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« | Home | »

Thursday trash talk: Japan’s tough guys

By Zach Arnold | October 31, 2007

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Todd Martin took on a big task in writing his new CBS Sports column, which is talking about the evolution of MMA in Japan. There are two points that I felt Todd missed talking about in the article:

1) The infamous ‘cement’ (cement is a term that the Japanese use for a ‘shoot’) incident between Rikidozan and Masahiko Kimura in 1954. The two were supposed to cooperate with each other in a match, but there was a ‘cement’ incident and Rikidozan established his power in the industry after it occurred in their match.

2) The role of Hiro Matsuda in helping train so many of the legendary Japanese wrestlers. One of the beliefs that Rikidozan had in the Japanese pro-wrestling business was that each wrestler should study some sort of fighting discipline or martial art (boxing, taekwondo, judo) so that there was a feeling of legitimate toughness. Matsuda was most famous for training guys like Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger in Florida, but he was also well-known inside the Japanese industry in the 1960s for some of the guys he helped train to become legitimately tough. Karl Gotch gets all the love, but Hiro Matsuda is also deserving of a lot of professional praise.

Kevin Iole (either him or one of his defenders) responds to Fightlinker.

There’s MMA in Montana.

File this under the “is this a real booking or not” category: Donnie Liles is scheduled to face Jay Hieron at the IFL 11/3 GP event. Well, there’s a Denver-based MMA group claiming that Liles is booked to fight on their show on 11/10. Two fights in a week? Furthermore, the IFL has Liles fighting at Welterweight (170 pounds) and the Denver promoter has Liles listed at Middleweight (185 pounds).

Jared “J-ROCK” Rollins from The Ultimate Fighter is not a fan of Matt Hughes.

Gary Shaw is now changing the way he wants to do weight classes for fights in EXC. This is, in my opinion, a cancerous boxing mentality being brought to MMA. Someone needs to tell Gary that there’s a reason why the standard weight classes defined by the Unified rules have worked out pretty well so far in this industry. First it’s more weight classes and then in the future we’ll have sanctioning bodies based out of Costa Rica and Monte Carlo to bring ‘integrity’ to the business. Spare me. Here is the audio from Wednesday’s EXC conference call. Remember, Shaw would like to see athletic commissions add these weight classes in the future. We already have 135, 145, 155, 170, 185, 205, 206-265, and 266+ (super-heavyweight). Shaw wants 140, 150, and 160 added to the mix. Only a sanctioning body would love to see that happen (so more alphabet soup titles can be created like in boxing).

Within two hours of me writing this news update, I found an article talking about the creation of a new MMA sanctioning body called The World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts. Ugh. Enough of this nonsense already.

Kimbo Slice vs. Bo Cantrell is going to happen on 11/10 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Cantrell recently lost to Brad Imes.

Phil Baroni saw his steroids suspension reduced to six months by the appeals board of the California State Athletic Commission. You have to remember that the appeals committee is made up of different members as opposed to simply having Armando Garcia or Bill Douglas making the final determination. The James Toney situation from earlier in the year when he got a slap on the wrist (while Hermes Franca did not) comes to mind. Sean Sherk had his hearing postponed until 11/13. Howard Jacobs, Sherk’s attorney, believes he has a good case for getting his client’s suspension overturned. Sean Sherk claims that he has spent $20,000 USD to appeal his suspension. Sherk is not happy with the CSAC.

What could the impact be of Golden Boy Promotions working with Showtime?

Three companion articles to read today about the Randy Couture… First, MMA Analyst talks about the facts in the UFC vs. Couture war of words. Second, I have a new article talking about Zuffa LLC contracts and some of the issues the MMA media should be focusing on. Third, Jeremy Goodwin has some suggestions for UFC.

Another city attempts to ban MMA.

The Sunderland Echo (UK) claims that “Mr. Hollywood” is coming to the UFC.

More details about the MMA & BJJ charity event coming up this weekend.

