Category Archives: UFC

Exclusive Kenny Florian Interview

I had a chance to talk with UFC lightweight contender Kenny Florian recently, and the full interview is now live on Cage Potato.  Florian is one of the smartest, most self-aware fighters that I’ve had the opportunity to interview, and his story is an interesting one.

Here’s an excerpt:

Reading past interviews with you, it seems like you’re really motivated by your losses. What’s it like after a big loss, when you get back to the dressing room and have to face that dark moment? How do you move past it?

It’s a terrible, terrible feeling. My loss to Sean Sherk haunts me to this day. At the same time it motivates me, and I can look at it as a positive experience. You can let things like that defeat you, or you put them behind you and learn from them and get better. That’s what I tried to do. There’s no such thing as a setback in life. There are only lessons. We’re made to evolve and get better and faster and stronger. You can do that within your own life.

It’s like pushing weights for the first time and your body’s sore and it sucks and it’s really hard, but after a while your muscles and your nervous system and everything gets stronger. Your muscle memory gets better. That’s the way it is with certain things in fighting. If you have a loss, you need to look at it and learn from it. What technical mistakes did I make? What strategic mistakes did I make? What mental mistakes did I make?

You cover all those bases and, if you need to, write it down and start working on patching those holes up. You can only look at it as a positive and live in the present day. If you live in the past, you’re dead.

Reading about your near-death experience in Brazil, it seems like that had a profound effect on the course of your life. If that incident didn’t happen, do you think you’d have become a pro fighter?

It’s funny, because I’m not sure. I think there are certain times in life where we need to be shaken up so we realize that life is short and you need to not just follow what feels good, but follow what you love. That was a fear of mine. What if I give up this full-time job to try to be a pro fighter or a jiu-jitsu teacher or whatever my plans were at the time, and what would happen? I might be a failure and my friends and family will look at me as a loser, and here I had this job and this life that I gave up.

But that experience just made me realize how much regret I would have had if I had died at the moment and never got a chance to chase my dream and do what I really loved doing. It would have been a shame. I think there are a lot of people in life who are doing that. I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad, because I think there’s something noble about trying to provide for your family and making ends meet, but at the same time if there’s something that you love and that you’re passionate about, why not try and do it?

I’m glad I made that decision. It was tough at times. I had to move out of my place. I had to live with family and friends for a while. It was tough, but I wouldn’t change anything. I went from making around forty thousand dollars a year to making just a few thousand dollars a year, but I was waking up and putting a gi on every day and I was happy as hell.

Read the full interview here.


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Filed under 746, MMA, Sports, UFC

Living With The Fedor Backlash

Few men have caused so much trouble by doing so little. In the past year Fedor Emelianenko has sparked controversy and debate, provided the impetus for the creation of one new company and strained relationships within another, and all while barely maintaining an active career as a pro fighter.

We of the MMA media are more than a little complicit in all this. We’ve hailed Fedor as the greatest, then lambasted him when he dared to chase a paycheck instead of carrying the mantle we had thrust upon him. Now that he’s seemingly come to his senses and is leaving M-1 for greener pastures, we have to find something else to get upset about.

Don’t worry. If it’s one thing MMA writers and fans alike are good at, it’s manufacturing discontent.

A recent article by Sherdog ace Jake Rossen got the ball rolling. In it, Rossen takes aim at, among other things, Fedor’s position atop the rankings. The support for this criticism comes primarily from Fedor’s inactivity, which is fair. In the last fifteen months Fedor has fought a circus freak, a middleweight, and a K-1 kickboxer with a limited ground game. Then again, he beat them all in the first round. If the sharpest complaint you can level at him is that it took him a few minutes longer than expected to finish opponents who he far outclassed, you have to wonder how much you really have to gripe about.

But let’s be honest, most of the Fedor-hate these days doesn’t have anything to do with his fighting ability. It’s about his business decisions. To be more specific, it’s about his decision not to fight in America, for American audiences. Spurning an offer from the UFC was the first step. Dana White claimed publicly that Fedor was overrated, which doesn’t explain why he offered him millions to fight for the UFC or why he’s now trying to hype two-time Fedor victim Mark Coleman, but still.

