.

Kimbo Slice

So far, EliteXC President Gary Shaw is using Kimbo Slice well. Despite his training, Slice is probably not ready for good fighters yet. So, Shaw is building him up by pitting him against big-name fighters who are past their prime and who match up stylistically. Slice gave the fans what they came for in his performance against Tank Abbott last night and is now the streetfighting king of MMA. It wasn't even close.

Slice looked very confident as he knocked down Abbott at least three times, finishing "Tank" off with a straight right. Slice's posture and stance reminded me very much of the way he looked on his YouTube videos -- aggressive and mean. So, while we know Slice is quicker on his feet than Abbott, we're still not learning much about his overall game.

Enter Ken Shamrock. Speculation last night centered on a potential matchup against Shamrock for Slice's next fight. Again, Shamrock is past his prime but his name-recognition and skill set make this a very good bout from a variety of perspectives. Shamrock can not only stand and bang but he can work on the ground as well. He's a crafty veteran and would be a formidable matchup for Slice. Like Abbott, however, Shamrock is over 40. The benefits of being younger should be Slice's main advantage. But, this is certainly no gimme.

Other thoughts

Antonio Silva-Ricco Rodriguez: This bout was a step up for Silva. While Rodriguez is far removed from his days as a UFC heavyweight champ, he's a skilled fighter with a lot of experience. If Rodriguez continues to work on his game and conditioning, he's young enough to still be a factor. Silva claimed after the fight that he hurt his MCL two weeks ago. Maybe that explains his performance or maybe he had a bad fight or maybe he found out he has to step it up as the competition gets better.

Either way, I think it was a close fight and strangely enough I could see all three judges being correct in the split decision verdict. I had Silva winning round two and felt that rounds one and three were close.

Yves Edwards' Flying Knee: Edwards' flying knee from the leg hold of Edson Berto towards the end of the first round was an amazing, athletic move (similar to something Urijah Faber tried in his last fight.) That's three wins in a row for the former UFC and PRIDE veteran. The 160-pound division is deep in EliteXC but Edwards should be a player now.

Hands of steel indeed: Scott Smith brought his exciting brand of MMA and heavy hands to his EliteXC debut last night. The former UFC fighter joined a strong middleweight division and showed he belongs by tattooing Kyle Noke with a straight right to begin the second round. Smith isn't ready for a title shot against Robbie Lawler but he may be one fight away.

Other impressive performances: Brett Rogers looked good against the hard-charging James Thompson, knocking him out in the first round. Rogers showed good defensive wrestling and used a knee to set up his finishing flurry of fists.

In the undercard, the first round between middleweights Yosmany Cabezas and Jon Kirk may have been one of the top rounds of 2008. Light heavyweight Rafael Feijao looked impressive in his debut against John Doyle. Feijao was cornered by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Anderson Silva and displayed some of Silva's standup skills. And, heavyweight Dave Herman showed promise with his knees and takedown defense against Mario Rinaldi, whose only strengths appeared to be a strong chin and persistence (and his only offensive weapon the single leg takedown.)

Again, great card and very good talent in this event.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 9:29 AM | | Comments (3)
        

MMA Blogosphere Showcase (Week 5)

-- Adam Swift, MMAPayout.com: Overworked: The potential impact of comprehensive steroid testing and In Focus: The WEC

-- Ryan Harkness, Fightlinker.com: Let's make UFC Fight Night 13 a three hour show (Letter to SpikeTV) and Interview with Rich Bergeron: Xyience situation could bring the Fertittas down (Audio interview)

-- Josh Stein, IronSport: Tank Abbott vs. Kimbo Slice: Crazy stuff (pre-fight analysis)

-- John Morgan, MMAJunkie.com: Matt Lindland says the UFC refuses to negotiate new deal

-- Andrew Nostvick, MMAMania.com: One-on-one interview with UFC middleweight Travis Lutter

If you are a MMA blogger and you would like your work featured here, please e-mail me at pramit.mohapatra@gmail.com and put "Sun cooperative" in the subject line.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 8:50 AM | | Comments (0)
        

February 16, 2008

Hits from the mainstream MMA media (Week 6)

This week the crew looks at inaccurate MMA stories, recaps WEC's Wednesday event, and looks ahead to tonight's EliteXC event.

