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

Thursday, September 29, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ties Series Low with Another 1.4 Rating
Episode Six of The Ultimate Fighter 2, which debuted this past Monday night, drew a 1.4 overall rating. While anything over a 1.0 rating is generally considered a big hit on cable television, this week's 1.4 rating is tied for the lowest-rated episode from either season of The Ultimate Fighter. The only other weeks that drew overall ratings of 1.4 were Week Four of this season, and the first two weeks of the first season.

This Season's Ratings Compared to Last Season's Ratings
One thing that might be troubling for Spike and Zuffa is the fact that the Neilsen ratings for The Ultimate Fighter have remained largely unchanged over the past few weeks, even though Season Two is now hitting the mid-way point at which Season One's ratings skyrocketed. At this point in Season One, the sixth episode drew a record-high rating of 2.0. On the other hand, the sixth episode of Season Two drew a record-low rating of 1.4.

However, the overall ratings picture is not that much different through six weeks. The first season of The Ultimate Fighter averaged a 1.6 rating through its first six episodes, and the second season of TUF has also averaged a 1.6 rating through its first six episodes.

An average rating of 1.6 is something that keeps popping up if you analyze UFC ratings data for long enough. The average rating that was drawn by the first season of The Ultimate Fighter over the course of its entire 13-week run was also 1.6, as was the average rating for the new episodes of UFC Unleashed that have aired thus far.

Monday Night Football's Ratings Drop Drastically, but TUF's Ratings Remain Unchanged
Monday Night Football on ABC draws heavily from the sports fan and young male demographics that are the target audience of UFC programming on Spike TV, and the Monday Night Football entered the picture as direct competition to TUF starting with Week Four of this season.

In the three weeks before Monday Night Football's season premiere, The Ultimate Fighter averaged an overall rating of 1.7. In the three weeks that it has had to go head-to-head with Monday Night Football, The Ultimate Fighter's average rating has dropped to 1.4.

However, Monday Night Football is far from the only reason that The Ultimate Fighter's ratings have declined from the first couple of weeks. There was a big drop-off in TUF's ratings from Week Two to Week Three (falling from 1.8 to 1.5), despite the fact that Week Three did not go head-to-head with Monday Night Football. This would seem to suggest that some viewers lost interest in the show even before Monday Night Football returned.

Also, this week's rating for TUF was down slightly from last week, despite the fact that the competition it faced from Monday Night Football was nowhere near as formidable. With a blow-out game between the Broncos and Chiefs this week, Monday Night Football's overall rating was 8.4, which is down drastically from the 11.6 rating that it averaged in the first two weeks of its season. So, even though The Ultimate Fighter's chief competitor for the advertiser-coveted young male demographic was down drastically in viewers this week, TUF's ratings did not increase as a result.

The other network TV competition that The Ultimate Fighter faced on Monday night was NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which drew an overall rating of 5.1; and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, which drew an overall rating of 3.4.

With Spike TV now having aired its final WWE program, Spike TV and Zuffa are counting on the idea that they don't need the lead-in from WWE Raw to draw strong ratings. If that is truly the case, then Spike and the UFC should be hoping that this week's lower-than-normal TUF rating has nothing to do with this week's far-lower-than-usual WWE Raw rating.

After averaging a rating in the range of 3.8 to 4.1 for many months, WWE Raw's ratings slipped to an average of 3.5 in the first three weeks of September, and then slipped even further this week to 3.2, which is Raw's lowest non-holiday rating in over two years. This week's episode of WWE Raw was sacrificed in order to create what was essentially a two-hour infomercial for next week's episode of WWE Raw on USA Network, which will be going head-to-head with the UFC on Spike TV.

Positive and Negative Buzz from Week to Week
One question about The Ultimate Fighter's ratings that many readers have asked via e-mail is this: How does the quality of any given episode of TUF effect the ratings from week to week? The answer is that the positive buzz or negative buzz that is generated by a TV show does not generally effect the same week's ratings. Instead, it usually effects the following week's ratings, and this appears to be the case with TUF as well.

For example, let's take the uneventful, boring fight between Rashad Evans and Tom Murphy that was at the end of Episode Five. While some viewers undoubtedly changed the channel while the fight was in progress, television viewing patterns would suggest that those viewers were outnumbered by viewers who stuck around for most or all of the fight, and were generally displeased with the episode, and were far less likely to tune in to subsequent episodes as a result.

Getting viewers to tune in to a show is the biggest barrier for a TV show, in much the same way that getting customers into the store is the biggest barrier for a retailer like Best Buy. If a viewer is displeased with a TV show one week, he or she is far less likely to tune in the following week. If a viewer is very pleased with a TV show one week, that viewer is far more likely to tune in the following week and may also encourage other people to watch the show through word of mouth.

So, a boring fight on Episode Five doesn't really effect the rating for Episode Five all that much, but it could have a big effect on the rating for Episode Six. In much the same way, an exciting fight like Jason Von Flue vs. Jorge Gurgel on Episode Six doesn't really effect the rating for Episode Six all that much, but the buzz that it generates could have a positive impact on the rating for Episode Seven.

This concept passes the muster if you go through the first season of The Ultimate Fighter episode-by-episode and look at how each individual episode's quality tended to either positively or negatively impact the rating for the following episode. The peaks in the ratings came in the weeks after buzzworthy episodes, and the dips in the ratings came in the weeks after shows that had boring fights or were otherwise deemed uneventful.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- To demonstrate how far the mainstream media's coverage of the sport of MMA has come in the past few years, here is an article that first appeared on this web site in November 2002, shortly after the ESPN show "Around the Horn" featured a horribly uninformed segment on the UFC. While incidents like the one described below still take place from time to time, they are a lot less common in 2005 than they were just a couple years ago.

Originally Published on November 21, 2002
Yesterday's segment about the UFC on ESPN's Around the Horn was disgracefully uninformed and painful to watch for any fan of mixed martial arts. Host Max Kellerman said that he believes MMA is one of the most compelling sports on earth and then asked his panel of newspaper columnists from around the country what they thought of it. Unfortunately, none of the four columnists has ever actually seen a UFC fight and made no bones about that fact. The normally well-read and credible Bob Ryan, Jay Mariotti, Tim Cowlishaw, and T.J. Simers were uncharacteristically ignorant of the topic at hand and were quick to resort to the standard knee-jerk reaction that we've all heard before.

None of them seemed to know any basic facts about the UFC or even what the UFC is. Bob Ryan seemed to think that it was just like boxing, only in a cage and with no rules. Jay Mariotti spoke of the UFC as if it were no different from cockfighting, as two savages get into the cage and fight to the death. Tim Cowlishaw did call it a sport, but didn't approve of it, and T.J. Simers didn't know much about it but at least refrained from making any outlandish remarks. I don't think I will ever be able to watch Around the Horn the same way again after seeing first-hand just how hard these guys can come down on a product that they have never actually seen or bothered to research. If you watch a few UFC events and hate it, that's fine, but don't bash something that you know nothing about and have never seen.

