An indie filmmaker may become king of the (MMA) screen
Hollywood has hijacked mixed martial arts. Think Karate Kid meets Bring it On (you know, that cheerleading movie).
According to Never Back Down, the world of underground fighting works a little something like this: boy (and likely Calvin Klein underwear model) moves to a new town. Boy lusts after innocent, cute girl. Boy encounters bully. Boy works his butt off to beat up bully. Boy becomes hero.
"That stuff just doesn't happen in real life," says Bobby Razak. "The guys in the movie are not fighters, the whole story is cheesy, and in my 13, 14 years in MMA, I've never seen any story like that."
For dedicated MMA followers, the film is a double-edged sword, cheaply, and inaccurately, promoting a sport that's growing but still struggling for acceptance. And Razak understands first-hand the battles the sport has endured -- in and out of the cage.
As a former MMA fighter, he not only admires the sport, but also has beared the sport's die-hard regimen. Judo, boxing, martial arts, ultimate fighting -- he's done it all and probably seen it all. And as an independent filmmaker, he's also put it all on screen.
His first documentary, Rites of Passage, which was screened at the Sundance Festival, follows the lives of multiple fighters, combining personal drama with in-the-ring action. Delving into the technique and tactics of MMA, his next film, Pit Fight, was the first to capture bare-knuckle fighting live on 35 mm film. Follow-ups Invincible Warrior and Underground NHB earned him recognition among many in the MMA circle as he followed star Chuck Liddell and John Lewis on their quest for the best techniques and bare-knuckle brawls in Holland.
Warning: there's nothing comparable to "the Iceman" in Never Back Down. Yes, Hollywood's take is, well, tacky, but it's also a big-screen advertisement for the sport. Capturing the real stuff, the hard-core fights and psychological unrest is a task Razak has taken on himself. And so far, his popularity is growing almost as fast the sport itself.
Razak recently inked a deal with Time Warner, the parent company of SI.com, to put his latest mixed martial arts reality series Underground Kings of MMA on the media megacorp's video-on-demand channel. Starting in May, the series will be carried on six cable networks and syndicated across broadband and mobile. That's 22 episodes of complete 24/7 access to the training routines, unseen brawls, mental breakdowns, fighter-manager clashes, legal conflicts and high-profile matchups of many of the MMA's best: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Frank Shamrock, Riddick Bowe and Lewis.
While the UFC dodges worry, EliteXC isn't as lucky
Having quickly overcome Chuck Liddell's badly torn hamstring and the second lost main event for June 7 in London, the Ultimate Fighting Championship can sit back and await its next pay-per-view attraction, UFC 84, in Las Vegas, knowing it's booked solid back-to-back cards.
Other mixed martial arts promotions, however, are not as fortunate or able to plug in Matt Hughes and Thiago Alves on short notice when things go awry.
Last week it was revealed Drew Fickett, who was set to fight Jake Shields for the vacant EliteXC welterweight belt, had been forced out of the June 14 Showtime-televised clash with a badly injured knee. The question now for the Kimbo Slice-led promotion is what to do with Shields, who is coming off an injury that prevented a bout with Fickett on March 29.
Step one starts Monday, when Shields plans to test his bad back for the first time with hard training and sparring. If healthy, Shields said he'd like to remain on the upcoming Hawaii EliteXC card, even if it's not a title bout.
"I'm pretty sure I'll be fine," the 29-year-old Shields said. "I'm hoping they'll get me a fight in June. If not, they said September, and I don't want to go that long without fighting. That's just way too much ring rust."
According to EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw, the fighter's June wish has been noted.
"My plan right now, as you and I speak, is to fight him on June 14," Shaw said. "The question is, can we get him the right opponent?"
Tracking the progress of The Ultimate Fighter 1 contestants - Part I
There is no question that the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality series - better known as ‘TUF’ - has been the most influential vehicle for promoting the success of UFC, and to a lesser extent MMA in general, in North America. The careers of most contestants have been boosted like they could have never imagined. Even the ones who never came close to winning were still given a chance to prove their worth in the UFC, and many of the fighters released from the UFC were instantly picked up by smaller organizations simply because of the newly acquired name recognition.