The point is that complaints about Fedor’s recent opponents are legitimate, but not as a criticism of his abilities as a fighter. All Fedor has ever done is beat whoever was put in front of him. Granted, he may not have made the best choices about who to trust as a manager or promoter or matchmaker — and he wouldn’t be the first fighter to be taken advantage of in that regard — but it doesn’t mean he isn’t the best heavyweight in the world.

What this is really about is sour grapes and hurt feelings. That goes for those on the production and promotion side, such as the UFC, as well as for fans and the media. Because Fedor is unbeaten, it’s easy for us to say he is untested. And if we say he’s untested, well, we demand to see him tested. Fedor’s admittedly poor business decisions of late have denied us that opportunity, and so we lash out at him. We try and take back the title that we gave him — world’s best fighter — as if it might somehow convince him to come to America just to placate us.

Odds are Fedor doesn’t care what we say about him. Maybe he doesn’t even know. There’s a good chance that all he cares about are the zeros on his paycheck, and if you don’t think that’s an honorable enough motivation you should bring it up with Randy Couture and see what he tells you. All the talk about who’s the best in the world doesn’t mean much at the end of the day, so it’s hard to criticize a guy for not placing as much importance on it as we do.

Whatever we may say about him when our feelings get hurt, the truth is that Fedor has been nothing short of dominant in his career as a fighter. He’s beaten everyone he’s faced, even if his list of opponents of late isn’t what we’d like it to be. He’s still Fedor. His abilities — once the match is finally set and the opening bell rings — are still unassailable. We know this. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t spend so much time arguing about him. And then what would we do? Nothing that’s this much fun, that’s for sure.


Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Sports, UFC

Dana White Loves Analogies

Here’s a Dana White gem for you, from a recent interview with Carlos Arias of the Orange County Register. This is White’s response to a question about competitors in the MMA business:

“You come over to my house this weekend and we kick back and watch TV. We put on (expletive) NASCAR. We’re like, ‘Holy (expletive). Look at all the (expletive) people at this race. All those fans and this and that. These guys got television deals and merchandise deals and all this crazy (expletive). You know what? Let’s steal two of their drivers, and let’s start our own (expletive) company. We’ll call it (expletive), you know, GASCAR instead of (expletive) NASCAR.’ That’s how (expletive) stupid it is.”

Now, I love comparing two things that are different and making them sound the same just as much as the next guy, but I find this viewpoint troubling. White’s contention here is that competing MMA organizations are “(expletive) stupid” because they hold MMA events similar to those held by the UFC, though they are not the UFC. This, in the business world, is called competition. It’s kind of like how Pepsi sells a similar product to that of Coca-Cola, though they are in fact two completely different companies.

By Dana White’s logic, that makes Pepsi “(expletive) stupid”. See? Fun with analogies.

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with White’s comic book-type persona to hear him argue in favor of a UFC monopoly. If you read the interview, it’s pretty clear that the OC Register’s Carlos Arias has zero problem going along for the ride with his leading questions, such as this one, doing the driving:

“Everybody says there is this big surge and rising popularity for mixed martial arts, but it seems like it’s the UFC getting this big surge and poularity [sic] rather than the sport itself? How do you see it?

Gee Carlos, I wonder how Dana White sees it, now that you asked in so cooperative a fashion. Let’s find out:

“You’re the first (expletive) smart guy that I’ve talked to who has actually really caught that. They come out with all these demos and all these numbers and all theses [sic] things that mixed martial arts is doing. Mixed martial arts isn’t doing that, the UFC is.”

That’s called softball, ladies and gentleman. But my point is that, yes, of course Dana White thinks it’s stupid to have to deal with competitors. That’s why he bad-mouths them every chance he gets, why he does everything in his power to try and hinder them, and why he’s so receptive to a question suggesting that any success MMA is enjoying is solely because of the UFC and, by extension, Dana White.

But whatever he says, remember this, fight fans: competition is good, especially for fans and fighters. White likes to make comparisons between the UFC and other pro sports leagues. In the past, he’s pointed out that there’s only one NBA, one NFL, and so on.

But here’s where that analogy falls apart. Those are leagues. They serve to unify the different teams and help them co-promote. The NFL doesn’t decide how much Randy Moss gets paid. Because the league is made up of many separately owned and operated entities, he is free to get as much as he can (within pre-set limits) by pitting them against one another in a bidding war. The UFC doesn’t work that way. The UFC gets to tell fighters who they’re fighting, when, and for how much. The fighters can take it or leave it, but because of the competing organizations they have options.