Host Max Kellerman was the only defender of the UFC and mixed martial arts in general, pointing out that it is safer than both football and boxing and that no one has ever died in a UFC fight. Not only is that true, but he could have also pointed out that no one has ever been seriously injured in the UFC since it was founded in 1993. People get seriously injured in boxing and football all the time in this country, and numerous people have died in football and boxing. So why is it that MMA is likened to cockfighting, while football and boxing are never questioned by mainstream media members like Ryan, Mariotti, Cowlishaw, and Simers?

It's one thing if a person is opposed to combat sports in general. If someone believes that boxing is wrong in principle, the same principle would apply to the UFC. I wouldn't agree with that, but I would understand that person's opinion and respect it. But to approve of boxing and treat MMA as "garbage" (as Jay Mariotti called it) is about as hypocritical as it gets. I used to consider myself a big fan of Bob Ryan, but I am now much less of one after this show, where among other things, he said this: "If these guys are such good fighters, why aren't they doing real fighting in boxing?" In a segment full of uninformed and insulting statements, that one has to take the cake.

Little does Bob Ryan know that accomplished boxers have entered MMA competitions dozens of times over the past ten years, and in over 95% of those fights, the result is the same. The mixed martial artist scores a takedown on the boxer, and the boxer has no idea how to fight on the ground or how to avoid advanced submission techniques, and the boxer loses quickly and embarrassingly. Which one of those two would be the "real fighter," Mr. Ryan? Also, a boxer has to know one thing, and that is (obviously) how to box. A mixed martial artist has to be skilled in every aspect of the game to be successful in MMA.

If you don't have good enough amateur wrestling techniques in MMA, you're probably going to lose. If you don't have good enough groundwork and submission skills in MMA, you're probably going to lose. If you're not a good enough kickboxer in MMA, you're probably going to lose. You have to be good at everything, and you have to know so much more about fighting than a boxer ever could. I think the real question, Mr. Ryan, would be, "If boxers are such good fighters, why aren't they doing real fighting and trying their hand at the multi-faceted sport of MMA?"

If the panelists won't actually watch the sport that they love to bash so much, all it would take would be a 30-to-60 second explanantion at the top of the segment before the floor is turned over to the panelists. Max Kellerman could have said something like this:

"The UFC is like kickboxing, only you can attempt to take your opponent down to the mat with amateur wrestling techniques, and once you get him there, you can try striking from the ground, or you can attempt a submission move from jiu-jitsu or one of countless other martial arts disciplines. There are dozens of rules and regulations, the sport is sanctioned by numerous state athletic commissions including Nevada and New Jersey, there has never been a serious injury in the nine years that the UFC has existed, and fights can be stopped at any time by the referee or ringside doctors. The participants are not bloodthirsty savages taken off the street, but world-class athletes who spend their entire lives training and improving their craft. Many of the best MMA fighters have been world jiu-jitsu champions and Olympic medalists in wrestling."

That's a simple, one-paragraph explanation, yet it is much more knowledge than Ryan, Mariotti, Cowlishaw, or Simers have ever possessed about the UFC. Until the mainstream sports media wakes up and smells the MMA coffee, organizations like the UFC are never going to get the respect that they deserve, and that's the real shame in all of this.

I received the following response to this article from the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan via e-mail: "You're very correct. Until I was presented with this topic yesterday, I had never heard of this nonsense. I have zero interest in it. Sorry."

This is precisely what I am talking about. If you have a modicum amount of knowledge about mixed martial arts and decide that you have "zero interest" in it, that's fine with me, and I would respect that opinion. But I do have a problem with someone who knows nothing about it and still calls it "nonsense."

Friday, September 23, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts and Pro Wrestling--- WWE vs. UFC Showdown Heats Up
The war between the UFC and World Wrestling Entertainment continues to heat up, as the two entities will compete head-to-head with each other on different cable channels for the first time on Monday, October 3rd.

USA Network and WWE have put a huge, multi-million-dollar advertising campaign behind the October 3rd return of WWE Raw to USA Network, which is being billed as "WWE Homecoming."

By contrast, there has been a conspicuous lack of advertising or even acknowledgement that the UFC's October 3rd live fight special even exists. The special was just announced by Spike TV on Wednesday, September 21st, less than two weeks before it is scheduled to take place. There is no way to measure how severely the October 3rd live fight special has been damaged by this glaring lack of promotion.

Working in the UFC's favor is the fact that WWE is not allowed to display or say the words "USA Network" on the last remaining episodes of WWE Raw that air on Spike TV. So, for the many people who only see the "WWE Homecoming" commercials on WWE television, they are being bombarded with commercials that say, "WWE Homecoming- October 3rd," as opposed to seeing commercials that say, "WWE Homecoming- October 3rd on USA Network." It remains possible that WWE will violate its agreement with Spike TV by mentioning the words "USA Network" on the final episode of Raw that airs on Spike TV, but there are currently no plans within WWE to do so.

Tension with WWE Leads to Spike TV Having a Change in Attitude
Tension between WWE and Spike TV has been building for years. This tension has been stronger than ever in recent weeks, as Vince McMahon is said to have "flipped his lid" and "gone nuts" with multiple headset-throwing tempter tantrums (as first reported by the Wrestling Observer) upon seeing that Spike TV is advertising a competing pro wrestling organization (NWA-TNA) during WWE's own TV show, and is also continuing to air commercials during WWE Raw about the UFC being a "real sport" with "real athletes."

Spike TV has also been firm with WWE in stressing the 11:08 PM cut-off time for WWE Raw on Monday nights. While Raw went over that time limit to as late as 11:10 PM on four separate occasions during the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Spike TV has made it clear that it is no longer going to grant WWE any wiggle room in that timeframe. If WWE Raw is still taking place on any given week when the clock strikes 11:08 PM Eastern Time, Spike TV has made it clear that the show will be cut off regardless of what is happening at that moment, the screen will fade to black, and The Ultimate Fighter will begin airing as scheduled.

Several months ago when Spike TV cut off all negotiations with WWE for a contract renewal between the two parties (a move that cost WWE millions of dollars in lost negotiating leverage with USA Network), the attitude within Spike TV is that they would not try to compete directly with WWE for the same demographic in the 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM timeslot on Monday nights. Instead, the network would move TUF to Saturday nights and would air repeats of "CSI" and "CSI: New York" head-to-head with Raw on Monday nights, as the CSI shows draw from a completely different demographic and would not likely be damaged by going head-to-head with Raw.

That attitude changed at some point in the past month, prompting Spike TV to test the waters with a live UFC special on Monday night, October 3rd. In addition to the mounting tension with WWE, Spike TV may have been emboldened when The Ultimate Fighter, in its latenight timeslot, actually drew a higher rating than WWE Raw in the 25-to-34-year-old male demographic on Monday night, August 29th.

