UFC-ESPN Strategic Parternship?

March 31, 2008

MMAPayout.com has received an unconfirmed report that the UFC and ESPN are discussing a potential strategic partnership. Representatives from each company reportedly met for what were described as extensive discussions last week in New York and Bristol, Connecticut. While Spike is the official cable home of the UFC, there is no longer an ABC Sports division, only ESPN on ABC, leading to speculation that such a partnership could lead to live events on ABC.

It should be noted that this is an unconfirmed report. As a result, it should be considered rumor or informed speculation at best.

Fraud Against Fedor?

March 31, 2008

The Korea Times reports:

South Korean prosecutors indicted the local chief of a Russian martial arts agency for fraud Monday after he allegedly used the publicity rights of Fedor Emelianenko, the famed Russian mixed martial arts fighter, without consent.

Emelianenko filed the suit early this month over a “shoddy” honey commercial that went on air on Korean cable television featuring his image. The world heavyweight champion sought 1.55 billion won ($1.6 million) in compensation from the president of Korea Sambo Federation and the head of a local apiculture agency whose honey product the commercial promoted.

Zuffa Executive Speaks Out on International Expansion and Pro Wrestling Crossover

March 31, 2008

Fighting Spirit Magazine has a very candid interview with Marshall Zelaznik, President of Zuffa’s United Kingdom division, Zuffa UK Limited. In addition to overseeing the company’s UK expansion, Zelaznik is also responsible for extending the UFC brand internationally. The interview is one of the most revealing and candid ever given by a Zuffa executive. The interview is now available in its entirety on MMAPayout.com.

FULL INTERVIEW: Marshall’s Law (Extended Version)

Electric: EliteXC-Strikeforce, Shamrock-Le Deliver Memorable Night

March 30, 2008

The honest truth is that most MMA events, like most sporting events, are forgettable. The event is hyped, some better than others; fans are excited, sometimes more than others; anticipation builds; the event happens, some are more entertaining than others; fans are satisfied, sometimes more than others; and the process repeats itself with the last event forgotten, remembered only for its relevance to the hype of the next event. As the relentless expansion of MMA on television continues, this is phenomenon that will on increase. But occasionally an event, or at least a fight, transcends that pattern and becomes something special.

Only hours removed from the glow, last night’s EliteXC-Strikeforce co-promotion, or at the very least its main event, feels like one of those special nights that people remember. From top to bottom this was one of the strongest shows I can recall seeing, with conclusive finishes in every fight, but it was the main event that may transform this from a good show into a legendary show, an “instant classic” in MMA.

The tone for the night was actually set five minutes before the live broadcast began with a brilliant five minute Showtime short interview with Frank Shamrock. It was five of the most effective promotional minutes you will ever see. There was nothing fancy about it, just a get to know you rapid fire interview with Shamrock’s charisma turning it into something great. In case you didn’t believe he would be one of the biggest draws in the sport instantly with the right television platform, he proved it again later in the broadcast during another promotional piece.

The Shamrock-Le main event is a must see and a rematch is a no brainer. EXC’s second CBS date is reportedly set for July, giving Shamrock three months to heal. The politics of the EXC-Strikeforce arrangement have always been difficult and will undoubtedly become more difficult now that both have their own network TV deals, but Le-Shamrock II may be the best fight all of MMA (including the UFC) can offer on network TV right now.

Despite what was probably a disappointing finish for some, the fight is an early fight of the year candidate and one of the best fights I’ve ever seen. It was such a great fight for three rounds, enhanced by a hot crowd, that I was shocked at the finish (when Shamrock couldn’t come out for the fourth round with a broken arm), but not disappointed.

This was a star making turn for Le and perfect timing for Strikeforce as they go national on NBC with Le as the face of the promotion. If NBC representatives were in the building, or even watching at home, it is easy to imagine visions of the rematch live on NBC dancing in their heads. This was that kind of main event on that kind of show.

The weakest segment of the entire broadcast was a live interview with Kimbo Slice in the middle of the cage. He got a nice reaction, but nothing close to a super star reaction, at least not at the level of Shamrock or Le. Even though he’s become the face of the brand and is a legitimate phenomenon, EXC has to be careful about shoving him down people’s throats. Kimbo has a great look and persona to go with an exciting style, but the segment died when he started talking. In his defense, he was put in a position to fail with nothing to talk about (like who he will be facing on the CBS debut).

It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers the show does to see if there was any bump from the CBS publicity or the strength of the event itself. Speaking of CBS, it’s a shame that EliteXC can’t bottle tonight for its network television debut because it will be hard pressed to live up to this performance. This was the kind of show that gains traction for a brand, the kind of show that people point to as the turning point for a company. However, given than it was Strikeforce’s main event and live promotion, the case can be made that, if there is a turning point to be pointed to, it belongs to Scott Coker and company, not EliteXC.

Three Ways to See Shamrock-Le Tonight

March 29, 2008

Tonight’s EliteXC-Strikeforce event is available on Showtime ($10 per month on Time Warner Cable), pay-per-view for $24.95, and Showtime.com will have a free online stream of the cage cam for Shamrock-Le. The main card:

  • Joe Villasenor (24-6) v. Ryan Jensen (11-3)
  • Mike Kyle (9-5-1) v. Wayne Cole (10-6)
  • STRIKEFORCE LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE:
    • Gilbert Melendez (13-1) v. Gabe Lemley (11-6)
  • Drew Fickett (31-5) v. Jae Suk Lim (9-3)
  • STRIKEFORCE MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE:
    • Frank Shamrock (25-8-2) vs. Cung Le (5-0)

Gary Shaw will also announce Kimbo Slice’s opponent for EXC’s CBS debut.

