UFC's Euro Drug Testing a Faustian Bargain

December 22, 2008

We are less than a month out from the UFC’s most recent foray into their European adventure, UFC 93 from Ireland on January 17th. If this were a card emanating from Las Vegas we would be hearing the news that all athletes had cleared their out of event drug testing. Nevada’s out of competition testing is seen as the benchmark for the sport, a long needed step in the right direction to ensure that athletes are competing clean. Nevada’s testing plan is being hailed by the California State Athletic Commission as a model that they hope to implement in their recent overhaul of their often assailed drug testing procedures. With Nevada’s model becoming the de facto standard for Steroid testing, it is curious the testing regimen of the UFC has chosen for their Euro shows.

Little if anything is known about the drug testing procedures of the UFC when they put on their European cards. These cards take place by and large beyond the scope of any athletic commission to provide adequate testing of athletes. The only real information that surfaces comes when an athlete on one of these Euro cards tests positive, like Chris Leben from their card in Birmingham this past October. MMAPayout.com sought to get more information on how the drug suspension of Leben was handled, but UFC brass referred back to a vague press release on the company’s website. The lack of transparency by the UFC in respect to their steroid policies is not the ideal situation if they want to give the public the impression that their fighters are not using performance enhancers.

One seeming thing that can be deduced from the UFC’s testing is that they aren’t doing out of competition testing, instead deciding only to test after the competition. Such a plan can be the only explanation why Leben was able to perform in the the main event of the Birmingham card against Michael Bisping. Out of competition testing prior to the event would have popped Leben well in advance of the event. The alternative is that they do have out of competition testing and Leben was allowed to compete anyway, which I don’t believe is the case. Such a scenario would be a PR nightmare that wouldn’t be worth it for such a high profile sport still in its fledgling stages.

The UFC seemingly goes with a less than optimal drug testing procedure, but the reasoning behind the moves aren’t hard to guess. After the fact testing like the UFC implements for their Euro cards has the least amount of impact on the card. Any drug failures aren’t learned about until after the fact, allowing for a more stable product to sell to TV viewers or PPV buyers, whichever may be the case. It is a strategy that comes off as more cynical than safe, and more bottom line motivated than competitive minded. The Leben pairing was an ill fated one from the beginning, with their first scheduled date being sidelined by a period of incarceration for Leben. Using out of competition testing prior to their Birmingham bout would have only served to further torpedo the match-up. The seeming conclusion to be drawn from the UFC’s testing decisions is that convenience trumps completeness when testing is left to the whims of the the promoter. Questions about the UFC’s durg testing procedures will only increase as they ramp up the volume of their international cards in 2009.

BSN Sponsors Forrest, Nog

December 22, 2008

Finn McKenty of the Lifestyle Marketing Blog noticed during the recent TUF Finale that UFC Supplement sponsor BSN has gone beyond just the organization and has moved into sponsoring individual fighters:

First, they sponsored the perfect fighters, Forrest Griffin and Antonio Rodrido “Minotauro” Nogeuira. Forrest, the newly crowned UFC lightheavyweight champ TUF season one winnger, is incredibly popular with casual fans. He’s begrudgingly earned the approval of hardcore fans like me after beating Shogun and Rampage, and you really couldn’t wish for a better spokeperson for mainstream fans. He sported a BSN hat and t-shirt during an interview on last night’s TUF finale for a good 2 or 3 minutes.

What’s really brilliant, though, is that they also sponsored Nogeuira. Nog is an absolute legend who is universally respected and loved by hardcore fans. He’s mostly known for his fights in Japan, so his profile is the US is much lower than Forrest’s, but assuming he beats both Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar (pretty likely), he should enjoy much higher awareness.

The deal between BSN and Nog and Forrest further cements a trend that MMAPayout.com expounded on in a feature piece on SI.com. The UFC brings in sponsors on the corporate level and part of those sponsorship dollars trickles down to the fighter level. As the role of the UFC increases in this area, it is incumbent on the corporate brass to do the proper vetting of said sponsors to ensure that the fighters are taken care of. One of the lower points in the Zuffa-era UFC was the pushing of Xyience at the highest levels that encouraged fighters to do deals with the company, and Xyience subsequently stiffing fighters on their endorsement fees. Thankfully, the UFC is luring a higher class of sponsor that is making thing like the Xyience Affair a thing of the past.

UFC to Montreal in April 09?

