Since this is an MMA blog, I’m going to spare you most of my feelings on air travel and move on to more interesting topics, but first I have to say this: Jet Blue is what airlines should aspire to be. They have TV’s in every seat, they apologize for delays by letting you watch free PPV movies, and they’re genuinely nice to you instead of treating you like they’re doing you a favor letting you hitch a ride on their plane. Yesterday, the stewardess insisted on giving me an extra snack because it went well with the coffee I was drinking. I ask you, would American Airlines ever do that? And the snack was delicious!!!!
There. That’s over with now. Let’s move on.
I arrived in Florida late last night and got a quick bite to eat at the hotel bar with IFL publicist Greg De Sanctis. If you haven’t checked out the IFL site recently, you should do so immediately after this post so you can read Greg’s first-person account of working out at Miletich Fighting Systems. It didn’t go well for him, but the story is great.
Greg informed me that while our collective boss – VP of Communications Joe Favorito – didn’t personally tell him he did a good job on the story, he did tell other people that he liked it. That’s about as close to a compliment as you’re going to get from Joe. He’s an old school hard-ass in many ways, but he’s also very good at his job. He recently wrote a book about sports marketing – that’s how much he knows about it.
Much of our conversation last night centered on the fight between Ben Rothwell and Ricco Rodriguez, which all of the IFL employees are talking about, even the ones who don’t know or care much about MMA (which is, sadly, many of them).
I called Ben on Sunday night when I first learned of this change in opponents, but he never called me back, which is odd for him. When I relayed this to Greg he just shook his head and said, “He’s not going to talk to you about it.”
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s tried.
I can’t blame Rothwell for being nervous/upset/focused. I mean, he trained for Tom Sauer, and then a few days before the fight he finds out he’s facing Ricco Rodriguez, who is a great grappler, who beat Randy Couture once upon a time, and who can still be a major threat when he’s in shape.
And oh yeah, from what I’m hearing, he’s in shape. Seriously.
I haven’t seen Ricco yet. The moment of truth will be when he steps on the scales at this afternoon’s weigh-in, which, I might add, is at the always-classy Hooters. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. They’re known for their wings, if I’m not mistaken.
But I don’t think Rothwell should see this as negative twist of fate. I think it’s a great opportunity. If he beat Tom Sauer, no one would care. They’d continue to claim that the IFL is protecting him (not true, just one of the side effects of the team format), that he hasn’t beaten anyone who matters, etc. If he beats Ricco, it’s kind of a big deal. Sure, it’s not the Ricco of old, but he’s still doing pretty well lately. Then again, none of that matters unless Rothwell wins.
The other big news is that ticket sales are down. It’s no secret. I’m sure a lot of the IFL haters will claim this means the company is going to fold before the weekend, but it doesn’t. I think the IFL knew they’d suffer from low ticket sales when they came down here, but they’re doing it to create some sort of fan base in Florida for future ventures.
Otherwise, coming here makes no sense. We’ve never been here before, don’t have any teams here or fighters from here, and we’re holding our finals here on a Thursday night – the same night the University of Miami plays Texas A&M in an ESPN Thursday Night Football game. It’s a perfect storm for low ticket sales, in other words.
And yet, the card is solid. Rothwell-Rodriguez should be a hell of a fight. The undercard has guys like Ryan Schultz, Brad Blackburn, and Rolles Gracie (making his MMA debut). And the team championship match-up has bouts like Bart Palaszewski against Deividas Taurosevicius and Andre Gusmao against Mike Ciesnolevicz. I realize those names don’t mean as much to the larger MMA world, but I’ve been covering these guys for a while and they’re legit.
Personally, I’m very excited about it. Almost as excited as I am about the wings at Hooters later today. Don’t worry, I’ll post again tonight and let you know all about it.