The UFC Emerges Stronger From a Dangerous Summer
I wrote a piece called "Zuffa's Dangerous Summer" in April, and pointed out three potential threats: 1) Affliction's first show; 2) EliteXC on CBS; and 3) Randy Couture winning his case and pursuing the Fedor fight in one of these competing promotions.
It's now August, and it looks like Zuffa will emerge from this dangerous period as the undisputed top player in the industry.
Affliction did far better than I guessed when they first announced the show, but they spent so much more money to do it that they have cut their second payroll by millions of dollars, and do not look to be a formidable threat at any point in the near future.
EliteXC is on the ropes, reeling from significant financial loss and management issues. CBS does not pay them enough for them to survive without Pay Per View, but who knows if we'll ever see that? They are not a threat, they are more like an occasional novelty act that will serve to build up names on CBS that will get better deals when they eventually sign with the UFC. Lesnar-Kimbo may be a fight we see in 2009 in the UFC. If they do survive and stay strong, they still won't be any kind of threat to the UFC.
For Jon Jones, upset victory proved he belongs in UFC
Not much was expected of unheralded 21-year-old Jon Jones (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) at UFC 87. A late replacement for an injured Tomasz Drawl, Jones was regarded as little more than a sacrificial lamb for highly touted prospect Andre Gusmao (5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC).
But after 15 minutes in the octagon at UFC 87, Jones had delivered a stunning unanimous decision victory. The win proved to Jones that only four months into his MMA career, the Team BombSquad fighter belonged in the UFC.
"[The win] meant a lot to me," Jones told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "It showed me that I can do this. A lot of people doubted me. They said, 'Jon's tough, but he hasn't fought anybody.' Now they can't say that."
Jones started the bout uncharacteristically. Despite owning four first-round stoppages in his previous five fights, Jones looked tentative in the opening frame. While much is made of first-time UFC fighters' "octagon jitters," Jones said it was the locker room that caused his challenges.
"I wasn't nervous at all," Jones said. "I was a little unprepared though. Usually before my fights I'm in a zone. My mind and body is one unit. I'm ready to go. My reactions are quick. I've got a great sweat going. My lungs are open.
"In this fight I'm fighting against a Renzo Gracie guy. I've got Wanderlei Silva hanging out in my locker room. Matt Serra's in my locker room hanging out. Renzo Gracie is walking in and out of my locker room. There's all these cameras in my face. I just couldn't really get in my groove."
The wealth of talent surrounding the young fighter was in stark contrast to the smaller stage on which he was used to competing.
"I wasn't as focused as I was if I was at a smaller show," Jones explained. "So when I went out there it wasn't that I was nervous. I kind of had cold feet. I didn't get that mental game together before I came out there.
"So it took me a while to get comfortable. The more I landed punches, and the more I avoided his attacks, my creative juices got flowing. My comfort got flowing. And that's when I started opening up a bit."
Once Jones began to open up, a vast array of strikes followed. Jones peppered Gusmao with unorthodox attacks from every angle. Gusmao claimed a few of those angles ended below his belt.
Much of the crowd in attendance, as well as Jones himself, disagreed.
"It definitely was frustrating to me," Jones said of the situation. "The first knee to the groin was legit. I definitely kneed him to the groin. It was a total accident.
"I'm a lot taller than most of my opponents. When I throw a knee it usually lands to my opponent's face or chest. Him being a tall guy, I kind of caught him a little low. It was a total accident.
"He took enough time and got to catch his breath. All the rest of the knees I think was just acting a little bit trying to get the crowd and the judges on his side. I had no respect for that."
Adding to the frustration was Gusmao scoring an illegal knee of his own below the belt on Jones.
"I definitely remember that moment," Jones said of being hit in the groin. "I definitely felt the knee. But you're in a fight. I felt the knee. It was a legit knee, but it wasn't enough to drop me, so you fight through it. Some guys just don't have that mental edge."
Jones fought through the controversy and delivered the upset victory. The importance of the win was not lost on the New York native.
"I fought a guy who's 5-0 in the IFL, and it showed me a lot," Jones said. "It shows me that I can do this and I do belong in the UFC."
The win also showed two other fighters in attendance that Jones belongs in the UFC. An invitation to train together soon followed.
"Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, his manager contacted me right after the fight, and we exchanged information," Jones said. "I know that Quinton and Cheick Kongo want to fly me out to their gym to give them a different look as far as workout partners.