Indeed, the timeline of events would seem to support this assertion, as the Wrestling Observer reports that Spike TV initially contacted the UFC on Thursday, September 1st, and asked if the UFC could put together a live fight special that would take place on October 3rd.

The UFC was not about to turn down all of the programming rights fees and advertising revenue that it generates every time it has a show on Spike TV, so the UFC agreed to Spike TV's request and had tentatively put together a complete fight card by the end of the day on Saturday, September 3rd, just two days after Spike TV's request.

UFC and WWE Play a High-Stakes Game of "Chicken"
For the past several weeks, Spike TV and the UFC have played a constant game of one-upsmanship with USA Network and WWE, which has been documented extensively by MMAWeekly and also by the Pro Wrestling Torch.

Shortly after WWE management learned that Spike TV was planning to air a live UFC special on October 3rd, WWE made its October 3rd show into a huge event with numerous big-name returns scheduled for one show, despite the fact that they could make more money in the long run by spreading those returns out over the course of a few weeks or months instead of hot-shotting them all in one night. The pro wrestling audience has always followed pro wrestling when it changes nights or networks, so there would be no need for WWE to blow everything in one night if not for the sense of competition with WWE.

It was also announced that the October 3rd episode of Raw would be a special three-hour episode, starting at 8:00 PM instead of the usual 9:00 PM, thus giving WWE a one-hour head-start on the UFC and a chance to hook viewers on something that they feel they can't turn away from. In other words, expect to see Stone Cold Steve Austin and/or Hulk Hogan on the screen right around the time that the UFC's live special is starting at 9:00 PM, in order to discourage Raw's viewers from changing the channel to the UFC.

The response from Spike TV was to schedule a new episode of UFC Unleashed to air at 8:00 PM on October 3rd before the live fight special, thus negating WWE's lead-in advantage. This episode of UFC Unleashed will feature the Forrest Griffin vs. Bill Mahood fight that just took place at UFC 53 in June 2005, as well as the Andrei Arlovski vs. Vladimir Matyushenko fight that took place at UFC 44 in September 2003.

WWE quickly responded by announcing that Raw would actually start at 7:55 PM, thus giving WWE a five-minute head start on the UFC. WWE also added a one-hour "Best of Raw" special that is scheduled to air on October 3rd at 11:05 PM Eastern Time, head-to-head with a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter 2 on Spike TV.

Earlier this week, WWE announced a ridiculous amount of wrestling legends who will be making special appearances on the October 3rd episode of Raw, in addition to the previously announced appearances by Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, Vince McMahon, and Vince McMahon's son-in-law Triple H. In an effort to squash the competition that it will be facing on Spike TV, it was announced that Raw on October 3rd will also feature appearances by wrestling legends such as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Superstar Billy Graham, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Harley Race, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Hillbilly Jim, Chief Jay Strongbow, Jimmy Hart, The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Koko B. Ware, and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine.

On the other hand, because mixed martial arts is a sport as opposed to "sports entertainment," the UFC can't just add an unlimited number of special guest stars to its shows. It's quite the opposite in this case, as the UFC special will undoubtedly be damaged by the loss of Stephan Bonnar to a broken hand suffered in training, as Bonnar would have been the UFC's #1 ratings draw on that night.

On Wednesday of this week, Spike TV countered yet again in this continuing game of, "Can you top this?" by announcing that the aforementioned new episode of UFC Unleashed will actually air at 7:00 PM on October 3rd, followed by a "UFC Ultimate Knockouts" special at 8:00 PM.

So, unless WWE fires back once again, the five-hour UFC programming block will begin approximately 55 minutes earlier than the WWE programming block on October 3rd.

As of right now, here is the schedule on October 3rd for the two competing line-ups:

UFC on Spike TV, October 3rd (All Times Eastern)
7:00 PM to 8:00 PM: New episode of UFC Unleashed
8:00 PM to 9:00 PM: UFC Ultimate Knockouts
9:00 PM to 11:05 PM: Live airing of UFC Ultimate Fight Night 2
11:05 PM to 12:05 AM: New episode of The Ultimate Fighter 2

WWE on USA Network, October 3rd (All Times Eastern)
7:55 PM to 11:05 PM: Special three-hour-and-ten-minute-long "Homecoming" episode of WWE Raw
11:05 PM to 12:05 PM: Best of Raw special

Ratings Expectations for October 3rd
In terms of the head-to-head ratings battle between the UFC and WWE, there is nobody on either side of this battle who is expecting the UFC to match WWE in overall ratings, or to even come close to doing so.

Instead, the hope within Spike TV and the UFC (and the fear within WWE) is that the UFC can take a significant chunk of WWE's young male demographic, while also maintaining the same overall rating that live UFC fight specials on Spike TV have drawn when they're not going head-to-head with WWE.

Spike TV has aired live UFC fight specials on two previous occasions, with events on Saturday, April 9th and Saturday, August 6th of this year. Those events drew overall ratings of 1.9 and 1.5, respectively. If the UFC's two-hour live special from 9:00 PM to 11:05 PM on Monday, October 3rd can still draw a rating somewhere in the range of 1.5 to 1.9, despite the fact that it will be going head-to-head with a mega-hyped edition of WWE Raw, that will be considered a huge success.

On the other hand, if the live UFC special draws a rating somewhere in the range of 1.0 to 1.4, it will be considered a mild disappointment by Spike TV. Finally, if the UFC special draws a rating that is under 1.0, it will be embarrassing for Spike TV as a whole, and particularly for Spike TV president Doug Herzog, who made the decision to put the UFC head-to-head with Raw on WWE's first night back on USA Network.

In the meantime, WWE's expectations for the October 3rd episode of Raw are reportedly for the show to draw a rating somewhere in the range of 4.0 to 4.5, due to the huge advertising campaign behind the show. I think a rating in the range 3.8 to 4.2 might be more realistic, given the fact that Raw's ratings have been slightly off in September compared to previous months.

The Ultimate Fighter's Long-Term Timeslot Remains Up in the Air
As mentioned in this article and as chronicled previously on MMAWeekly, Spike TV originally planned to move UFC programming to Saturday nights as soon as WWE left the network to go back to USA Network. The plan was to have a Saturday night schedule with UFC Unleashed at 8:00 PM, new episodes of The Ultimate Fighter 2 at 9:00 PM, and another episode of UFC Unleashed at 10:00 PM, all of which would serve as a strong lead-in to the "TNA Impact" pro wrestling show at 11:00 PM on which Tito Ortiz is expected to be a featured attraction.

Now, those plans have changed. Not only will a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter air in its normal timeslot (Monday at 11:05 PM) on October 3rd, but the Wrestling Observer is reporting that Spike TV currently plans to keep new episodes of TUF 2 in that same timeslot for the remainder of the season. Those plans are tentative, and could change based on the results of the ratings battle that is going to take place on October 3rd.

