Rich Franklin reflects on recent visits with wounded soldiers
UFC middleweight star Rich "Ace" Franklin has long been an adamant supporter of the troops serving in the U.S. military.
And while professional athletes from all sports often schedule PR-friendly visits to various military outposts, Franklin recently visited two military hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area completely on his own accord.
MMAjunkie.com recently spoke with Franklin about the trip, which included a stop at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center late last month.
JAKKS Pacific® Secures Ultimate Master Toy License For Ultimate Fighting Championship®
MALIBU, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The world leader in fighting action figure toys, JAKKS Pacific, Inc. (Nasdaq:JAKK), announced today that it has signed an exclusive, four year worldwide Master Toy license agreement with the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) organization, with a planned product launch expected to commence in 2009.
The new UFC product line from JAKKSTM will be collector-focused, and the license covers UFC legend Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell, Brock Lesnar, Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira, Michael "The Count" Bisping and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson "The Spider" Silva, among others. The license also includes the famed UFC Octagon™, and role-play items based on the UFC brand and its classic and current roster of star fighters.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship organization is the world's leading professional mixed martial arts group, regulated by the most prestigious sports regulatory bodies in the United States. UFC live pay-per-view events take place at preeminent destinations including MGM Grand®, MEN Arena, Mandalay Bay® and O2 Arena, and they consistently draw sell-out crowds with record-breaking gates. Presenting more than twelve pay-per-view events per year, the UFC stands as the largest pay-per-view content provider in the country.
The UFC also dominates television with its reality series, The Ultimate Fighter®, now heading into its eighth season. The Ultimate Fighter has reigned supreme for years in the coveted 18-34 male ratings demographic, and it regularly enjoys higher ratings than traditional franchise sports such as the NBA®, NHL® and NASCAR®, as well as NCAA® football and basketball. In partnership with Spike TV® cable network, the UFC also presents ten live UFC® Fight Night™ events and 26 taped programs of the popular program UFC® Unleashed™.
“The UFC is a perfect match for JAKKS, given our extensive expertise in developing and marketing collector driven sports action figures,” said Stephen Berman, President and COO, JAKKS Pacific. “UFC’s enormous and growing popularity amongst adults, coupled with the extensive roster of physically powerful star fighters, gives JAKKS a substantial base to work with, and should be a powerhouse combination for the line. Our objective is to give collectors an authentic UFC experience.”
“We are thrilled to have JAKKS on board as our first official UFC action figure partner,” said Dana White, UFC President. “The demand for UFC is tremendous, and through this relationship with JAKKS, we can present authentic UFC products and have them available to our loyal UFC fans all around the world.”
UFC Could Crush Affliction, Put Brock Lesnar on Spike vs. Fedor Emelianenko on PPV
UFC is the undisputed champion of mixed martial arts promotions, but there are a few organizations that are trying to put some chinks in UFC's armor. EliteXC got a prime time network TV deal, and Affliction has a pay-per-view show next month -- headlined by Fedor Emelianenko -- that will have every bit as much MMA talent on display as a typical UFC pay-per-view show.
But UFC President Dana White could take a huge step to undercut Affliction and show that UFC is still the dominant dog: He could take the Brock Lesnar-Heath Herring fight, which is currently scheduled for UFC 87, August 9 on pay-per-view, and move it to July 19 on free TV or basic cable (most likely Spike), head to head with Affliction's pay-per-view show.
That would crush Affliction. Although I was skeptical about Lesnar when he first signed with UFC, he's undeniably a big draw. He's well-known from his days in the WWE, and MMA fans respect his background as an NCAA wrestling champion. Emelianenko is a much more accomplished MMA fighter than Lesnar, but among American fans, Lesnar's name is bigger than Fedor's, and if the choice is between watching Lesnar on basic cable or paying $50 to watch Fedor, for most fans, that's an easy choice to make.
White and Lesnar on CNBC Today
Dana White and heavyweight sensation Brock Lesnar will appear live on CNBC's "Power Lunch" today to announce an exciting new UFC deal. The show airs at 12:40pm ET.