"So I'm excited about that. I get to work out with one of the best 205-pounders in the game. I'm sure that's going to help me out a lot."
It's a safe bet that Jones will not enter his next UFC bout as such an unknown commodity. Although Jones believes he'll still be the underdog for quite some time, he hopes his performance in Minneapolis has earned him a bit more respect.
"I'm sure there will be lots more cases of me being the underdog," Jones admitted. "But I definitely think I earned the respect of the UFC with the performance I put on.
"Anyone who watches that fight knows that when it comes to stand-up, they don't know what to expect. I think it's going to be hard to train for a fighter like me -- especially when I get my jiu-jitsu a little bit stronger.
"I definitely think I have a lot more underdog fights to come. Especially with me being so young, being so new to the game. But I definitely know that even though I'm going to be the underdog, I'll be the respected underdog."
And for a fighter with six professional fights in just four months, the opportunity to step back into the cage can't come soon enough.
"I'm ready to step into UFC 88 or 89," Jones said. "I'm ready to get in there right away. I love staying in my groove. I don't really like to take too much time off.
"I'm hungry to fight more. Hopefully they throw me back in there as soon as possible."
IFL champ Roy Nelson says choice to sign with Affliction was easy one
After the seemingly defunct IFL closed its doors on July 31, IFL heavyweight champion Roy Nelson found himself among the many of the organization's fighters forced into free agency.
Nelson recently told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) the choice to sign with upstart promoters Affliction was an easy one. Of course that was only after Nelson found out very unceremoniously his time with the IFL was over.
"Actually the first time I actually heard of [the IFL folding] was when I was doing a taping for 'Inside MMA' a couple of weeks back," Nelson said. "They actually announced it on the show, and that's when I found out."
Nelson said the disappointment of the league folding was tempered by his realization of new opportunities on the horizon.
"It really wasn't that tough just off the pure fact that with any business if your employer's not really sound and they don't take very good business strategies -- I knew there were bigger and better things," Nelson explained. "If [the IFL] had the potential to go get a Fedor (Emelianenko) or a Randy (Couture) or a top-10 guy like an (Andrei) Arlovski, then I would have been 10 times more happy. But I knew that wasn't going to happen."
Jackson Arraignment Postponed
By Loretta Hunt
The arraignment of former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Pictures), scheduled for Friday, has been postponed pending further investigation
Heath Herring recovering from injury, disappointment after loss to Brock Lesnar
"[Lesnar] is a pro wrestler," Herring said. "What do you expect? That's kind of his shtick. It's what he does. I figure that's what everybody expected from him."
Additionally -- despite rumors to the contrary -- Herring said there was no pre-fight clash between the two fighters.
"I don't know if [Lesnar] said something," Herring said. "I didn't really have any words with him before the bout. I've never even really met the guy.
"I've been around this sport for years. I've never really done any trash-talking or anything like that before a match. I don't know where that came from."
Herring also denied reports that he requested he not be forced to walk to the cage ahead of the hometown-hero Lesnar.
"I never even had a discussion with [the UFC] about anything," Herring insisted. "I'll be honest. You bringing that up is the first I've heard of it."
Herring said after the disappointment of the loss that he plans on taking a bit of time off to prepare himself mentally and physically for his next chance in the octagon.
"I've got to step back a little bit," Herring said. "I've got some other stuff kind of working on the backburner right now. We're going to go do some of that stuff and just see how everything pans out.
"I've got some acting possibilities. I'm going to try to do some acting a little bit.
"I'm trying to get back to training and do some other things with training.
"It's just disappointing when you kind of feel like you've done everything right and you get some bad luck early on. I've got to clean that out a little bit and get refocused. We'll be back to business before too long I imagine."
And once Herring does return, Lesnar will be on a list of targets for future opponents.
"We took the best [Lesnar] could give us for 15 minutes, and he couldn't finish it," Herring said. "I don't know what else he's going to bring to the table to finish me off.
"We took his best shot and went on from there. I'd love for him to take one of mine, and we'll see how it goes."
UFC Quick Quote: Thiago Alves via knockout of Diego Sanchez at UFC 90
”I know I’m going to knock him out. It doesn’t matter what round…. I want to put on an exciting fight for the fans. Diego is a pretty tough guy, but I can knock him out. But I have to take him down and submit him, I’ll do that. I’ll be on top of my game.”
