White: Despite stadium-show hesitation, UFC 129's going to "whole other level"
UFC president Dana White is acutely aware that he's straying into uncharted territory.
When UFC 129 hits Rogers Centre in Toronto, it will be the biggest venue the promotion ever has occupied for a live event.
Approximately 42,000 seats will be up for grabs – almost double the number available for three of the UFC's biggest gatebusters, which were all held in Canada.
The country is, as White often gushes, a second home for the promotion, and the demand appears to be there for a stadium event. But the sheer size of Rogers Centre will force him to confront an issue he thus has far tried to avoid: the fan who pays 50 bucks for a nosebleed to watch a pair of dancing ants.
White said today that he has a plan to combat the problem, though he is keeping details a secret for now.
"Nobody was more worried about that than me – believe me," he said at a press conference held today in Toronto in support of UFC 129, which is headlined by a welterweight title fight between champ and box-office goldmine Georges St-Pierre and challenger Jake Shields. "I've said for years that I don't know about doing stadiums. What I think has helped the UFC get as big as it has is the live-event experience. And the last guy on earth that wants to ruin that for anybody is me."
The UFC drew in excess of 20,000 fans in three out of four events it held in Montreal's Bell Centre. Two of those events – UFC 84 and UFC 124 – were headlined by champ St-Pierre and generated live gates in excess of $4 million. The venue is not unlike the arenas where UFC events are held; large video screens are placed throughout the upper decks to bring the action closer to fans seated there.
Still, it's a strain to see the fighters from upper decks, especially when they hit the mat. But when combined with the video screens, it's a fair deal.
White guarantees the live experience won't change for rafter-dwellers.
"I never want the fans to not only turn off their television and say, 'That sucked,' I don't want the fans to walk away who bought tickets to have a bad experience either," he said. "I'm actually pumped for the experience we're planning for you guys here in Toronto.
"We're going to do things in this arena that we've never done in any arena, ever before. People worrying the experience isn't going to be the same – it's not. It's going to be better. We're taking it to a whole other level, and I'm really excited about it."
UFC 126 sets "UFC Prelims" record with 2 million viewers on Spike TV
This past weekend's "UFC Prelims" broadcast on Spike TV, which coincided with the Feb. 5 "UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort" event, scored a series-high 2 million viewers.
Spike TV officials today emailed the ratings information to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
The broadcast, which featured preliminary-card fights of Donald Cerrone vs. Paul Kelly and Chad Mendes vs. Michihiro Omigawa, topped the previous 13 "UFC Prelims" installments and the former record of 1.7 million viewers.
UFC 126 took place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Prior to the Spike TV broadcast, the UFC streamed another prelim fight, Demetrious Johnson vs. Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, for free on Facebook.
Overall, the Spike TV broadcast earned a 1.2 household rating, including an impressive 1.7 among men 18-49. The one-hour broadcast was the highest-rated program in its timeslot among men 18-49 and men 18-34.
The full list of "UFC Prelims" broadcasts and ratings, as compiled by MMAjunkie.com, includes:
* 1) UFC 125 (February 2011): 2.0 million viewers
* 2) UFC 109 (February 2010): 1.7 million viewers
* 3) UFC 114 (May 2010): 1.6 million viewers
* 4) UFC 108 (January 2010): 1.5 million viewers
* 4) UFC 121 (October 2010): 1.5 million viewers
* 4) UFC 123 (November 2010): 1.5 million viewers
* 7) UFC 104 (October 2009): 1.4 million viewers
* 7) UFC 103 (September 2009): 1.4 million viewers
* 9) UFC 119 (September 2010): 1.3 million viewers
* 9) UFC 116 (July 2010): 1.3 million viewers
* 9) UFC 115 (June 2010): 1.3 million viewers
* 9) UFC 106 (November 2009): 1.3 million viewers
* 13) UFC 111 (March 2010): 1.2 million viewers
* 14) UFC 118 (August 2010): 1.1 million viewers
Report: Sengoku Releases Jorge Santiago
Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago has been granted his release by the organization, MMA Fighting has learned from sources close to the promotion. Santiago's manager Malki Kawa of Authentic Sports Management wouldn't confirm or deny that Santiago is now a free agent when reached for comment, but additional sources say Santiago is looking to sign imminently with a major North American promotion. The 23-8 fighter won the Sengoku middleweight title in January 2009, defeating Kazuo Misaki via technical submission. In August, he defeated Misaki again in a fight many consider to be the best of 2010.
