Ivan's Blog

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts--- Zuffa Makes #2-Ranked Jon Fitch a Prelim Fighter Again
by Ivan Trembow

In his first fight after his excellent title match against Georges St. Pierre and his first fight since the UFC/AKA contract dispute, Jon Fitch has been relegated to being a preliminary fighter on the UFC's January 31st event, according to the UFC’s own web site.

This comes on the heels of Yushin Okami's fight on this Saturday's show being relegated to prelim status in favor of both Cheick Kongo versus a fighter making his UFC debut; and C.B. Dollaway versus a fighter making his UFC debut.

Not only is the Fitch fight being slotted below the Karo Parisyan main card bout (in Parisyan’s first fight since he pulled out of a fight at the last minute); not only is the Fitch fight being slotted below the Nathan Diaz-Clay Guida main card bout; but freaking Stephan Bonnar vs. Jon Jones is a main card fight while the #2-ranked welterweight in the world is in the prelims. Unbelievable.

I guess the UFC felt that they needed to send even more of a message to Fitch and his management than they already did. After all, when fear, intimidation, and making examples out of people is how you run your business, you have to follow through with severe consequences when someone doesn't immediately sign something that you ordered them to sign, right?

Being unfairly relegated to the prelims is something that Fitch has faced before... his first 5 UFC fights were all wins over Brock Larson, Josh Burkman, Thiago Alves, Kuniyoshi Hironaka, and Luigi Fioravanti, and all of them except the Hironaka fight were non-televised prelims.

Now, after three more UFC wins (for a total of eight), and one loss to St. Pierre (for a total of one UFC loss), Fitch is in the prelims again.

There is no justification for this. It is not justifiable for a fighter to match the UFC’s all-time consecutive wins record by beating eight strong opponents in a row, then lose to the #1 fighter in his weight class in a UFC Match of the Year candidate, and then be in the prelims in his next fight.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts Flashback--- Gilbert Yvel's Request for a Fighter's License Gets Rejected by Nevada Commissioners
by Ivan Trembow

Longtime fans of MMA were surprised and appalled when Affliction recently announced that Josh Barnett's opponent on their January 24th event would be Gilbert Yvel.

Besides the fact that it's a mismatch for Barnett, who is the #3-ranked heavyweight in the world based on MMAWeekly's World MMA Rankings, there's also the fact that Yvel is universally regarded as the dirtiest fighter in the sport.

Yvel has been disqualified numerous times, and also attacked a referee in 2004. Affliction is apparently feeling more desperate than tasteful, because attempting to book Yvel to fight on your show is a tasteless move.

Of course, Yvel can't fight in California unless he is granted a fighter's license by the California State Athletic Commission. No self-respecting athletic commission would grant Yvel a fighter's license after everything that he has done, but then again, no self-respecting MMA promotion would attempt to book Yvel on their show, and yet here we are.

Here's what happened in early 2007 when Yvel requested a fighter's license from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, as I wrote in an article on MMAWeekly.

Pride Fighting Championships previously submitted the match-up of Sergei Kharitonov vs. Gilbert Yvel to the Nevada State Athletic Commission for approval as part of the February 24th line-up, but the NSAC would not approve the fight without a special hearing due to the fact that Yvel has been disqualified on three separate occasions in his MMA career, most recently when he brutally attacked the referee during a 2004 fight in Europe.

Yvel was asked to explain his actions in each of his three disqualifications. Yvel remained calm and polite throughout the hearing, but he also seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the NSAC did not understand his justifications for his actions.

In regards to his first DQ loss, which took place in 1998 when Yvel bit his opponent, Yvel said that he was "really young and had a really bad temper" at that time. Yvel said, "My opponent, he gave me a headbutt, and I told the referee, but the referee was like, 'Nothing is happening.' And then he did it again with the headbutt, and that was what caused my reaction, to bite him."

