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Sherdog’s interview with ESPN’s Mike Fish & what’s next for UFC on the drug testing front

By Zach Arnold | March 6, 2014

“They recognize the significance and severity of the issue.”

That was a comment from ESPN writer Mike Fish during a recent interview with Sherdog’s Jack Encarnacao. While not a lot of big news was broken during the conversation, there were some interesting details that help fill in the picture about what transpired in the months leading up to Sig Rogich and company in Nevada helping the UFC executive a public relations U-turn on anabolic steroid (testosterone) usage slips for fighters.

“(This is) something that has weighed on them for a while and I don’t think they felt a need to do anything until they had to do something.”

As I’ve said for a long time, the UFC never had a coherent answer to the anabolic steroid plague because, yeah, they knew it was messy but they didn’t take the situation serious enough to formulate a focused public relations response in managing the situation once it turned into crisis mode. The great irony is that UFC brought this upon themselves when they named vitor Belfort the #1 challenger for the Middleweight title after he beat Dan Henderson last November in Brazil.

Belfort is the poster child for testosterone usage now in MMA for both the right & wrong reasons. Right because he had failed a drug test in the past and was a newly confident man once he got on the juice. Wrong because it certainly felt like his status as a non-American was being used against him on the steroid issue while hucksters like Chael Sonnen maintained babyface status. The ESPN writer said that when he went down to Boca Raton to interview Vitor that he would become the face of MMA’s testosterone problem.

Mr. Fish told Jack that he had started investigating the testosterone issue in MMA approximately six months ago and that he had sent numerous records requests to various state athletic commissions and received information from all except New Jersey’s commission. He also noted in past investigations that he didn’t get cooperation from the NHL on testosterone exemption information. Fish said that MLB, in comparison, was freely open about drug testing & exemption information.

Fish detailed his many attempts to deal with UFC, both in person and on the phone, for interviews with management. The first time he contacted them he said he would go to Las Vegas and sit down with them but was reportedly told that they were too busy. Then they allegedly asked him what he wanted to talk about and rejected his request. Two months ago, Fish contacted the UFC again and they asked Fish to provide a list of questions in advance before they would consider a possible interview. He went ahead and supposedly sent them 15-to-20 questions and was rejected. Fish got a hold of the Brazilian doctor working with Vitor Belfort and the doctor asked for any inquiries to be done in e-mail. Questions were sent and the doctor didn’t respond. Another message was sent to the doctor and, again, no response.

As for what’s next after Nevada’s U-turn on giving out future testosterone exemptions to fighters? Chael Sonnen came out publicly and said he might not be able to fight any more after the Wanderlei Silva bout if he can’t get an exemption. Will Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (or another fighter) attempt to establish case law by filing suit, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to get a court ruling regarding future testosterone use by fighters in a legally-classified ultrahazardous sport?

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Billy Robinson’s legacy: A Godfather of the Japanese MMA/pro-wrestling connection

By Zach Arnold | March 4, 2014

Goodbye, Billy Robinson. If you haven’t heard the news, the Human Windmill died in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Most people reading this article will have little knowledge of who Billy Robinson was or what he represented to the combat sports scene in Japan. This audio presentation by Eddie Goldman last year is a good starting point. His bio at the Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame from Greg Oliver is also a good read.

Continue reading this article here…

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

Belfort out of Weidman title fight, Machida in; The written/unwritten truths about the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s testosterone reversal

By Zach Arnold | February 27, 2014

The Nevada State Athletic Commission had a meeting today in Las Vegas where they announced a ban on all testosterone permission slips for fighters in combat sports. It was a unanimous vote. Not a coincidence. The UFC is already putting on a dog-and-pony show celebrating this triumph.

That’s Sig Rogich-style public relations malarkey. The UFC celebrating the “end” of anabolic steroid permission slips in Nevada is the equivalent of Big Tobacco celebrating an orchestrated anti-smoking campaign for kids in schools while making tens of millions of dollars profiting from the promotion of individuals who used or got addicted to their drug in the first place. Think the UFC is going to apologize for Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Ben Rothwell, Dan Henderson, and many other fighters who have headlined Fox events or PPVs where the UFC banked big coin? Hell no.

And today, rather than admit that they made a mistake in the first place in giving out testosterone permission slips to fighters for anabolic steroid usage, Nevada’s commission said they wanted to end the permission slips because it was too much work administratively.

