By Zach Arnold | April 17, 2014
This article has been updated (at the bottom) in response to an allegation being made in response to what was originally written here.
The last few weeks have seen quite a bit of turmoil with the major state Athletic Commissions. David Berlin, a New York lawyer and former boxing manager who is close to Teddy Atlas & Michael Bloomberg, will now take over as Executive Director at the New York State Athletic Commission. What a job to walk into given that NYSAC got sued by the family of boxer Magomed Abdusalamov for $100 million USD.
Then came the news last week that Dickie Coles is out at the Texas commission. Good riddance. Wonder what this means for his son’s future. Will he continue to be a major player in the promoter bond business?
But the real action right now is in Sacramento and Las Vegas because of Andy Foster. When Keith Kizer resigned last January, Andy Foster had spent weeks telling everyone — including his closest allies — that he had no interest in applying for Nevada’s job. But something changed. According to multiple state sources, Andy was “prodded” into applying for the job. Additionally, there were allegedly some issues regarding professional stress impacting home life.
And on Saturday afternoon, Foster came in acting as a second coming of Haley Barbour and brought an overwhelming presence to his job interview. To the point that the Athletic Commission, which was supposed to make a decision that same day on a new Executive Director, called for time-out.
A decision was going to be made on Friday at 3 PM. The day before that decision was to be made, Andy Foster withdrew his name from the Nevada job… after he was named a finalist… and after he interviewed passionately on why he was the right man.
On Wednesday night at a Michael King boxing show in Santa Monica with Che Guevara working, Andy Foster reportedly told multiple people on the ground that he had “second thoughts” about what he did in applying for Nevada. You can read in between the lines if you would like.
And now Andy’s gamble to apply & interview for the Nevada State Athletic Commission job is about to backfire in a big way. It means he has to go back to Sacramento as a lame duck with diminished political power, a more stressful home life, and a group of inspectors & officials who will now be hesitant to back him 100% because he had one foot out the door.
If the UFC thinks that they can have their cake & eat it too with two long-term “friendly” allies in Andy Foster in California & someone else in Nevada, this calculation long-term will prove to be absolutely wrong.
Fight Opinion Radio: Mad genius Eddie Bravo has a high-stakes tournament concept destined to grab attention
By Zach Arnold | April 16, 2014
We have had some great interviews so far on Fight Opinion Radio so far, but our recent interview with the one and only Eddie bravo of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu is the best we’ve done so far if you are interested in discussing techniques that make fighters so successful in Mixed Martial Arts.
With his new book, Advanced Rubber Guard, just released… has Eddie won the philosophical battle when it comes to gi-versus-no-gi grappling? He appeared this week on Fight Opinion Radio to make the case that the argument has already been won. And he wants you to check out his Mastering The System video series as proof of it. Any time you have a chance to learn techniques called The Electric Chair and the Bear Trap, you know the violence is real. Whether it’s the half-guard or quarter-guard, Eddie always is coming up with new tricks. Ask Royler Gracie how it felt to have some of those techniques used on him.
With the Metamoris 3 fight behind him, Eddie is embarking on a new venture: the Eddie Bravo Invitational. On June 1st at Florentine Gardens in Hollywood, he will be hosting two 16-man tournaments: one at 145 pounds and one at 170 pounds. Same day weigh-ins. The tournaments will be taped for Spanish-language television. The concept? No-gi grappling, submission-only rules. If you submit your opponent in regular round time, you get $25,000. If you go to overtime, you win $5,000. If a fight goes to overtime, a winner will be determined ala extra innings in baseball. Submit your opponent and stop your opponent from a submission in an overtime round and you win.
In additional to our extensive interview with Eddie Bravo, Jeff Thaler & I chime in with our thoughts on the recent subscription & PPV numbers released by WWE for Wrestlemania and what the future of both the WWE Network & UFC’s Fight Pass project looks like. Did the UFC miss the boat with their online video subscription service? Do they have time to refocus the IPTV project and make it a more vital & important component of the company’s business model?
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Go right here: (http://www.fightopinion.com/podcasts/foradio-4-16-2014.mp3).
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Time length of this week’s show: 45 minutes (21 MB MP3)
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Everyone important in the fight industry reads our site and listens to our shows. So if you have something you want to get off your chest and have it heard by industry insiders, Fight Opinion Radio is the place to go. I will personally respond to all inquiries.
To Zack Nelson for his past & present support of Fight Opinion Radio. He is the man.
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.
In case you all missed it, Jon Jones may or may not have derided homosexuals and called an MMA fan a "fag" multiple times on Instagram.
— CagePotato.com (@cagepotatomma) April 16, 2014
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.
Jon Jones, homophobing so hard the dude had to change his phone. Good PR spin though. +100 points to @malkikawa.
