By Zach Arnold | January 26, 2015
UFC’s luck and planning has gone swimmingly so far in 2015. Sure, they’ve caught a few breaks along the way, but it’s a hell of a turnaround from the last couple of years. They just better pray that injuries don’t derail this current gravy train. Conor McGregor is now a full-blown ace. They just better hope that Jose Aldo doesn’t destroy him.
Somehow, they’ve managed to turn the Jon Jones cocaine fiasco into a marketing ploy. Did UFC & Fox intend of creating a campaign to make Jones more sympathetic? I don’t think it’s possible to make Jon Jones a sympathetic figure, but you can certainly sell the fact that he’s as flawed outside the cage as he is perfect inside the cage.
Unless Nevada’s athletic commission was going to suspend a fighter for cocaine usage, I never understood why they tested for it in the first place. Either it’s performance enhancing or its not. The message sent to the general public is that it’s not performance enhancing. For most fight fans, fighters engaging in recreational non-steroid drug usage isn’t a big deal. Jones won in dominating fashion over Cormier and became a GSP-level star in terms of power of attracting the attention of the general sports fan.
Faced with a choice of either Alexander Gustafsson or Rumble Johnson as the next challenger for Jon Jones, both guys presented interesting challenges for Jones and still do. Headbutt or not, Rumble blasted Gustafsson on home soil and has managed to go from WSOF guy to UFC title contender within a year. His personal life has had its ups-and-downs but I don’t really expect many fans to walk away from watching JJ/Rumble at all.
Gustafsson was and is JJ’s kryptonite due to his size advantage. That won’t go away any time soon. You have to feel bad for the guy given that he probably should have gotten an automatic re-match against Jones. Instead, he’ll have to face Daniel Cormier in a very difficult fight. For UFC, it’s a lot easier to sell a JJ/Gustafsson rematch in terms of competitiveness than a JJ/Cormier fight.
Who knows what may pop up in the news between Jones and Johnson as far as personal matters are concerned but marketing the fight itself is going to be a ridiculously easy sell no matter how much Jones is favored to win.
You have to think that Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz this coming weekend will draw well on PPV. Then again, my expectations of drawing well are around 400,000 buys. Anything over that is gravy. Nick’s a 3-to-1 underdog but he attracts fans that other fighters do not. Plus, there’s the intrigue of how Anderson Silva will look and whether or not he can still take hard punches. Will Nick be able to put together a myriad of punches to soften him up and get the proverbial kill shot? Unless Anderson clowns around or rides the Condit bicycle for five rounds, this should be a fun fight to watch.
After the Vegas show, you’re looking at Ronda Rousey doing her thing at the Staples Center in late February. Business is reportedly excellent for that event.
As if things couldn’t look rosier to start this year’s UFC campaign, they ended up with the biggest better-late-than-never Christmas gift in New York state Assembly boss Sheldon Silver getting arrested and now divesting his leadership role to a committee of five hand-picked pols. As the Feds continue to push against Silver, the door will open for MMA legislation to actually get passed in the state. UFC running at Madison Square Garden in 2015 would fulfill one of the company’s biggest dreams. It would also make their current lawsuit in New York all but a moot exercise.
By Zach Arnold | January 19, 2015
That Jon Jones interview was more like an infomercial. I kept waiting for an 800 number to pop up so I could buy something or donate money.
— jim genia (@jim_genia) January 20, 2015
“He’s the baddest dude in the world.” – Dana White
Charissa Thompson talking about Jones as the face of the sport
Describe last couple of weeks: “Bittersweet. More bitter than sweet.” And: “Just had some very bad news come out. That really sucked.”
Dana called him about cocaine test results. Asked how and why it happened. Day he was tested he knew he would test positive. Didn’t tell anyone. “I kept it very private.” And: “I knew the test would come out positive… Yeah, I knew it would be a positive test. I knew there wasn’t nothing I could do about it.”
Worried about getting suspended to fight Cormier. At weigh-ins, nobody said anything to him so he thought no trouble coming.
“I definitely don’t have an excuse. I’m not here to make excuses for what happened. I did it.”
“I messed up. It wasn’t a mistake because I consciously did it.”
Denied using cocaine between the time of the positive test and the fight with Daniel Cormier.
“I had done it before quite a few times in college. But that’s really it.” And: “Yeah, pretty much. Like I said, I’m not perfect by any means.”
“I do not dab into cocaine. It’s not my thing at all. The night I did it… there’s no excuse.”
“I’ve dipped into my fair share…” (other illegal drugs)
“The whole situation has been really embarrassing. I had to explain to so many people that I’m not a cocaine addict or even a frequent user.”
