Archive for the Breaking News Category

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!: Jay Tan on Zuffa Buying Strikeforce

Posted in Breaking News, Strikeforce, UFC on March 14, 2011 by jaytan716

I don’t care if Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson knocks Brock Lesnar out with a flying knee – after today, there will never be another “shot heard round the MMA world”. We clear on that?

Saturday morning, March 12th, UFC president Dana White announced to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that Zuffa, UFC’s parent company, is buying Strikeforce, generally considered the #2 MMA promotion in North America, if not the world.

Here’s the interview: http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/fanhouse/dana-white-on-zuffa-purchase/823136457001

Most are calling this a game-changer. It is. I’ll call it the point of no return, which it also likely is. With this purchase, there isn’t a brand strong enough to compete with the UFC. Not to say that someone won’t try, but without some long-term, ultra-ridiculous financial commitment and all the pieces miraculously falling into place, like a larger TV network deal, contract offers big enough to sign available talent (who are either going to be unknowns to the public, and thus interpreted as less-than-UFC-caliber talent, or fighters discarded from the UFC), and the public giving them a chance (which, as ratings for non-UFC fight promotions have proven, they’re not motivated to do), it’s not going to happen anytime soon. And if it does, its surely going to fail.

Since 2006, the UFC has bought out any of the competition that didn’t put themselves out of business. On December 11th of that year, Zuffa announced separate purchase deals for the World Fighting Alliance (WFA), and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). The latter was in fact to steal a television deal with the Versus network away from the International Fight League (IFL), who were in advanced negotiations, if not close to finalizing a deal with Versus.

The International Fight League (IFL) was a league that pitted MMA teams against each other in a round-robin tournament season.

By that point, the IFL was broadcasting on the fledgling MyNetworkTV channel, making it the first MMA promotion to be on a major terrestrial network. At the time, this was a significant advantage, though ratings were low and the leg-up didn’t help the IFL catch on. The IFL did strike a short-lived deal with HDNet in early 2008 before finally closing their doors later that year, citing financial troubles. The UFC never outright bought the IFL, but they purchased the video library rights and signed several IFL fighters, including Matt Horwich, Reese Andy, Ben Rothwell, and Chris Horodecki.

The WFA purchase was driven primarily to acquire talent contracts for Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Lyoto Machida. It closed on the same day as the WEC deal in December 2006.

Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, bought PRIDE Fighting Championships in the spring of 2007.

Only months later, on March 27th, 2007, Zuffa announced the purchase of longtime promotional rival PRIDE Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment and Noboyuki Sakakibara. The toast of MMA since the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, PRIDE FC had fallen on hard times in its home country of Japan, as Sakakibara and his company were linked in several 2006 media stories as having connections to yakuza organized crime outfits. The stories resulted in PRIDE FC losing its broadcast deal in June 2006 with Fuji TV, which was its main revenue stream. PRIDE continued its schedule of shows through April 2007, with the unfortunately-named PRIDE 34: Kamikaze, proving to be its final show.

Although Zuffa head Lorenzo Fertitta declared at the press conference about running PRIDE as a separate entity, those plans never came to fruition.

Jump ahead a year later, when Affliction Clothing, a Southern California apparel line which had started sponsoring MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett and Randy Couture, entered into the MMA promoting business with Affliction Entertainment. Picking up various PRIDE fighters who weren’t signed by the UFC, such as Barnett, Pedro Rizzo, Gilbert Yvel, and Fedor Emelianenko (then considered the top heavyweight and best pound-for-pound fighter in the world), as well as former-champions-turned-free-agents Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, Affliction ran a pay-per-view event in July 2008. The show was marketed as a night of the biggest collection of top heavyweight talent in the world, and really symbolized Emelianenko’s coming out party to the U.S. (even though he’d fought Mark Coleman in October 2006 before in Las Vegas at PRIDE 32: The Real Deal).

Affliction's Tom Atencio foreshadows in irony what would later happen to his own efforts in promoting MMA.

