Monthly Archives: September 2007

New Articles, And Not Just About MMA This Time

I have two new articles on Crave Online this week. One of them, naturally, is about MMA (An Uncertain Future for Chuck Liddell). But the other is about my love affair with a certain tasteless reality TV show (Does Liking “Rock of Love” Make Me a Bad Person?).

If you’re reading this blog you’re probably the type who has read/heard/thought enough about Chuck Liddell over the last week, so why not broaden your cultural horizons by, um, reading about TV. Hey, at least it has to be better for you than watching TV. Maybe.

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Filed under Bret Michaels, Chuck Liddell, MMA, Rock of Love, Self-Promotion, TV, UFC, Uncategorized

The MMA Article I Never Want to Read Again

I think it’s great that so many people are now discovering mixed martial arts.  Increased interest equals increased airtime and exposure, which then leads to better pay for fighters, bigger shows, and better all around competition.

That’s all good stuff.  I can remember when UFC results never made the L.A. Times’ sports page, while somehow the X-games was taken seriously.  (I bet now you’re wishing you had read my emails instead of blindly backing ABC’s attempt to make pro skateboarding seem entertaining, aren’t you ESPN?  Right?  Hello?)

That’s why I’m all for sports columnists writing about MMA now.  But there is one type of article I’m already very sick of.  Rather than try and describe this kind of article to you, just take a look at the first few paragraphs from a recent story in Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper:

Considering I’m at the upper edges of the sport’s demographic, was this an unsettling confirmation of a grown man suspended in adolescent stages of development?

More troublesome: Was this some dark desire to see humans pummeling each other until they bleed from the face? Or perhaps it was as simple as there was nothing else on television, and mixed martial arts programs seem to be everywhere now.

For whatever reason, MMA started appearing on my television a few months back, and to my surprise, I kind of liked it.

Now, it’s hard for me to really get angry about this article, since it is, essentially, a positive one.  But if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s overcoming these types of obstacles to get angry anyway.

What annoys me here is the tone.  It’s almost apologetic, as if the writer is saying, ‘I know this sport is totally barbaric and juvenile, but I like it anyway.’  It’s cloying and condescending.  The way this particular writer disingenuously questions his own motives for wanting to see a violent sport is particularly grating.  Does he ask himself the same questions about football or boxing?

I also don’t like how these writers tend to act as if MMA is this new thing they’ve discovered.  For those of us who have been watching it since you had to buy the VHS tapes off the internet and watch them in somebody’s parents’ basement, it’s just maddening.

Just because you only recently learned about something, complacent sports columnists of America, that doesn’t make it new.  I mean, I just learned that there is an oppressive military regime governing Myanmar (note to Pres. Bush, they don’t call it Burma anymore), but that doesn’t mean the whole thing just started when I found out about it.

I was talking this over with another MMA writer at the IFL Finals last week, and he seemed similarly annoyed with these articles.  He estimated that we had another six months to a year of them before it became generally accepted that sports fans knew about MMA, at which point the discourse could move on.

But I find it troubling that even now that MMA has gained mainstream exposure it still gets treated as an aberration.  Maybe it bothers me because while I see MMA as a natural evolution in combat sports, the media too often treats it like a trend that will soon die out.

Take this down, sports columnists.  Rollerblading was a trend.  Hypercolor t-shirts were a trend.  MMA is a sport.  You’d think people paid to know about stuff like this would have figured that out by now.  But then you’d also think the President of the United States would know what he’s talking about before opening his mouth at the U.N.

So much for thinking.

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Filed under MMA, Sports, UFC

New Dear Don at IFL.tv

Don FryeThe new edition of Dear Don: Advice from “The Predator” is on the IFL website today. In case you’re not familiar with the internet’s most popular MMA-related advice column, allow me to fill you in. Dear Don is where average jerks write in with questions about their sad, sad lives, and Don tells them what to do, or at the very least what he would do. I don’t know if these people actually heed the advice, because much of it would lead to incarceration and/or being outcast from society, but some of it is genuinely good and, occasionally, touching.

In this edition Don gives advice on dealing with a pretty girl who’s not all that smart, transitioning from an amateur to a pro as an MMA fighter, and of course, growing the perfect mustache.

You should check it out. If you’re not a total pussy. Hell, even if you are. You probably need to hear this stuff more than most.

