Monthly Archives: November 2007

Say It Ain’t So, Dennis Hallman

Journeyman fighter Dennis Hallman tested positive for two types of steroids following his heelhook submission victory over Jeremiah Metcalf on Nov. 16, according to the California State Athletic Commission, making him the most surprising and disappointing positive-testee since Royce Gracie.  Hallman — an excellent grappler and hard-working fighter with over fifty bouts to his credit — will be suspended until October of 2008, according to

With the recent spate of mixed martial artists coming up positive in steroid tests, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.  But something about Hallman and the no-frills way he’s approached his career makes this hard to accept.  I mean, did he really need to inject himself with two types of steroids in order to defeat Jeremiah Metcalf (who has less than ten pro fights to his credit) on a Strikefore card?  The entire fight took just over a minute and a half.  Is that really worth the year suspension and the damage to Hallman’s reputation?

Maybe one of the reasons I have such a soft spot for Hallman is a story one of his friends told me once at an IFL event.  According to this friend, Hallman was involved in an altercation outside a bar where a drunk guy was absolutely insistent on fighting him.  Not wanting to brawl it out with the guy and risk hurting either one of them, Hallman quickly jumped behind the guy and onto his back, locking in a rear naked choke and rendering the guy unconscious before he could react.  In order to teach him a lesson about the whole experience, apparently, Hallman took the guy’s shoes off his feet and tied them to the bumper of his truck, driving around town with them that way for several weeks.

And you’re telling me this man used steroids?  Why, Dennis?  Why?

As much as I hate when everyone trots out their excuses after a positive steroid test, I’d still like to hear Hallman explain what he was thinking.  I hope he was injured severely to the point where he felt this was the only way he could stand up long enough to get to the ring.  I would hate to believe he was dumb enough to think, ‘You know what I need to beat this middle-of-the-road guy, Metcalf?  Steroids.  Just ain’t no other way I’ll have a chance.’

I’d also hate to believe that this isn’t the first time Hallman’s performance has been enhanced, just the first time he’s been caught.  Whatever the case, I’d like to hear what Hallman has to say about it, and whether he plans to come back after the suspension or just fade into the scenery and hope nobody remembers this phase of his career.


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Filed under Dennis Hallman, MMA, Sports

Memes Have Nothing To Do With Fighting

There’s this internet thing people are doing. No, not porn. They’re doing that too, but I feel we don’t need to mention it the same way we don’t need to mention that people are checking their email. What I’m referring to are memes. It’s some kind of hip new blog thing that is just a step above the MySpace bulletins and a step below a meaningful blog post.

The idea, as near as I can tell, is to write seven things about yourself and then “tag” other bloggers to do the same. The goal is as ambiguous as blogging itself, but that never stopped anyone. My good friend Dan Brooks tagged me. He writes the always-clever, occasionally updated, Islamic fundamentalist themed blog, The Brooks Caliphate. When he deigns to make a post, it’s usually hilarious. Since he’s very smart and knows a lot of words, it will also make you feel kind of bad about yourself. This is also an accurate description of how it feels to be friends with him.

Normally I’m against narcissistic stuff like this, which is why my blog is about a sport and not about the minutiae of my daily life. But what the hell. Just be warned: the following has nothing to do with MMA, fighting, or anything that will be of interest to you. You should probably just go away. Go on. You’re free now. Free!

You don’t understand, do you? All right. Have it your way.

1. The best summer of my life happened in Missoula, Montana in 2005.

2. I worked only sporadically, at one point teaching fiction writing to a group of high school teachers and at another point doing prep-work on a house some friends of mine were painting. Neither was a bad gig, and neither paid very much.

3. The rest of the summer, which is to say the bulk of the summer, was spent playing whiffleball in my girlfriend’s front yard and eating Otter Pops on the porch afterward. At dark, which doesn’t happen until around 10 pm during a Montana summer, we usually rode our bikes across the river to my creekside apartment, where it was always cool no matter how hot it was outside. Basically, it was an ideal summer for a ten-year-old or a grad student.

4. Because we’re both extremely competitive, every whiffleball game was an all-out war and every bike ride was a race.

5. I never let her win at either, even though I knew I probably should, at least once, because only a jerk feels like he needs to win at everything all the time, even when it’s whiffleball and even when his opponent is a petite woman. Why was I such a jerk? I really don’t know.