Yvel's second disqualification loss was in a 2001 fight against Don Frye, during which Yvel repeatedly eye-gouged Frye. Regarding this incident, Yvel explained, "Don Frye is a very, very strong man, and he was pushing all his body strength against me. I just put my fingers against his nose to push him away from me, and I wasn't really paying attention to what place my fingers were, and my finger slipped on to his eye. It was in the heat of the moment and I can tell you it was not my intention to put my finger in his eye."

The most infamous incident was in 2004 when Yvel got into an argument with the referee during a fight in Europe and proceeded to punch the referee in the face and then kick him.

The commissioners were familiar with the incident and seemed disgusted by it: "This commission has all seen the video of the punching and kicking of the referee... I've never in my life seen somebody do what you did. What was going through your mind?"

Yvel gave a very long response, which was interrupted several times as the commissioners tried to get him to talk about the pivotal moment where he decided to attack the referee.

The following are excerpts from the full response: "In that fight, I fought almost for free... the referee was the trainer of my opponent, the promoter of the event, and he kept us waiting for four hours to pick us up at the airport [before the event], and then at the gym he kept us waiting for three more hours. We were just waiting and waiting..."

This was one of the several occasions when the commissioners seemed to be very frustrated, as they interrupted Yvel and said, "I want you to tell me what went through your mind when the referee broke up the fighters and you felt the need to hit the referee in the face and then return back and kick him. What were you thinking?"

Yvel said "sorry" and was polite at all times during the hearing, but he seemed to be oblivious to the commissioners' frustration. Yvel continued, "In the bout, I punched my opponent really hard and he didn't want to fight anymore. He didn't want to fight anymore and we almost fell out of the ring! He was ready to walk away from the fight, he wanted out of the fight, but the referee was trying to pull him back into the fight, and he said, 'Stop, don't move.' And when the referee says, 'Stop, don't move,' then you're supposed to go to the center of the ring in the same position. But he didn't do that, he put us in the center of the ring standing up. He put us standing up instead of on the ground, and that's not right. The referee put me in a bad position and my opponent in a good position by doing that, and the referee was screaming at me, and he was pulling at me. He was screaming and pulling, screaming and pulling, and at that moment, I am there to fight..."

At this point, the commissioners interrupted again, sounding fed up and saying, "Mr. Yvel, Mr. Yvel, you've got 30 seconds. The floor is yours for 30 more seconds."

At that point, Yvel finished up by saying, "And at that moment, I got mad and I hit the referee and I kicked him. Yeah."

With Yvel having explained all of his problems with the referee, the commissioners unanimously agreed to deny his application for a fighters' license. This is not like a suspension where the fighter can't fight anywhere in the world for a certain period of time; Yvel simply can't fight in Nevada because he is not being given a license to fight in Nevada.


Saturday, December 13, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts--- Browning & Kaplan Each Planned TUF Antics Ahead of Time; Kaplan Wants Fight of the Night Bonus Just as Much as a Win
by Ivan Trembow

According to three different Ultimate Fighter 8 contestants quoted by the Canadian Press' Neil Davidson, Junie Browning admitted to those contestants at various times that he planned his antics on TUF 8 ahead of time in order to make a big name for himself.

Among the quotes are this one from light heavyweight contestant Krzysztof Soszynski:

"To be honest with you, he did everything for show. It was a whole joke to him. Basically he told me the very first day we met - and before our fights to get into the house - he basically said 'If I get into this house, I'm going to be the crazy guy. I'm going to get out of hand, I'm going to get out of control, I'm going to pull whatever I can just to get ratings, to become the character that I want to become.' He said he was going to become the worst Chris Leben ever."

And this one from light heavyweight contestant Ryan Bader:

"I saw him a couple of weeks ago at UFC 91. He told me 'Bader, that's not really me,' this and that, but he still has that in him obviously for him to do that kind of stuff. He has some problems as far as that. But I think a couple of things he was hamming it up for the cameras, knowing he was going into that bad guy mold already, that he might as well go full steam ahead and definitely be talked about."

