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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

« | Home | »

Thursday trash talk: Say no, Sakuraba-san…

By Zach Arnold | August 16, 2007

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A message to the guys at Komikazee – send me the files today that you tried to send earlier in the week (but didn’t work due to broken links).

We’re opening up the mailbox for this week’s radio show. Any MMA-related topic on your mind that you want us to talk about during our mailbag segment, e-mail Jeff Thaler at whaledog@whaledog.com with your responses. Make sure to label your e-mail as “Mailbag: Fight Opinion Radio.”

I have a new column at Bloody Elbow elaborating more about the MMA media and what needs to be done to improve the current scene. I have absolutely no idea what kind of feedback I will receive for that post.

Shu Hirata has some interesting notes today (in Japanese) about the latest happenings with BodogFight. There’s a possibility that the rumored sponsorship of four Cage Rage events by BodogFight has fallen through, which could influence whether or not Roger Gracie has his second MMA match in a Cage Ring ring or not. If you can read Japanese, check out what Shu has to say.

On 9/28, there is an MMA show taking place at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Event Center in Oklahoma City called the “Ultimate Night of Champions.” One of the big names appearing at that show is OSU wrestler Jake Rosholt, who got a fair amount of press for his first MMA fight. Oh yeah, some old guy used to wrestle at OSU… his name slips my mind… Randy Couture I think.

I am begging someone to explain to me why Yuji Shimada is going to be the head referee for the 9/15 Hawaii big-name MMA show. Seriously. He’s the one MMA referee who constantly got booed at PRIDE events. He also allowed James Thompson to hit Don Frye with about 50-60 punches in the corner of a ring at the PRIDE 34 event (the last PRIDE show ever) before stopping that fight.

I’ve covered a lot of scandals over the years in regards to activity in the Japanese fight business. Every time there’s been a scandal or a death in Japan, it has negatively impacted the business. They don’t cripple the business, but they sure impact it one way or another.

Which brings me to the idea that we could possibly see an actual death take place in the ring with someone of the calibur like Kazushi Sakuraba on live free-to-air national Japanese television against a fighter like Denis Kang on 9/17 at Yokohama Arena. Absolutely unconscionable. If Sakuraba gets crippled or maimed on national TV in Japan against a very dangerous fighter like Denis Kang, that could cripple the Japanese fight industry as we know it. As the business in Japan currently stands, K-1 has not capitalized on PRIDE’s absence from the marketplace. If something was to happen to K-1 and their television deal(s), it would be devastating to the Japanese fight industry. A lot of people would be out of jobs. Which is why I find it unfathomable that Tanigawa and crew at K-1 would actually book Kang vs. Sakuraba. We’ll see.

Don Frye tells the truth on the difference between MMA fighters and pro-wrestlers.

George Foreman tells Kevin Iole that if MMA had been around in 1966, he would have chose MMA over boxing.

Ken Shamrock’s son Ryan will make his debut on 8/25 in Oroville, California. That’s the same night as UFC 75 with Couture vs. Gonzaga.

Pat Miletich talks and we all should probably listen.

Gryphon compares Dana White’s handling of the PRIDE asset sale to the war in Iraq. Commenters… please try to refrain from talking about global politics on this site when reading this. I’m surprised Gryphon didn’t compare HEROs to Muqtada Al-Sadr.

Antonio McKee is supposedly not very bright.

Onto today’s headlines.

  1. MMA Madness: Part two of Jeff Hamlin’s interview with Tito Ortiz
  2. UFC HP: Ryan Jensen’s 14 year voyage to The Octagon is complete on August 25th
  3. Bloody Elbow: Lloyd Irvin injured
  4. Sam Caplan: Q & A with Jon Murphy
  5. MMA Weekly: Joey Villasenor talks about his fight at Elite XC
  6. Sprawl ‘n Brawl: Bruce Buffer vs. Frank Trigg
  7. Irish Whip Fighting: Interview with Ben Rothwell
  8. The Morning Sentinel (Maine Today): MMA rapidly growing in popularity
  9. The Bangkok Post (Thailand): Muay Thai show is product of success in UFC
  10. The Dallas Observer (TX): Ready to Rumble – Dallas enterpreneur pushes his own brand of ultimate fighting
  11. The Daily Interlake (MT): Into the cage – a Kalispell man’s foray into MMA
  12. The Journal Review Online (IN): Fight of her life – 43-year old grandmother is upstart cage fighter
  13. The Journal Review Online (IN): This one’s for the fans – Jeremy “Tiny” Norton
  14. Bodog Beat: Interview with Mark Coleman – part two
  15. The Marion Daily Republican (IL): Fighting family – local woman joins brothers, cousin on card at MMA competition
  16. The Orange County Register (CA): Shooto comes back to the US
  17. The Victoria Times-Colonist (Canada): Not your everyday fighter – Gabriel Varga brings smarts and finesse to kickboxing
  18. MMA on Tap: TKO notes and quotes 8/16/07
  19. MMA Weekly: Cage Warriors returns in October