As of right now, Spike TV management has convinced itself that it's a good idea to continue airing new episodes of TUF 2 on Monday nights at 11:05 PM, with the reasoning being that viewers who are used to watching The Ultimate Fighter after WWE Raw will flip the channel from USA Network to Spike TV every week at 11:05 PM when Raw goes off the air.

As for Spike TV's line-up on Saturday nights, starting on October 8th that line-up will consist of an action movie from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, an episode of UFC Unleashed from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, a repeat airing of The Ultimate Fighter 2 from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, and TNA Impact from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM.

If the UFC absolutely tanks in the ratings on October 3rd, it's possible that Spike TV could decide to shift the new airing of The Ultimate Fighter every week to the Saturdays at 10:00 PM timeslot that the network currently has booked for TUF repeats every week.

The only thing that has been set it stone by Spike TV at this point is that The Ultimate Fighter 2 will continue to air on both Saturday nights at 10:00 PM, and on Monday nights at 11:05 PM, even after WWE Raw leaves the network. At this point, the only question is which one of those airings will be the new episode every week, and which one will be the repeat every week. Spike TV's advertising sales are flexible enough that the network can afford to make the final decision on this matter depending on how well the UFC performs in the ratings on October 3rd.

In the meantime, a marathon of the first six episodes of The Ultimate Fighter 2 will air on Saturday, October 1st from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Spike TV, in a move that Spike TV feels will provide a quality lead-in for the October 1st premiere of TNA Impact at 11:00 PM.

Possible Dates for UFC Live TV Specials in 2006
If Spike TV wanted to run live UFC events on Monday nights a few times per year, in order to capitalize on the pro wrestling audience that is normally watching TV on Monday nights, surely the best nights to do so would be the nights on which WWE Raw is pre-empted, right?

That would seem to make the most sense, and if Spike TV is thinking the same way, then three potential dates for live UFC specials on Spike TV would February 13th, August 28th, and September 4th of 2006.

One of the major reasons that WWE left USA Network for Spike TV several years ago was because of WWE's frustration over being pre-empted three times per year for other programming on USA Network. Now, having been essentially forced to return to USA Network after Spike TV and every other cable network was unwilling to meet its contractual demands, WWE is right back in the same situation it was in several years ago with three pre-emptions per year.

A press release that was put out by USA Network this week discloses that WWE Raw will be pre-empted on Monday, February 13th, 2006 for the network's annual airing of the Westminster Dog Show on USA Network. That just screams to Spike TV, "Put a live UFC special on this date in Raw's timeslot and maybe regular viewers of Raw will watch Spike TV that night instead!" It's not known if Spike TV executives are planning such a move at this point, but it's certainly something that they're going to consider at some point.

In addition, USA Network will pre-empt WWE Raw on Monday, August 28th, 2006 and again on Monday, September 4th, 2006 for its annual coverage of the US Open tennis tournament. Logic would dictate that either of these two dates would be ideal for a live UFC special from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM. Again, nothing has been decided by Spike TV on this matter, but don't be surprised if you see it happen.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Slide with Arrival of Monday Night Football as Competition
The ratings for The Ultimate Fighter have slipped in the past two weeks, thanks in part to a competitor that Spike TV seems to have underestimated: Monday Night Football.

Historically, ABC's Monday Night Football has affected the ratings for WWE Raw, but only to a small extent. Also, while data from Neilsen Media Research indicates that the UFC draws much more heavily from the traditional sports-watching crowd on television than WWE does, The Ultimate Fighter had never gone head-to-head with Monday Night Football until last week.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear to most in the television industry that Spike TV made a mistake in scheduling the second season of The Ultimate Fighter to go head-to-head with the NFL, and it's a mistake that is not likely to be repeated. (This won't be a factor for The Ultimate Fighter 3, which is tentatively scheduled to be filmed in late 2005 and premiere on Spike TV in early 2006.)

After averaging a 1.7 overall rating for the first three weeks of The Ultimate Fighter 2, Week Four of the show drew an overall rating of just 1.4 on Monday, September 12th. This was followed by a slight rebound to an overall rating of 1.5 for Week Five, which debuted on Monday, September 19th. The effect has been just as severe for WWE Raw, which had been drawing ratings in the range of 3.8 to 4.0 for months. WWE Raw drew a rating of 3.3 last week (its lowest non-holiday rating in over a year), and a 3.6 overall rating this week.

TUF Ratings for Week Four
Looking specifically at The Ultimate Fighter's ratings for Week Four on September 12th, the show drew an overall rating of 1.4, which is actually down from the 1.5 rating that was drawn by Week Four of the first season.

The 1.4 rating makes this episode tied for the lowest-rated episode of The Ultimate Fighter that has ever aired, matching the mark that was drawn by Week One and Week Two in the first season.

This episode of The Ultimate Fighter went head-to-head with the season premiere of Monday Night Football on ABC, which drew a monster rating of 12.7, including a 7.8 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic. Also going head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter on network television were NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which drew a 4.4 overall rating, and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, which drew a 3.6 overall rating.

TUF Ratings for Week Five
Week Five of The Ultimate Fighter 2 drew an overall rating of 1.5 on September 19th, which is down from the 1.7 rating that was drawn by Week Five of the first season.

The rating of 1.5 makes this episode tied for the fourth-lowest-rated episode of The Ultimate Fighter that has ever aired. The series also drew a 1.5 overall rating in Week Four and Week Nine of the first season, as well as Week Three of the second season.

This episode of TUF went head-to-head with the Redskins vs. Cowboys game on ABC's Monday Night Football, which drew a strong 10.5 rating, including a 6.2 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic. Also going head-to-head with TUF on network television were The Tonight Show on NBC, which drew a 4.6 rating, and The Late Show on CBS, which drew a 4.2 rating.

Putting Things Into Perspective After Five Weeks
Overall, The Ultimate Fighter 2 is averaging a 1.6 overall rating through its first five episodes. That is a slight improvement over the original Ultimate Fighter, which averaged a 1.5 overall rating through its first five episodes.

Though anything over 1.0 is considered a big hit on cable television, the UFC has established itself to such an extent that it has slightly higher expectations to deal with. A source at Spike TV says that the network continues to be "thrilled" with any rating of 1.5 or higher that is drawn by the UFC, while anything under 1.5 is considered a "mild disappointment" only because of the strong track record (and accompanying high expectations) that the UFC has established in its first year on Spike TV.

Television--- Martha Stewart Engulfs Reality TV in Smarmy, "I'm Better Than You" Attitude
Is Martha Stewart really as much of a bitch as everyone who has ever been in contact with her says she is? Find out tonight at 8:00 PM on NBC!

I think the commercial should use that as a tagline. If not that, how about this? "Finally, a reality show hosted by a convicted felon!" Or maybe, "She won't lie to you... unless you're a federal grand jury and she's under oath!"