If you take away those competing organizations, fighter salaries will come down. The UFC will have less motivation to put on a compelling product. They’ll be secure in the knowledge that if you’re an MMA fan, you’ll pay to see their fights no matter what. Why? Because they’re the only game in town.

Dana White might not want to admit it, but the increased competition in the last few years has made the UFC and MMA stronger. It’s drawn more attention to the sport and created more fans. It’s also kept the UFC, at least to some extent, honest. The UFC is without a doubt the biggest show around, with the greatest stable of fighters. But if you think they would somehow get better without competitors nipping at their heels, you’re just plain wrong. Competition is good. It’s good for fans, fighters, and — whether he’ll admit it or not — for Dana White and the UFC.

Now, who wants to come over to my place this weekend and watch some (expletive) Gascar?

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Sports, UFC

Fedor to M-1: I Just Need My Space Right Now

It was a whirlwind romance, but it seems the flame has burned out.  Fedor and M-1 are breaking up.  At least, that’s what one of Fedor’s agents, Apy Echteld, told ESPN’s Ryan Hockensmith.   Echteld claimed that an announcement was forthcoming in the next few days, and that Fedor would officially be a free agent.

It’s not hard to see what prompted this split.  Fedor wants to see other people.  And considering that M-1 has had him for about five months without even coming close to putting on an event of their own, who can blame him?  There he sits, surrounded by big promises and not much else from M-1 Global — which has shown itself to be little more than a Rent-a-Fedor operation thus far — while outside the MMA world turns without him, and the big fights pass him by.

One man who was very happy to hear this news was UFC president Dana White.  His inability to sign Fedor the first time he was a free agent precipitated the Randy Couture debacle.  Though that matter soon got ugly in other areas, Fedor joining the UFC could be the impetus that Couture and the UFC both need to put their differences aside and make this highly anticipated bout happen.

But, would White be willing to take another go at signing Fedor, whose abilities he has publicly disparaged many times, even once calling his management team “crazy Russians”?

“Absolutely, 100 percent, in a heartbeat,” White told ESPN. “People think he’s the best—I don’t, not even close. But if it’s somehow possible, I would make it happen.”

Granted, none of this is going to happen easily.  At the moment, no announcement about Fedor leaving M-1 has been made, and some in the MMA world have cast doubt upon the possibility.  One notable shift in the dialogue is the fact that it’s now Echteld doing the talking for Fedor, and not Vadim Finklestein, Fedor’s longtime manager.  But then, we also have to remember that Finklestein also has a stake in M-1.  If Fedor’s on the outs with the organization, he may also be looking to split from Finklestein, who guided him in that direction to begin with.

It’s still too early to know exactly what’s going to happen, but the wheels seem to be in motion.  Now we just have to wait and see how M-1 is going to take the breakup.  Something tells me she’s the kind that doesn’t let go easily, especially since Fedor is all she’s got.  Attention-grabbing fake suicide attempt, anyone?  Maybe an “accidental” pregnancy?

Okay, this metaphor has officially gone too far.  I’ll stop now.

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Filed under Dana White, Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Sports, UFC

Is Mark Coleman The Perfect Opponent For Brock Lesnar?

Let’s not kid ourselves, the UFC knows exactly what they’re trying to do with the recently announced Mark Coleman-Brock Lesnar bout.  They screwed up with Lesnar’s first opponent, and ended up paying the big man a quarter of a million dollars just to see him get submitted in the first round.  They aren’t going to make that mistake again.  They want to put Lesnar over, and dammit, they’re going to do it even if it means that we all have to keep a straight face when Mark Coleman gets on TV to insist that he’s not retired.

Okay, Mark.  Fine.  I guess you’re not retired.  I guess we just assumed you would be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Coleman.  He deserves his place in the UFC Hall of Fame.  He was nothing less than a pioneer in the sport of MMA.  You ever hear of ground-and-pound?  Yeah, that was him.  If they hadn’t outlawed headbutts who knows what Coleman could have accomplished.

