Monthly Archives: January 2008

UFC 81 Head-to-Head Picks on CBS

The new edition of Head-to-Head is currently live on CBS Sports. You’ll notice that new editions now feature the respective records of the analysts. I’m not going to point out that I’m currently tied for first. I’m just going to assume that you’ll take note of it all on your own.

Read it here.

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Ice Cube Inks Deal With MMA Org

We’ve all wondered in the past what it would take to officially make MMA a mainstream sport.  Nevermind the TV deals and big name endorsements (Mickey’s replay, anyone?), I think we’ve finally got our answer.  According to Adam Swift, Ice Cube’s internet television network, UVNTV.com, has agreed to create an MMA channel as part of an agreement with the International Fighting Championship.

Now, far be it from me to tell Cube how to allocate his resources, but something just isn’t quite right here.  The IFC is a new organization — not to be confused with the International Fighting Championships, which also went by the abbreviation IFC, or with the IFL, which also uses “International” and “Fight” in its name, or the UFC, which also uses “Fighting Championships”, or with the International Fighting Organization…you see where I’m going.

They’ve just gotten started and they’re already in some dispute with the now defunct IFO.  The IFO is accusing them of piggybacking on their success, such as it was, and encouraging people to think that they are the same organization.  To further complicate things, Rico White, the former Director of Sales for the IFO, is now the president of the IFC.

Is this really the company you want to get involved with if you’re Ice Cube?

And yet Ice Cube and his consigliari, DJ Pooh, apparently think it’s a great idea.  They’re creating a twenty-four hour MMA channel  on their internet TV network, calling it “My MMA Network”.  Ignoring for the moment that this whole thing seems to be headed for a world record in terms of copyright infringement, how does the IFC think they’ll be able to fill twenty-four hours worth of programming?

I imagine long stretches of time where entire fights are shown in slow motion instant replay.  Naturally, they’ll do some completely unnecessary features on the ring girls.  They’ll probably also bring in a couple of “analysts” to do their own MMA version of the McLaughlin Group.  But after all that, how are they going to fill the other eighteen hours in the day?

This situation only further illustrates a point that I keep returning to.  Something about the fight business attracts an unsavory element.  There are plenty of great businessmen and honest promoters in our industry, but there are also a lot of exploitative bottom-feeders.  Not knowing anything about the IFC and their executives (though I do suspect that they operate out of the back of an electronics store), I can’t say for sure which category they fall into.  However, if you’re a fighter considering signing with the IFC, insist upon being paid in cash, upfront.  You’ll thank me later.

As for Ice Cube, I hope this doesn’t have a negative effect on your internet television network, which I didn’t know you had until today.  And in the future, when you’re considering doing business with these types of people, ask yourself just one thing: what would Dr. Dre do?

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Chris Wilson: Moving on Up?

As was first reported by The Oregonian, former IFL and Bodog fighter Chris Wilson will be joining the UFC to take on Jon Fitch at UFC 82. Wilson took the fight when Akihiro Gono was forced to pull out with an injured hand, but what’s perhaps most surprising is that “The Professor” will be taking a pay cut in his move to the UFC.

“I’ve never had a thing for or against the UFC,” he said. “It’s always been a matter of taking care of my family, and the other contracts I signed paid a little better. The UFC is a bit of a pay cut actually, but it is a great opportunity right now.”

Let me first say that I’m a big fan of Wilson’s. He’s an exciting fighter to watch, very intelligent and humble, and he has some great striking skills. But I’d be wondering what kind of future the UFC is envisioning for him if they’re signing him to a low-paying contract that begins with a fight against Jon Fitch.

As much as I respect Wilson’s skills, Fitch is a tough matchup for him. Wilson is at his best when he can stand and pick an opponent apart with his highly technical striking attack. Fitch, on the other hand, is a powerhouse wrestler who is almost guaranteed to put you on your back at least once or twice. Not to mention, the UFC clearly has high hopes for Fitch. Bringing Wilson in to face him and paying him peanuts to do so isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for the Team Quest fighter.

The career trajectory for Wilson is especially interesting when you consider that he left the IFL solely because he thought he could make more money as a free agent. In his first year out he fought only twice for Bodog, and garnered much less exposure than he had in the IFL. Now he’s making a big move to the UFC, one that could do wonders for his career if he goes on a winning streak there, but he’s making less money in the process.

The gamble Wilson is taking is very clear. He needs to beat Fitch in this high profile fight in order to garner his share of the spotlight in the UFC’s loaded welterweight division. If not, he drops to the rear of the pack, likely fighting on Ultimate Fight Night shows or untelevised pay-per-view bouts, duking it out with mid-level welterweights for a meager paycheck.

It’s a big risk, but that’s nothing new for Wilson. Now he just has to make it pay off.

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Is Brock Lesnar A “Mental Midget”?

We all know Brock Lesnar is a physical specimen.  One look at his action-figure physique and cartoonishly square head tells us that he’s probably gifted when it comes to hurting other people.  But what’s going on upstairs for “The Next Big Thing”?  According to Kurt Angle, who worked alongside Lesnar in the WWE, not much.  In a recent radio interview Angle commented that while he thought Lesnar had all the physical tools to be successful in MMA, he is too much of a “mental midget” to survive when the going gets tough.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Angle is a pro wrestler.  He’s been talking sensationalist trash so long it’s questionable whether he even knows or cares any more about the distinction between saying something he believes and something intended to build hype.  But, just for the sake of argument, let’s say this was a comment that Angle thought through beforehand and is willing to stand behind.

