Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Renato Sobral to Get "All Access" Treatment on Spike TV
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
Renato Sobral, who is the number one contender for Chuck Liddell's UFC Light Heavyweight Title, will be the subject of the next "UFC All Access" special on Spike TV.
As with previous All Access specials, this one will be hosted by Rachelle Leah and will air on the last Monday night before a UFC pay-per-view event. Previous All Access specials focused on the pre-fight training of Rich Franklin, Andrei Arlovski, and Tito Ortiz.
The 30-minute special will air on Monday, August 21st at 10:00 PM. Leading into the All Access special will be the 60-minute UFC 62 Countdown Special, which will air from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
The UFC 61 preview specials on July 3rd kicked off with All Access at 10:00 PM (which drew a 0.6 overall rating) and concluded with the Countdown Special from 10:30 PM to 11:30 PM (which drew a 0.8 overall rating), so this represents a slight chance in schedule for Spike TV. The move makes sense because the stronger show from a ratings standpoint will be able to provide a strong lead-in for the weaker show.
In the case of Renato "Babalu" Sobral in particular, it will be very interesting to see what he has to say before his fight with Chuck Liddell, given the fact that he is currently being positioned as a potential bump in the UFC's road to a long-awaited showdown between Liddell and Wanderlei Silva.
When the announcement was made during the UFC 61 pay-per-view broadcast that Liddell and Silva would be fighting in the UFC in November, the added line of, "...if Chuck can get past Sobral first" was included almost as an afterthought. In fact, Sobral is anything but an afterthought, and it would be unwise for any opponent to look past him.
When Liddell and Sobral previously faced off in the Octagon at UFC 40 in November 2002, Liddell won by knockout. After the loss to Liddell, Sobral went 7-0 in competition outside of the UFC and has since gone 3-0 in the UFC. In Sobral's most recent fight, he submitted Mike Van Arsdale at UFC 57 in February of this year.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC 61 Draws Second-Biggest Live Gate in UFC History
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
UFC 61 drew the second-biggest live gate in UFC history on Saturday, July 8th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the number of tickets sold for UFC 61 at the Mandalay Bay was 9,999. In addition, a total of 1,168 free comp tickets that were given away, for a total of 11,167 fans in attendance. The live gate receipts totaled $3,350,775.15.
The highest-grossing UFC event ever at the live gate is UFC 57, which took place on February 4th of this year and generated $3,382,400 in live gate receipts for the third fight between Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
UFC 61 is now second on the all-time list at the live gate, ahead of UFC 60 ($2,900,090 for Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie), UFC 52 ($2,575,450 for Liddell vs. Couture II), UFC 54 ($2,336,550 for Liddell vs. Jeremy Horn), and UFC 59 ($2,191,450 for Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin; and Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski).
In terms of overall revenue, pay-per-view estimates are not yet available for UFC 61, but the current record-holder for total revenue is UFC 60, which generated at least $26.87 million in PPV sales and live gate receipts ($2.9 million in live gate receipts; and at least $23.97 million in PPV sales, depending on the final buyrate figures).
Be sure to check out our previous article for a complete breakdown of the UFC's live gave figures for the first half of 2006.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre Announced Again
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
The upcoming UFC Welterweight Title bout between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre was announced again on the ESPNews program "The Hot List" this past week, with in-studio appearances by Hughes, St. Pierre, and UFC president Dana White.
There have been several occasions in the past when UFC fighters have appeared on The Hot List, which is the afternoon block of programming that airs on ESPN's all-news sister network from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM Pacific Time (3:00 PM to 6:00 PM Eastern Time). However, this time the UFC was given two segments on the show, whereas the previous UFC appearances on the show had each been limited to one segment.
While The Hot List averages approximately one-third as many viewers as the average repeat airing of UFC Unleashed on Spike TV, the difference is that the people who are watching ESPNews are likely to be mainstream sports fans who might become MMA fans once they are exposed to the sport.
Therefore, there can be no doubt that this UFC appearance on The Hot List was good for the sport. What it wasn't, however, was breaking news. It was stated multiple times on the UFC 58 broadcast on March 4th that the winner of the St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn fight would be taking on Hughes for the UFC Welterweight Title later this year.
On top of that, the UFC officially announced the Hughes vs. St. Pierre fight at a press conference in Canada on April 7th, which was covered by MMAWeekly at the time. When the Hughes vs. St. Pierre fight was officially announced at a press conference in Toronto on April 7th, St. Pierre said, "Now it's official. Now it's for real. It’s my dream come true! It's all about respect, and I finally have it... YES, FINALLY!" The official confirmation of the fight's September 23rd date (at UFC 63) was the only new thing in this additional announcement.
While the announcement of Hughes vs. St. Pierre was not breaking news, the important thing is that ESPNews apparently believed that it was breaking news. As they were cutting to a commercial break right before Dana White's appearance, Hot List host Dari Nowkhah said, "The owner of the UFC will be here next to break news on The Hot List." Nowkhah later said, "This was just announced today, right here on The Hot List! That's why you watch us, because we bring you the latest."
Again, whether it was breaking news or not, ESPNews clearly believed that it was breaking news, and hyped the segments accordingly. The segment from The Hot List was not repeated or acknowledged on ESPNews (or ESPN, for that matter) for the rest of the day, but it is believed to be only a matter of time before UFC highlights are part of SportsCenter just like any other sport. This notion is supported by the fact that ESPN anchor Dan Patrick recently said on his ESPN radio show that SportsCenter should include UFC highlights and that there's no valid reason to exclude UFC highlights.
Hughes and St. Pierre Come Across as Stars
There were two UFC-related segments on this particular edition of The Hot List, one with Hughes and St. Pierre; and the other with White. In the segment with Hughes and St. Pierre, they both came across as stars. Hughes and St. Pierre both talked about their preparation for the fight and how much training goes into each fight.
Hughes was asked if he "feels guilty" for "beating Royce Gracie good," which was a bit of an odd question, and Hughes' calm reply was that there was nothing to feel guilty about because he just went out there, did his job, and fought as hard as he could.
St. Pierre also talked briefly about his experience as one of the advisors/coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 4, and he said that he learned just as much as any of the fighters in the house during the filming.
When host Dari Nowkhah asked Hughes and St. Pierre for their best "out-of-the-ring confrontation stories," Hughes and St. Pierre both replied that there are no such stories to tell because they both avoid putting themselves into those kinds of situations. Hughes and St. Pierre came off particularly well in their responses to this question.
Hughes said that he's not out at bars in the latenight hours when such a confrontation would be more likely to take place, and if a fan ever did approach him trying to pick a fight, he would just walk away. St. Pierre said that he would also just walk away and added, "It's different in the ring, but outside of the ring, I am a gentleman." As a result of this, the host of the show went from not really knowing what to make of the UFC at the beginning of the segment to calling Hughes and St. Pierre "a couple of nice guys" at the end of the segment.
White Repeats the Same Gross Factual Errors about the UFC's History
The interview with Dana White also came off well, if you can overlook gross factual errors being repeated on national television. The oft-repeated claim that Zuffa added all of the major regulation and sanctioning to the UFC was repeated once again on The Hot List, as White said that the UFC "wasn't sanctioned by any of the major athletic commissions" before Zuffa bought it. This is not a matter for debate. It's just flat-out factually incorrect, as are any claims in newspaper articles that the "previous owners ran from regulation."
In reality, the previous owners of the UFC tried successfully to get the UFC sanctioned in New Jersey, and then tried unsuccessfully to get the UFC sanctioned in Nevada shortly before selling the company to Zuffa. Before Zuffa ever bought the UFC, it was sanctioned and regulated by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, which was widely regarded as the second most important sanctioning body in the country.
The "old UFC" also ran fully sanctioned UFC events in states such as Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but it was New Jersey that was regarded as having the second-biggest sanctioning body (behind only Nevada's) in terms of importance and prestige.
Dana White also said on The Hot List, "When we first bought the sport, not only was it not in any of the major venues here in the United States, but it also wasn't on pay-per-view. We were on DirecTV, but we weren't on any of the cable pay-per-view systems." White's statement about the PPV situation is absolutely correct. His statement about major venues is once again factually incorrect, unless the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City is not considered a "major venue."
These factually incorrect statements would not have been noticeable to someone who isn't familiar with the actual history of MMA (including the host of The Hot List), and again, White came off well in the parts of the interview that were not about the aforementioned subjects.
In another part of the interview, White talked about The Ultimate Fighter. He said that the concept for the first three seasons of TUF was to find the best up-and-coming mixed martial artists and put them all in the same house, but the concept for the fourth season was to give second chances to a lot of former UFC stars.
When asked about Senator John McCain, who led a campaign to ban the sport of mixed martial arts in the mid-90s, Dana White said that McCain helped the sport to clean itself up, and added that all combat sports should always be sanctioned by an athletic commission because the purpose of the athletic commissions is to protect the fighters. White concluded his answer to the McCain question by saying, "We salute Senator John McCain."
When asked specifically about the Hughes vs. St. Pierre fight, White talked about how Hughes beat St. Pierre with an armbar submission with only a second left in the first round when they fought for the first time. The host asked White to explain what an armbar is, and when White did so, the host responded by saying, "Woah! These are some tough guys!"
White said that Hughes and St. Pierre have both been crushing all of the fighters who have been put in their path. White added that St. Pierre is one of the best athletes today in any sport, and that Hughes is the most dominant welterweight in the history of the UFC.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Wanderlei Silva vs. Mirko Cro Cop and Other Grand Prix Match-Ups Announced
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
Dream Stage Entertainment has announced the match-ups for the next rounds of the two Pride Grand Prix tournaments that the company is currently running. The next round of the 183-pound Grand Prix will take place on August 26th, while the final two rounds of the Open Weight Grand Prix will take place on September 10th.