But at the same time the game has passed Coleman by.  His skill set didn’t evolve the way it needed to — the way Randy Couture’s has — and the UFC knows it.  That’s why they’re putting him against Lesnar.  They need to put Lesnar over, and as any pro wrestling fan knows, the best and laziest way to do that is to have him beat some older, more established icon.  And make no mistake, Lesnar will beat Coleman like a rug.  And it’s going to be sad.  And we’re all going to watch it anyway and feel bad about ourselves for at least fifteen minutes afterwards.

I’ve seen some people on the MMA blogosphere who seem to think that Coleman stands a good chance of beating Lesnar.  This is an absurd suggestion, and here’s why.  The wrestler style of ground-and-pound that Coleman helped create is a style that relies more on physical superiority than technique.  It’s an alpha-male style of fighting.  It only works when everything goes right.  If, say, you aren’t able to put your opponent on his back, or if he puts you on yours, it doesn’t work.  The methodical nature of it is both its strength and its weakness.  You take a man down, you immobilize him, maybe move his head up against the cage, and then you go to work tenderizing his face until he quits or the ref pulls you off, whichever comes first.  That’s it.  No big secret.

This is not a strategy by which an older, smaller man is going to defeat a younger, bigger, more athletic one.  Coleman against Lesnar is like Hillary Clinton against John McCain: the strengths that allowed them to beat other people are suddenly weaknesses against an opponent who does everything they do a little bit better.  Coleman’s not going to take Lesnar down any more than Clinton is going to beat McCain on experience or national security.  Is this metaphor too much of a stretch?  Probably, but you get the point.

Still, it’s the smart move for the UFC.  They take two Midwestern wrestlers, one old and one new, and make them fight in the Minnesota.  Midwesterners would walk through fire to see this match.  The irony is that in order to make it seem credible, Dana White has to ignore the fact that he recently accused Fedor of having not defeated anyone worthwhile in years.  One of those not-worthwhile opponents was, of course, Mark Coleman.  Twice.

But that’s okay.  If there’s one thing White is used to, it’s playing make-believe in front of a microphone.  You think you’re going to make him stick by the logical implications of his own statements?  You’ve got to be f*cking kidding me.

Brock Lesnar needs Mark Coleman.  And Coleman?  He probably needs the cash.  His best chance in this fight is if Lesnar goes down with some freakish injury, the way “Shogun” Rua did.  But that probably won’t happen.  What will happen is Lesnar will take Coleman down and pound on him with the trademark angry-four-year-old punching style that nearly did Frank Mir in.  Then the UFC hype machine will get behind Lesnar again, the way it got behind Rich Franklin for beating Ken Shamrock.

Is it cheap and more than a little insincere?  Yeah.  But that’s the fight business.  Some things never change.


Filed under Brock Lesnar, Mark Coleman, MMA, Sports, UFC

The Secret Lives of Bonuses

Randy Couture’s parting shots at the UFC first put the spotlight on the organization’s bonus system, but a look at the disclosed fighter payroll for UFC 82 also tells an interesting story.  For example, take Chris Leben.  He recently signed a new deal with the UFC to up his show money and win money to $25 grand each.  Not bad for “The Crippler”.  But in garnering knockout of the night honors he added a $60,000 win bonus to his final paycheck for the event.  Which means he more than doubled his pay thanks to what is essentially a subjective decision made by UFC brass.

I’m not saying Leben didn’t deserve it.  The way he went after Sakara and displayed his own brawlability in the process ought to be worth something.  But let’s consider for a moment the other side of the coin, which fittingly enough features Josh Koscheck.  He also won a pretty exciting TKO victory on Saturday night, but he didn’t see any bonus money, at least that we know of.  This is because, at least in part, he’s on not-so-great terms with the UFC these days as he tries to renegotiate his contract.  That’s also why they stuck him on the preliminary card, just as they did with Andrei Arlovski.

That’s not to say that Koscheck deserved the bonus any more than Leben did.  But it is worth noting that politics within the UFC can have a grave effect on a man’s pocketbook.  Playing nice at contract time might increase your chances of getting a fat bonus check worth more than your agreed upon payout, but at the same time it builds resentment, as it did with Couture.

