By Zach Arnold | June 27, 2011
Miguel Torres screen captured what would be the image of the night. More on this later.
Click on the image to view the NBC/Versus video clip
The chaos for UFC’s Pittsburgh event for Versus television was remarkable in terms of what a roller coaster ride it was psychologically for the organization. Heading into Sunday’s event, there was very little interest in the main card and the Rick Story/Nate Marquardt fight was one where most people were kind of curious, but not enthusiastic.
shit hit the fan and Nate Marquardt got suspended indefinitely by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. Consequently, he got fired by the UFC and Dana White put a 12-second cell phone clip online confirming the firing. A lot of things came into play to make this wicked brew, including the fact that UFC right now is in negotiations with multiple television outlets to get a new TV deal. Nate Marquardt has never been a big TV ratings draw, but he is still a ‘name’ and anything embarrassing from him was going to amplify the internal pressure that Zuffa is feeling right about now. That became evident during this interview Dana did for the Versus pre-fight television show.
TODD HARRIS: “Inside ConSol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with the President of the UFC, Dana White. Dana, you’ve had a very busy 48 hours. Can you take us through the timeline, maybe in the last 28 hours of what you knew and how it all came about?”
DANA WHITE: “Yeah, I found out, I actually found out on Thursday and, uh… All I have to say is, honestly, from what I saw here this evening and the way things have been handled so far, the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission is the best commission in the United States. Seriously, the way that these guys handle things and the way things have been done during the fight, before the fight, etc. etc. The thing that’s going on with Nate Marquardt, heh, Pennsylvania laws are unfortunate that the commission can’t come out and announce medical records or medical situations with fighters but I think it’s pretty clear to the fans and everybody else that I’m pretty disgusted with Nate Marquardt. He’s been cut from the UFC He won’t fight in the UFC ever again. So… you got to follow these guidelines with the health and blah blah blah blah blah blah. Bottom line is, what Nate Marquardt did is bad enough to be cut from the UFC.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “Dana, are you able to shed any light as to what he did?”
“He didn’t pass his medicals, you know what I mean? It’s the way it has to be said here because of the laws and the health and this and all this stuff, you guys know me, you know how I operate. Before anything was said, he’s cut, he’s done with the UFC, I’m disgusted with him and he has no business fighting in the UFC.”
STEPHAN BONNAR: “Now, Dana, I know you and Nate have had kind of a rocky relationship in the past, maybe not as decorated as you and Tito’s beef but nonetheless…”
DANA WHITE: “Not really! Not really. You know, Nate Marquardt, I would say the exact opposite. Nate Marquardt’s done some things and I’m one of these guys that gives everybody a second chance. We all make mistakes.”
STEPHAN BONNAR: “Well, I was looking at this as the straw that broke the camel’s back based on his past.”
DANA WHITE: “No, listen, we all make mistakes, people make mistakes, we’re human beings, it’s going to happen. You know, it’s how you handle it and Nate Marquardt’s a nice guy, I mean he’s a nice guy, he’s a sweetheart, he always says the right thing and is a nice guy but, you know… being nice and acting nice and doing the right thing are two different things.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “Dana, this is obviously a sport and things have happened in the past, not only in MMA but in every sport. Why did you feel the need to fire him? Why did you think this was bad enough that he should be fired?”
DANA WHITE: “Well, this is one of those situations where because of the laws in the state of Pennsylvania, Nate Marquardt’s going to have to man up and tell the world why he didn’t pass his medicals. He’s going to have to man up and come out and tell the world why he didn’t pass and when he does that I think everybody will understand why he was cut from the UFC.”
STEPHAN BONNAR: “Now, if he does do that, wouldn’t you give him another chance? I know you’ve said in the past before about fighters never fighting again and you’ve let them fight, can he redeem himself in this situation?”
DANA WHITE: “I don’t know. You guys see, you know, when Nate Marquardt decides to come out and talk to everybody, you know, if he does or if he doesn’t, whatever happens. I know there’s all these things out there about me where I can be too, whatever, if you really look at how I’ve treated people and treated fighters over the last 10 years, I give a lot of guys chance and I know that everybody makes mistakes and Nate Marquardt has been one of those guys. So for me to come out and say he’s not going to fight in the UFC any more, it’s got to be pretty serious. It’s not because ‘oh, Nate and I had some problems’ or, you know… Otherwise, if that was the way I felt about Nate Marquardt, would he be headlining a show on Versus? Would he be in the position that he’s in the, you know, Welterweight or Middleweight division? No. I’ve had a good working relationship with Nate Marquardt.”
With interest so high in regards to what the mysterious circumstances of Nate’s firing from the UFC, there has been a big vacuum created in the media space. Since Nate’s camp has not handled the situation well at all from a public relations-perspective, it gave Dana White & Greg Sirb (Charles Jay-approved commissioner for Pennsylvania) the chance to take the lead and frame the issue the way they did.