Topics: BoDog, Boxing, Canada, HERO's, IFL, Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, PRIDE, Pro Elite, Pro-Wrestling, UK | 47 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

47 Responses to “Thursday trash talk: Say no, Sakuraba-san…”

  1. Ivan Trembow says:

    Speaking of fighters potentially dying in the ring due to negligence and/or poor judgment, it says on MMA Hawaii that Yuji Shimada is going to be the head ref at the 9/15/07 EliteXC/Icon event.

    This is troubling news for anyone who remembers the disgracefully late stoppage in the James Thompson-Don Frye fight earlier this year. If there were a blueprint for how a death could happen in MMA, the Thompson-Frye kind of scenario would be it. I don’t think Shimada should be granted a referee’s license at all, much less be the head referee.

    The URL at MMA Hawaii with the Yuji Shimada info is here.

  2. Scott White says:

    Who was the referee that called Yoshida vs. Thomspon? Was it Shimada?

  3. Stu says:

    I am begging someone to explain to me why Yuji Shimada is going to be the head referee for the 9/15 Hawaii big-name MMA show.

    Hasn’t Shimada been the head referee for ICON for a long time though? I think he’s even the rules commissioner for them (which would explain why the ICON rules are so close to PRIDE rules).

    I also thought the booing was something that carried over from his pro-wrestling involvement, and not because he’s a bad ref.

  4. Zach Arnold says:

    I also thought the booing was something that carried over from his pro-wrestling involvement, and not because he’s a bad ref.

    I know he’s ref’d in Hawaii and Vegas before…

    Shimada is hated by all the fans. He’s considered a heel.

  5. white ninja says:

    Shimada is not to be trusted. He was too close to Sakakibara and was involved in a lot of dodgy calls over the years

  6. chis says:

    Zach how you would love Japan be rid of MMA and Kickboxing.

  7. Jordan Breen says:

    Shimada sucks as a ref, and was never even one of the two best refs on the PRIDE staff next to Noguchi and Toyonaga. I’ve long pondered some way to do some international refereeing report cards to be able to somewhat objectively illustrate who can ref and who can’t, but I have yet to think of a solid way to do so.

    I always add videos/articles to my radio show notes about the Team Takedown guys when they have fights coming up or just fought and someone cammed it up. Excited to see Hendricks’ debut. Rosholt absolutely pistolwhipped that poor dude in his debut.

    Also, Kenichiro Togashi carving out a niche fighting in Irvine, California is some weird ass shit. This sport going global is funky.

  8. white ninja says:

    “Shimada sucks as a ref, and was never even one of the two best refs on the PRIDE staff next to Noguchi and Toyonaga”

    he sucks and wasnt the best, but he did all of the main events

    if he wasnt the best ref, then why did you get all of the important fights? his refereeing was, how can we call it, “friendly to the wishes of the promoter”

  9. Jason Bennett says:

    RE: Bloody Elbow article

    I couldn’t agree more with your commentary on the state of MMA media. In most cases, it appears that all of the ‘players’ are cordial and supportive of the sport but as for true in depth stories and insight, Fight Opinion is, by far, the best option available. I’m not trying to be a big ‘Zach Arnold MARK’, but I stick with the facts.

    Just as you mentioned in your article, you covered the FEG tax evasion scandal and the Pride yakuza scandal unlike anyone in the media. I contacted Josh Gross (Sherdog.com Editor) about their lack of coverage on these issues and his stance on the issue was these were baseless claims and rumors and he wouldn’t report anything unconfirmed; essentially saying the yakuza allegations were just ‘Japanese tabloid rumors’.

    PATHETIC!

    THE leader of the MMA media wouldn’t partake in in-depth coverage of the biggest and most industry defining story in the history of the sport – absolutely damning proof of their true journalistic nature. These ‘rumors’ brought down a mulit-million dollar industry in Japan, left a wealth of international multi-talented superstars out in the cold, and ended the reign of the almighty Pride. Pride never even sued these ‘tabloids’ for all of the wrath it brought down on them – why? – because it was more true than anyone ever could have imagined. Sites like Sherdog.com and MMA Weekly will not report on these difficult issues for reasons I can only imagine. I didn’t bother writing Scott Peterson of MMA Weekly as I’m certain I would’ve gotten the same response.

