Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Mixed Martial Arts--- K-1 or K-Work?
Commentary by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

(The following article is a commentary by Ivan Trembow and does not necessarily reflect the views of the other staff members at MMAWeekly.com.)

Even before the announcement came on Sunday that Bob Sapp would be fighting Frans Botha at the K-1 event on December 6 in the Tokyo Dome, one couldn't help but feel that something definitely smelled of a "work" when Sapp got himself intentionally disqualified against Remy Bonjasky at last Saturday's K-1 event. I don't think Bonjasky was in on it, but it does clearly fit the very easy-to-recognize pattern of pro wrestling booking. With all of the worked elements in K-1, it certainly shouldn't be out of the question that there would be a plan going into the fight for Sapp to get himself intentionally disqualified so that he could fight "someone else" at the Tokyo Dome in December in a big-money singles fight.

The way it played out, the events on the pay-per-view further played into Sapp's "Beast" character, it opened up Sapp's schedule so that he would be able to fight someone else in December, and most importantly it allowed the very exciting Remy Bonjasky to advance into the Final Eight without having to knock out Sapp in the process. Bonjasky was embarrassing Sapp in every aspect of the game. He was taking the best Sapp had to offer and was probably just a few minutes away from knocking out Sapp, when Bonjasky slipped and Sapp delivered a transparently premeditated punch to the back of his downed opponent's head.

It's no different than a pitcher in baseball intentionally walking a great hitter. It's usually not that big of a deal to send a man to first, and you don't want to take the risk that he's going to connect and knock one out of the park. In addition, it doesn't take a big stretch of the imagination to think that K-1 would want to protect Bob Sapp and ride out the gravy train of his drawing power for as long as possible, and K-1 executives are smart enough to know that Sapp isn't going to win the entire Grand Prix on his own merits (nor can they work an entire tournament). Sapp would be exposed and would probably get knocked out, just as he appeared to be headed towards before he got himself intentionally disqualified against Bonjasky.

Though I am convinced that there was a plan going into last Saturday's event for Sapp to get himself intentionally disqualified in the event that he was able to get Bonjasky to the ground for a moment, it's also possible that no such plan existed before the event. Even if that is the case, I still think Sapp decided to do it at some point during the course of the fight to save himself from what he knew was going to be a very unpleasant ending. It's the same reason that Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear (minus the mental instability) and the same reason that many boxers have gotten themselves intentionally disqualified over the years: In their minds, it's better to break the rules and get disqualified than it is to be knocked out or embarrassed.

The fact that Sapp's announced opponent for December is Frans Botha instead of Mike Tyson indicates one of three things: A) K-1 couldn't come to terms with Tyson to fight on the December 6 show, B) Tyson was willing to take the fight in December but K-1 wanted to stretch it out a while longer before putting Sapp in a position where he's likely to be knocked out by Tyson, or C) K-1 officials were trying to convince Tyson to do a worked fight of some kind and they couldn't come to terms on the particulars.

Regardless of why this particular fight is happening at this particular event, the fact is that we've got Sapp vs. Botha scheduled for K-1's December event unless K-1 changes its plans. So in the top mix of K-1 we have Sapp, Botha, Tyson (if he ever actually signs for a specific fight), Kimo (who still has multiple fights remaining on his K-1 contract), Shannon Briggs (who has signed a multi-fight K-1 contract), and Butterbean (who has been telling people that he has another big K-1 fight coming up).

The top of K-1 cards over the next year could very well consist of any possible combination of fights between Sapp, Botha, Tyson, Kimo, Briggs, Butterbean, and maybe a few more washed-up boxers if K-1 is able to sign any more of them. Most of the fights will be legitimate, while some of them will undoubtedly be worked. While that might be an interesting series of fights to watch from a freak show standpoint, it's certainly a huge step backwards in terms of establishing K-1 as a legitimate sport in America. Sadly, because the vast majority of the mainstream media isn't aware that "MMA" and "K-1" are two different things, K-1's semi-regular works and circus-like story lines will only serve to hurt MMA in the United States as well.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Mixed Martial Arts--- An Inside Look at the Charges Against Tim Sylvia
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The news ripped through the MMA community like a sword through the chest on Tuesday: UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia had tested positive for a "banned substance," later confirmed to be steroids, after his successful title defense against Gan McGee. Small tidbits have dripped out regarding the exact charges being brought against Tim Sylvia by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. In this MMAWeekly Special Report, we will take an in-depth look at the situation from both the disciplinary side and the medical side.