In two bouts that are sure to be highly-anticipated on the September 10th card, Wanderlei Silva will face Mirko Cro Cop, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will face Josh Barnett. The winners of these two semi-final fights will meet in the finals of the Open Weight Grand Prix later that same night, with the winner of that fight being crowned the winner of the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix.
Though both of these matches should be highly competitive, it's likely that Barnett will be the underdog against Nogueira, and Silva will be the underdog against Cro Cop.
Silva and Cro Cop actually fought once before in the Pride ring back in 2002, but the bout was not fought under MMA rules. Instead, there were special rules that required the fighters to be stood up if the fight remained on the ground for 30 seconds, or if the fighter on the bottom was able to reach the ropes. This was done to accomadate Cro Cop, given his kickboxing background. There will be no such special rules this time around.
Cro Cop got to the semi-finals of the Open Weight Grand Prix by winning his first two fights in completely one-sided fashion against Ikuhisa Minowa and Hidehiko Yoshida, whose leg was injured by Cro Cop's vicious leg kicks.
Silva, the only fighter left in the tournament who does not normally fight at heavyweight, defeated Kazuyuki Fujita by TKO in the quarter-finals. Silva was not in the first round of the tournament and was added to the second round of the tournament when Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko had to withdraw due to hand surgery.
Prior to fighting Fujita, Silva split two fights with Ricardo Arona in 2005. In the semi-finals of Pride's 205-pound Grand Prix last August, Silva lost to Ricardo Arona by unanimous decision in a fairly one-sided fight, and Silva's teammate Mauricio "Shogun" Rua went on to win the tournament. In the rematch between Silva and Arona on December 31, 2005, Silva won a very controversial split decision.
If Silva can make it through his fight (or fights) on September 10th without injury, he will be fighting Chuck Liddell in the UFC in November, provided that Liddell defeats Renato "Babalu" Sobral on August 26th and is able to do so without suffering any injuries.
The other semi-final bout in the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix will be a battle of two top-level heavyweights, as Josh Barnett takes on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Barnett is coming off of two very impressive submission victories over Aleksander Emelianenko and Mark Hunt in the first two rounds of the tournament. Prior to those two fights, Barnett's Pride career consisted of two losses to Mirko Cro Cop and a victory over Kazuhiro Nakamura.
Nogueira was inexplicably matched up against Zulu, Jr. in the first round of the tournament because DSE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara felt that Zulu, Jr. is "like the Brazilian Bob Sapp." After easily winning in the first round of the Grand Prix, Nogueira defeated fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum by unanimous decision in the tournament quarter-finals on July 1st. Nogueira's last loss came at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko on December 31st, 2004.
The semi-finals and finals of the Pride Open Weight Grand will take place on September 10th, along with a full line-up of non-tournament bouts that have not yet been announced.
As with the previous round of the tournament, this event will have no television clearance in Japan other than the satellite-based pay-per-view channel SkyPerfecTV, due to the fact that Fuji TV terminated its contract with DSE. The event is scheduled to debut on North American pay-per-view on Sunday night, September 10th.
Pride Bushido Grand Prix Match-Ups
In an event that will air on Fox Sports instead of pay-per-view in the United States, Dream Stage is also gearing up for the next round of the 183-pound Pride Bushido Grand Prix. The quarter-final match-ups have been announced for the event, which will take place on August 26th. In the round of eight, Dan Henderson will take on Kazuo Misaki, Paulo Filho will face Ryo Chonan, Denis Kang will go up against Amar Suloev, and Akihiro Gono will face Gegard Mousasi.
Dan Henderson won the eight-man Pride Grand Prix for 183-pound fighters in 2005, as he defeated Ryo Chonan and Akihiro Gono in the first two rounds of the tournament before winning an extremely close split decision over Murilo Bustamante in the finals. In Henderson's most recent fight, a non-tournament bout in April of this year, he defeated Kazuo Misaki by unanimous decision, but Misaki looked much better in the fight than most expected. Henderson received a bye in the first round of this tournament due to injury, thus advancing to the final eight of this year's tournament.
After losing to Henderson in April, Kazuo Misaki was the biggest underdog in the entire tournament when he faced Phil Baroni in the first round of the Bushido Grand Prix in June. However, Misaki defied the odds and won a fairly one-sided fight against Baroni by unanimous decision. Misaki will now get the opportunity to avenge his prior loss to Henderson.
Paulo Filho is one of the favorites to win the tournament, and he is still undefeated in his MMA career with a record of 12-0. Filho holds submission wins over Amar Suloev, Ryuta Sakurai, and Akira Shoji, as well as decision wins over Yuki Kondo and Ikuhisa Minowa. Most recently, Filho defeated Murilo "Ninja" Rua by unanimous decision in April of this year, and followed that up with an extremely one-sided decision victory over Gregory Bouchelaghem in the first round of this year's Bushido Grand Prix in June.
Filho's opponent will be Ryo Chonan, who was not expected to be able to compete in the next round of the tournament. Chonan defeated Joey Villasenor by decision in the first round of the tournament, but Chonan suffered a broken orbital bone in the process. Chonan defeated Anderson Silva by submission in December 2004, and he has gone 2-0 since his knockout loss at the hands of Dan Henderson in last year's tournament.
In a battle of two fighters who were underdogs in the first round of the tournament, Denis Kang will face Amar Suloev. Kang has not lost in his last 18 fights and has looked extremely impressive in his last two Pride fights, as he defeated Mark Weir by submission and subsequently knocked out Murilo "Ninja" Rua in just 15 seconds.
Kang's opponent, Amar Suloev, pulled off a big upset when he defeated 2005 Grand Prix finalist Murilo Bustamante in a clear-cut unanimous decision in the first round of this year's Bushido Grand Prix. Suloev is now 2-1 in his Pride career, with victories over Bustamante and Dean Lister, and a submission loss to Paulo Filho.
The final quarter-final match-up will pit Akihiro Gono up against Gegard Mousasi. Gono scored a big upset in last year's 183-pound Grand Prix when he defeated highly regarded Daniel Acacio by unanimous decision, but then he got knocked out by Dan Henderson in the next round of the tournament. In the first round of this year's 183-pound Grand Prix, Gono was effective in turning the tables on explosive Cuban fighter Hector Lombard, who looked amazing in the first minute or so of the fight, but couldn't keep up with Gono for the entire bout duration.
After defeating Lombard by unanimous decision, Gono will now face another explosive fighter in Gegard Mousasi, who entered this year's Grand Prix with an MMA record of 12-1-1, but very little name recognition. Mousasi looked impressive in his Pride debut against Olympic Gold Medalist Makoto Takimoto in June, but will be facing a much tougher test against Gono.
In non-tournament bouts on the August 26th Bushido card, Tatsuya Kawajiri, who is widely regarded as one of the top five lightweight fighters in the world, will take on UFC and Pride veteran Chris Brennan. The undefeated Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, Gilbert Melendez, will make his Pride debut against Nobuhiro Obiya; while Shooto standout Shinya Aoki will face the Pat Miletich-trained Jason Black; and Hatsu Hioki will take on Jeff Curran.
The quarter-finals of Pride Bushido's 183-pound Grand Prix will take place in Japan on Saturday, August 26th, which is the same date as UFC 62. Dream Stage Entertainment recently announced that instead of airing on pay-per-view, the August 26th Bushido event will air on Fox Sports Net on Sunday, August 27th.
It would be impossible for DSE to air all of those fights in a narrow time window for TV, and it has not been announced which fights (if any) will air on FSN other than the four tournament match-ups.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Most-Watched Fights of The Ultimate Fighter's Third Season
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
A total of 15 fights aired on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, and what follows is a ranking of the fights from #1 to #15 in terms of viewership, along with a breakdown of which specific fighters drew the highest average ratings.
Kendall Grove and Josh Haynes each took two of the top four spots, but Haynes was also in the #15 position for his semi-final fight against Jesse Forbes.
1. Kendall Grove defeats Ed Herman: 2.5 rating (fight aired on TUF 3 live finale)
2. Michael Bisping defeats Josh Haynes: 2.5 rating (fight aired on TUF 3 live finale)
3. Kendall Grove defeats Ross Pointon: 2.3 rating (fight aired on Episode 3)
4. Josh Haynes defeats Tait Fletcher: 2.1 rating (fight aired on Episode 7)
5. Rory Singer defeats Solomon Hutcherson: 2.1 rating (fight aired on Episode 5)
6. Matt Hamill defeats Mike Nickels: 2.0 rating (fight aired on Episode 9)
7. Ed Herman defeats Danny Abaddi: 2.0 rating (fight aired on Episode 8)
8. Kalib Starnes defeats Mike Stine: 1.9 rating (fight aired on Episode 1)
9. Michael Bisping defeats Kristian Rothaermel: 1.8 rating (fight aired on Episode 4)
10. Matt Hamill defeats Jesse Forbes: 1.6 rating (fight aired on TUF 3 live finale)
11. Ed Herman defeats Rory Singer: 1.6 rating (fight aired on Episode 11)
12. Kendall Grove defeats Kalib Starnes: 1.6 rating (fight aired on Episode 10)
13. Michael Bisping defeats Ross Pointon: 1.6 rating (fight aired on Episode 12)
14. Noah Inhofer defeats Jesse Forbes: 1.5 rating (fight aired on Episode 2)
15. Josh Haynes defeats Jesse Forbes: 1.3 rating (fight aired on Episode 12)
Individual Fighter Averages
Here's how the individual fighters rank in terms of average viewership for their fights on TUF 3 (including the live finale). This list only includes fighters who fought at least twice.