A profile article on Dustin Denes.

Topics: Boxing, IFL, Japan, Media, MMA, Pro Elite, Pro-Wrestling, UFC, UK, Zach Arnold | 38 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

38 Responses to “Thursday trash talk: Japan’s tough guys”

  1. Ivan Trembow says:

    Phil Baroni’s suspension being reduced is ridiculous, as is the debacle of Sherk’s submitted paperwork not even being distributed and read by the commissioners. This two-week delay in Sherk’s case, even though it comes after months of delays from Sherk’s reps, is going to make a sympathetic figure out of a guy who tested positive for steroids.

    But at least in Sherk’s case he could argue that it was a contaminated supplement or something along those lines, and it COULD be true.

    In Baroni’s case, the primary reason that the reduction of the suspension is so ridiculous is because one of the two steroids for which he tested positive was a HORSE steroid (Boldenone). Then again, that was also the case with James Toney (who was a repeat steroid offender), and yet the CSAC inexplicably reduced his suspension as well.

    Apparently, if you want to get your steroids suspension reduced in California, the Toney and Baroni cases tell us that the best way to do it is to make sure that the steroid for which you test positive is a horse steroid that would be illegal for any doctor to prescribe to you, or for any supplement company to include even in trace amounts in their supplements.

    Horse steroids are the way to go! That way if a fighter says he got them from his doctor, we know that it must be a simple case of the fighter’s doctor being veterinarian who also treats patients with animal steroids on the side. Perfectly understandable!

    And if a fighter says he accidentally ingested the horse steroid from a supplement, we know that it must be a simple case of a fighter who likes taking horse supplements because they help the fighter build strong calf muscles, keep his mane shiny, and prevent his hooves from becoming brittle. Again, perfectly understandable!

    Plus, a six-month suspension for a fighter who was going to be out for more than six months anyway due to injuries means that it may as well be no suspension. The amount of time that Baroni is going to be out in addition to the time that he would have been out anyway for injury reasons is ZERO. Heck of a way to send a strong anti-steroids message to other MMA fighters.

    Here’s some background on Boldenone from an MMAWeekly news story that was written at the time that Stephan Bonnar tested positive for Boldenone:

    “According to Food and Drug Administration filings, which cited the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation, Boldenone is intended for use by veterinarians as “an aid for treating debilitated horses when an improvement in weight, hair coat, or general physical condition is desired.”

    The FDA filings added, “Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.” Due to potential health risks for humans, the FDA has gone so far as to say that Boldenone “should not be administered to horses intended for human consumption.”

    The possible side effects of Boldenone when used by humans include high blood pressure, increased water retention, elevated levels of estrogen, possible hair loss, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, and acne.”

  2. Zach Arnold says:

    It should be duly noted that guys on the CSAC appeals board are political appointees. If you look at the bios of some of the members of the board…

    Regarding boldenone and other steroids used in MMA, read the CBS Sports article I wrote a few months ago on this topic.

  3. Ivan Trembow says:

    I don’t notice anything in the commissioners’ web site bios that is consistent among all of them across the board… what is it?

  4. grafdog says:

    The main problem is with the commissions cheap testing, and not buying new testing supplies.
    The cup used for testing Baroni for instance, when scrutinized reveals the name “Bonnar” underneath a piece of tape with “Baroni” on it.

    Ed. — If you are not being sarcastic, please link to a news article or some evidence proving this claim. If this cannot be proven, the reply will be refuted and deleted.

  5. Todd Martin says:

    Thanks for that video, Zach. I had no idea footage of that even existed. I didn’t think of the Rikidozan/Kimura incident. If I had, I probably would have included it. That really set the stage in a lot of ways for what was to come.

    As far as Matsuda goes, I had to leave out a lot of stuff on training just for reasons of trying to streamline the whole thing. I had some good stuff on Billy Robinson and Yoshiaki Fujiwara but it didn’t make the cut. I also felt like I shouldn’t have bypassed Sayama so quickly, but that was the other key point I just felt it would be too much of a side diversion.

