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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
"Champions' Clauses" and Potty-Mouthed Executives
by Ivan Trembow

Unless Georges St. Pierre has signed a new contract in the past few months, his fight against B.J. Penn on January 31 is the final fight on his UFC contract.

However, due to the "champions' clause" in UFC contracts, St. Pierre is considered to be under UFC contract at the same pay rate for as long as he holds the UFC Welterweight Title. This clause allows the UFC to extend a fighter's contract for one year or three fights at the same pay rate when he successfully defends a title.

If he holds the title for the rest of his career and retires, then he would be under UFC contract for the rest of his life.

What's not entirely clear is what happens if he loses the title to Penn on January 31. Would he become a free agent? Or would he still be locked into the same pay rate until one year/three fights from his last successful title defense, which was a decision win over Jon Fitch in August 2008?

Either way, St. Pierre is likely to stay with the UFC (based on the fact that he has publicly said so); it's just a matter of whether he is locked into the same pay rate by the "champions' clause."

Update: Michael Rome of BloodyElbow.com reports that St. Pierre has signed a new contract with the UFC.

Potty-Mouthed Executives
There was a mini-scandal in the NFL last week when the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns used one profanity in an e-mail to a fan.

Also last week, Dana White posted the following message about MMA Mania on the Underground Forum through his surrogates: ""Suck my [expletive]! The day a [expletive] website knows more about UFC business deals I have made than I do will... just [expletive] these [expletive]. If they're headlining their [expletive] in a way that even comes close to claiming I [expletive] said "[expletive] Fitch for not signing a video game agreement" then they're [expletive] scumbag [expletive]!""

Apparently, we have lower standards for MMA executives.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Effect of Super-Heavyweights on MMA; More on UFC/AKA Debacle
by Ivan Trembow

Zach Arnold of FightOpinion.com asked an interesting question following Brock Lesnar's win over Randy Couture. Lesnar weighs in at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds and then walks into the Octagon the next day at 275 to 280 pounds, which prompted this question:

“So, how much of an issue will weight be, given the result of this fight? If Lesnar is a natural super-heavyweight..."

The first thing this will mean is that anyone who is 230 pounds or lower will be cutting weight shortly before their fights to make the light heavyweight of 205 pounds. Actually, that is what already happens in the majority of cases anyway.

On a wider level, if natural super-heavyweights fighting at heavyweight becomes the norm (ie, fighters stepping into the cage at 275+ pounds) the fighters that it’s really going to negatively affect are the fighters whose natural weight is in the 230 to 249 pound range.

Those fighters are the ones who would really be in a tough situation. If they try to cut to light heavyweight, it will be very difficult for them to lose enough weight to make 205 pounds, even by MMA's extreme weight-cutting standards.

If they choose to stay in the heavyweight division, it will also be very difficult for them to fight against fighters who outweigh them by huge amounts of weight. It may be a disadvantageous situation either way for fighters in the 230 to 249 pound range, and that's a lot of fighters.

More on UFC/AKA Debacle
According to what Jon Fitch said in a video interview with MMA Rated, what happened during the Lorenzo Fertitta coversation was that Fertitta "give his word" that the merchandising contract was not a permanent thing and that if he "ever wanted to leave," there's a possibility that he could get out of it. Of course, the actual contract says that it's both lifetime and exclusive, as Dana White acknowledged in the USA Today interview.

It's also interesting to note how the UFC is preying on fighters' lack of knowledge about other potential video game deals. We've seen multiple fighters, including Fitch, say something to the effect of, "Come on, who else is going to be want to put ME in a video game?" This demonstrates that they are completely unaware of the fact that the biggest video game publisher in the world, Electronic Arts, also has a mixed martial arts game in the pipeline, and unlike Zuffa/THQ, they are willing to pay fighters to be a part of it. It's not like it would be a huge amount of money, but it shows the fighters not being aware of what they're signing away.

On a related note, it is amusing, but not really surprising, to see that the UFC was crying "poor economy, poor economy" throughout the whole UFC/AKA mess (as well as during seemingly every UFC press conference and interview these days), given that the UFC has publicly mocked boxing promoter Bob Arum for mentioning the poor economy.

Robert Joyner of MMAPayout.com wrote a good editorial about the UFC/AKA situation (available here); as did Sam Caplan of FiveOuncesofPain.com (available here).

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Thursday, November 20, 2008
Fear, Intimidation, and Making Examples Out of People: UFC Wins Power Struggle, Fighters Give UFC Lifetime Rights to Their Likenesses
by Ivan Trembow

(Previous entry on this subject: "Sign Away Lifetime Rights to Your Own Likeness, Or You're Fired")

Fear, intimidation, and making examples out of people. If you've followed the MMA industry for long enough, you already know that's how the UFC frequently operates during contract disputes, and they're usually successful at getting what they want. The latest situation, with numerous fighters being unwilling to sign over the lifetime rights to their own likenesses, is no different.