With the show now in it’s seventh season, let’s take a look back at where it all started. The first season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ took place in 2005, and featured 8 middleweights and 8 lightheavyweights competing for two ’six figure’ contracts with the UFC. Most of the contestants were virtually unknown in the MMA world at the time, yet all are now very familiar names for most fans...
UFC Cuts Three More Fighters
The UFC continues to trim it's roster. According to Dave Meltzer, the promotion dropped three more fighters; Din Thomas, Kuniyoshi Hironaka and Tommy Speer. All three are coming off of losses in the organization and Speer and Hironaka are a combined 1-5 in the UFC. Din Thomas is considering a move down to 145 but may retire according to the report.
Aoki still in tourney, will fight at Dream 4
Shinya Aoki, who earned his spot in the second round of the DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix with a recent victory over Gesias “J.Z.” Calvancante, will be allowed to continue on in the tournament despite recent injuries. His bout with Katsuhiko Nagata will, however, be moved from its planned date of May 11 on the DREAM.3 fight card, to the DREAM.4 event on June 15. The promotion announced the move at a press conference on Monday.
According to his doctor, Aoki suffered a cervical injury in his March 15 bout with Calvancante, which impaired the feeling in his right arm. He also severely bruised a rib on April 29 in his second bout with the Brazilian. As such, he will not be allowed to fight on May 11.
This is great news...FEAR THE STRETCHY PANTS...WAR AOKI!!!
UFC Champions Nogueira & Silva To Open New Training Center
UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and middleweight champ Anderson Silva will soon open a new mixed-martial-arts academy, Nogueira and Silva Mixed Martial Arts Academy, in Miami. In addition to teaching others, the two title-holders will train together at the center, which officially opens May 16.
WEC’s Varner Plans to Show MMA World He’s No One-Hit Wonder
Jamie Varner hears his critics, those who believe the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion’s unexpected victory over “Razor” Rob McCullough was more dumb luck than stroke of genius. Their doubts only stoke his competitive fires.
Nearly three months have passed since the dynamite in Varner’s hands left McCullough a battered and beaten man against the cage at WEC 32, but little has changed for the confident 23-year-old Arizonan. The same hunger that drove him past McCullough on that February night in Albuquerque, N.M., drives him still.
Taylor vs. Liaudin part of new UFC 85 card
Despite the loss of its Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua main event -- and then the loss of a new main event between Liddell and Rashad Evans -- UFC 85 isn't lacking in overall quantity of fights.
Over the weekend the UFC confirmed a previously rumored bout between Paul Taylor (8-3-1 MMA, 1-2 UFC) and Jess Liaudin (12-9 MMA, 2-1 UFC), bringing the total number of rumored bouts for the June 7 event to 13 (with 12 now official).
IMO, another solid matchup made by the ufc. WAR JOE SILVA!
Sherk Talks Steroid Test, Beats Up Some Poor Schmuck
ean Sherk gets a very specific type of look on his face whenever anyone mentions his failed steroid test. I don’t know whether it’s restrained rage or just the last of his patience draining away, but it’s definitely not good. You can see it in this video from FHM, which does its best to clear Sherk of all charges by asserting that the failed test was “pretty obviously a mistake.” I suppose you’ve got to play nice to get footage like this.
Even after that, Sherk still punches the guy in the face a bunch of times. Flattery will get you nowhere with “The Muscle Shark.”
Phan Vs. Evangelista Likely Set For June Strikeforce Event
A fight between Nam Phan and Billy Evangelista, originally set for last November's Strikeforce event but scrapped due to injuries, now appears set for the June 27 Strikeforce event in San Jose, CA. Phan last fought for Strikeforce in 2006, Evangelista fought on the Shamrock-Le undercard.