Phil Baroni vs. Nick Nolte (Not The Actor) Added To Titan FC 17
After a recent UFC release, veteran Phil Baroni returns to the cage on March 25 to take on Nick Nolte at Titan Fighting Championships 17. Officials today announced the middleweight fight. The event, which airs live on HDNet, takes place at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., the usual home for Titan events. Baroni, whom the UFC release following a Jan. 1 loss to Brad Tavares, is stuck in a three-fight losing skid and his lost six of his past nine fights, which included stints with Strikeforce, EliteXC and Cage Rage. But in early January, Titan officials announced they had signed the notable to a multi-fight deal. Nolte (not the actor), a Kansas City-area fighter, went 7-3 as an amateur before making his pro MMA debut in early 2009. The one-time Strikeforce and Bellator fighter recently scored a second-round submission victory over Lee Werr at a regional event in Kansas.
Kenny Florian Moving To Featherweight
Looks like the rumors were true after all. Kenny Florian, having lost in two separate bids for the lightweight championship and coming off a loss in a number one contender fight against Gray Maynard at UFC 118, is officially making the drop down to featherweight. For now. "I started playing around with the idea: could I make 145? Originally, I didn't think it was possible. I spoke with a few nutritionists, got their opinions, told them what my body fat was, my walking-around weight, all that stuff and the general consensus was that it was very possible. I put a lot of thought into it, spoke with my coaches and everybody involved and decided that I am going to try it. I'm going to go for it."
"For me it's first things first. My goal is to get the 145-pound belt, and then go up to 155 and challenge for that belt as well." No plans to ask for an immediate title shot against the Jose Aldo-Mark Hominick winner though.
Alleged Theft Forces Cancellation of Immortal MMA Event in Hawaii
WAHIAWA, Hawaii -- Originally supposed to host a night a mixed martial arts fights, the Martinez Gym at Schofield Army Barracks was instead the scene of an alleged crime.
The event, which was being promoted by Immortal MMA and was to be headlined by a light heavyweight bout between Jason Guida and Tasi Edwards, was canceled on Saturday just moments before it was set to begin.
“I was notified that the purse money for the fighters had been stolen out of one of the inspector’s vehicles, so, obviously, we had to take the legal route and get the Military Police and [Honolulu Police Department] and all that involved,” said Jeremy Varney, the event’s promoter. “I brought all the fighters and their managers into the room and explained to them the situation; the state explained to them the situation. And then we gave them the option [that] if they wanted to fight, they could fight and I would pay them at a later date, or they could just walk if they wanted to.
“Ultimately, I made the decision [to cancel the event] because there were only six fighters that agreed to fight out of nine bouts,” he added. “The rest of them were just, you know, it was more ‘I want to get paid’ than it was a fight for the troops, which is completely understandable. You know, [the fighters] train their asses off and they want to get paid and I completely understand. That’s business.”
"Rampage" Jackson cites poor timing, weight for UFC 128 title-fight decline
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson wants to be well-prepared when he fights Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, and taking a fight with the UFC light-heavyweight champion on short notice runs contrary to that plan.
Jackson today responded to Rua's revelation that "Rampage" turned down a title shot that subsequently was given to Jon "Bones" Jones at UFC 126. The title-fight slot opened when Rashad Evans recently went down with a knee injury.
"I don't care who the opponent is," Jackson said in an exclusive interview with MMAjunkie.com. "I'm not taking a fight on four weeks' notice."
Jakes Shields Plans to Submit St. Pierre, Wants Anderson Silva
Fresh off a visit to Toronto I caught up with Jake Shields. In his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview he talked about the long awaited matchup with St. Pierre, shared his plans derailing the super-fight the MMA world is calling and talked about his recent trip to Toronto to promote his title bout at UFC 129.
"I had to do some press and seminar stuff up there but overall the trip was great," Shields explained in regards to his Toronto visit. "They are really excited for the fight in Toronto. I had a lot of fans up there and I'm sure most of them are going to turn on me when I fight GSP but I still had a great reception."
During this trip a photo hit the internet of Shields wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey while holding up another of St. Pierre's hometown Montreal Canadians.Neither Shields or GSP have been big trash talkers in the past but Shields felt a subtle push was in order.
After "Rampage" Jackson declined, Jon Jones got UFC 128 title fight
Before Jon Jones ultimately got a UFC 128 title with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was offered the bout but turned it down.
A UFC official today confirmed the turn of events with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). Rua first mentioned the possibility in an interview with Tatame.com.