After releasing American Kickboxing Academy fighters Jon Fitch and Christian Wellisch and threatening to oust their entire fight team from the UFC, along with any other fight teams that don't want to be "partners" with the UFC/Zuffa (ie, sign anything that the UFC tells them to sign), the UFC has gotten what it wanted. Fitch and Wellisch have re-signed with the UFC, which now owns the lifetime rights to their likenesses. Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, and Cain Velasquez are expected to sign away the lifetime rights to their likenesses shortly.

This situation was perhaps the most abusive example of MMA fighters' need for a union, but that was only going to happen if the fighters or their management teams united in the face of the UFC's despotic actions. Instead, the opposite may have happened. The purpose of the UFC's actions was to scare the living daylights out of any fighter or management team that dared to defy the UFC's orders to sign anything that the UFC wants them to sign, and the UFC appears to have been successful in that effort.

Sam Caplan of FiveOuncesofPain.com spoke with numerous MMA fighters' managers, and even early in the process, they were already scurrying for cover to avoid angering the UFC giant, lest they suffer the same fate as Fitch and his camp. Caplan wrote in one of his first articles on the subject, "No one wants to get on Dana White’s bad side. For an agency to alienate themselves from the UFC is considered to be an act of suicide. Nobody likes the terms of the deal being offered, but thus far everyone appears ready to be bracing themselves to take a bite out of the s--t sandwich."

In a subsequent article that was written after he spoke with even more MMA fighters' managers, Caplan wrote, "In a clear attempt to try and entice fighters to leave AKA and Zinkin [Fitch's fight team and management], White sent a message to non-UFC fighters that train at the gym by intimating that their prospects of fighting for the promotion are damaged as long as they are affiliated with the AKA or Zinkin."

The headline of one of Caplan's articles summed up the situation well: "Fitch’s release a calculated attempt to send fighters and their managers a message."

As Robert Joyner wrote on MMAPayout.com in an article that was aptly headlined simply by the word Brazen, "We knew [the UFC] would look at some unethical ways to get the deals done... but not in our wildest dreams did we have the notion that the UFC would basically go to war with its own fighters in order to get the merchandise agreement signed. For all intents and purposes Dana [White] has taken AKA out into the middle of town square and shot them in the head, making an example for the rest of the village. Sign the merchandise agreements or this could be you."

Later on Thursday, American Top Team manager Dan Lambert went into UFC ass-kissing mode in an interview with MMA Junkie, effectively distancing himself and his camp from the fighters and managers who were not being obedient and signing what the UFC told them to sign.

The only prominent manager who spoke up and said anything that might anger the UFC giant was Monte Cox, who said to Sports Illustrated's Josh Gross, "I just think it's unfortunate... What if the UFC decides they're doing a new calendar? If a guy doesn't want to pose, do they cut him for that, too?"

The Sports Illustrated article also said that Cox will "likely" advise his clients not to sign away the lifetime rights to their likenesses, which could indicate that the UFC's next power struggle will be with Cox and the many UFC fighters that he manages.

Despite publicly saying, "F--k him. F--k them. All of them, every last f--king one of them" about Fitch and the other fighters who would not sign the UFC merchandising agreements, Dana White said in an interview with USA Today that he had no problem at all with Fitch or any of the other individual fighters. He said repeatedly that he just had a problem with their management.

If anything, doesn't that make White's actions worse? He had a problem with someone's managers, so in order to send a message to those managers, inflict pain on those managers, and put pressure on those managers, he released Fitch. Treating the #2-ranked welterweight in the world (or any fighter, for that matter) like a lowly pawn in his own power struggles is supposed to make White's actions less reprehensible instead of more reprehensible?

Fitch seemed to be aware of the bigger picture, as he said on Mauro Ranallo's radio show on Thursday, "It’s 100 percent a power play... They are coming out and they are trying to break us. They are trying to break Zinkin Entertainment and get us to jump off a ship. They are trying to send a message to the rest of the [fighters] out there."

Fitch also spoke again about White's negotiation style, which is essentially to sign what he tells you to sign, or else. Fitch said, "He made those threats. ‘What are you going to do? Where are you going to go? Good luck trying to fight somewhere else.’ This was in the process of the negotiating. This is what he was saying to us.”

The UFC started its very calculated game of chicken by first releasing Fitch's teammate, Christian Wellisch. Then, when Wellisch's teammates still wouldn't sign the merchandising agreements that the UFC ordered them to sign, Fitch was released next. Regarding Wellisch, Fitch told Sherdog, "They cut him from the organization first, I think as kind of a scare for me and [Josh] Koscheck and Cain [Velasquez]." Undefeated heavyweight prospect Velasquez would have almost certainly been next, given that White told Yahoo Sports that Velasquez "can get the f--k out."

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Fitch said, "To have this happen is crazy. This sport is definitely not about fighting anymore. It used to be about finding out who the best guy was, what the best style was. It's not about that anymore. It's about the top company making the most money."

Fitch also said to Sports Illustrated, "I just hope the other guys, the younger guys, everybody else involved, doesn't let them do this. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your rights. If you don't like an agreement or you're not comfortable with it, don't sign."