“No, I know I don’t [have a problem.] They all know that there’s no room in my life to be a cocaine addict.”
“Yeah, absolutely out of character for me. Just a really embarrassing situation.”
Have you apologized to Dana?
“To Dana, to Lorenzo, to my family, to my brothers.”
I'm not sure why there's confusion about how the result came out. A reporter, @MMAjunkieSteven, filed a FOIA request with the commission.
— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) January 20, 2015
Said one of his brothers said they see (cocaine usage) a lot in the locker room but it’s not public. Said his phone call to his mother went better than he thought it would.
Claims he, his team, and his lawyers are figuring out why the cocaine test results became public knowledge.
Asked about his epitestosterone levels. “Supposedly both of our levels came back a little bit lower than standard. Every man has a different level of testosterone.” Denied that he and Daniel Cormier “are steroid guys.”
Charissa Thompson noted his mother said Jones stayed in rehab for one day.
“Me going to rehab was a… I would say it was like a collective decision between myself and my business partners.” Said his partners told him to go to rehab and let them decide if he has a cocaine problem. Claimed he met with three doctors for seven hours and came to the conclusion that he didn’t need in-patient treatment. They put him in an out-patient treatment program.
Jones is getting drug tested weekly and counseling sessions happen once, twice, three times a week. Said he doesn’t know how the process works and that he’s getting chewed out for what others are determining.
Who is Jon Jones? “I’m trying to figure out who I am as well. … I think there’s a lot of people out there who can relate to me.” Said the best way to come back from this situation is to continue being a winner.
Said his message to his fans is he’s sorry for betraying their belief in him. “I definitely have let myself down.”
By Zach Arnold | January 18, 2015
— ZombieProphet (@ZProphet_MMA) January 19, 2015
UFC’s fortunate luck on Sunday with the Patriots predictably blowing out the Colts led to a perfect scenario
in Dublin, Ireland at the Boston Garden:
- Featherweights: Conor McGregor defeated Dennis Siver (coming off drug suspension) in R2 in 1′54 by mercy/referee stoppage.
- Lightweights: Donald Cerrone defeated Ben Henderson after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Lightweights: Gleison Tibau defeated Norman Parke after 3R by split decision.
- Welterweights: Cathal Pendred defeated Sean Spencer after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Welterweights: Lorenz Larkin defeated John Howard in R1 in 2′17 by TKO.
Conor McGregor was booked against a tailor-made opponent in Dennis Siver, a tank who McGregor easily picked apart. I was surprised Herb Dean didn’t try to stop the fight sooner than he did. McGregor then jumped out of the cage and tried to get in Jose Aldo’s face to heat-up their upcoming title fight. I’m sure he will get fined under the UFC’s code of conduct for risking the safety of spectators nearby Aldo, right? After all, Jon Jones got hit with a $25,000 fine for a failed drug test due to cocaine usage… Dana White dismissed the incident as “typical Conor.”
McGregor hinted after his fight with Siver that the title fight with Aldo will likely happen in Las Vegas. Dana White indicated the fight would happen on Memorial Day weekend. Joe Rogan said on television that watching a Conor McGregor fight is like watching a fight with Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard.
We know, bro. We know. pic.twitter.com/DUrJqYhziY
— Derek Bolender (@DerekBolender) January 19, 2015
Donald Cerrone’s decision win over Ben Henderson was… interesting. I had scored the fight 29-28 for Henderson, giving him the last two rounds. However, seeing Ben’s shocked face after the scores were read was a touch ironic given how many of Henderson’s past opponents have had that same look on their face after Henderson won on the score cards. In post-fight comments, Cerrone remarked about how timid both guys were in the fight and was disappointed with the way things played out. Joe Rogan stated the obvious when he commented that it didn’t feel right having only three rounds instead of five rounds.
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) January 18, 2015
Watching Fox Sports Pravda this weekend has been nauseating. They have been spending a lot of time promoting a Monday night Entertainment Tonight-style interview with Charissa Thompson and Jon Jones. In the teasers promoting Monday’s interview, Jones came off (in my opinion) as a man in denial who is trying to put up a good front of someone who is acknowledging a mistake. Jones says he doesn’t have an addiction to cocaine and isn’t a habitual recreational user. I’ll reserve full judgment until I watch Monday’s interview, but I suspect that this interview will do Jones few favors in changing the minds of his skeptics.
— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) January 19, 2015
And not once mentioned in the interview teasers at all are the questions raised regarding testosterone levels in the CIR (Carbon Isotope Ratio) tests. Most sporting fans aren’t going to get in an uproar over cocaine usage. Any potential testosterone issues, however, are much more explosive in terms of credibility & public discussion. Read Dave Meltzer’s article on MMA Fighting to see some of the questions currently being raised over Nevada’s drug testing protocols.
By Zach Arnold | January 13, 2015
When former NFL players sued the league over brain damage, it didn’t stop the public from watching games. Ratings remain robust for broadcast network television stations in America.
When former NFL players alleged team doctors handed out drugs without prescriptions, the Feds paid attention but the fans didn’t. And that scandal went nowhere.
So why should I think that UFC or the Nevada State Athletic Commission will pay any sort of price with the public for allowing Jon Jones to fight Daniel Cormier after testing positive for using cocaine recreationally? UFC doesn’t care because, hey, Jon Jones has some sort of constitutional right to fight. I’m unaware of what section the Constitution specifically states this, but plenty of people in the fight business have always believed there’s a God-given right to pummel and be-pummeled.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission, under Marc Ratner’s tenure, was brilliant at playing the political game. Ratner and his buddy, public relations mastermind Sig Rogich, were the best in the business. Keith Kizer was terrible at the political game. His fatal crime was loving to hear his voice too much. If you’re going to have someone in place who goes along to get along, you want someone quiet and unassuming like Bob Bennett to do the job. And the commission’s current public face, Francisco Aguilar, is Andre Agassi’s lawyer. Andre Agassi admitted in a book that he used crystal meth while actively playing on the ATP. Famous athletes have vices. Film at 11. It’s my opinion that Aguilar won’t throw the book at Jones.
As for that whole CIR (Carbon Isotope Ratio) testing issue with Jones, it’s going to go nowhere. Don’t hold your breath.
Does the general public have it right to be more concerned about possible testosterone/steroid usage than recreational cocaine usage?
Jon Jones allegedly spent one day in rehab. Now the ball is in UFC’s court. Tell me what price the UFC is going to exactly pay when they book Jones to fight again shortly after leaving rehab? There is no price to pay. From my perspective, the general public that buys UFC PPV does not care if Jon Jones uses cocaine recreationally. As long as he fights brilliantly, life goes on. To each his own.
Does the general public watching UFC fights consider recreational cocaine usage to be performance enhancing? Until that answer becomes a firm “yes,” I expect all of the hullabaloo from the last 10 days to quietly fade away. Jon Jones using cocaine recreationally isn’t going to stop fans from buying PPVs if he’s fighting Anderson Silva or Cain Velasquez.
By Zach Arnold | January 5, 2015
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) January 4, 2015
Jon Jones beating Daniel Cormier wasn’t that large of a shock on Saturday night in Las Vegas. It may have been a surprise that he manages to humble Cormier in the wrestling department but Jon Jones has always had the physical tools to be as explosive of an athlete as any modern day MMA fighter we’ve seen.
I think his future in the UFC is incredibly fascinating. I came away from his fight on Saturday with as many questions as I did answers.
1. Is he going to fight Alexander Gustafsson in a re-match?
Jon Jones the competitor would love to prove that the first fight shouldn’t have been as close as it was. Jon Jones the business probably doesn’t see a giant upside in giving Gustafsson a second chance to derail his momentum into GSP-esque territory for winning.
I want to see the rematch. And I thought Gustafsson had a legitimate case to make for winning their first fight. He’s the one guy who appears to have some kryptonite in facing Jones in the LHW division.
2. Is Cain Velasquez the one remaining roadblock in Jon Jones’ UFC career as a fighter?
I don’t know if we’ll even see Jones fight Cain, as much as the Internet exploded in interest on Saturday night over the prospects of such a fight.
It may be a natural progression in matchmaking but Velasquez is a big, big man with a lot of power and no matter how much physical ability Jones has at LHW, he hasn’t faced anyone yet who is close to Velasquez in terms of raw power and MMA-style wrestling.
3. Has Jon Jones shattered his artificial glass ceiling in terms of fan interest?
The early returns from his fight with Daniel Cormier seem to indicate he’s managed to break through his own flaws in marketing and public relations. Love him or hate him, Jon Jones is a guy who is finally getting the recognition as the top tier athlete that he’s long deserved. The question is whether or not fan interest in Jones long-term is sustainable like it was for Georges St. Pierre. GSP attracted certain demos that Jones simply doesn’t appeal to, but there’s no question that a Jon Jones fight now is viewed by the masses as “an event.”
4. What would the value of Jon Jones be on the open market as a fighter?
We’ll never know this question. He’s going to remain under contract with the UFC probably for the rest of his career. If there was serious free agency in MMA, how much would he be making for a fight with someone like Cain Velasquez and HBO acting as the quasi-promoter?