McCarthy, ABC to Review ‘Grounded Knees'
"Big" John McCarthy will propose legalizing knees to the head of a grounded opponent when the Association of Boxing Commissions meets for its annual convention July 2-5 in Montreal. McCarthy, who retired from officiating in December, made the revelation during Sherdog.com's Beatdown radio show on Monday.
"It's a good technique," said McCarthy, who refereed 535 matches during his 15-year career. "It's a very effective tool, and it opens fights up."
The most recognized referee in the game has met privately with ABC representatives in the last few months to discuss amendments to the sport's Unified Rules of Combat. The ABC will unveil their efforts at its annual gathering, where its membership of nearly 80 state and tribal athletic commissions throughout North America will review them.
McCarthy also addressed the controversy surrounding referee Dan Miragliotta, who was criticized for his officiating in the Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson-James Thompson main event at EliteXC "Primetime" on May 31 in Newark, N.J., and the Brandon Vera-Fabricio Werdum heavyweight matchup at UFC 85 on Saturday in London.
"A lot of people are all over Dan," McCarthy said. "Refereeing - it's opinion. Some people are going to look at you and say, ‘You're right,' and some people are going to look at you and say, ‘You're wrong.' We're all human."
Miragliotta made what many viewed as a crucial error in judgment in the Ferguson-Thompson bout on CBS, when he forced the fighters to stand after Thompson had passed Ferguson's guard and secured side control on the ground in the second round.
"When your opponent gets to side control, there are very few things you can do," said McCarthy, who was offered the chance to officiate the Ferguson-Thompson fight. "When you take a fighter out of side control, you're giving the advantage to one fighter over another. James was in a dominant position, and Dan stood them up."
Shooto To Change Rules
Once again, Jordan Breen has the scoop:
In a move that will assuredly garner praise from the MMA world, the International Shooto Commission has announced that in the coming months all Shooto events worldwide will abandon two of its most contentious rules: strikes to the back of the head and the much-maligned knockdown count.
Because of Shooto's ongoing rookie tournament series already having its rules defined at the year's onset, the knockdown rule will be abolished officially on Jan. 1, 2009. However, strikes to the back of the head will be outlawed as of Sept. 1, due to a more pressing medical necessity.
EliteXC exec confirms interest in Tito Ortiz
EliteXC today confirmed its on the growing list of organizations that will compete for free agent Tito Ortiz's services.
EliteXC Head of Operations Jeremy Lappen confirmed the organization's interest today in a conference call for this Saturday's "EliteXC: Return of the King" event, which airs on Showtime and features a main event between lightweight champ KJ Noons and Yves Edwards.
"We're interested," Lapin said. "We'd love to have Tito as part of our organization."
EliteXC is the second organization publicly to announce its interest in the perhaps soon-to-be-ex UFC star. New Affliction partner Donald Trump, with whom Ortiz has developed a budding relationship after "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" appeared on Trump's reality show, "Celebrity Apprentice," announced last week that his organization would also like to sign Ortiz to a contract.
Frank Trigg and Takanori Gomi scheduled for "Sengoku 4"
Middleweight fighter Frank Trigg (16-6) has agreed to fight in August for World Victory Road.
The upcoming bout means the former UFC fighter and ex-ICON Sport middleweight title-holder will return to action for the first time since a December 2007 first-round submission victory over Edwin Dewees.
Trigg today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that he recently agreed to the Aug. 24 "Sengoku 4" fight, though an opponent has not been determined.
Trigg, 36, has won three of his past four fights. His only loss was a fourth-round knockout defeat to Robbie Lawler for the ICON title in March 2007. In addition to Dewees, Trigg also defeated Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Kazuo Misaki during the recent span.
In addition to Trigg, WVR recently announced that highly ranked lightweight Takanori Gomi (28-3) has been booked for the Sengoku 4 card, which takes place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Gomi is expected to headline the event, though his opponent has not been determined.
Elite XC announces full card for Hawaii
Elite Xtreme Combat today released the full fight card for its upcoming Saturday event, which features a headline bout between EliteXC lightweight champ KJ Noons (6-2) and challenger Yves Edwards (33-13-1).