1. Kendall Grove: 2.13 average over three fights
2. Ed Herman: 2.03 average over three fights
3. Josh Haynes: 1.97 average over three fights (tied with Michael Bisping)
3. Michael Bisping: 1.97 average over three fights (tied with Josh Haynes)
5. Ross Pointon: 1.95 average over two fights
6. Rory Singer: 1.85 average over two fights
7. Matt Hamill: 1.80 average over two fights
8. Kalib Starnes: 1.75 average over two fights
9. Jesse Forbes: 1.47 average over three fights
only had one fight on the air: Tait Fletcher, Solomon Hutcherson, Mike Nickels, Danny Abaddi, Mike Stine, Kristian Rothaermel, Noah Inhofer
TUF 1 vs. TUF 2 vs. TUF 3
In terms of overall ratings, the twelve-episode regular season of TUF 3 drew ratings of 2.0, 1.3, 1.9, 1.6, 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 1.8, 1.8, 1.5, 1.5, and 1.4, so the regular season average was a 1.7 overall rating.
The Ultimate Fighter 3's average rating of 1.7 is better than TUF 1's average rating of 1.6, and is significantly better than TUF 2's average rating of 1.4.
The ratings for TUF 3 were even more impressive in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic. In that demo, the first season averaged a 2.2 rating, the second season averaged a 2.5 rating, and the third season averaged a 2.9 rating.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Pride's U.S. Drug Testing
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
When Pride runs its first show in the United States on October 21st at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, the drug testing will be different than it normally is in Pride. For starters, there will actually be drug testing. Pride's fighters are not tested for steroids in Japan at any time, but that will obviously not be the case in the United States.
Keith Kizer, the Nevada State Athletic Commission's Executive Director, told MMAWeekly, "Testing for Pride would be the same as for other promoters." Kizer was previously the Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Nevada. Kizer is now the Executive Director of the NSAC after previous Executive Director Marc Ratner was hired by Zuffa to work for the UFC.
What this means for Pride is that any fighters who participate in championship fights will be drug tested. The NSAC also has the option of randomly drug test other fighters, but has not used this option with MMA events more than a handful times in recent years.
If there are no title fights on any given MMA card, including Pride's October show, the NSAC could choose to drug test the two main event fighters, or two fighters who are randomly selected out of all the fighters competing on the event.
The NSAC's drug policy is such that when Wanderlei Silva challenges for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, which could happen in November, there is a 100 percent chance that he will be drug tested, as is the case with all fighters in title bouts.
The same will apply for any other Pride fighters who compete in the United States, whether they're competing on a UFC show or a Pride USA show. If it's a title fight, the fighters are definitely going to be drug tested. If it's not a title fight, the fighters are very unlikely to be drug tested.
The NSAC's drug tests screen for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, as well as a number of illegal recreational drugs. They do not currently test for abuse of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), nor does any other major sanctioning body, due to the fact that a reliable test for HGH abuse has not yet been developed. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency claims to be close to developing a reliable test for HGH abuse.
One specific fighter who you might think would be competing on Pride's U.S. debut show is Josh Barnett, but he will not be allowed to fight on the show unless he takes and passes a drug test.
After Barnett won the UFC Heavyweight Title in March 2002, he failed his NSAC post-fight drug test when banned anabolic steroids were found in his system.
The normal procedure for such a situation is that the fighter gets suspended for a certain number months, then they have to take a drug test and pass it, and then their license to fight in Nevada is reinstated when they prove that they're clean. That's the process that Tim Sylvia and Nathan Marquardt went through after they failed drug tests in 2003 and 2005, respectively.
However, that's not what happened in Josh Barnett's case. In Barnett's case, he failed a drug test, got suspended, went to Japan, and never fought in the United States again. He has never been re-issued a license by the NSAC because he has never taken a follow-up NSAC drug test.
When asked whether Barnett would have to pass a drug test before he could be licensed to fight by the NSAC, the NSAC's Keith Kizer told MMAWeekly, "Josh Barnett would have to provide a clean urine test before licensure, as did others in the same situation."
In addition to passing a drug test sometime before the event takes place, Barnett would also be overwhelmingly likely to have to take another drug test immediately after his fight as well.
In general, when a fighter has failed an NSAC drug test in the past, that fighter is subjected to more drug testing than any fighter who has never failed an NSAC drug test. In the specific cases of Sylvia and Marquardt, even after they served their suspensions and passed drug tests in order to get their licenses back, they were also drug tested immediately after their first fights back from suspension.
In the case of Kimo Leopoldo, he failed a drug test in Nevada back in 2004 (after his UFC 48 fight against Ken Shamrock) and then couldn't be licensed to fight in California in 2006 until he passed a drug test. Unlike Sylvia and Marquardt, Kimo failed this pre-sanctioning drug test, and he now faces another possible suspension as a result.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- As an update to yesterday's story about the history of the UFC, more factually incorrect information has been put forth in media interviews.
In a Washington Times article, Zuffa president Dana White said that after Zuffa bought the UFC, "The first thing we knew we had to do was to get it sanctioned by all the major athletic commissions. We sat down with officials from Nevada and New Jersey in 2002, and we got that done." As pointed out many times before, and once again in the letter from the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, that is a lie.
Another lie directly from White in the same article he said that the previous owners of the UFC "refused to be sanctioned... we took the opposite approach and embraced sanctioning."
The author of the Washington Times article, Thom Loverro, also added that Zuffa "... created weight classes. It went to a rounds system [of] five-minute rounds, five rounds for championship fights... It trained referees to move in quickly and stop a bout when a fighter was defenseless. And it began drawing not barroom brawlers, but legitimate athletes, many of them, like Couture, former college wrestling champions."
Another gem from the author of the article: "[In MMA], there are no Don Kings, no promoters, no sanctioning bodies like the World Boxing Council and the various other entities that get a piece of everything... There is only Ultimate Fighting Championship, which controls all the fighters and dictates how much they get paid."
As I wrote in the editorial on Wednesday, "This particular set of deceptions and distortions, constantly repeated to mainstream media members who print them without knowing any better, is also completely unnecessary. Zuffa legitimately did a lot of great things for the sport in the aforementioned time period (and also has in the years since then), such as getting sanctioning in Nevada, unifying the rules between Nevada and the pre-existing New Jersey sanctioning, and getting back on cable PPV, so there's no need to lie about it. The truth is flattering enough. There's no valid reason for continuing to propagate these lies, and yet it keeps happening."
Friday, July 21, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- New Jersey Commission Corrects Mainstream UFC Stories
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
If you have read a mainstream media article about the UFC in recent months, you've likely read about Zuffa's purchase of the UFC and its subsequent sanctioning in Nevada. What you're unlikely to have seen is any acknowledgment of the fact that the UFC was already sanctioned in 2000 by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, which is widely regarded as the second most influential athletic commission in the country, behind only Nevada's.
The authors of many of these articles have written that most of today's rules were added to the sport after Zuffa bought the company. Many of the articles have also said that the UFC was not sanctioned by any major athletic commission before the Zuffa purchase, or that the UFC actually got sanctioned in New Jersey after the Zuffa purchase.
In the case of the latter claim, it's not just the authors of the articles who have made these kinds of statements, as UFC president Dana White has made the same kind of statements on two occasions in the past week. White said on ESPNews' The Hot List that the UFC "wasn't sanctioned by any of the major athletic commissions" before the Zuffa purchase, and White also said to the Washington Times, "The first thing we knew we had to do was to get it sanctioned by all the major athletic commissions. We sat down with officials from Nevada and New Jersey in 2002, and we got that done."
As a result of many different mainstream media articles that have made the same factually incorrect statements about the history of the UFC, the following letter was sent to several mainstream media journalists by Nick Lembo, Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.
Lembo has given MMAWeekly permission to publish this letter.
"Hello, this is Nick Lembo, Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.
I am writing to clarify what, in my opinion, were misleading, confusing or erroneous statements recently published in some major newspaper articles regarding the sport known as mixed martial arts.
Thank you for your interest and coverage of the mixed martial arts. Please review the following, which may assist you, in case you wish to author any future news articles on the subject.
Be advised that:
New Jersey sanctioned mixed martial arts before Zuffa even bought the UFC. UFC 28 was held in Atlantic City, NJ on November 17, 2000. This event was sanctioned by New Jersey while the UFC was an entity and a name owned by SEG ( Bob Meyrowitz). This event was held under the below listed rules awaiting administrative publication. In fact, an entity unrelated to the UFC, SEG or Zuffa held a sanctioned event in Atlantic City, prior to UFC 28, on September 30, 2000. This organization was known as the the IFC.
The UFC had already accepted, by virtue of staging an event in Atlantic City in November 2000, every below listed rule before Zuffa bought it. Accordingly, knees to the head of a downed opponent , certain elbow strikes, head butts and 20 other actions were already denoted as fouls that could result in disqualification. Additionally, weight classes, stringent medical requirements and strict regulatory oversight were in place at that time. The rules that applied as of the date of that show are listed below.
It should be noted that even before New Jersey sanctioned the sport, the California State Athletic Commission had prepared detailed rules to regulate mixed martial arts but they were not implemented solely due to governmental issues surrounding the budgeting process.
Please find the following language in our administrative proposal, written in 2001, regarding martial arts.
In past years, the State
Athletic Control Board (SACB) had been hesitant to sanction mixed
martial arts events due to the lack of formal rules in the sport which
created health and safety concerns. For example, the sport generally did
not divide contestants into weight classes, had contestants participate
in several matches on the same evening and did not provide time limits
on either round or bout length. However, in the last year or so,
promoters of mixed martial arts events began to develop formal rules and
regulations which included procedures to minimize the risk of injury to
the contestant. After becoming aware that detailed regulations were now
in place for most mixed martial arts events, the SACB then began a
course of communications with the California State Athletic Commission
with regard to the subject of regulating mixed martial arts events.