Of course, less than 24 hours after he said that, Fitch signed.

As I wrote early this morning, the comments of UFC president Dana White in interviews with USA Today and other media outlets had the clear subtext that the UFC was attempting to essentially separate the fighters from their managers, whose job is to look out for the best interests of the fighters, as opposed to just signing whatever the UFC orders the fighters to sign.

The message to fighters was clear: If you want to keep fighting in the UFC, but your manager or lawyer advises you against signing this merchandising agreement or any other contractual agreement that may arise in the future, you can and should just circumvent your manager, contact the UFC directly, and sign whatever we tell you to sign.

On Thursday, after more unproductive conversations with White, Fitch contacted White's boss, Lorenzo Fertitta, and eventually agreed to sign the same exact contractual clauses that White was trying threaten Fitch and his teammates into signing on Wednesday.

It wasn't the first time that Fertitta has been forced to play "Good Cop" after one of White's outbursts directed at fighters or their managers. Who had to handle Randy Couture's recent contract negotiations? Who had to handle Tito Ortiz' last few UFC contracts? Who had to handle the negotiations to buy Pride FC? Who would have to handle any potential future negotiations with Fedor Emelianenko after all of White's public insults towards Fedor and his camp? Lorenzo Fertitta.

In an interview with USA Today after he had agreed to re-sign with the UFC and sign away the lifetime rights to his likeness, Fitch said, "We talked to Dana [White] earlier today and we didn't get any further. We were still stuck in the mud. The way he talks to us, it just doesn't come across well, and I have a hard time dealing with him."

Fitch also said to MMA Rated on Thursday, "Communication kind of broke down with Dana [White], so we talked with Lorenzo [Fertitta]. I just got off the phone with him, and we came to an agreement. We’re going to move ahead, and I’ll be back in the UFC... we felt Dana was being a little bit hot-headed and was threatening us right off the bat. It didn’t seem like a professional way of doing things."

If you're wondering why Fitch would sign the lifetime rights to his own likeness over to a company that had just used him as a pawn in their own power struggles, had said "f--k... every last f--king one of them" regarding Fitch and his teammates, was threatening fighters into signing away the lifetime rights to their own likenesses, and is still threatening the same consequences to other fighters who don't agree to sign away the lifetime rights to their likenesses, the answer is pretty simple.

It's because, after all, "Where else is he going to go?" That is frequently the position that the UFC takes in contract negotiations with fighters. That is the specific statement that White made to Fitch's camp; that is what White said in his interview with USA Today ("Where the hell else could Jon Fitch go right now?"); and that is what UFC matchmaker Joe Silva was quoted as saying by the Houston Chronicle last year ("Where else is he going to go?") in regards to Andrei Arlovski's contract situation when he had one fight left on his UFC contract.

It would be naive to think that the lifetime merchandising agreements are going to be the final legally questionable contracts that UFC fighters are going to be forced into signing in the coming months and years.

The attitude of, "Where else is he going to go?" combined with the lack of a fighters' union or any form of collective bargaining will ensure that the fighters can't, as Fitch put it, "stand up for their rights" without permanently crippling their careers. And as long as that's the case, the UFC is going to continue to prey on that.

The fact that this has been horrible P.R. for the UFC doesn't appear to matter to them. They have succeeded in sending a strong message to any fighter or manager who is even thinking about refusing to sign anything that the UFC orders them to sign in the future. The UFC got what they wanted, and they got it the same way that they often get what they want in contract negotiations: Through fear, intimidation, and making examples out of people.

It was about a year ago that UFC president Dana White said in an interview that the most important thing for him is to be able to know that his kids don't have a "sleazeball promoter" for a father. It's not clear if that's the case anymore.

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UFC Management to All UFC Fighters: "Sign Away Lifetime Rights to Your Own Likeness, Or You're Fired"
by Ivan Trembow

After spending the past several months applying heavy pressure to its roster of fighters to sign new merchandising agreements and now releasing/firing fighters who won't, the UFC's management has inadvertently made the strongest case that has ever been made that MMA fighters need to have a union.

The merchandising agreements that Zuffa is attempting to threaten fighters into signing (ie, sign it or you're going to be released) requires the fighters to sign over to Zuffa/UFC the rights to those fighters' own likenesses, and not just for the length of their contract, or for five years, or for ten years. The fighters must sign over the rights to their own likenesses for the rest of their lives and even beyond.

When many fighters balked at signing such a ridiculous contract, the members of Zuffa's management did what they normally do whenever there is a contractual disagreement: They played hardball.

Any new fighter coming into the UFC had no choice in the matter: You either sign the contract that permanently signs away the rights to your own likeness, or you won't be signing with the UFC. Among the fighters who have shown no willingness to sign away their lifetime rights to the UFC is Fedor Emelianenko, the #1-ranked heavyweight in the sport.

In the cases of fighters who are already under contract to the UFC, Zuffa used a different de-facto threat: Sign the merchandising contract or we're going to release you.