Lesnar is the guy who walked away from the WWE to become a pro football player.  Then, when the Vikings decided he was not quite ready for prime time and offered him a spot on their NFL Europe team, he walked away from that, too.  Now he wants to be an MMA fighter.  It’s at least worth asking, how committed is Lesnar to this new course of action?  How will he react after a loss?  Will he walk away if he isn’t UFC heavyweight champion in a year?

I’ll be the first to say that I’m very interested to see what Lesnar can do in this sport, but I also wonder about a guy who seems to change his mind every few years about what he wants to be when he grows up.  Six months from now is he going to quit MMA to become an astronaut or a fireman?  Only time will tell.

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UFC Fight Night: You Get What You Pay For

If there’s one thing I learned from last night’s UFC Fight Night on Spike TV (aside from the fact that “Rambo” comes out this Friday — did you guys know Stallone is Rambo?), it’s that there’s a reason some guys are main event fighters and some guys aren’t.  Josh Burkman and Mike Swick?  Sorry, they just aren’t.  Not yet, anyway.

The fight between Swick and Burkman was about as exciting as a seniors tennis championship.  For three rounds Burkman tried to bull his way in for a takedown, pressing Swick against the cage.  When that didn’t work, he kept doing it.  For the next two rounds.  And got exactly zero takedowns.  For his part, Swick looked to stay on the outside and win with his striking, though he landed only sporadically and never appeared to have Burkman hurt or even more than slightly annoyed.

Somehow, Swick got the decision, though how the judges saw fit to give this to either man is a mystery to me.  One judge scored the fight 29-29, which is about as close to accurate as I can imagine.

On the whole the event offered a little more excitement, though not much.  Thiago Tavares failed to put away or even sufficiently dominate the very mediocre Michihiro Omigawa.  Nate Diaz looked sharp with a triangle choke submission over Alvin Robinson.  In the best fight of the night by far, Kurt Pellegrino recovered from an early head kick that nearly knocked him out to defeat Alberto Crane by TKO.  Patrick Cote also got himself another win when Drew McFedries folded up shop after catching a good uppercut on the chin.

For a night of fights on free TV, it’s hard to complain.  Unless you consider that there was a time in recent memory when Fight Night’s on Spike TV didn’t necessarily mean that every fight would feature either a reality show fighter or a guy struggling to get to the middle of the pack.

Because I want to give the UFC the benefit of the doubt, I’ll go ahead and say that this card might have been affected by the fact that they put on a pay-per-view event in a foreign country just four days earlier.  But then, who thought it was a good idea to try and put on another event inside of a week?  Doesn’t it usually work the other way around, where you put an event on free TV the week before a pay-per-view, in order to drum up interest in it?

Instead, we get a Burkman-Swick snoozefest as a main event, which even the UFC didn’t try too hard to convince us was a compelling matchup.  Let’s just hope this doesn’t become a habit for the UFC, and the days of decent fight cards of free TV don’t go the way of un-ironic heavy metal band.

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UFC Fight Night Picks and Previews

Apparently the UFC had a quota to meet in January, because here we are just four days after UFC 80 gearing up for another Fight Night on Spike TV. This time out the card seems to be mostly populated by former TUF competitors (the main event is Josh Burkman of season three vs. Mike Swick of season one, for example), which is becoming par for the course. It’s not a card that’s going to drastically change the MMA landscape in any way, but at least it’s free.

As usual, we’ve done a Head-to-Head preview on CBS Sports. Now there’s even a score card for each analyst to help you keep track of how well we’ve done in the past and, thus, how much of what we say should be ignored completely (65%). Anyway, go give it a look.

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Tito Ortiz Wants Out of the UFC

Tito Ortiz is going to fight Lyoto Machida, as previously rumored, but it seems he’s none too happy about it.  According to The Fight Network, Ortiz begrudgingly agreed to the fight primarily so he can finish his contract with the UFC.

“I was expecting a bigger fight. I think the fans were expecting a bigger fight,” said Ortiz. “I got pressed into it, and all of a sudden, it’s all over the Internet that Tito Ortiz won’t fight Machida. I’m just looking to get my final fight over with the UFC.”

Hard feelings between Ortiz and the UFC (read: Dana White) are nothing new.  Call it a clash of strong personalities, but the rivalry has gotten intensely personal in recent years.  If it started as a marketing strategy, it’s certainly gone beyond that now.  Ortiz expressed his discontent with the UFC and the way they treat/pay fighters in what’s becoming a very familiar tune from the organization’s top talent.

“They don’t want the fighters to get as big as a ‘Tyson’ or a ‘De La Hoya’ or one of those types because all of a sudden, they’ll be expecting to see a lot more payment,” said Ortiz. “The UFC makes about 99 percent of the money, and the rest goes to the fighters. That one percent ain’t nothing compared to what they make on merchandising, on pay-per-view, and everything else they make around the world.”

I can’t help but wonder whether the UFC won’t be as glad to be rid of Ortiz as he will to be gone.  Despite his prowess when it comes to marketing himself, Ortiz can be, shall we say, difficult.  As a businessman he’s more savvy than most fighters, which might be another reason the UFC won’t weep when his contract is up.  A guy who knows what he’s worth and won’t settle for anything less is no friend to management.

Still, it makes you wonder what other fighters think about what’s happening here.  Whatever you think about him now, Ortiz carried the UFC through their dark days.  He was the one fighter who non-fans knew of.  Now that the UFC’s ability to profit off him is outweighed by the headaches he causes, they can’t wait to get shed of him.

That’s a little sad.  Ortiz could easily fill the elder statesman/mentor role if only he and the UFC were willing to make that happen.

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