Tamiso: The Final Showdown in Albany?

May 31, 2009

The Final Showdown in Albany?

by Eric Tamiso

Picture the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Now picture it hosting a fight with 20,000 screaming fans, pugilists going toe to toe, and Mr. Buffer introducing them. Currently, there are only two ways of seeing this. Either in a boxing match, or in the new UFC video game.

Currently, the battle wages on to regulate the sport of mixed martial arts in the state of New York. Recently, other states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania have accepted the phenomenon of MMA, and have begun to regulate. However, New York has been different. The process has been long and hard for Zuffa and the sport of MMA to get any traction with the powers that be in Albany.

Finally, on June 3rd the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports will vote on bill 2009-B. The bill needs to be approved by a majority of the 21 members, something that surprisingly could be hard. The committee has both its fans and detractors of the sports, most noticeably Bob Reilly (D-Albany and Saratoga) who is outspoken with his feelings against New York welcoming MMA.

In an interview with MMAWeekly.com from January, Reilly gave his thoughts on the sport.

“I think that [MMA] basically is a glorification of violence, but it certainly promotes violence. In itself, I think it’s a very brutal sport that creates, obviously, physical harm to the participants, and I don’t think there’s any other sport who’s purpose is to harm your opponent. But we know that in mixed martial arts, that, in fact, is one of the purposes, said Reilly.

Supporting the debate preceding the vote is Jonathan Bing (D-New York). However, even if the bill is passed in the committee, the road is still long until we see the UFC at MSG. The bill would then go to two separate committees, and then finally to the general assembly for a vote. In Pennsylvania, where regulation of the sport was passed in February, the entire process took 19 months.

Its already almost two years since the topic of New York MMA has been on the UFC’s platter. The last time the company was in the northeast in November 2007, regulation was a topic of discussion by Dana White and Marc Ratner at the post fight press conference. The goal was to have an event in New York in 2008. Now its 2009, and the only way to see MMA at the Garden is by playing THQ’s UFC Undisputed 2009.

New York is the crown jewel of regulation for Ratner and the UFC. With just over a handful of states still not regulating the sport, New York is the juiciest. Besides “the mecca” in Manhattan, there are several other large arenas in metropolitan areas. Just down the street from Matt Serra’s gym is the Nassau Coliseum, home of the New York Islanders. The building holds 16,234 for hockey games. In upstate New York, the HSBC Arena in Buffalo holds 18,690 for hockey, and 19,200 for basketball. And if a promotion wanted to put on a super-show, the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University holds 49,250 for football.

All of these arenas, and other smaller ones throughout the state would generate money for the cash strapped state. To get the ball rolling, 11 of 21 committee members in Albany need to approve the bill this Wednesday.

Chael Sonnen On Being A Good UFC Employee (Vid)

May 31, 2009

Sunday Morning Reading

May 31, 2009

Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review Journal takes to task the meat market aspects of amateur MMA. The Las Vegas Sun gives a more positive spin on the same promotion.

Chuck Liddell and John Hackleman open up a new gym in Arroyo Grande.

Pat Miletich’s gym and the story of its’ fighters are profiled by the Kansas City Star.

Shark Fights has been promoting MMA cards down in Texas, now they look to get into the retailing end of MMA.

The Brains Behind The Ultimate Fighter Profiled

May 31, 2009

Reality TV pioneer Craig Piligian is profiled at Multichannel News. The piece takes a look at his career as a whole but a good part of the article discusses his efforts with the Fertittas, first with American Casino and then with The Ultimate Fighter. I’ll excerpt the portions that deal with the UFC:

And Piligian has proven he’s not afraid to tackle some touchy and controversial brands. He initially approached two Las Vegas-based casino owners, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, about creating a reality series about the rough-and-tumble world of legal casinos. But it was another business that the Fertitta brothers had — the Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed-martial-arts franchise — that caught Piligian’s keen development eye, according to UFC president and co-founder Dana White.

Despite negative publicity surrounding the UFC and mixed martial arts at the time — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) once referred to the sport as human cockfighting — Piligian decided to get into the ring with the Fertitta brothers and create a series pitting several up-and-coming UFC fighters living under one roof against each other in a week-to-week elimination tournament.

That was the beginning of the Ultimate Fighter, now Spike TV’s No. 1 show. The current season of UFC — a faceoff between U.S. and United Kingdom mixed martial artists — is averaging a hefty 1.6 million viewers.

Indeed, White — who also hosts the series — said the UFC franchise, which will distribute its 100th pay-per-view event in July, would not be where it is without Piligian, Spike TV and Ultimate Fighter.

