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UFC can’t ignore the public relations nightmare with Jon Jones any longer

By Zach Arnold | April 15, 2014

Jon Jones trended #1 on Twitter during MLB’s Jackie Robinson day for the wrong reasons

The ever-pressing conundrum in sports: the guy that has all the talent in the world and great sporting judgment but lacking in complete self-awareness outside the sporting venue. What do you do?

As a promoter, Jon Jones is a dream athlete. Unstoppable. But getting in a DUI accident with babes, being evasive when it comes to wanting to fight opponents, and quicksanding yourself with stupid comments is a good way to build an artificial glass ceiling that prevents you from becoming a mainstream sports draw.

As you would expect, and rightfully so, there was panic. Bloody Elbow took note of both denials from Jon Jones & his representative Malki Kawa in regards to responsibility of such comments being made on Instagram. He lost his phone. Minutes after the questionable remarks online were made, a photograph of Jones was published online.

Lots of people do stupid things. But my first thought when I heard the possibility of his phone getting lost was…

The timing is always unacceptable to make homophobic remarks, but juxtapose this dust-up on Tuesday with this note from writer Marc Raimondi:

The always resourceful David Bixenspan notes this past incident.

In the fight business, the speech police generally don’t get results. Look at all the past remarks of Bernard Hopkins and people gush over him more than ever. Look at the legion of Nick Diaz fans. However, that’s not to say that there isn’t an impact being made when Jon Jones displays questionable judgment. The impact is that the UFC may label him as unreliable in terms of giving a full marketing push when his in-cage talent is 100% deserving of a major ad campaign. We’re days away from his fight with Glover Teixeira and all people seem to talk about with Jon Jones is what mistake he’s making next.

A lost phone. A cat that was on the loose. A missing UFC Fight Pass subscription. Waffling on desire for random drug testing for all opponents. And a whole lot of missing common sense. As with all athletes who have access to social media, their weaknesses get exposed in a hurry.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

One month away from finding out if Bellator will sink or swim on PPV

By Zach Arnold | April 14, 2014

Can a fight promotion that has given away all of their previous events on basic cable figure out the formula to convince fight fans to pay an unknown amount of money to watch fights on PPV?

We’re about to find out where Bellator stands in terms of fan loyalty in a month’s time.

We know the current situation with Viacom & Bellator. Viacom is making money off of Bellator programming. They’re drawing pretty decent ratings, too. However, there is a limited budget for each show. The talk that Viacom would unleash their resources to finance Bellator simply hasn’t panned out… yet.

If Bellator fails to attract many customers on PPV for Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler III, it won’t be a surprise. In many respects, expectations are justifiably low. And if Bellator bombs on TV, Viacom will not immediately kill the promotion or sell it to the highest bidder. So what is at stake with the May PPV? If the PPV beats expectations, it will give Viacom reason to turn on the spigot of cash to upgrade the current fight cards Bellator is booking.

What will the magic over/under PPV buyrate number be? My opinion is that 50,000 is the magic number, plus or minus 5,000 buys. If the PPV hits 60,000 or more buys, then I think there’s reason for Bellator to celebrate their future prospects. If the PPV draws under 50,000 buys, I think Viacom will attempt one more PPV but with a different model — perhaps a co-promotion with GLORY or TNA. This is not an option that is off the table.

I’ve noticed this week that the ad campaign for the Bellator PPV is starting to ratchet up on Spike. To what extent the ad campaign will be outside of the Spike TV platform, that I am unsure of. Viacom is trying to offer some steak (Chandler/Alvarez III) with the sizzle (Rampage fighting on native turf near Memphis). It is kind of odd that the promotion will run in Mississippi rather than Tennessee where there is no state income tax. Tito Ortiz will face Alexander Shlemenko. Rampage Jackson has King Mo. For the casual fan, they know about three fights on the card. The question is how many casual fans are there aware of a PPV upcoming.

If Bellator succeeds on PPV, Viacom will open up the checkbook and that is something the company needs given a lot of the bad press they’ve received for their fighter contracts. We know about Eddie Alvarez’s dispute with the company. We’ve seen the stories online about fighters claiming they had to sell a certain amount of tickets in order to get paid. It’s the kind of press that can hurt recruitment of talent. But all of that can be whitewashed the minute Bellator makes money on PPV. PPV isn’t an immediate life or death corporate situation for Bellator but it could sure change their momentum in a hurry if Viacom decides to make a deeper financial commitment.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Bizarre interview process for Nevada athletic commission will lead to Friday decision

By Zach Arnold | April 12, 2014

It was the silly season for Skip Avansino and company today in Las Vegas, both figuratively and literally. Who knew that a prerequisite for the job would involve a politico asking a candidate like Andy Foster, on the spot, to start an impromptu comedy routine and tell jokes to show that he has a sense of humor?