5. What exactly is the fan interest & market value of promoting a fight between Jon Jones & Cain Velasquez?
I know we’re forgetting about that guy named Fabricio Werdum. It seems clear, however, that the interest level in seeing a JJ/Cain super-fight is growing and would prove to be far more interesting on a technical & athletic level than a super-fight between Anderson Silva & GSP. The door may not be officially closed on the two old war horses fighting each other but the appeal of such a super fight has lost some of its luster like Pacquiao/Mayweather has. Sure, it’ll do nice business, but the peak in fan interest has faded.
Jon Jones vs. Cain Velasquez as a major super fight looks & sounds fresh. The fans want to see it. It would be kind of an awkward fight in terms of promotion given how quiet & reserved Cain is while Jon Jones remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma in handling public relations.
By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2014
Christmas 2005. That was when Fight Opinion was created. Those were the days. Barely the notion of sports podcasting, let alone an MMA podcast. I was crazy enough to believe it could amount to something. I was lucky and fortunate to work with a man named Rob Sayers. Southern hospitality through and through.
The last decade has seen a million twists and turns but one thing has remained consistent — my opinion that no one will be able to make a consistent living in the MMA media remains truer than ever. Those who are doing their best to make a paycheck really have to hustle. It’s not easy and it’s not getting any easier, either.
Lots of names of the past remain as relevant (or irrelevant) today as they did a decade ago. Wanderlei Silva is in Japan for the Inoki NYE show at Ryogoku Kokugikan. His appearance long ago was billed as something of a guest spot as a commentator. In the last few days, that narrative has changed in the country’s press and now all the spotlight is whether or not Inoki will pay him what he wants to have a retirement fight in Japan. It will be interesting to see if UFC will seek an injunction in Vegas and then try to get it enforced in Tokyo.
Quinton Jackson is back with the UFC. Well, sort of. Probably not. Or maybe he is. The reality is that he has had legal issues big-time with Juanito Ibarra in Los Angeles Superior Court. I remember my previous reports on the matter and Rampage went through several lawyers. I don’t know what the current status of the case is but last I checked, it’s headed to trial. If Rampage hasn’t settled that case, there’s a fair shot that he could lose.
And now you throw into this legal mix the prospects of Bellator/Viacom potentially going after Rampage in a California state court, likely LA Superior, for declaratory & injunctive relief over his fight contract. Such a court battle would force Rampage (and UFC?) to come to the table for a settlement or else file a counterclaim arguing breach of contract. It is my personal opinion that UFC will be happy with whatever the outcome of the situation is. Time spent in the courts means Rampage not fighting in the Bellator cage. If Rampage can break free out of the contract, it’s another “name” guy for UFC to throw on TV or PPV to squeeze one last ratings or buy rate number out of. The idea that we’re talking about Rampage being a relevant Light Heavyweight player in 2015 is somewhat mystifying to me.
Then there’s the whole “everyone anticipates Brock Lesnar returning to UFC” ordeal. Combine this with the rumors of perhaps bringing in Alberto Del Rio/Dos Caras Jr. and what you have is UFC turning into a less fun yet just-as-bizarre version of PRIDE in a cage with lesser production values than their Japanese counterpart.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m interested in watching the Jon Jones/Daniel Cormier fight, although the more Jon Jones talks in the press the less interested I am in investing any sort of emotion supporting or booing the guy. He is what he is. The Anderson Silva/Nick Diaz fight along with Chris Weidman/Vitor Belfort are fights that I’m interested in but I’m not sure how the fans will react in terms of picking which one they will pay to watch and which one they won’t. Something has to give here.
Since Fight Opinion started, I’m surprised at how many of the old names are still hanging around despite the vicious injury & drug cycle that has plagued the industry for so long. Here’s hoping 2015 turns out to be a much better year than 2014 for big fights and less cancellations.
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Here’s hoping for a Happy New Year in 2015.
By Zach Arnold | December 17, 2014
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) December 16, 2014
The long-rumored anti-trust lawsuit against UFC was officially filed in court on Tuesday. Specifically, in the Northern District of California federal court. The plaintiffs are Cung Le, Nate Quarry, and Jon Fitch.
One of the law firms involved is Joseph Saveri’s. That’s the same law firm that recently went after Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe over allegations of poaching & hiring in the tech industry. The settlement figure was widely panned in the business press as underwhelming.
By Zach Arnold | December 12, 2014
Just watched a robbery on ESPN2. This is what's wrong with boxing!
— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) December 12, 2014
The more things change, the more things stay the same. The reputation of the California State Athletic Commission under Andy Foster has been cemented as a top MMA commission and in our opinion one of the worst, if not the worst, athletic commissions in America when it comes to boxing regulation. The cards approved by Sacramento are full of mismatches, especially for TV fights. Even worse is the quality of regulation at the fights, especially the quality of judging.
Before we get to Teddy Atlas’s comments about the Athletic Commission from last night’s ESPN2 telecast, it is important for me to give you a brief primer on what the political climate currently looks like in Sacramento for the AC.
The Athletic Commission currently is considered ’safe’ politically-speaking and that’s good news for Andy Foster given how powerful the Department of Consumer Affairs is. Awet Kidane has to be happy about the AC’s current financial situation, given that Governor Jerry Brown’s point-man John Carvelli is currently the $ watchdog on the commission board. The dental HMO boss from Newport Beach is a wheeler-and-dealer. His company uses Platinum Advisors LLC in Sacramento for lobbying. This is the same lobbying firm the UFC has successfully used for years in the state capitol.
What has sailed under the radar, politically-speaking, is the fact that Governor Jerry Brown appointed 33-year old Platinum Advisors lobbyist Melinda McClain to be the deputy director of legislative & policy affairs at Consumer Affairs. Check her profile out here.
While John Carvelli is the Governor’s watchdog over Andy Foster when it comes to Athletic Commission finances, veteran DCA lawyer Spencer Walker has firmly entrenched himself as the powerhouse legal broker for all AC affairs. Watching him do his thing at each AC meeting is quite a spectacle. He sits right near the center seat at all the meetings. Spencer is a smooth operator and, as we’ve stated before on Fight Opinion, has big aspirations. He is a dominant figure without having to say too many words.
With Carvelli overseeing $ and Spencer overseeing legal affairs, this leaves Martha Shen-Urquidez to basically be Andy Foster’s consigliere on affairs such as inspectors, doctors, and officials. Especially officials. She may be a lawyer, but I would love to see one of the grunts challenge her legal authority over a recent officials competency exam she created in closed sessions. She likes to be seen and definitely heard. Our viewpoint is that she has a lot less power than she thinks she possesses but as long as nobody calls her bluff…
On the surface, the picture of what the Athletic Commission’s future looks like is portrayed as rosy. Claims of $750,000 in the bank account of the AC. Even with drug testing costs exceeding current projections, fine money from fighters who have failed tests is going to help make up some of the deficit. The AC will be on pace to regulate 130 events. The UFC event this February at Staples Center with Ronda Rousey is doing a solid box office advance.
Everything on the surface looks great. That’s one way to look at the AC operations.
The other way to look at the current Athletic Commission operations is to actually focus on the regulation itself and the tenuous position that the AC is in. First and foremost, Consumer Affairs & CSAC is at the mercy of the Feds right now in regards to the Leland Yee show trial pending in San Francisco. If Yee and associates, who are accused by the Feds of trying to extort cash & resources from outfits like the Athletic Commission, do not play Let’s Make a Deal with the Feds then all hell could break loose regarding wire-taps and other evidence alleging Yee & company got their hooks into players who wanted to keep the Athletic Commission alive. I’m still convinced that Yee and company will cut deals but if they don’t, everything will go public and it would damage the image of an Athletic Commission that DCA has tried to rehabilitate.
And then there is the actual quality of regulation at events. Strip away the dollars and cents. Focus on the quality of inspectors and judges currently being used.
(For the record, I’m not talking about the referees in the ring booked for shows.)
Thursday night’s ESPN2 card from Pechanga was a lousy watch. Mismatches on the TV cards. Not as bad as say a typical Golden Boy event, but close. Just like Jermain Taylor gave Al Haymon a shoutout after his win in Mississippi, Austin Trout gave Al Haymon a shoutout for his squash match that proved absolutely nothing. Antonio Tarver, an out-of-shape heavyweight at age 46, had his own personal squash match.
However, the controversy de jour that stole the thunder on ESPN2 involved a fight between Canadian Tyson Cave and Colombian fighter Oscar Escandon. It was an awful, one-sided 12 round fight. Escandon really didn’t present much of a fight to Cave. It certainly came off as more of a club showcase fight than a competitive TV bout. The only argument heading to the scorecards after 12 rounds was how lopsided the win for Cave would be. He won, at the very least, 8 of the 12 rounds.
117-111 Escandon (???), 115-113 Cave (???), 115-113 for Escandon. I had 118-110 Cave. I think that’s an awful decision.