6. She never asked me to let her win, or got upset that I didn’t. She only asked me to help her improve her batting stance. She was a different player by the end of that summer, and could turn on a hanging whiffle-curveball with a ferocity that surprised and impressed me.

7. I still never let her win at anything, though we still compete at everything. Sometimes she wins anyway. I often wonder if there will ever be another summer as good as that one. God, I hope so.


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Ten Things I’ve Learned About Life From Watching The Ultimate Fighter

Last night’s episode of TUF made me realize that as much as I complain about the show, I really enjoy it. I also really hate it, but I enjoy hating it. It’s kind of like the way I love making fun of soccer. Sure, when all the Greeks in my neighborhood are rushing down to the pizza joint to watch Athens play some team whose name seems to be made up of hieroglyphic symbols, that’s ridiculous to me, but as soon as the World Cup rolls around I’m watching every game I can.

That’s kind of how I feel about TUF. If looked at as a serious representation of the sport, it’s pretty dumb. If looked at as a goof, it’s hilarious. Take last night’s episode, wherein the main conflict revolved around one team defecating in the top of another team’s toilet. I didn’t know it before watching the show, but this prank has a name: the upper decker.

Huh. How about that.

That bit of wisdom is a trifle compared to the things I’ve picked up over the many seasons of TUF:

1. If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re nowhere near your goal, an ice cream cake will suddenly, magically appear with no explanation. And it won’t hurt if you just have one piece…

2. Fighting outside the confines of sport is unacceptable. Pretty much everything else — including all forms of senseless property damage — is perfectly fine. Apparently no one even drops by to ask you to please tone it down a little.

3. When you’ve done something indefensible, for no good reason, and people ask you why you did it, the best possible response is: “Because I do sh-t like that.” It’s a conversation-stopper.

4. Reading is highly overrated. Unless it’s The Bible.

5. Alcohol is free and plentiful.

6. If you’ve got a big event in your life coming up and a storm rolls in the night before, get out there quick and harness its power. That’s a no-brainer, really. I mean, it’s a storm. It’s powerful!

7. You know commercials, those advertisements between segments of a show? Well, you can also do them within the show, by having people talk about a sponsor’s products. It’s genius, and no one will ever realize you’re doing it. Also, there’s no better place to hang than the Hard Rock.

8. When someone dies in your family, it’s best to find out about it on speaker phone. With Matt Hughes in the room. It’s just better for everyone this way.

9. After you’ve done something you shouldn’t have, go ahead and lie about it even when there was a camera crew following you throughout the whole thing. Who’s gonna know?

10. Nothing motivates people like profanity. Lots of it.


Filed under MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC, Uncategorized

Silva-Henderson Fight Could Be Career-Defining For Both Men

In this age of interim titles and overhyped fights, it’s easy to forget about the very real title fight down the road. I speak now, of course, of Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson. It may also be known as the fight Henderson should have taken immediately upon coming to the UFC, but better late than never.

I don’t know what Dana White said to Henderson to convince him to finally move back down to middleweight and take this fight. I’m guessing that the conversation involved a check with a lot of zeros on it, for one thing, and maybe a reminder of how he couldn’t control the bigger “Rampage” Jackson on the mat when the two fought for the light heavyweight title.

Whatever it took, White got his wish. Henderson-Silva is the match that makes sense for both fighters. The only questions is, if Silva wins, what happens next?

I ask that for two reasons. One, Henderson is 37. He’s had a great career as an MMA fighter and before that as a prolific amateur wrestler. The guy has won so many titles and tournaments that when I asked him once to list for me some of his accomplishments in advance of an IFL announcement, he told me he was a “three or four-time National Greco-Roman champion.” Three or four? He just smiled and shrugged. I guess at some point you stop counting and they all blend together.

My point here is that if Henderson can’t beat the 205-pound champ and can’t beat the 185-pound champ, what’s left? He doesn’t want to hang around and be a gatekeeper, or at least I don’t want him to do that. And at his age he might be better off hanging up the gloves and concentrating on running his gym.

Then again, if he makes the move down in weight and wins the title, it could be a reverse Randy Couture scenario.