The truth about Nevada’s commission is what I’ve stated all along: Sig Rogich, Lorenzo Fertitta, and the politicians indebted to these individuals are the ones collaborating in this public relations campaign to look like they are cracking down on anabolic steroid usage in combat sports when in fact they were the enablers in the first place. Look at the facts. It wasn’t until UFC started promoting anabolic steroid users in main event fights that we had this plague of fighters crying hypogonadism and needing permission slips. It wasn’t Bob Arum. It wasn’t Golden Boy. It wasn’t Lou DiBella. This plague falls squarely on the shoulders of the UFC. They fostered the environment that let the plague spread and now they want you to think that they are altruistic in trying to stamp in out, that somehow this was never their fault and it was the fault of politicians (who they happen to exert great influence over).

And now the UFC is telling the same athletic commissions they influenced in the past on testosterone usage to no longer allow testosterone use in combat sports.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 48 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Slate of four UFC March 2014 fight cards (Macau, London, Dallas, Brazil)

By Zach Arnold | February 24, 2014

Event: UFC Fight Night (Saturday, March 1st) at Cotai Arena in Macau
TV: Internet only (8 AM EST/5 AM PST)

Event: UFC Fight Night (Saturday, March 8th) at O2 Arena in London
TV: Internet only (3 PM EST/12 PM PST)

Event: UFC 171 (Saturday, March 15th) at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas
TV: Fox Sports 1/PPV (8 PM EST/5 PM PST)

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 | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC pays to keep a winner like Gilbert Melendez

By Zach Arnold | February 24, 2014

Bellator made a smart move in attempting to sign free agent Gilbert Melendez. Suddenly, Dana White was all “we’re not a monopoly!” and “I thought this is what you guys wanted?” in bunches of rhetorical flourishes.

It was time for the UFC to put up or shut up. They had to put up. They really had no other choice. Letting Melendez walk away would have emboldened Bellator to go after more UFC fighters.

The good news is that it appears there will be some PPV points at stake. The bad news? The UFC continues to believe that The Ultimate Fighter is the key vehicle to build up big PPV fights. TUF doesn’t matter as a vehicle if you have coaches that don’t have dynamic personalities like Ronda Rousey or Miesha Tate, and even the ratings for their series were low.

It appears that any prospects of an Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo fight are out the window. Melendez has a real shot of winning the Lightweight title, so it’s a gamble for UFC if they are banking on Pettis retaining the belt and then doing the Aldo superfight.

As for Bellator, I suspect they will make some future offers to UFC Lightweights. Getting in a bidding war with UFC over Light Heavyweights or Heavyweights will be too pricy given Viacom’s budget for Bellator. However, the fighters in the smaller weight classes cost less in the current MMA marketplace and thus become more attractive to make offers to. I don’t blame Bellator one bit for making an offer to Melendez. A trio feud with Melendez, Chandler, and Alvarez would have really made Bellator’s year in 2014.

The one thing that I remain annoyed with is the continued narrative that somehow big bad Dana was the roadblock in a fighter not being able to sign a new deal but generous, benevolent, patient, all-being Lorenzo Fertitta saved the day as the voice of reason and came through with a new deal. Dana isn’t doing anything out of turn without the permission of Lorenzo or Frank Fertitta. As Randy Couture once stated, Dana is the laser beam that Lorenzo points at to play bad cop while he comes in as Superman to save the day. Continuing to buy into this narrative is as foolish as buying into the narrative that Sig Rogich-founded WSOF isn’t an unofficial UFC bastard child that can function as a stalking horse to sign fighters that otherwise would have considered signing with Bellator.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 23 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC 170: Empty seats, short PPV, and onto the road of Cyborg/Ronda?

By Zach Arnold | February 22, 2014

Herb Dean is taking a beating on social media tonight.

No Ariel Helwani on Fox (again). Now UFC is openly talking about Cris Cyborg with Tito Ortiz no longer managing her. “He really did do some severe damage to her career.” Dana White issued a “no comment” regarding Bellator’s offer to Gilbert Melendez. They didn’t name Bellator.

Event: UFC 170 on Saturday, February 22nd at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Fox Sports 1/PPV

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 40 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The idea of UFC promoting the McDonaldification of MMA

By Zach Arnold | February 21, 2014

This has been an ugly month, PR-wise, for the UFC (sans the trumped up Sig Rogich special in Washington DC).

The good news? The company drew a strong rating for the Lyoto Machida/Gegard Mousasi fight. It took a lead-in from NASCAR for momentum, but it worked. And we’ll probably see such a pairing for future FS1 events.

