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The mood heading into New Year’s weekend for the big MMA shows

By Zach Arnold | December 29, 2010

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All that you need to know is that the story everyone is talking about, including on ESPN, is Chuck Liddell’s retirement (and move to UFC front office position). There has been no juice whatsoever for Saturday’s show featuring Gray Maynard vs. Frankie Edgar for the Lightweight title. The fact that the ION story has gained significantly more traction than the PPV should tell you everything you need to know. Yes, UFC on ION and not on Spike could be a precursor of a bigger story ahead, but airing prelims on ION creating more chatter than a title match?

(Unfortunately, another big story developed today with Cain Velasquez out 6-8 months due to a shoulder injury which kills his chances of having a title fight on the April 30th Sky Dome show in Toronto.)

As much as I’d like to say that having Jose Aldo on the card would have made a difference in interest… I don’t know. The truth is that unlike in Japan where Christmas is more or less a working holiday, the bottom two weeks in December is basically family and vacation time in the States. People are less likely to be online and to be active. There are a plethora of college football games to watch and entertainment choices to pick from. It doesn’t feel like the New Year’s show concept has much energy for UFC this weekend. Might be one of those ‘doomed before it started’ scenarios. (Unless, of course, you have a really hot fight like Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell was in the past and you are able to advertise it hard.)

Here’s what Ricardo Almeida had to say about how Frankie Edgar’s training went for this weekend’s bout:

“Frankie’s camp is going really good. This is the time where, you know, about 3-4 weeks out when he always surges. Frankie’s very adaptable, you see every fight he really embraces the game plan and usually it’s not until those last 3-4 weeks that it really starts coming together for him and it’s no different this time, you know, having to address some things for Maynard, just Maynard’s size, his wrestling, his big right hand… A couple of things that we see that he does very well but also try to work with Frankie’s strengths and bring the game plan and make the game plan around that.

“A big concern for us is always technique. You know, this is Frankie’s big quote, ‘we don’t prepare for fighters, we prepare for technique’ you know and we’re not getting ready to fight Gray Maynard. We’re getting ready to fight his collection of technique, be it his double-leg, his bullying style of just putting you on the fence and taking you down at will and staying on top with that control and also we really just watching tape and try to stay away from any trash talk or anything, just focus on the technical and physical aspects of the fight.”

New Year’s Eve and Golden Week are the biggies in Japan for celebration, which is the MMA shows used to draw so much attention. This year, not so much. Satoshi Ishii has been relatively quiet in the media. The problem with him is that he does garner some mainstream interest, but not an expansive amount. The more he does media, the bigger the goof he comes off as and the more people just shake their head at him. The problem for K-1’s show (of which there are many and we’ve documented them well the last two months) is that it’s largely a one-fight card for the casuals and even that fight is not a hot one. Amazingly, the second biggest star on the show is not Sakuraba (he’s been nearly silent in PR) but Alistair Overeem, who now has the ‘Fedor’ mantle in the Japanese media as the dominant foreigner. I think it’s fairly obvious that the finish for his fight versus Todd Duffee will be a highlight reel moment that will make for great TV. The question is whether or not the rest of the show can hold up or if people will just tune in for a couple of quarter-hours and fade away.

Here’s Alistair doing a PR session with Masato training and fielding media questions:

How is your condition? “Condition is good. Fortunately, I suffered no injuries from the K-1 Grand Prix 11 of December, so I took a good some days rest, some good rest, some good days rest after and I slowly started training again. I’m very motivated. My conditioning is good. Very motivated to show the fans a great fight December 31.”

Is there any particular reason you are highly motivated? “Dynamite show is a great show. For me, it’s a very, it’s become a ritual to fight at the Dynamite show. This is going to be my third time in a row and if I have no injuries, I would like to fight there. So, yeah, very fortunately I’m hoping it’s going to be for the DREAM Heavyweight title. … Very motivated to fight at Dynamite, very motivated to fight for the DREAM Heavyweight title.”

You stayed here in Japan after the Grand Prix tournament. Why did you elect to stay here to train instead of going back to Holland? “Well, actually I like staying here. I like Tokyo, I like Japan, I love my sushi. Some of you might know. But, um, also in Holland it’s currently very cold, it’s been -10, -15 (Celsius), a lot of snow. I don’t like snow for me it was very good timing to stay here in Japan.”

“No. I feel confident. After K-1 Grand Prix I had my MMA coach fly in with some sparring partners, so we trained MMA. My MMA is a top level. I’m ready to beat anybody.”

It’s easy for to make the transition from K-1 to MMA this quick? “Yes.”

No worries? Confident for this upcoming fight? No frustration because of late opponent announcement? “No, I think my level currently is at a level that it doesn’t matter who I fight. So I’m ready for anybody.”

He closed out the session by saying “I’m going to be pissed off” if his match isn’t for the DREAM Heavyweight title.

As far as the Sengoku show is concerned, it’s such a voluminous show that there is bound to be some highlights to come out of it. A weird buffet but people like all-you-can-eat spreads and I think for the hardcore fans, they will end up being rewarded. Marlon Sandro is too great of a fighter not to make a big splash this weekend. He’ll show up big.