December 22, 2008

UFC Middleweight fighter Jason MacDonald does his blogging over at Sportsnet.ca and he dropped a little hint about the UFC’s next possible foray into the Great White North:

I don’t know what the new year holds for me. The UFC is supposed to be back in Montreal in April. But I would love to squeeze a fight in before that, perhaps in early February.

That would be a year after the showdown between GSP and Matt Serra. April would be an interesting date for the match-up. Many fans have cynically stated that it would be another year before the UFC came back to Canada, requiring all the Canuck fans to re-up their UFC fan club memberships in order to get first dibs on tickets for the show. Looks like they may have been on to something.

Any UFC event in Canada is more than likely going to see Georges St Pierre as the headliner on the card. Such a card would come quickly on the heels of a GSP vs BJ showdown in late January, giving St Pierre only two to two and a half months to prepare for the showdown. Also of interest would be his opponent. Thiago Alves is regarded as the number one contender and next in line for a title shot. Also looming is a possible fight for GSP at 185 with Middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva. Does the UFC jump straight to the mega fight and put on Anderson Silva vs GSP in Canada and watch the money roll in? Fighting BJ Penn with a quick turnaround to face Anderson would be a tall order for anyone, and most likely one that would get vetoed by a fighters management.

The other possible scenario is a GSP vs Alves showdown with Anderson Silva also featured on the same card, with the build being toward a late summer showdown between the two beltholders. Putting Anderson as the co-main with GSP vs Alves might assuage Silva’s unhappiness with his financial situation with the UFC. Anderson is paid on a PPV structure, but his poor drawing ability gives him a salary that isn’t commensurate with the status conferred upon him by Dana White as the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Silva recently nixed a showdown in London with Thales Leites, I would assume for financial reasons. A Euro PPV that usually draws a bit over 200k buyers would pay him even less than the usual 300k buys he does when headlining a PPV. Putting Anderson as the number 2 on a GSP in Canada card would ensure him a payday to keep him happy and set up another payday in the showdown with GSP. If the two are in separate bouts for the Montreal show it could still be economically feasible, since neither of the guys they would face would be receiving PPV cuts. In this respect it would be similar to UFC 87 where both GSP and Brock Lesnar were on the card but not facing opponents that were PPV draws worthy of a PPV cut.

All of this would presume GSP making it through a gauntlet of BJ Penn and Thiago Alves, which is far from a sure thing. How ever the fights are laid out, GSP looks to have a full dance card for the 2009 calendar year. If he is able to come out the other side of the year undefeated he’ll be able to lay claim as not only the best pound for pound fighter in the sport but also quite possibly the best mixed martial artist of all time.

Bader, Escudero, Team LG Teaming Up with MTX For Contest

December 21, 2008

The Contest (more official rules to follow): Write a blog and submit it on www.lgfighter.com as to why you are the Ultimate MMA Fan. The best blog will win a grand prize package fit for The Ultimate Fan. The use of images, personal stories, LG fighters or our sponsors will benefit the selection of the winning blog but are not required. There will be multiple winners but only one grand prizewinner will be chosen. For more information, go to the contest homepage.

Grand Prize is round trip air fare from anywhere in the Continental US to Phoenix, AZ, three night stay at a hotel in Tempe, train or just hang with some of the stars of The Ultimate Fighter, WEC and UFC (lunch, dinner and a training sessions at Arizona Combat Sports). The winner will get to hang with TUF 8 winners Efrain Escudero and Ryan Bader, WEC Champs Carlos Condit, Jamie Varner, TUF Stars CB Dollaway, Jesse Forbes and other up and coming UFC and WEC fighters

(2) Official and worn on the show, Team Jerseys from TUF 8 (Team Nog donated by Ryan Bader) and TUF 7 (Team Rampage Donated by CB Dollaway) signed by the cast

One (1) set of playing cards that were hand drawn and played with on this seasons TUF 8, they also include all the signatures of the fighters in the house donated by Efrain Escudero.

One (1) – MTX Audio complete car sound system –
If you want bass that can rattle grampa’s dentures loose in the car next to you at a stop light, look no further! MTX Audio’s Thunder TC subwoofer systems are a radical design that takes bass output to a whole new level and when powered by an MTX X500D amplifier, you know you have a package built with KO power. Now combine this package with some crystal clear TDX speakers from MTX and you are on your way to the afterparty! Visitwww.mtx.com for more information.