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Filed under Dear Don, Don Frye, IFL, MMA, Sports

Liddell Makes Half-a-Million in Loss, Jardine Takes The Bus Home After Victory

After every event the UFC discloses their fighter payrolls to the State Athletic Commission or IRS or whoever it is that insists on seeing these things, and then a fairly predictable routine follows: 1) MMA fans marvel at how little some of their favorite fighters are making to entertain them with violence for $39.95 on pay-per-view, and 2) the UFC tells us all to calm down because this list doesn’t include bonuses and sponsorship money and spare change found in the dressing room sofa (you know, the one that sits beneath the poster for Good Luck Chuck).

It’s fairly well documented that official fighter payouts are usually much higher than what is reported by the UFC. Former welterweight champ Matt Hughes recently commented on a radio show that his disclosed payout for his last fight was nowhere near what he actually took back to the farm.

So fine. The fighters are getting more than the UFC is telling us about. I could turn around and ask why they’re being so secretive about it, but I won’t. They don’t have to tell us everything about their finances and I can understand why they wouldn’t.

But with that being said, I was absolutely shocked when I looked at the fighter payouts for UFC 76 and saw that Keith Jardine made $14,000 for beating Chuck Liddell, while Liddell took home $500,000 for his defeat. Regardless of the explanations — Jardine had a previously negotiated contract, Liddell is the pay-per-view draw, etc. — that seems pretty ridiculous.

You’d like to think that if you step into the cage and beat one of the world’s top-ranked fighters, you’d walk away with enough money to at least buy yourself a Toyota Camry. Maybe Jardine got back to his dressing room to find a pile of cash waiting for him, or maybe he was promised a better contract just for taking the fight, but he took a big risk stepping up against Liddell and got a pretty meager payday for his efforts.

What’s really sad is that UFC contracts typically offer mid-level guys like Jardine (mid-level when he signed, mind you) a show fee and a win bonus. That means Jardine probably would have gotten $7,000 if he lost to Chuck Liddell, which is what the UFC was betting would happen. Considering what the UFC and Liddell made off the fight, seven grand is nothing.

I’m not saying Jardine should have made more than Liddell just because he won, or that they should even necessarily be in the same tax bracket. I understand that Liddell sold that fight in terms of tickets and pay-per-view buys and that’s where the money comes from. But I sincerely hope the UFC is compensating Jardine appropriately for his performance. At least give him a lifetime supply of Xyience.

And for Pete’s sake, Chuck, give him a ride home.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, Keith Jardine, MMA, Sports, UFC, Uncategorized

The Rumors Are True

Today Sam Caplan announced that I will now be a contributing writer for his MMA blog, 5 oz. of Pain. As I’ve mentioned on here before, I’ve been a big fan of the site since I first saw his articles on CBS Sportsline, so it’s an honor and a privilege to write for it.

As most of you know, I’m also the editor of the IFL web site, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to write about the IFL for them.  Sam does a good, fair job of that himself, and I love to write about the other organizations just as much (hence this blog).  I know some people might assume I can’t possibly write impartially about the UFC, but the truth is I love the UFC and watch it every chance I get.  Who among us would be MMA fans without them?  I also watch the smaller orgs, like WEC and Bodog and Pro Elite and anything else I can find.  The more competition the better, for the fighters and the fans, though the UFC will always be the beating heart at the center of the MMA world.

This doesn’t mean The Fighting Life is going away. Let’s not panic or anything. This blog — unlike your parents, who never really loved you — isn’t going anywhere. This just means that there is now one more place where you can read my musings on MMA, which means the world is a little bit better today than it was yesterday. Though in all fairness, yesterday wasn’t so great.

In other news, the new edition of Through the Past Darkly (one of the more popular recurring features on IFL.tv) is up on the site today. The most popular recurring feature, Dear Don: Advice from the Predator, should make a triumphant return later this week. Don and I have been hard at work on a new column, and when I say hard at work I mean I called Don with some questions and he rattled off some utterly hilarious responses, most of which I can’t publish due to obscenity guidelines.

The strange thing about working on that column with Don Frye, who is something of a hero of mine, is that I always think I know what he’s going to say to each question, but I’m usually wrong.  As much as Don sometimes seems like a walking stereotype of the hyper-masculine man, sometimes he actually gives good advice.  Sure, a lot of it basically amounts to, “stop being a pussy”, but don’t we all need someone to say that to us every once in a while?