  6. Ivan Trembow says:

    Regarding the article on MMA Payout, I don’t think that the figures in the Couture bout agreement represent the consistent PPV bonus structure across the board for UFC PPV main-eventers. I think that’s the PPV bonus structure for the top of the top UFC PPV main-eventers.

    Of the reputable sources that have reported on this subject (which include the Wrestling Observer and MMA Payout), the Observer previously reported that there are UFC PPV main-eventers who make somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.50 per PPV buy (these would be the mega-stars like Couture and Liddell), and there are UFC PPV main-eventers who make somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.00 per PPV buy (fighters like Rich Franklin who are very big stars, but not on the level of Couture or Liddell), and there are UFC PPV main-eventers who don’t get any PPV bonus money at all (Keith Jardine’s manager, for example, is on the record saying that Jardine really did have a deal of just $7,000/$7,000).

  7. If anyone is bored today and feels like sending the purses from the last 10 or so UFCs, that would be awesome.

    jeremy.goodwin gmail.com

  8. Zach Arnold says:

    If anyone is bored today and feels like sending the purses from the last 10 or so UFCs, that would be awesome.

    My bank account can use the money.

  9. Grape Knee High says:

    Ivan:

    I don’t know if this will shed any light into how people are defending the many boldenone positives, but if I’m remembering correctly, both Stephan Bonnar and Kit Cope tested positive for boldenone and both have retroactively claimed to have ingested boldione — a boldenone precursor which will cause a positive for boldenone — instead.

    Accidentally, through a legally obtained supplement in Bonnar’s case, and through a doc’s prescription in Cope’s case. Though, if I’m also remembering correctly, both only publicly claimed this after they served their suspensions, which I find a bit odd.

    Whatever the case, I don’t think it’s the horse steroid boldenone, but boldione in pill form (that has previously been marketed for human use) that these fighters are taking.

  10. groda says:

    The main problem is with the commissions cheap testing, and not buying new testing supplies.
    The cup used for testing Baroni for instance, when scrutinized reveals the name “Bonnar” underneath a piece of tape with “Baroni” on it.

    grafdog, you just blew my mind. Is this really true? If it is, all testing and all suspensions are suspect. This is beneath the minimum requirements that can be expected from public servants, have they no pride, no sense of due process? Do they know the meaning of the word competence?

  11. Ben says:

    Groda… I am pretty sure that these articles will help you put grafdog’s comment into context.

  12. klown says:

    Couture needs to steer the issue away from his personal experience with the UFC and turn his attention to other fighters, who are far more exploited than he. If the issue is “Couture vs UFC”, it will come off as a “Clash of the Millionaire Egos” and Couture will lose the PR war. Couture must frame it as “the Champion using his power and leverage to help less advantaged fighters”. In other words he needs to dedicate himself to forming an industry-wide fighter’s union. That will secure his legacy forever.

    Unionization is not only about pay. It’s about power and respect. Right now, all the power is in the hands of the promotion – they have a near monopoly on the sport and negotiate with isolated fighters in secrecy. They have no incentive to treat fighters with respect. Collective bargaining balances the power disparity between promotion and fighters.

    Once fighters are united, pay will merely be one of the issues they will be able to address. Fighters will have a say on health insurance, marketing, control over their own image, where to fight, how often to fight, protection against exclusive contracts or other unfair contractual obligations, severance regulation, time off, respectful treatment by the promotion, drug testing, rules, judging, refereeing, the relationships between agents, managers and promoters, etc.

    You can be sure that one of their first demands will be full disclosure of fighter pay and regulation of signing bonuses and PPV revenue distribution, and the elimination of locker room bonuses. These practices are meant to keep power in the hands of the UFC management, and keep fighters at the mercy of the promotion.

