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?"
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.
ESPN to Feature Carano
The "face of women's MMA" is getting a whole lot more familiar.
Gina Carano , the raven-haired heroine of EliteXC events on Showtime, will be featured on ESPN's "E:60" newsmagazine on Tuesday, May 13, at 7 p.m. ET. The segment will focus on the 26-year-old's preparations for her sixth career bout against Minnesota Martial Arts' Kaitlin Young (4-1) at EliteXC "Primetime," on Saturday, May 31, in Newark, N.J.
The bout will be broadcast on CBS at 9 p.m. ET, a first run for the sport on mainstream television. Both ladies boast backgrounds in muay Thai.
The photogenic Carano is currently in Los Angeles shooting episodes of the second season of NBC's "American Gladiators," which debuts Sunday, May 12, at 8 p.m. ET.
More money than meets the eye in the UFC
One of my passions in life is technology. I’m obsessed with gizmos and gadgets and am all but in love with my iPhone.
A friend who knows about my obsession had a computer he wanted to sell on eBay and asked me what I felt it was worth. He went to a Web site that showed an estimated street value, one I felt was considerably too high.
He argued that his asking price was justified because this web site was made up of experts and they agreed with him.
True, I said, but something is only worth what someone else will pay for it. And when we went to eBay and looked at completed listings for a computer with specs similar to his, he was shocked. People were only paying about half of what he thought he could get.
And that same analogy is true when it comes to fighter compensation. There is a lot of debate in the mixed martial arts media over what the UFC pays its fighters. It’s easy to take the stance that the fighters deserve more pay.
The 10 most embarrassing MMA performances
Immortality was granted to Kalib Starnes at UFC 83, but for all the wrong reasons.
In front of a career-record audience of more than 20,000, Starnes looked more cyclist than fighter, backpedaling against Nate Quarry and doing the equivalent of a day's roadwork on the canvas. The apathy to engage was so severe that the normally stoic Quarry began mocking him in the closing moments, faux-sprinting around the ring and shrugging his shoulders to an inflamed crowd.
(You thought the $44.95 was a sting for that fight? Try a couple of grand for a 10th-row seat.)
In a sport in which self-preservation is understood to mean tapping or ducking, Starnes' performance is likely to earn him the title of MMA's Roberto Duran, a fighter forever reviled for what is perceived to be a gutless display of inaction. Like Duran, it's unlikely he knew how much he was soiling his reputation until it was too late.
The same goes for these other athletes, who for whatever reason -- injury, illness or just plain cage fright -- saw their stock plummet after hollow displays of valor.
In ascending order of audience ipecac:
Quarry Talks Starnes And The Rock-Hammer
Nate "Rock" Quarry won a unanimous decision over Canadian fighter Kalib Starnes at UFC 83. He also won over a lot of fans for his performance and in-Octagon antics during what turned out to be one of the most bizarre fights in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.
Following his bout with Rich Franklin at UFC 56, Quarry underwent back surgery to repair disc damage from a degenerative condition that resulted in having several vertebra fused together. Many thought his fighting career was over. Defying the odds, he returned nearly two years later at UFC Fight Night 11 with a knockout victory over Pete Sell.
Following his successful comeback, Quarry requested a bout with Kalib Starnes. The bout was turned down by Starnes’ camp. “When I called Joe Silva at first to make my comeback in the UFC, I just thought (Starnes’) style would be perfect for mine and it would be a good warm-up fight for me," Quarry told MMAWeekly.
"(Silva) contacted his camp and the response was, ‘No. We don't want that fight. He just lost. We just won, so he doesn't deserve to fight us.’ At that moment I just kind of made a mental note that some day I'm going to give you a beating if at all possible."
Head Of The Class: ASU Wrestlers Take On MMA
Wrestlers have always had a special place in the world of mixed martial arts. One particular group of wrestlers from Arizona State University have made a mark lately, positioning themselves as the new breed of athletes competing in MMA.
While Arizona State has always been a top school for collegiate wrestling, it has also produced many top MMA fighters including Dan Severn, Dan Henderson, and Don Frye. Now, a new group of grapplers from Arizona State has proven the team still knows how to produce great fighters.
C.B. Dollaway, Ryan Bader, and Cain Velasquez were all a part of the Arizona State wrestling team. Recently, all three have made successful transitions into MMA.
“Basically, when I came to Arizona State, it put me in a great position to be a great collegiate wrestler. I came in with Ryan Bader and Cain Velasquez, it was kind of like a 1-2-3 punch,” said Dollaway about his teammates. “So we all worked out together and my coach Aaron Simpson, who’s a two time All-American who was trying to make the Olympics. Just a bunch of great guys to workout with.”
The work ethic displayed showed on the wrestling mat as all three were All-American wrestlers in their time at Arizona State and it’s that commitment that helped them transition to MMA as well.
St. Pierre epitomizes lightning-fast evolution of MMA
The perfect mixed martial artist used to be a skinny Brazilian with little ability to punch, kick or wrestle. Which means he wasn't perfect at all. All Royce Gracie could do was take his opponent to the ground and twist him into taffy, but that was enough to dominate the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That was in the mid-1990s. Not so long ago.
Georges St. Pierre is the perfect amalgam of every MMA fighting style. (AP)
Georges St. Pierre is the perfect amalgam of every MMA fighting style. (AP)
Since then the sport has become unrecognizable. Royce Gracie in his prime, with his exact skill set from the mid-'90s, couldn't survive today. What was perfect in 1995 has become outdated in 2008. On an individual level, mixed martial artists are growing as fast as their once-underground sport. Maybe faster. Which makes MMA startling and even exhilarating for a traditional sports fan such as myself. And maybe such as yourself.