And this one from lightweight contestant Efrain Escudero:

"Escudero said Browning confessed one on one: "'I'm sorry guys, I don't usually do this but I just want to be on TV.'"

So, Browning did all of that to make a name for himself, and guess what? It worked. The UFC rewarded him for his behavior.

Instead of nipping Browning’s behavior in the bud by kicking him off the show the first time he did something that warranted being kicked off (or the second time), they built the whole season around him, they didn’t kick him off the show (and thus out of the UFC) even after five separate offenses that individually warranted being kicked off, and they gave him the one and only main card fight on the live finale that involves TUF 8 contestants who were not tournament finalists.

Can you imagine what the behavior of the contestants will be on future TUF seasons now that they have seen someone do five different things that warrant being kicked off the show and still not be kicked off?

Actually, I’m sure that the UFC, Spike TV, and the show’s producers can imagine what kind of behavior that message is going to further encourage, and they probably view that as a good thing: Even more hijinks to come on future seasons!

Dave Kaplan is another fighter who "made a name for himself" with his drunken antics, and of all the lightweight fighters from the show who did not make the tournament finals, he just happened to be the one that the UFC chose to fight Browning in the only main card fight that does not involve tournament finalists.

Based on this interview on USA Today’s web site, it looks like Kaplan planned the same kind of thing as Browning, and he was rewarded for it just like Browning. Kaplan said:

“I think I did a good job. There was definitely some things that I may have changed and there’s something that I might wish I might’ve done a little bit more of. But as far as, with letting Tom punch me in the face, that went 100% the way that we wanted to. … It’s one of the main events of the show, if they do a top 25 best moments of all the shows, that one gets part of it, so I’m happy with that. I feel like I was definitely one of the memorable people. Junie obviously, was one, if not the most memorable. But other than him, I mean, I get recognized everywhere I go. there’s a lot of guys, guys fighting in the finals now that didn’t make that much of an impression, as far as in the house and stuff like that. I felt like I did exactly what I wanted to do. I’m fighting on TV on Saturday just like they are, so obviously I did.”

In the same interview, Kaplan displays a Marcus Davis/Chris Lytle kind of attitude that the most important thing is not to do your best and win quickly and decisively if possible, but to go out there and have an epic back-and-forth fight so that you can get the UFC's Fight of the Night bonus:

“I don’t care about the winning or losing as far as, that’s not my main goal. I want this fight to be talked about more than the finals are talked about and I think that it has the possibility because of both of our styles of being that kind of battle… there’s a part of me that wants it to go 15 minutes. Because I want that Fight of the Night, and I want that battle, and the back-and-forth, both of us putting it on the line and punching. If I bleed that’d be awesome; if he bleeds, that’d be awesome. That’s what I want. I want the Fight of the Night; I want that extra 30, 40 grand that you get for that, and if you beat somebody quick, you’re not going to necessarily get that.”

Additionally, Browning's coach on The Ultimate Fighter, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, has come out strongly against the UFC's decision to reward Browning with a main card fight on the live finale:

"Putting him on the main card, it does reward his behavior. It shows people that if you act like a moron or idiot, you'll get face time. That equals money, so it's creating a shortcut, and they don't have to invest as much time into fighting... I realize that Spike has to sell TV time, and I understand that's part of the whole game, but as far as me as a martial artist I find it an insult."

Of course, it doesn't have to be that way. It's not a black-and-white choice between Trash TV and no show at all. Luke Thomas of BloodyElbow.com put it very well when he wrote:

"I disagree with Mir that there is an inevitability to it all. There is an enormous universe of interesting content between watching fighters train and watching them ingest one another's bodily fluids. It's nothing more than a poverty of imagination and reliance on the lowest common denominator that prevents Spike's producers from delivering that sort of content. Hopefully some of the pushback from this season will scale back the boorish nonsense we were subjected to this time around."

