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
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.
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”.
Donald Trump will always have a seat at Dana White’s table
“I have a ton of respect for [Donald Trump]. When the Fertittas bought the UFC, most venues wouldn’t deal with us. We were outlaws. Our first event was at the Trump Taj Mahal, and Trump actually came to the fights. You’ll never hear me say a bad word about Donald Trump. He can have my seats anytime.”
– UFC President Dana White — who is featured in the most recent edition of Playboy magazine — talks about just about everything, including his thoughts on Mark Cuban (HDNet Fights) and Donald Trump (Affliction MMA). He also touches on the HBO deal that never was, John McCain and Barrack Obama, boxing, ratings and the percieved violence of the sport. And of course, Tito Ortiz, calling him a “bigmouthed bitch, that clown.” Head over to WrestlingObserver.com for the annotated Cliffs Notes version of the sit-down. Or just go buy Playboy as soon as possible. You might actually get away with the “I read it for the articles” excuse on this one.
Nobody Will Fight Cain Velasquez
According to Bryan Alvarez, the UFC has still not found an opponent for Cain Velasquez at UFC 90:
UFC sources say that despite reports of Cain Velasquez vs. Antoni Hardonk for the Chicago show, as of this morning, there was no opponent for Velasquez.
Dave Meltzer recently noted that they are having a lot of trouble finding people to take fights against Velasquez. He is very good, but he has no name value yet, so fighters don't see any upside in facing him.
Fabricio Werdum, the number one contender, is supposedly booked on this show against Junior dos Santos. This fight really makes no sense at all, it's a guy that is barely known to UFC fans against another that is completely unknown. If Werdum is the top contender, he should fight Velasquez on this show.
Jackson Arraignment Postponed
The arraignment of former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Pictures) has been postponed Friday pending further investigation into his July 15 arrest in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Jackson was arrested on suspicion of felony evading, reckless driving and hit-and-run charges following a chase by authorities that saw elite fighter’s Ford pick-up truck bounce off other vehicles, jump street medians and swerve onto sidewalks, which “caused pedestrians to flee in terror,” according to a Costa Mesa police department report.
Demian Maia Interview
With three submissions in three bouts in UFC, Demian Maia now is 7-0 in MMA, but in his las fight he had more trouble to finish Jason MacDonald. For the first time ever, Demian needed three rounds to beat his opponent, but it’s not bad at all. Speaking to TATAME.com, the BJJ black belt chat about his last fight, the training with Wanderlei Silva and Rafael Alejarra, the plans for the extra money with the best submission of the night and his next fight in UFC. Check below the complete interview with Demian Maia.
Morris-Brilz Set for UFC Fight Night 15
Australia native Brad Morris will make the drop down to the light heavyweight division to face UFC newcomer Jason Brilz when the Ultimate Fighting Championship travels to Omaha, Nebraska for UFC Fight Night 15 on September 17th.
Sources close to the fight informed MMA on Tap that both fighters had recently agreed to meet. The fight is expected to take place as one of the event’s non-televised preliminary bouts.
Amir Sadollah’s Return
Ultimate Fighter Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah is preparing for his first fight since defeating C.B. Dalloway in the finals on June 21. Sadollah said that he’ll be fighting again in September or - more likely - October. At this point, the opponent is not known.
One question Sadollah did answer for certain though is which weight class he’ll be fighting at.
I’ll be fighting at middleweight. I will not be dropping to 170,” said Sadollah.
Sadollah has also moved from Virginia to Las Vegas to train at - where else - Xtreme Couture.
PENN WILL HOLD ONTO LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE FOR NOW
Not before and not since Dan Henderson won the Pride 183-pound and 205-pound titles has a fighter in a major organization held two belts in two weight classes simultaneously, but it appears current Ultimate Fighting Championship 155-pound king, B.J. Penn, will try to do that very thing as he sets his sites on welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre later this year.
But what does that mean for the 155-pound weight class and the lightweight championship if Penn is off fighting for another title in a different division?
"B.J.'s not vacating the 155-pound title,” according to UFC president Dana White following UFC 87 in Minnesota last weekend.
Of course this puts possibly the deepest weight class in all the UFC on hold for an indefinite amount of time as Penn and St. Pierre aren’t likely to clash before late December and the lightweight title could be out of the picture until some time deep into 2009.
Quote of the Day: Dana White Trashes Tim Sylvia
"He’s not the best pound-for-pound fighter, not even close, but he’s one of the four or five best heavyweights...But we all have to thank him for getting rid of Tim Sylvia. He’d been stinking out the joint the last couple of years and Fedor did everyone a favor by beating him so easily and getting rid of him."
-- Dana White, in a new Kevin Iole column, thanking Emelianenko for "getting rid" of Sylvia. Interestingly, Emelianenko somewhat corroborates White's assessment by saying he doesn't consider himself the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world either.
Oh yeah, so much for Sylvia returning to the Octagon to finish out his career. I suspect White might be holding his tongue in the event Arlovski returns, however.
Randy Couture’s Pricetag: $6-10 Million
I’d love for the UFC to step up and make the fight [with Fedor Emelianenko] happen. It has the potential to be the biggest mixed martial arts fight to date…It has the potential to do 700,000+ pay-per-view buys which is a helluva lotta money. I think 6-10 [million should be the salary] for each of us and they’re still gonna make a boatload of money on top of that.
Now I am beginning to believe that this fight will never happen. No way any promoter can make it happen at that price tag.
Josh Burkman and Pete Sell signed for UFC 90 bout
The Ultimate Fighter 4" middleweight contestant Pete "Drago" Sell (7-4 MMA, 1-4 UFC) will drop to welterweight to fight "TUF 1" alumnus Josh Burkman (9-6 MMA, 5-4 UFC) at October's UFC 90 event.
Sources close to both fighters today confirmed the upcoming bout with MMAjunkie.com and said that bout agreements were recently signed.