— Scott (@scottchristBLH) December 12, 2014
And then came the reading of the score cards. Raul Caiz Jr. scored the fight 117-111 in favor of Escandon. Tony Crebs scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Escandon. Max DeLuca, Andy Foster’s most-preferred boxing judge, scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Cave. At least DeLuca picked the right guy. Crebs gave Escandon 7 rounds and Caiz gave the guy 9 rounds.
@ESPNBoxing I am so proud of Teddy Atlas for saying what needed to be said. Tyson Cave was robbed of this fight and I'm this has to stop!
— Derrick Brooks (@DBrooks55) December 12, 2014
Teddy Atlas ranted and raved but summarized his position in sober fashion. He’s been in boxing for 40 years and has seen countless screwjobs that he’s considered criminal in nature but where’s he going to go and what he can do about it? Nothing’s changed.
What Andy Foster must do next
Andy Foster is in a tough position here after Thursday’s troubling scoring of the ESPN2 TV fight. He could ignore the situation and let it pass, which is entirely possible but would also mean failing to capitalize on an opportunity to improve upon his image as a leader in the fight game.
He could administratively yank Crebs & Caiz Jr. off of future boxing shows, but that could create real & legitimate openings for legal challenges for administrative suspensions without due process. It would be a trap.
The correct move for Andy Foster in this situation is to summon all three judges (Crebs, Caiz Jr., and DeLuca) to the next Athletic Commission meeting and haul them in front of the commission board for a performance review. Allow the commission as a body to take action and to dish out discipline. Give the judges their due process and make them explain in public how and why they scored the fight the way they did.
By Zach Arnold | December 6, 2014
Oh my god it's CM Punk. He's in UFC. Not making this up.
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) December 7, 2014
The headline coming out of UFC 181 in Las Vegas was the signing of CM Punk by UFC.
“This is obviously gigantic news for a lot of people.” – Ariel Helwani
CM Punk credited Ariel Helwani with him getting a fight in the UFC. Punk stated that he had a meeting in Chicago with Dana & Lorenzo.
When pressed about the critics trashing the promotion for hiring a guy with no experience, Dana White agreed with the criticisms and said he is skeptical, too, but would be willing to give Punk a fight. He estimated that it could happen within the next six or seven months.
Immediately, several UFC fighters smelled blood in the water (and money) and challenged Punk to a fight.
First Question: If Bellator had signed CM Punk to a fight, would they be receiving the same amount of criticism as UFC is getting right now for the hire?
Second Question: Given CM Punk’s admitted history with concussions, should he be cleared to fight by a high-profile athletic commission?
And on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of talent & experience, there’s Anthony Pettis. The UFC is pushing him hard as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in MMA.
This dude just coolly finished Donald Cerrone, Ben Henderson and Gil Melendez consecutively. He did the Showtime Kick. Just… fuck, man.
— Jordan Breen (@jordanbreen) December 7, 2014
Pettis has the total package except for consistent health. He attracts a lot of female fans, which is very important right now for UFC. He has the potential super-fight with Jose Aldo. Really, everything you could ask for. Plus, Ben Askren is working alongside him.
As for the Welterweight division, Las Vegas judges really do not like Johny Hendricks. The Welterweight division has a bunch of really talented fighters who all possess different styles that will likely end up cannibalizing each other in fight after fight. Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler likely in Montreal. None of the guys in Welterweight have the star potential of Georges St. Pierre but they are all extremely respectable & diverse in skill and present some interesting match-ups on paper. I’m not sure if any of them will shatter the current glass ceiling for stardom but you never know.
Everything that took place at UFC 181 happened admist a back-drop where the company is basically greasing the skids, in my opinion, to make managers extinct with the new Reebok uniform/sponsorship deal. If signing with the UFC means they control your fight booking pay slots, have your rights/likenesses forever, and now control your sponsorship deals, why have an agent? Conversely, the company is exerting & maximizing business control during a time in which their (reported) estimated EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, etc) has gone down 40% this year.
Lucky for UFC, Bellator exists. In one respect, Bellator is a gnat in their face. In another respect, Bellator presents great cover whenever someone starts pushing against UFC for being a monopoly. The UFC has the best of all business controls right now. Everyone’s an independent contactor. They will control the sponsorships. They get to pump out merchandise for years to come with the images & likeness of past and present fighters. On one hand, UFC is facing some very difficult challenges. On the other hand, they are insulating themselves with more international TV deals.
By Zach Arnold | December 3, 2014
It turns out that Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons may get his wish regarding a new TUE policy in the state of California.