The new edition will feature one such instance of Don’s deceptively good advice, and perhaps an answer to one of the many mustache-related questions we get every week.  You’ll just have to wait and see.

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Filed under Don Frye, IFL, MMA, Sam Caplan, Sports, UFC

Liddell Talks Retirement (But I’m Not Buying It)

Following his decision loss to Keith Jardine (who has reclaimed full “Dean of Mean” status with the victory), former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell is said to be considering retirement. According to trend-follower Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports!, UFC president Dana White spoke about the possibility of Liddell hanging up his gloves.

“There’s a hunger thing that you have to have to be an elite fighter and I just didn’t see a Chuck Liddell who was as hungry as he used to be,” White reportedly told Iole. “Chuck has made a lot of money in this business and he’s done a lot of things, but he wasn’t the Chuck of old.”

It’s not such a crazy notion when you consider that Liddell has been competing in the UFC since before they had timed rounds. He’ll be thirty-eight in December, which is typically when hand speed and punching power starts to fade. For someone like Randy Couture, that might not mean much, but Liddell is a striker who has always relied on those skills. If he can’t hit harder and faster than everyone else, Liddell becomes just another guy with good footwork and takedown defense.

But I have a hard time believing Liddell will never set foot in the Octagon again. If history is any indicator (and if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t keep deferring to it and refusing to learn from it), Liddell will probably have to be all but forced into retirement.

Great athletes almost always have a difficult time knowing when to quit, and professional fighters are the most notorious for keeping at it long after they should. Consider boxing greats like Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis and George Foreman.

Think about MMA legends like Ken Shamrock and Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie, even my unofficial life coach Don Frye.

They all kept at it past their prime. They all had to be shepherded into retirement by the fists of younger fighters. It’s hard to watch a hero take beatings he should have never signed up for, and it’s even harder to understand why he can’t see that his skills have deteriorated when everyone else can.

But in a way, it makes sense. I remember interviewing Ken Shamrock and asking him why he kept going for so long when he didn’t particularly need the money, and what he told me was very enlightening and endearing.

He said that a champion fighter has to have a certain personality that makes him push through things a normal person can’t. He has to be the kind of guy who can break his hand on an opponent’s skull and keep swinging. He has to view quitting as an unforgivable sin. If he didn’t, he’d never have become a champion in the first place.

That’s why, when the ravages of age begin to show themselves, he can’t see it for what it is. He thinks it’s one more hardship that he has to push through. He’s always been able to do it before, so his mind isn’t programmed to believe that there is an injury or a setback so debilitating as to be final.

It’s something you either have or you don’t, and champions have it. It’s also a tragic gift when age catches up with you. Sure, some guys — Randy Couture, for one — defy the odds, but many more succumb to them.

Think about the great heavyweight boxing champions of the last hundred years. How many of them retired before some sad spectacle in the ring? Lennox Lewis, maybe. And Rocky Marciano, who is still the only heavyweight champ to retire undefeated.

Marciano once said that he knew it was time to quit when the smell of the gym began to make him sick. He said that smell of old sweat and leather and mildew had always been strangely pleasant to him before, but one day he went in to train and it disgusted him. And that was it. He never fought again.

I think that may be what Dana White is referring to in regards to Liddell’s hunger. That hunger to fight and compete and win is something you can’t force and you can’t fake. If that fire isn’t burning in Liddell anymore, then he should call it quits. But I have to think that a man who’s been a top-level fighter for so many years is going to have a hard time letting go of that identity.

Who knows, maybe Liddell has a few more good years left in him. Couture found a second life in his forties, so it’s not unheard of. Only Liddell knows for sure. Something tells me, though, that a decision loss to Keith Jardine isn’t going to be definitive enough for him. Not while Wanderlei Silva — Liddell’s white whale — is still out there.

Liddell is going to have to find out for himself if he can still compete. For most great fighters, it’s a question they can’t stop asking, even after the answer is clearly no.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, Dana White, Don Frye, Keith Jardine, Ken Shamrock, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Upsets Leave Uncertain Future for UFC Stars

At the top of last night’s UFC pay-per-view broadcast, announcer Mike Goldberg mentioned that Chuck Liddell would fight former Pride champ Wanderlei Silva if he beat Keith Jardine in the evening’s main event.