One (1) $200 in free plays at Diamond Sports Book
One (1) Ed Hardy Watches, the watch of MMA stars, Gladiator CEL watch
One (1) LG Fighter Hat (as worn at the TUF 8 Finale
One (1) MTX Audio Beanie

Second Place Winners will receive

One (1) MTX Terminator systems
One (1) signed MTX MMA T-SHIRT
One (1) MTX Audio Hat
One (1) Team MTX MMA Poster signed by the MTX MMA Team

Third Place Winners will receive

One (1) iThunder ipod boom box
One (1) MTX t-shirt
One (1) MTX MMA Team poster

Wild Card Round:

If you spread the contest to other sites and get people to post for each post that goes live and credits you for helping them find the site you get entered for a chance to win the Wild Card Prize: Soundolear or MTX Audio System for the Car, iThunder and an iPod Nano to play on your iThunder. Your name has to be mentioned in the person’s blog to qualify for the wild card round. There needs to be at least three people entered to activate the wild card round.

"UFC 2009: Undisputed" Coming Together

December 19, 2008

Yesterday, it was confirmed by IGN.com that Rashad Evans will be included in the UFC’s latest videogame venture, UFC 2009 Undisputed. In the last month, the likes of Brock Lesnar, Kenny Florian, and Joe Stevenson have also been added to the growing roster of fighters that is expected to reach well over 80.

When reached by IGN, Evans correctly summarized the potential impact this videogame could have on the UFC’s fanbase with the following:

“I think it’s going to make a lot of new fans, people who’ve never even seen the UFC before but who love the videogame are going to start tuning in and it’s going to bring a whole new fan base and continue to grow the sport. And, the other thing it’s going to do is educate the people on the moves that are happening in the UFC. It’s going to be a teaching tool as well, because now people only see one thing, the knock outs. We’re not standing there with 16-ounce gloves on. We’re wearing four-ounce gloves, and there’s little room for error. You get hit with one of those bad boys and you can call it goodnight. The game will help people see there’s more to it than that though.”

Analysis:

Also important, UFC 2009 Undisputed will give fans an unparalleled level of interaction with their favourite fighters which is something that is going to drive interest in the UFC beyond the brand level.

Pushing individual fighters is something that the UFC has been reluctant to do thus far, but we’ve all seen the particularly strong examples, in recent weeks, of star power translating into PPV success. The abilities of Lesnar and De La Hoya to draw really illustrate that brand recognition, alone, can only take a sports organization so far.

While the UFC brand could probably draw a consistent 250k buys regardless of whom they select to fight on any given card, it’s the big names that are going to push the 750k-1,000k envelope.

Undisputed is going to push the fighters into the mainstream as fans will be given the opportunity to truly familiarize themselves with the entire roster; they’ll be able to see, first-hand, the strenghts, weaknesses, and personalities of each fighter.

An example of where this exposure could really pay dividends is for a guy like Anderson Silva –  a fighter that, for whatever reason and despite his incredible skill and engaging style, has not yet translated into a PPV draw. So, what’s it going to take?

Perhaps a couple of unbelievable beatdowns at the hands of the virtual ‘Spider’ to create some new fans…and that “holy **** this dude is a bad ass!” sensation. Or, less crudely, the videogame will more narrowly focus the attention of the fans onto the fighters and the sport itself, giving them a greater appreciation of his skill necessary to be the world’s “Pound-for-Pound King”

The Bottom Line:

I realize that everyone is hung-up on the economy and focused on a brilliant MMA schedule over the next 45 days, but few are really talking about this game and they should be.

It’s only 4-5 months away and could really be a difference maker for this sport – a golden opportunity, gift-wrapped in what will likely be the simultaneous promotion of UFC 100, an event also set to arrive in Spring 2009.

UFC Fight Night in Tampa on 2/7/09

December 19, 2008

TOP LIGHTWEIGHTS JOE LAUZON AND HERMES FRANCA TO BRING THUNDEROUS ACTION TO THE SUNSHINE STATE AS THEY HEADLINE FIRST EVER “UFC FIGHT NIGHT” IN TAMPA

“The Ultimate Fighter 6” Champ Mac Danzig, “The Ultimate Fighter 7” Champ Amir Sadollah, And Top Heavyweight Contender Cain Velasquez To Fight Live Saturday, February 7 at 9:00pm

New York, NY, December 19, 2008 – Spike TV will be showcasing some of the rising stars in the UFC with the first ever “UFC Fight Night” from Tampa, FL, with a main event featuring a lightweight battle between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experts Joe Lauzon and Hermes Franca. Spike TV’s live “UFC Fight Night” will emanate from the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Fl. on Saturday, February 7 from 9:00 – 11:00 PM, ET/PT. Also appearing on the fight card will be Mac Danzig (“The Ultimate Fighter 6” champion), Amir Sadollah (“The Ultimate Fighter 7” champion), and undefeated heavyweight Cain Velasquez.