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Sunday, September 18, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- The Latest on Ken Shamrock vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, and Phil Baroni vs. Pro Bodybuilder
The potential fight between Ken Shamrock and Kazushi Sakuraba cannot be officially signed or announced until at least October 13th (as first reported by MMAWeekly's Ryan Bennett and later picked up by the Wrestling Observer). The reason for this is that a no-compete clause in Shamrock's UFC contract expires on October 12th, meaning that the earliest he could sign with Pride would be October 13th.

Shamrock vs. Sakuraba is one of the fights that Pride would like to put on its October 23rd card, although the fight may or may not end up happening. Even after the expiration of Shamrock's no-compete clause, the UFC will still have the contractual right to match any offer that Pride makes to Shamrock, but this is considered unlikely given the amount of money involved and given the fact that Shamrock has the right to turn down specific UFC fights if he chooses to do so.

In other news, the Wrestling Observer recently featured the following brief news item on a potential fight between Phil Baroni and professional bodybuilder Craig Titus, which could take place in either Pride or King of the Cage:

"Believe it or not, Phil Baroni is pushing Pride to book him in a freak-show fight on December 31st against high-level bodybuilder Craig Titus. The two have had a war of words for years. New Year's Eve is a freak show night [in Pride]. Also, King of the Cage, which does pay-per-view shows that nobody buys, has offered Baroni $10,000 to fight Titus in King of the Cage."

Obviously, even if Baroni vs. Titus does take place in Pride at some point, the date of the fight would not necessarily be December 31st. It's far from a certainty that Baroni vs. Titus will ever take place, as the Observer report simply stated that Baroni wants Pride to book the fight, and even if Pride agrees to do so, there's no telling if Craig Titus would be willing to take the fight.

UPDATE: The finals of the Pride Bushido tournaments are actually scheduled to take place in November (not on December 31st), so it's entirely possible that Baroni could fight in the finals of the 183-pound tournament in November and still be able to fight Craig Titus on December 31st. Thanks to Zach Arnold of PuroresuPower.com for the clarification.

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Friday, September 16, 2005
Video Games--- Nintendo Falls Off the Deep End with its Next-Gen Controller
Is Nintendo, now more than ever, the laughing stock of the video game industry? You be the judge. Just take a look at the controller for the company's next-generation video game system (click here for a picture). That sound you hear is Sony and Microsoft laughing hysterically.

It turns out that Game Informer Magazine wasn't that far from the truth when it published a fake news story in its annual April Fool's issue earlier this year, in which the controller for Nintendo's next console just had one big button called the "DO!" button.

When a previous Nintendo flop called the Virtual Boy (may it rest in peace) was introduced as a "virtual reality" successor to the Game Boy in the mid-90's, there was clearly no one at Nintendo who stood up and said something like, "Wait a minute, isn't this going to hurt people's necks, give them headaches, and cause eye damage just from putting their heads into the system and staring at bright red laser images?" That didn't turn out too well, and now in a similar situation, there is clearly nobody at the current-day Nintendo who had the testicular fortitude to stand up and say to their bosses, "Wait a minute, isn't this going to make it extremely difficult just to play the vast majority of game genres?"

In controller-related news that is far more sensible, Sony made sure to plaster the words "Conceptual Design" all over its displays of the butt-ugly PlayStation 3 controller (click here for a picture of it) at the Tokyo Game Show. Those two words were not attached to the controller at E3 in May but have appeared a few months later at the TGS, so we can only hope that Sony is strongly considering a change from the current "boomerang" design.

Let's keep this in perspective, though. The PlayStation 3 controller, as it exists right now, is very ugly and probably a bit uncomfortable, but that's the extent of its downside. Nintendo's controller, on the other hand, is a mixture of 1) The mostly useless, gameplay-hindering novelty of the Nintendo DS handheld system, 2) The non-gaming-friendly shape and design of a tall and skinny DVD remote, and 3) A button lay-out that takes video games back to a pre-Super Nintendo level of basic functionality for the vast majority of game genres. On the other hand, I'm sure it will work wonderfully with Nintendogs, so I guess that makes it all worthwhile...


Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Follow-Up Editorial on Sean Gannon Signing with the UFC
After reading all of the message board posts and e-mails in response to my previous article about Sean Gannon being signed to a UFC contract, I just watched the Sean Gannon vs. Kimbo fight again, and it's still just as much of a disgrace to the sport of mixed martial arts as it was the last time I watched it. When people say that MMA is "human cockfighting," things like that only gives them ammunition for their argument. It's revolting to think that someone at the UFC would watch that video and say, "We've got to give that guy a contract!" instead of saying, "That's disgusting."

I also have to wonder how anyone can say that was a legitimate MMA fight in a "controlled environment." When the method of ending the fight is an informal count to 20 and beyond, that's not a "controlled environment."

Regardless of how good or bad Gannon would be in a legitimate MMA fight against UFC-level competition, the most reputable and in-depth MMA database on the Internet says that his professional MMA record is 1-0, and his amateur MMA record is 4-1. Whether he could have earned his way into the UFC by fighting in smaller MMA promotions like Hook-n-Shoot, IFC, WEC, AFC, Euphoria, Ring of Fire, etc is not the point.

The point is that he got his UFC contract because of the Kimbo video, and the Internet buzz surrounding it. That's it. If he had all of the same qualifications, but no Kimbo video, he would not have gotten the contract. Anyone from the UFC trying to claim otherwise would be very disingenuous, and anyone else trying to claim otherwise would be very naive.

Even if the majority of fans don't care how he got his UFC contract, it would also be naive to think that not one person, anywhere, at any time, ever, is going to see Gannon in the UFC, find out how he got his UFC contract, and think to themselves that they might be able get a UFC contract of their own if they make a similar video and get a similar amount of buzz surrounding it. No one can say for sure whether any serious injuries or deaths might occur as a result of people trying to "earn their way" into the UFC like Gannon did, but the risk is there.

I appreciate everyone's feedback, whether they agree with me or disagree with me. At the same time, I think it should be scary for anyone who cares about the sport of MMA and wants it to succeed to think about the negative publicity explosion in the mainstream media that would take place if ONE newspaper reporter, whether it's from a small-market newspaper or God forbid the anti-MMA Boston Herald or New York Times, were to see that video and find out that the winner got a UFC contract for it.

The aim of that article was to look at the big picture of Sean Gannon's signing, and what kind of message the UFC is sending. Gannon could be a great guy, or even a great fighter, and that still wouldn't be the point. The point is that he got a UFC contract because of the Kimbo video, and that's not right.

Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC Switching Venues for Next Two Spike TV Specials
After two live events at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas with poor attendance, the UFC is planning to move to a new venue for its next two live fight specials on Spike TV. The UFC currently has a live fight special on Spike TV scheduled for Monday, October 3rd, followed by the live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter on November 5th.

