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

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Controlling the Flow of Information
It's a very proud day (or not) in free speech. Independent MMA web site Sherdog.com was prevented yesterday from covering a UFC weigh-in that was supposedly "open to the public."

Excerpt from an article on Sherdog: "UFC president Dana White, who said he ordered Wenk to remove Sherdog.com, has repeatedly suggested his company has not placed a 'ban' on mixed martial arts media. He has also insinuated that sites like Sherdog.com are free to cover the UFC, but without the benefit of media credentials. This is the first time the UFC has prevented Sherdog.com from covering an open-to-the public event."

I have made numerous posts about this on the following forum thread on the MMAWeekly Forum: http://forums.mmaweekly.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=4991.

Among the posts I've made:

In response to someone implying that the reason for this action is because of negative articles on Sherdog about the UFC: "Right, because a publication writing something negative about a company that they cover is surely reasonable grounds for that publication to no longer be able to cover the company that they wrote something negative about. Just as long as you don't write anything negative about a company, you can continue to cover that company all you want. I think I remember being taught that in journalism class. (sarcasm intended)"

In response to people basically saying that they don't like Sherdog.com, so they don't really care that this happened: "This is not about the merits of Sherdog.com versus the merits of MMAWeekly, or any other web site. This is about independent MMA journalism. The fact is, MMAWeekly and Full Contact Fighter got their media credentials pulled the exact same way that Sherdog.com did. What's different now is that while Zuffa has always had the plausible deniability in the past that the independent MMA media could still cover UFC events just the same, they have now prevented members of the independent MMA media from doing thier job at an event that was supposedly 'open to the public.' ... I hope that you can look at the bigger picture beyond just saying basically, 'I don't like Sherdog.com, so I'm glad this happened.' Again, it was not just Sherdog.com who were denied media credentials, it was MMAWeekly, Sherdog.com, and Full Contact Fighter, the top three independent MMA news outlets in North America."

In response to someone saying that "this whole mess wouldn't have started" if the UFC had posted a notice about any filming restrictions: "This is not a 'mess that started' on June 27th. It started last September when Zuffa pulled the media credentials of the top three most-read independent MMA publications in North America. All that happened on June 27th is that Zuffa lost its plausible deniability that the independent MMA media could still cover UFC events just the same as they always did."

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Monday, June 26, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- IFL Announcement Raises New Questions
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

As has been speculated in MMAWeekly's Rumors section for over a week, the IFL has announced that the company's next two shows will take place on September 9th in Portland, Oregon, and on September 23rd in Moline, Illinois.

In addition, all of the teams in the IFL now have a team name that includes the city where the team is based. On September 9th in Portland, Oregon, the Matt Lindland-coached Portland Wolfpack will take on Maurice Smith's Seattle Tiger Sharks in a five-fight team series. On the same card, Bas Rutten's Los Angeles Anacondas will take on Antonio Inoki's Tokyo Dragons.

Two weeks after the Portland event, the IFL's next show will take place on September 23rd in Moline, Illinois. That show will feature a super-fight between Renzo Gracie and Pat Miletich, who will be fighting for the first time since 2002. On the same night, Pat Miletich's Quad City Silverbacks will be taking on Renzo Gracie's New York Pitbulls in a team series. Another team battle on September 23rd will pit two of the IFL's new teams against each other, as Mark Coleman's Columbus (Ohio) Razor Claws will take on Carlos Newton's Toronto Dragons.

Both of these shows are expected to air nationally on Fox Sports Net at some point, but the specific details and air dates have not yet been determined.

In addition to what the IFL did say, the company's official announcement has raised several interesting questions in what wasn't said. While the Gracie vs. Miletich super-fight was announced for the September 23rd card, there was no super-fight announced for the September 9th card. This might simply mean that there is no super-fight scheduled for the September 9th card (as it is, there will be ten fights on the card), but it could also mean that something is still in the works.

Among the coaches on the September 9th card in Portland, Maurice Smith and Antonio Inoki are not active MMA fighters, and Bas Rutten will be fighting on the WFA's July pay-per-view for the first time in seven years, so he's not likely to be fighting with such frequency that he would be back in the ring less than two months after his WFA fight.

That would presumably leave Matt Lindland to face someone who is not an IFL coach, if indeed there's going to be a super-fight on the Portland card. Lindland could face any number of opponents, but one possible opponent who immediately comes to mind is Jeremy Horn, given the fact that Horn's UFC contract just expired after he went 2-0 in the UFC's middleweight division.

Horn has not signed with the IFL as far as I'm aware, but it's a scenario that would make a lot of sense and would pit two of the world's top middleweights against each other. Horn, who is based in Salt Lake City, would also make a good coach in the IFL if the company decides to add more new coaches in the future.

Another question that has to be raised is whether Carlos Newton and/or Mark Coleman are going to have one or more super-fights in the IFL now that both are officially on-board as IFL coaches.

Carlos Newton hasn't fought since 2004, but the possibilities for match-ups with other IFL coaches are numerous. Newton vs. Miletich would be particularly intriguing given the fact that Newton is one of just six fighters who have beaten Miletich in his 40+ fight career.

Mark Coleman's last fight was in February of this year against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in Pride, a fight that ended when Shogun landed awkwardly and dislocated his elbow. One of Coleman's Hammer House pupils, Wes Sims, recently lost to Daniel Gracie in an IFL super-fight, so a follow-up match with Coleman vs. Daniel Gracie could be interesting.