    My point is – we need more writers with the desire to bring light to these very important, and intriguing to read, stories to shed a better light on what is truly going on and why the sport is undergoing incredible changes during the most tumultuous time in it’s short history.

  10. white ninja says:

    Jason

    I agree with you about Zach and fightopinion

    but the more amazing thing is that so many fans really and truly dont want to know. PRIDE was/is almost a religion and seems to define the personalities of its fans. The reaction by pride fans to the PRIDE yakuza story was/is just a total state of denial, at best, and almost violent and threatening, at worst

    its a bit sad that so many people had so much emotionally invested in a such a dark and crooked organisation

  11. Stu says:

    I contacted Josh Gross (Sherdog.com Editor) about their lack of coverage on these issues and his stance on the issue was these were baseless claims and rumors and he wouldn’t report anything unconfirmed; essentially saying the yakuza allegations were just ‘Japanese tabloid rumors’.

    Isn’t he correct to a certain degree though? Has anything been really proven yet?

    It’s also a problem that Sherdog (and the rest of the MMA media for that matter) don’t have any “real” journalists in Japan (I don’t count their correspondents because all they do is cover events), so what you get is a translation of the same story the Japanese media is printing – with a Japanese spin on them.

  12. Jordan Breen says:

    “Sites like Sherdog.com and MMA Weekly will not report on these difficult issues for reasons I can only imagine…”

    Actually, I can tell you why. It’s really not that hard.

    First of all, there’s a formatting thing. The structure of a site like FightOpinion gives Zach far more leeway in the way he can cover things, and if you look at how he covered the PRIDE scandal, it was commentary on the bits and pieces as they came out, and the occasional longer piece putting them together and contextualizing them. No major MMA outlet is gonna run a story everytime the Shukan Gendai prints an article, you know?

    Therefore, I’d opine that given how larger MMA outlets are run, the best way for sites to cover stuff of that nature is straight up op-ed commentary. It would be ridiculous to report it as ‘news’. Therefore, you need educated commentators who can pick apart stuff like that and offer the insight Zach did.

    Which brings us to the second problem, and the larger of the two, and that’s the topical ability of people writing op-eds for MMA sites. Plain and simple, most people didn’t have the referential basis to cover a story like the PRIDE scandal the way that Zach did. And this goes back to his MMA media comments themselves, insofar as the fact that MMA needs more developed writers. Plain and simple, there aren’t enough people with the knowledge, insight and ability installed in roles within these sites to offer that kind of insight.

    I don’t think it speaks to the essence of sites like Sherdog and MMAWeekly that they didn’t do cover the Shukan Gendai scandal the way FightOpinion did. Simply, it would’ve been inappropriate for them to do so in the exact same fashion FO did. But more importantly, when it came to offering insight and commentary on the subject, we’re still at a point where the people who have the ability to do those things on that level are an extremely rare breed, and to find them working for MMA outlets is rarer still.

  13. Zach Arnold says:

    Check your mail, WN.

  14. Jordan Breen says:

    “Sherdog (and the rest of the MMA media for that matter) don’t have any “real” journalists in Japan (I don’t count their correspondents because all they do is cover events)”

    Out of curiosity, what do the “real” Japanese MMA journalists cover? Because if you read MMA outlets in Japan, you know full well they dont exactly print hard-hitting exposès. Japanese journalists pretty much never break fights, because promoters in Japan keep a tight lip (or make them keep a tight lip) until they formally announce everything. They certainly seldom if ever report on backstage politics, unless it is something that an organization releases select details about.

    Japans MMA media is largely dominated by transcriptions of what promoters and fighters say at their press conferences taken seemingly at face value 99 percent of the time, and published interviews with fighters and promoters taken seemingly at face value 99 percent of the time.

    Hell, just last week Satoru Kitaoka threw a shitfit in a public media workout over some story that Fighter Magazine published in their last edition. The story, which was written by maybe the biggest freelance MMA journalist in Japan, Manabu Takashima, was no more than a series of fantasy tournaments. Japans biggest MMA journalist running fantasy tournaments like he is trolling it up on the Sherdog.net forums, and fighters throwing shitfits because they didnt win the fantasy match-ups. Japan aint quite so different.

    For reference, Kitaoka was infuriated that he lost to Mike Pyle in Takashimas fantasy tournament.

  15. Stu says:

    Out of curiosity, what do the “real” Japanese MMA journalists cover? Because if you read MMA outlets in Japan, you know full well they dont exactly print hard-hitting exposès.