— MiddleEasy (@MiddleEasy) April 16, 2014
Lots of people do stupid things. But my first thought when I heard the possibility of his phone getting lost was…
I would reckon that a male stealing Jon Jones' phone would be more interested in his list of babe contacts than signing onto Instagram.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) April 16, 2014
The timing is always unacceptable to make homophobic remarks, but juxtapose this dust-up on Tuesday with this note from writer Marc Raimondi:
Oddly enough, I asked Jon Jones just yesterday if he thought the UFC was ready for a gay male fighter. He preferred not to comment.
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) April 16, 2014
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.
I don't know what's worse, the fact the UFC doesn't give its fighters free Fight Pass accounts, or the fact Jon Jones won't spend the $9.99.
— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) April 12, 2014
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.
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.
By Zach Arnold | April 12, 2014
Foster coming across as very confident, almost borderline arrogant as he addresses the commission.
— Steve Carp (@stevecarprj) 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.
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.
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 (http://www.fightopinion.com/podcasts/foradio-4-08-2014.mp3). To automatically subscribe to the Fight Opinion Radio podcast, use this RSS link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/fightopinionradio.
Time length of this week’s show: 35 minutes (16 MB MP3)
To Zack Nelson for his past & present support of Fight Opinion Radio. Some new changes will be appearing on the show soon, we promise.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. So far, the listener numbers are excellent but we want to hear directly from you.
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By Zach Arnold | April 7, 2014
WWE Network, supported by MLB Advanced Media, announces this AM it has garnered 667,287 subscribers in six wks since launch.
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) April 7, 2014
Don’t discount this as a huge night for WWE Network and over-the-top services. No streaming issues throughout WrestleMania. Big success.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) 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.
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.
By Zach Arnold | April 3, 2014
UFC Tonight reporting Jon Jones was just randomly drug tested by the Maryland Commission. Urine AND blood. This is a big deal.
— RJ Clifford (@RJcliffordMMA) April 2, 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.
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 (http://www.fightopinion.com/podcasts/foradio-4-02-2014.mp3). To automatically subscribe to the Fight Opinion Radio podcast, use this RSS link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/fightopinionradio.
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.
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.
By Zach Arnold | April 2, 2014
Event: UFC Fight Night from Abu Dhabi (Friday, April 11th on Yas Island)
- Featherweights: Alan Omer vs. Jim Alers
- Flyweights: Alptekin Ozkilic vs. Dustin Ortiz
- Middleweights: Chris Camozzi vs. Andrew Craig
- Middleweights: Thales Leites vs. Trevor Smith
- Bantamweights: Rani Yahya vs. Johnny Bedford
- Heavyweights: Jared Rosholt vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
- Lightweights: Ramsey Nijem vs. Beneil Dariush
- Welterweights: John Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare
- Featherweights: Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Clay Guida
- Heavyweights: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Roy Nelson
Event: UFC Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale (Wednesday, April 16th in Quebec City at Colisée Pepsi)
TV: Fox Sports 1
- Bantamweights: Mitch Gagnon vs. Tim Gorman
- Light Heavyweights: Ryan Jimmo vs. Sean O’Connell
- Featherweights: Dustin Poirier vs. Akira Corassani
- Bantamweights: Dustin Kimura vs. George Roop
- Lightweights: Mark Bocek vs. Evan Dunham
- Ladies 135 pounds: Sarah Kaufman vs. Amanda Nunes
- Lightweights: Sam Stout vs. KJ Noons
- Welterweights: Patrick Cote vs. Kyle Noke
- Middleweights: Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy
Event: UFC on Fox 11 (Saturday, April 19th in Orlando, Florida at Amway Center)
TV: Fox broadcast stations
- Featherweights: Mirsad Bektic vs. Chas Skelly
- Featherweights: Sean Soriano vs. Estevan Payan
- Heavyweights: Derrick Lewis vs. Jack May
- Welterweights: Jordan Mein vs. Hernani Perpetuo
- Middleweights: Josh Samman vs. Caio Magalhaes
- Lightweights: Jorge Masvidal vs. Pat Healy
- Welterweights: Thiago Alves vs. Seth Baczynski
- Lightweights: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
- Middleweights: Brad Tavares vs. Yoel Romero
- Lightweights: Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza
- Ladies 135 pounds: Miesha Tate vs. Liz Carmouche
- Heavyweights: Travis Browne vs. Fabricio Werdum
Event: UFC 172 (Saturday, April 26th at the Baltimore Arena)
TV: Fox Sports 1/PPV
- Lightweights: Danny Castillo vs. Charlie Brenneman
- Lightweights: Yancy Medeiros vs. Joe Ellenberger
- Ladies 135 pounds: Jessamyn Duke vs. Bethe Correia
- Lightweights: Takanori Gomi vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
- Flyweights: Joe Benavidez vs. Tim Elliott
- Featherweights: Max Holloway vs. Andre Fili
- Lightweights: Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green
- Middleweights: Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch
- Light Heavyweights: Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson
- UFC Light Heavyweight title match: Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira
By Zach Arnold | March 27, 2014
You're all overreacting. John Cena would come back from an ACL tear in about 8 weeks. Relax… No reason GSP can't do the same.
— Las Vegas Fight Shop (@LVFightShop) 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.