With the announcement of the team cities and names in the IFL, several positive and negative factors arise. The key to live attendance in mixed martial arts is generating interest specifically in the local market. The Strikeforce promotion reiterated that point when it broke the all-time North American paid attendance record earlier this year, in great part by making its show feel like a must-see event to everyone who lives in San Jose.

A promotion can't just go into a new town and expect to draw money at the live gate right off the bat if there's no local tie-in, and the city/team names will almost certainly help with that. The hometown teams could also generate tremendous crowd heat during the shows, and might also increase the chances (or at least make the chances higher than zero) that someone from Portland, for example, might buy a t-shirt that says, "Portland Wolfpack."

The obvious downside to having teams with specific city designations is that it could turn off viewers who aren't from one of the host cities, and the IFL still needs to draw TV ratings. This is not unlike what professional sports leagues like the NBA have to face when the only teams left are Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks... ratings go through the roof in Miami and Dallas, but the ratings in the rest of the country rise or fall based on how much the public at large cares or doesn't care about the teams.

The interest level, and thus the ratings, for specific games during the NBA and NFL seasons are consistently determined on a week-by-week basis by these two questions: "How many people from these two local markets want to see their teams compete?" and "How many people who aren't from either of these two markets still care about these teams enough to want to see them compete?"

If the answer to the first question is that they are both small-market teams, and the answer to the second question is that not many people outside of those two markets care enough to want to see those two teams compete, that's how you get low ratings for Monday Night Football on a particular week. That's how you get the kind of low ratings for the NBA Finals that the match-up of the Detroit Pistons vs. the San Antonio Spurs produced in June of 2005.

It remains to be seen how the average TV viewer will react when he or she hears about the IFL's next FSN show or stumbles upon it while flipping channels. Only time will tell if viewers are going to see a team match-up such as the Seattle Tiger Sharks vs. the Portland Wolfpack and say, "I'm not from Portland or Seattle, so I don't really care," or whether they will still be interested in seeing the match-up based purely on the merits of the teams or an enjoyment of the sport in general.

For the viewers who are MMA fans in general, but who might look at the team match-ups and say, "I'm not from City A or City B, so I don't really care," the IFL needs to provide these viewers a reason to stick around by giving them some of the aforementioned super-fights, or other fights that would appeal to a broader audience.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- K-1 Event to Air on Pay-Per-View with Shorter Tape Delay
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

MMAWeekly has learned that for the first time since K-1 lost its United States pay-per-view distribution deal with ESPN last year, a K-1 event is scheduled to air on American PPV with a tape delay of less than one week. A K-1 USA event will take place in Las Vegas on Saturday, August 12th, and the event will debut on American pay-per-view six days later on Friday, August 18th.

In addition to several superfights that have not yet been announced or even determined, this event will feature an eight-man tournament, with the winner getting a spot in the final sixteen of this year's K-1 World Grand Prix in Japan. The winner of last year's K-1 World Grand Prix was Semmy Schilt.

The currently scheduled six-day tape delay for this K-1 event is a far cry from live PPV for American events, or a same-day tape delay for international events.

However, it's also much shorter than the several-month tape delays that K-1 events have had ever since Integrated Sports, a sports marketing company, picked up the United States PPV distribution rights for K-1 events earlier this year.

While Zuffa's decision to raise the price of UFC pay-per-view events to $39.95 has led a domino effect of sorts, this has not yet extended to K-1 in the United States.

Following Zuffa's decision to go with the $39.95 price point, Pride raised the price of its non-Bushido PPV events to $34.95 (up from $29.95), the WFA decided to charge $34.95 for an event that might have otherwise carried a $29.95 price tag, and even World Wrestling Entertainment decided to raise the price of its PPV events to $39.95 (up from $34.95) in order to avoid being seen as "beneath" the UFC on the PPV totem pole.

Despite the price increases of other organizations, K-1 has made the decision to stick with the $29.95 price point in the United States, at least for now.

Prior to the K-1 USA pay-per-view in August, two K-1 events that took place in May will debut on American pay-per-view in July, as previously reported by MMAWeekly.

One of these two events is a K-1 Hero's event, which marks the first time that an event from K-1's growing MMA promotion will air on American pay-per-view.

The K-1 Hero's show that took place in Japan on May 3rd will debut on American PPV on Friday, July 14th. Following that, the K-1 Amsterdam show that took place on May 13th will debut on American PPV on Friday, July 28th.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing--- HBO Boxing's Jim Lampley Bashes MMA
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The voice of HBO Boxing, Jim Lampley, bashed the sport of MMA earlier this month during his guest-hosting gig on Jim Rome's show.

While UFC president Dana White continues to say, as recently as earlier this month in the Washington Post, that the UFC is "coming soon" to HBO, it seems pretty clear that Lampley does not approve and will not be rolling out the welcome mat when or if the UFC does sign with HBO.

Lampley said that while boxing is a real sport, UFC events are nothing more than a bunch of bar fights. Lampley showed no respect for MMA or its competitors, even saying that MMA fighters are "not athletes."

Mixed martial arts and the UFC were repeatedly referred to as "no-holds-barred fighting" by Lampley, even though that hasn't been true since 1994. He apparently didn't even get the proverbial memo about how Zuffa added all of the rules in 2001.

Lampley went on to say that any of the top fighters from the UFC or K-1 would lose very quickly to a top boxer. That may be true in a boxing match, but it would certainly not be true in an MMA fight.

Even if an MMA fighter did beat a top boxer in an MMA fight, Lampley said it would "mean nothing" because "it's a bar fight," and he could go to a bar at any time if he wanted to see a bar fight.