    I have no idea how the Japanese media works, but what I meant by that is having someone on location that can ask questions that’s relevant to a western audience.

  16. Zach,
    re: your article on MMA media, first of all I’m glad we got a mention, but second I think you are bang on in your estimations of where the various sources sit with regards to their status as Originators etc.

    Print media is always going to lack that cutting edge news worthiness that websites enjoy – try breaking a story in a magazine that takes a month to produce when, as you say, you’ve got fighters beating you to it on their MySpace.

    Developing good writers is harder than it seems – I’ve built up a stable of a few good contributors… Finding good writers is one thing, finding good writers who can write about MMA is another.

    Unless you do this full time it is very difficult for many of these guys to truly focus on the sport as some of the leading industry professionals do.

  17. Zach Arnold says:

    I didn’t address the Japanese media in the Bloody Elbow article because it’s an entirely different animal.

    The Japanese fight media, starting with the pro-wrestling brethren, have long been bought-and-paid-for over several decades. The Japanese MMA media was not as monolithic, but the same wrestling-style politics apply or applied. Add in the heavy TV influence for MMA in Japan and you have another layer of political manuevering (including ‘blackouts’ of when the media could release results of events, such as K-1 has a taped show starting at 3 PM and airs at 9 PM, so the network tells the media to not release results until 3 AM the next day. Could you imagine the response from Sherdog.com to that kind of request?)

    Plus, there is that whole yakuza element in the Japanese fight game. Pretty self-explanatory what the dos and don’ts are if you’re a media hack in Japan and you see a bunch of marks with missing pinky fingers.

    A classic example of censorship in Japan is when Yomiuri Shimbun leaked that PRIDE was booking Yoshida vs. Ogawa for the Man Festival ’05 show and that the fight was going to be the biggest money match in the history of MMA. DSE got furious about this and Yomiuri essentially was isolated by PRIDE, which resulted in Yomiuri focusing more on K-1 and ignoring a lot of PRIDE news. Yomiuri ultimately won that battle.

  18. JThue says:

    I’ve only really noticed Shimada getting booed(and fans smiling as they’re booing) after his HUSTLE-heel role got started, but could of course be mistaken with regards to when it started and what the perception of him is. Can someone clear up what(if any) issue the Japanese MMA-audience has with Shimada as an MMA-referee, not including any fake heat stemming from his pro-wrestling role?

    As for his abilities, I just think he’s Earl Hebner, really, and that most of his wrong calls can be written off as political ones rather than just bad judgement.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Re: The MMA Media Article,

    Zach is on point on a lot of his observations of the current state of MMA media, but I think he missed the one obvious contributing factor: money. Simply put, the profit motive is not there to attract the writing talent this sport needs.

    Let me break down some numbers for you. I currently contribute to two major MMA sites. One pays nothing, the other pays less than the cost of a pay-per-view for articles that take days and sometimes weeks to research and write. By comparison, when I used to write for a major national sports magazine, they paid a dollar a word. A national trade newspaper I wrote for paid $500 for short feature articles. So my 750 word piece nets me $25 writing about MMA when it would get me $750 or $500 writing about a different topic. Write one article a week about other things and you’ve got enough money to do it full-time. One article a week about MMA barely pays my cable bill.

    The ideal MMA journalist should be well-versed on the history of the sport, possess an encyclopedic knowledge of past fights, would know enough about fight technique and strategy to comment intelligently, needs connections within the fight game to land interviews and inside info, and should be able to write well enough to get all those points across. That’s the kind of skill-set that needs to be pursued full time. Any less, and at least one of those categories is going to suffer.

    I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I would love to be able to make the transition to MMA writing full time. When the sport matures to the point when more than a handful of people can make a living wage doing just that, I hope I’m still around. In the meantime, we will have to suffice with many more followers than originators and influencers.

  20. Damn, I’d love to be bought-and-paid-for.

  21. Zach Arnold says:

    E-mail if you get a chance, anonymous.

    Ryan – it’s funny, I’ve never been bribed or offered anything by any promoter. While I’m not old as dirt, I’ve been around for a long time. Dave Meltzer was also asked if he ever got bribed in his career and he said no.

    I guess us old pro-wrestling guys need to work harder, because I see a lot of the newer MMA writers pulling in swag. Huh.

    As far as Anonymous’s point about money, boy am I an idiot for not including that in the Bloody Elbow article. I’ve thought about this point so many times and then failed to include it in the column. It is a giant issue. The reality is that there just aren’t enough crazy people like me and Fightlinker who do this for free to keep pumping new blood into the media scene unless money starts to pour in.