As for the rest of the news & rumors? As one poster wrote on The Underground Forum, the UFC is acting like they want to be the McDonalds of MMA with all the franchising options available to play with. The punchline is that running so many cards means fights with competitors who might be more fit for a McDojo than, say, American Kickboxing Academy.

There has been a big uproar online about the possibility of UFC signing a lucrative deal with a company like Under Armour to create standardized uniforms. The idea would involve the UFC getting a big sponsor or sponsors to pay for advertising on the uniforms. Would the fighters get 50% of the advertising profits from Zuffa? Sure, if pigs could fly.

And, of course, if you’ve been paying attention to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Under Armour has been Under Fire with American speed-skaters.

Continue reading this article here…

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

The political & regulatory headwinds for both Nevada & California athletic commissions

By Zach Arnold | February 19, 2014

A couple of weeks ago when officials in California were summoned to a John McCarthy meeting in San Luis Obispo (Arroyo Grande), one of the hot topics discussed amongst officials was the current state of Nevada’s athletic commission with Keith Kizer out of the picture. The belief is that there are internal political factions fighting with each other over the power in Las Vegas but what we publicly know paints a different picture. Francisco Aguilar, a Democrat and lawyer for Andre Agassi, has emerged as the dominant voice for NSAC. Aguilar was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval, a moderate establishment Republican who understands the value of Sig Rogich as Nevada’s top political fixer. If there is any fighting amongst various players, it is contained in one nexus and amongst shared interests. In other words, the influence of Rogich & Lorenzo Fertitta is not vanishing. The next meeting for Nevada’s commission is on Thursday the 27th. A new Executive Director will be selected soon. The decision will be made behind closed doors but there will be a dog-and-pony show for “public interviews” with candidates. Nobody is better at putting on a political dog-and-pony show than Sig Rogich.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Famous ring announcer & fixer for Giant Baba & Mitsuharu Misawa, Ryu Nakata, dead at age 51

By Zach Arnold | February 18, 2014

A golden voice has been silenced.

In the American combat sports scene, there’s Michael & Bruce Buffer, Jimmy Lennon Jr., and Howard Finkel as legendary ring announcing voices. In Japanese fight sports, you had Hidekazu Tanaka (New Japan), Nagaharu Imai (All Japan Women – died at age 53 of cancer) and Ryu Nakata (All Japan & NOAH). If Tanaka was the “frog”, Nakata was the bellowing boss. Nakata was considered a gold standard by fans as a ring announcer and by industry insiders as an right-hand office man for the All Japan/NOAH family.

This is a big story in Japan for a lot of reasons. The survivors of the All Japan/NOAH boom are retiring or dying at a quick rate. If you were an American wrestling fan and watched the famous WWE/All Japan 1990 Wrestling Summit at the Tokyo Dome, you heard Nakata working the microphone. Nakata was often the go-between for gaijin talent with the Japanese power players. He had some extremely powerful allies and some very powerful enemies. He was a polarizing, often cold political figure who grew up in the old-school system of doing business and was a lifer. He and referee Kyohei Wada held down the fort for All Japan when Giant Baba died in 1999. A year later, Mitsuharu Misawa gathered most of the wrestlers and jumped ship to create NOAH. After various players like Kazuo Tokumitsu couldn’t save NOAH from the Nippon TV cutting block, it was Nakata who had to help Misawa hold the fort down along with Akira Taue & Naomichi Marufuji. When NOAH was financially collapsing in 2009, Nakata stayed back in the front office in Tokyo while the wrestlers went on tour in western Japan. Nakata wasn’t there at the Hiroshima Green Arena show when Mitsuharu Misawa died in the ring and couldn’t be revived.

Trying to keep NOAH afloat, Ryu Nakata and veteran wrestler Haruka Eigen got caught up in a black money scandal involving shady individuals who victimized Mitsuharu Misawa’s widow (owner of NOAH) over money. NOAH was subjected to having wrestlers do a public relations event where the wrestlers sat in a room and learned about ways of keeping the yakuza out of business affairs. The damage was done image-wise for Nakata, however. He was supposedly demoted and pushed in the background.

After the black money scandal, Nakata and NOAH management would have a reported dispute with Kenta Kobashi over money and Kobashi rushed to make a retirement announcement at a NOAH event in December 2012 at Ryogoku Kokugikan. In May of 2013, Kobashi held a retirement match at Budokan. In his post-retirement life, he’s been to a lot of different wrestling shows but has been especially close to New Japan (and understudy KENTA) rather than NOAH the company.