California has established rules and regulations for the conduct of the
sport in their state. As of September 2000, the SACB began to allow
mixed martial arts promoters to conduct events in New Jersey upon
submission and review of their established rules and regulations. In
addition, the promoters had to agree to incorporate the SACB's medical
testing and safety requirements. The intent was to allow the SACB to
observe actual events and gather information needed to determine what
would be necessary to establish a comprehensive set of rules to
effectively regulate the sport. On April 3, 2001, the SACB held a
meeting in Trenton to discuss the regulation of mixed martial arts
events. This meeting was set up by SACB Commissioner Larry Hazzard, Sr.
in an attempt to unify the myriad of rules and regulations which have
been utilized by the different mixed martial arts organizations. At this
meeting, the proposed uniform rules were agreed upon by the SACB,
several other regulatory bodies, numerous promoters of mixed martial
arts events and other interested parties in attendance. The meeting was
quite comprehensive and lasted over three hours. At the conclusion of
the meeting, all parties in attendance were able to agree upon a uniform
set of rules to govern the sport of mixed martial arts. In recent
months, other states, including Nevada, have begun to sanction mixed
martial arts events based upon the SACB's regulatory framework which
arose at the conclusion of the April meeting. The SACB anticipates that
this proposal will result in uniform rules for mixed martial arts events
held throughout the United States. In a similar sense, in March of 1998,
the SACB proposed uniform rules for the conduct of championship
professional boxing matches. Since the proposal, these rules for
championship rules have become the norm throughout the country.
SUBCHAPTER 24A; MIXED MARTIAL ARTS UNIFORM RULES
13:46-24A.1 Weight classes of mixed martial artists
(a) Mixed martial artists shall be divided into the following classes:
1.Flyweight under 125.9 pounds;
2.Bantamweight 126 lbs. - 134.9 pounds;
3.Featherweight 135 lbs. - 144.9 pounds;
4.Lightweight 145 lbs. - 154.9 pounds;
5.Welterweight 155 lbs. - 169.9 pounds;
6.Middleweight 170 lbs. - 184.9 pounds;
7.Light Heavyweight 185 lbs. - 204.9 pounds;
8.Heavyweight 204 lbs. - 264.9 pounds; and
9.Super Heavyweight over 265 pounds.
13:46-24A.2 Fighting area
(a) The fighting area canvas shall be no smaller than 18 feet by 18
feet and no larger than 32 feet by 32 feet. The fighting area canvas
shall be padded in a manner as approved by the Commissioner, with at
least one inch layer of foam padding. Padding shall extend beyond the
fighting area and over the edge of the platform. No vinyl or other
plastic rubberized covering shall be permitted.
(b) The fighting area canvas shall not be more than four feet above the
floor of the building and shall have suitable steps or ramp for use by
the participants. Posts shall be made of metal not more than six inches
in diameter, extending from the floor of the building to a minimum
height of 58 inches above the fighting area canvas and shall be properly
padded in a manner approved by the Commissioner.
(c) The fighting area canvas area shall be enclosed by a fence made of
such material as will not allow a fighter to fall out or break through
it onto the floor or spectators, including, but not limited to, vinyl
coated chain link fencing. All metal parts shall be covered and padded
in a manner approved by the Commissioner and shall not be abrasive to
(d) The fence shall provide two separate entries onto the fighting area
(a) A ring stool of a type approved by the Commissioner shall be
available for each contestant.
(b) An appropriate number of stools or chairs, of a type approved by
the Commissioner, shall be available for each contestant's seconds.
Such stools or chairs shall be located near each contestant's corner.
(c) All stools and chairs used must be thoroughly cleaned or replaced
after the conclusion of each bout.
For each bout, the promoter shall provide a clean water bucket and a
clean plastic water bottle in each corner.
13:46-24A.5 Specifications for bandages on mixed martial artist's
(a) In all weight classes, the bandages on each contestant's hand
shall be restricted to soft gauze cloth not more than 13 yards in length
and two inches in width, held in place by not more than 10 feet of
surgeon's tape, one inch in width, for each hand.
(b) Surgeon's adhesive tape shall be placed directly on each hand for
protection near the wrist. The tape may cross the back of the hand twice
and extend to cover and protect the knuckles when the hand is clenched
to make a fist.
(c) The bandages shall be evenly distributed across the hand.
(d) Bandages and tape shall be placed on the contestant's hands in
the dressing room in the presence of the inspector and in the presence
of the manager or chief second of his or her opponent.
(e) Under no circumstances are gloves to be placed on the hands of a
contestant until the approval of the inspector is received.
13:46-24A.6 Mouth pieces
(a) All contestants are required to wear a mouthpiece during
competition. The mouthpiece shall be subject to examination and approval
by the attending physician.
(b) The round cannot begin without the mouthpiece in place.
(c) If the mouthpiece is involuntarily dislodged during competition,
the referee shall call time, clean the mouthpiece and reinsert the
mouthpiece at the first opportune moment, without interfering with the
13:46-24A.7 Protective equipment
(a) Male mixed martial artists shall wear a groin protector of their
own selection, of a type approved by the Commissioner.
(b) Female mixed martial artists are prohibited from wearing groin
(c) Female mixed martial artists shall wear a chest protector during
competition. The chest protector shall be subject to approval of the
(a) The gloves shall be new for all main events and in good condition
or they must be replaced.
(b) All contestants shall wear either four, five or six ounce gloves,
supplied by the promoter and approved by the commission. No contestant
shall supply their own gloves for participation.
(a) Each contestant shall wear mixed martial arts shorts, biking
shorts, or kick-boxing shorts.
(b) Gi's or shirts are prohibited during competition.
(c) Shoes are prohibited during competition.
(a) All contestants shall be cleanly shaven immediately prior to
competition, except that a contestant may wear a closely cropped
(b) Hair shall be trimmed or tied back in such a manner as not to
interfere with the vision of either contestant or cover any part of a
(c) Jewelry or piercing accessories are prohibited during competition.
13:46-24A.11 Round length
(a) Each non-championship mixed martial arts contest shall be three
rounds, of five minutes duration, with a one minute rest period between
(b) Each championship mixed martial arts contest shall be five rounds,
of five minutes duration, with a one minute rest period between each
13:46-24A.12 Stopping a contest
The referee and ringside physician are the sole arbiters of a bout and
are the only individuals authorized to enter the fighting area at any
time during competition and authorized to stop a contest.
(a) All bouts will be evaluated and scored by three judges.
(b) The 10-Point Must System will be the standard system of scoring a
bout. Under the 10-Point Must Scoring System, 10 points must be awarded
to the winner of the round and nine points or less must be awarded to
the loser, except for a rare even round, which is scored (10-10).
(c) Judges shall evaluate mixed martial arts techniques, such as
effective striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area,
effective aggressiveness and defense.
(d) Evaluations shall be made in the order in which the techniques
appear in (c) above, giving the most weight in scoring to effective
striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area and
effective aggressiveness and defense.
(e) Effective striking is judged by determining the total number of
legal heavy strikes landed by a contestant.
(f) Effective grappling is judged by considering the amount of
successful executions of a legal takedown and reversals. Examples of
factors to consider are take downs from standing position to mount
position, passing the guard to mount position, and bottom position
fighters using an active, threatening guard.
(g) Fighting area control is judged by determining who is dictating the
pace, location and position of the bout. Examples of factors to consider
are countering a grappler's attempt at takedown by remaining standing
and legally striking ; taking down an opponent to force a ground fight;
creating threatening submission attempts, passing the guard to achieve
mount, and creating striking opportunities.
(h) Effective aggressiveness means moving forward and landing a legal
(i) Effective defense means avoiding being struck, taken down or
reversed while countering with offensive attacks.
(j) The following objective scoring criteria shall be utilized by the
judges when scoring a round;
1. A round is to be scored as a 10-10 Round when both contestants
appear to be fighting evenly and neither contestant shows clear
dominance in a round;
2. A round is to be scored as a 10-9 Round when a contestant wins by a
close margin, landing the greater number of effective legal strikes,
grappling and other maneuvers;
3. A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant
overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round.
4. A round is to be scored as a 10-7 Round when a contestant totally
dominates by striking or grappling in a round.
(k) Judges shall use a sliding scale and recognize the length of time
the fighters are either standing or on the ground, as follows:
1. If the mixed martial artists spent a majority of a round on the
i. Effective grappling is weighed first; and
ii. Effective striking is then weighed
2. If the mixed martial artists spent a majority of a round standing,
1. Effective striking is weighed first; and
2. Effective grappling is then weighed
3. If a round ends with a relatively even amount of standing and canvas
fighting, striking and grappling are weighed equally.
(a) The referee shall issue a single warning for the following
infractions. After the initial warning, if the prohibited conduct
persists, a penalty will be issued. The penalty may result in a
deduction of points or disqualification.
1. Holding or grabbing the fence;
2. Holding opponent's shorts or gloves; or
3. The presence of more than one second on the fighting area
(a) The following are fouls and will result in penalties if committed:
1. Butting with the head;
2. Eye gouging of any kind;
3. Biting or spitting at an opponent;
4. Hair pulling;
5. Fish hooking;
6. Groin attacks of any kind;
7. Intentionally placing a finger in any opponent's orifice;
8. Downward pointing of elbow strikes;
9. Small joint manipulation;
10. Strikes to the spine or back of the head;
11. Heel kicks to the kidney;
12. Throat strikes of any kind;
13. Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh or grabbing the clavicle;
14. Kicking the head of a grounded fighter;
15. Kneeing the head of a grounded fighter;
16. Stomping of a grounded fighter;
17. The use of abusive language in fighting area;
18. Any unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to opponent;
19. Attacking an opponent on or during the break;
20. Attacking an opponent who is under the referee's care at the
21. Timidity (avoiding contact, or consistent dropping of mouthpiece,
or faking an injury);
22. Interference from a mixed martial artists seconds;
23. Throwing an opponent out of the fighting area;
24. Flagrant disregard of the referee's instructions;
25. Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his or her head or neck.