    When 85% of your income is off-the-books, it’s not a bonus, it’s not a gift… it’s an unwritten part of your contract. Then the UFC turns around and makes like it’s an act of charity, that they are “the only company that pays fighters more than their contracts require”. This would never fly in a union environment, in any industry.

    – Fighters should never have to fight injured, or feel they are jeapordizing their career by delaying a fight due to injury, or feel pressured to use dangerous drugs in order to perform, like Hermes Franca

    – Fighters should have a say in how they are promoted, what their image will be, and full rights over their likeness, and share with the promotion the rights to fight footage

    – Fighters should have a say in when/where to fight, so we never have a situation where Dan Henderson’s wife is forced to undergo a procedure to schedule the birth of her child at a convenient time for the promotion

    – The promotion should never to coerce fighters into fighting at inconvenient times by disrespecting them in public, as the UFC did to Wanderlei Silva – he just moved to America and changed his life, and they accuse him of ducking Chuck Liddell

    – Fighters should have more freedom to fight at different promotions. No promoter has the right to “own” a fighter, as Dana White loves to brag – EVER

    – There needs to be a “minimum wage” for undercard fighters

    I could go on. These issues are as important, or MORE important than the issue of pay, which everyone is focusing on. I repeat: Unionization is about POWER and RESPECT. Pay is only one facet of that.

    Couture, you can do it. Devote your post-fight career to serving other fighters and no one will ever bash you for having a large salary again. Start privately interviewing fighters you trust. Team up with Tito Ortiz and veterans like the Shamrocks and assemble a roster of disgruntled fighters. Develop a unionization plan and a PR strategy and go public when the time is right. NOW IS THE TIME!

  13. Fact is, CSAC isn’t sending any type of message at all other than the fact that you can argue your way to a reduction in a sentence. Toney flamed Giza, I believe, but still received a 6-1 vote. Baroni took Boldenone, it isn’t naturally produced, yet he still received a reduction. The list goes on, which I will detail later today. It’s ridiculous. As long as you don’t actually SAY outright that you did it, you have a chance to reduce your suspension.

  14. It’s funny, there was an argument yesterday on the UG between Keith Keizer and some people on this subject where Keizer argued against reduced sentences regardless of if the person pleads innocent or guilty, because once you set the standard either way you’re basically tainting the legitimacy of the plea put forward by a fighter.

  15. klown says:

    Zach,

    That’s an excellent article, the most incisive take on the issue I’ve seen so far.

    Cheers to FightOpinion.

  16. Oh, and FYI, that wasn’t Kevin Iole writing on my page (although I know for a fact Kevin is a semi-regular reader and finds me amusing). Kevin is in England to cover a boxing fight (his boxing articles are beyond reproach). The person posting with his name was from New Brunswick. I plan on sending Jordan Breen out on a seek and destroy mission.

  17. Damn, I was hoping for a Kevin Iole rage argument in which he was publicly berated by the MMA community. We can only wish.

    Keizer was actually half of my basis for my thinking that Sherk was basically screwed regardless, but now since the CSAC obviously doesn’t have the same standards at the NSAC, I don’t see it that way now. Keizer has had very convincing arguments in the past. Apparently in the NSAC rules and World Doping Agency, supplements hold the rule that the athlete should test their supplements if they feel it could be a problem. Since Sherk takes like 40 supplements a day, I think that constitutes as a warning sign that he could potentially test positive, yet he ignored that piece of information. If this was in Nevada, I think we’d already have seen a result.

  18. Psygone says:

    I hadn’t put two and two together that the Marquez / Juarez fight was GPB first show on Showtime, I considered GBP to be HBO’s promotional arm de-facto. I thought this was a good quote:

    “While De La Hoya claims the move to be “just business,” HBO has already sent a warning shot for the 1992 Olympian and former multiple-division titlist to be careful not to bite the hand that has fed him for the past 15 years. It came in the form of rescheduling the start time for this weekend’s Calzaghe-Kessler telecast.”