Unfortunately, the vacuum also has created a scenario that I try to avoid at all costs in regards to media coverage. As an MMA writer, you can’t publicly say, “Well, I know what the real story is but I can’t tell it to you.” The defense for such a stance is based on legalities, which is entirely plausible. With that said, you got to make the effort to not come across to readers as if you know something they don’t and look as if you’re taunting readers & that somehow because of your ‘disciplined’ silence that you are remarkable or special. You’re not.
In regards to when Nate Marquardt’s camp will speak, the initial rumor is that the matter will be publicly addressed on Tuesday. As far as why it hasn’t been addressed earlier on, perhaps Nate’s camp got legal advice to shut up until the situation and timing is right. You never know with these matters. What works for PR sometimes doesn’t work for legal issues.
Click on the image to view the NBC/Versus video clip
Here’s Greg Sirb commenting on the matter at hand.
TODD HARRIS: “Glad to be joined now by Greg Sirb, he is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission and, sir, you’ve had a very busy 48 hours. Can you take us through the timeline in the last 24 hours and what has transpired with Nate Marquardt?”
GREG SIRB: “We knew there was an issue with Nate. We tried to give Nate as much time as possible to satisfy our medical requirements. It got down the 24th hour, about 3 o’clock on Friday, he didn’t satisfy them. The fight had to be pulled.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “How long, Greg, did you know that there was an issue here?”
GREG SIRB: “We knew for some time. I think everybody was under the assumption that he was going to be able to qualify and then, you know, that may be a mistake on our part and everybody’s part. We shouldn’t assumed it. We tried as the commission, we had both our medical doctors had ring side at the weigh ins, waiting for the results. We really tried to give him some leeway on that. It just didn’t happen.”
STEPHAN BONNAR: “Now, Greg, as of now Nate is suspended, correct?”
GREG SIRB: “Correct, Nate is on indefinite suspension.”
STEPHAN BONNAR: “And indefinite, what does that mean? What does he have to do to get reinstated? When would he be eligible to get reinstated? Say, if he could meet the requirements next week, could he be taken off?”
GREG SIRB: “If he can meet the requirements next week, we’ll take him off. It’s up to Nate right now. He has got to show us, the medical issue that’s out there, he’s got to show us that it’s been solved. If my doctors say yes to that report, we’ll take him off suspension.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “Greg, what exactly is the medical issue?”
GREG SIRB: “Well, I can’t go into that, unfortunately with the laws of Pennsylvania. It’s an issue that’s held under the privacy act. Nate’s fully aware of it and has known about this for quite some time.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “Is that something that pertains to Pennsylvania? Because we know in the past with California, they will announce why a guy’s suspended. Why in Pennsylvania are you not able to announce that?”
GREG SIRB: “Our HIPAA laws are a little bit stringent here in Pennsylvania, that we don’t go into those situations and on a personal level, for the commission, we try not, we don’t want to embarrass any fighter. The fighter knows what he’s doing, he got taken off the card, he lost a lot of money and he’s been, you know, he’s having trouble with it.”
STEPHAN BONNAR: “Now, Greg, when you usually get suspended you get fined as well. Is there going to be a fine that goes along with this suspension?”
GREG SIRB: “You know, that’s a good question and my commission is looking at that and, I’ll be honest with you, we’re not in the business to pile on and Nate’s out quite a sum of money for this fight. At this time, we’ll probably say no.”
I strongly encourage you to watch the video for Sirb’s tone & demeanor when asked about whether or not Marquardt will get fined.
So, with Marquardt pulled off the Versus card, Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry was moved to the main event slot and Rick Story was given Charlie Brenneman on extremely short notice for the semi-main event.
Story was in a no-win situation and, well, it lived up to his nickname of “Horror” all right. Brenneman wrestled him to a unanimous 29-28 decision and derailed what looked to be a meteoric rise to the top of the Welterweight division. On top of that, Brenneman was considered by the fans to be a local guy and they cheered the hell out of him. Where do both men fight now in the minds of Joe Silva & Dana White in regards to their internal rankings? You can’t treat the situation as if the fight didn’t happen and leave Story where he is pegged at in the matchmaking before the fight.
Click on the image to view the NBC/Versus video clip
TINA DIXON: “It was a crazy week for you, Charlie. A lot of back-and-forth on-the-card, off-the-card. Knowing now that you just won this fight, how would you sum up what you’re feeling?”
CHARLIE BRENNEMAN: “Amazing. I’m pretty sure my life has peaked at 30 years old and I’m completely fine with that.”
TINA DIXON: “You still got a lot more years to go!”
CHARLIE BRENNEMAN: “I do, but nothing’s going to top tonight. I almost guarantee it.”