He didn’t. Now we don’t know what’s going to happen to Liddell or Silva (much less Jardine). If Goldberg’s statement is any indication, neither does the UFC.

What’s interesting about that comment is he didn’t say that the winner of Liddell-Jardine would face Silva, which is usually how these things work. Phrasing it that way told us two things about the UFC’s mindset going into last night’s main event: 1) they weren’t making Jardine any promises about his future, no matter how well he did, and 2) they only made this fight so Liddell could get another highlight reel KO and bolster his status before fighting Silva.

The irony is that Dana White went out of his way to criticize Pride when they made a similar mistake, putting Silva in last year’s Open Weight Grand Prix where he got head-kicked into dreamland by “Cro Cop”, the tournament’s eventual winner. White called them stupid (among other names) for not making the Liddell-Silva match happen when the two were at their peak and the money was on the table.

And yet, by refusing to wait until November or December to put Liddell in the Octagon again, when Silva said he’d be ready to fight, White made the exact same mistake. He thought Jardine would be an easy win for Liddell, but it turns out Jardine is a lot tougher and — probably thanks to trainer Greg Jackson — had a better game plan than anyone expected.

Liddell looked like he’d never defended against a kick in his entire life, as Jardine chopped away at his legs and body all night long. Almost every kick landed cleanly, sapping Liddell’s energy and leaving him unable to summon the knockout blow he’s depended on his entire career. Jardine weathered the early storm of punches from Liddell and came back with some bombs of his own, dropping Liddell in round two and completely controlling the final frame.

In what basically amounted to a kickboxing match, Jardine managed to stay on offense without getting too aggressive — a feat few Liddell opponents have been able to accomplish. The result was a well-deserved split decision victory that left the humble Jardine nearly speechless while Liddell crouched against the cage, staring numbly at the mat.

It will be hard for the UFC to justify the Liddell-Silva match now, with Liddell coming off two straight losses. They also don’t know how much fight Silva has left in him, considering the beatings he’s taken in the last year and a half.

To further complicate the issue, Pride import Mauricio “Shogun” Rua lost his UFC debut when he gassed out against Forrest Griffin. Rua looked good for most of the first round, scoring with punches and transitioning well into takedowns.

But it quickly began to seem as if he hadn’t trained to fight more than five minutes, as his hands dropped to his waist and his takedowns deteriorated into lazy dives at Griffin’s feet. Griffin fought through an ugly cut to submit Rua with a third-round rear naked choke, and he may have turned a corner in his career with the victory.

Griffin is one of the UFC’s most likable fighters, and his style is dynamic and exciting to watch, even when he loses. Hopefully he doesn’t develop Pedro Rizzo syndrome from being cut open in fights too often, because in an organization that allows elbow strikes to the face a vulnerability to cuts is a weakness he can’t afford.

For Rua, the future is uncertain. Losing in his debut makes him significantly drop in value, but the UFC isn’t going to give up on this investment just yet. If he had been in shape to go three rounds, I still think he would have beaten Griffin, so maybe this will serve as a wake-up call. A Rua-Liddell fight wouldn’t be out of the question, since both fighters need to pick themselves up right now and prove they’ve still got some skills worth paying for.

The two other televised bouts on the card — Diego Sanchez vs. Jon Fitch and Thiago Tavares vs. Tyson Griffin — both ended in decisions. While the decision victories for Fitch and Griffin were the right ones, they did prompt Joe Rogan to adopt the need for revised MMA scoring as his new pet cause.

Several times on the broadcast he mentioned the inadequacy of the “ten-point must” system for MMA bouts. While I agreed with the decisions that this system rendered last night, I do see Rogan’s point. That system was designed for boxing. It wasn’t designed for a sport where submissions attempts and controlling ground positioning also have to be factored in.

Rogan even took his newfound cause into his post-fight interviews, but the fighters didn’t have any answers for him. Should a submission attempt count in a fighter’s favor? Should escaping a submission count? What about controlling your opponent on the ground without doing significant damage?

There’s no quick fix here, but I do agree that some revision in the system is needed, as well as some more formalized directives for judges that don’t include the phrase “Octagon control”. But maybe that’s just me.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, Dana White, Forrest Griffin, Jon Fitch, Keith Jardine, MMA, Shogun Rua, Sports, UFC, UFC 76