As a former sponsor with the UFC and several of its fighters, Affliction’s move into MMA, along with Affliction spokesman Tom Atencio’s public taunts that they, as opposed to Zuffa, had the top fighter in Emelianenko, was enough for the UFC to declare war. Affliction was now considered Public Enemy #1, and was banned from sponsoring any UFC or WEC fighters.

Affliction ran two shows, Banned in July 2008, headlined by Emelianenko vs. Sylvia, and Day of Reckoning in January 2009, with Emelianenko vs. Arlovski. A third show, Trilogy, was scheduled for August 1, 2009, with Emelianenko vs. Barnett, but the show was cancelled due to several circumstances, most notably because of Barnett being denied a license to fight in the state of California due to failing a drug test for steroids.

While many point to Barnett’s test failure as the reason for Affliction closing its doors, several reputable media sources reported at the time that the company was in the midst of negotiations with the UFC to close the Affliction MMA promotion in exchange for the ability to sponsor UFC fighters and events again. Affliction Entertainment had attracted fighters with inflated fight purses, far more than they recouped in pay-per-view or box office, including a reported $800,000 to Tim Sylvia and $1.5 million to Emelianenko and his handlers, M-1 Global.

The deal included at least first-look option at several fighter contracts, but after failed negotiations between Emelianenko’s team and Dana White, the ‘Last Emperor’ ended up signing with Strikeforce.

With EliteXC, the UFC didn’t need to wave a finger or huff or puff to blow that house of straw down.

Starting with their inaugural event, Destiny, in February 2007, EliteXC ran 20 events on Showtime (two of which were co-promotes with Strikeforce), along with three events on major network CBS. The group attempted to build and brand their own stars, such as K.J. Noons, Charles ‘Krazy Horse’ Bennett, Jake Shields, and Nick Diaz. None really got over as much as female fighter Gina Carano, with her girl-next-door looks and fierce fighting style, and Kimbo Slice, the former street-brawler-turned-“internet sensation,” both of whom piqued the public’s curiosity and CBS ratings when they appeared. The company had bled money throughout its entire existence (ask former employees about the dragon head), and when last-minute replacement Seth Petruzelli TKO’ed Slice in 14 seconds on the October 4th, it was the beginning of the end for the promotion.

The MMA Shot Heard 'Round the World. . . at the time.

Two days after the fight, Petruzelli was on a radio show and made comments that insinuated that EliteXC promoters offered him extra financial incentive to keep the fight a stand-up striking match, playing to Slice’s advantages. Petruzelli later clarified his comments to minimize any controversy of foul play, but by that point, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation decided to investigate the matter.

EliteXC was close to a deal with CBS to sell the promotion to the network, but the investigation was enough to scare the network into withdrawing. Left with no immediate alternatives, ProElite, EliteXC’s parent company, released almost all its employees and began offering its assets, including fighter contracts and its Showtime TV deal. Strikeforce picked up the TV deal and several fighter contracts, including Diaz, Carano, Shields, and Noons. Diaz and Shields went on to win the Strikeforce welterweight and middleweight titles, respectively. Carano fought Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos for the Strikeforce women’s middleweight title, suffering her first MMA defeat.

Ironically, Slice ended up with the UFC and proved to be a major ratings magnet for the tenth season of their Ultimate Fighter reality show on Spike TV. Slice lost in the preliminary round of the show’s tournament and went 1-1 in the UFC before being released.

Good night, and Good Luck

Although White specifies that they will honor all active Strikeforce contracts, there’s little question in most people’s minds that it’s a matter of time before the talent is absorbed into the UFC rosters and Strikeforce as a brand and fight promotion is dissolved. And that’s not an unreasonable expectation, as there is no logical reason for the UFC to maintain another brand. Strikeforce as a brand was never distinct enough that the UFC would  have any reason to keep it separate, and as White has stated time and again the company’s goals to be the sole brand of MMA in the world, there’s no reason to think they’d change course here.