-- Larry Vollmer Jr., Inside the Octagon blog for The Journal News: Dissecting another inaccurate article about MMA

-- Steve Sievert, Brawl Sports blog for the Houston Chronicle: Condit submits Prater to retain WEC title

-- Carlos Arias, Keep Punching blog for the O.C. Register: Who will own the streets?

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 10:34 AM | | Comments (0)
        

February 15, 2008

MMA week in review

It's been a busy week in MMA. Here are my thoughts on some of the bigger news items of the week:

Mirko Cro Flop?: Numerous sources, including Mirko Cro Cop himself, are saying that the Croatian heavyweight is no longer with the UFC. In fact, he was present at the press conference of a new league in Japan called "Dream." Dream is a partnership between the former employees of DSE (the former owners of PRIDE) and FEG (the owners of K-1).

Cro Crop had a very disappointing, very expensive, and very short tenure in the UFC. He fought three times in the promotion and went 1-2, losing his last two. He may forever be remembered by UFC fans for the right head kick by Gabriel Gonzaga that twisted him in knots. It's too bad because when Cro Cop was brought in, it was with the expectation that he would eventually challenge for the UFC heavyweight crown in what was then a weak division.

The division isn't much better right now, but releasing Cro Cop (especially at his current price tag) may be addition by subtraction.

By the way, the UFC hasn't officially commented on Cro Cop's departure and my request for an official response has thus far not been answered.

(Update: Dana White discussed Cro Cop's departure in an article published today at MMAweekly.com.)

WEC held another great event Wednesday night: The WEC (the UFC's sibling Zuffa league) held another very well-produced event on Wednesday. Three titles were on the line and two belts switched hands. Carlos Condit successfully defended his welterweight crown against Carlo Prater; Rob McCullough lost his lightweight belt in a wild third round against Jamie Varner; and Chase Beebe lost his bantamweight belt to Miguel Torres. In addition, former UFC lightweight Leonard Garcia made his debut in the WEC's featherweight division and handled Hiroyuki Takaya.

The WEC is looking deeper with each event. The featherweight division, especially, with the additions of Jens Pulver and now Garcia, might be the league's strongest division. Right now, I would have to say that the WEC is the number two MMA promotion in America. The product looks good on TV, the roster is getting better, and the attendance for this Wednesday's event appeared solid.

EliteXC: Street Certified on Saturday: EliteXC takes its show to Miami on Saturday, bringing the promotion to the home of Kimbo Slice. Slice headlines the event with his fight against fellow former streetfighter Tank Abbott. While we don't really know what to expect from Slice, we also don't know what to expect from the 40+, hard-living Abbott. Stylistically this matchup should be a good one. How will Slice handle an opponent that won't go down easily and can also dish out some punishment? This is Slice's first true test as a MMA fighter.

The rest of the main card is appealing as well. Antonio Silva takes on former UFC fighter Ricco Rodriguez in a heavyweight bout. I like Silva's skills. He's a nimble big man who has shown flashes of a ground game. He's still developing but he has a lot of potential.

Scott Smith squares off against Kyle Noke in a welterweight bout. Many of you will remember Smith for his remarkable victory over Pete Sell at the TUF 4 Finale. Noke made a nice debut with EliteXC his last fight and may be better known to his Aussie countrymen as the late "Crocodile Hunter's" bodyguard.

In addition, Brett Rogers takes on former PRIDE fighter James Thomson in a heavyweight bout while Edson Berto takes on former UFC veteran Yves Edwards in a lightweight matchup.

You can catch the main card on Showtime at 10 PM ET on Saturday.

Lawsuits, Lawsuits: The Randy Couture vs. UFC conflict has resulted in the gainful employment of many lawyers. And, apparently the opportunities for litigation are bountiful. This week, two Couture-related lawsuits were brought to light.