First and foremost, the specific kind of anabolic steroid that was detected in the system of Tim Sylvia was Stanozolol Metabolite (more commonly known as Winstrol), according to Nevada State Athletic Commission documents obtained by MMAWeekly. More information on the full test results will be discussed later in this article. Due to the positive test result, the NSAC is now seeking to fine and suspend Sylvia in a hearing that has been scheduled for Wednesday, October 15.

Under Nevada state law, Sylvia was given 30 days to protest or appeal the positive drug test result if he wanted to go that route, but instead he chose to waive that right and request that his hearing take place as soon as possible. While Tim Sylvia and his management may or may not have been informally notified a few days earlier, records show that many different things happened on Tuesday, October 7. The formal complaint was filed, the certified-mail with the legal documents was mailed to Tim Sylvia, a fax version of the legal documents was sent to Sylvia's manager Monte Cox, and Sylvia's camp released a press release before the news broke anywhere else... all on Tuesday, October 7.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission is seeking three things at the October 15 hearing, which will be decided by the NSAC's board of commissioners. The NSAC's stance is that Tim Sylvia's license to fight in MMA should be suspended, he should be fined, and he should have to pay all of the legal fees and investigative costs that resulted from his positive drug test.

Sylvia could be fined up to $250,000 for his violation, though the amount that he is actually fined will probably be nowhere near that amount. The commission might choose to fine him the amount of money that he made for the fight against McGee (which was $60,000), or any other amount of their choosing. Sylvia could be suspended from mixed martial arts for a length of time anywhere in the range of 3-12 months, although the most likely range in this case would probably have to be considered six or nine months. During the suspension, Sylvia will not be able to fight in the UFC, Pride, K-1, or any other NSAC-sanctioned organization, regardless of what state or country is hosting the event. It is technically possible under NSAC rules, but extremely unlikely, that Sylvia will only be hit with a fine and will not be suspended at all. It is also technically possible under NSAC rules, but extremely unlikely, that Sylvia will be permanently suspended or banned.

Deciding the length of Tim Sylvia's suspension is up to the NSAC commissioners, and the UFC has no choice but to comply with their ruling. On the other hand, the decision of what to do with the UFC Heavyweight Title is completely up to the UFC. The NSAC has no formal role in the decision of what to do with the title belt, other than the fact that the NSAC's ruling on the suspension could limit the number of practical options that the UFC has to work with.

If the NSAC suspends Sylvia for six months or more, it is expected that the UFC will strip him of the title, if for no other reason because it's simply not practical to have a champion who goes that long without being available to defend his title. If Sylvia is only suspended for somewhere in the ballpark of three months, it would become a judgment call for the UFC on whether or not to strip him of the title. For the record, Sylvia took and passed a drug test immediately after he won the title from Ricco Rodriguez. These charges by the NSAC are strictly in regards to Sylvia's fight with Gan McGee and the drug test he took afterwards.

The toxicology report that provides all of the medical details about Sylvia's failed drug test, including the fact that all of the results were independently verified by third-party lab company Quest Diagnostics. The urine specimen was collected immediately after Sylvia's fight with Gan McGee on September 26, shortly after 8:30 PM Pacific Standard Time. Sylvia passed the tests for numerous kinds of anabolic steroids, masking agents, diuretics, and a long list of various other banned substances.