Regarding the popularity of MMA in the United States, Lampley said that the UFC will never be bigger than boxing, which is already a factually incorrect statement when it comes to TV ratings and all but the biggest boxing pay-per-views.

Lampley, who has come under fire from some boxing fans in the past for "cheerleading" the HBO-backed fighter in many major boxing matches, is not exactly Mr. Credibility, so his comments should not come as much of a surprise. As the long-time play-by-play man for HBO Boxing, Lampley is also a major player in the old-school boxing crowd, the majority of which feels very threatened by MMA as it continues to chip away at boxing's audience.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Flat as Season Comes to an End
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Episode Eleven of The Ultimate Fighter 3, which aired at 10:00 PM on Thursday, June 15th, drew an overall rating of 1.5. Episode Twelve, which aired at 11:00 PM immediately after Episode Eleven, drew an overall rating of 1.4. These were two of the lowest ratings of the season for The Ultimate Fighter, but are still excellent ratings for cable television.

After drawing ratings in the 1.8 to 1.9 range for its seventh, eighth, and ninth episodes, the last three episodes of TUF 3's regular season drew overall ratings of 1.5, 1.5. and 1.4. While the head-to-head competition from the NBA Finals undoubtedly deserves some of the blame for those decreases, it would simply not be accurate to put all of the blame on the NBA Finals.

In fact, the vast majority of The Ultimate Fighter's second season went head-to-head with Monday Night Football on ABC, a series that drew better ratings for a down week than the NBA Finals generates for its highest-rated games.

While TUF 3 has had to go head-to-head with the NBA Finals for the past two weeks, those two games have only drawn ratings of 6.6 and 6.8. On the other hand, the Monday Night Football games that went head-to-head with TUF 2 ranged from 8.4 to 12.7 in the ratings, with an average rating of 10.0 in those weeks. Though the games of the NBA Finals are the pinnacle of the NBA season, they are not some kind of unstoppable force that crush everything in their path in the ratings.

Ratings Specifics for Episodes Eleven and Twelve
Episode Eleven of The Ultimate Fighter 3 showed the smallest amount of audience growth throughout the hour of any TUF episode this season. The show started off with a 1.5 quarter-hour rating, and peaked with a 1.6 quarter-hour rating for the fight between Ed Herman and Rory Singer.

There were apparently a significant number of TUF viewers who were not aware that there was going to be was going to be a second new episode of TUF airing at 11:00 PM on Thursday night, because the quarter-hour rating immediately fell off from 1.6 to 1.3 for the beginning of Episode Twelve.

The fight between Josh Haynes and Jesse Forbes in the next quarter-hour only drew a 1.3 quarter-hour rating. For whatever reason, the two least-watched fights of the season both involved Jesse Forbes. Episode Twelve rebounded slightly by improving to a 1.6 quarter-hour rating for the fight between Michael Bisping and Ross Pointon.

In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the two episodes averaged a 2.3 rating over the course of the two-hour period, which ties those two episodes with Episode Two as the lowest-rated episodes of the season in the advertiser-coveted demographic.

In the slightly broader demographic of 18-to-49-year-old males, Episode Eleven drew a 1.9 rating, making it among the lowest-rated episodes of the season in that demographic, but not quite at the bottom. Episode Twelve drew a 1.6 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, which was the lowest rating of the season in that demo.

End of TUF 3 Regular Season vs. End of Previous Regular Seasons
The last two episodes of any given season of The Ultimate Fighter have always featured the second, third, and fourth of the four semi-final fights to determine who will go on to the finals. In these two episodes, TUF 3 performed better than TUF 2 in the ratings, but did not come close to TUF 1's season-closing numbers.

Specifically, Episode Eleven of TUF 3 (featuring Ed Herman's victory over Rory Singer) drew an overall rating of 1.5, while Episode Eleven of the second season (featuring Rashad Evans' victory over Keith Jardine) drew an overall rating of 1.3. Episode Eleven of the first season (featuring Diego Sanchez' victory over Josh Koscheck) tied the series' all-time high overall rating of 2.0, which is a record that still stands today.

Episode Twelve of TUF 3 (featuring Josh Haynes' victory over Jesse Forbes, and Michael Bisping's victory over Ross Pointon) drew an overall rating of 1.4, which fell short of the 1.7 overall rating that was drawn by Episode Twelve of the first season (featuring Forrest Griffin's victory over Sam Hoger, and Stephan Bonnar's victory over Mike Swick). For the final regular episode of the second season (featuring Joe Stevenson's victory over Jason Flue, and Brad Imes' victory over Seth Petruzelli), Spike TV chose to air it on a Tuesday night instead of the show's usual Monday night timeslot, and the disastrous result was an overall rating of 0.9.

An important note related to these numbers is that just because TUF 3's regular season ended on a flat note in the ratings does not necessarily mean that the live season finale will disappoint in the ratings. Right after TUF 2 ended its regular season with two enormously disappointing ratings, the live season finale set the company's all-time record for a live fight special with a 2.0 overall rating. The expectations for TUF 3's live season finale are huge, given the fact that this season performed so much better than the second season in the ratings.

The live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 3 will air on Saturday, June 24th from 9:00 PM to 12:00 AM. Leading into the finale will be a rebroadcast of all twelve episodes from this season, which will air from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM on June 24th. The first episode of the season, which originally aired in 90-minute form, as been edited down to fit into a 60-minute block.

Without any additional new episodes of TUF before the live season finale, this Thursday night's line-up on Spike TV will simply be a rebroadcast of Episodes Eleven and Twelve, which will air from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Thursday, June 22nd.