“He’s a partner, he acts like and partner and he’s probably the best partner we’ve ever had,” said White. “In my opinion he’s the best reality show producer on television — he’s aggressive and he knows what he’s doing.”

White said part of Ultimate Fighter’s success is that Piligian puts the real in reality, allowing the action to flow seamlessly without staging or crafting situations to help draw ratings.

“You never have to watch the Ultimate Fighter and wonder if the action is contrived,” White said. “He lets the action run its course. I’m no actor, but the great part of doing the reality show is that he lets me be me.”

While Piligian may let his reality shows imitate real life, he’s never too far from the action. Piligian said he makes a point to remain an integral part of the day-to-day operations of all of his reality series, however grueling and time-consuming that may be.

“Think about all the shows that he produces, and yet he’s at every fight for the Ultimate Fighter,” White said. “He’s an animal — an absolute lunatic — he’s very aggressive and very good at what he does.”

Piligian was key in developing TUF and creating the concepts that have driven the show. He was instrumental in coming up with the concept along with Lorenzo Fertitta. Fertitta spoke with The Atlantic and detailed Piligian’s role in bring TUF to market:

So we had to take a step back. And we partnered up with Craig Piligian, the reality show producer, who we had originally met through UTA, and then that relationship went away, and then about I don’t know how many years later, let’s say two years later, he called and said he wanted to do a reality show about a casino, and the only person he knew in the casino business was me. And would I be interested. And originally I said ‘nah, I’m not really into that kind of stuff, I kinda have a low profile.’ But we started talking about it and I said, ‘You know what, it actually might help our business, and so for business’s sake, you know, we’ll talk about it.’ So we ended up doing a deal. American Casino went on the Discovery Channel. It actually did okay.

So I got on the phone with Craig one day. I said you know the Ultimate Fighting thing again, he says ‘yeah, we gotta figure a way to get that on.’ I said ‘yeah, but we met with everybody, and everybody’s turned us down.’ And just through talking to Craig, he goes, ‘you know another way you could do it, is you could just bankroll, and then go and sell to sponsors yourself to finance it.’ I go ‘wow, I didn’t even know that, I didn’t even think of that. Maybe that’s what we do.’ So that’s essentially what the strategy was. So we sat back down with Spike. And Spike wasn’t real enthusiastic about it, but after about 3 or 4 meetings, they’re like yeah, okay, we’ll do it.

Piligian built the relationship with Fertitta during their first reality experience and was able to revisit that for TUF, bringing a fresh perspective to getting the show on the air. He also made key production decisions like placing all the athletes in one house, for heightened drama. The UFC as it is currently constituted as a PPV powerhouse owes a debt to Pilligian. TUF may at times seem like a Faustian bargain, what with the Junie Brownings of the world that the show has foisted upon us, but the MMA landscape absent the reality show would be a vastly different, smaller scene.

UFC TV Partner Setanta Slashing Rights Deals by 25%, Looking To Stay Afloat

May 31, 2009

The Sunday Times is reporting today that a stop gap measure to make ends meet for UFC UK broadcaster Setanta has been nixed:

Setanta’s financial position was so parlous this weekend that it asked arch-rival BSkyB, which is 39.1% owned by News Corporation, parent company of The Sunday Times, for a £50m advance payment on a deal that would have seen Sky wholesale Setanta to its own Sky Sports subscribers.

The proposal of an interest-free loan, which was rejected, would have bridged the gap left by private-equity backers Doughty Hanson, Balderton Capital and Goldman Sachs, which have so far offered to inject £50m into the company.

Setanta, which has 1.2m customers, must now return for crunch talks with rights holders, including the PGA golf tour. After initially asking for a 15%-20% reduction in terms, the broadcaster is seeking to negotiate some of its rights deals down by 25%.

The rights fee reductions look to be a cross the board and the UFC won’t be immune in this respect. The last hired first, fired concept applies in a lot of situations and I imagine that the UFC were one of the first properties to be approached for a cut. While MMA is growing in the UK, it is important to keep in proper perspective the engines that are driving the Setanta train (soccer, cricket, rugby, etc.). It is going to be incumbent upon Setanta to get these reduction deals done in order to remain afloat. The general feel I have gotten in reading over all the Setanta stuff is that the situation is quite perilous at this point. The rights fee payment to the FA that is prompting all of this scurrying about is due by June 15, so there should be some movement in the situation over the next few weeks.

Phil Lowe of iFight365 has been covering the Setanta issue closely and gives his take on where the situation may go from here:

As we reported back in March, Setanta Sports and the UFC signed a two-year agreement at the start of 2008 which saw Setanta Sports 1 become the exclusive home for all UFC programming.