The event, dubbed "EliteXC: Return of the King," takes place at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. The main card airs on Showtime beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
The full card features a total of 12 fights, five of which air on Showtime and additional five that air on ProElite.com.
MMA doesn't need more rules, it needs the right interpretation
Moments after being stopped by Fabricio Werdum with only a few seconds left in the first round at Ultimate Fighting Championship 85, heavyweight Brandon Vera did what most conscious fighters would do in such a situation: complain.
He jumped to his feet, got in the referee's face, milked the crowd's sympathy -- all for nothing. Arguing an early stoppage in mixed martial arts is like arguing a pitch's location in baseball. An umpire will never change a strike to a ball, and a batter just looks like a fool for even trying.
But Vera had a legitimate gripe Saturday. His fight was stopped too soon, even if the call did adhere to a hazy refereeing standard regarding unanswered blows.
Per the vague rule, a fighter's failure to intelligently defend himself is cause for stoppage; a fighter's covering up to protect his face from a flood of punches is not. Most of the time the standard is fair. But it caters to a specific situation -- one of many in a sport with numerous fight permutations. One that didn't occur in the Werdum-Vera bout.
Everlast to start MMA equipment line in September
Everlast is best known as a century-old boxing gear and equipment company. However, in recent months, the company has ventured into MMA, signing a deal with Randy Couture's Xtreme Couture gym to be their exclusive apparel and equipment sponsor.
Now, in an interview with Brandweek.com, Everlast President Adam Geisler says the company will be coming out with a retail MMA equipment line this september.
Geisler explains why in the interview:
"Everlast is the exclusive apparel and equipment sponsor of Randy's Xtreme Couture Gyms. In September we will launch Everlast's MMA equipment line at retail. We are doing a photo shoot with him [this week] for a print campaign that will run in men's and sports magazines. Randy has left UFC and Mark Cuban's HDNet Fights is trying to set up a match between him and [MMA world-class heavyweight] Fedor Emelianenko. If they fight on pay-per-view it could generate [incredible] numbers. Our brand is strong with consumers 30 and older. With Randy and MMA, we will attract 16-22-year olds, a demo we have had trouble attracting. So the opportunity to speak to these younger consumers is key for us. It's a major opportunity to grow our business."
Live shows likely next round for NBC, Strikeforce
The programming suits at NBC have a decision to make.
EliteXC's Saturday Night Fights debut on CBS May 31 proved that live mixed martial arts is more than viable on network television. Despite the fact that most MMA fans jeered the show, ripping into everything from the production to the officiating, SNF was the most-watched MMA event in U.S. television history. The broadcast drew a peak audience of more than 6.5 million viewers – and 4.85 million viewers in total – to top the 5.9 million who tuned into the Quinton Jackson-Dan Henderson match at UFC 75.
Those are game-changing numbers that TV executives simply can't ignore, especially when it comes to delivering the male, 18-to-34 audience that advertisers crave. That demographic comprised a sizeable portion of the viewers who tuned into SNF.
NBC already carries MMA, albeit in a time slot far removed from the bright lights of primetime. Strikeforce launched its weekly 30-minute taped series on the Peacock Network April 12. The promotion, which those familiar with the deal say purchased the airtime from the network, hoped the series would be the catalyst that leads to live shows on NBC.
"Periodically, we're in talks (with NBC)," said Strikeforce's Mike Afromowitz. "Of course, we want to be live on the network. That's always been part of our long-term objective. People want to see live events. The show's been a good way to introduce the brand and the product to people, but moving forward, we want to be live. That's the next step."
Not only do the ratings generated on CBS suggest that the next step might be imminent for NBC, programming brass at the network need to look no further than their own ratings to see that MMA draws a crowd. Viewership of "Strikeforce on NBC," which follows "Poker After Dark" every Saturday night/early Sunday morning, has increased nearly 200 percent from its first show to one of its recent airings.
The fifth episode, during the week of May 5, drew an audience of 949,000 viewers. That topped the average ratings for other late-night fare, including "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson."