After a little back-and-forth that likely consisted of something like, "No, seriously, we're not going to sign away the lifetime rights to our own likenesses" and then, "Yes, you are, because you've got nowhere else to make money in this business and you have to sign whatever we tell you to sign," the other shoe finally dropped and the UFC has started releasing/firing fighters who will not sign the merchandising contracts.

The first high-profile causuality of this edition of "The Threatening Game" was Jon Fitch, who is the #2-ranked welterweight fighter in the world according to MMAWeekly's World MMA Rankings. Fitch is tied with Royce Gracie for the all-time record of most consecutive wins in the UFC, as he went 8-0 in his first eight UFC fights before finally losing to #1-ranked welterweight Georges St. Pierre by unanimous decision this past August. Even with the loss to St. Pierre, Fitch remains a strong #2 in the worldwide welterweight rankings, in part because of his stellar record and in part because of the fact that he previously fought, dominated, and TKO'ed the current #3-ranked welterweight Thiago Alves in a UFC fight.

Of course, none of this matters to Zuffa. Fitch didn't give in to their threats, so now he has been released/fired. So has Christian Wellisch. The UFC intends to release any other fighters who do not sign the merchandising contracts, and that list could include such high-profile fighters as Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, and Cain Velasquez.

In a Yahoo Sports article, Zuffa president Dana White actually framed the issue as if the fighters who don't want to sign away the lifetime rights to their own likenesses are the ones who are being unreasonable. White said, "We’re looking for guys who want to work with us and not against us, and frankly I’m just so f--king sick of this s--t, it’s not even funny."

Regarding fighters like Fitch who won't give into the UFC's demands to sign the merchandising agreements, White said, "F--k him. These guys aren’t partners with us. F--k them. All of them, every last f--king one of them.”

Regarding undefeated heavyweight prospect Cain Velasquez, whom White previously pushed as being potentially the future of the heavyweight division, White said, "Cain f--king Velasquez, with two f--king fights, wants us to change it for him? That’s f--king nuts. He can get the f--k out."

Also on Wednesday night / Thursday morning, White told USA Today, "We don’t do anything wrong. We treat everybody the right way and we treat people the way that we want to be treated.”

As he dug a bigger hole for himself, White used the same kind of rationale in the Yahoo Sports interview that he has used in private negotiations about fighters not having anywhere else to make money if they don't sign with the UFC: “Do these guys understand what is going on in this world? I’ll tell you, this economy is f--cked up. It’s totally f--cked up. It’s bad, real, real bad. The [television] networks are in trouble and don’t have money. The sponsors are in trouble, and they have no money. If they don’t have money, they go out of business. It’s a whole other world out there, believe me, and let these guys go out there and see what they find.”

Of course, the statements about the economy have nothing to do with the merchandising agreements themselves, but they have everything to do with the UFC threatening fighters into signing away their rights by making the case that the fighters are not going to be able to make much money for very long in other MMA companies.

Fitch said in an interview with USA Today, "That was one of the direct threats from Dana himself. He was saying, 'Where are these guys going to go? They have to sign.' ... He was telling us, 'Okay, you're going to get cut. Have fun fighting for Affliction. Where are you guys going to go? You have nowhere to go.' That was in the threat that he used against us. They know that they have more power now. They know that there's no one who really can hold a candle to them."

White certainly can't be making the point that the UFC itself is in any kind of financial trouble. They have $300 million in annual revenue according to S&P. They just had a PPV event with a gross of $54 million if the UFC’s own estimates are accurate (so Zuffa’s share would be roughly $27 million). They have a TV deal that pays them over $33 million per year, and that’s without factoring in the extra fees for numbered UFC events that take place in the U.K. They pay their athletes, as a whole, a lower percentage of gross revenue than the athletes in any other major sport.

As Fitch said to Yahoo Sports, "The first thing they brought to us was for us to sign all of our rights away for everything forever. It was for very small compensation, and there was no compensation for family members if we were to die... We could die and they could make memorial figurines and stuff and make thousands, millions of dollars, and our families wouldn’t see a penny of it. The way they bring the contracts and stuff to us, I don’t know, it’s just not how business is done."

Fitch acknowledged in the interview that he and other fighters were willing to sign away their likenesses for longer than the terms of their UFC contracts, even for up to ten years, but the UFC wanted lifetime rights or nothing. Fitch said, "We tried to negotiate five- or ten-year deals with them, but it wasn’t good enough. It was all or nothing. He wanted our lifetime... I’m more than willing to work with them, but I don’t see why we have to give up our whole lives for this. Why not a time limit? If we did a ten-year deal with them, is that that unreasonable?"

As Fitch told MMAWeekly, "It's not like I've been bad mouthing them or doing anything negative toward the UFC at all. All I've done is go out there and fight my ass off. I'm at a loss. I don't even know what to think right now. I'm still kind of in shock."

Fitch added, "Within two phone calls, it got to, 'Sign this or you guys are out [of the UFC].' ... "They brought this contract to us and basically kicked in our front door, came in guns blazing, and said, 'Sign this contract or you're dead.'"