While we don’t have confirmation on whether or not ongoing talks over rights include talks with the UFC, the ongoing problems with the broadcaster raises questions over the UFC’s future in the UK, who may find themselves looking for a new UK broadcaster in the next six months or so.

Providing the original deal is still in place, UFC’s contract with Setanta Sports would end in early 2010, making the New Year an even more interesting one for wrestling and MMA fans in the UK and Ireland.

Rob Maysey of MMAFA Talks With Carson

May 30, 2009

Rob Maysey, founder of the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association, was the guest on this week’s edition of Carson’s Corner. Mr Maysey puts forth his case for forming an association of fighters to provide a revenue stream to the fighters that isn’t there currently. Definitely worth a listen.

Forrest Griffin's Got Fight Book Set For Release June 2nd

May 30, 2009

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Got Fight?: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat
by Forrest Griffin and Erich Krauss

Amazon.com gives us an apt description of the author and what the book entails:

Forrest came to the attention of millions of fans when he won the season finale of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, the mixed-martial arts reality show that propelled the UFC into the pop culture mainstream (and that today draws more than 2 millions viewers an episode). The pages in this book will feature his boisterous personality and trademark sense of humour to demonstrate to readers that being a fighter takes more than simply an adrenaline rush – it takes focus, a little cunning, and the intelligence to know that the best way to avoid serious injury is to stay away from ‘Rampage’ Jackson’s right hand, bro.

Griffin will also be doing select dates for book signings for the launch of the book.

BOOK SIGNING DATES

June 1, 2009
Book Revue
313 New York Avenue
Huntington, NY 11743
7:00 PM

June 2, 2009
Bookends
232 East Ridgewood Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07450 7:00 PM

June 4, 2009
Barnes and Noble
2900 Peachtree Rd NE
Atlanta, GA
7:00 PM

June 9, 2009
Barnes and Noble
810 West Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92025
7:00 PM

June 12, 2009
Barnes and Noble
567 North Stephanie
Henderson, NV 89014
7:00 PM

MFC 21 Salary, Gate Info

May 30, 2009

MMACanada.net has the information on attendance, gate, and select salaries for the recent Maximum Fighting Championship MFC 21 card:

The attendance totaled a sold-out crowd of 2250 spectators plus another 1000 who were stationed in the River Cree casino.
Gate: $ 212,550

Bobby Lashley earned $30,000.
Mike Cook earned $4,000.

Trevor Prangley earned $14,000 for his win over Emanuel Newton
Emanuel Newton $7,000 His Win Bonus would have been another $7,000

Marvin “Beastman” Eastman $7,000
John Alessio $6,000

“Submission of the night” award went to John Alessio. The bonus totaled $1,000.

“Knockout of the night” was awarded to Dwayne Lewis.

It is interesting to take a look at the numbers for MFC. They are a mid-level promotion at this point with an eye towards continued growth and expansion. The gate figures are good, owing a large part to MFC’s deal with the River Cree Resort. Shows like this are usually “sold shows”, which helps a lot towards viability and profitability. The MFC looks to have a paid a bit of a premium over their normal salary range to bring in Bobby Lashley, but the press they received from the former WWE champ would seem to make it a good investment.

Bellator IX Sends Lombard, Hess to the Bellator Championship Fight

May 30, 2009

Monroe, Louisiana – May 30, 2009 – In front of an electrified and vocal crowd in Monroe, Louisiana, Hector Lombard and Jared Hess put on dominating performances to earn their way to the first ever Bellator Middleweight world championship. Opening the semi-final action was the Cuban Olympian and knockout artist Hector “Shango” Lombard taking on Army Ranger and combatives expert Damien Stelly. Out of the gates both fighters let punches fly with a go-for-broke start that ended with Lombard mounting Stelly and implementing a ground and pound strategy that eventually resulted in a referee stoppage. While Stelly fought gallantly, he wasn’t able to break free from Lombard’s mount and the referee stopped the fight via TKO with the ultra tough Hector Lombard moving onto the finals in under three minutes.

Headlining the night, the Oklahoman all-around tactical machine Jared Hess faced the legend killer and unpredictably versatile Yosmany Cabezas. Nearly going the three round distance, this match demonstrated how tough both competitors are with Hess dominating the fight with ground and pound while Cabezas consistently looked for an edge on Hess. Although Hess defiantly took the first two rounds with Cabezas physically showing signs of his beating, the Cuban powerhouse Cabezas never gave up even with fists showering upon him. With only 30 seconds left in the match, the referee called it a TKO victory for the relentless Oklahoman tornado Jared Hess. Both Hess and Lombard collected the $50,000 purse and will move onto the Bellator Middleweight world championship bout and compete for the $100,000 grand prize in Hollywood, Florida on June 19th at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. All the Bellator Middleweight semi-final action can be seen on Saturday, May 30, 2009 exclusively on ESPN Deportes and on Bellator.com on Wednesday, June 3, 2009.