The venue for the October 3rd show is going to be "The Joint" in Las Vegas, which is the Hard Rock Hotel's live concert facility. The facility's seating capacity for concerts is 1,400, but that figure could increase or decrease, depending on how a live MMA event would be set up. The Joint is expected to be the venue for the UFC's November 5th event as well.

In the meantime, the UFC 55 pay-per-view is scheduled to take place at the Mohegan Sun Hotel & Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut on October 7th, while the UFC 56 pay-per-view is scheduled to take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 19th.

Following the UFC 56 pay-per-view, the UFC will run an event on Super Bowl Weekend once again, with a pay-per-view event scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 4th at a venue to be determined in Las Vegas. It's not known if there will be any UFC events beteween the event that is scheduled on November 19th, and the event that is scheduled on February 4th.

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Monday, September 12, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Sean Gannon to Make UFC Debut in the Near Future; What Does This Mean for the Sport?
One of the match-ups in the works for an upcoming UFC card would match infamous fighter Sean Gannon up against Hammer House team member Branden Lee Hinkle, according to a report by the Wrestling Observer.

Gannon was signed to a UFC contract several months ago, but has not been able to fight yet for the organization due to an injury. Gannon vs. Hinkle is likely to be an undercard fight, and is being considered for the UFC 55 card on October 7th, the UFC live special on November 5th, or the UFC 56 card on November 19th. The negotiations for the proposed Gannon-Hinkle fight are not finalized, but even if negotiations for this fight fall apart, the fact remains that Sean Gannon will be fighting in the UFC sometime soon.

While Branden Lee Hinkle has a 12-6 record in MMA and would seem to have earned his shot at the big-time in the UFC, Gannon's professional MMA record is just 1-0, according to both the Full Contact Fighter Database and the Sherdog Fight Finder. The fact of the matter is that Gannon got a UFC contract for his now-infamous underground fight with Kimbo Slice, and anyone who tells you otherwise is being disingenuous.

So, what kind of message is the UFC sending to prospective fighters by signing Sean Gannon? The message is an ugly one that could have very negative repercussions for the sport of MMA in the future, and that message is: "Do whatever it takes, film yourself in illegal underground street fights, and if you gain enough notoriety, there's a good chance that we might sign you."

This is a dangerous message that could result in serious injury or even death in the future, as other amateur fighters will undoubtedly try to imitate Gannon's actions in an attempt to get themselves UFC contracts the same way that Gannon did. In addition, anyone who sees Sean Gannon in the UFC and finds out how he got his shot at the self-proclaimed "Super Bowl of MMA" will be given a sleazy image of the sport. In this case, it wouldn't be an inaccurate perception, and in fact it's a mainstream media nightmare just waiting to unfold.

You would think that the UFC would breathe a sigh of relief, take a step back, and protect itself from this kind of image after the knock-outs of Tra Telligman and Terry Martin at UFC 54 (and the UFC's poor handling of the knock-outs during the live pay-per-view broadcast).

Fortunately, Telligman and Martin turned out to be okay. In the process, the UFC dodged a potentially huge freight train of bad publicity, which it would have been powerless to avoid.

Now, with Sean Gannon getting a chance in the UFC purely due to the notoriety that he gained from an illegal underground fight, the UFC is voluntarily stepping onto the railroad tracks and jumping in front of the train.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- Tito Ortiz Returning to Pro Wrestling Company
The Pro Wrestling Torch and the Wrestling Observer are both reporting that former UFC fighter Tito Ortiz is headed back to the NWA-TNA pro wrestling promotion, where he was a special guest referee earlier this year. Ortiz will be brought back in early October when TNA gets its new show on Spike TV, in an attempt to draw more UFC fans into the TNA product.

It's not currently known whether Ortiz will continue to do things like special guest referee gigs and other non-wrestling appearances, or if he will actually become an in-ring pro wrestler and have matches in the promotion. TNA Impact, which is now being advertised during The Ultimate Fighter, will be a weekly one-hour pro wrestling show on Spike TV. Each new episode of TNA Impact will debut on Saturday nights at 11:00 PM following the UFC's Saturday night programming block.

Incidentally, Vince McMahon is reported to have "flipped his lid" once again after last week's episode of WWE Raw, when he found out that not only was Spike TV prominently advertising the UFC during WWE Raw as it normally does, but the network was also airing commercials for a competing pro wrestling company during WWE programming. Spike TV is said to be at a point now where they "hate WWE" because of all the problems that they have had with WWE, and Spike executives could care less at this point if UFC or TNA commercials continue to infuriate Vince McMahon.

Mixed Martial Arts--- Liddell vs. Couture III Tentatively Set for February; More on Lindland's Release
The third match-up between Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture is tentatively scheduled to take place on February 4, 2006, according to statements made by UFC president Dana White to a reporter at the Portland Tribune.

In an article about Matt Lindland being fired from the UFC, allegedly for wearing an unauthorized t-shirt, the author of the article also wrote, "[Dana] White says the much anticipated rubber match between [Randy] Couture and light-heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell probably will take place on February 4th, the night before the Super Bowl."

Liddell and Couture have met twice before, with Couture dominating their first fight in June 2003, and Liddell dominating their second fight in April 2004. After Liddell and Couture each won their respective fights at UFC 54 last month, it was widely believed that Liddell's next UFC Light-Heavyweight Title defense would be against Couture.

However, it wasn't known if the UFC would include that fight on the UFC 56 card this November, or if the company would hold off until UFC 57 early next year. Based on Dana White's comments to the reporter at the Portland Tribune, it appears that February 4, 2006 is when this fight will happen.

In the meantime, the UFC 56 pay-per-view on November 19 of this year is very likely to be co-headlined by Ultimate Fighter 2 coaches Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin, as Hughes defends his UFC Welterweight Title against Karo Parisyan, and Franklin defends his UFC Middleweight Title against Nate Quarry.

The Portland Tribune article also revealed a very interesting detail about Matt Lindland's UFC contract. As previously reported, Lindland's pay for his fight at UFC 54 was $15,000 to fight and an additional $15,000 to win. The Portland Tribune article has revealed that Lindland's scheduled pay for the remaining two fights on his UFC contract would have been $45,000 for each fight and $45,000 for each additional win.

(Certainly, if the UFC was going to release Lindland at some point, the ideal time to do it would be right before he was set to get a massive raise. It is surely just a magical coincidence that Lindland's contract was terminated right before his salary was about to triple... right?)

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Thursday, September 08, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- WWE Fires Back at UFC
World Wrestling Entertainment has fired back at the UFC and Spike TV. Following the news that Spike TV will air a live UFC fight special on Monday, October 3rd in WWE Raw's timeslot on Spike TV (which will go head-to-head with WWE's return to USA Network), WWE has officially announced that it is pulling out the big guns for its October 3rd show.

In an official statement, WWE said, "Many former WWE Champions will be making their return to Raw on October 3rd, including Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and Triple H. Even Mr. McMahon himself will make an appearance." The press release referred to the October 3rd episode of Raw as a "star-studded, historic night," and the show itself is being billed, "A Night of Champions."