The Finals are Set, and Pro Wrestling Starts Ten Minutes Early on Spike TV
With all of the semi-final bouts now having aired on Spike TV (the last of them took place on February 24th), the finals are set to be Michael Bisping vs. Josh Haynes in the light heavyweight division, and Ed Herman vs. Kendall Grove in the middleweight division. Bisping and Herman were the two favorites headed into the season, with Bisping as a particularly strong favorite in a light heavyweight division that consisted of mostly inexperienced fighters.

The product placement was back on the final regular season episodes (actual quote from Episode Twelve: "These new Amp'd Mobile phones are actually televisions!"), and so was Matt Hamill after he disappeared from the show with almost no explanation on Episode Ten. Hamill would have had to fight two times in a three-day period in order to compete in the last light heavyweight semi-final fight, and the doctors simply were not going to allow that due to his arm injury and concussion.

Coming back with Hamill was the trademark Ric Flair cry of, "Whooo!" which Hamill did earlier in the season, and which was also done by Spencer Fisher, complete with the Ric Flair strut, after his win at UFC 60. Given what happened in the final minutes of Episode Twelve, it's ironic that the UFC did not want to acknowledge why fighters were yelling "Whooo!" in order to avoid the pro wrestling connection.

I could have sworn that the evening's pro wrestling entertainment was scheduled to begin last week at 12:00 AM when TNA Impact went on the air, but instead it started a few minutes early at the end of The Ultimate Fighter 3. As all of the fighters were about to leave the gym for the last time, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock might as well have turned to the cameras and said, "Oh, wait... we need to do another worked pull-apart." The ensuing pull-apart scene could have easily been mistaken for any number of pull-aparts on most episodes of TNA Impact, or any other pro wrestling show.

After Ken Shamrock accused Tito Ortiz of trying to "look like a nice guy" for the cameras all season long, the subsequent cursing and shoving required several of the season's contestants to break up what would have surely been a fist-fight between two men who truly hate each other so very, very much. Dana White could barely contain his Cheshire Cat grin as all of this was taking place. Zuffa, Ortiz, and Shamrock each stand to profit directly from their share of the PPV sales that this whole "they really, really hate each other" farce is sure to generate.

In a big oversight, the same editors who did such a good job of removing any reference to Ric Flair by name failed to remove the part where Ken Shamrock actually said on camera, "I put him [Ortiz] over the first time!" While that particular line was undoubtedly just Shamrock trying to minimize the result of his first fight with Ortiz, that kind of terminology is, again, something that you would normally see on a pro wrestling show.

Other Thursday Night Ratings
Airing head-to-head with UFC Unleashed and both hours of The Ultimate Fighter on Thursday, June 15th was Game 4 of The NBA Finals on ABC, which drew a 6.8 overall rating. This was almost identical to Game 1's overall rating of 6.6 one week earlier.

In addition to the NBA on ABC, the first hour of The Ultimate Fighter on June 15th (from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM) also went head-to-head with a repeat of CBS' Without a Trace, which drew an overall rating of 7.6 and once again beat the NBA Finals, as well as the second episode of the NBC drama Windfall, which drew a 5.2 overall rating.

The second hour of TUF on June 15th, airing from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM, went head-to-head in its second half with NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno (4.2 overall rating) and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman (3.8 overall rating).

The repeat of UFC Unleashed that aired from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Thursday, June 15th drew an overall rating of 1.1, which was up from the previous week's 0.9 overall rating.

Airing head-to-head with that hour of UFC Unleashed were a repeat of CBS' CSI (7.6 overall rating), Dateline NBC's interview with a semi-coherent Britney Spears (6.0 overall rating), and a new episode of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (5.0 overall rating).

The pro wrestling show TNA Impact drew an overall rating of 0.8 in its one-week-only move to midnight on the night of June 15th, which was down from the show's average but was also a strong rating for a show that was airing from 12:00 AM to 1:00 AM.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- K-1 Hero's To Debut on U.S. Pay-Per-View
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Hero's, the MMA promotion operated by K-1, is scheduled to make its debut on American pay-per-view next month.

Airing on a two month tape delay, the Hero's event that took place on May 3rd in Tokyo, Japan will debut on American PPV on Friday, July 14th.

The May 3rd Hero's show featured Japanese MMA stars such as Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, Caol Uno, Hideo Tokoro (a 150-pound fighter who fought Royce Gracie to a draw last December), Yoshihiro Takiyama, and Kazuyuki Miyata, as well as a special attraction match with Don Frye taking on Chad "Akebono" Rowan.

This development brings to five the number of MMA promotions that have widespread PPV distribution in the United States: UFC, Pride, Hero's, WFA, and King of the Cage.

MMAWeekly has also learned that the K-1 Amsterdam show that took place on May 13th will debut on American PPV on Friday, July 28th. This was the event (with K-1's usual kickboxing rules) that was supposed to feature the super-fight main event of Bob Sapp vs. Ernesto Hoost, but Sapp pulled out in the middle of the show and was replaced by Peter Aerts, who had been doing color commentary up until that point in the show.

While it's better late than never for fans in the United States who want to see these events, it remains to be seen if K-1 events will move back to having a more timely U.S. broadcasting schedule at any time in the future. When K-1 lost its deal with ESPN PPV in the United States last summer, over six months passed without any K-1 events airing on American pay-per-view.

Integrated Sports, a California-based sports marketing company, picked up the American PPV distribution rights to K-1 shows earlier this year, but has only aired the shows on tape delays of a few weeks or months. There has yet to be a K-1 show distributed by Integrated Sports that has aired on U.S. PPV on a one- or two-week tape delay, much less the 18-hour tape delay that American fight fans have come to expect.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Decrease as Semi-Finals Begin
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

As the semi-finals began, Episode Ten of The Ultimate Fighter 3 drew an overall rating of 1.5, which was the second lowest rating of the season, only topping Episode Two.