Sylvia's test results did come up positive for having a blood-creatinine level that was almost four times the NSAC's legal limit, though Sylvia has not been formally charged for this offense and is only being charged for the anabolic steroid that was found in his system. The maximum blood-creatinine level allowed by the NSAC is 20 mg/dL, while Sylvia was found to have a level of 78.2 mg/dL. This drastically elevated blood-creatinine level indicates one of two things: Either Sylvia has fairly severe kidney problems of some kind, or he has been taking an excessive amount of supplemental "creatine." Creatine is naturally formed in one's body when the body breaks down food, but it can also be ingested in large quantities if you purchase creatine in the form of a muscle-building supplement.

Without getting into a long story about creatine and creatinine, it's much more concise to break it down to one simple statement: In the vast majority of cases, the higher your blood-creatinine level is, the more creatine you have in your system. Just the act of taking pharmaceutical creatine supplements is completely legal, but most athletic commissions and other sports governing bodies have established legal limits on blood-creatinine levels to discourage excessive use, and Tim Sylvia tested at almost four times the legal limit. It appears as though the NSAC has chosen not to formally charge Sylvia for this particular failed test, probably because it is a proverbial misdemeanor when compared to the felony if having anabolic steroids in your system.

Sylvia tested positive for the anabolic steroid known as Stanozolol Metabolite, which is more commonly known by its brand name of Winstrol. Though there will always be some people who claim that steroids are essentially harmless, the fact remains that taking Stanozolol and other steroids can have serious consequences, with heart problems and high blood pressure being just two items on a very long list. As compared to other anabolic steroids, Stanozolol has been shown to have a much higher occurrence of serious liver problems in people who use it for any period of time.

Most of the world first heard of Stanozolol/Winstrol back in 1988, when Canadian track and field star Ben Johnson won an Olympic gold medal and broke a world record at the Olympic Games in South Korea, only to test positive for Stanozolol and be stripped of his tainted accomplishments in what ended up being one of the biggest drug-related scandal in Olympic history. Johnson and his handlers would admit years later (some as recently as just this year) that Johnson was using many banned substances at the time, and that Stanozolol was the one banned substance that they never expected to come up as positive on any test. They were certain that it wouldn't be detectable if Johnson stopped taking it a few weeks before the Olympics.

Fourteen years later, professional boxer Fernando Vargas made the same mistake in underestimating the amount of time that Stanozolol can remain detectable in the body. Vargas tested positive for Stanozolol and a few other banned substances last year, and was suspended for nine months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Still thought by some people to be undetectable after a few weeks if you take the drug in certain forms, advanced testing procedures by such organizations as the NSAC and the International Olympic Committee can detect traces of Stanozolol in an athlete's body over six months after they stopped taking it, long after the drug has all-but-left the athlete's body.

The distinction between Ben Johnson, Fernando Vargas, and Tim Sylvia is this: There is no indication that Tim Sylvia took Stanozolol in the last few months leading up to his September 26 fight, nor does it appear that he specifically tried to "beat the system" as Johnson and Vargas attempted to do. Sylvia said in the press release on October 7 that he only took a "banned substance" for one month after he fought Ricco Rodriguez on February 28 because he wanted to have a better appearance and be more muscular, and there is no reason to believe that he's not telling the truth.

There were no masking agents found in Sylvia's body, and Sylvia's claimed desire to have a more muscular appearance is consistent with the fact that he chose Stanozolol out of all the steroids he could have possibly chosen. Stanozolol is known for making users "look" much better with more muscle tone and less fat in a relatively short period of time, despite the fact that it's far from the strongest steroid you can get. Stanozolol also has among the lowest rates of estrogen-related side effects, which is consistent with Sylvia's statements that he just wanted to look better.

Combined with the fact that Sylvia owned up to his steroid usage rather than denying everything as Josh Barnett did in a similar situation, these points may illustrate that Sylvia is not a liar and does not use steroids regularly in an effort to enhance his performance... but none of this can change the fact that what Sylvia did was wrong. Regardless of how long he took the steroids or any other circumstances, there is no doubt that Sylvia did a great disservice to the fans, the UFC, and himself.