    Maybe I am a mark for writing about MMA for so many years for free.

  22. Luke says:

    This is easily one of the most provocative and entertaining comment threads on any MMA website in recent months. Well done, Zach.

  23. Luke says:

    “Adopters: People who write about MMA but are generally impacted by what influencers say and what the trend originators establish.”

    Let’s also be clear about the value and functionality of those in this category. While the talent pool here runs the gamut in ability, I’d venture to say this is an undervalued – or at least currently undervalued – subset of the MMA media.

    Consider this category as it applies to political writing. I’m in Washington, D.C. after all, so I’m unable to disassociate myself. The “adopters” of political writing contribute enormously to the existing debate and spread of memes. Sites such as Daily Kos, Hit & Run, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, or Volokh Conspiracy impact the political scene, yet don’t actually (or very rarely) break news. They merely filter it in and filter it out to their discretion.

    Politics is a very different and significantly more developed beast. Believe me, I get that. Clearly the subject matter lends itself more easily and the writers are likely far more talented than what’s currently available in MMA (among a host of other differences). Moreover, the sheer number of political blogs or sites makes the sites with notable authors and high traffic numbers all the more coveted. By contrast, MMA sites set up on blogspot and run by a teenager in their basement can still get attention. After all, top-tier fighters can still be contacted, whereas political figures of any note are virtually impossible to reach. The differences abound.

    Still, though, as time goes on and the journalism community within the sport develops I do believe the Adopters market will contribute a great deal to the coverage and analysis of the sport – without taking away from the Influencers, Trend Originators, etc. In fact, they’ll be more likely to work in tandem.

    My worthless 2 cents, anyway.

  24. Zach Arnold says:

    Make sure to post your thoughts to the BE article over at the BE article itself as well. 🙂

  25. Grape Knee High says:

    Wasn’t it Yuji Shimada also the ref for Fujita/Silva where the ref was looking outside the ring (maybe at a PRIDE exec?) while the bell rang to stop the fight?

    Regarding Sakuraba, he won’t die in the ring. The refs will be there to protect him. LOL. I hope they’re paying him a lot of money, because he’s going to need to pay someone to take care of him when he gets dementia pugilistica later in life.

  26. liger05 says:

    The worst comments I see on certain MMA forums is “I don’t believe any of this unless I see it on MMA weekly or Sherdog” or “I cant take the words of pro-wrestling writers seriously”.

    This seems to be a common trend whenever anyone posts a story which Dave Meltzer or Zach Arnold have broke.

    Pathetic!!!

  27. Fluyid says:

    Not to change the topic (but to change the topic), is Bruce Buffer claiming to have beaten up Frank Trigg?

  28. Euthyphro says:

    This is still a niche market, with a certain stigma attached to it despite increasing popularity. In the US, all fight sports have that stigma of undesirability, with boxing being most tolerated and pro wrestling least tolerated. Things like ESPN coverage certainly help, but a lot of those gains in respectability are mitigated by things like steroid scandals — if MMA were considered important enough by major media outlets to cover those.

    What has been interesting to me is that, as MMA captures share of the fight market from both boxing and pro wrestling, the first journalists to make the switch to covering MMA were from the pro wrestling side, not boxing. The classical pro wrestling journalists like Meltzer were much more interested in covering MMA in its earlier days than were boxing journalists and publications interested in covering boxing. A lot of that has to do with the fact that pro wrestling fans were increasingly more interested in MMA than the WWE/WCW/TNA in the US or over shoot style/NJPW/AJPW etc. in Japan. Now you see some expansion on the boxing side of things, with boxingscene.com and others incorporating MMA coverage, but you won’t see Burt Sugar interviewing Lyoto Machida any time soon. Similarly, you saw the outrage from the HBO establishment in the form of Jim Lampley. Guys like Max Kellerman, willing to acknowledge the ascendancy of MMA, are rare but becoming more prevalent.

    Furthermore as the anonymous commenter above pointed out, MMA journalism is still a labor of love. Besides having a stigma associated with it, it also doesn’t pay very well. Many people like me are avid fans and dabble in writing and posting, but have careers of their own in entirely separate industries — whether those are journalism-related or not. UFCJunkie is much better known as an author in other sports fields, for example. He generally doesn’t even post under his real name in an effort [I assume] to maintain that distinction. Almost everyone doing this, with the exception of top-tier news sites like Sherdog and MMAWeekly that bring in significant income, do it at a moderate loss, for free or for very little money. That’s not going to attract the best and the brightest, unless they’re addicts.