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Sunday, December 07, 2008
Boxing--- Wow, what a performance by Manny Pacquiao in his fight against Oscar de la Hoya on Saturday night. Most of the discussion going into the fight was about De la Hoya's size advantage, but it ended up being Pacquiao's speed advantage that made the difference.

Pacquiao's strategy was very similar to his strategy in the fight earlier this year against lightweight title-holder David Diaz, and that was an equally one-sided beating.

Pacquiao’s performance was one of the most masterful performances I have seen in combat sports in many years, especially given that just last year De la Hoya had a very competitive fight with Floyd Mayweather.

Going into the fight, I wasn't sure who was going to win, but it was clear that Pacquiao had all the tools to beat De la Hoya and at least had a chance of winning. It’s unbelievable how many people in the sports media were saying, “De la Hoya will automatically win because he’s bigger.” Yes, that gave him an advantage, but no, that did not automatically mean that he was going to win.

Mixed Martial Arts--- Most pro wrestlers are afraid to do anything that might displease Vince McMahon, even if they have just been released from WWE, and it appears that some MMA fighters are afraid to do anything that might displease Dana White, even if they have just been released from the UFC.

Just as some pro wrestlers avoid signing with TNA Wrestling to avoid upsetting McMahon, recently released UFC fighter Jorge Gurgel said in an interview with CBS Sportsline that he didn't want to sign with Affliction's MMA promotion in part because he didn't want to get "black-listed."

Gurgel said: "Apparently, Dana [White] and the UFC do not like Affliction. I do not want to go to a place that the UFC does not like and have the possibility of getting black-listed."

Kickboxing--- Why on earth did HDNet hire Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson to do color commentary for the U.S. broadcast of the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals? It would be bad enough to hire Ferguson to do commentary for an MMA event, but this was a kickboxing event. It's as if HDNet was so excited to get an interview with Ferguson that they thought, “To heck with booking him in a long interview segment on Inside MMA; let's put him on commentary for the biggest event of the year in a sport in which he has never competed"!

Mixed Martial Arts--- Here's a quote from UFC welterweight Marcus Davis about his upcoming fight against Chris Lytle:

"We’ve both been like, ‘I respect you, respect what you do, but a fight between each other is money in the bank.' I basically said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it and the first guy to take the other guy down is a p--sy.'"

These kinds of statements are disgraceful and are yet another example of the glorification of C-level kickboxing within MMA.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008
Sleazeball Promoters and Trash TV: What The Ultimate Fighter Has Become
by Ivan Trembow

After two weeks of commercials on Spike TV that prominently advertised Junie Browning's fourth meltdown on this season of The Ultimate Fighter, I wrote the following late Tuesday night about what I expected to happen on Wednesday night's show:

"I think it's likely that after Browning's fourth major incident, viewers are going to be subjected to a sanctimonious speech from Dana White about how the UFC won't stand for that kind of behavior, and then he'll finally kick Browning off the show, oblivious or apathetic to the fact that keeping Browning on the show after the previous three incidents has already made a mockery of the show's credibility."

Clearly, the mistake that I made was overestimating UFC president Dana White's professional integrity.

The three previous incidents that each could have and should have resulted in Browning being kicked off the show were throwing a glass at Kyle Kingsbury, getting into a poolside scuffle with Ryan Bader, and jumping over the Octagon fence in an aggressive, looking-for-a-fight manner after another contestant's official MMA match had just ended.

In the 12th and final pre-taped episode of the season, Browning threw a glass at fellow contestant Shane Primm's head and proceeded to throw two punches at Primm. Either of those actions would have warranted kicking Browning off the show, so at this point there were five different actions that should have resulted in Browning being kicked off the show.

Due to the previous three incidents, the hit to the show's credibility and to UFC president Dana White's own credibility would have been bad enough if he had come into the house at that point and given the usual sanctimonious speech about how they don't tolerate that kind of behavior.

Instead, based on his subsequent words and actions, White came into the house appearing to already have the storyline worked out in his mind to justify the unjustifiable and keep Browning on the show (and in the UFC).