Take a look at how Anderson Silva fared at UFC 82.  Despite being the organization’s most talented fighter and a dominant champion, he gets only $70,000 in guaranteed money when he steps in the Octagon.  Brock Lesnar, on the other hand, made a reported $250,000 for his debut loss at UFC 81.  Fortunately for Silva, he made up some ground in bonus money.  He got a $70,000 win bonus, plus another $120,000 for both Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night.  Add it all up, and he just edged out Lesnar.

This isn’t necessarily an indictment of the UFC, but it’s worth pointing out that this is a hard way to make a living.  Imagine going to work and knowing that you might make a certain amount of money, though if you perform well and are on good terms with your employer you might make twice as much.  It’s sort of like sales commissions, but it’s the ‘and’ in that situation that can lead to problems.  Just ask Randy Couture.

In case you’re curious, here’s how the rest of the fighter payroll shaped up.  Thanks to Cage Potato for the info.

Anderson Silva — $260,000 ($70,000 to show, $70,000 to win, plus $120,000 in bonuses)
Dan Henderson — $160,000 ($100,000 to show, $60,000 for Fight of the Night bonus)
Andrei Arlovski — $170,000 ($105,000 to show, $65,000 to win)
Heath Herring — $140,000 ($70,000 to show, $70,000 to win)
Chris Leben — $110,000 ($25,000 to show, $25,000 to win, $60,000 for Knockout of the Night bonus)
Jon Fitch — $60,000 ($30,000 to show, $30,000 to win)
Diego Sanchez — $60,000 ($30,000 to show, $30,000 to win)
Cheick Kongo — $30,000
Yushin Okami — $28,000 ($14,000 to show, $14,000 to win)
Evan Tanner — $25,000
Josh Koscheck — $20,000 ($10,000 to show, $10,000 to win)
Alessio Sakara — $17,000
Luigi Fioravanti — $16,000 ($8,000 to show, $8,000 to win)
Luke Cummo — $16,000
Jorge Gurgel — $14,000 ($7,000 to show, $7,000 to win)
Dustin Hazelett — $12,000
Chris Wilson — $12,000
Jake O’Brien — $11,000
David Bielkheden — $8,000
John Halverson — $3,000

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Filed under MMA, Sports, UFC, UFC 82

Anderson Silva, How Could I Have Doubted Thee?

I take it all back. Anything I may have ever said to suggest that Anderson Silva is not the world’s pound-for-pound best fighter, I was wrong. I apologize. Anderson Silva, thou art an MMA god, and I shall put no other fighters before thee.

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting, but not by much. The way Silva not just defeated but dismantled Dan Henderson, who is himself unquestionably a top middleweight (and light heavyweight, while we’re at it), I was awed. Some of you may recall that I picked Henderson to win that fight. I thought that Henderson’s ability to take a punch, combined with his ability to close the distance and use the body lock to get opponents to the mat where he could control them, would allow him to grind out a victory. At the end of round one, it looked as though Hendo would do precisely that. But in the second, Silva decided enough was enough.

First Silva rocked Henderson on the feet, which is no small task, then dominated and submitted him on the mat. By the way, do you know how many fights Henderson lost by submission before this one? Two. One against each of the Nogueira brothers, including the one who is now UFC heavyweight champion. Does that help put it in perspective?

Watching Silva on Saturday night, I knew I was seeing something special. Since I had picked Henderson and since the egotistical part of my brain (which is most of it) always roots for the guys I’ve picked so I can brag about what an MMA genius I am, I should have been disappointed when Silva took over the fight. But I wasn’t. It was too beautiful, too impressive for me to even remember my picks right then. If you had asked me at the exact moment that Silva was choking Henderson I might have told you that only an idiot would pick against him.

Truly, I am that idiot, for I doubted Anderson Silva.

The question now is, what’s next? The middleweight division is essentially cleaned out, and though some are already clamoring for Silva to go down in weight to face Georges St. Pierre, I have to tell you I don’t see it. Silva is incredibly lean at middleweight, I don’t know if he can shed another fifteen pounds. Perhaps a catch weight bout at 177.5 pounds is the answer, assuming St. Pierre beats Serra.

All I can say for sure right now is that if any of you out there still have someone other than Anderson Silva at the top of your pound-for-pound list, you’re refusing to face reality. Forget Fedor, who would rather pick up a cheap paycheck than get tested in the ring, Silva is the man. We’re witnessing history just watching him. Stop arguing and enjoy it.

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