Fitch elaborated on that point in an interview with USA Today: "They come in and they threaten you and try to bully you. It's really disrespectful. I can't even believe they'd treat someone like this in daily life, let alone business... When's it going to stop? ... What's the next thing they're going to force us into signing?"

It appears as though part of the UFC's motivation for releasing Fitch is to strike fear into other fighters by showing them that anyone, even the #2-ranked welterweight in the world, can be released if they don't sign the merchandising agreement.

As Sam Caplan wrote on Five Ounces of Pain, "With Fitch, the UFC can make a major statement and strike the fear of God into everyone... Sources have stated that UFC officials chose to make an example of Fitch to send a message to other agents and managers. The feeling was that Fitch was expendable and his status as an elite fighter would be an effective way to help try and convince other fighters to fall in line."

Fitch agrees with that sentiment, as he told USA Today, "I think that's one of the things they're trying to do is to publicly break us, or get rid of us, kind of make an example for all of the rest of the fighters."

Indeed, Fitch's release was not the first shot on Wednesday in the UFC's game of fear, intimidation, and making examples out of people in order to get what they want. The first thing they did was release Fitch's teammate, Christian Wellisch. Regarding Wellisch, Fitch told Sherdog, "They cut him from the organization first, I think as kind of a scare for me and [Josh] Koscheck and Cain [Velasquez]."

It's crystal clear in USA Today's interview with Dana White that what the UFC is trying to do is separate the fighters from their managers, whose job is to look out for the best interests of the fighter (as opposed to just signing whatever the UFC orders the fighters to sign).

White cites Mike Swick as an example of a model employee, a “partner” as he words it, who called White personally and said to forget about his management because he’s with the UFC.

White says in the same interview that if Fitch would just call him and do the same thing (ie, separate himself from his management and agree to sign what the UFC wants him to sign), that White would do that in two seconds.

The message to fighters is clear: If you want to keep fighting in the UFC, but your manager or lawyer advises you against signing the merchandising agreement, you can just ditch your manager, contact me directly, and sign whatever I tell you to sign.

In the USA Today interview, White also puts unnamed “other MMA camps” on notice that he’ll cut off all relations with them just like he did with Fitch's camp if they don’t do what he wants.

The Yahoo Sports article also quotes Fitch as saying that he has been a loyal UFC employee and “I’d only like a little bit of respect for the blood I shed for this company.” The next line of the article is, "White said he has sacrificed more than anyone to build the UFC into the powerhouse it has become and that he’s tired of athletes who don’t want to 'get with the program.'"

Really? Dana White has had to work a side-job as a bouncer just to make ends meet, as Fitch did as recently as last year even though he signed with the UFC in 2005? Dana White has looked like this after UFC events, as Fitch did after the St. Pierre fight? Dana White has had ten-week-long training camps away from his family to build the UFC, as many UFC fighters have? Dana White has physically gotten beaten up and had broken bones and concussions to build the UFC, as many UFC fighters have? Dana White has had to train months for a fight that only paid him $3,000, as many UFC fighters have?

White continued to dig the hole deeper for himself in an interview on the Carmichael Dave Radio Show. According to Five Ounces of Pain, White "became so angry that the amount of expletives he used exceeded the station’s delay, prompting Carmichael to place the UFC president on hold."

White also said on the Carmichael Dave show, "It’s like all the media wants to jump up and go ‘Oh, the UFC! The UFC!' Shut up! Shut up. Every one of you, shut your mouth. Mind your business."

He is apparently unaware that covering the sport is the media’s business, not just putting out slightly re-worded press releases.

When Carmichael started to read a quote from a Jon Fitch interview, White interrupted and said, “Do you know how much Jon Fitch made for the Georges St. Pierre fight? Where the hell else could Jon Fitch go right now and make the money he made? He made $169,000 for that night for that fight. Where’s he going to make that kind of money in one night?”

Putting aside the fact that Fitch could very well make more money than that in one night at least in the short-term in another MMA company, this is an attitude that the UFC has consistently shown. They paid a fighter a significant amount of money to main-event a pay-per-view event that generated tens of millions of dollars in gross revenue for Zuffa and millions of dollars in net profit for Zuffa, therefore the fighter owes them some debt of gratitude.

The UFC also makes it a point to always say that they hate talking about money... until the second there’s a contract dispute of some kind, in which case they will voluntarily get very specific, right down to the dollar amount.

It is counter-productive for the UFC to take such a hard stance and to publicly make such fools of themselves while discussing the subject. Zach Arnold of FightOpinion.com put it very well:

"This situation will ensure negative media attention and probably take away a fair amount of good-will that was earned in the major sports media over the weekend with Brock Lesnar’s title win. No other ‘major sport’ has issues like this, but then again most other ‘major sports’ have players associations/unions... I find it rich that Dana White is now playing: the victim card, the economy-sucks card (a few days after a $4.8 million USD gate in Las Vegas and claims of 1.2 million PPV buys), the you-with-me-or-against-me card, and now the we-want-all-your-likenesses-for-life-you-independent-contractor card." (Full article link here)

In conclusion, if there was ever any doubt that fighters need a union, this kind of bullying and threatening behavior by the UFC's management reinforces the need for a union. Through their own hubris, the UFC has actually made the case for a fighters' union in a stronger way than anyone ever has in the past.