White framed the issue as if the only way for "justice to be served" (as he put it) was for Browning to stay on the show so that he could fight in the semi-finals and possibly lose in the semi-finals to Efrain Escudero, as opposed to being kicked off the show without losing a fight during the process.

White set up the false premise that the other fighters in the house would be the one to determine Browning's fate, then quickly negated any chance of the fighters saying that Browning should be kicked off the show by essentially making it a question of the fighters' manhood.

While talking about whether he should kick Browning off the show or not, White asked Browning's scheduled opponent, Escudero, "You wanna f--king beat his ass, right?"

Well, when the issue is framed in that context, what do you think Escudero is going to say? "No, I don't want to beat his ass"? Of course not. Instead, the answer was exactly what White counted on it to be: "Yes, I do."

At no point during this process did White mention on the show that the decision on whether to kick Browning off the show or not is also the difference between Browning being released from the UFC like many other TUF contestants before him, or Browning continuing to be in the UFC whether he wins in the semi-finals or loses in the semi-finals.

Despite the tagline of, "8 Fighters, 1 Contract" or "16 Fighters, 1 Contract," the opposite has always been the case with TUF. All of the fighters are already under long-term UFC contracts unless the UFC releases them. If you can just make it through the show without getting kicked off of it for behavioral reasons, you are almost guaranteed a fight on the live season finale line-up, even though it won't be in the tournament finals.

Heck, the fighter who gets tapped out in the semi-finals of TUF (like C.B. Dollaway) could very well be the same fighter who is on the main card of a major PPV event later that same year, while the #5-ranked middleweight in the world (Yushin Okami) languishes on the untelevised preliminary card.

Ultimate Fighter contestants who don't actually win the TUF tournaments are afforded far more of those kinds of opportunities in the UFC than non-TUF-contestants; the Dollaway-Okami debacle is merely the latest and most sickening example.

Of course, the issue wasn't framed on the show in the context of Browning being kicked out of the UFC or Browning not being kicked out of the UFC and actually continuing to fight in the UFC whether he wins or loses in the semi-finals. No, it was presented to the other fighters as, "You wanna f--king beat his ass, right?" and it was presented to viewers at home as, "You wanna f--king see him get his ass beat, right?"

White also presented the ridiculous argument on the show that Browning would have been able to tell people in his hometown that he was kicked off of TUF for being so much of a bad-ass, as if that factor is equal in its importance to the show's remaining credibility being destroyed.

Keeping Junie Browning in the UFC after five separate actions that would have individually warranted kicking him off the show and out of the UFC is not "justice being served," as White said. It's White acting like a sleazeball promoter. That's what it is.

One must also keep in mind the message that this sends to future TUF contestants. When the UFC actually does want to send a message about something to other fighters, they do that by making examples out of people. (Ask Jon Fitch about that for verification.)

In Browning's case, instead of sending a message of that kind of behavior not being tolerated, the exact opposite message has been sent.

"Act like an idiot, do things that could and should get you kicked off the show, and we'll build an entire season around you and keep you in the UFC instead of kicking you out of TUF and outside of the UFC."

That's the message that has been sent to the contestants on the next four seasons of TUF. After letting Browning get away with five different actions that should have gotten him kicked off the show, one can only imagine what the contestants are going to do on future seasons of TUF, and perhaps that was the point of the UFC making the decisions that they made. In fact, it would be naive to think that such a message being sent so blatantly was completely unintentional ("You're actually a great reality TV star," White told Browning).

Just this week, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta was quoted in The Atlantic as saying that The Ultimate Fighter was meant to "let people see kind of how these guys are, that they’re not thugs."

Really? Because I'm pretty sure that this season of the show would have accomplished the opposite to new and old fans alike.

A new viewer of mixed martial arts would have watched this season of TUF and would have been disgusted to see that mentally unstable drunkards are seemingly among the top up-and-coming fighters in the sport, that their behavior is tolerated and even rewarded with endless amounts of camera time, and that the show that is supposedly the breeding ground for the next big stars in the sport of MMA is actually just another Trash TV reality series.