So what happens now? Provided that he never does anything like this again and he continues to admit that what he did was wrong, Tim Sylvia certainly doesn't deserve to be blacklisted or looked down upon for the rest of his career, but he does deserve a punishment of some kind. Now we'll just have to sit back and watch as the Nevada State Athletic Commission decides exactly what his punishment should be.

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Monday, October 06, 2003
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC 44 Fighter Salaries
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The UFC is celebrating its ten-year anniversary in November. In ten years, we've seen some MMA promotions come and others go, and it's interesting to take a look at the evolution of not only MMA, but also the salaries of MMA fighters.

A few notes before we get into the salaries for UFC 44:

-Fighters are generally paid a certain amount of money to step in the cage/ring and fight, and a certain amount of money as a "win bonus" if they are victorious. These two amounts are usually the same (example: $4,000 to fight and $4,000 more if you win), but not always.

-Fighters who are drug-tested before an event (which includes all fighters who compete in championship bouts) are only paid 90% of their purse until the results of their drug tests are in. At that point, they are sent the remaining 10% of their purse, assuming that they passed the drug tests.

-If any given fighter has not had MRI and MRA tests on their brain within the past five years, they have to get those tests done at their own expense, with the price usually being $425.

-All of the salaries below are before taxes are taken by the government, and these taxes are much higher if you are not a US citizen.

For each of the three events listed below, we will list the salaries for each fighter (including their "show money" and "win money"), followed by some analysis on the salaries of each event.

UFC 44 Fighter Salaries
-Randy Couture: $175,000 ($105,000 for fighting; $70,000 win bonus)
-Tito Ortiz: $125,000 ($125,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $50,000)
-Tim Sylvia: $60,000 ($30,000 for fighting; $30,000 win bonus)
-Andrei Arlovski: $18,000 ($6,000 for fighting; $12,000 win bonus)
-Caol Uno: $17,500 ($17,500 for fighting; win bonus would have been $17,500)
-Gan McGee: $13,000 ($13,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $13,000)
-Vladimir Matyushenko: $10,000 ($10,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $10,000)
-Rich Franklin: $10,000 ($5,000 for fighting; $5,000 win bonus)
-Hermes Franca: $8,000 ($4,000 for fighting; $4,000 win bonus)
-Jorge Rivera: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-David Loiseau: $4,000 ($4,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $4,000)
-Karo Parisyan: $4,000 ($2,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-Nick Diaz: $4,000 ($2,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-Josh Thomson: $4,000 ($2,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-Dave Strasser: $3,000 ($3,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $3,000)
-Edwin Dewees: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
-Jeremy Jackson: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
-Gerald Strebendt: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
-Total Fighter Payroll: $467,500


-This fight was the second fight on a three-fight contract for Randy Couture, and it's a contract that appears to pay him slightly more with each passing fight. For the sake of comparison, Couture was paid $90,000 for fighting at UFC 43 against Chuck Liddell and an additional $60,000 as a win bonus.

-If you're surprised that Tim Sylvia isn't making more money since he is the UFC Heavyweight Champion, you have to consider that this was only his third UFC fight, and the UFC pays you more depending on how long you have been in the UFC. Sylvia is making more as time goes on and will only continue to do so.

-Andrei Arlovski had a unique contract that was heavily focused on the win bonus. He made $18,000 for winning, whereas he would have only made $6,000 if he had lost. Apparently he was very confident in his chances of winning.

-Caol Uno was signed to a multi-fight contract a long time ago, and there is no way that the UFC will continue to have him that high up on the pay scale whenever his contract expires (assuming it hasn't already).

-On the middle range of the pay scale, fighters like Gan McGee, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Rich Franklin are big enough stars and/or have had enough UFC fights that they're making relatively good money ($10,000 to $15,000), but they are not big enough stars that they are in the "huge star" category of money... at least not yet.

-Young fighters who are only in their first or second UFC fight generally make somewhere in the range of $2,000 to $8,000 per fight, depending on whether they win or lose and what kind of contract they get.

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