On Tuesday, the NOAH front office issued a statement announcing Ryu Nakata’s death from a heart attack at the age of 51. He died on the 15th (Saturday) but the news was made public after his funeral on Tuesday. One of the biggest announcers & fixers ever in the modern Japanese combat sports scene is gone.

According to a Sports Nippon report, Nakata was reported missing after not being in contact with family and was found dead inside a car in Aichi prefecture. Tokyo Sports says there will be a 10-count ceremony in Ariake on the 22nd. Taiji Ishimori is quoted as saying that Nakata didn’t show outward signs of bad health but that Nakata recently visited a doctor and his check-up numbers weren’t so great. The newspaper labeled Nakata as “the absolute ace of (the front office) suits.”

Topics: Japan, Media, Pro-Wrestling, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Meet Julie & Wayne Lonstein, copyright lawyers for UFC & big TV

By Zach Arnold | February 17, 2014

There’s a lot of paranoia on display these days at UFC headquarters in Las Vegas. By far the most high-profile display of aggression from Zuffa comes in the form of attacking piracy, both at the bar scene and online. This article at Torrent Freak titled “Scary UFC copyright propaganda matters to everyone” contains the following paragraph:

If the UFC is to be taken on face value, anyone watching an unauthorized video on YouTube or Vimeo for example, can be subjected to legal action by the UFC. However, rather than go through the messy process of subpoenas and the like, the UFC can turn up at any unauthorized site, threaten the owner, and walk away with the site’s entire database and use it for legal action.

The Torrent article was based on this Iain Kidd article at Bloody Elbow talking about the UFC getting a default judgment of $12,000 against Greenfeedz. Attorney Julie Lonstein filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of New York and was awarded a rate of $200/hour for attorney fees. She claimed 25 hours of billable time. The decision in the case can be read here. She’s now going after viewers of online streams in addition to the original streamers and doing so on home turf in the courts.

What hasn’t been discussed much is who the law firm involved on behalf of UFC is. The story of the Lonstein Law Office in smalltown Ellenville, New York is quite illuminating. It’s crazy enough that Homeland Security is now involved in combating illegal UFC video streams but how did a small law firm like Lonstein Law Office obtain clients like DirecTV, Cox Communications, Joe Hand Promotions, and the UFC?

Continue reading this article here…

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

Monday CSAC Los Angeles meeting showed a state grinding through turmoil

By Zach Arnold | February 14, 2014

“Thank God this is over.”

You never know what you’ll hear on a hot mic at a marathon public meeting but the California State Athletic Commission has had some rather lengthy marathon sessions in the past. They would probably be well-served in the future to hold meetings every 45 days if they can budget for it because it seems as if a significant portion of each agenda gets tabled down the road for future meetings. California has more events than any other state and that, in turn, means more agenda items to address and focus on.

One of the big issues of note from Monday’s meeting was the situation regarding California events getting poached by other states. California already struggles to attract A-level events due to the state income tax and city events tax in places like Los Angeles, which discourages money marks from putting up cash for site fees to attract big events. John Carvelli, the dental HMO lobbyist who Governor Jerry Brown re-appointed to CSAC, was elected Vice Chairman. Carvelli is the Governor’s point man now at CSAC and knows the road map of Sacramento politics.

Carvelli noted that he would attempt to get meetings soon with the state’s Franchise Tax Board to explore business options that could attract bigger fights to the state of California. He specifically noted New York (primarily the Barclays Center) poaching events and that other states (like Texas) are taking a bite out of high-end show activity.

“This has taken on a great deal more significance (in) that California needs to remain competitive.”

And you couldn’t find a better example of promoters struggling with California’s regulatory machine than Brett Roberts, Southern California MMA promoter.

Continue reading this article here…

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

California State Athletic Commission’s new proposed testosterone regulations

By Zach Arnold | February 9, 2014

On Monday in Los Angeles at CSAC’s meeting, they will be voting on Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemon’s new guidelines regarding Therapeutic Use Exemptions when it comes to fighters using testosterone. The juxtaposition of this proposal next to the statement from the Association of Ringside Physicians, which includes CSAC’s top two Southern California doctors (Dr. Paul Wallace & Dr. Eddie Ayoub) coming out against TUEs for testosterone in combat sports is quite interesting.

Here is the text of the new CSAC policy being voted on Monday. Here is the original document dump containing the new testosterone policy.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Thiago Silva’s South Florida arrest is a gift to Las Vegas Culinary Union

By Zach Arnold | February 7, 2014

Mugshot from Broward County, Florida Sheriff’s office

Arrest number 501400892.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 12 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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