While it's obvious that any first-run show put on by WWE is going to crush any UFC show head-to-head in the overall ratings, that alone is not enough for WWE. The UFC could take a very significant chunk of WWE's young male audience on that night, and WWE is pulling out all the stops to make sure that doesn't happen.

There's no doubt that even if Spike TV wasn't putting the UFC head-to-head with Raw on October 3rd, WWE would still have tried to make a big deal out of the October 3rd episode of Raw on USA Network. However, there can also be little doubt that the head-to-head battle with the UFC, along with the huge amount of hard feelings that exist between Spike TV executives and WWE executives, are also contributing factors in WWE's decision to hot-shot so many big returns on a single episode of a TV series that runs 52 weeks per year.

When WWE Raw moved from USA Network to Spike TV (then known as TNN) several years ago, the first week of Spike ratings were almost identical to the final week of USA ratings. Historically, when a pro wrestling show changes networks, pro wrestling fans have always been able to "find" the wrestling show that they want to watch (whereas many other kinds of TV shows experience big ratings drop-offs when they switch to a different network).

So, just the fact that WWE Raw is moving from Spike TV to USA Network is not reason enough for WWE to blow so many potential ratings-popping appearances in one night. The company's ill will towards Spike TV, and even more so its fear of losing a chunk of its young male demographic, are likely what is driving WWE to pull out all the stops on October 3rd.

Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Down in Week Three
The third episode of The Ultimate Fighter 2 drew a disappointing overall rating of 1.5 on Monday night, September 5th. The series had drawn a 1.7 overall rating with its season premiere, followed by a 1.8 overall rating with last week's episode.

Week Three's rating of 1.5 is actually down from the 1.6 rating that was drawn by Week Three of the first season. It's also down from the 1.6 average rating that the series drew in its first season on Spike TV.

This was also the lowest-rated episode of TUF in quite some time. The last time that a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter drew an overall rating of 1.5 or less, it was Week 9 of the first season, which drew a 1.5 overall rating on March 14, 2005.

For what it's worth, the network TV competition that aired head-to-head with parts of The Ultimate Fighter also drew slightly lower-than-average ratings on Monday night. The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS drew a 3.6 rating, while NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno drew a 3.5 rating, and ABC's Nightline drew a 3.3 rating.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Two More Injuries Still to Come on The Ultimate Fighter?
We're only three episodes into The Ultimate Fighter's second season, but already there have been two fighters who have had to leave the show due to injury, and two more fighters who would have had to leave due to injury if they hadn't lost their respective fights.

With the filming of the second season having been completed a couple months ago, there are at least two more fighters who have publicly revealed themselves as being injured, but it's not known whether their injuries required them to be eliminated from the competition.

The two fighters in question are welterweight Jorge Gurgel and heavyweight Tom Murphy. Gurgel came into the show with an injured knee that needed major surgery, as documented on the show. Gurgel was in attendance at the UFC 54 event on August 20th and could clearly be seen using crutches by anyone in attendance who recognized him, after apparently having surgery on his knee sometime in the past couple of months. (Gurgel could also briefly be seen on-camera during the pay-per-view broadcast in the background using crutches.)

As for Tom Murphy, he disclosed his injury in an interview with the Cooperstown Crier newspaper, which is based in Cooperstown, New York. Murphy told the newspaper, "It was an amazing experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but if you asked me, 'Would I do it again?' I would say no. It's no secret, I came back on crutches. I had to have knee surgery. I tore the cartilage in my knee in half."

That was an on-the-record quote that Murphy gave to a newspaper, just as Gurgel could be seen using crutches in plain sight at UFC 54. Neither of these things are being kept under wraps as big secrets, given the public comments and public appearances that revealed them.

These facts would seem to suggest that it's highly unlikely that Gurgel or Murphy will be in the welterweight or heavyweight finals of The Ultimate Fighter 2, which will take place live on Spike TV on Saturday, November 5. At the same time, Gurgel and Murphy's injuries don't necessarily reveal how they were eliminated from the show.

For example, it's possible that Gurgel or Murphy hurt themselves in training during the show and had to leave without losing a fight (which happened to Kerry Schall). It's possible that Gurgel or Murphy had a fight and won, but then had to leave the show due to an injury suffered during the fight (which happened to Josh Burkman). It's possible that Gurgel or Murphy had a fight and lost, and suffered an injury in the process of losing the fight (which happened to Melvin Guillard and Rob MacDonald). All of these scenarios are possible, but what doesn't seem to be much of a possibility, based on the facts that are out there publicly, is that Gurgel or Murphy advanced to the finals.

The only scenario in which Gurgel could have possibly advanced to the finals, while also having surgery on his knee in the months since filming ended, would be if Gurgel made the final two in the 170-pound weight class and then decided to undergo minor surgery on his knee, knowing that he would have a few months to recover before the show actually aired and it would be time for him to fight in the finals. That is the only scenario in which Gurgel could have possibly made the finals and had surgery on his knee, because there is no way he could recover in a few months if the surgery that he had was reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn ACL.

In the first three episodes of The Ultimate Fighter 2, Kerry Schall had to leave the show due to a torn meniscus in his knee, and was portrayed by the producers and editors of the show in a sympathetic light. On the other hand, Rob MacDonald was portrayed as a whiner, a wimp, and a complainer, despite the fact that he stepped into the Octagon and fought with a torn labrum in his shoulder (which is a major injury). MacDonald put himself at great risk for further injury, and in fact he did worsen his shoulder injury in his loss to Brad Imes. One has to wonder how MacDonald got cleared to fight by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in the first place if they knew that he had a torn labrum in his shoulder.

Through three episodes of the show, the other two injuries were Josh Burkman suffering a fracture in his arm in the process of winning a fight, and Melvin Guillard suffering a broken hand in the process of losing a fight.

One other detail about The Ultimate Fighter 2 that came out through the mainstream media was included as part of the New York Times' prominent article on TUF, which was published on Sunday, August 21st. While not saying who won or lost any specific fight, the Times article did say that welterweights Anthony Torres and Luke Cummo were matched up against each other in the Octagon at some point. The Times article also said that Torres and Cummo's fight went to a one-sided judges' decision.

If the Torres vs. Cummo fight was the first time that each man fought during TUF 2, then the New York Times article did not give away anything. On the other hand, if either Torres or Cummo did fight at least one time on the show before they fought each other, that would mean that the New York Times indirectly gave away the fact that Torres or Cummo won their first fight, because otherwise it would not have been possible for a Torres vs. Cummo match to take place. (Example: If Torres fights "Contestant A" before he fights Cummo, we know that Torres beats "Contestant A," due to the New York Times' disclosure that Torres and Cummo fight at some point.)