My second question, though, is what happens with Anderson Silva if he wins? He’ll have defeated just about everybody worth punching in the UFC’s anemic middleweight division, with no obvious challenger waiting in the wings. What will the UFC do with him then? Will Anderson Silva weep when he sees there are no more people to beat up?

Knowing the UFC, they’ll probably start pressuring other fighters to move to middleweight (paging, “Count” Bisping), but that does not necessarily mean they’ll have any credible contenders at the end of the day. Henderson has by the far the best shot, not only because of his skill and experience level, but because his style matches up well against Silva’s.

If Silva has trouble with anyone, it’s wrestlers. His takedown defense is the only weak part of his game, and Henderson doesn’t mind taking a punch on the way in to get it.

As of right now, the Silva-Henderson fight stands in the distance as a fork in the road for the UFC’s middleweight division. The future of the weight class — as well as the future of several fighters as of yet unnamed — will depend on what happens in that bout. Either way, when it’s all over we’ll finally have some (M)answers.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, MMA, Sports, UFC

Paulo Filho Says He Won’t Help Chuck Liddell…And He Means It

Brazilian middleweight Paulo Filho apparently won’t be accepting an invitation to train with Chuck Liddell in advance of “The Iceman’s” match with Wanderlei Silva, according to Brazilian website Tatame.  Though he’ll be in the U.S. to defend his WEC title, and though he has previously made it known just how much he hates Chute Boxe fighters, of which Silva is one, it seems as though his nationalist pride is what’s keeping him from helping Liddell:

“I would never train with an American to fight with a Brazilian,” Filho said, in Portuguese.  “I am not a slut or a prostitute.”

Those are pretty strong words from Filho, who’s known for saying what’s on his mind.  And while I think he might be making a little too much out of this, it does bring up important questions about the fluidity of training and training partners in MMA.

Before a big fight you always hear about who a fighter went and trained with.  Most of his work will be done at his home gym, but he might spend a week in Oregon with Team Quest or in southern California with Dan Henderson.  He might go out to Vegas and train with Randy Couture or up to Bettendorf with the Miletich camp.  With so many fighters criss-crossing the country to find new training partners, it’s bound to happen that you end up training a guy one of your teammates will eventually fight, and maybe even giving away some of his arsenal in the process.

Of course, we don’t need to make this into a huge deal.  Everyone knows what Team Quest fighters like to do without having to set foot in the Team Quest gym (which is, by the way, a great place to overhear an argument about who took the last can of Skoal).  But that also doesn’t mean you want your opponent to have intimate knowledge of how you train and what your gym spends their time on.

Filho’s reasons for refusal are of a different nature, however.  Even though he hates Chute Boxe and, by extension, Wanderlei, they’re still both Brazilians.  It’s especially understandable when you consider that Brazilians have long felt it difficult to get a fair shake in America.  They think close decisions will always go against them, and if they’re fighting an American fighter they had better finish the fight.  It’s similar to what many American fighters feel about fighting in Japan.

How justified those feelings are is difficult to say.  And it does seem a little unnecessary for Filho to insist he’s not a prostitute, unless somehow there was a mistranslation and he thought that instead of being asked to train with Liddell he was being asked to have sex with Liddell for money, in which case it would be an understandable reaction (and really, don’t most English phrases translate into Portuguese that way?).  But at the same time, I agree with his sentiment.  Why should he help an American beat one of his countrymen?

Then again, that door swings both ways.  If this is the stance Filho is going to take, he’d better be content to train only with fellow Brazilians for the rest of his career, because people are bound to remember this statement.  That means no swapping training tips with Matt Lindland over a can of Skoal in the near future, which is both a good and bad thing.


Filed under Chuck Liddell, MMA, Paulo Filho, Sports, UFC, Wanderlei Silva

Another Interim Title?

The UFC has done it again. No sooner could I type out my belief that they weren’t desperate enough to invent a match for Matt Hughes to replace the one he was supposed to have with a now-injured Matt Serra, than they proved me wrong. Not only will they have Hughes meet Georges St. Pierre for a third time at UFC 79, they’ve created yet another “interim title” for them to fight over.

Matt Serra said it best on “I can’t believe the position this puts me in.”

Neither can I, Matt. On one hand, the fight itself should be a good one, and I’m looking forward to this rubber match between two top contenders. On the other hand, an interim title? Why?