In one case, the UFC filed an injunction against Couture in the hopes of preventing him from appearing at the IFL's Feb. 29 event, saying that such an appearance would violate the terms of his contract with the UFC. Couture's camp, Xtreme Couture, is fielding a team at this IFL event.

In the other case brought to the courts on Wednesday, Mark Cuban's HDNet Fights brought forth a suit against Zuffa essentially requesting that the courts decide on Couture's contractual status with the UFC. This is presumably so that Cuban can then determine when he can sign Couture to his own promotion.

I'm not a huge fan of frivolous litigation, but I don't see the cases that are coming out of the UFC-Couture dispute as frivolous at all. In fact, I think this a seminal moment for MMA. These suits will serve to clarify what, if anything, needs to change about the way promotions and fighters do business as the sport continues to grow from its underground roots to the mainstream entity it is slowly becoming. Fighters have never had the leverage they now have in this country and MMA contracts, including those of the UFC, may have to change to reflect this.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 4:39 PM | | Comments (0)
        

February 11, 2008

Monday musings: Chris Rock, voting, and the Man

Chris Rock: No Apologies Tour

I'm in a great mood today. I was fortunate to attend Chris Rock's performance at the Lyric Opera House last night (fortunate because I somehow managed to buy the ticket at face value Friday afternoon.) Rock put on a 75-minute performance and he rocked (no pun intended) the entire time. He had the sold-out crowd in stitches on topics such as dogfighting (saying at one point that Don King could learn a thing or two from Michael Vick and drown Evander Holyfield or electrocute Thomas Hearns to prevent them from fighting more), politics (saying that George Bush messed things up so badly that America is now actually considering a woman and a black man for president), relationships, marriage, and much more.

Rock even had the crowd wondering what was up when he left the stage abruptly at about the one-hour mark and returned a few minutes later, mumbling "Oh the children." He never said why he left the stage and he also lost some of the momentum he'd built up before the mysterious exit and return.

(Update: The Sun's Mary McCauley has the scoop on Rock's mid-rant exit.) 

I am a huge fan of Rock's comedy stylings. He's one of the best of my generation -- he's extremely insightful, honest (saying last night he's not good in bed), and on point on a number of topics. I didn't find him overly crass or obscene and I can't remember a punchline falling flat.

For those of you wondering if a live Chris Rock show is worth the money, that's an easy one. It is. And, he'll leave you wanting more ...

(Update: I just received an e-mail from David Moskowitz. Who is Moskowitz? Click here for the YouTube video that explains it all. Moskowitz appears to have played a profound role in Rock's childhood, enough to inspire Rock material years later. And, isn't it nice that Rock hasn't forgotten his roots and openly acknowledges Moskowitz? Rock is a big person for doing so and these actions only give me more reason to admire him.)

Vote or die!

Tomorrow is primary day here in Maryland as well as in neighboring Virginia and Washington, D.C. If you want your voice heard, voting is the best way to accomplish this. You can cynically ask how your one vote can possibly matter but the reality is this: If you don't vote, you have no input at all.

And, voting isn't the only way for your voice to be heard. If you feel strongly about a particular candidate or policy issue, volunteer for that candidate or educate others on that issue. Or engage your friends and family in political debate. Participating in the process is the most important thing. Not participating renders your opinions irrelevant.

There are many ways to make a difference in the direction our country takes -- voting is one of the most significant.

Beware the Man's involvement in MMA

A thought about MMA's trajectory. While fans and media alike yearn for network TV deals and blue chip sponsorships that will take MMA to the next level in terms of financial backing and mainstream coverage, has anyone considered the negative ramifications of such deals?

Nothing comes for free and the price of popularity and financial success could be a steep one. The sport is perfect the way it is right now. In fact, I used to enjoy the days when it still had that pseudo-underground feel to it (even as late as a couple of years ago).

So, how will MMA be forced to change in order to please the mainstream palate? Will there be rules changes to increase "offensive productivity" (read: to decrease the perceived boredom of the ground game) much like we've seen in football? Will fighters and execs be as forthcoming with the media as they currently are? Will personality and individuality be slowly erased by the almighty dollar? Will Dana White be politely asked to delete the f-bomb from his vocabulary?

We all know the Man has taken notice of MMA. And, that may not necessarily be such a good thing.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 6:27 PM | | Comments (1)
        

February 10, 2008

MMA Blogosphere Showcase (Week 4)

This week's entries include a look at Zuffa's (the parent company of the UFC) financial status, an analysis of the resurgence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the UFC, a one-on-one interview with Diego Sanchez, quotes from state athletic commissions where MMA is still not sanctioned, an examination of fighters who dodge tough competition, and an interview with Lesnar-Mir referee Steve Mazzagatti.

Let's get right to the entries:

-- Adam Swift, MMAPayout.com: Zuffa sale rumor goes public and Ghosts of Mergers and Acquisitions Past, Present, and Future

-- Jesse Holland, MMAMania.com: Their worst Nightmare: Exclusive interview with UFC welterweight Diego Sanchez (highly recommended Q&A)

-- Billy Gamble, Fight Tube: Is MMA legal in your state? (quotes from a number of Athletic Commissions)

-- Josh Stein, MMAOpinion.com: Respect the belt: The resurgence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

-- Adam Barker, TKOExtreme.com: How much autonomy?

-- (Added Monday) Dann Stupp, MMAJunkie.com: Q&A: Referee Steve Mazzagatti discusses Lesnar-Mir fight

If you are a MMA blogger and you would like your work featured here, please e-mail me at pramit.mohapatra@gmail.com and put "Sun cooperative" in the subject line.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 12:35 PM | | Comments (0)
        

February 9, 2008

Hits from the mainstream MMA media (Week 5)

This week we welcome another member to our crew: Larry Vollmer. Vollmer pens the "Inside the Octagon" blog for The Journal News in New York's Lower Hudson Valley. He joins Carlos Arias (OC Register), Steve Sievert (Houston Chronicle), David Avila (MSNBC.com), and me.  Vollmer is a Web programmer by day and a practicing mixed martial artist by night.

Here are this week's hits:

-- David Avila, MSNBC.com: TV offers recognition, fame, wealth to fighters

-- Larry Vollmer, The Journal News: My slightly biased prediction of the Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar fight and EliteXC scraps Gary Turner from 'Street Certified' card

-- Carlos Arias, OC Register: Dude, brother and celebrity gladiators

-- Steve Sievert, Houston Chronicle: Nogueira makes history, Mir exposes Lesnar at UFC 81 and VIDEO: Chuck Norris on Bruce Lee, MMA involvement

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 10:39 AM | | Comments (1)
        

February 8, 2008

HDNet Fights continues to make moves

Mark Cuban's MMA outfit, HDNet Fights, was quite busy this week. On Tuesday, the promotion announced that HDNet will televise the first three IFL events this year live. From the press release:

“The first event we did with the IFL was a great success, and we are very pleased to be able to expand that relationship into the first quarter of 2008,” said Andrew Simon, CEO of HDNet Fights.  “HDNet Fights Presents: The IFL is a fantastic addition to MMA action on HDNet.”

The first of these televised IFL events will take place Feb. 29 at the Orleans Arena in Vegas and includes three individual title fights.

This is a good move for both parties. HDNet is quickly becoming a TV destination for MMA action and news, and adding a brand like the IFL only adds to its library of programming and increases HDNet's profile in the industry. For the IFL, HDNet replaces MyNetworkTV, which was the league's TV home last year. While HDNet doesn't have the same reach as MyNetworkTV, the league desperately needed a TV deal to have any chance at success. Along with a new camp-based format and an emphasis on matchmaking this year, this deal should also help the IFL's profile. It certainly can't hurt.