While some of this decrease can be attributed to the fact that Episode Ten went head-to-head with the MTV Movie Awards and NBA Finals, that factor can only account for some of the ratings decrease. It would not be accurate to put all of the blame on the NBA Finals and MTV Movie Awards. In fact, the latest episode of TNA Impact, airing immediately after TUF 3, had to go head-to-head with the final hour of the NBA Finals game and a replay of the MTV Movie Awards, and yet Impact still drew its average overall rating (1.0).

It's also important to note that even though it is down from recent weeks, this week's TUF rating of 1.5 is still an excellent rating for a cable television show. If anything, it's the mark of a successful TV show when even a "down week" in the ratings is still producing strong numbers.

Semi-Final Ratings Down Compared to Previous Seasons
Episode Ten has always been the episode in which the semi-finals get underway in any given season of The Ultimate Fighter, and this season was no exception. The difference is that Episode Ten of the first season (featuring Kenny Florian vs. Chris Leben) and Episode Ten of the second season (featuring Luke Cummo vs. Sam Morgan) both drew significantly higher ratings than the previous week's episode, largely because of the allure of the semi-finals getting underway. The opposite was true with this season's Episode Ten, which drew a 1.5 overall rating one week after Episode Nine drew a 1.8 overall rating.

In comparing the tenth episode (and the start of the semi-finals) between all three seasons, the first season generated the best ratings. Episode Ten of the first season drew a 1.7 overall rating, compared to a 1.5 overall rating for Episode Ten of the third season, and a 1.4 overall rating for Episode Ten of the second season.

In terms of quarter-hour ratings, Episode Ten of TUF 3 started off with a 1.3 quarter-hour rating, and that number grew steadily to 1.4, 1.5, and 1.6 in the subsequent quarter-hours. The quarter-hour rating of 1.6 that was drawn by the fight between Kendall Grove and Kalib Starnes made it second least watched individual fight of the season, only topping the fight between Noah Inhofer and Jesse Forbes.

Three Fights in One Night as the Semi-Finals End This Week
As previously reported by MMAWeekly, the last two regular-season episodes of TUF 3 will air back-to-back on Thursday, June 15th. Saving Episode Twelve for June 22nd would have given Spike TV just two days to run the commercials that will advertise the specific fights that will be on the June 24th live season finale.

The light heavyweight semi-final bouts will be Michael Bisping vs. Ross Pointon, and Josh Haynes vs. Jesse Forbes. After defeating Mike Nickels in a one-sided fight on the previous episode of TUF, despite having what appeared to be a severe arm injury, Matt Hamill was unable to continue in the competition due to his arm injury and had to be hospitalized.

Since Hamill couldn't return, the producers of TUF filmed Hamill making a brief statement and vowing to be back someday... oh, wait a minute, no they didn't. Instead, Hamill's departure was barely acknowledged, and clips aired with people talking about how sloppy of a job he did in his victory against Nickels. It is nothing short of mind-boggling that someone, anyone, could suffer a major arm injury, choose to fight anyway, be the proverbial one-armed man in an ass-kicking contest who actually wins instead of losing, have to leave the show because of that arm injury, and then get buried for it on his way out.

With Hamill's departure leaving a void in the semi-finals, we learned that Jesse Forbes actually did something remarkable earlier this season. He accepted the invitation to come back to the show. You would think that anyone would take that offer, but on Episode Ten, Tait Fletcher and Kristian Rothaermel chose not to return to the competition after Hamill had to leave the show.

Fortunately, the viewing public did not have to sit through another tough guy speech when this happened. Unfortunately, a fighter with a losing record in MMA who previously lost in the middleweight competition is now in the light heavyweight semi-finals. Ross Pointon was put into that role and matched up against Michael Bisping, and the overwhelmingly likely result is that Bisping will win easily and move into the finals. Any of the middleweights who previously lost their fights could have been put in that spot, but Pointon was chosen for a reason. Booking fights in which one fighter is overwhelmingly likely to win has become a trend in the UFC, and it has only become less subtle with cases like Bisping vs. Pointon, Ortiz vs. Shamrock, and Hughes vs. Gracie.

The middleweight semi-finals are much more clear-cut, with Kendall Grove having defeated Kalib Starnes in one of the middleweight semi-finals, while Ed Herman will face Rory Singer in the other semi-final.

Other Thursday Night Ratings
Game 1 of the NBA Finals on ABC aired head-to-head with the entire "Thursday Night Knockouts" block of programming on Spike TV on Thursday, June 8th. The first game of the NBA Finals drew an overall rating of 6.6, which is slightly less than the 7.1 average rating for the NBA Finals last year.

Also airing head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter on June 8th was a repeat of CBS' Without a Trace, which beat the NBA Finals by drawing a 7.8 overall rating. On NBC, the series premiere of the NBC summer drama Windfall drew an overall rating of 5.9, which is much better than the ratings that ER repeats usually draw in the timeslot.

The episode of UFC Unleashed that aired from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM on June 8th drew an overall rating of 0.9. It aired head-to-head with not only the NBA Finals, but also a repeat of CBS' CSI (8.3 overall rating), a new episode of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (6.2 overall rating, which was up significantly from the previous week), and two repeats of NBC's My Name is Earl (which averaged a 4.1 overall rating in the hour).