"The show has exceeded our expectations," said Afromowitz, who oversees selection of fights featured in the production. "We're only several weeks into the series. We got the production together very quickly with minimal promotion. We didn't have a big, big campaign to promote it, but word spread from the first week we were on."
It seems only a matter of time before NBC makes a more significant commitment to MMA programming.
UFC Quick Quote: Michael Bisping is on a mission
“The way I fought (on Saturday) is the way I used to fight in England, destroying guys. I don’t think I am anywhere near the finished product but I think I can go through the majority of the middleweight division. And if I want to take on Anderson Silva I have to get on my game. I have a long hard road ahead but I am willing to make the sacrifices. I will do it. I am on a mission. I would like to be the first UK guy to hold a UFC belt.”
– Michael Bisping tells the that he is gunning for UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. “The Count” has two fights in eight weeks at 185 pounds and has looked tremendous in both bouts. He most recently defeated Jason Day at UFC 85: “Bedlam” this past weekend at the O2 Arena in London, England, via first round technical knockout.
The Making of a Superstar in Korea
Dong Hyun Kim's impressive May 24 UFC debut was not televised in North America, but in South Korea it was shown live.
And then it was shown again.
And then it was shown again: three times total, with commentary, prior to the resumption of live coverage.
Even before the translator could mangle Kim's responses to Joe Rogan in the postfight interview, YTN, the Korean cable news network, had added "Kim Dong Hyun wins by TKO in first UFC contest" to the news ticker at the bottom of the screen, amid updates on American beef imports and the earthquake in China. KTX trains also added Kim's picture to the queue of rural photographs cycling on the aisle monitors.
Virtually unknown to all but hardcore fight fans, suddenly it seemed as if Kim was on every screen in Korea.
Vera wants UFC rematch, Werdum says no
Filipino American mixed martial artist Brandon "The Truth" Vera immediately called for a rematch after losing in a first-round battle against Fabricio Werdum of Brazil in their Ultimate Fighting Championship match at London's O2 Arena over the weekend.
"[I'm willing to wait] eight weeks, 10 weeks," Vera said, referring to the regular training period a UFC fighter undergoes before slugging it out in "The Octagon."
Werdum, however, declined Vera's challenge, saying he wants to fight for the UFC championship belt next. The Brazilian said that if and when he snares the crown, he would consider a rematch with Vera following Saturday's "UFC 85: Bedlam."
Dana White talks about a Penn/GSP fight this New Years Eve!
LONDON - A super-fight between Canadian Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn could take place later this year, UFC president Dana White said Friday.
Penn (14-4-1) raised the issue of a GSP rematch after defeating Sean Sherk to retain his lightweight (155-pound) title last month at UFC 84. St. Pierre (16-2) is currently the welterweight champion at 170 pounds.
The two met back as welterweights at UFC 58 in March 2006. Penn won the first round, cutting the Canadian, but St. Pierre rallied to win a split decision in the mixed martial arts contest.
White said at UFC 84 that there was one more fight at 155 for Penn, against the winner of the UFC 87 bout in August between lightweight contenders Roger Huerta and Kenny Florian. Penn did not seem enthused by that prospect, however.
On Friday, White said he would still like Penn to take that bout. But he seemed OK with the Hawaiian fighter skipping it and going straight to GSP.
"We'll see how this whole thing shapes out. The kid did what I asked him to do. And I don't disagree with him and GSP being a great fight and I think that he could compete at 170 and stay there."
Time for Hughes to call it a career
LONDON – After Georges St. Pierre thrashed him about like he was a beginner and then submitted him at UFC 79, Matt Hughes admitted that thoughts of retirement had crossed his mind.
At the post-fight news conference in Las Vegas that night, Hughes vowed that he would retire before he’d become anyone’s highlight reel.
But on Saturday, in the main event of UFC 85 at the O2 Arena, Hughes became someone’s highlight reel yet again.
This time, Hughes became a notch on the belt of Thiago Alves, who knocked Hughes out with a perfect left knee in the second round.
As good as the up-and-coming Alves looked – and he looked plenty good – it was difficult not to wonder whether he’d have been nearly as successful a few years earlier.