“The Hector Lombard, Jared Hess final truly pits our two top Middleweights against each other. Lombard standing is an amazingly powerful force and Hess on the ground is non-stop action and strikes. This should be a great final,” remarked Bellator Fighting Championships CEO Bjorn Rebney. “This deafening Monroe, Louisiana crowd was treated to a fantastic night of action that was just a preview of the championship finals that these two powerhouses will demonstrate at Bellator XII in June.”

With the stunning undercard battles, Nick Ring returned to the cage after a three year hiatus, not showing an inch of ring rust, to submit Isidro Gonzalez in less than one minute via guillotine submission. Alex Andrade returned to Bellator action for retribution and got just that by dominating Christian Fulgram with a furious throwing of rights and lefts resulting in the referee to call it in just over two minutes. In a battle of the heavyweights, LSU football star Shawn Jordan impressed his loyal fans by taking out fellow Louisianan Jayme McKinney in 30 seconds into the second.

All of the Bellator IX action will air on ESPN Deportes Saturday, May 30. The full fight card results are below:

Bellator IX Middleweight Semi-Final Tournament bouts:

185 lbs. – Yosmany Cabezas (8-2) vs. Jared Hess (8-0-1) Hess by TKO at 14:26

185 lbs. – Damien Stelly (9-3) vs. Hector Lombard (19-2) Lombard by TKO (strikes) at 2:56

Bellator IX Non-tournament bouts:

185 lbs. – Isidro Gonzalez (16-13) vs. Nick Ring (8-0) Ring by submission (guillotine) at 0:39

145 lbs. – Shad Lierley (5-2) vs. Nate Murdock (6-5) Lierley by unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Christian Fulgram (10-3) vs. Alex Andrade (8-5) Andrade by TKO at 2:01

HWT – Shawn Jordan (1-0) vs. Jayme McKinney (5-4) Jordan by submission at 5:30

175 lbs. – Dan Keenan (0-1) vs. Chan Leonhardt (3-1) Leonhardt by KO at 3:03

155 lbs. – Chas Skelly (3-0) vs. Mike Braswell (4-3) Skelly by split decision

Bellator Fighting Championships’ premiere season consists of 12 two-hour events broadcast weekly in primetime on Saturday nights on ESPN Deportes. The English-language broadcast becomes available on www.Bellator.com each Wednesday. The nationally televised events feature a combination of tournament and non-tournament special feature bouts. There are four simultaneous tournaments taking place in season one over a three month period: one in each of the Featherweight (145 lb.), Lightweight (155 lb.), Welterweight (170 lb.) and Middleweight (185 lb.) divisions.

UFC Expands TV Into Portugal

May 30, 2009

UFC Press Release – Fight fans in Portugal will have their first glimpse of a UFC pay-per-view event with UFC 98: MACHIDA vs. EVANS, on Saturday, June 1 at 11:30pm, thanks to a new deal with SIC Radical, one of the leading cable providers in the country. UFC today announced an agreement with SIC, giving two million households in Portugal access to the UFC event.

“UFC fans all around the country can follow their favorite fighters and see UFC pay-per-view events and programs, starting with UFC 98 on June 1st,” said Dana White, UFC President. “UFC 98 was an incredible event, from start to finish, it’s the perfect event to kick off our new deal with SIC Radical.”

As part of its UFC schedule, SIC also airs UFC® Unleashed™, a weekly compilation show featuring the greatest bouts throughout the UFC’s 15-year history, Friday nights at 12:45pm. SIC will also show UFC® Countdown™, a one-hour program that takes an in-depth and exclusive look at UFC fighters preparing for an upcoming fight. UFC Countdown airs one hour prior to a UFC pay-per-view, launching with “Countdown: UFC 98” Saturday, June 1 at 10:30pm.

SIC Radical premiered in 1992 and today ranks as one of the top-10 most viewed cable channels in Portugal. SIC is available through all cable providers in the country, reaching approximately two million of the 3.5 million households in Portugal.

UFC television programming can be seen in over 100 countries and territories worldwide in 17 different languages. UFC is the largest pay-per-view content provider in the world and is the fastest growing sports organization in history.

For more information, or current UFC fight news, visit UFC.com, UK.UFC.com, GERMANY.UFC.com or UFCEspanol.com. All bouts live and subject to change.

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