The California State Athletic Commission, controlled by the Department of Consumer Affairs, as far as I know/recall didn’t bother posting a direct link to an October 31st notice by OAL in Sacramento. This notice starts the clock on public comment for a 45 day period. The Athletic Commission, for unknown reasons, did not post a direct link to this notice on their web site. Here is the notice link.
There will be a hearing at Consumer Affairs in Sacramento on Monday, December 15th at 10 AM regarding the new proposed regulations to adopt Dr. Lemons’ new TUE policy. Currently, state law disallows any sort of TUEs for fighters. However, this proposal would officially change the rules on the books.
All public correspondence supporting or opposing this new measure must be sent within the next 10 days to the Athletic Commission’s front office.
2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 2010
Sacramento, California 95815
Without any sort of public opposition, the measure will be implemented. For those who want to see the actual text of this new proposed TUE policy, they have to contact the Athletic Commission ahead of the December 15th hearing.
By Zach Arnold | November 28, 2014
Mickey Rourke, at age 62, had a boxing exhibition fight in Moscow on Friday against a California journeyman boxer named Elliott Seymour. The bout was stopped in round two. Seymour is only 29 years old. He’s also 1-9 as a professional.
Seymour came into the Rourke fight with four fights under his belt in 2014. All in California. All losses. Seymour’s last fight before the Rourke bout on Friday was only one month ago.
Our opinion: it’s time for Andy Foster and the Athletic Commission board to strip Elliott Seymour of his boxing license for health & safety reasons. Continuing to allow Seymour to fight, in our opinion, is dangerous and creates potential issues regarding liability. If he wants to re-apply for a new license in the future and can demonstrate proficiency in boxing skills, then let him go through the process.
In his four California fights in 2014, three different referees have officiated Seymour’s bouts: Jack Reiss, Jose Cobian, and Tom Taylor. Nine different judges have scored Seymour’s 2014 bouts: Max DeLuca, Michael Bell, Tony Crebs, Alejandro Rochin, Fritz Werner, Nelson Hamilton, Big John McCarthy, Fernando Villareal, and Raul Caiz Jr. In other words, there’s a whole lot of people who have worked California shows this year that Andy Foster can pick up the telephone and call to solicit opinions on whether or not Elliott Seymour should continue to be actively licensed to fight in states like California.
If other states want to grant Seymour a license to box, then that’s their choice and they will have to live with the ramifications. It’s our opinion that Andy Foster should take this opportunity to set an easy example that California has health & safety standards that need to be met by fighters in order to keep their licenses active. This is a matter that should be addressed in Sacramento sooner rather than later.
The Feds may really get their show trial regarding allegations of extortion of California athletic commission
By Zach Arnold | November 27, 2014
One of the more complex, yet intriguingly fascinating stories of 2014 that we’ve been following in combat sports involve allegations made by the United States Government against California state senator Leland Yee. Yee, a powerful California Democrat, is accused of being affiliated with alleged Chinatown mobster Shrimp Boy. A multitude of charges from a multi-year investigation by the FBI produced criminal charges claiming extortion, gun-running, and other unsavory acts.
One of the allegations levied against Yee is based around claims of supposed extortion of individuals who wanted to keep the California State Athletic Commission alive in March of 2013. It was around this time period in which there was a sunset bill in the California Legislature to extend the life of the athletic commission for two years. Andy Foster had just gotten the job as Executive Officer in November of 2012. The Feds claim Yee extracted money and political support from multiple individuals in order to get his support to back the sunset bill.
Despite a few embarrassing episodes (like an undercover agent that supposedly may have gone rogue with cash), the Feds have largely gotten what they wanted so far in San Francisco court. Given the wide scope of charges the Feds have charged Yee & associates with, the judge in the case has split off the political corruption charges from the Feds monstrous criminal complaint. Translation: there could be a trial early next year relating to Yee, his associate Keith Jackson, and others regarding the Feds claims of bribery. This would theoretically include any charges the Feds filed against Yee in regards to the California State Athletic Commission.
It’s “Let’s Make a Deal” time for Yee and company. We know the track record of Federal prosecutions — over 90% success rate in getting convictions. History also largely tells us that deals will get cut in order to save face and to perhaps keep some records sealed permanently.
However, Leland Yee is a fighter. His defense team has chipped away aggressively at the credibility of the Feds in the case. Yee is no ordinary politician and certainly an extraordinary man in California politics. Under any other normal circumstances, Yee would cut the best deal possible and move on. However, the Feds have created enormous leverage here by throwing the kitchen sink against Yee in their criminal complaint. Yee may simply fight on because he’s cornered by the Feds. It’s entirely possible the Feds could drop the other charges against him if he waves the white flag here on the political corruption charges. It would be the predictable outcome. It’s a move most people would rationally expect.