A long-time viewer with a greater understanding of what they're watching would share the same thoughts and would also be disgusted to see just how much Dana White is willing to prostitute the show and the sport for an extra 0.3 of a ratings point.

Update: Wow, this takes shameless to a new level. Not only is Junie Browning still in the UFC and still fighting on the season finale card as I speculated earlier, but according to the UFC's web site, he's actually on the main card that will be airing on Spike TV.

Browning's opponent in that main card bout is none other than the second-biggest drunkard of the season, Dave Kaplan, who taught us all that concussions are to be treated as a funny thing when he got filthy-drunk and begged light heavyweight Tom Lawlor to knock him unconscious (which he did).

Meanwhile, fighters who did not frequently get piss-drink and make fools of themselves (such as Krzysztof Soszynski, Eliot Marshall, John Polakowski, George Roop, Shane Primm, Jules Bruchez, and Roli Delgado) have been relegated to the untelevised prelims on the same night.

Now, when the UFC says that they don't "encourage" drunken idiocy on TUF, they won't be "kind of lying," they'll be flat-out lying.

If it wasn't already made crystal-clear by Dana White's decision to not kick Browning off the show, despite five separate actions that warranted being kicked off the show, the message has been made all the more clear to future TUF contestants on how they should behave if they want to get a prominent push from the UFC.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Surprise, Surprise! Another Incident Involving Junie Browning on Tonight's TUF
by Ivan Trembow

I am looking forward to tonight's loaded WEC show, headlined by Miguel Torres vs. Manny Tapia, but I am not looking forward to tonight's installments of The Ultimate Drunkard (also known as The Ultimate Fighter).

When the decision was made earlier in the season to not kick Junie Browning off the show even though he did multiple things that would have individually warranted being kicked off the show, any remaining doubt was removed about whether the powers-that-be have any faith left in the concept of "a bunch of young fighters struggle to earn their way into the TUF finals" (as opposed to the "get a bunch of Type-A personalities wasted and film the ensuing chaos" concept).

Zuffa president Dana White has said in recent interviews that the final decision was his alone to make, and that everyone else involved in the production of the show was shocked that Browning was not kicked off.

Later in the season, the show devolved further into the realm of Trash TV and actually sunk lower than Trash TV ever has, as several members of Team Nogueira ate a platter of fruit salad without knowing that several members of Team Mir had urinated in it; and Dave Kaplan ate some sushi without knowing that Kyle Kingsbury had mixed his semen into it (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence).

And now that the season is coming to an end, what better time to dip back to the depths of Trash TV? As the commercials on Spike TV have been prominently advertising for the past two weeks, Junie Browning goes nuts again and is shown in the commercial swinging at another contestant, which would be the fourth thing that Browning has done that would normally warrant kicking a contest off of the show (the first three were throwing a glass at Kyle Kingsbury, getting into a poolside altercation with Ryan Bader, and jumping over the Octagon fence in an aggressive, looking-for-a-fight manner after another contestant's official MMA fight had just ended).

As I wrote earlier in the season when the UFC made the decision not to kick Browning off the show, "You think there's going to be another incident of some kind involving Junie Browning before the season wraps? Of course there is, and that's the point." By not kicking Browning off the show, another volatile situation or near-fight in the house was almost guaranteed to break out at some point.

I think it's likely that after Browning's fourth major incident, viewers are going to be subjected to a sanctimonious speech from Dana White about how the UFC won't stand for that kind of behavior, and then he'll finally kick Browning off the show, oblivious or apathetic to the fact that keeping Browning on the show after the previous three incidents has already made a mockery of the show's credibility.

To a degree, it has always been like this on TUF, but this time around, viewers have been practically beaten over the head with it.

At this point, it takes a special kind of "naive" to think that Browning's behavior is not what the UFC wants from at least one contestant on each season.

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