And yesterday, HDNet Fights announced that it is partnering with Strikeforce to promote four events this year. The first of those events will be a live televised event on HDNet on Feb. 23 featuring Bob Sapp. From yesterday's press release:

"We're excited about this new deal with Strikeforce as they are such a well respected MMA organization," said Simon.  "This announcement reinforces our commitment to deliver a minimum of 24 events in 2008 and the partnership between HDNet Fights and Strikeforce ™ guarantees many great match-ups for MMA fans."

"We are excited about the opportunity to showcase our brand of mixed martial arts on HDNet," said Scott Coker, President of Strikeforce.  "HDNet delivers television content to viewers in the highest quality format possible and Strikeforce has worked diligently to produce the finest, world-class fights for mixed martial arts fans.  Together, the two entities will be able to deliver a superior product."

While the IFL and Strikeforce are two of the bigger name promotions in this country, HDNet Fights also has partnerships with smaller promotions and with promotions in other countries, including Canada. Yesterday, HDNet Fights also announced that it will air Canadian promotion Maximum Fighting Championship's Feb. 22 card in Edmonton live on its network.

All three deals illustrate how powerful HDNet Fights' vertically integrated model can be. Not only does the promotion have the ability to co-promote events, it can also televise and distribute the content. At this point, HDNet Fights is giving the Pro Elite/Showtime tandem quite a run for its money. The main issue for HDNet, however, is the relatively low number of subscribers to its high-def channel. If the channel can come to some sort of agreement with the country's major cable providers, its profile will improve dramatically. It's not a stretch to believe that MMA fans will gladly pay a monthly premium for wall-to-wall MMA programming that they currently can't find anywhere else.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 7:30 PM | | Comments (0)
        

February 6, 2008

Maryland moves one step closer to sanctioning MMA

According to the AP, Maryland House Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery) introduced a bill today to sanction MMA in the state. House Bill 795 now joins Senate Bill 649 as measures that will hopefully soon pave the way for legal MMA contests in this state.

With the success the sport has enjoyed the last couple of years (read dollar signs), it was inevitable that the Old Line State would eventually get in line with its neighbors Washington, D.C.,  and Virginia, which have already sanctioned the sport.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data for 2006 (the last year data is available), Maryland is ranked number one in the country in median household income. With the rising popularity of the sport, it only makes sense to make sure that this income is spent within the state rather than forcing fans to travel to D.C., Virginia or Atlantic City for the nearest MMA events. 

The state is already home to a number of successful academies producing pro talent such as Lloyd Irvin's Academy in Camp Spring and Ground Control in Baltimore. By holding pro MMA competitions in the area, the sport will also be able to attract some of the area's deep pool of athletic talent (that produces bumper crops annually in football and basketball) to MMA.

There's no doubt that Baltimore, Maryland's largest city, is a prime spot for the UFC or any other major MMA promotion looking to hold an event on the East Coast. The city, which has experienced a big-time renaissance this decade, is located ideally off I-95 about midway up the East Coast and within easy driving distance of D.C., Philly and New York.

Baltimore is already home to two major pro sports teams (the Ravens and Orioles) and attracts a number of conventions, concerts, and even professional wrestling events throughout the year. There's also talk of building a brand new arena to replace the aging 1st Mariner Arena. A new arena along with all the new hotel rooms being added in and around the city could easily handle the 15,000-20,000 people who usually descend on the largest MMA events in this country.

By the way, I grew up in Montgomery County (raised in Silver Spring and graduated from Montgomery Blair High School), so it doesn't surprise me that it took someone from that county to come up with this sort of enlightened legislation.

Of course, I'll be watching these developments closely. Marylanders, wouldn't it be nice if you could potentially walk to a MMA event rather than fly to Vegas or drive to Atlantic City?

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 5:49 PM | | Comments (5)
        

February 5, 2008

UFC news on the CNN ticker

Last night I was watching Larry King Live on CNN (King had Bill Maher on and he's always fun to watch discussing politics) and something caught my eye. CNN ran an AP story about UFC 83 (featuring GSP-Serra 2) on the ticker at the bottom of the screen.