  19. Dru Down says:

    WAMMA may have good intentions, but I didn’t recognize a single name associated with the association; an FBI agent and an ex-NFL coach are hardly what I’d call an MMA powerhouse.

    If I were a promoter and had been involved with the industry for several years at the very least, why on earth would I subject my promotion and my beltholders to the ranking system of someone who, by self -admission, only “watched the fights periodically the last few years.” Does this guy not understand that thousands of dollars are at stake, and no one cares what his opinion on the sport is? Talk about alphabet soup…

    My guess is that this is the first and last article I see on this group.

  20. MoreThanUFC says:

    Gary Shaw is adding *ONE* weight class, AHHHHH, run for your lives!!!! MMA IS ALL BUT OVER!!!!

  21. Zack says:

    Baroni’s manager, Ken Pavia, speaks about his defense here.

  22. Zach Arnold says:

    Gary Shaw is adding *ONE* weight class, AHHHHH, run for your lives!!!! MMA IS ALL BUT OVER!!!!

    He wants to add 140, 150, and 160 pound weight classes.

    That would be three weight classes that he wants athletic commissions to sanction in the future, yes?

    So he doesn’t want to use 155. He wants to use weight classes outside of the Unified rules (which include 135 and 145 already as it is), which are pretty easy to understand. Adding more weight classes that will likely serve little purpose long-term is a ‘boxing move.’

  23. Psygone says:

    Amateur wrestling usually has ten or more weight classes; I think the need / desire for more weight classes speaks more about the expanding talent pool rather than greedy business practices.

  24. Michaelthebox says:

    Good point, amateur wrestling is one of the biggest moneymaking sports in the world.

    Oh wait.

  25. Zack says:

    While I don’t necessarily agree with having a bunch of new weight classes, I do agree that a smaller window in the lower weight classes makes sense.

    140, 150, 160, 170, 185, 205, 265 seems like a logical progression.

  26. JThue says:

    ONE weight class is added, others are ALTERED from the unified norm to accommodate the ONE added class. I guess they’ve signed Gomi 🙂 I don’t agree with Shaw that this will magically fix the weight cutting issues though – as only really some of the oversized 155’ers will be affected. Jason Black should jump ship and TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

  27. ilostmydog says:

    They should add 140, 150, and 160, but keep the 135, 145, and 155 weightclasses. That will definitely prevent fighters from cutting too much weight and will also allow fighters to shine who would otherwise not do so well in the vast talent pool that EXC has in the lower weightclasses.

  28. cyphron says:

    Klown,

    Very persuasive arguments. I agree with everything you wrote. However, unions can only form when everyone is in agreement. The problem with the UFC is that fighter contracts are staggered. Not everyone will be released from their contracts at the same time. You can’t walk out on a contract and go on strike… unless you’re Randy Couture.

  29. cyphron says:


    Fighters should have more freedom to fight at different promotions. No promoter has the right to “own” a fighter, as Dana White loves to brag – EVER

    This is good for the fighters, but decidedly is bad for the fans. If this happens, I foresee three undisputed titles, three different title fights at three different events, and champions who never fight each other. Kinda like boxing and the MMA heavyweight picture right now.

  30. Wow, Pavia was actually pretty convincing in his argument on the UG. Very odd.

  31. Michaelthebox says:

    klown, while I agree with a lot of what you say, I completely disagree with what you say about non-exclusivity. The UFC has spent years carefully building up brand equity, and any fighter who fights in the UFC benefits from his name being associated with the UFC.

    The UFC has every right to protect themselves from fighters who grab a bit of UFC fame and then promptly take it to other organizations. Especially those top-tier fighters who the UFC spends time marketing. If all contracts were non-exclusive, the UFC would basically be better off using non-marketable fighters. Do you really want a world where all the Shoguns and Liddells and GSPs are fighting in various minor organizations BECAUSE they’re fun to watch?