Topics: DREAM, Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, Sengoku, UFC, Zach Arnold | 23 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

23 Responses to “The mood heading into New Year’s weekend for the big MMA shows”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) “New Years” cards have done well for the UFC in the past, with the exception of Evans/Silva, but that was because it was such a bad card with no title. I this fight is going to do better then people in the internet bubble realize. 400,000 to 500,000.

    2) Far too many injuries happening to the better fighters in MMA over the last year or so. It’s one of the pitfalls of paying these guys more money. They can afford to rest up and get surgery they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

    3) I saw some guy on the UG post that this is Overeem’s 4th fight in a row that he is fighting a guy coming off a loss. Yikes!

    4) If Duffee wins, I bet he gets a big contract offer from the UFC.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Torn rotator cuff…what other options does he have? These guys are putting their health and livelihood on the line and making small fractions of the profits. They have a limited time frame to fight and make money, sorry it doesn’t convenience you…if the UFC is the NFL of mma they can deal with it and should have the resources and roster to pick up the slack.

      Blame Dana. Not the fighters.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Not all of the surgeries can be avoided, but some can.

        Shane Carwin had the choice to do the surgery now instead of later, and decided to not fight Roy Nelson and take the surgery.

        Jose Aldo said he could have fought, but let his coach talk him out of it.

        Guys who get injured in April in baseball get healthy and take time off. The guys who get injured in late September or during the playoffs, put off the surgeries needed in order to compete because they want to perform on the big stage. They perform while injured because they love to compete on the big stage.

        Far too many MMA guys are treating MMA like it’s April and not the playoffs. That’s a problem amongst the sport. It has nothing to do with me the fan being inconvenienced. It has to do with the athletes not working through the injuries and going out to perform when they have fights that are either signed or already on the calendar.

        • The Gaijin says:

          You can’t compare a “team” sport where a guy gets injured and guts it out (and doesnt play the entirety of the game) while the team around him picks up the slack to one on one fighting, where the main goal is to literally pound your opponent in to submission. That comparison is preposterous.

          Not to mention the fact that the leagues have unions, get protected and paid for not competing while being injured (i.e. Much less downside risk of playing hurt then needing time off) and they allow these team sports players to be shot up with cortisol and a number of other things that are banned by commissions.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Curt Schilling pitched on a leg he could barely walk on that was bleeding during the game.

          Hitters have to bat by themselves.

          “Not to mention the fact that the leagues have unions, get protected and paid for not competing while being injured (i.e. Much less downside risk of playing hurt then needing time off) and they allow these team sports players to be shot up with cortisol and a number of other things that are banned by commissions.”

          If that was the case, they wouldn’t have compete injured in the first place.

          It’s an attitude amongst the major sports that you do what is necessary. That is not there in MMA amongst enough fighters.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “Curt Schilling pitched on a leg he could barely walk on that was bleeding during the game.

          Hitters have to bat by themselves.”

          These examples aren’t even same ‘league’ let alone same ‘ballpark’ in comparisons.

  2. 45 Huddle says:


    As we get closer to the new year, I would like to see your predictions for wht 2011 will be like for MMA. And then others can comment on your predictions and post their own. Just an idea….

  3. edub says:

    Kind of bullshit to have a title shot locked down, and then completely ripped away for no reason.

    -Grispi has title shot with Aldo.
    -Aldo get’s hurt.
    -Grispi has to take tune up while Aldo heals up.
    -Dana reports that even if Grispi wins he doesn’t have title shot anymore:
    (Meanwhile, Aldo’s layoff may be shorter than expected.

    “I think we already have a fight for Aldo,” White said.)

    Now that is just bullshit IMO.

    • I’m not that bothered. Its not like Grispi is the consensus #2 guy. He was gifted the possibility of a title shot and now he might have to go earn it. It would be like bitching that Wladimir Klitschko is looking to fight David Haye instead of giving David Chisora the fight they agreed to and cancelled due to injury.

      • Steve4192 says:

        I agree Alan.

        Aldo-Grispi always felt like a placeholder fight to me. If Dana has better options (Omigawa?, new signing?), I have no problem with him scrapping that fight.

        • edub says:

          I don’t understand how anyone thinks Omigawa is a better option. He gets gift decisions against Hioki, and Sandro and suddenly he is a world beater? Besides he has to fight Mendes first, and he’s gonna get either smashed or outgrappled all fight.

          Alan that makes no sense at all. Dereck Chisora has never fought anyone on the world stage. He has never even fought a top 50 HW. He was getting that fight because pretty much nobody else in the HW divsion wants to fight Wlady. Wlad has chased Haye for years, and Haye is the obvious #2 guy in the world (besides the other Klitschko) so that is the obvious match up right now.

          Aldo has no obvious matchup right now at FW. The winner of Sandro-Hioki would probably be the most deserving, but unless Hioki wins (he did I called it :)) and comes to the UFC that point is mute. So who else is there? Omigawa (he’s not a better option)? Kid Yamamoto? Leonard Garcia? Mark Hominick (a guy Grispi stopped in the first round)? George Roop?