Saturday’s “interview” process in Las Vegas was something to behold. The top three candidates for the Executive Director job are: Mike Martino (athletic inspector), Andy Foster (California figurehead), and Jeff Mullen (Tennessee boss). Heading into the Saturday call, about half my sources claimed Andy had the job and the other half claimed Mullen had it. And these were heavyweight sources. So, obviously if there is a winner already selected, it’s being kept hidden in closed-door deliberations.

But the interview process itself gave me pause to think that there is not a unified front in Nevada and that is something unacceptable in the Sig Rogich & Marc Ratner playbook. Plus, as admitted on the Saturday call, they did not want their decision to “overshadow” the Pacquiao/Bradley fight. So why the hell did they book it on a Saturday afternoon then?

My guess is that there was a favorite heading into the interview process and the politicos got cold feet.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Bob Arum’s unintentional symbolism at Wednesday presser for Pacquiao/Bradley fight

By Zach Arnold | April 10, 2014

Watch the video of Arum sounding off against MGM

“I want to thank everybody… I’m not going to say it. I know that. Yeah. Hell with it. I know that at the Venetian they wouldn’t make a mistake like this. They knew what fight they were scheduled three or four days and they wouldn’t have a 12-to-1 fight all over the building.

“But… that’s why one company makes a billion dollars a quarter and the other hustles to pay its debt.

“Also, none of the fighters on the cards had to pay anybody off to get on the cards unlike how some other people operate on some other networks. That was an old tactic that Frankie Carbo used but it doesn’t go with HBO or with Top Rank.”

Bob Arum was his usual flame-throwing self at Wednesday’s press conference for Saturday night’s fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena between Manny Pacquiao (2-to-1 favorite) versus Tim Bradley. Manny’s getting $20 million and Tim’s getting $6 million for the fight. And given some of the more interesting bouts on the table with Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Mike Alvarado and Gennady Golovkin vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the Inglewood Forum, you’d think everything would be going smoothly for Top Rank.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Fight Opinion Radio features the best: Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Lennon Jr. on the evolving combat sports scene

By Zach Arnold | April 8, 2014

Jimmy Lennon Jr. is the man and he’s also on Twitter

With the television & PPV landscape changing so fast for combat sports programming, who else is better to talk about the modern history of combat sports than the best ring announcer in the business? (Sorry, Bruce.) Our guest this week on Fight Opinion Radio is Jimmy Lennon Jr. A total professional and one of the nicest men we’ve interacted with. Talk about someone who has a lot of stories to tell about not only his career but also his father’s career. If you love the history of combat sports, don’t miss our interview.

Our guest last week was Judo Gene LeBell, so it’s only appropriate to bring Jimmy Lennon Jr. on the show this week to talk about his memories from attending shows at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Everybody remembers the first mega-fight Jimmy worked (between Buster Douglas & Mike Tyson in 1990 at the Tokyo Dome), but did you know he got paid $2,000 for that match? After history was made at the Tokyo Dome, Jimmy’s career soared to the top and the rest is history. His thoughts on the similarities & differences between Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. vs. Jr. is interesting given that he worked the 1993 Azteca Stadium show in Mexico City.

What was most interesting about the interview is how much Jimmy missed working MMA events like Elite XC & Strikeforce. There are a lot of good ring announcers in the scene now but it’s hard to find someone who is on Jimmy’s level when it comes to pronouncing every name with fluidity. How does he pull it off?

As a bonus, we asked Jimmy about the back story on the crazy dual-announcer, dual TV-backed Showtime/HBO PPV from Memphis, Tennessee featuring Mike Tyson & Jimmy Lennon Jr. on one side of the ring and Michael Buffer with Lennox Lewis on the other side of the ring.

Download the show

The fourth episode of the Fight Opinion Radio 2014 campaign can be downloaded right here ( To automatically subscribe to the Fight Opinion Radio podcast, use this RSS link:

Time length of this week’s show: 35 minutes (16 MB MP3)

Special thanks

To Zack Nelson for his past & present support of Fight Opinion Radio. Some new changes will be appearing on the show soon, we promise.

Contact us

Jeff Thaler wants your feedback. Reach him on Twitter @whaledog and you can reach me @fightopinion. If you want to send us an e-mail, our e-mail address is So far, the listener numbers are excellent but we want to hear directly from you.