– Thiago Alves shares his prediction (a knockout) with the Chicago Sun-Times for his upcoming welterweight scrap with Diego Sanchez at UFC 90: “Silva vs. Cote” at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Ill., on October 25. “The Pitbull” has every reason to be confident — he is riding impressive back-to-back technical knockout wins over top contenders, Matt Hughes and Karo Parisyan. The winner of this fight will likely land a spot behind BJ Penn as the next 170-pound title challenger or at the very least earn a berth in a number one contender eliminator match.
Kirk Florian Poised For Amateur MMA Debut
As if jumping into the cage and fighting another human being in close combat for the first time wasn't pressure enough, when Kirk Florian makes his amateur debut at Full Force Productions: Untamed 22 show in Plymouth, Mass. against Colin Joyce (1-0), he'll have some big shoes to fill. He's the younger brother of UFC lightweight phenom Kenny Florian.
Quote of the day: Hansen will never fight for the UFC
I would fight anyone of the UFC lightweights, but the problem is that I will never put my foot in the octagon after they (UFC) tried to be funny, I would rather have bleeding hemorrhoids than fight for the UFC.
- Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen, who was none too pleased when Zuffa bought PRIDE and tried to offer him 1/2 of his contracted salary for a fight against Marcus Aurelio.
Elite XC cancels Sept. 20th event.
"The organization has canceled their planned September 20 event in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not postponed. Not rescheduled. Straight-up canceled. They still have plans for an October 4 show on CBS, so this is far from a death knell for Elite XC, but it’s not something to celebrate, either."
Hopefully this isn't the first crack in the foundation.
Herring ''First Punch Fractured Orbital''
Heath Herring claims that the right hand that Brock Lesnar landed at the start of their fight last Saturday fractured his orbital bone and partially blinded him.
He updated his profile on a major social networking site with a post detailing the causes and symptoms of orbital fractures.
“The orbit is the bony structure around the eye. An orbital fracture usually occurs after some type of injury or a strike to the face,” he wrote.
Later he spoke to MMA Mania and said that the blow from Lesnar had made him “start off right away blind”.
Shields Vs Lindland At Affliction 2
There are strong rumours that EliteXC welterweight champion Jake Shields is being lined up to face Matt Lindland at Affliction 2.
Lindland was supposed to be fighting Vitor Belfort on the October 11th show, but the Brazilian has pulled out citing a broken hand.
Last week, Shields told an interviewer from MMA Weekly that he was currently fielding “a really good offer to fight a top 185-pounder”.
He expressed hope that EliteXC would allow him to “go out there” and fight the unnamed opponent.
But Affliction vice-president Tom Atencio has been tight-lipped about the situation, refusing to acknowledge that it is his company which is looking at bringing Shields in for a middleweight fight.
Joe Riggs' plan: Move to 170 pounds, return to the UFC
With a September bout with highly regarded middleweight Kazuo Misaki (20-8-2) on the horizon, Joe Riggs (28-10) on Thursday told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) it will be his last in the division.
The Riggs vs. Misaki bout is one of a handful of matches that have been officially announced for "Strikeforce at the Mansion II," scheduled for Sept. 20 at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Riggs, who has fought from 170 pounds all the way up to heavyweight in his seven-year career, said the decision was made based on the way his 25-year-old body has developed.
Vitor Belfort out of Affliction 2
After his victory at Affliction’s debut, Vitor Belfort now is recovering from his broken hand and has been scratched from Affliction 2. “Man, I’m doing physiotherapy now and won’t be able to fight at October 11th, I wanna fight with 100%, so I’ll be at the next show to fight for the title”, said the athlete to TATAME, confirming that he’ll still fight for the title. “I spoke to them yesterday and they said I’ll face the winner of Matt Lindland’s next bout for the middleweight title. He doesn’t have an opponent yet, but the winner of this fight will face me probably in December”, told the athlete.
Imanari Challenges for DEEP Title on Sunday
Cage Rage featherweight champion Masakazu Imanari will drop down to the bantamweight division to challenge Hiroshi Umemura for DEEP’s vacant bantamweight title this Sunday at the organization’s “37th Impact” event, which takes place at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan.
The fight will be Imanari’s first since losing his DEEP featherweight title to UFC veteran Dokonjonosuke Mishima via majority decision back in May. It was Imanari’s second career loss to Mishima and his first defeat since dropping a decision to Fredson Paixao in August of 2006.