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Mike Goldberg: It’s fair to say that Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans is UFC’s most-heated rivalry

By Zach Arnold | June 6, 2010

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The interview up above took place right before last weekend’s UFC 114 main event happened. Mike’s answer about UFC and Las Vegas is the part that I found most interesting.

INTERVIEWER: “Is this the most heated UFC rivalry in history? Dana said it is, that it’s surpassed Tito (Ortiz) and Chuck (Liddell) and other rivalries, Tito and Ken (Shamrock), things along those lines. But in your opinion, is this the most heated rivalry in UFC history?”

MIKE GOLDBERG: “Tito and Ken was pretty good. Tito and Ken put together some good shows before the show and before the fight. And obviously Tito and Chuck is pretty legendary, but you know Matt Serra and Matt Hughes went back and forth a little bit, (Josh) Koscheck and (Paul) Daley…. probably it is, though, I would agree with Dana and I think part of that, though, is the fact that these two guys at this time in their career are pretty much still at the top of the game. Like I said, they’re only a fight or two removed from being the UFC Light Heavyweight champion. So while Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz was very special, Tito was kind of working his way back in, Ken’s prime may had been a few years prior. Great fighters, obviously Shamrock one of the greatest of all time, but everything is just coming at the right time in this rivalry and they’re pretty good at it. You know, Tito and Ken did some good stuff, Tito and Chuck talked and you know Daley had some good lines and (Dan) Hardy was funny but if you really looking at pound-for-pound the best trash talkers in MMA today, Rampage (Jackson) and Rashad (Evans) are number one and number one and everybody else is a distant two and down, so I think the fact that actually, all kidding aside, they’re actually pretty good at it and they’re funny when they do it….”

INTERVIEWER: “Very interesting, Mike, because we are in Las Vegas and the UFC has put together some amazing fight cards and some of these rivalries as you talked about in UFC history have taken place inside this building, the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which is something we don’t necessarily see all the time but this building has a lot of history behind it, especially when it comes to the UFC.”

MIKE GOLDBERG: “Well, one of the biggest things that ever happened in UFC history was coming to Vegas and I remember when Zuffa bought the company many years ago, they brought some of us former employees if you will, the lasting employees from SEG in the olden days, out here for a dinner in Las Vegas and I asked Lorenzo Fertitta that night and he said, ‘Any questions?’ and I said, ‘We will be ever on a billboard in Las Vegas?’ and at that point, you know my mind was you know was only you know my expectations weren’t that large. I said, ‘will we ever be on a billboard in Las Vegas?’ and he said ‘absolutely.’ Well now we’re on every billboard in Las Vegas and now this truly is the home of Mixed Martial Arts and so the fighting capital of the world is the capital of MMA. And so you’re right, I mean, coming here was a great thing. Now, them kind of coming to us and being in the partnership we are, I think is wonderful for Mixed Martial Arts and I remember I was… actually it was when Rashad was fighting at the first of the year against Thiago Silva, I went to The Black Eyed Peas concert, my favorite band by the way… but I went to the concert that night and I looked around at a Black Eyed Peas concert and all I saw in the building were UFC banners. And I thought, ‘Wow, they’re kind of playing in our house. The Black Eyed Peas are in our house tonight,’ and that really tells you how far the UFC has come to not only be in Vegas but to have Vegas be its home and there’s no better home for any kind of combat sport than Las Vegas, Nevada.”

INTERVIEWER: “No doubt it. The UFC’s success can be attributed to a variety of things but matchmaking and amazing fights have become first and foremost. We see that fights in boxing, it takes a little while to happen. In the UFC, Dana White, Joe Silva, if a fight wants to happen it’s going to happen. Do you feel that’s largely in part to their success?”

MIKE GOLDBERG: “Well, it’s a credit to the fighters, first and foremost. I mean, you know Joe Silva is a smart guy and he’s done this for a long time and there’s nobody that rivals the ability to see and judge and match fighters like Joe Silva. He’s the best, that’s why he works for the biggest organization in the world, but the fact of the matter is the best thing that can happen to Dana White or Joe Silva is a kid on the other side of that phone saying, ‘yes, any place, any time,’ and what we pride ourselves on as an organization is bringing in real fighters, fighters that want to fight. They don’t care if it’s two days notice, two weeks notice, two months notice, they don’t care if it’s Brock Lesnar, Brock Larson, or Brock Jones who we don’t know anything about, they’re going to fight. And so while it definitely takes a mastermind like Joe to put it all together, Joe will be the first to tell you the guy who picks up the phone on the other side of the line and wants to fight, that’s the guy that we want to see. That’s the fighter that people will pay to see on PPV because they’re the ones who will leave it in the Octagon, so I do, I give a ton of credit, I give the majority of the credit to the fighters because if you’re willing and able and you want to do it and you want to be an MMA superstar, then you want to fight in the Octagon any place, any time against anybody.”

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