Adrenaline MMA

March 29, 2008

Yesterday Monte Cox announced the formation of Adrenaline MMA, the demise of M-1 Global, the release of Fedor, the signing of Tim Sylvia and Ben Rothwell, and the promotions first event in a pair of press releases:

Adrenaline MMA replaces M-1 Global; Fedor becomes a free agent

NEW YORK — Executives at M-1 Global announced today they have started a new promotion called Adrenaline MMA and will begin promoting major events in the U.S. beginning in June.

Adrenaline will replace M-1 Global in the U.S. immediately. The change also includes the release of Russian fighter Fedor Emilianenko, who is free to seek fights elsewhere.

Monte Cox is the President and CEO of Adrenaline MMA. Bob Clark is the COO and Brian Patton is VP responsible for sponsorships and endorsements.

Adrenaline signs MMA heavyweight standouts Sylvia and Rothwell

NEW YORK — Adrenaline MMA announced today that heavyweight stars Tim Sylvia and Ben Rothwell have signed multi-fight contracts with the newly-formed promotion.

Sylvia (24-4) is a former 2-time UFC heavyweight champion, while Rothwell (31-5) was undefeated in the IFL for the champion Quad Cities Silverbacks.

Sylvia, 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds, has fought 13 times in the UFC and defeated top performers like Jeff Monson, Andre Arlovski (twice), Brandon Vera, Ricco Rodriguez and Assuerio Silva.

“Adrenaline is a new promotion, but it allows fighters to fight for other organizations… that’s huge,” Sylvia said. “I’ve got 3 to 4 years left and want to fight as much as possible, so this is the perfect choice for me at this time.”

Rothwell, 6-5 and 265, has won 13 straight bouts, including all 9 of his IFL fights.

“Adrenaline will give me the chance to take things to the next level,” Rothwell said. “I’m ready to see how I fare against the best heavyweights in the world.”

Sylvia and Rothwell both train at Miletich Fighting Systems in Bettendorf, Iowa.

. . .

According to MMAWeekly.com, the promotion will hold its its first event on June 14 in Chicago at the Sears Centre. Jeff Monson v. Mike Russow is already signed for the show.

WEC 3/26 Payouts

March 28, 2008

  • Brian Stann ($18,000) d. Doug Marshall ($10,000)
  • Chael Sonnen ($34,000) d. Bryan Baker ($5,000)
  • Marcus Hicks ($10,000) d. Ed Ratcliff ($7,000)
  • Steve Cantwell ($8,000) d. Tim McKenzie ($6,000)
  • Hiromitsu Miura ($8,000) d. Blas Avena ($6,O00)
  • Brock Larson ($24,000) d. John Alessio ($15,000)
  • Richard Crunkilton Jr. ($20,000) d. Sergio Gomez ($4,000)
  • Alex Serdyukov ($12,000) d. Ryan Stonitsch ($3,000)
  • Chris Manuel ($3,000) v. Kenji Osawa ($5,000)
  • Logan Clark ($12,000) d. J. Scott Harper ($3,000)

TOTAL DISCLOSED PAYROLL: $213,000

CREDIT: MMAJunkie.com

Art of War Restructuring

March 28, 2008

Last Friday SUN Sports and Entertainment Inc. (SSPE.PK), the producer of Art of War, announced a financial restructuring, changes in management, and the consolidation of operating facilities. The company now plans to produce events underwritten by strategic partners and major sponsors in an effort to control costs and reduce debt.

This is the latest reminder that as hot as MMA may be based on recent events such as the Budweiser-UFC and CBS-EXC partnerships, it remains an incredibly difficult business to be profitable in as a promoter unless you are Zuffa.

Couture Litigation Grows More Complex

March 28, 2008

The legal war between Randy Couture, Zuffa and HDNet Fights continues to heat up with the parties engaged in an increasingly complex set of litigation that includes two separate lawsuits, in Nevada and Texas respectively, and now an arbitration proceeding in Nevada.

On March 7, Zuffa filed for arbitration on Couture’s promotional contract, pursuant to the terms of the agreement, in Nevada district court. The action marks the first time that Zuffa has formally made the promotional contract the issue of legal proceedings.

According to Zuffa, the proceeding will “necessarily require resolution of disputes between Zuffa and Couture over key terms of the promotional agreement,” including those at issue in the HDNet Fights declaratory judgment action in Texas state court.

The action also continues in Texas. On March 13, Zuffa filed a notice of removal to federal district court in HDNet’s declaratory judgment action brought against the company in Texas district court last month. [FULL STORY at SHERDOG.COM]

Strikeforce-NBC Deal Officially Announced

March 27, 2008

After months of speculation the long rumored Strikeforce-NBC deal was finally announced today. MMAPayout.com became the first media outlet to report the potential deal on January 15. “Strikeforce on NBC” will premiere the night of April 12 from 2-2:30 AM EST.

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