If Yee and Jackson cut deals with the Feds, it’s hard to say how much evidence in the case will remain sealed by the judge. If it goes to a show trial, that is when all hell breaks loose and we could find out all sorts of information about what the Feds claim exactly happened with the Athletic Commission. It would be highly embarrassing if there were wire taps and other sorts of secret communication that revealed some very ugly secrets. It’s the last thing the Department of Consumer Affairs wants to deal with.
My expectations are low that we will really find out the full scope of what exactly happened. It’s all in the hands now of Leland Yee.
By Zach Arnold | November 25, 2014
I’ve been absent. Maybe you noticed. Friends (and enemies) did. Perhaps some of you didn’t. Good for you. Sometimes, real life beckons and you have to deal with issues outside of the MMA bubble. That’s where I’ve been the last 45 days.
While I’ve paid attention to everything that has happened in the industry and stayed (somewhat) in the loop, the recent absence has kind of forced me to step out of the information bubble and look at the MMA scene from a distance. What I see is not very encouraging for the sport’s long-term health unless dramatic changes are made by UFC.
The UFC may be making solid cash, but you don’t lose 40% of your EBITDA without some major problems. Cancellations & injuries helped dig the hole but there is a much larger issue at play here. The UFC has done its fighters and itself a major disservice with the brand-first approach. There are simply too many television & internet fights and too much of a “random guy A vs. random guy B” vibe. Nothing is special any longer. This vibe discounts all of the hard work & sacrifices made by so many who are chasing a dream that only the top 2% in the sport can attain. The pool of cash is shrinking unless you are a big name or made yourself into a big name outside of the sport (see: Brock Lesnar). I’m extremely concerned about this. The industry continues to rely too much on either casino cash or dark money and the pool of dark cash has evaporated in a hurry. Once PRIDE left the scene, so did a lot of the loose cash in the Asian fight scene. Morally and ethically, I support what police & politicians have tried to accomplish on this front. But the damage has been very real to combat sports, even deeper than I first thought.
Bellator’s success feels largely independent of UFC right now. It may last a few years and go away. It may last longer. I don’t think Bellator right now really is expanding the pie. What I do think Bellator’s November show in San Diego proved is that they can win over some disgruntled UFC fans and also bring in the casual MMA fans who simply haven’t kept up with the current scene. Any time some of the older fighters can continue getting pay days, that’s a good thing. As long as those fighters are still in good enough physical shape and are not in danger of permanently damaging their bodies, then there’s nothing wrong with veterans getting fights. At the same time, I will be interested to see if Bellator & Spike can get the star rub onto guys like Will Brooks and make them into household names. The UFC will undoubtedly poach Bellator’s top stars with higher frequency. Bellator will be able to survive as long as they are able to attract some big names and mix them onto cards with fights of importance and value.
The UFC, on the other hand, needs a complete reboot. From the production values to the matchmaking, there needs to be a dramatic overhaul and it needs to be done fast. 45 shows a year is putting so much pressure on the production staff that it simply does not allow the hard-working employees any time to breathe or gather their collective thoughts. It’s backbreaking work. Burt Watson and others get paid a respectable wage but it’s not nearly enough for all of the turmoil they have to manage & put up with. Dana White is skipping more and more shows. There’s this processed, antiseptic, automated feel right now for the UFC product that feels stale, old, and unimportant. Even the current 115-pound female version of The Ultimate Fighter on Fox Sports 1 is underwhelming in presentation.
In pro sports, you fire the GM and the coach when you need to shake up the scenery. There are also off-seasons where the athletes have a chance to catch their breathe and regroup. The UFC suffers from the worst of both worlds — ownership can’t remove itself from the scene, isn’t willing to make dramatic changes, and they have no desire (like WWE) to implement a seasonable format. Every time you compare a UFC event to a college football or pro-football or NBA game, it will always feel like a last-place sports product for importance.
UFC management has become the one thing they mocked a decade ago — conservative.
I enjoy Mixed Martial Arts. I have great respect for the athletes who have so much at risk in attempting to accomplish their professional & personal dreams. I also know that the industry’s long-term shelf life has some real question marks and I’m not sure the power brokers in Las Vegas fully understand the gravity of the current situation they are facing.
I’m not sure ESPN gets it either by hiring Chael Sonnen to be the face of their MMA coverage. You go from Josh Gross & Mike Fish exposing the industry’s testosterone plague to hiring the poster child of said plague and making that person the face of your MMA coverage.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.