As it stands right now through three episodes, there are seven heavyweights and seven welterweights remaining on the show. The seven remaining heavyweights are Brad Imes, Dan Christison, Keith Jardine, Mike Whitehead, Rashad Evans, Seth Petruzelli, and Tom Murphy. The seven remaining welterweights are Anthony Torres, Jason Von Flue, Joe Stevenson, Jorge Gurgel, Luke Cummo, Marcus Davis, and Sammy Morgan.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Fox Sports Net is Very Concerned about Violence in Pride's Fights
Although the announcement at the recent "Pride: Final Conflict 2005" event made it seem like Pride has a relationship with Fox Sports Net that is similar to the UFC's relationship with Spike TV, that could not be further from the truth.

While the UFC is being paid a "rights fee" by Spike TV for every single episode of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Unleashed, and UFC Ultimate Fight Night that is produced, the business nature of Pride's relationship with FSN is the opposite. Pride's agreement with FSN is simply that FSN is allowing Pride to buy one hour of programming space per month, in much the same way that an infomercial would have its air-time purchased. While the monthly Pride show will air on FSN in primetime (Sundays at 9:00 PM), it's still the equivalent of an infomercial from a business standpoint.

Far more troubling to Pride executives, and to MMA fans in general, is the fact that Fox Sports Net continues to be very concerned about what it perceives as "excessive violence" in MMA fights. As was the case when FSN was airing old UFC fights, FSN has made it very clear that it is not interested in airing any significant amount of footage that involves a fighter being pounded on the ground, or anything else that FSN deems to be "excessively violent."

Fox Sports Net's policy has already reared its ugly head, as the first Pride broadcast that aired on FSN was significantly changed due to the network's concerns about violence. Pride had planned to show Fedor Emelianenko's fight with Gary Goodridge, in which Emelianenko immediately overwhelmed Goodridge in the stand-up and then pounded him on the ground, until the fight was stopped approximately 70 seconds after it began.

However, FSN deemed the Emelianenko vs. Goodridge fight to be "too violent" to air on its network, due to the brutal ground-and-pound. Pride had to replace that fight with a different Emelianenko fight, and they chose Emelianenko vs. Kazuyuki Fujita, which was apparently not deemed "too violent" by FSN.

Having to change which Fedor Emelianenko fight they included in their broadcast did not significantly alter the broadcast, but something else did. Pride wanted to establish that Vanderlei Silva is several levels above Chuck Liddell on the 205-pound food chain, and they wanted to do this by showing Quinton Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell (which Jackson dominated), followed by an airing of Vanderlei Silva's first fight with Quinton Jackson (which Silva dominated).

While FSN had no problems with the content of the Jackson-Liddell fight, FSN deemed the first Silva-Jackson fight to be "too violent," even though it didn't have much ground-and-pound in it. FSN also deemed the second Silva-Jackson fight to be "too violent." It's not an easy task to find a Vanderlei Silva fight that isn't a very violent fight, and Pride eventually had to settle for Vanderlei Silva's 2003 fight with Kazushi Sakuraba, which FSN agreed to air because it was a stand-up fight that ended from one big punch, as opposed to a continuous flurry of knees and punches or anything else that may be deemed "excessively violent."

It's not yet known which fights Pride would like to air on its next monthly FSN broadcast, but the network continues to be very concerned about what it views as excessive violence in MMA fights. Unfortunately for all MMA fans, this is something that is not going to change unless FSN's executives have a huge change in attitude.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC 54 Draws Second-Biggest Live Gate in UFC History
The UFC drew the second-biggest live gate in the history of MMA in the United States with UFC 54, which took place on Saturday, August 20th. The event, which was headlined by Chuck Liddell vs. Jeremy Horn, drew a live gate of $2,336,550.

That amount is second only to UFC 52, which was headlined by Liddell vs. Randy Couture and drew a live gate of $2,575,450. No other MMA event in the United States has ever come close to the $2 million figure, with the previous record belonging to UFC 40 and its $1.5 million live gate.

However, Zuffa's claims of UFC 54 having over 13,500 fans in attendance are exaggerated, and those claims were repeated by the UFC in an interview with the Las Vegas Business Press. In fact, UFC 54 had a paid attendance of 11,634 fans, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The number of free "comp" tickets given out by PR people was 1,171.

Even if you combine the paid tickets with the comp tickets to determine that the total attendance in the building was 12,805, that's still less than 13,500. The company has just legitimately drawn the second-highest live gate in UFC history, which makes the "13,500" claim all the more puzzling and unnecessary.

When comparing UFC 54 with UFC 52, the amount of advertising that promoted the pay-per-view on Spike TV was far higher for UFC 52 than it was for UFC 54, as was the marquee value of the main event. This makes it all the more remarkable that the UFC was able to sell so many tickets and draw such a huge live gate for UFC 54.

The ticket prices for UFC 54 were only slightly down from UFC 52, as the average ticket price went from $204 to $201. Both of these events blow away the "UFC Ultimate Fight Night" event that took place on August 6th, which had an average ticket price of $140 and still only had 929 paid tickets.

Overall, 91 percent of the fans who were in the building had to pay for their tickets at UFC 54, which compares favorably to 86 percent for UFC 52, and a paltry 38 percent for Ultimate Fight Night.

Given that UFC 54 had a live gate of $2,336,550 and a total fighter payroll of $635,000, the fighters as a whole were paid approximately 27% of the live gate. For comparison, UFC 52 had a live gate of $2,575,450 and a total fighter payroll of $519,500, meaning that the fighters as a whole were paid approximately 20% of the live gate at UFC 52.

That's not always the case, as the total fighter payroll actually exceeded the live gate at the Ultimate Fight Night event on August 6th. That event had a live gate of $130,410 and a total fighter payroll of $139,000, meaning that the fighters were actually paid 107 percent of the live gate.

However, the UFC has a lot more expenses than just the fighter payroll, and the company also has a lot more revenue than just ticket sales. For pay-per-view events, the other big source of income is obviously pay-per-view revenue. For live Spike TV events like Ultimate Fight Night, other sources of income for the UFC include advertising revenue and rights fees that Spike TV pays the UFC.

Mixed Martial Arts--- K-1 USA Attendance Down in August Compared to April
The K-1 USA event that was held in Las Vegas on August 13th drew a significantly lower live gate than the promotion's April 30th event. K-1 sold 1,034 tickets and gave away 2,243 free "comp" tickets to an August 13th show that was not broadcast on pay-per-view, which adds up to a total attendance of 3,277. The total live gate was $107,900.

Previously, the K-1 USA event that was held on April 30th, 2005 had 3,119 paid tickets and 1,760 comp tickets, for a total attendance of 4,879 and a total live gate of $256,250.

In total, approximately 64 percent of the fans in attendance at the April 30th event actually paid for their tickets, but only 32 percent of the fans in attendance at the August 13th event had to pay for their tickets. The average price of each ticket sold was $104 for the August 13th event, which was up significantly from the average price of $82 for a ticket to the April 30th event.

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