TINA DIXON: “Now, the first two rounds seemed to be yours but that third round, there were a couple of moments where he was taking charge. How did you get out of that?”
CHARLIE BRENNEMAN: “You know, that’s personally my fault. I’m a work-in-progress. I knew those positions, I could hold my position, I knew it was going to eat up time, I knew he was going to get tired doing it. A couple of times I almost waited too long to get some of those locks got tight.”
TINA DIXON: “How much of this was heart, being in your home state?”
CHARLIE BRENNEMAN: “Man, when that song by P. Diddy came on, I knew it was on.”
TINA DIXON: “Congratulations, enjoy this.”
CHARLIE BRENNEMAN: “Thank you very much. You bet your ass I’m going to enjoy it. Thank you.”
You had to feel for Rick Story and how things played out. As for how Dana White felt after the outcome of that fight, I’m sure he threw his hands up in the air.
And then, within the time span of a few minutes, Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry decided to have a fight with the most incredible finish you will ever see in Mixed Martial Arts (thanks in part to some flawed techniques on display.) The fight produced a remarkable finish where Barry decked Kongo with a looping right, then hit Kongo again to the ground, only for Kongo to groggily bounce back up and, with his back against the cage, hit Barry’s guard enough to get a second crack to deliver a pure, nasty uppercut that dropped Barry and had his eyes rolling back while his right leg was bent underneath him on the ground. It was such a spectacular finish that everyone had largely forgotten about Story’s loss.
On the Versus post-fight television show, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson continued his bullying of Ariel Helwani. He also stated that Kongo had taken a long break from MMA because he was recovering from a spinal infection. Stephan Bonnar somehow managed to compare Kongo/Barry to a Muhammad Ali fight.
Click on the image to view the NBC/Versus video clip
David Williams: Matt Mitrione joins an illustrious list after win over Morecraft
Speaking of hyperbole, that was what pretty much everyone was engaged in after Matt Mitrione took care of business with Christian Morecraft. Matt should have realistically finished off Morecraft faster than he did, but he got the job done in the end. His stamina wasn’t too hot, however, and as you can see in this post-fight video, Meathead knows it.
TINA DIXON: “Congratulations, Matt. Let’s talk about that first round. You looked so calm & relaxed. You had him almost twice there. Take us through it.”
MATT MITRIONE: “You know, I saw that when I dropped him he was still pretty awake, wasn’t as out of it as I wanted him to before I’m comfortable enough jumping on him. And the second time I dropped him, I kind of felt like, ‘Ah, I might as well give it a shot,’ because it looked like he was a little bit dazed. You know, honestly, it was just, I’m still green, I should have handled it a little bit better. I should have taken a different angle and come over the top of him, I probably could have finished it. But you know what I mean, I definitely made enough mistakes to keep ‘em back in the lab, you know.”
TINA DIXON: “5-0 now in the Octagon here at UFC fights, all televised. What does that say about your fighting?”
MATT MITRIONE: “I think that means people want to see me lose or win, one of the two. I’m flattered, I don’t know how many people can say that all their fights have been televised, I’m fortunate and I appreciate it. I’m really flattered that it’s been that way.”
Stephan Bonnar was proposing Meathead fight someone like Frank Mir or Cheick Kongo. Ariel stepped in and said that there was no need to rush Mitrione in terms of stepping up to better competition until he improves. Bonnar accused Ariel of engaging in boxing-like matchmaking. Todd Harris said that though Mir would beat Mitrione that the fight should happen. Thankfully, the name Dave Herman was mentioned as a possible next opponent.
All in all, a lackluster uneventful card turned out to be a fascinatingly drama-filled show both in and out of the cage. I enjoy the Versus telecasts better than the Spike TV broadcasts because they are live on all coasts and there are cleaner, subtle changes in the production that just make it a better viewing experience. With that said, the demographics that Versus draws for viewers is not helpful in attracting the standard audience that UFC draws on Spike TV, which has much strong demographics willing to support and watch UFC programming. Spike TV did, in fact, counter-program the Versus telecast by airing Nate Marquardt fights. That was charitable, wasn’t it?
As for the image of the night that Miguel Torres captured on television, it was a cage side camera shot of Arianny Celeste, Chandella Powell, and Brittney Palmer right as Cheick Kongo finished off Pat Barry. Arianny had her arms near her face, then started smiling, clapping, and jumping up and down. Chandella & Brittney had priceless reactions on their face, with their arms and hands covering while maintaining a stunned look mixed with shock & incredulousness (I made a new word there). It was awesome.
Also amusing: the camera crew catching Bruce Buffer cracking jokes and socializing while Matt Brown & John Howard were fighting right in front of him.
Oh yeah, this Saturday night, Urijah Faber vs. Dominic Cruz on PPV at UFC 132. Over/under – 350,000 PPV buys?