Long after this particular situation passes, the UFC is going to continue with this kind of despotic behavior for as long as they can get away with it. Until there is a union, the fighters have no leverage with which to challenge the UFC's behavior.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008
WWE Swings at UFC and Misses in Statement Released AFter UFC 91
by Ivan Trembow

Here's an excerpt from WWE's official web site after Brock Lesnar won the UFC Heavyweight Title at UFC 91:

Critics have noted that many of the fights on the UFC pay-per-view ended in the first round, leaving UFC producers scrambling to fill the three-hour event with content. The dearth of hearty competition left many viewers to watch less prestigious under-card fights and only served to bolster claims that UFC pay-per-view events can often be a “crap shoot” in regards to filling the full three hours.

Oh boy, where to begin? Well, for starters, Vince McMahon is a petty, desperate, vengeful man who jumps up and down for joy when one of his monthly PPVs draws 200,000 buys in the United States, a number that would make UFC officials vomit.

This statement also demonstrates how clueless and out of touch WWE is. They could have pushed the obvious angle that one of WWE's former wrestlers (excuse me, I mean “WWE superstars”... excuse me, I mean “entertainers”... wait, which term has WWE not banned its announcers from using this week?) just went into the UFC and won the UFC Heavyweight Title in his 4th career MMA fight, and this must mean that lots of other WWE wrestlers could easily do the same thing if they wanted to.

That is an ignorant belief that a lot of fans are going to have as a result of Lesnar’s win (ask Sean O'Haire how accurate it is), and WWE could have played into that belief and added to it.

Instead, they are ringing a completely empty and hollow note about MMA fights ending quickly.

If anyone needed more proof of WWE's management being out of touch with reality, there it is.

McMahon should go back to contributing to and then exploiting his wrestlers’ deaths for profit, and leave MMA alone.

On a somewhat related note, in response to a question about Scott "Raven" Levy's lawsuit against WWE for classifying its wrestlers as "independent contractors" instead of "employees," the case is still pending in court.

From a legal standpoint, there is absolutely no basis on earth that could be used to justify the status of WWE wrestlers being “independent contractors” when they are told where to work, how to work, who to work against, what to wear when they’re not even working, etc. The only possible way that they could get the Scott Levy suit thrown out is if they can do so because of the statute of limitations running out.

It’s interesting to note that in WWE’s legal response to the Levy lawsuit, they did not even attempt to offer one rationalization for wrestlers being classified as independent contractors. They just said that they’ve never been called employees before and that the statute of limitations had expired.

After years of treating wrestlers like pieces of meat to be discarded when their bodies are about to finally give out on them (or if they die while under WWE contract, exploit their deaths in storylines in order to put more heat on their heel characters, as they did after Eddie Guerrero’s death), god forbid they should now have to provide those wrestlers with the health insurance or retirement plans.

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Monday, November 17, 2008
UFC 91 Commentary: Riley vs. Gurgel Wins Fight of the Night?
by Ivan Trembow

I can’t believe that the UFC gave Aaron Riley vs. Jorge Gurgel the award for "Fight of the Night" (and the associated $60,000 bonuses) at UFC 91.

Any question of whether the UFC prefers good ground fighting (ie, Dustin Hazelett vs. Tamdan McCrory) or sloppy stand-up fighting (ie, Riley vs. Gurgel) has been answered once again.

There are few things more ignorant or more frustrating than seeing a highly-skilled ground fighter choose to abandon their strengths and instead engage in C-level kickboxing... and for what? To please fans and MMA promoters who love C-level kickboxing? (Apparently, yes.)

Now that whole ignorant mindset has just been reinforced by that fight being awarded "Fight of the Night" by the UFC. Other fighters who may be similar to Jorge Gurgel (or Chris Lytle, who often employs the "Gurgel Strategy" as well) have been sent the message once again, "Don't worry about all that 'ground game' stuff, just go out there and have a sloppy kickboxing match."

With its choices for Fight of the Night favoring sloppy stand-up fights, the UFC is playing into the ignorant misconception that ground fighting is inherently less exciting. Go watch Demian Maia vs. Jason MacDonald, or Wilson Reis vs. Abel Cullum, or any other recent fight that was a great ground fight, and you'll see just how ignorant that misconception is.

I’m also not saying that I’m opposed to stand-up fighting. I’m saying that I’m opposed to good ground fighters intentionally abandoning their strengths in order to instead put on a C-level kickboxing match and hopefully get the Fight of the Night bonus.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC 89 Minute-by-Minute TV Ratings
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Using minute-by-minute Neilsen ratings data, MMAWeekly has calculated the average viewership for each individual fight that aired on Spike TV's tape-delayed premiere broadcast of UFC 89 on October 18.