(b) Disqualification occurs after any combination of three or the fouls
listed in (a) above or after a referee determines that a foul was
intentional and flagrant.
(c) Fouls will result in a point being deducted by the official
scorekeeper from the offending mixed martial artist's score.
(d) Only a referee can assess a foul. If the referee does not call the
foul, judges shall not make that assessment on their own and cannot
factor such into their scoring calculations.
(e) A fouled fighter has up to five minutes to recuperate.
(f) If a foul is committed, the referee shall:
1. call time;
2. check the fouled mixed martial artist's condition and safety; and
3. assess the foul to the offending contestant, deduct points, and
notify each corner's seconds, judges and the official scorekeeper.
g) If a bottom contestant commits a foul, unless the top contestant is
injured, the fight shall continue, so as not to jeopardize the top
contestant's superior positioning at the time.
1. The referee shall verbally notify the bottom contestant of the
2. When the round is over, the referee shall assess the foul and notify
both corners' seconds, the judges and the official scorekeeper.
3. The referee may terminate a bout based on the severity of a foul.
For such a
flagrant foul, a contestant shall lose by disqualification.
13:46-24A.16 Injuries sustained during competition
(a) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of a legal
maneuver is severe enough to terminate a bout, the injured contestant
loses by technical knockout.
(b) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
intentional foul is severe enough to terminate a bout, the contestant
causing the injury loses by disqualification.
(c) If an injury is sustained during competition as a result of an
intentional foul and the bout is allowed to continue, the referee shall
notify the scorekeeper to automatically deduct two points from the
contestant who committed the foul.
(d) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
intentional foul causes the injured contestant to be unable to continue
at a subsequent point in the contest, the injured contestant shall win
by technical decision, if he or she is ahead on the score cards. If the
injured contestant is even or behind on the score cards at the time of
stoppage, the outcome of the bout shall be declared a technical draw.
(e) If a contestant injures himself or herself while attempting to foul
his or her opponent, the referee shall not take any action in his or her
favor, and the injury shall be treated in the same manner as an injury
produced by a fair blow.
(f) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
accidental foul is severe enough for the referee to stop the bout
immediately, the bout shall result in a no contest if stopped before two
rounds have been completed in a three round bout or if stopped before
three rounds have been completed in a five round bout.
(g) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
accidental foul is severe enough for the referee to stop the bout
immediately, the bout shall result in a technical decision awarded to
the contestant who is ahead on the score cards at the time the bout is
stopped only when the bout is stopped after two rounds of a three round
bout, or three rounds of a five round bout have been completed.
(h) There will be no scoring of an incomplete round. However, if the
referee penalizes either contestant, then the appropriate points shall
be deducted when the scorekeeper calculates the final score.
13:46-24A.17 Types of Bout Results
(a) The following are the types of bout results:
1. Submission by:
i. Tap Out:When a contestant physically uses his hand to indicate that
he or she no longer wishes to continue; or
ii. Verbal tap out:When a contestant verbally announces to the referee
that he or she does not wish to continue;
2. Technical knockout by:
i. Referee stops bout;
ii. Ringside physician stops bout; or
iii. When an injury as a result of a legal maneuver is severe enough to
terminate a bout;
3. Knockout by failure to rise from the canvas;
4. Decision via score cards:
i. Unanimous: When all three judges score the bout for the same
ii. Split Decision: When two judges score the bout for one contestant
one judge scores for the opponent; or
iii. Majority Decision: When two judges score the bout for the same
contestant and one judge scores a draw;
i. Unanimous - When all three judges score the bout a draw; ii.
Majority - When two judges score the bout a draw; or
iii. Split - When all three judges score differently and the score
total results in a draw;
6. Disqualification:When an injury sustained during competition as a
result of an intentional foul is severe enough to terminate the
7. Forfeit:When a contestant fails to begin competition or prematurely
ends the contest for reasons other than injury or by indicating a tap
8. Technical Draw: When an injury sustained during competition as a
result of an intentional foul causes the injured contestant to be unable
to continue and the injured contestant is even or behind on the score
cards at the time of stoppage;
9. Technical Decision:When the bout is prematurely stopped due to
injury and a contestant is leading on the score cards; and
10. No Contest:When a contest is prematurely stopped due to accidental
injury and a sufficient number of rounds have not been completed to
render a decision via the score cards.
SUBCHAPTER 24B ADDITIONAL MIXED MARTIAL ARTS RULES
(a) All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the licensing
requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:46-4.
(b) The fee for a mixed martial artist license shall be as set forth in
N.J.A.C. 13:46-4.25(b). Other license fees shall be as set forth in
13:46-24B.2 Bond procedure
All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the bond procedure
requirements of N.J.A.C.13:46-4.8.
All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the presence, duties
and compensation of inspectors as required by N.J.A.C. 13:46-9.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- The UFC and the Joys of Re-Writing History
(Plus: Pro Wrestling Booking and Squash Matches in MMA)
Editorial by Ivan Trembow
Note: This editorial was written specifically for Ivan's Blog. Also, the opinions expressed in this editorial are those of Ivan Trembow, and with the exception of the specific quotes in this article, these statements do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else.
Within seconds of UFC 60 going on the air on May 27th, Zuffa put its well-respected play-by-play man, Mike Goldberg, in one of the most uncomfortable positions that any announcer can find themselves in. He was, through no fault of his own, put in a position to be deceptive. In this case, it was about the show being "sold out." Goldberg and Joe Rogan did a good job on commentary throughout the evening, as they normally do, but anyone who has been following the sport in recent months is fully aware of the fact that UFC 60's ticket sales came nowhere close to Zuffa's publicly expressed expectations.
Any other UFC event with the same level of attendance would be viewed as a huge success at the live gate, but it's a different story altogether when you have an event that UFC president Dana White repeatedly said would break the all-time attendance records, and it winds up not coming close to doing so. The event was not "sold out," as Goldberg said. Whether UFC management simply told Goldberg that the event was sold out and he repeated it, or whether he was specifically told to say that the event was sold out even though it wasn't, it's generally not an accident when an announcer says, "We're sold out!" several times during a broadcast.
The high ticket prices for UFC 60 were slashed several weeks before the event, and even then, free "comp" tickets were still being given away en masse, in an attempt to make it look good for the cameras. There were promotions such as the one on the KROQ radio station where you didn't even have to be the X numbered caller to get free tickets, as is normally the case with ticket give-aways. Anyone who called got free tickets because there were so many of them to give away.
As recently as the Hughes-Gracie countdown show on Spike TV shortly before UFC 60, White was saying that there would be "over 20,000 fans" in the building, which would have been an extremely difficult task, given the fact that it was configured to hold 16,947 fans.
Zuffa claimed after the event to have sold 14,802 tickets, which is also false. The legitimate attendance numbers for UFC 60 were 10,347 paid tickets and 4,418 free tickets. The total attendance was 14,765, and approximately one-third of those people got into the show for free. Zuffa also floated the ridiculous claim both before and after the event that UFC 60 had a live gate approaching $9 million, which is only a correct statement if you consider $2,900,090 (the actual live gate) to be "approaching $9 million." The actual live gate was, as Dave Meltzer put it, "less than one-third of the numbers that the company had thrown around in the media leading into the show."
I don't know the specific reason that UFC management gave the directive to say that the event was "sold out," but whatever the reason, it was unnecessary. Is it not enough to talk about how far the sport has come, and point out that it would have been unthinkable just six years ago when the UFC was barely alive to suggest that the UFC would be having a big show at the Staples Center? Is it not enough to pan the crowd and make it look impressive to the average PPV viewer without feeling the need to have your play-by-plan man lie about the place being sold out? Is it not enough to say that you had a gigantic live gate of $2.9 million rather than floating the ridiculous $9 million figure?
Unfortunately, this is just a small part of a much bigger trend of deception. On the subject of attendance, Zuffa said that UFC 59 in Anaheim sold 17,000 tickets in just a few days, and it still says on the UFC web site that the event had over 17,000 fans in attendance. The legitimate attendance, as released by the California State Athletic Commission and the arena, was a sellout of 13,814, which is also a very impressive figure. Again, is it not impressive enough to sell out an arena configured for 13,814 seats? Why is there a perceived need to lie and claim that you sold over 17,000 tickets?
The Undefeated Royce Gracie?
The same sentiment applies to the much more blatant lie about Royce Gracie's "MMA record" of 11-0. When the UFC first started up with the false advertising in countless commercials on Spike TV in the weeks before UFC 60, I thought it was just a mistake. After all, the original UFC 60 commercials on Spike TV made it a point to say that Royce Gracie was "undefeated in the Octagon," which is a way of suggesting that he has never lost a fight without actually saying it, and there's nothing wrong with that. That is simple "slight of hand marketing" and is done all the time. That wouldn't be all that big of a deal.
It crossed the line into being some of the most blatant false advertising in recent memory when the updated commercials that the UFC ran on Spike TV simply referred to Royce as "the undefeated Royce Gracie." Again, one could think that it might be a mistake and not intentional, but it ended up being a conscious effort to deceive people, because Royce Gracie was repeatedly listed as having an "MMA record" of 11-0 on the UFC 60 PPV broadcast.
Everyone else on the card had their MMA records listed, but Royce had his UFC record listed, while still having it called his MMA record (and it wasn't even his accurate UFC record). For a large percentage of viewers who aren't knowledgeable enough about the sport to know any better, they probably believed it, and that was the whole point of doing it. If a certain percentage of the viewing audience doesn't know any better, you can often get away with deceiving them.
Zuffa is very much in the business of trying to control the flow of information (actual Dana White quote regarding web site traffic in a recent newspaper interview: "Our web site is a real machine for us. We get a lot of hits. They can't go anywhere else to read it, so they come to us.") Part of the advantage of trying to control the flow of information is that you can often re-write history and get away with it. Vince McMahon has done it for years in WWE in many different ways, and the UFC has moved closer and closer to McMahon's less-than-pleasant image by re-writing history in any way that they see fit.