Fedor Must Repay 1.5 Mil signing bonus before being officially released
Despite “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko’s (27-1) official website claim that he has signed a contract to fight heavyweight “Maine-iac” Tim Sylvia (24-4), the fight is not yet official.
Emelianenko must repay the $1.5 million signing bonus to the group that formed M-1 Global in October 2007 before he is officially released from the agreement he made with M-1 Global
That M-1 Global group has since formed Adrenaline MMA. Andrenaline MMA’s Vice-President Brian Patton said today, “[Emelianenko and his management] have only paid part of [the debt] and are not released yet.”
Joe Rogan Not Going Anywhere
One of the more annoying things on the internet is when people make stuff up and report it as news because it's possible that it could happen
A good example is a recent article by nutcase Rich Bergeron suggesting that Rogan was leaving the UFC:
.However, chatter coming into the Fight News Unlimited offices point to more than just "unspecified previous obligations" preventing Rogan from lending his comic voice to the Pay-Per-View broadcast, and his absence may not be temporary.
Fight News Unlimited received information from a reliable source recently pointing to a possible Carlos Mencia-esque rift between Rogan and UFC President Dana White. No, Dana White's not stealing Rogan's jokes, but rumor has it that White recently mandated that there be absolutely no mention of Randy Couture's name in any future UFC broadcasts. Rogan has been outspoken about Couture and the impact of Captain America's departure on the UFC and the sport of MMA.
Joe Rogan posted today at The Underground that the rumors are "bullshit," and went into more detail on his blog.
There's been a lot of goofy articles written on the internet lately about me missing the UFC card in Montreal this weekend, speculating all sorts of silly reasons why I'm not going to be there, so I figured it would be a good idea if I cleared it up here. The only reason I'm not going to be there is because of a family obligation.
I'm certainly not upset at the UFC, and I'm not quitting to start doing commentary for a rival organization. I've also heard some ridiculous shit about me having massive fallout with the UFC president Dana White, which couldn't be further from the truth. Dana is a very good friend of mine, and in the 7 years I've known him we've never even had a single disagreement.
Ortiz tried to hire Belfort for his trains to face Lyoto
Carlson Gracie’s black belt, Vitor Belfort, that is training at Minotauro team and at Nova Geração, bet at Lyoto Machida, his ex-train mate, in his next bout at UFC 84 in May, against Tito Ortiz. “Lyoto has the skills to win, but is a tough fight. Two famous athletes, but I believe that Lyoto has more chances, he is at fight rhythm and Tito is star”, tell Belfort that reveal that Toto Ortiz tried to hire him to help at train to the fight.
“Tito wanted to hire me with a lot of money, but I said no. I said that money can’t buy everything.
Joey Villasenor replaces Ninja Rua against Phil Baroni on May 31
The same day Elite XC issued a press release that the main card was set for “Saturday Night Fights” on CBS we already have a change in the line up.
Murilo “Ninja” Rua has been scratched for the show at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on May 31 and has been replaced with Joey Villasenor (25-6) who will tangle with Phil Baroni (10-9) in a 185-pound scrap.
No reason was given for the switch.
St. Pierre, "I Will Win Or I Will Go To The Hospital"
When Georges St. Pierre travels to the Bell Centre in Montreal on April 19 to battle Matt Serra for the UFC welterweight title, he won’t have to venture far, as the fight is taking place in his hometown.
He won’t have to look very far for his most adamant supporters; they will surely be in attendance.
He won’t have to dig very deep for the motivation to fight the man who beat him for the title almost exactly one year ago.
He will now battle for his shot at redemption and a second reign as the 170-pound king of the MMA world.
With the rematch between Georges St. Pierre and Matt Serra just days away, the current interim welterweight champion, who stated he will not bring the belt with him to the fight with Serra, is focused on the task at hand and excited about fighting for the title in front of his hometown fans.
“It pumped me up so much, I can’t believe it,” St. Pierre said about the fight taking place in Montreal. “It’s a dream come true. It’s a great opportunity for me to shine in front of my people by winning the world title, and that’s the guy I’ve wanted to fight for a long time, too, because he beat me. I can’t wait, it’s going to be fun.”
Working with St. Pierre for this fight are a familiar cast of training partners including Denis Kang, Nate Marquardt, Rashad Evans and, of course, lead trainer Greg Jackson, who will formulate the game plan that is expected to beat Serra.
“I’ve been working for my game plan against Serra. Like I said, in (this) fight people will see some stuff that I’ve never shown before,” St. Pierre stated in an interview with MMAWeekly Radio. “Some stuff people have never seen in MMA. So it’s going to be interesting. Don’t blink because the fight can finish very early, or it can go to the distance, but don’t blink.”
Randy Couture Signs Exclusive Sponsorship With Everlast
The following is provided courtesy of a press release from Everlast:
Everlast Worldwide Inc., manufacturer, marketer and licensor of sporting goods, apparel, footwear, and other active lifestyle products under the Everlast brand name is proud to announce that they have partnered with Randy “The Natural” Couture with a long term exclusive contract. Couture a six-time UFC Champion and the most celebrated name in the sport was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and was the first fighter to hold titles in both the Heavyweight and Light-Heavyweight divisions.
This long-term partnership marks the commitment of Everlast to become the premiere brand in the fastest growing sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The partnership with Couture allows him to exclusively wear Everlast fight shorts, fight gloves, training equipment and training apparel. In addition, Everlast will be the exclusive equipment and apparel sponsor of Xtreme Couture Gyms, in all locations. Together, Everlast and Couture will collaborate on a co-branded line of MMA equipment that will set the standard for equipment and apparel in MMA. Additionally, the partnership will work on developing grassroots programs to teach the youth, and create fitness clinics and retail concept shops.