You got mailbag questions you want us to answer on the show next week? Send ‘em.

Topics: Boxing, Fight Opinion Radio, Jeff Thaler, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold, podcasts | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

WWE Network has nearly 700,000 enrolled. So, PPV as we used to know it is dead… right?

By Zach Arnold | April 7, 2014

The real launch of the WWE Network happened on Sunday night with Wrestlemania. While cable/satellite providers offered Wrestlemania for purchase, last night’s event was the beginning of the end for WWE on PPV. The IPTV WWE Network channel is officially 100% the place to go to watch their paid content. Instead of $60 a PPV, they’re asking $60 for a six month subscription to their IPTV channel. With Amazon Fire TV now competing with Apple TV, XBox, Roku, and Google USB sticks for IPTV supremacy, surely the fuddy duddy days of demand for over-the-air TV broadcasts and plunking $60 down to watch big fights on PPV is dead.

Channeling my inner Lee Corso… not so fast, my friend.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, Pro-Wrestling, UFC, WWE, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The good, bad, and awful of heavyweight fights promoted by Main Events, Bellator, and Golden Boy

By Zach Arnold | April 5, 2014

Three TV shows spanning two days on American cable networks featuring the heavyweights. The ultimate boom-or-bust gamble. When you get a good heavyweight fight, there’s nothing like it. When you get a lousy heavyweight fight, which is more often than not the norm, it sucks. It really sucks.

There were three shows that we watched carefully: a Golden Boy show Thursday night on Fox Sports 1 from Fantasy Springs (California), a Main Events show from Philadelphia on NBC Sports Network, and the Bellator Reno Events Center show on Spike TV. Each show represented the good, the bad, and the awful of heavyweights going the distance.

The good? Main Events had a pretty fun show with Steve Cunningham beating Amir Mansour on points after 10 rounds. Neither guy is Top 10 material, but this fight blew away anything on the Golden Boy show. The crowd was really great, too. The semi-main with Curtis Stevens pulling a miracle out of his ass in the 10th round over Tureano Johnson, regardless of the questionable stoppage, was quite the moment. Pennsylvania’s commission does a good job regulating the Main Events shows.

The bad? Cheick Kongo vs. Vitaly Minakov for Bellator’s Heavyweight title started out OK but devolved into a total lay-and-pray hang-on-for-dear-life survival fest that was neither strategic nor exciting. I’m used to Cheick Kongo zombie KOs, nut shots, and dirty clinching. But he gassed out and so did Minakov. Despite getting nut-shotted twice in the first round, Kongo didn’t take advantage of Minakov. He had a clear striking advantage in fire fights but just never chose to go that route consistently. Minakov wore him down and made him play his game. The unanimous 48-46 score from the three judges was the only acceptable result. Interesting that we haven’t had much controversy in Nevada since Keith Kizer’s exit last January. Hopefully, Bellator’s four-man heavyweight series next week delivers better than the Reno fight. The Reno crowd seemed enthusiastic to see Kongo win but he didn’t come through.

The ugly? Golden Boy’s Thursday telecast from Southern California featuring three heavyweight bouts was an absolute dog’s breakfast. Making it even worse was the quality of the regulation by the California officials & athletic inspectors.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Bellator, Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 12 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC is paying for random drug testing, but is random drug testing equal from state to state?

By Zach Arnold | April 3, 2014

We know the Georges St. Pierre stick-and-carrot approach on applying pressure to the UFC for improving drug testing protocols was working. Then he lost that leverage when he blew out the ACL in his left knee.

At least he got Lorenzo Fertitta on record supporting the financing of random drug testing for big fights. However, Lorenzo said that the various state athletic commissions should handle the testing rather than using an entity like Dr. Margaret Goodman’s VADA or USADA. Because, you know, they shouldn’t have jurisdiction over testing since they aren’t an athletic commission. I’m sure Lamont Peterson wished he had thought of that line when he got busted micro-dosing on testosterone pellets.

Nevertheless, the UFC has basically given some credit to Dr. Goodman (wittingly or unwittingly) even with their backhanded remarks about the VADA operation.

We know UFC paid for random drug testing last December with the Travis Browne/Josh Barnett fight. They’re paying now for testing in relation to the Jon Jones/Glover Teixeira fight. Nevada claimed the price tag was $20,000 for “enhanced testing” and nobody exactly knew what those protocols entailed. Brent Brookhouse would later go on to expose the holes in that “enhanced testing.”