The convenience must be wonderful. Are you on bad terms with Tito Ortiz for a while? Just delete him from the UFC's history, then add him back when he signs another contract with you. Are you on bad terms with Frank Shamrock? Just delete him from the UFC's history, too, and pretend with a straight face at a "Top 10" ceremony that he's not one of the top ten fighters in UFC history. (A couple years later, after he breaks the North American MMA attendance record, keep it on the down-low when you offer him a big-money contract to return to the UFC.)
Is it more convenient for you to lie and say that Royce Gracie is undefeated than it is to display his actual MMA record? Just write your own history and declare that his MMA record is now 11-0. This will make it look like Matt Hughes was the first man to ever beat Royce, even though that's a complete farce.
The fact of the matter is that in reality, Royce Gracie's MMA record going into the Hughes fight was 13-1-3, and that's if you don't count his first fight with Hidehiko Yoshida since it wasn't fought under MMA rules (the rules in that fight limited striking), or the so-called loss to Harold Howard in the fight that never happened at UFC 3.
In addition to his one previous loss, Royce has had three draws in his career, all in bouts where it was agreed before the fight that there would be no judges' decision if the fight went to the time limit. Royce fought to a draw with Ken Shamrock way back in 1995 (which Shamrock would have won if there were judges), and he fought to a draw with Yoshida in 2003 (which Gracie would have won if there judges). Most recently, Gracie fought to a draw (which could have gone either way if there were judges) last December in a fight where Gracie weighed-in at 190 pounds and his opponent, Hideo Tokoro, weighed-in at 152 pounds.
Far more significant than the three draws on Gracie's record is the one previous defeat on his legitimate MMA record of 13-1-3 going into the Hughes fight. That one previous loss came against Kazushi Sakuraba in an epic 90-minute fight, in front of a massive crowd at the Tokyo Dome, in one of the most historically significant MMA matches of all time. In other words, I'm pretty sure that it happened and that I didn't imagine it.
Despite this, there were countless TV commercials referring to Royce as "the undefeated Royce Gracie," and it repeatedly said on the screen during UFC 60, "MMA Record: 11-0." Just because the UFC made the choice not to acknowledge Royce's previous loss in the lead-up to his fight at UFC 60 does not mean that the previous loss doesn't exist, especially given that his previous loss took place in one of the most famous MMA matches of all time.
If anyone wants to try to correct me on a technicality by saying, "But his UFC record really was 11-0!" then that could easily be countered by three points. One, his previous UFC record was not 11-0; it was 11-0-1. Second, it specifically said during UFC 60 on a repeated basis that 11-0 was his "MMA record," as opposed to his "UFC record." Third, with the logic that 11-0 really was his UFC record, then why is it that every other fighter in recent UFC history has had their overall MMA record displayed on the screen instead of just their UFC record? If you're only displaying UFC records, shouldn't Assuerio Silva's record have been listed as 0-1 going into his fight against Mike Swick at UFC 60?
While trying to establish the UFC as a real sport, things this like only serve to make Zuffa look bush league, which is the exact opposite of the image that they want to project. As Dave Meltzer wrote in the Wrestling Observer, "Royce's history was rewritten to where his most famous matches were suddenly no longer part of his story, and the term 'undefeated' constantly being used was not just misleading, but outright deceptive... As much as the UFC wants to be taken seriously as a real sport, Major League Baseball doesn't erase its own history, make up team records or individual player records during the World Series, have commentators change the results of famous games, or claim sell-outs that aren't so. Even boxing, a sport that the UFC compares itself with and talks about being the more honest version of, doesn't do that. HBO Boxing doesn't pretend fights that didn't air on HBO actually didn't happen. Even WWE, with its decades long history of dishonesty, doesn't even do that anymore."
What causes the "Royce Gracie is undefeated" lie to make such little sense is that it was completely unnecessary. Zuffa could have just as easily pushed to new viewers and reinforced to long-time viewers that Royce Gracie is a legend in the sport who changed the entire perception of fighting in the United States, and they could have sold the fight just as well in doing so without lying about his MMA record. Instead, they lied in order to enhance something that didn't necessarily need to be enhanced.
Zuffa Pays TUF Winners Six-Figure Salaries?
The same can be said about the so-called "six-figure" contracts that are awarded to the winners of The Ultimate Fighter. If you say to the average person that you're making "six figures" in salary from a particular employer, that is widely regarded to mean that you are making in excess of $100,000 per year from that employer (hence the actual phrase "six figures"... this concept is not rocket science).
Zuffa's use of the phrase "six figures" is misleading and has been since the first season, when it was specifically said by Zuffa (and reported at the time) that the TUF winner's contracts were for three years and $350,000. In reality, the winner's contracts for the first three seasons have the following terms.
The TUF winner's contracts bind the fighter exclusively to the UFC for three years, with three fights per year. In the first year, the salary for each fight is $12,000 to fight and an additional $12,000 to win. Fighting income for the year would range from $36,000 to $72,000, depending on wins and losses.
In the second year, it's $16,000 and $16,000 per fight, meaning that fighting income for the year would range from $48,000 to $96,000. In the third year, it's $22,000 and $22,000 per fight, meaning that fighting income for the year would range from $66,000 to $122,000. That is actually a six-figure income in one year out of three, or zero years out of three, depending on wins and losses.
Total fighting income paid to the fighter by Zuffa over the course of the three-year contract would range from $150,000 to $300,000, depending on wins and losses, and would only hit the $300,000 mark if the fighter went 9-0 in his first nine UFC fights. The UFC could just as easily say that the winners of TUF get "UFC contracts" or even "big UFC contracts," and they would still have an attractive prize for TUF. There is no need to be so misleading about the terms of the deal.
This is straight out of the WWE playbook, where there was a so-called "Million Dollar Tough Enough competition" that was won by MMA fighter Daniel Puder, and the reality of the contract was actually, "It's four years at $250,000 per year, and only the first year is guaranteed, and you're very likely to be released after one year."
One area in which Zuffa may have actually topped McMahon on the classless scale is in the percentage of revenue that goes to the talent, which I have written about extensively in the past and once again this past week with a series of articles looking at the UFC's PPV sales, live gate revenue, and fighter salaries. One example from earlier this year is that UFC 59 generated a total of over $18 million in gross revenue, and yet there were still six different fighters on the UFC 59 card who made $5,000 or less (which is less than the cost of a 60-second commercial on The Ultimate Fighter).
The top fighters are now making more money due to the huge explosion in revenue that started in early 2005. However, the UFC fighters who fill out the prelims and even the main cards are still getting paychecks that should be embarrassing for any self-respecting businessman to be paying fighters, given the company's huge revenue streams and its desire to be seen as a major-league sport. Even if it's basic capitalism to pay as little as possible, the UFC's pay scale is not doing the company any favors if Zuffa wants the UFC to be seen as a major-league sport, as opposed to a bush-league sport whose athletes have to get side jobs to support themselves, or a sport like boxing with a trashy mainstream media image.
Zuffa Added Most of the Rules and Regulations?
When it comes to talking to mainstream media reporters, lying is the norm rather than the exception for Zuffa, and there is a mountain of evidence to back up that assertion.
Again, on the issue of re-writing history, what do you do if you're Zuffa and you want to inflate your place in the history of the sport? Just tell mainstream media reporters who don't know any better that it was only since 2001, when Zuffa started running things, that the UFC added things like weight classes (actually 1997), multiple judges scoring a fight if it goes the distance (1995), doctors at ringside (1993), medical exams of fighters (1993), time limits (1995), gloves (1995), multiple timed rounds (1999), the banning of groin strikes (1994), the ability of the referee to stop the fight (1994), and whatever else you can get them to believe.
The mainstream media reporters won't bother to do five minutes of research to correct you, and it'll seem like you took the sport directly from a no-rules street fighting contest into a civilized affair! You won't be directly quoted, but the same series of lies will just happen to appear in most mainstream media articles about the UFC in which you're quoted talking about other things.
You want examples? There are literally far too many to list, so let's focus on some of the more recent and high-profile examples.
In the high-profile trade journal MultiChannel News in June, the author of an article about the UFC happened to write this immediately after quoting Dana White about something else: "Once Zuffa purchased the franchise from [Bob] Meyrowitz, it immediately imposed rules to make the sport more appealing to state athletic commissions and cable operators. The sport has outlawed such moves as eye gouging, biting and kicks to the crotch. Much like boxing, the UFC emphasized weight classes and allowed referees to stop matches at their discretion. In 2001, Zuffa was able to convince boxing-friendly athletic associations in New Jersey and Nevada to sanction UFC fights."
Besides the usual lies about when various rules were implemented (seriously, eye gouging and biting?), the MultiChannel News article also repeated Zuffa's oft-mentioned claim that it got the UFC sanctioned in both Nevada and New Jersey. In reality, before Zuffa ever bought the UFC, it was sanctioned and regulated by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, which was widely regarded as the second most important sanctioning body in the country.
The "old UFC" also ran fully sanctioned UFC events in states such as Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but it was New Jersey that was regarded as having the second-biggest sanctioning body (behind only Nevada's) in terms of importance and prestige. In addition to getting fully sanctioned in New Jersey, the previous owners of the UFC also made an unsuccessful attempt to get sanctioned in Nevada shortly before selling the UFC to Zuffa for $2 million, which means that it's complete BS whenever you read that the previous owners "ran from regulation" or "ran from sanctioning."