          The only person that would make sense is Chad Mendes, and he’s slated to fight Omigawa. So who else is there?

          All that stuff aside my point is that it sucks to lose a title shot for no reason. He was slated for it, and if he dominates Poirer and is injury free what reason is there for him not to get it?

        • They might have a top 155lb fighter looking to move down. Who knows? I’m not in Dana’s head so I can’t tell you.

          As far as Grispi is concerned, his best win is probably Hominick. That’s not bad, but Hominick is a one too fighter who he beat in predictable fashion. I don’t think he absolutely deserves a title fight, just as Parisyan didn’t necessarily “deserve” a title bout. That’s not to say I can’t justify him getting one, but he isn’t the clear #2 man in the world, in the UFC, et cetera.

          Chisora had a win over the Commonwealth champ, which alone puts him into the top 25. Obviously he’s not the best opponent and no one would argue that, but until we hear what ends up set up for Aldo, I’m not gonna complain. I’d agree that Omigawa would be a step down.

        • edub says:

          You think Danny Williams was top 25?! I gotta disagree, but he probably wasn’t below top 50 either.

          I guess him not being the clear cut #2 guy hurts the argument for him, but it just seems crummy to me. I mean Karo lost his title shot because he got injured, and had a good time to recover. It’s not like Grispi is injured or anything, yet.

          Watch after saying all this Grispi gets KOd in the first…

  4. edub says:


    I actually think Hioki beats Sandro. His jits is pretty much top of the food chain when he shows up. I think he controls position enough on the ground to get the win.

    • Steve4192 says:

      Good call.

      I haven’t seen the fight yet, but by all accounts, Hioki flat-out dominated Sandro. I am constantly amazed at how quickly fans start to believe that a guy is ‘unstoppable’ after a few big wins.

      Sandro is not all that different today than he was in 2008. The only difference is that he caught a couple of guys flush and knocked them silly. He’s still a great fighter, but he is nowhere near as good as people have hyped him up to be in the wake of the Kanehara KO.

  5. EJ says:

    Sucks about Cain but I learned a year ago that in mma stuff happens and you can’t get top caught up in injuries of contract disputes.

    The interesting thing is that Soares said that Dos Santos doesn’t want to wait another 6 plus months to fight. So that makes me wonder who he could fight, the only 2 fighter that makes any sense if Mir, they could play the whole revenge for Nog angle. But if they do that fight than who faces Brock when he returns the only guy left is Struve and feeding him to Lesnar would be just wrong on all counts. Should be interesting to see how things play out for this division in the next couple of months.

    • EJ says:

      Another thing, let me just say how happy I am to see Chuck finally retire and take on a new position with the UFC. The guy is done and it looks like he’s finally accepted that, i’m a huge Liddell fan and loved to watch him fight. He’s done it all and then some, now it’s time for him to enjoy his success and health and let other LHW’s see if they can match what he did for the division and the UFC.

  6. I think the show does mediocre. Maybe 350K. Something like that. Not a really good weekend for it, no fights that interest the guy on the street. I think people will probably love the card if they see it but that won’t mean much in terms of it being a business success.

    I’m just trying to think what the UFC does if GSP ends up hurt before the Dome show. Seriously, the idea of booking these huge ass venues and not actually having signed fights to go in them and no backup plan to move the date if there is an injury is unreal stupid. I hope they have a couple other dates on retainer for May and June in case GSP sprains something or catches the flu.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Without Cain…. And assuming Brock isn’t fighting on the card…. They need to downsize to the arena and stay as far away from a baseball field.

      People are bored on New Years night. And most people are home. That will help the buyrate.

      Did you see the pre-fight press conference? Listening to Edgar & Maynard made me not want to buy the fights. Talk about a lack of hype in either of their voices. Both are great fighters, but they can’t sell a fight at all. It’s just not in their personalities.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Actually, even with GSP, Lesnar, Cain, Silva, Faber, and Rampage…. They should still stay away from baseball stadiums. Such a bad idea for fighting.

        • I think GSP in Canada could work, but nowhere else does it make sense, and honestly, it doesn’t make a lot of sense in Canada either when they could just take the site fee in Vegas and be done with it. Its a PR move in order to get them to pack more people into a stadium than K-1 did. They’ll probably give away less tickets to do it, but I won’t be surprised if they revert to that.

          But back to my point – No GSP and you burn all those fans. You could have Dominick Cruz go to war or something out there and it would mean nothing to them.

    • David M says:

      There is literally 0 buzz for this show. Nobody cares about Frankie Edgar and nobody wants to watch Gray Maynard. The fact that Brian Stann is in the co-main event is not a good omen; he is a mediocre fighter fighting a guy in Chris Leben who is a gatekeeper. The fight is entirely irrelevant; it should be on a UFC Fight Night instead.

      I am thinking about going to a bar to watch this show, but honestly, I don’t even know if I care to.

  7. Joseph B says:

    Hopefully Edgar can keep it standing otherwise it’s going to be BORING fight.

    The card has potential to be an exciting card, there’s quite a few people on this card that have something to prove … redemption.

    I’m predicting that Clay Guida vs Takanormi Gomi will be the fight of the night.

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