  29. Euthyphro says:

    One more thing on what Anonymous said:

    The ideal MMA journalist should be [A] well-versed on the history of the sport, [B] possess an encyclopedic knowledge of past fights, [C] would know enough about fight technique and strategy to comment intelligently, [D] needs connections within the fight game to land interviews and inside info, [E] and should be able to write well enough to get all those points across. That’s the kind of skill-set that needs to be pursued full time. Any less, and at least one of those categories is going to suffer.

    Right now, it seems that [D] is what separates the standard-fare bloggers from the blogger-elite, while [E] could use improvement across the MMA blogosphere as a whole. Many if not most of the people with well-read blogs can provide [A] and [B] (or can at least fake it with reasonable believability).

    [C] is a whole different animal, which may or may not be necessary depending on your area of interest. It also depends quite a bit on one’s standards for intelligent comments, which is what usually leads to the type of “well you don’t train” tail-wagging you see on most forums. If your goal is color commentary-like ability to break down fight action, then of course this is crucial. A background in training in several of the disciplines that make up MMA is a welcome, if not absolutely essential, base of knowledge here. Long-time fans of the sport who have seen thousands of fights and understand the basics of each discipline can give reasonably informed opinions which, while not at the level of a BJJ black belt or Muay Thai master, are still substantive.

    On the other hand, if your goal is to discuss the industry of MMA, and break down matchups from a business or entertainment perspective, [C] is a welcome addition but is only tangential to your analysis. You can consider the merits of matching Shogun up against Griffin and its repercussions across the industry as a whole without really delving into the intricacies of fight technique and strategy. An understanding of their basic styles, combined with recollection of their previous fights and a willingness to make a predictive judgment on how you would expect them to match up is what’s needed here.

  30. GassedOut says:

    Fluyid: That’s what he’s claiming…

  31. Zack says:

    Yuji has been reffing in Icon/Superbrawl for a long time.

  32. Ivan Trembow says:

    “Yuji has been reffing in Icon/Superbrawl for a long time.”

    So what? His actions in the Frye-Thompson fight and several other fights put people’s lives at risk and demonstrate that he should not be allowed to referee MMA matches. He could still make a living doing his pro wrestling work, but he doesn’t belong anywhere near an MMA ring.

  33. Zack says:

    “So what?”

    Zach begged for someone to explain to him why he’s the ref in the fight. I gave a simple reason. He refs most Icon main events…why would this be different? He’s done fine in the other ones.

  34. Euthyphro says:

    What Zack said. Shimata’s head of ICON’s rules committee and a fixture at all of their events. Of course he’s going to ref the next ICON event — he refs all of their events. He’s sucked for a long time and they’ve always used him, so why expect them to stop now?

  35. Rollo the Cat says:

    Shimada is the closest thing to a celebrity MMA ref other than Big John. He is the most recognized official in Pride. I suppose that is part of the reason.

    I have seen every Pride event and never thought he “sucked” worse than any other ref. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

  36. Jordan Breen says:

    “You can consider the merits of matching Shogun up against Griffin and its repercussions across the industry as a whole without really delving into the intricacies of fight technique and strategy..”

    This brings up something different to me, and something that I think is most glaring (and undeservedly so) when it comes to what is missing in the North American MMA media, and that is a sort of “technical journalism”.

    If you read a magazine like Fight & Life, it doesnt even really read like a magazine. It is more akin to an MMA instructional manual. I have got the chance to read some articles breaking down fights like Gonzaga-CroCop from a technical perspective of nothing but footwork. It is interesting shit, especially when theyre getting insight from guys like Hiromu Yoshitaka (who may be the best striking trainer in MMA right now), Riki Onodera, and so on and so forth.

    For MMA hardcores, these things are highly influential. Huge trends in training are started from these magazines alone. For instance, despite Marcelo Garcia being the armdrag pimp, armdrags became way more popular when K-Taro started getting this kind of magazine coverage for his armdrags. Guys have been ripping brabos for a long ass time, but when Aoki started doing it in his grappling matches all over the place, the shit blew up and in Japanese grappling circles they started calling it “the Aoki choke”.

    I think there could be a real niche for this kind of “technical journalism”. And while clearly, you would pretty much have to have dudes with a focus in that one area to make it work successfully, I still think solid and outstanding commentators on the sport should have some highly proficient technical knowledge. I dont expect dudes to know the intricacies of how to set up armdrags from Octopus Guard in the cage, but some technical acumen should exist beyond “Yeah, CroCop hits pretty hard and shit.”