For Maryland’s testing protocols, nobody is 100% sure what they are. There’s no universal drug testing standard from state to state on drug testing. That problem has not been addressed yet and should be the next issue to focus on. With VADA testing, at least we know what the guidelines are. Not so much with random testing from state to state.

Random drug testing isn’t cheap and the UFC is doing the right thing by paying for it on the bigger fights. However, the same athletic commissions they’re working with are the regulatory bodies that felt pressured enough to give out testosterone permission slips to fighters. So, you never know which way the political winds are blowing and just what exactly is happening. And without a uniform standard for random drug testing, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds with how each state operates.

If the UFC would rather work with state athletic commissions instead of letting fighters test with an agency like VADA, then they could do themselves a big favor and help clear some confusion by getting the various ACs on board with one uniform policy when it comes to random drug testing. The good news is that there does seem to be some hope on the horizon for better HGH drug testing protocols. Plus, this recent BBC news article detailing how laboratories will be able to use existing equipment to detect drug usage by athletes as late as two years ago is promising & optimistic news.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Fight Opinion Radio: Judo Gene LeBell on Ronda Rousey’s UFC success & stories on the late Billy Robinson

By Zach Arnold | April 2, 2014

Download the show

The third episode of the Fight Opinion Radio 2014 campaign can be downloaded right here ( To automatically subscribe to the Fight Opinion Radio podcast, use this RSS link:

Time length of this week’s show: 35 minutes (16 MB MP3)

Our special guest this week: Judo Gene LeBell

For the first time in seven years, we had a chance to visit with Judo Gene on the heels of his 50th anniversary of the famous Milo Savage bout. Head over to Roots of Fight to get merchandise & goods celebrating the anniversary.

This was really a fun interview, as we discussed the influences on Ronda Rousey’s fighting career & examine the level of competition she faced in judo versus the field so far in women’s MMA. Plus, Gene has some stories to tell about meeting the famous Ed “Strangler” Lewis at the LA Athletic Club and how encounters with the late Billy Robinson & Karl Gotch made him into the champion he was and still is.

Special thanks

To Zack Nelson for past & present support of Fight Opinion Radio with music. We hope to work extensively with him and other bands in the future for a step-up in production values for Fight Opinion Radio.

Next week’s guest

Hint: Our biggest interview ever in the history of the program. If you want to know who it is, you have to listen to this week’s show to find out the answer. As famous a name as you could possibly imagine in the world of combat sports with a lot of family stories spanning several decades of activity.

Contact us for feedback and our mailbag

You got thoughts on the show? You got fight-related questions you want us to answer on the show? E-mail us right here and we’ll be glad to spotlight your musings on the radio show. Get on board and be an active participant.

You can reach us on Twitter @fightopinion and @whaledog. Jeff wants to hear from you!

Topics: Fight Opinion Radio, Jeff Thaler, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold, podcasts | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Your cliff notes guide to keeping up with UFC’s four April events

By Zach Arnold | April 2, 2014

Event: UFC Fight Night from Abu Dhabi (Friday, April 11th on Yas Island)
TV: Internet

Event: UFC Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale (Wednesday, April 16th in Quebec City at Colisée Pepsi)
TV: Fox Sports 1

Event: UFC on Fox 11 (Saturday, April 19th in Orlando, Florida at Amway Center)
TV: Fox broadcast stations

Event: UFC 172 (Saturday, April 26th at the Baltimore Arena)
TV: Fox Sports 1/PPV

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

With a blown out ACL, GSP just lost his leverage & the UFC just lost immediate $

By Zach Arnold | March 27, 2014

Everything this week was on GSP’s side in terms of enforcing the right kinds of conditions for a return to the UFC. All the momentum and leverage on his side. Nobody in the company right now can draw 600,000+ PPV buys on their own. Chris Weidman can’t. Johny Hendricks can’t. Ronda Rousey can’t. Jon Jones can’t. As a collective group effort with multiple big fights on one card, perhaps UFC could come close. But right now, no singular fighter other than Brock Lesnar can deliver on PPV for UFC like St. Pierre.

And GSP’s stick-and-carrot approach, as my radio co-host Jeff Thaler discussed with me earlier in the week, was clearly working… on paper. St. Pierre has been publicly talking tough about drug usage in MMA and forced the UFC to play defense big time on the matter. Pushing Lorenzo Fertitta to say publicly that he would support VADA-style drug testing without Dr. Margaret Goodman’s involvement is one of those moments where even UFC’s denial still, in essence, validates the work she has done to push momentum forward in increasing drug testing protocols in combat sports. The carrot, from GSP, was the idea of a superfight with Anderson Silva or perhaps even a rematch against Johny Hendricks.