Airing immediately after The Ultimate Fighter on June 8th was TNA Impact, which drew a strong overall rating of 1.0, despite going head-to-head with the final hour of the NBA game. After breaking the 1.0 barrier only a few times in company history as of two months ago, TNA Impact has drawn an overall rating of 1.0 or higher for the past five consecutive weeks.

June 8th was the last date of the season that TNA Impact will have a new episode of TUF as a lead-in while still airing in its normal timeslot. On June 15th, TNA Impact doesn't hit the airwaves until 12:00 AM due to the double airing of The Ultimate Fighter. On June 22nd, two repeats of The Ultimate Fighter will serve as TNA Impact's lead-in. On June 29th, an encore airing of a UFC live fight special will be airing before Impact.

Starting on July 6th, a European comedy will be TNA's new lead-in. Impact will regain the TUF lead-in on August 17th, but one would certainly think that by the time August 17th rolls around, TNA will have been given a second hour, moved to primetime, or both.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Karo Parisyan vs. Diego Sanchez Set for TUF 4 Lead-In Show
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Spike TV and Zuffa have scheduled an Ultimate Fight Night event for Thursday, August 17th with the main event of Karo Parisyan vs. Diego Sanchez.

MMAWeekly's Rumors section previously noted that Parisyan and Sanchez were going to be fighting in August, and that fight has now been moved from the UFC 62 pay-per-view (on August 26th) to the Ultimate Fight Night broadcast on August 17th.

The date of the Parisyan vs. Sanchez fight, and the fact that the fight is scheduled to happen in the first place, has also been confirmed by a graphic on Diego Sanchez' official web site.

The August 17th live fight special will air from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM and will serve as the lead-in to the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback.

After the strong ratings that were drawn when a live "Ultimate Fight Night" event served as the lead-in to the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 3 back in April, it only makes sense that Spike TV and Zuffa are doing it again.

All of the UFC's previous live fight specials, as well as the upcoming specials on June 24th and 28th, have taken place in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, as of today, Zuffa has not made a request with the Nevada State Athletic Commission to hold an event in the state of Nevada on August 17th. This could mean that Zuffa is planning to venture outside of Nevada for the first time on Spike TV, or it could simply mean that Zuffa has not yet secured a venue for August 17th in the state of Nevada.

Karo Parisyan had been publicly promised a shot at the UFC Welterweight Title after he won three consecutive fights in the UFC, which were against Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle, and Matt Serra. Parisyan was scheduled to fight for the title against Matt Hughes last November, but Parisyan injured his quadriceps in training and had to pull out of the fight. Parisyan seemingly lost his status as a top contender due to the fact that he got injured, as his next fight in the Octagon was a victory over Nick Thompson, who was making his UFC debut.

After winning the middleweight competition in dominant fashion on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Sanchez moved to the welterweight division, where he won back-to-back fights with impressive performances against Brian Gassaway and Nick Diaz. The latter is one of the most-watched fights in UFC history, as it was the main event on the UFC's most-watched live fight special in history. Last week at UFC 60, Sanchez won a close fight via judges' decision over John Alessio.

While it's rumored that BJ Penn believes he should get the first title shot against the winner of this fall's battle between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Title, one could certainly make the case that the winner of the Parisyan vs. Sanchez fight should receive that distinction instead.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter 3 Draws Huge Rating in Key Age Group
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Episode Nine of The Ultimate Fighter 3 achieved the impressive feat of drawing more 18-to-34-year-old male viewers than any other show on television in its timeslot. From 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM on June 1st, no other show drew more viewers in the advertiser-coveted demographic, and that includes every cable channel and every network TV channel.

Second-Highest Ever Rating in Key Demo for TUF; Ad Rates Sure to Increase
Episode Nine drew an overall rating of 1.8, which is the same as Episode Eight's overall rating. The difference is that while Episode Eight drew a 2.8 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, Episode Nine drew an incredible 3.4 in that demographic. Only one regular episode (non-season-finale) of The Ultimate Fighter in series history has drawn a higher rating among 18-to-34-year-old males, and that was the third season premiere with its 3.7 rating.

This kind of ratings increase does not affect the UFC's finances immediately because the commercials for Season Three have already been sold, but it does raise the image of the company and the season's average ratings. This will almost surely lead to a sizable increase in the ad rates for Season Four of TUF. For Season Three of TUF, the cost of a 30-second commercial is approximately $3,500, which adds up to approximately $112,000 in ad revenue for each airing.

As 18-to-34-year-old males become increasingly difficult for advertisers to reach in general, and as long as that demographic continues to flock to the UFC in near-record numbers, advertising rates are going to increase in a hurry.

In terms of overall ratings, TUF 3 is performing significantly better than the first two seasons were at the same point. While Episode Nine of the third season drew a 1.8 overall rating, Episode Nine of the first season (featuring Forrest Griffin vs. Alex Schoenauer) drew a 1.5 overall rating. Episode Nine of the second season (featuring Rashad Evans vs. Mike Whitehead) was actually the low point in series history from a ratings standpoint, as it drew an overall rating of just 1.1. The Ultimate Fighter 3 has now drawn overall ratings of 1.7 or higher for the past five consecutive weeks, which has never happened before in the history of the series.

Episode Nine of TUF 3 started with a 1.6 quarter-hour rating, and peaked with a 2.0 quarter-hour rating for the fight between Matt Hamill and Mike Nickels.