    Moreover, I think Anonymous is on the money. I think an interesting question is whether or not MMA coverage, by virtue of being some multifacted beast that is ideally available in tons of different forms of media from a news blurb to a call-in radio show and so on, should be systematically niched, assembly line style.

  37. sonzai says:

    Fluyid Says:
    “Not to change the topic (but to change the topic), is Bruce Buffer claiming to have beaten up Frank Trigg?”
    They were both on TAGG radio a couple months ago talking about the incident. He’s never claimed to have beaten up Trigg, just that they fought in an elevator with Dana White and a couple others present. It’s actually a pretty damn good story.

    And the Japanese MMA media just follows the pattern of the regular media. Beyond “wide shows” and tabloids (read: scandal mongering) there is no real investigative journalism. Political news is doled out through a pool system. Basically, the news is just press releases from any and all interested parties, especially those with vested interests. In other words, don’t expect real scoops from the Japanese MMA media.

  38. Luke says:

    Jordan –

    The solution is simple: train.

    Reading Bas Rutten’s Big Book of Combat or listening to The Fight Professor’s opinions on what X fighter should do in Y situation is helpful, but the only real way to understand MMA is to train.

    I’m lucky enough to have spent the last few years doing so at a couple of Lloyd Irvin schools, although much less recently due to work overload (that is now changing as I am switching jobs).

    I try – at times – to be technical in my analysis. For example, in my debate with Sam Caplan over predictions for the Koscheck vs. GSP fight, I noted how fighting standing up doesn’t allow competitors to protect their hips and legs very much – the precise reason why wrestlers and grapplers “fight” hunched over. On the other hand, fighting with straighter posture levels the playing field in terms of susceptibility to being taken down. Whatever the case, being technical in writing is generally very helpful to readers, but there’s a limit where technical analysis goes from being helpful to annoyingly esoteric and tedious.

    I’m very convinced of this. The only real way to understand the sport is to train at least one year. That benchmark is adequate if incomplete, but it’s also what most athletic commissions require of someone who wants to referee fights.

  39. Jordan Breen says:

    “Jordan –

    The solution is simple: train.”

    Oh, I agree completely. But the larger problem is that you essentially have to find people who trained, and no longer do, or something of that ilk. For instance, what business would I have covering my local MMA scene in Halifax if I was training at Titans MMA, especially given that Titans also promotes the biggest local MMA event here? I would love to go back to the gym in an active capacity, but it isnt really anything I should do. Thats why I laugh when people cry about these “fanboys who dont train”. Would people sit well with Josh Gross training at TQ Temecula and Loretta Hunt rolling at Xtreme Couture?

  40. JThue says:

    http://www.wrestlingobserver.com/wo/news/headlines/default.asp?aID=20466

    Norstrand and Samedov tested posittive for roids at ther K-1 show. Funny thing is… As I was watching the show I kept thinking Samedov should jump to wrestling with the mannerisms and that physique of his :S

  41. Luke says:

    “Thats why I laugh when people cry about these “fanboys who dont train”. Would people sit well with Josh Gross training at TQ Temecula and Loretta Hunt rolling at Xtreme Couture?”

    Fair enough, but this only goes so far. First, this doesn’t mean MMA journalists couldn’t train jiu-jitsu at school without a MMA program (and there are many). Or they could train sub wrestling or boxing or Thai boxing. Whatever the case may be, aligning membership in one gym may be problematic, but that doesn’t make training altogether an all or nothing proposition.

    Secondly, this seems to me only a problem of the few. I train at Lloyd Irvin schools, so while I’ll interview Brandon Vera or Mike Easton on my radio show, I’ll have to recuse myself for any official journalistic endeavor. But that still leaves 99% of the MMA landscape available for coverage. Josh Gross and Loretta Hunt are in stickier situations, but for your run of the mill MMA journalist – even one working for a prestigious media outlet – there’s no reason why they can’t rack up at least SOME training while covering the sport.

  42. Zach’s Bloody Elbow article was very good, as were a lot of comments in this thread.

    But I think one thing is lacking in this thread’s analysis: a longer view.

    A lot of the problems that Zach and everyeone else commented on are not unique to the MMA media, even as they are problems that often manifest themselves in young (relatively speaking) forms of journalism, which of course MMA writing is.

    Alternative “X-Games” types of sports endured the same struggles in their early years, for example. A lot of them still suffer from the malade MMA media suffers from: a lack of good writing. Take for example smaller-time motorsports like dirtbike racing and stunt driving; there was probably an event in your hometown last week, but the only people writing on it are amateur bloggers, event promoters and the racers themselves.