Then came news that Anderson Silva won’t fight in 2014 and Johny Hendricks had to get biceps surgery. And his fight with Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 reportedly drew 320,000 PPV buys. So he didn’t exactly get the instant rub from the GSP fight. That growth in popularity will have to take significant time to develop. Ask GSP all about that.

After Hendricks impressed last November, a new and exciting Welterweight division appeared in the long-term cards. Injuries have now had a mess of things. Carlos Condit has ACL issues. GSP has ACL issues. And we’re left with Tyron Woodley and Nick Diaz floating around as challengers. Woodley is the real deal. But he’s not a major draw.

Coming out of UFC 171, St. Pierre had to be feeling great about his newly-built leverage. And after the event, some positive news came out in the form of a BBC report on new University of Texas-Arlington research about improving protocols in current drug screenings that could help detect steroid usage in athletes for as long as two years. It is a great step up in being able to utilize current equipment to improve the ability to detect drug usage and such upgrades removes some excuses from various state athletic commissions lollygagging on drug testing fighters.

Of course, more emphasis should be put on pre-fight drug tests in order to prevent fighters who are actually using drugs from competing in the first place since the whole argument is about health & safety. But that would mean athletic commissions would lose out on big money from having more fights canceled, hence the current pre-fight and post-fight drug testing procedures in place.

But now that GSP has blown out another ACL, any leverage he had has vanished and will require significant work to accumulate once again. The UFC may be celebrating this development but that celebration is Pyrrhic in nature because St. Pierre is still the best PPV draw they have access to booking.

Topics: Canada, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

More likely to happen first: Shogun/Henderson UFC III or double retirement?

By Zach Arnold | March 23, 2014

You know what the answer probably is. Whether it’s the answer that you think is appropriate given the current circumstances coming out of Sunday’s fight, however, is up for discussion.

As for the quality of officiating… whew, I’m glad Chael Sonnen assured everyone after the show that the officiating on the show was of good quality. Sneaky guy buttering up the referees for his May 31st Brazil fight against Wanderlei Silva. Nothing ever gets past him. I hope Wernei Cardoso is not the referee for that fight.

Jon Jones may be saying “oh give me a break” about the prospects of a fight with Henderson but if he loses to Glover Teixeira (as John Hackleman talked about recently on Fight Opinion Radio), he may want to reconsider.

Event: UFC Fight Night (Sunday, March 23rd) at Ginasio Nelio Dias in Natal, Brazil
TV: Fox Sports 1 (7 PM EST/4 PM PST)

Topics: Brazil, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 19 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Will Top Rank draw big crowds at an old California home for boxing?

By Zach Arnold | March 22, 2014

The late Dr. Jerry Buss would be very happy to see the old Inglewood Forum active as a home for boxing fights once again. In the 1990s, Dr. Buss helped promote many fight cards at the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers. Combined with fight cards at the Anaheim Pond, it was pretty good to be a boxing fan in Southern California.

So, with the news that Top Rank is going to promote two legitimate fights at The Forum in May and July, how will the two events draw? MSG now manages the building.

Interesting to note that by running Inglewood, they avoid the 5% Los Angeles city entertainment tax that’s added to the 5% gate cut that the California State Athletic Commission gets with the TV tax money and the double-digit state income tax rate. The 5% LA city tax has been a bone of contention for Top Rank in attracting financial backers for past fights.

The two fights booked are intriguing to say the least. The May 17th show features Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Mike Alvarado. The July 12th HBO PPV show features Gennady Golovkin vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. JCC has a lot to prove in regards to whether or not he’s still a big ticket seller in Southern California. The first fight with Bryan Vera drew a little over 5,000. JCC can draw a million eyeballs on HBO but this time he’s on PPV.

It’s going to be a real compressed time frame to promote the Marquez fight on the ground and get tickets sold but Bob Arum always has based his big initial media flurries for fights (regardless of location) in LA because of his press contacts. It should pay off at the box office. Boxing back at The Forum will certainly bring back good memories for the veteran fans who used to go to those shows and the younger crowd as well.

The California scene needed a shot in the arm and this is a very good opportunity to build some momentum. And, yes, I didn’t forget the ESPN May 10th fight between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne at USC’s Galen Center.

Given all the recent turmoil in Sacramento with the Athletic Commission, success here would be a much-needed morale booster. The well has been dry for a while now and Andre Ward isn’t much of a draw outside of Oakland.

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

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