Semi-Finalists Are Now Set; Possible Semi-Final Match-Ups
With Matt Hamill dominating Mike Nickels in the final preliminary fight, despite having an injured arm that he could barely use, the complete semi-finals for The Ultimate Fighter 3 are now set. The light-heavyweight semi-finals will consist of Matt Hamill, Michael Bisping, Josh Haynes, and Jesse Forbes. The middleweight semi-finals will consist of Ed Herman, Kalib Starnes (broken fibula and all), Rory Singer, and Kendall Grove.

The UFC would obviously love to have the finals in each weight class come down to a Team Shamrock fighter against a Team Ortiz fighter, so that Shamrock and Ortiz can be in opposite corners on the live season finale on June 24th, thus helping to sell their July 8th PPV showdown.

That may prove to be impossible with the light-heavyweights due to the fact that three of the four semi-finalists are from Team Ortiz. However, it can happen and likely will happen with the middleweights.

It seems overwhelmingly likely that the UFC will match teammates up against each other in the middleweight semi-finals, and the Episode Ten preview even hinted at such a move. This would mean that Team Ortiz members Rory Singer and Kendall Grove would fight one another in one of the middleweight semi-final bouts, while Team Shamrock members Ed Herman and Kalib Starnes would fight one another in the other semi-final bout. This is the only way to guarantee that there is at least one Team Shamrock vs. Team Ortiz match-up in the finals.

One other thing that was alluded to in the Episode Ten preview is the possibility that Matt Hamill might have to leave the show due to an elbow injury. The tease of, "Who's going to walk through the door?" could have just been included in the episode preview as a red herring (much like Rashad Evans jokingly telling his teammates that he had to leave the show in season two), or it could be that Hamill really did have to leave the competition due to his elbow injury. If that did happen, the logical choice for a light-heavyweight to replace him would be Tait Fletcher, who arguably deserves to be in the semi-finals more than Jesse Forbes.

Other Thursday Night Ratings
With the majority of network TV in repeats for the summer, TUF 3 did not have much in the way of significant network TV competition on June 1st. Airing head-to-head with TUF from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM were a repeat of CBS' Without a Trace (8.4 overall rating), a repeat of NBC's ER (3.8 overall rating), and a new episode of the ABC newsmagazine Primetime (5.6 overall rating).

A repeat of UFC Unleashed on Spike TV, airing from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, drew a 1.3 overall rating, demonstrating once again the durability that makes Unleashed worth every penny that Spike TV pays for it in rights fees. Network television competition for the repeat of Unleashed included a repeat of CBS' CSI (9.1 overall rating), ABC's presentation of the National Spelling Bee (5.3 overall rating), a new episode of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (5.0 overall rating), and two repeats of NBC's The Office (which averaged a 3.1 overall rating).

After TUF 3 went off the air on June 1st at 11:00 PM, the episode of TNA Impact that followed on Spike TV drew an overall rating of 1.1. It was the third consecutive episode of TNA Impact that tied the series' all-time high of 1.1. The overall rating for the May 25th episode of TNA Impact was originally reported as 1.2 in some outlets, but it was actually 1.1.

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Monday, June 05, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter 3 Ratings Remain Higher than First Two Seasons
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Episode Eight of The Ultimate Fighter, debuting on May 25th, drew an overall rating of 1.8, which is the fourth-highest rating of the season and is slightly above the show's season-to-date average. In addition, Episode Eight of TUF 3 drew a 2.8 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which was higher than any other television show in that timeslot on May 25th, with the exception of the NBA Playoffs on ESPN.

TUF 3 Still Out-Pacing TUF 1 and 2
Compared to the same point in the first season, the overall rating of 1.8 for Episode Eight of TUF 3 is a step up from the same point in the first two seasons. Episode Eight of the first season (featuring Diego Sanchez vs. Josh Rafferty) drew a 1.6 overall rating, and Episode Eight of the second season (featuring Luke Cummo vs. Anthony Torres) drew a 1.2 rating, which is the second-lowest regular-night rating in the history of The Ultimate Fighter.

The Ultimate Fighter 3 is also performing well in season-to-date averages when compared to the first two seasons. Through eight episodes, the first season of TUF was averaging a 1.6 overall rating, while the second season of TUF 2 was averaging a 1.5 rating at the same point. With eight episodes of TUF 3 now having aired, this season of the show is averaging a 1.7 overall rating.

TUF's Lead-In Affects the Rating Yet Again
It's becoming more of a trend every week: The Ultimate Fighter is greatly affected by the ratings of its lead-in show. This has been the case since the beginning of the third season, as fully documented in last week's article on MMAWeekly.

When the overall rating for the UFC Unleashed lead-in show jumped from the previous mark of 1.1 to the slightly higher mark of 1.3 on May 18th, TUF's rating on the same night jumped to 1.9 (up from the previous week's 1.7). When the lead-in rating went up slightly, TUF's rating went up slightly.

Most recently, with the May 25th two-hour block of UFC programming, the rating for TUF's lead-in was back down to 1.1, and TUF's rating slipped just a little bit to 1.8. When the lead-in rating went down slightly, TUF's rating went down slightly.

This ratings trend only makes sense and is a trend that also holds most true for most shows on television, but previous UFC programming on Spike TV had not been affected quite this much by the lead-in ratings. It has only been since the start of TUF 3 that the ebb and flow of the ratings has directly matched up to the lead-in ratings in this way.

It's worth noting that while a UFC Unleashed repeat filled the 9:00 PM timeslot on Thursday, May 18th, it was the one-hour "UFC 60 Countdown Special" that filled the same timeslot on Thursday, May 25th. The Hughes vs. Gracie countdown show drew a 0.9 overall rating when it debuted on Monday, May 22nd at 10:00 PM, and the Thursday night encore airing drew a 1.1 overall rating.