The March 19 slot opened this past weekend when Rashad Evans's knee injury forced him out of the upcoming title fight, which takes place in Newark, N.J. as a pay-per-view headliner.
With Jackson turning down the title fight, he still officially is scheduled to fight Thiago Silva in the co-headliner of May's UFC 130 event. Soon after that fight's announcement, UFC president Dana White hinted that Jackson could be in line for a title shot with a victory.
The reason Jackson turned down the title fight wasn't immediately clear. The UFC official declined to comment, and the fighter's representatives couldn't be reached.
Rep: If Jones beats "Shogun," Evans could move to middleweight or heavyweight
It's no secret that the course of Rashad Evans' UFC career will be determined by what happens on March 19.
That's when his training partner, Jon Jones, meets champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in a UFC 128 light-heavyweight title bout originally designated for Evans.
But if Jones (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) is victorious, Evans (15-1 MMA, 10-1-1 UFC) has plenty of options that include trips to middleweight or even heavyweight, his co-manager, Malki Kawa, told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
Evans sprained his MCL in training this past week and was forced to withdraw from the bout with Rua (19-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC). In a lousy twist of irony, he had chosen to stay out of the cage while waiting for the light-heavyweight champ to recover from a knee injury of his own. Evans, who previously held the title, earned his latest title shot with a decision win over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson this past May at UFC 114.
Chael Sonnen: 'Anderson Silva revealed yet another weakness for me to exploit in our rematch'
"Thank you, Anderson, for revealing yet another weakness for me to exploit in our rematch. Beating that poor punching bag doesn't impress Uncle Chael, guy. You tipped your hand like a chump poker player at a $5 table in Atlantic City. You may have beaten Vitor, but in the process, you LOST your edge. By beating that husk, you gave me the last page of your playbook. Revel in your time, [because] it ENDS the night you face me. I will mow you down like autumn wheat, AGAIN."
Dana White says Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann still on for UFC 130
Despite conflicting reports, UFC president Dana White insists Wanderlei Silva (33-10-1 MMA, 3-5 UFC) will indeed meet Brian Stann (10-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) at UFC 130.
The UFC boss told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that while Silva has shown some resistance to the matchup, the two middleweight sluggers will indeed meet in May.
"It's on," White said flatly of the matchup. "It's on."
Japan, Sweden on deck for UFC events in 2011
The Ultimate Fighting Championship will blaze a new international trail in 2011, as well as revist a long-lost friend.
Following Saturday's successful UFC 126 event in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White confirmed that the UFC is planning to host live events in both Sweden and Japan before the end of the calendar year.
The UFC never has held an event in Sweden; the company hasn't visited Japan since December 2000.
White revealed the plans for Sweden earlier this week in an interview with Swedish MMA news website MMANytt.se, and he confirmed the UFC's intentions with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
While the news certainly will be well-received by Swedish fans, it unquestionably is less shocking that White's revelation that a Japanese event likely will take place before the end of the year.
"We think we're going to get it done," White said. "Everything that needs to happen to go to Japan has fallen into place so far, so it's looking good. It's on our calendar this year."
Jon Jones: I'm Going To Win This Fight Against Mauricio Rua At UFC 128
That's what he told Ariel Helwani last night. "You know what, I thought Shogun was cool when I was younger because he was a 23-year old Pride champ, and I love Jose Aldo because he's a 23-year old UFC champion. I'm definitely not afraid of it, I know it's very possible. Right now, I just need to keep the people close to me that's always been there and realize that there's going to be a lot more distractions coming my way but I'm prepared for it mentally. And I promise myself that I won't allow myself to fall by the wayside. I'm way too close to my dreams to slow down or start doing anything dumb and I won't do anything dumb. I'm gonna win this fight."
UFC lightweight Tyson Griffin headed to featherweight division
Although currently sidelined by a knee injury, former UFC lightweight contender Tyson Griffin has some big plans for his return to the cage: a drop in weight class.
The move to featherweight likely will come later this year.
Griffin recently announced the plans, which he hopes lead to a title shot, in a video update on his official website.
Alistair Overeem: 'Cain Velasquez is number one because I haven't competed against the names'
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem admits that UFC champion Cain Velasquez is the No. 1 heavyweight in mixed martial arts.
But Overeem says that won't be the case by the end of the year.
"Cain Velasquez is No. 1 now because I haven't competed against the names," Overeem told MMAFighting.com. "So there is that argument, that I haven't fought the caliber opponents I should -- I wanted to, but either they wouldn't fight me, or the schedule didn't work out. But that's what this tournament is about."