There was a flood of poorly-researched hack-jobs about Zuffa's history in early July, which coincided with a flood of Dana White interviews in mainstream newspapers, and this kicked off with an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The article repeatedly misspelled the name of former UFC president Bob Meyrowitz, which shows how much research was done for the article, and the author of the article wrote that Meyrowitz "kept conducting UFC cards in states without athletic commissions that would not regulate it, which only fueled the sport's outlaw reputation and further angered McCain."
Immediately before that point in the article, Dana White is quoted as saying, "I could see that if this was done the right way, if someone didn't run away from regulation but embraced it, if someone cleaned it up and shined it a little, this thing could be huge." Shortly after the line about Meyrowitz and his non-existent rebel UFC events in states that specifically banned MMA, White is quoted again, this time saying, "We all felt if we made some changes and embraced regulation, this had the potential to just go crazy."
Again, that is re-writing history at best, and lying through your teeth at worst. The previous owners did not "run away from regulation." They sought sanctioning and actually got it in New Jersey, and then shortly before selling the UFC to Zuffa, the previous owners tried unsuccessfully to get it sanctioned in Nevada.
The article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal added the following, just in case any knowledgeable readers were still wondering if the article was a hack-job: "White traveled the country like a carnival barker... It wasn't long before New Jersey and Nevada approved the UFC and agreed to allow mixed martial arts fights, leading to nearly every major boxing state approving it."
Even the Washington Post, which normally does a good job with basic fact-checking, fell for this line of BS in a July 8th article that also happened to quote Dana White about Zuffa's purchase of the UFC in 2001. The author of the article wrote, "UFC President Dana White and Zuffa LLC took over in 2001 and since then the UFC has tightened its rules and restrictions. It banned elbowing, head-butting and knee strikes to the head while on the ground, introduced weight classes and implemented various other protections, such as referee training, and mandatory fight doctors." We've already gone over the timeline of when those things were actually implemented (much earlier than 2001).
Several days after the Washington Post story was published, a much longer article (which also quoted Dana White about Zuffa's purchase of the UFC) appeared in the Boston Globe, and it repeated an even more brazen set of lies. The author of the Globe article actually wrote that Zuffa "resurrected UFC from the scrap heap of bad marketing and no-holds-barred mayhem when they bought the company name from Bob Meyrowitz for around $160,000. At the time ultimate fighting had a sullied reputation. No state would sanction its bouts because it had no rules and boasted of its refusal to cooperate with state regulatory bodies."
Zuffa bought the UFC for $160,000? No state would sanction UFC bouts in 2001? The UFC had no rules in 2001? The previous owners boasted of their refusal to cooperate with state regulatory bodies? I think the Boston Globe may have set a new record for "most factually incorrect information ever fit into a few sentences," but it fits right in with the kinds of things that Zuffa would like everyone to believe.
But wait, the Boston Globe didn't also repeat the lies about Zuffa creating all of the rules, right? No, they did that, too: "By 1997, no-holds-barred events had been relegated to smoke-filled rooms in unregulated states... but by using Lorenzo Fertitta’s connections as a former Nevada boxing commissioner, doors began to open within the regulatory community when UFC came up with a set of rules. Where once anything was allowed, turning events into bloody barroom brawls without the cocktail glasses, [Dana] White and his associates added strict adherence to such things as weight classes, five-minute rounds, judges, and mandatory drug testing... [Zuffa] embraced regulatory bodies in states such as Nevada, New Jersey, and California, which had refused to acknowledge UFC."
The Wrestling Observer responded to the Boston Globe story by writing, "The story features the same b.s. about how in 2001, no state would sanction MMA when Bob Meyrowitz owned it and how the old UFC refused to cooperate with state athletic commissions. The truth is the exact opposite... Yes, another story about how the new owners added rules, and embraced regulation. It’s almost sickening how much this crap gets propagated and nobody does one iota of research to see how bogus it is."
Regarding one specific similarity to Vince McMahon's similar pattern of propaganda, Meltzer wrote, "Old-time wrestling fans will love this one. The old UFC was held in 'smoke-filled rooms in unregulated states' [according to the Boston Globe article]. That was the old Vince McMahon line about taking pro wrestling out of smoke filled arenas... what took both out of smoke-filled arenas was the creation of indoor smoking laws, not promoters."
One interesting side note to the Boston Globe article is that White also acknowledged in the article, "If there was no Web when we started, we wouldn't have been able to sustain it. UFC stayed alive on the Web. Our [demographic] could never have found out about us without it because the mainstream media was ignoring us." So, just to clarify, it's not what White isn't aware that the Internet kept the UFC alive for a time. He's fully aware of that; it's just not going to stop him from trying to control the flow of information and crack down on any form of independent, MMA-dedicated media.
In the biggest coup of all from a spreading of misinformation standpoint, an Associated Press reporter bit on the BS-bearing hook and included the same kind of factually incorrect in an AP news story about the UFC. As an AP article, it appeared in the majority of major (and minor) newspapers across the United States, as well as huge web sites throughout the world, including ESPN.com. The story claimed that when Zuffa bought the UFC and got it sanctioned in Nevada in 2001, "Out went bloody head butts and other vicious blows that could cause serious harm. In came a skilled and conditioned fighter."
With the exception of the lie about the previous owners "running from sanctioning," White is usually bright enough to not actually be quoted on the record repeating these lies. They just happen to show up in every mainstream article that quotes him talking about other topics. But in a very brazen example just this week on ESPNews' The Hot List, White flat-out lied, on the record, for everyone to see on national television.
On The Hot List, White said that the UFC "wasn't sanctioned by any of the major athletic commissions" before Zuffa bought it. This is not a matter for debate. It's just flat-out factually incorrect, as I've already detailed in this article.
Dana White also said on The Hot List, "When we first bought the sport, not only was it not in any of the major venues here in the United States, but it also wasn't on pay-per-view. We were on DirecTV, but we weren't on any of the cable pay-per-view systems." While I wasn't aware that Zuffa "bought the sport," White's statement about the PPV situation is absolutely correct. However, his statement about major venues is once again factually incorrect, unless the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City is not considered a "major venue."
White knew better than to repeat the lies about Zuffa adding all of the rules on national television. Interestingly, Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer several months back that when longtime Observer subscriber Dave Doyle (who writes about MMA for Fox) was talking to White for an interview, White dropped any signs of trying to pretend that Zuffa added most of the UFC's rules... as soon as it became clear in the conversation that Doyle was a longtime MMA fan who knew the history of the sport and would be able to tell the difference between reality and BS (as opposed to mainstream media reporters who know nothing about MMA and will repeat anything that you tell them because they don't know any better and generally won't bother to do five minutes of research).
Regarding the specific line that the previous owners of the UFC "ran from sanctioning," which is one line that Dana White does not have a problem giving on-the-record in any mainstream media interview, the previous owners did not "run from sanctioning," and Zuffa knows that based on the circumstances of how Zuffa bought the UFC. In fact, one of the last things that the previous owners did before selling the UFC to Zuffa was to try unsuccessfully to get the UFC sanctioned in Nevada.
Here's the actual story about how SEG came to sell the UFC to Zuffa, gathered from multiple issues of the Wrestling Observer, with edits made in brackets to fill in context or correct grammar, and with a timeline clarification courtesy of Whaledog.com: "Meyrowitz [former UFC president Bob Meyrowitz] would go to InDemand [the PPV company] and ask what he needed to do to get back on InDemand, and they said the UFC needed to get sanctioned [by a major sanctioning body]. He got sanctioned in New Jersey, and was basically told that he needed to get it sanctioned in Nevada, as that was the most influential athletic commission in the country. [Meyrowitz] set up a meeting in Las Vegas, and at the time, sanctioning was going to happen based on what inside sources were telling both Meyrowitz and InDemand. Suddenly, the night before the approval that was going to be the step to put the UFC back on the map, Meyrowitz was told that he was going to be voted down [the next day, when his request was scheduled to be voted on by the members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission]. He didn't have the votes. He was also told that if he followed through the next day, and was voted down, he would never have an opportunity to be sanctioned. So, he pulled out, they created some cover reason as to why he was pulling his attempt at sanctioning, and basically he was screwed. Lorenzo Fertitta [the current co-owner of the UFC] was an influential member of the Nevada commission at the time. [Approximately one year later], Fertitta purchased the UFC [for $2 million], then got sanctioning in Nevada, and then got on PPV."
There are dozens and dozens more examples of mainstream articles that quote Dana White as part of the article, and also just happen to keep giving Zuffa far more credit than is deserved for adding all of the rules, along with repeating the same set of lies about the previous owners of the UFC.
This particular set of deceptions and distortions, constantly repeated to mainstream media members who print them without knowing any better, is also completely unnecessary. Zuffa legitimately did a lot of great things for the sport in the aforementioned time period (and also has in the years since then), such as getting sanctioning in Nevada, unifying the rules between Nevada and the pre-existing New Jersey sanctioning, and getting back on cable PPV, so there's no need to lie about it. The truth is flattering enough. There's no valid reason for continuing to propagate these lies, and yet it keeps happening.
MMA is Merging with Pro Wrestling
It should also be troubling to any hardcore fan of MMA that the direction of the UFC is becoming increasingly similar to pro wrestling. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who is actually a fan of pro wrestling, butalso wants MMA to be more of a "real sport" than what it is becoming. This trend towards a pro wrestling-like product should be a lot more upsetting to you if happen to be one of the many MMA fans who dislike pro wrestling.
It's also important to note that I still find the UFC product to be enjoyable even in its current form, and there are still a decent amount of quality fights to be found in the UFC. There's just nowhere near as many as there would be if the current UFC product actually had anything to do with determining who the best fighters are (you know, like how every season of the NFL determines who the best football team is, and every season of the NBA determines who the best basketball team is).