Time, and the changing face of mixed martial arts, has clearly caught up to Hughes. He’s had two reigns as UFC’s welterweight champion, has won nine title fights and had an amazing run of 19 wins in 20 fights, which included victories over luminaries such as B.J. Penn, St. Pierre and Royce Gracie.
He’s been a classy representative of the sport, which made watching him get thrashed about like a sparring partner Saturday all the more difficult to take. He clearly wants a fight with his bitter rival, Matt Serra, a fight UFC president Dana White said he’d make if Hughes wants it.
And while there was a time when most mixed martial arts experts thought Hughes would steamroll Serra, that time is long past. Hughes has now lost three of his last four and has been dominated in each of the losses.
Though the bad blood between the two, and Serra’s ability to chatter, would help sell the fight, it would be another of the WWE-type promotions that the sport is better off without. The UFC appeared to leave that behind when it was done with the Ken Shamrock-Tito Ortiz trilogy, and it has no need to go back to such events. The athletes are too good and the sport has evolved too much for it to rely on “feuds” to sell tickets.
And given that there has to be considered at least a decent possibility that Serra could win the fight, White needs to consider the fact that he wouldn’t be doing Hughes any favors by letting him get into the cage and get beaten up again. Certainly, he doesn’t need to be in with young, strong and athletic men like St. Pierre and Alves any more.
Hughes was asked how he felt seeing such superb athletes like St. Pierre and Alves develop into stars and he didn’t mince any words.
“I don’t like it,” Hughes said, drawing chuckles from the crowd. “Ask me again and I’ll say it a thousand times. I don’t like it.”
Five years ago, he would have been drooling for such competition and he would have overpowered it on most nights.
But while the 34-year-old Hughes said he felt good even as he walked to the cage, he lacks the quick, explosive shot that he had as a younger man. Hughes went for a shot early, but Alves easily saw it coming and stuffed it.
Hughes was handled by Alves much like Ortiz was handled by Lyoto Machida two weeks earlier at UFC 84. At an impromptu question-and-answer session with a handful of reporters after Friday’s weigh-in, White was talking about how Ortiz didn’t land a punch or a kick and didn’t get a takedown against Machida.
Hughes wasn’t much better against Alves. And that bout was essentially played out the way the St. Pierre fight was in December.
For his part, Alves is moving close to a shot at the welterweight title, though he has to prove he can make the 170-pound weight limit.
He needed a diuretic to help him in a 2006 fight, which cost him an eight-month suspension imposed by the Nevada Athletic Commission. He barely made weight for his November win over Chris Lytle, needing to strip naked to hit 171. Alves said he sprained his right ankle about 10 days ago, which prevented him from working out for three days. That, Alves said, resulted in him weighing four pounds over the 170-pound limit at Friday’s weigh-in.
An engaging sort who once had a job as a dance escort for women in South Florida, Alves said all the right things at the post-fight news conference. He said he has long been a fan of mixed martial arts and especially enjoyed watching Hughes.
“This means everything to me,” he said of a win over Hughes. “I remember watching Matt Hughes slamming people through the floor. I’m really, really happy.”
The problem that White must wrestle with now is that pretty much everyone beats him. And while the fighter almost always believes he has one more bout left – and Hughes desperately wants to tear into Serra to settle their long-standing differences – there comes a time when the fighter needs to be protected from himself.
That time has come for Hughes, and White needs to forget the money a potential Hughes-Serra bout may generate and do what is best for the man.
That means telling him no more fights.
In the ring, Hughes said he still wanted the Serra fight, but he wouldn’t flatly demand it at the post-fight news conference.
“Any questions about my future, I think those are best directed toward Dana,” Hughes said. “Ask him.”
White said he would “absolutely” make that fight. But to say that ignores what unfolded in front of him not only on Saturday, but on Dec. 29 as well as Nov. 18, 2006.
There’s no reason for Hughes to press forward. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer and, most importantly, he still has his health and his faculties.
He needs to walk away and let the great young fighters in the business try to equal his records.
The time has come for Matt Hughes to retire.