HUERTA PLANS TO WORK AT TEAM JACKSON
The list of fighters who have sought out training and gameplan master Greg Jackson continues to grow as Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight contender, Roger Huerta, is expected to travel to the camp’s home in New Mexico to help him prepare for his August match-up against Kenny Florian.
Forrest Griffin: “Jacaré has heavy hands”
The Brazilian Ronaldo Jacaré start at the DREAM middleweight GP at the better possible way. The rear naked choke at Ian Murphy putted Jacaré at the next round of the event and now he waits for the definition of his next opponent. The BJJ world champion, that now is training at Xtreme Couture, at Las Vegas , is attracting attention from his teammates with his strong trains with Forrest Griffin. “I definitely think that he can do well in that category. Apart from been very strong for this weight and also for Heavyweight guys, he has heavy hands”, said Forrest Griffin to TATAME magazine #145, that bring exclusives shots from Xtreme Couture trains.
Jake O'Brien finds a new home
California-based, Palace Fighting Championship (PFC) has announced the signing of recently released UFC heavyweight Jake O'Brien.
O'Brien was undefeated with a 10-0 record until his loss to Andrei Arlovski at UFC 82. He was subsequently released by the UFC a month ago.
What does PFC president Christian Printup have to say about his most recent signing? "We are very excited to bring in one of the most promising young heavyweights in the country," swooned El Presidente "He's proven himself at the sports highest level... Jake is a great wrestler with solid boxing skills. A lot of people haven't seen that, but we want to put him in some fights where he can show it."
Why the UFC cut a 10-1 fighter from the weakest division they have is beyond me, but hey they got Lesnar vs. Coleman so that's... something.
Thomas Schulte: Time For The Next Step?
At this past weekend’s Ultimate Warrior Challenge in Fairfax, Va., F.I.T. NHB product Thomas Schulte made yet another case for himself to get an opportunity to fight on the big stages of mixed martial arts.
A veteran of such promotions as King of the Cage and Hardcore Championship Fighting, Schulte finished off Zack Light – an assistant coach for Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s team on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter” – in just over one minute, adding to a current three-fight winning streak that’s seen him not go past the 75 second mark in each outing.
Pitbull unafraid of Hughes
Even so, Pitbull is not intimidated, and in a talk with GRACIEMAG.com affirms that he is the perfect adversary to take him to his objective: the belt.
“I’m training like mad and I’m really strong with a lot of wind. MMA demands a lot of effort and training to not leave anything to chance. We brought in some wrestlers to train and we’re putting together the right strategy for the fight. To me, experience is what counts. Hughes is already in the UFC Hall of Fame and has only lost to Saint-Pierre. But I’ve been doing this since I was 15 in muay thai and MMA. I can’t be satisfied being just another one, I want to be the best and I’ll only leave dead. They were giving me ever tougher opponents each time and now they send in Matt, but the name doesn’t matter, I’m taking this win for the ATT,” Thiago guaranteed
UFC Veteran Wes Sims to Clash with Steve Bosse
TKO Championship Fighting is excited to announce the line-up for TKO34: SIMS vs. BOSSE which is set for Saturday, June 7th, 2008 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec. The main event features notorious, three-time UFC veteran, Wes Sims against perennial fan favorite, Steve Bosse. This is a colossal showdown in TKO’s heavyweight division which is guaranteed to be surrounded by lots of excitement, talk and drama. The co-main event is a terrific fight between undefeated, Adrian Wooley against the up and coming, Danny Martinez in a battle for the new Bantamweight Championship! Also on the card will be a fan friendly matchup between devastating strikers, Yannick Galipeau and Stephane Dube.
Joe Lauzon rolls with punches
“I think I won the first round,” the East Bridgewater native said. “If it was at sea level, I think I would have been able to push that pace for all three rounds, but being in Colorado, I couldn’t do it. I came out for the second round and I felt like my legs weighed 1,000 pounds each. I thought I had a good first round, but cardio killed me and a couple of other things just didn’t go my way.”