I understand that Serra, the champion, is injured. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to fight again. It could be six months, or it could be more than a year. But what message is the UFC sending to Serra — who claimed the title back when there was only one in each division — by marginalizing him the instant he has to sit one out?

It’s not that I don’t understand why they came to this decision. They want a main event for UFC 79, and they feel like a title needs to be on the line to make that happen. It’s as if they’re as adamant about having a title fight for this event as they were about trying to convince us that the non-title fight between Bisping and Evans was worth our money last weekend.

Even so, interim titles are not the easy answer to every problem. Just because a champion can’t make the first date you set for him doesn’t mean you can just create a new title out of thin air. If you do, then what’s the point of having one champion in each weight class?

I understand that one of the criticisms people will level at my argument is that Serra has not defended his title since winning it seven months ago. But that’s not Serra’s fault. The UFC kept him from defending it so they could use the reality show to pump up a title fight between he and Hughes. Now he’s been injured in training, but that’s a part of the game. You can’t just nullify his title right off the bat.

I’m also against this move because it may cancel out the planned fight between Hughes and Serra. If St. Pierre beats Hughes for a second straight time (which is possible, to say the least), then St. Pierre would fight Serra to unify the fake title and the real one. There’d be no reason to have Hughes and Serra fight after that.

It’s starting to seem as though what the UFC really needs is a stated policy about champions and inactivity. The fighters need to know what’s going to happen if they’re injured or can’t fight for whatever reason, and the rules should be the same for everyone. You can’t just invent a new title because you want to have two people fight for it on a pay-per-view. That defeats the purpose of a championship.

My suggestion is that they institute a one-year rule. If a champion cannot defend his title due to injury, he gets one year to recover and make that defense or else he gets stripped of the title. A year should be enough time to recover from most injuries, while at the same time giving him the respect that a champion deserves from his organization.

What the UFC can’t continue to do is whip up these interim titles whenever they need to boost their pay-per-view numbers. Given enough time, eventually they’re going to run into a scenario where a true champion and an interim champion are both unable to fight at the same time. This is the hurt business, after all. What will they do then, create an interim interim title? It’s madness, I tell you.

The saddest part about this particular case with Hughes and St. Pierre is that we don’t need an artificial title to make it a worthwhile fight. It’s a good match, and one that makes some sense if Serra is going to be out for a while.

But just because one of those guys will get a belt put around his waist at the end of the night, that doesn’t make him champion. Just like how calling a fight between two reality show stars a main event didn’t make it true in New Jersey.


Filed under Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC

Matt Serra Pulls Out of Title Fight With Hughes

Due to a herniated disk in his back, Matt Serra will not be putting his welterweight title on the line against Matt Hughes on Dec 29, the UFC’s official website reported this week.  Serra suffered the injury in training, thus derailing the rivalry bout that this season of The Ultimate Fighter has spent a significant portion of its screen time hyping.

Since Serra-Hughes was billed as the main event for UFC 79, this does hurt the overall appeal of the card.  Fortunately for the UFC, they already had a second main event on this card in the form of Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell.  This long-awaited showdown even allows them to keep the title of the event (“Nemesis”) intact.  Everybody wins.

There has been some talk of the UFC trying to find a replacement for Serra in order to keep Hughes on the card, but I doubt that will actually happen.  Having Matt Hughes fight some up-and-coming welterweight while he waits for Serra to heal is an absurd idea with very little upside for the UFC.

It won’t be a title fight, so it doesn’t carry the same appeal, for one thing.  If Hughes were to lose to a Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves, it would make the fight with Serra seem pointless.  Even if he won it wouldn’t mean much.

The only other officially announced bout for UFC 79 is Sokoudjou vs. Lyoto Machida.  This will be Sokoudjou’s UFC debut, and it should make for an interesting match, but the UFC should really try to put together a few more good undercard fights to get this card back to the ‘event-of-the-year’ status.

So for now, it looks like Hughes and Serra will have to wait.  Maybe the UFC can convince Spike TV to run a marathon of this season of TUF before the fight does actually take place some time in 2008.  Then again, I think this is enough of a legitimate rivalry that they don’t really need to keep reminding us about it.

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Filed under Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC