Monthly Archives: February 2008

“Sometimes You Have to Hit People”

My first IFL diary is now online at Cage Potato, featuring some behind-the-scenes commentary from Las Vegas.  Here’s an excerpt:

Covering the IFL for the past year and a half, here’s one lesson I’ve learned: during any interview with Matt Lindland, he’s going to get mad at me at least once. I can never tell what will cause it; it could be anything. This time it’s Kimbo Slice.

It’s the day before the IFL Las Vegas event and we’re interviewing all the fighters and coaches. It can be monotonous, to say the least. We get just about everyone to weigh in on Kimbo, but as soon as I ask what Lindland thinks of him, the mood of the interview changes.

“He’s a bum,” says Lindland. The look on his face tells me to leave it alone. I ask what he means by that. He glares at me. I bring this on myself. I really do.

“I mean he’s a bum,” he says. “He’s a nobody. What do you want me to say? You asked me what I thought and I told you. I don’t have anything else to say about him.”

The hell of it is, despite how ornery he can be I really like Lindland. I can’t help it. Even when he gives me the look like he’s trying to figure out how one human being ever got to be this stupid, at least I know it’s sincere. You have to respect honesty like that.

Read the rest here.

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Filed under IFL, Matt Horwich, Matt Lindland, MMA, Sports

UFC 82 Head-to-Head Picks

I apologize for the lack of updates, but I’m in Vegas for tonight’s IFL event and haven’t had too much free time.  Fortunately, CBS Sports now has our head-to-head picks up, so you can head over there and check out our predictions for the fights.  You also might want to scroll down and see the records for all the respective analysts.  I know what you’re wondering.  Does first place feel as good as I think it does?  The answer is no.  It’s better.

I will admit that this time around I had a little help with my picks.  Pat Miletich and I talked them over in the IFL office yesterday, and he agreed with me that if Henderson fights smart he should win.  Pat seemed to think that the key will be wearing Silva out with takedowns to the point where his strikes lose their sting.  Since Miletich is the sport’s foremost trainer and strategist, I can’t argue with him.

He also didn’t think much of Evan Tanner’s chances against Yushin Okami.  He explained the UFC’s thinking with this fight by saying that they had taken a big rubber stamp labeled “Victim” and applied it firmly to Tanner’s forehead.  Ouch.

Check out the UFC 82 preview here.

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Filed under MMA, Sports, UFC, UFC 82

Exclusive Chris Wilson Interview

Yesterday I did an interview with Team Quest’s Chris Wilson, who’s making his UFC debut this weekend against the highly-touted Jon Fitch.  I’ve admired Wilson ever since I got to know him when he fought in the IFL, and it should be interesting to see what he can do against a tough guy like Fitch on Saturday night.

He had some interesting things to say about Octagon jitters and training with Dan Henderson, so go check out the interview here.

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Filed under Chris Wilson, Jon Fitch, MMA, UFC, UFC 82

IFL Las Vegas Preview

The IFL hits Vegas on Friday night for the first event in 2008. Those of you with HDNet can see it live at 7:30 PST/10:30 EST. The rest of you will have to either buy a ticket or catch the fights on the internet, though they should be available fairly soon following the show. I’m flying out tonight and as usual I’ll be blogging my experience on the road, which in Vegas always includes plenty of lamentation about cheap hotel buffets and tourists wearing fanny packs.

For a preview of the non-title fights this Friday night, check out this new article on the IFL website. A preview of the three championship bouts is forthcoming.

One of the undercard fights that I’m really looking forward to is the featherweight bout between Dennis Davis and Ian Loveland.  These two should be familiar to fight fans in the Northwest, as both got their start with Team Quest in Portland.  I saw Davis in a Sportfight show some years back and he was an exciting fighter, to say the least.

What makes this one interesting is that Davis was Loveland’s first MMA coach.  He trained him back when Loveland was just getting his start, before Davis left Team Quest for Xtreme Couture, and now both their careers have intersected again.  I was surprised that when I talked to Ian Loveland about this match he seemed to have a pretty irreverent attitude about fighting Davis.  I don’t know if it was bravado or not, but he said he’d taken Davis apart in a recent training session and felt confident that he’d do the same thing in the ring.

When I mentioned this to Davis, he freely admitted that, yes, Loveland had gotten the best of him in a training session, but that it didn’t mean anything.  He said he’d been out of shape after not training for a few months, and that if Loveland was basing everything off that one afternoon in the gym, he was in for a surprise.

Personally, I love the dynamic at work in this fight.  Teacher-versus-former student is a great theme.  Usually it only happens in the movies.  I can’t wait to see how this one plays out in real life on Friday night.

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Filed under Dennis Davis, Ian Loveland, IFL

Elite XC Pays Uptown Price For A Downtown Fight

This is the conclusion I’ve arrived at: either Tank Abbott and Kimbo Slice both have really excellent representation, or someone over at Elite XC is a little too loose with the purse strings. Why do I say this? Because they paid a reported $301,000 for the forty-three-second brawl at “Street Certified” two weeks ago.

$175,000 of that money went to Kimbo, and it includes his $50,000 win bonus. That means Tank got $126,000 — a grand more in guaranteed money than Kimbo — just to show up and take a beating. Does this sound absolutely absurd to anyone else?

It’s not so much that I think Kimbo was overpaid. I mean, I do think that. He only has two MMA bouts, neither of which proved anything other than the fact that he can beat people he’s supposed to beat, and now he’s making more money than guys who have earned their place in this sport through years of climbing the ranks. At the same time, I can at least understand why Elite XC is overpaying Kimbo. He’s a major draw who could have a real future in this sport. Especially in Miami, the guy puts people in the seats, and that’s worth paying for. But paying Tank that kind of money? In Congress, they’d refer to that decision as “fiscally retarded.” I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term.

But here’s the thing that really bothers me. I keep imagining the negotiations between Elite XC and Tank Abbott, and I can only assume it went one of two ways:

1) Elite XC offers Tank $40,000 to fight Kimbo. Tank, being the shrewd businessman that we all know he is, comes back with a counter offer of one thousand more than whatever Kimbo is making. Elite XC accepts without double-checking the amount that they’ve already agreed to give Kimbo. Tank nearly dies of a heart attack when he finds out how much he’s actually making.

2) Elite XC offers Tank $40,000. He asks for more than three times that amount. The Elite XC representatives stare back at him in stunned silence. Tank produces photos of Elite XC president Gary Shaw engaged in a grotesque sexual act with two underage girls, a gay male stripper dressed as Superman, and a heavily sedated tiger. The Elite XC representatives open their check book and ask how many t’s there are in Abbott.

I know these scenarios sound a little far-fetched, but I’ve thought it through and these are the only two ways I can see it going down. The hell of it is I can’t decide which is more plausible. It’s just that I can’t fathom a world where you offer Tank Abbott forty grand to do anything, no matter which side of the law it’s on, and he turns you down. It’s not as if he has better offers.

Ordinarily, I would never object to fighters being overpaid. They’ve been underpaid for so long, I’m all for them getting whatever they can get. Plus, it’s not as if there’s a retirement plan for fighters (though I would recommend that Kimbo look into a 401k, and fast).

But paying Tank Abbott that kind of money while giving $1,000 or $500 to undercard fighters who would probably whip him just as easily as Kimbo did? That seems morally wrong. I understand that marketability trumps talent in this business, and while that’s sad it’s also a proven fact. What Elite XC should remember is that today’s undercard fighters are tomorrow’s main eventers, and they won’t forget the days when you screwed them over so you could give Tank Abbott many times more than what he was worth. I know I wouldn’t.

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Filed under Elite XC, Kimbo Slice, MMA, Sports, Tank Abbott

The Long Wait For MMA on HBO

This past Friday night I got sucked into watching the replay of the first Kelly Pavlik-Jermaine Taylor boxing match on HBO. It was late, I’d been drinking, and there was fighting on TV. I’d seen it before, but I figured why not watch it again.

It really got me thinking about what an excellent job HBO does when it comes to sports broadcasting. They do a great job at most things, actually, which anyone who has ever seen The Wire or Deadwood or Rome already knows. But they’re especially good at packaging and broadcasting sports, perhaps because they tend to treat their sports audiences the way they treat the audience for their dramas.

In other words, HBO knows that sports fans are smart. At least, they know we’re as smart as any other TV viewing audience. When it comes to a combat sport like boxing, they don’t play up the violence. They focus instead on high production values and intelligent commentary (at least, that’s the case when George Foreman is talking and Jim Lampley is quiet).

But reflecting on all this late at night just made me sad. With all HBO’s talent and resources, why aren’t they doing MMA yet?

As most of you know, the UFC’s potential deal with HBO recently fell through, and depending on which rumor you believe, it probably had something to do with the UFC’s notorious unwillingness to relinquish control of their production. To an extent, that’s understandable. The current UFC owners built the brand at a time when the slightest misstep could have sent it spiraling into the abyss. They had to make sure everything was done exactly as they wanted it.

But if this attitude is really what derailed their HBO deal, someone over at the UFC should be kicking himself right now. No one, but no one does a better job than HBO. Take it from Jay Larkin. After years of working on boxing with Showtime, he’s someone who should know, and he had this to say on the subject in a recent interview with Sam Caplan:

“All I can tell you is that if an MMA company has an opportunity to be on HBO that the deal would have catapulted MMA in the minds of the consumer (and) in the minds of the media that covers it. To fall apart over issues of production to me is hilarious because nobody produces better than HBO. Believe me, I competed with them as a producer for two decades and nobody produces better than HBO.”

That sums it up perfectly. The fact that HBO isn’t doing MMA right now while Showtime is airing Elite XC dancing girls and mid-level rappers and Tank Abbott as a main event is just disappointing. HBO could take this sport to a new level. Forget the claims that it would legitimize MMA (suggesting the sport isn’t legitimate at present, which is inaccurate). What it would do is give us an event on a grand scale, something with true attention to precision and craft.

At the same time, it’s also sad for HBO. They seem to be pinning a lot of their hopes on a boxing renaissance that I don’t see on the horizon. MMA could be every bit as big a success for them as it could be for the sport.

Eventually, I think they’ll realize that. They didn’t get to where they are thanks to an inability to spot trends. I just hope that they aren’t holding out for the UFC to concede control, because there are plenty of organizations that could thrive with HBO’s resources and experience backing them.

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Filed under HBO, MMA, Sports, UFC

Kimbo KO’s Tank…So Now What?

It should have surprised no one.  Kimbo Slice defeated Tank Abbott in under a minute at last night’s Elite XC presentation, “Street Certified”.  The bout was just as frenetic and one-sided as we all knew it would be, though somehow people still seem to think this is a significant accomplishment for Kimbo.

It isn’t.  Some of the guys he beat in his backyard brawling days were more competitive than Tank.  You can talk all you like about how it’s the fall of a “legend” or the passing of the torch, but it’s just empty rhetoric.  The fact is that Tank was a has-been years ago.  He’s been victorious only once in his last nine bouts.  He showed up looking woefully out of shape and displayed exactly zero technical skill in the loss.  In short, beating him means nothing.

The good news is, it’s over.  Kimbo has passed this non-test, and now he’s going to have to step up in competition.  Elite XC did an admirable job of getting people to believe that this fight mattered (witness Mauro Ranallo with the hard sell from the announcers table, asking which Tank we’ll see, “Sherman or septic”?), but they won’t be able to make that sow’s ear into more than one silk purse.  This bout might have been insulting to MMA fans and their intelligence, if only so many fans hadn’t swallowed the hype beforehand.

Congratulations to Kimbo for doing what we all knew he could do, but the preliminaries are over.  Time to fight an actual opponent.  Time for Elite XC to make it happen.  Time for Tank to go back to the bar and stay there.  I’m sure there are plenty of dudes waiting to buy him a drink and listen to stories of his glory days, back when it was 1995 and being powerfully sloppy was just enough to win.

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Filed under Elite XC, Kimbo Slice, MMA, Sports, Tank Abbott