Ed Herman vs. Danny Abaddi Fight Draws a Solid Rating
It's only fitting that on the fourth-highest rated episode of TUF so far this season, Ed Herman and Danny Abaddi fought in what was the fourth most-watched fight so far this season. No other fight on TUF 3 has been able to touch the 2.3 quarter-hour rating that was drawn by Kendall Grove vs. Ross Pointon in Episode Three.

Episode Eight's fight between Ed Herman and Danny Abaddi drew a 2.0 quarter-hour rating, which fell just short of the 2.1 quarter-hour ratings that were drawn by Rory Singer vs. Solomon Hutcherson, and Josh Haynes vs. Tait Fletcher.

On Episode Nine, the final "opening round" fight of the competition will take place, as Matt Hamill will face Mike Nickels. Hamill and Nickels will both be attempting to join Jesse Forbes, Josh Haynes, and heavy favorite Michael Bisping in the light-heavyweight semi-finals.

Middleweight Semi-Finals are Set; Kalib Starnes' Health is a Question Mark
Now that all of the middleweight opening round fights have taken place, the middleweight final four is set. The 185-pound semi-finalists will be Team Shamrock's Kalib Starnes and Ed Herman, as well as Team Ortiz' Kendall Grove and Rory Singer.

For what it's worth, an article by the Canadian Press several weeks ago reported that Kalib Starnes suffered a broken fibula during the filming of TUF 3. While this would seem to indicate that Starnes will have to leave the show due to injury, or will otherwise be unable to compete on the live season finale of TUF on June 24th, that is not necessarily the case.

Remember, Tito Ortiz also suffered a broken fibula during the filming of TUF 3 (a broken fibula, not a torn ACL), and he is still going to be facing Ken Shamrock as scheduled on July 8th at the UFC 61 pay-per-view. Plus, Kalib Starnes actually broke his fibula early on in the season, whereas Ortiz broke his fibula towards the end of the filming. Of course, Starnes could have suffered a more severe break of his fibula than Ortiz did. It is not known whether or not Starnes' injury will prevent him from fighting in the middleweight finals, or whether he lost in the middleweight semi-finals.

TV Week Publishes Ultimate Fighter Ad Rates
Citing Nielsen Monitor Plus, the television trade journal TV Week published the advertising rates for The Ultimate Fighter 3 in an article earlier this week. The average rate for a 30-second commercial on TUF 3 is $3,500. This means that there were three fighters on the UFC 59 card who made less money than is generated by a single 30-second commercial on TUF, and there were six fighters on the UFC 59 card who made less money than is generated by a 60-second commercial on TUF.

There are approximately 16 minutes of commercials on every hour of television on any ad-supported cable or broadcast television network. Given that The Ultimate Fighter is a one-hour series which airs three times per week, that would mean TUF 3 generates $336,000 in advertising revenue per week, and the Wrestling Observer has reported that the UFC gets approximately half of the show's advertising revenue.

Over the course of a 12-week regular season, that would add up to $4,032,000 in advertising revenue, and that's not counting the live season finale and its two replays (the season finales of TUF likely have higher ad rates due to the fact that they draw higher ratings).

In addition to its share of the advertising revenue, and the special sponsorships such as those that air during the "tale of the tape" before each TUF fight, the UFC is also paid a programming rights fee by Spike TV for every hour of UFC programming that airs on the network.

Other Thursday Night Ratings: UFC's Competition Stronger on Cable TV, Weaker on Broadcast TV
Episode Eight of TUF 3 debuted on May 25th, which was one day after the official end of the 2005-2006 TV season. On the first day of the summer 2006 TV season, with the vast majority of network TV programming in repeats, TUF faced significantly weaker competition from network TV than it has faced at any time during its third season.

In just one week, TUF went from having to go head-to-head with network TV shows that drew a combined rating of 27.7, to now only having to go head-to-head with network TV shows that drew a combined rating of 16.7.

Airing head-to-head with TUF from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM on May 25th, a repeat of CBS' Without a Trace (8.4 overall rating) more than doubled the rating that was drawn by a repeat of NBC's ER (4.1 overall rating). The newsmagazine Primetime on ABC actually beat ER, as Primetime drew a 4.5 overall rating.

While TUF faced much weaker network TV competition on May 25th, it did have to go head-to-head with an NBA playoff game on ESPN, which drew a 4.7 overall rating.

The UFC 60 countdown special, airing from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM on May 25th, drew a 1.1 overall rating against even weaker network TV competition. The countdown special went head-to-head with repeats of NBC's My Name is Earl (3.6 rating) and The Office (3.2 rating), as well as ABC's presentation of the movie Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2.9 rating), and a repeat of CBS' CSI (8.9 rating). The only first-run network programming in the hour was the second half of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, which drew a 7.5 rating in that hour.

Leading out of the TUF 3 broadcast on Spike TV on May 25th was the pro wrestling show TNA Impact, which drew an overall rating of either 1.1 or 1.2 (there is conflicting information on the exact rating). The previous high mark for TNA programming on Spike TV was a 1.1 rating, so the May 25th episode either tied the record or broke it altogether. While TNA Impact has developed a lot of ratings momentum in recent weeks, it may be just a few weeks away from a big fall-off when it goes from having the UFC as its lead-in to having a British comedy as its lead-in, which is one of the more baffling TV scheduling decisions in recent memory.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

RIP, Ryan Bennett. You will be missed.

Make a donation online or through the mail to the Ryan Bennett Family Benefit Fund, which will help Ryan's wife and their four young children.