  32. cyphron says:

    Michaelthebox,

    Very good point. I never thought about it quite that way. The UFC pays fighters in both tangible (monetary) and intangibles (brand equities, marketability). Would people care as much if Randy Couture wins the title at EliteXC? His worth as a fighter is tied to the UFC. Couture’s worth goes considerably down if he fights for another organization. Likewise, Fedor is worth $2 mill with the UFC, but is definitely not worth that much with M-1. People forget that the UFC is a product of various parts: fighters, marketing, branding, exposure, management, planning, etc. A fighter doesn’t make or break the organization. As much as I hate to admit it, the current MMA system (and business model) is built more similar to the WWE model than the boxing model.

  33. Mateo says:

    Why would you hate that model if it is working? Because of the negative stigma attached to WWE?

    You want MMA to go the boxing route?

  34. ilostmydog says:

    So where are the new fighters that M-1 Global has signed? They promised that they would reveal their roster of fighters within 7-10 days. The deadline has passed without any news except some fluff pieces about their internal organization. Why haven’t those who hang on every misque performed by another organization jump down the collective throats of M-1 and start labelling them as deceitful and liars? LOL.

  35. The Gaijin says:

    Just reading about the CSAC debacle with Baroni. Sounds like the friggin’ Keystone Kops…what a gongshow.

  36. The model has worked so far. That doesn’t mean that it will continue to work.

    On the other hand, players unions have proven themselves to be effective ways to provide sports with a stable (i.e. largely lawsuit free particularly in regards to antitrust) way to operate.

    There are casino worker unions. I don’t know if Zuffa’s casino operations are unionized, however, historically, the MLBPA was able to organize because the United Steel Workers backed them up. Sympathy strikes do wonders.

    The fighters in UFC don’t have to wait for their contracts to end to unionize. The problem that they face is that, apparently (based on Jeff’s statements), they are currently classified as independent contractors. Independent contractors are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act. However, there is some precedent for people who have historically been classified as “independent contractors” to become classified as employees. Child care workers are typically “independent contractors,” but in Illinois and New York, executive orders clarified their status and unions were formed.

    Ironically, the reason that independent contractors can’t unionize is that it’s considered an anti-trust action. That’s why it takes state action to permit them to unionize (they basically are given an anti-trust exemption by that state).

    The classification of a person as an independent contractor or an employee is kind of complicated, but if you take the case of MMA vs WWE, you can pretty easily say that WWE performers are much more likely to be employees than are MMA fighters. They have a directed tour that they participate in, and they have their specific activities directed by WWE.

    On the other hand, UFC doesn’t tell fighters how to train, where to train, etc, they typically can’t even tell fighters that they have to make public appearances or cut promos. They say, “we’re paying you to fight so and so on such and such a date, have a good time.” That’s pretty much a classic independent contractor scenario.

    I think that the Right Thing is for MMA fighters to form a union. However, the process to get from here to there is not clear.

  37. StreitigKaiser says:

    UFC better do what it can to stifle Gary Shaw’s ambitions. Boxing is overcrowded right now with too many weight classes, it detracts the acclaim that champions deserve when there are “belts that don’t really matter”, that of which boxing is abundant. I mean honestly how are they going to attract people by de-legitimizing titles by adding the word ‘super’ on top of every weight category. MMA fighters don’t care, most of them are former wrestlers who are already used to the weight divisions created by the UFC. Don’t get me wrong, I like boxing or at least I used to (lets face it, its pretty much rigged). Dana White is right about one thing, the MMA industry is a proverbial house of cards and all it takes is one these upstarts via over politicizing the rules or allowing head stomps in the case of M-1 (as fun as head stomps are) to bring it all down.

  38. I think the UFC should set itself as the industry leader in pay. There shouldn’t be anyone fighting in the ufc that’s not getting 10k/10k … if they’re not worth that then they shouldn’t be in the big show.

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