I have written previously about the worked pull-aparts between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock on The Ultimate Fighter 3, and have explained exactly what I mean by the phrase "worked pull-aparts." Ken Shamrock was even kind enough to add more pro wrestling terminology into the hype during the ridiculous Episode 12 pull-apart. An interesting note to add on that front is that when TUF 3 contestant Tait Fletcher was asked in an interview with Jason Milloff about the interaction between Ortiz and Shamrock, Fletcher said, "It was a joke. It was comedy. Again, you could probably see me laughing... when Ken goes off into his pro wrestling/WWE mode, does he really expect anyone to take him seriously? That’s kind of hard to do."
But I'm not just talking about the worked pull-aparts and other nonsense such as having a fighter on TUF 3 who has a losing record in MMA. I'm also talking about the fact that it is now considered commonplace for the UFC to book squash matches in PPV main events just to elevate someone or pop a PPV buyrate.
Make no mistake about it, Pride does this all the time as well. The difference is that Pride has been, from its very inception, rooted in the tradition of pro wrestling, since it was originally born out of the UWFI, a "strong-style pro wrestling" company. On the other hand, the UFC has always vehemently claimed to be above this kind of thing, and has always balked at any pro wrestling comparisons, actually going so far as to deny the viewership crossover between UFC programming and pro wrestling on Spike TV (even when overwhelming evidence shows that the two audiences are, in large part, the same people).
There's a name for something where you match people against each other to draw money and you know the outcome ahead of time. It's called pro wrestling. The only difference between pro wrestling and the UFC in this particular area is that the match outcomes themselves are pre-determined in pro wrestling, whereas the best they can possibly do in the UFC is to manipulate the matchmaking in order to create main event fights where they can have 90% or higher certainty that a particular fighter is going to win. (Think Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie, or Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock, which was indeed the "main event" of UFC 61 since it was given the vast majority of the hype going into the event.)
Bruce Mitchell recently wrote a column in the Pro Wrestling Torch about the UFC's trend to be more like pro wrestling, focusing specifically on TUF 3. This is just an excerpt from a much larger column: "Years ago, fans thought WWF wrestling was real conflict. Today they don't. They still buy tickets based on how the McMahon family manipulates the circumstances around the fighters to get the fans excited enough to buy things... Dana White does the same thing that Vince McMahon and [TNA booker] Jeff Jarrett do. Do you think he chose Tito Ortiz or Ken Shamrock as coaches for Ultimate Fighter because they were the best instructors he could find to teach apprentice fighters, or because their hatred for each other makes good TV? Do you think UFC chose those apprentices solely based on their potential as fighters, like that 33 year old big mouth, or because they'd make good TV personalities? Do you think he's promoting Ortiz vs. Shamrock as a big time main event because they're the two best fighters in the Octagon, or is it because they're two marketable personalities who know how to present themselves and their enmity in charismatic ways? Hell, Shamrock is 42 years old and hasn't won a big match in years."
The UFC's pro wrestling-like direction goes further than the Ortiz-Shamrock dynamic that Mitchell wrote about. For every PPV main event on the UFC's 2006 schedule that is legitimately a championship-level fight, featuring one fighter who is a champion against another fighter who deserves a title shot (like Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre, Chuck Liddell vs. Renato Sobral, and hopefully Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva), there's another PPV main event on the schedule that exists for the sole purpose of drawing money and/or elevating someone with a huge mismatch (like Hughes vs. Gracie, or Ortiz vs. Shamrock).
Of course, the actual fights are not fixed, and I am not suggesting for a second that they are. Zuffa can never know for sure if the fighter who they expect to win is going to win. Three examples: Rich Franklin still had to go out there and actually win the fight against Ken Shamrock, but the fight was a mismatch that was ultimately booked to draw money and give Franklin a big win over a big name. The same statement applies to Hughes vs. Gracie (White even said before UFC 60 in a media conference call that he would be "pretty screwed" if Gracie won), and it also applies to Ortiz vs. Shamrock, which was always regarded as a fight that was overwhelmingly likely to give Ortiz a big win over a big name before his tentatively planned Light Heavyweight title shot.
It's generally not a good sign if you paid $40 for a PPV main event (like Hughes vs. Gracie) and it would be completely accurate for you to think, "That fight was booked specifically for Fighter A to destroy Fighter B, and everyone involved knew that it was overwhelmingly likely to happen, and that is exactly what did happen, and now Fighter A's standing in the sport has been elevated, and that's why exactly the fight was booked in the first place." That's how pro wrestling is booked, with the only difference being that the promoters can be 100 percent certain of the results in pro wrestling, while MMA promoters can only be 90+ percent certain with mismatched shoot fights. One product is a work and the other is a shoot, but they are becoming increasingly similar.
When Vince McMahon recently said in a MultiChannel News article that the people at Zuffa "don't quite know what they're doing in terms of building characters," the author of the article asked Dana White about the subject of bringing new stars into the UFC. The author of the article then wrote, "White said UFC's momentum won't be pinned down by a lack of star power anytime soon. He added the Ultimate Fighter reality series will continue to unveil up and coming superstars, whose careers fans will be able to track through its live events."
In other words, the new stars in the UFC's future will not be the top free agents from around the world. Sure, some of them will be, and there will also be inter-promotional deals like the one with Pride to bring in Wanderlei Silva for what White described as "probably" a three-fight deal at the UFC 61 post-fight press conference. But with the exception of a few cases like this, the "new stars" in the UFC's future will primarily be TUF contestants.
There wouldn't necessarily be anything wrong with that if TUF really was an outlet for the top up-and-coming MMA fighters in the world to get a shot in the UFC, but that is not the case. If you look at the fighters who were on the second and third seasons of TUF, the amount of people who had no business being on the show given their lack of MMA experience was actually larger than the amount of people who could be accurately described as "up-and-coming MMA fighters."
On the upcoming fourth season, there will be 16 former UFC fighters, exactly two of whom have winning records in the UFC. Far from being "former top fighters who just got off-track," which is how this season of TUF is being sold by the UFC, the combined UFC record of the eight welterweights on the fourth season of TUF is 16 wins and 17 losses. The combined UFC record of the middleweights on TUF 4 is four wins and 15 losses (total combined UFC record for both weight classes: 20-32).
Regarding the UFC's trend towards a pro wrestling-like product, the UFC's own Heavyweight Champion, Tim Sylvia, said this in a Las Vegas Review-Journal article about UFC 61: "The only reason he [Ken Shamrock] is fighting is because he's got a mouth and he likes to do that wrestling [talk], that WWE stuff." Sylvia added, "We don't need that. We are world-class athletes, and we need to let our talents make the case for us. People who really know the sport know that, but we're still growing, and we need to represent ourselves a certain way."
In response to that statement by Sylvia, Jeff Thaler wrote the following on Whaledog.com: "Sylvia raises a good point, but the reason Shamrock is headlining [UFC 61] is easy to explain. The UFC likes Ken Shamrock because it promotes itself more like a professional wrestling promotion than a sport - promoting its brand first, its president second, and actual athletes last. Manufactured hype is more important to Zuffa than the quality of athletes or fights."
As Dave Meltzer recently wrote in the Wrestling Observer, "The UFC... would rather try to create their own stars [on The Ultimate Fighter] than pay huge money for people they don't believe have name recognition past the Internet crowd. The truth is, the UFC has never been, at any point in its existence, about trying to find out who the best fighters in the world are."
I can't call that an inaccurate statement, but isn't "finding out who the best are" supposed to be what a real sport is all about when it comes down to it? If there's a situation such as the 2005 NBA Playoffs where the two teams meeting in the NBA Finals are viewed as being an undesirable TV ratings match-up, the NBA doesn't decide to put Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the Finals. The top two teams play, regardless of whether it's going to draw the biggest business. It's a real sport, and that's how it works. Similarly, if two of the smallest-market teams in the NFL make it to the Super Bowl next season, the NFL is not going to decide to bump one of them for the star power of Peyton Manning and the Colts.
The emphasis in the UFC is not on who the best fighters are. Who cares about that, right? (Apparently not Dana White, who recently said in an interview that he doesn't know too much about Fedor Emelianenko, who is almost universally regarded as the most dominant MMA fighter in the world.) The emphasis is purely on who can draw money, and who can be elevated by a fight in order to draw money in subsequent fights. It doesn't have to be that one-sided, nor does it have to be completely in the opposite direction.
It's actually quite possible for the UFC to have entertaining fighters and entertaining fights, while still ultimately trying to match up the best fighters. The proposed Liddell-Silva fight is an excellent example, but that kind of thing is the exception rather than the norm in today's UFC. Just looking at the UFC 60 card, the same card that was headlined by the Hughes-Gracie farce, one can clearly see that it's possible for certain fights to deliver on both sides of this coin, and there's no reason that the main events can't do this more often as well.
Looking at the UFC 60 card, you've got the Hughes-Gracie squash match, where Zuffa got the exact result that it expected, not unlike a lamb being led to slaughter (which is sad, given all that Royce Gracie has done for the sport of MMA).
On the other hand, just look at the Mike Swick and Brandon Vera fights (Swick fought Hoe Riggs, and Vera fought Assuerio Silva). Swick and Vera are generally entertaining, charismatic fighters. Sure, Zuffa probably hoped that Swick and Vera would each win their respective fights because they are both potential future stars, but were Swick and Vera given opponents that were almost certain to result in easy victories for them? No, they weren't.
Swick and Vera were matched up against Joe Riggs and Assuerio Silva, respectively. Riggs and Silva are tough opponents, and either of them could very well have beaten Swick or Vera. In the end, Swick and Vera won fights against tough opposition, and they earned the boost in stature that they got from doing so.
This is the kind of balance that Zuffa should be trying to have in more of its main events as well. For the PPV main events in particular, is it really too much to ask when you're paying $40 to have one fighter who is a champion going up against another fighter who deserves a title shot?
I'm not suggesting that the UFC should be completely antiseptic or sterile, but it would be nice if the UFC resembled a "real sport" more than it resembled a shoot form of pro wrestling.