    But back to the MMA media. The politics of MMA are not unique, methinks. A few things I’ve discovered during my tenure as an editor at a newspaper that deals primarily with government and bureaucracy:

    1) Person/place/thing wants coverage of event or profile of self.
    2) Person/place/thing wants event coverage to be unwaveringly positive and cheerleader-like at best and unwaveringly postive at worst.
    3) Person/place/thing will ignore or admonish you if coverage is not up to snuff.

    As Zach pointed out in the comments, it comes down to money. Let’s say you’re working for a local news outlet, and there’s an MMA show coming up. That MMA show is actually not operating under your state athletic commission’s supervision, but has a fighter that’s got a background that pulls on the heartstrings. Maybe his brother died in Iraq or something and he was fighting to raise money or some shit. Which story are you going to write? If you value your editor’s opinion of you and any contacts you may have in the industry, it’s an obvious choice.

    And as Jordan Breen hinted at, that’s part of the reason the big MMA outlets can appear to not try hard enough sometimes. Regardless of what Josh Gross says, it’s obvious that the big media outlets – which rely on advertisements from big MMA companies to pay their writers – don’t want to risk their credibility or ad revenue on news that could derail the industry they survive on. This means not covering or even commenting on rumors and leaks that could sour sensitive relationships with figures in the industry. The lack of coverage of the PRIDE Yazuka scandal is the most obvious example of this shameless careerism.

    Bigger sports could care less about negative press, even from the biggest sports media companies. Bill Simmons made a career out of calling the NBA out. But MMA is young, and is Sherdog or some other ‘respected’ outlet were to leak and something sensitive and unquestionably negative about the UFC, both Sherdog and the source and even the sport could be irreparably damaged.

    So the bloggers will have to soldier on, until the trend originators grow some larger balls, or until the sport matures to the point where bad press from a major outlet wouldn’t hurt it so much.

  43. K. Fabe says:

    Aaron, most of your points are solid, but the Simmons thing misses the mark. Simmons made a career out of ripping the NBA and just about everything else from the comfort of his own couch, without ever having to be accountible for his actions. Do you really think he’d write half of what he writes if he actually had to show up in the locker room the day after he tore into someone? Likewise for MMA bloggers … while I don’t doubt that some of the bloggers who rip Dana White would confront him in a public setting, I’m willing to bet more would leave a little brown spot in their pants if they actually were face to face with him.

  44. That’s a very good point, K. Fabe. It’s a lot easier to comment from a distance when you don’t have to walk into the locker room the next day. I could only imagine the stress on some of the journalists that had to ask Bonds about steroids everyday.

    But that’s dangerous thinking, you know? I don’t think that excuses the rampant careerism in journalism. That kind of thinking is what got the entire industry into trouble in the first place. One can tacitly address serious issues with an objective eye if one cares about the truth. It’s not impossible. But in the MMA media, where decent (if at all financially beneficial) paying jobs are rare, it’s an exceedingly difficult decision to make: risk your contacts and liasons in the industry, or investigate a serious matter. Journalism is hard, but it’s supposed to be that way. If writers don’t want to get to the bottom of things, they’re not to be respected.

  45. Jordan Breen says:

    “Secondly, this seems to me only a problem of the few. I train at Lloyd Irvin schools, so while I’ll interview Brandon Vera or Mike Easton on my radio show, I’ll have to recuse myself for any official journalistic endeavor. But that still leaves 99% of the MMA landscape available for coverage. Josh Gross and Loretta Hunt are in stickier situations, but for your run of the mill MMA journalist – even one working for a prestigious media outlet – there’s no reason why they can’t rack up at least SOME training while covering the sport.”

    We’re in agreeance, though I think the figures I used for the hypothetical (I know Gross does, at least) have some prior training.

  46. I am the editor of an international magazine, a purple belt in BJJ, I have fought MMA and I teach one-on-ones in MMA.

    Believe me, my knowledge helps a LOT. Also, fighters take me a lot more seriously when I write about stuff that happens in fights becuase they know I actually understand how shit goes down inside the cage.

  47. sprewell rimz says:

    can people any more melodramatic about Sakuraba? yeah, he’ll lose to Kang. yeah, he’ll probably get knocked out. but Kang is not going to kill him. contrary to popular belief, Kazushi Sakuraba DOES have martial arts training and is capable of self-defense. if he’s OK enough to fight in California, he’s probably not near death. and Denis Kang is not Ricardo Arona and won’t eye gouge him. Saku will be FINE. if he was fighting Cro Cop or Fedor, I could see being worried, but for fuck’s sake…

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