Joe Lauzon made an impressive debut in the UFC with a knockout over Jens Pulver at UFC 63 in September 2006. Lauzon, from suburban Boston, gained further acclaim as a standout fighter on “The Ultimate Fighter 5.” However, his road to a UFC title shot hit a speed bump when he dropped a matchup to current #1 lightweight contender Kenny Florian this past April. Lauzon rebounded with a win against Kyle Bradley in September, and is determined to continue his ascent in the UFC’s lightweight division against Franca.

The 33-year old Franca (18-7) from Fortaleza, Brazil trains in Jupiter, FL, had won eight straight mixed martial arts bouts prior to losing to then lightweight champion Sean Sherk at UFC 73 in Sacramento last summer. After a year long layoff, Franca returned to the Octagon this past July and dropped a tough decision to Frankie Edgar, before getting back on the winning track in winning a grudge match with American Top Team’s Marcus Aurelio at UFC 90 in October.

Even though Mac Danzig (18-5-1) was a standout mixed martial artist in the “King of the Cage” promotion, it wasn’t until he dominated “The Ultimate Fighter 6” in 2007 that he gained national acclaim. Since claiming “The Ultimate Fighter” title over Tommy Speer last December, Danzig has a 1-1 record including a recent loss to Clay Guida in September on Spike TV. Currently training with Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Danzig needs a victory over Neer to continue his path to a lightweight crown. Nicknamed “The Dentist,” the 25-year old Neer (21-7-1) is a native of Des Moines and trains with the renowned Team Miletich. Neer won an impressive decision over UFC veteran Din Thomas in April, but saw his three-fight winning streak end in September with a split-decision loss to Nate Diaz in the main event of a “UFC Fight Night” on Spike TV in Omaha in September.

In heavyweight action, one of the division’s most promising talents, Cain Velasquez, looks to spoil the debut of UFC newcomer Denis “The Menace” Stojnic. Velasquez (4-0), with an impressive pedigree as a two-Time All-American wrestler at Arizona State University, is anything but one dimensional inside of the Octagon. One of the most explosive strikers in the UFC, Velasquez has been dominant in compiling an undefeated record. In fact, none of his bouts have lasted more than one round with all four ending via TKO due to strikes. Looking to end Velasquez’s winning streak is Stojnic (5-1), a heavyweight hailing from Sarajevo who has had similar success on the European mixed martial arts circuit.

Also on the card, in middleweight action, Amir Sadollah will enter the Octagon for the first time since winning “The Ultimate Fighter” as he battles UFC newcomer Nick Catone. Sadollah (1-0) made the mixed martial arts world take notice as he steamrolled through the competition en route to winning “The Ultimate Fighter 7” finale against C.B. Dolloway via armbar this past June. Since then, the 28-year old Sadollah has given up his surgical technician’s job in Richmond, VA and moved to Las Vegas to train fulltime with Team Couture. Sadollah aims to keep his perfect record intact against the undefeated Catone (5-0), fighting out of Toms River, NJ, who is making his UFC debut.

The entire fight card will be announced shortly.

Notes: ProElite Sale Details, Ortiz the Announcer

December 18, 2008

  • Sam Caplan is reporting at FiveOuncesofPain.com that a deal to acquire the assets of ProElite is nearing completion. Sources in the industry believe that the reason CBS/Showtime backed off its plan to auction the company’s assets, move on with a new MMA partner, and leave the financial backers of ProElite holding the bag was potential litgiation regarding the foreclosure transaction. The transaction may have been tainted by the fact that Showtime’s Ken Hershman was/is a member of the ProElite Board of Directors. As a result, he may have had a fiduciary duty to disclose the pending CBS transaction to ProElite. Rumor has it that rather than risk litigation CBS/Showtime canceled the auction and made it clear to potential suitors that anybody that wanted the TV deal would have to buy out/off ProElite.
  • Yesterday Affliction announced Tito Ortiz as announcer on its Day of Reckoning pay-per-view telecast on 1/24. The move has been mildly panned with many speculating that Ortiz’s addition will detract rather than enhance the broadcast. However, while inexperienced as announcer, he showed potential as a television personality during a recent appearance on Inside MMA on HDNet. Ortiz was clearly well prepared and turned in a solid performance. While a different form/format, the appearance suggested that Ortiz might have a future as commentator.