Now, my DVR was acting crazy last night and I didn't record the show so I didn't catch the entire text but it was definitely there (as I can confirm because I fast-forwarded and rewinded past that point a half-dozen times as the DVR went nuts on me.)

I don't believe I've ever seen CNN run MMA news on its ticker before. This is yet another indication of MMA's slow but sure progression into mainstream media.

Readers, correct me if I'm wrong on any of the above points...

---

Also, a football thought. It turns out Eli Manning really is unstoppable. I remember when I saw the first Citizen Eco-Drive commercial featuring Manning back in the fall, I almost doubled over laughing. Well, he proved me wrong the second half of the season and I'm very happy for him. His story is a fantastic one and he deserves all the accolades he's now receiving.

Posted by at 6:20 PM | | Comments (0)
        

February 4, 2008

Super Bowl ads, UFC 81 thoughts

I'm a huge Howard Stern fan. That's why I became a Sirius subscriber over two years ago, just to follow him to satellite radio. So, while I didn't hear his entire rant today, I did catch most of what he said about last night's Super Bowl ads and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

Last night's ads were borrrrrring. There was nothing memorable about 99 percent of them. I remember the days when I used to actually look forward to the ads, perhaps even more so than the game itself. Now, there's nothing to see and nothing to talk about. Ever since the "wardrobe malfunction" a few years ago, certain segments of our society have exerted their will to push their agenda of fear, and one tangible effect of that is seen during commercial breaks on Super Bowl Sunday. Imagine how unbearable those three to four hours would have been if the game itself didn't live up to the hype (as it often doesn't.) Thankfully, last night's game was a good one.

So, I'm begging all parties involved (especially the FCC) to loosen up a bit and let us laugh a little. Enough with the vanilla, completely uninspired ads that we've seen the last couple of years. (By the way, did anyone else notice the somewhat racist overtones of the Sales Genie ads? What ever happened to clever, thoughtful humor? Does edgy now equal stereotypical Indian accents and Chinese panda bears?) I'm sure Madison Avenue can do better than this.

And, if you are still searching for something provocative and stimulating to get those neurons firing, head over to SI.com for my thoughts on UFC 81. I examine who Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira should fight next, why Brock Lesnar's loss was good for MMA and the UFC, which UFC 81 fighters had memorable performances, and why the UFC's recent trend of airing more fights on their pay-per-view telecasts is a good thing. UFC 81 was a very good event and certainly left us with plenty to discuss afterwards.

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

February 3, 2008

MMA blogosphere showcase (Week 3)

While UFC 81 dominated coverage this past week, there were plenty of other topics being covered by MMA bloggers. Let's get right to the links:

-- Wes Shelley, The Path to MMA Success: Financial issues that fighters face

-- Adam Swift, MMAPayout.com: Declining bonuses sign of belt-tightening for the UFC?

-- Dann Stupp, MMAJunkie.com: NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer discusses year-round drug testing

-- John Chandler, MMAonTap.com: KOTC lightweight champ Joe Comacho discusses Thomas Denny win, calls out Roger Huerta, and more

-- Billy Gamble, FightTube: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu reigns supreme in UFC's heavyweight division

-- Brandt DeLorenzo, MMAOpinion.com: What if the NSAC acted sooner?

If you are a MMA blogger and you would like your work featured here, please e-mail me at pramit.mohapatra@gmail.com and put "Sun cooperative" in the subject line.

Posted by at 12:56 PM | | Comments (0)
        

February 2, 2008

Hits from the mainstream MMA media: Spotlight on UFC 81

This week, we welcome Steve Sievert of the Houston Chronicle to the crew. Sievert joins David Avila (MSNBC.com), Carlos Arias (OC Register) and me. Let's get right to this week's hits, which understandably focus on UFC 81:

-- Steve Sievert, Houston Chronicle: Sylvia ready for Nogueira, doubters

-- David Avila, MSNBC.com: Lesnar was born to fight: "It's in your blood"

-- Carlos Arias, OC Register: Sylvia fighting for respect

And don't forget to check out my UFC 81 preview at SI.com.

Posted by at 9:32 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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