Viewership levels are based on live viewership, plus same-day DVR, rounded to the nearest 1,000 viewers, and the times listed are ET/PT. The indicated times begin at the opening bell of a fight and end at the minute in which the winner of the fight is known. In the case of a fight that ends in submission or KO/TKO, the ending time is obviously when the fight ends. In the case of a judges' decision, the ending time is the minute in which the judges' decision is announced. In the case of a doctors' stoppage, the ending time is the minute in which the fight is officially stopped by the doctor. The ending time is always the minute in which the winner if the fighter is known.

The reason that the match lengths are longer for UFC 89 and for some of the previous U.K. shows that the UFC has aired on Spike TV is because on most of those shows, the 60-second rest periods in between the rounds of a fight were stretched into commercial breaks lasting between two and three minutes.

Most-Watched Individual Fights on UFC 89 Premiere Broadcast
Based on Average Number of Viewers using Minute-by-Minute Ratings

1. Michael Bisping vs. Chris Leben--- 3.278 million viewers (Aired from 11:31 PM to 11:57 PM)

2. Keith Jardine vs. Brandon Vera--- 3.041 million viewers (Aired from 10:50 PM to 11:14 PM)

3. Luiz Cane vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou--- 2.738 million viewers (Aired from 10:14 PM to 10:26 PM)

4. Chris Lytle vs. Paul Taylor--- 2.475 million viewers (Aired from 9:39 PM to 10:04 PM)

5. Marcus Davis vs. Paul Kelly--- 2.123 million viewers (Aired from 9:14 PM to 9:24 PM)

Viewership Gains
In terms of the increase or decrease in average viewership compared to the previous fight on the broadcast, the Lytle-Taylor fight gained 352,000 viewers, which was the largest gain of the broadcast; the Cane-Sokoudjou fight gained 263,000 viewers; the Jardine-Vera fight gained 303,000 viewers; and the Bisping-Leben fight gained 237,000 viewers, so the main event actually gained the smallest amount of viewers on the broadcast. This statistic does not apply to the Davis-Kelly fight because it was the first fight on the broadcast.

Comparisons to Fighters' Previous Matches
Compared to some of these fighters' previous matches (the ones for which minute-by-minute ratings are available), the Bisping-Leben viewership of 3.278 million viewers was down from the 5.475 million viewers who watched Bisping fight Matt Hamill on September 8, 2007; and it was down from the 3.487 million viewers who watched Bisping fight Josh Haynes on June 24, 2006; but it was up from the 3.080 million viewers who watched Bisping fight Elvis Sinosic on April 21, 2007.

The Jardine-Vera viewership of 3.041 million viewers was down from the 3.847 million viewers who watched Vera fight Reese Andy on July 19, 2008; but it was up from the 2.665 million viewers who watched Jardine fight Wilson Gouveia on June 24, 2006.

The Lytle-Taylor viewership of 2.475 million viewers was down from the 5.023 million viewers who watched Taylor fight Marcus Davis on September 8, 2007.

The Davis-Kelly viewership of 2.123 million viewers was down from the 5.023 million viewers who watched Davis fight Paul Taylor on September 8, 2007.

Top 20 List
For perspective on the broader picture, below is the list of the top 20 most-watched fights in U.S. MMA history.

After the original publication of this list, many readers wrote to ask whether the absence of Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar from the TUF 1 finale was an oversight. It was not, as the fight did not come close to making the top 20 list. Contrary to statements that 10 million people were watching that fight at one point, the actual peak audience for the fight in any single minute was 3.662 million at 10:38 PM.

This list excludes pay-per-view events because accurate data on viewers per household is not made readily available for PPV events. However, in terms of the number of households, it is known that the biggest PPV buyrate in U.S. MMA history was 1,050,000 households for Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz on December 30, 2006; and that the second biggest PPV buyrate in U.S. MMA history was 775,000 households for Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock on July 8, 2006. Without knowing how many viewers were in each household for these PPV events (which you do know with Neilsen TV ratings), it's impossible to say how many total viewers watched those fights.

CBS is in approximately 112.8 million U.S. households, while Spike TV is in approximately 97.3 million U.S. households.

These are just the most-watched fights in U.S. MMA history, not the most-watched fights in worldwide MMA history. In Japan, a fight would need to draw over 30 million viewers to crack the top five.

Most-Watched Individual Fights in U.S. MMA History

Based on Average Number of Viewers using Minute-by-Minute Ratings

1. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson--- 7.281 million viewers (Aired from 11:27 PM to 11:40 PM)

2. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock--- 6.524 million viewers (Aired from 9:42 PM to 9:45 PM)

3. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Seth Petruzelli vs. Kimbo Slice--- 6.451 million viewers (Aired from 11:08 PM to 11:08 PM)

4. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith--- 5.867 million viewers (Aired from 10.39 PM to 10:57 PM)

5. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson--- 5.811 million viewers (Aired from 11:29 PM to 12:03 AM)

6. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Gina Carano vs. Kaitlin Young--- 5.508 million viewers (Aired from 10:09 PM to 10:17 PM)

7. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill--- 5.475 million viewers (Aired from 10:41 PM to 11:06 PM)

8. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Jake Shields vs. Paul Daley--- 5.338 million viewers (Aired from 10:34 PM to 10:44 PM)

9. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Gina Carano vs. Kelly Kobold--- 5.171 million viewers (Aired from 9:45 PM to 9:59 PM)

10. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Andrei Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson--- 5.154 million viewers (Aired from 10:12 PM to 10:20 PM)

11. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Kendall Grove vs. Chris Price--- 5.100 million viewers (Aired from 9:13 PM to 9:17 PM)

12. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Cheick Kongo vs. Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic--- 5.098 million viewers (Aired from 9:58 PM to 10:24 PM)

13. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Marcus Davis vs. Paul Taylor--- 5.023 million viewers (Aired from 9:35 PM to 9:39 PM)

14. UFC on Spike TV (7/19/2008): Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin--- 4.795 million viewers (Aired from 11:38 PM to 11:38 PM)

15. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Joey Villasenor vs. Phil Baroni--- 4.348 million viewers (Aired from 9:47 PM to 9:48 PM)

16. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Jason MacDonald vs. Ed Herman--- 4.297 millon viewers (Aired from 8:44 PM to 8:47 PM)

17. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Houston Alexander vs. Alessio Sakara--- 4.204 million viewers (Aired from 9:13 PM to 9:14 PM)

18. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Matt Hamill vs. Seth Petruzelli--- 4.007 million viewers (Aired from 8:09 PM to 8:28 PM)

19. UFC on Spike TV (7/19/2008): Brandon Vera vs. Reese Andy--- 3.847 million viewers (Aired from 10:58 PM to 11:19 PM)

20. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Brett Rogers vs. Jon Murphy--- 3.824 million viewers (Aired from 9:26 PM to 9:27 PM)

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Thursday, November 06, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts--- Zuffa's Cannibalization of the WEC
Editorial Commentary by Ivan Trembow

It was sad to see Zuffa's cannibalization of the WEC last night at WEC 36. As usual for a WEC event, it was an entertaining night of fights. However, there is no possible explanation of how it was best for the WEC to have the Jake Rosholt vs. Nissen Osterneck fight on the main card, while Donald Cerrone vs. Rob McCullough was a prelim and Rani Yahya vs. Yoshiro Maeda was also a prelim.

Zuffa's whole reason for folding the WEC's light heavyweight and middleweight divisions was ostensibly to avoid anymore embarrassing situations where the fighter who is rightfully the #1 contender didn't have their #1 contender's fight on a WEC main card, or in some cases hasn't even had a fight on a WEC main card (ie, Mike Brown). By having just four weight classes on which to focus in the future, they would be able to hopefully avoid these situations in the future because they'd be able to properly showcase their top contenders and their "#1 contender's fights" on live TV, main card bouts.

So, what happens right off the bat? A fight that is widely regarded by everyone, including the champion, as being a #1 contender's fight --- Cerrone vs. McCullough --- is made a prelim so that they can instead air a fight between two inexperienced middleweights (Rosholt and Osterneck) who have never even fought in the WEC and will also never fight in the WEC again due to the folding of the middleweight division.

That makes absolutely no sense from the WEC's business standpoint. There is no way to rationalize how that is what's best for the WEC. It may be what's best for the UFC at the expense of the WEC if Zuffa wanted to get Rosholt in a main card bout that badly. However, if that's the case, that is blatantly cannibalizing the WEC product, and it's sad. The WEC deserves better than that. Versus deserves better than that, too.

Even without the Cerrone-McCullough fight, it would have still been ridiculous to have Rosholt-Osterneck on the main card in favor of the Yahya-Maeda fight. It's a choice of airing a fight between two top contenders in the bantamweight division, which is a division that the WEC is still going to have in January, or airing a fight between two inexperienced middleweights who were making their WEC debuts and will never fight in the WEC again due to the folding of the middleweight division.

Is this why Versus is paying an increased rights fee for WEC broadcasts starting in 2009? To air a product that Zuffa has turned into a UFC feeder promotion? Taking on fighters who couldn't make it in the UFC (ie, Alex Karalexis) was bad enough, constantly talking about Carlos Condit possibly getting a shot in the big leagues sometime soon (as if his WEC accomplishments are meaningless because they're not in the UFC) was bad enough. At least those things were subtle enough that you had to be paying attention to notice. Now they are just blatantly cannibalizing the WEC product.

On a related note, what was airing on Spike TV at the moment that the WEC broadcast ended (at 11:05 PM Eastern Time)? Why, it was Team Mir urinating in a platter of fruit salad that they hoped the other team would eat on The Ultimate Fighter (... and they did, and it was not even the most disgusting thing on the episode). Congratulations, Ultimate Fighter! With last night's episode, you have sunk lower than the lowest gutter-trash-TV reality series ever has. At least when that women defecated on the stairs on VH-1's "The Flavor of Love," it wasn't mixed into somebody's food and eaten, which is more than I can say for Team Mir's urine or Kyle Kingsbury's semen.

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