GSP In Donruss Sports Legends Series

December 18, 2008

Following on the heels of his involvement in the Topps UFC card set due for a January 2009 release, UFC Welterweight champion Georges St Pierre will also be included in the Sports Legend Series being issued by Donruss. The Sports legend series just recently hit the market, being released on December 12th.

GSP was also included in the earlier Ring Kings set from Donruss. It should be interesting to see what kind of exclusivity agreements are in the deal with Topps, and whether athletes will still be able to cut deals on their own like with Upper Deck and Donruss. GSP’s inclusion in this set likely marks a pre-existing contract, so it may not be the best indicator to the future availability of guys to sign side marketing deals.

UFC Gets Brazilian TV

December 18, 2008

UFC® ANNOUNCES THREE YEAR AGREEMENT WITH GLOBOSAT
UFC® ANNOUNCES THREE YEAR TELEVISION DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT WITH GLOBOSAT

Las Vegas, NV (USA) – Brazilian sports fans now have access to the best mixed martial arts (MMA) fights in the world, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) and Globosat today announced a three year television distribution agreement to show UFC events on two Globosat channels – Premiere Combate and SporTV.

Starting with UFC 92: THE ULTIMATE 2008, Premiere Combate, a Globosat subscription channel, will air all UFC live events per year, along with an active schedule of other UFC programs including UFC® Fight Night™ events, UFC® All Access™ and UFC® Unleashed™. These popular UFC series feature riveting fight action such as knockouts and historic mega-fights, as well as training highlights and behind-the-scenes action and commentary.

Also launching with UFC 92, the Globosat premium channel SporTV will feature five UFC live events on its annual programming lineup, as well as a one-hour weekly highlight series “SporTV Combate” to continue in early 2009.

“We are thrilled to have the world’s most exciting live sports event – the UFC – available through Globosat,” said Dana White, UFC President. “We have over 20 Brazilian fighters in the UFC, including our Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, Interim Heavyweight Champion “Minotauro” Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, Lyoto Machida, Gabriel Gonzaga, and the list goes on and on. Now fight fans in Brazil can see their fights and follow their favorite fighters starting December 28th with “Minotauro” and Wanderlei at UFC 92.”

“We are very happy to be able to show the UFC for another three years, this is the event that our subscribers continually request,” said Elton Simões, Globosat’s premium channels director. “We are certain this deal will allow Globosat to deliver the best mixed martial arts fights in the world.”

About Premiere Combate
Premiere Combate is the television home for mixed martial arts in Brazilian TV, and has shown the UFC live events exclusively since 2002. In addition to UFC, Premiere Combate shows other combat sports events such as championship boxing fights.

About SporTv
SporTV provides the winning mix of national sports production and content in addition to full coverage of major international sporting events. A leader in the sports for nearly two decades, SporTV dominates the category for paid TV in Brazil. In addition to live UFC events, SporTV subscribers also enjoy Football World Cup, the Olympic Games, the Pan American Games, the Brazilian Football Championship, the Gymnastics World Cup, the Volleyball World League, the Wimbledon and US Open tennis tournaments, basketball tournaments and several other tennis, in-door soccer, athletics, swimming and surfing events, in addition to the best of car racing, in Brazil and abroad.

“UFC Fight for the Troops” Raises Over $4 Million for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

December 16, 2008

December 16, 2008 – New York, New York – Spike TV and Ultimate Fighting Championship today announced that its “UFC Fight for the Troops” event last week in Fayetteville, NC in front of 15,000 Ft. Bragg troops raised over $4 million for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund’s new medical center to be built in Bethesda.

According to Bill White, President of the IFHF, UFC and Spike TV should be applauded for their efforts.

“We are profoundly grateful to the UFC and Spike TV for their extraordinary support of our nation’s Wounded Warriors,” White said. “Their efforts have moved us that much closer to complete the traumatic brain injury center in Bethesda for the service members that are fighting for our freedom overseas.”

According to the ratings, 2 million viewers watched the fight live on Spike TV and was one of the most watched programs that night, highly popular with male viewers.

NICoE will be a $65 million, 75,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art treatment and rehabilitation center to provide leading edge services and support for soldiers with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Further, the center will conduct research, test new protocols and provide comprehensive training and education to patients, providers and families while maintaining ongoing tele-health follow-up care.

The project is being funded by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF), which provides assistance to our nation’s military heroes who have been critically injured in the performance of their duty, and their families. The IFHF previously raised more than $60 Million to support families of military personnel lost in Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and to construct the Center for the Intrepid, an advanced physical rehabilitation facility at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, which opened in 2007. Construction for the NICoE is scheduled to begin this summer and with its opening in late 2009.

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