And while some may point to Bellator Fighting Fighting Championships, with their MTV2 TV deal and names like ‘Razor’ Rob McCullough, Hector Lombard, Zoila Frausto, Eddie Alvarez, and Ben Askren on their roster, their only shot would be if their financiers are deep pocket, long-term investors, MTV2 ratings soar through the roof such that they could parlay that onto HBO or NBC, and their entire roster develops an Ortiz / Couture / St-Pierre-caliber charisma. Going out on a limb, I predict none of that will prove to be the case, and even so, in the public’s eyes, the ship for first place has sailed, and Zuffa is at the helm.

Your winner, by submission, the UFC.

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Hawaii Sweeps TUF 11 Finale 3-0

Posted in Breaking News, Live Event Reports, The Ultimate Fighter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by jaytan716

Story By: Jay Tan- MMA Hawaii Staff Reporter – Photos by Silton Buendia

Chris1Despite the fact that three different fighters came from three different camps, Travis Browne, Brad Tavares, and Chris “The Crippler” Leben all gave the Islands proud reason to celebrate last night, as each won their respective matches decisively at the UFC’s 11th “Ultimate Finale,” at the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The event was the “Ultimate Fighter” season 11 finale, and was headlined by Court McGee vs. Kris “Savage” McCray, in a match to determine the reality show winner. In the end, McGee submitted McCray by rear naked choke at 3:41 of round two, earning him a six-figure contract with the UFC.

In the opening match, Honolulu-native Travis “Hapa” Browne defeated James McSweeney by TKO. Browne, who currently resides and trains in San Diego, was making his UFC debut with the match, riding in on a nine-match win streak, including victories in King of the Cage, Bellator Fighting Championships, and Gladiator Challenge.

The fight itself started out slowly, with both men sizing each other up and trading occasional strikes. Midway through the round, Browne dropped McSweeney with a left hook and pounced on top to fire a series of lefts. He worked briefly for an Americana, but transitioned to full mount and ground-and-pounded with punches until referee Kim Winslow stopped the action at 4:32 of the first round, awarding Browne victory by TKO.

The match that Hawaiians were perhaps buzzing most about was Hilo-born / Kailua-trained Brad Tavares vs. Seth Baczynski, both members of the TUF season 11 cast. The fight was in fact a rematch from a quarterfinal bout between them, which ended when Baczynski hit an illegal strike (kick to the head of a grounded opponent) on Tavares.  Because of the kick, Tavares was awarded the win by DQ and advanced to the semi-finals.


Despite the illegal strike, there was no bad blood between the two. In SpikeTV.com bonus footage, after the match, Baczynski was shown chasing after coach Chuck Liddell and Tavares, apologetic and repeating “I’m not a dirty fighter.”

Both men were all business in the first round, as Tavares hit his trademark hip toss off Baczynski trying for a takedown. Baczynski did later threaten with a triangle choke, as he would again in the third, but Tavares was dominant in the first, riding the back for most of the first and some of the third. Round two saw Tavares get the takedown and punish on the ground until Baczynski would escape to his feet, where Tavares would repeat the process. Baczynski came alive in the third, shooting for takedowns, throwing punches from bottom, and cinching what seemed like a very tight triangle, but Tavares weathered the storm and walked away with the unanimous decision victory.

Despite the triangle chokes, Tavares maintained that he was not going to give up voluntarily, saying he was “never close to tapping.  Close to going out.  I didn’t expect him to get it.  He’s got skills.”

Finally, Oahu-transplant Chris “The Crippler” Leben defeated wrestler Aaron Simpson by TKO in the first round.

Simpson scored two takedowns in the first round, the second of which he peppered Leben’s head with punches, but to no seeming effect. Around 1:20 in the second round, Leben and Simpson came alive with flurries, with heavy “Leben” chants emanating from the crowd. After taking several shots to the head, Simpson shot in for a takedown, but Leben caught it and fired lefts from a front facelock. Simpson escaped and ran, falling forward and off balance, at which point referee Josh Rosenthal called a stop to the action.  Leben was awarded the match by TKO / referee’s stoppage at 4:17 of the second round.

After the match, Leben simply said “You know what, that’s what I do.  What am I supposed to say, I hit him in the face because that’s my job.”

For his efforts, Leben was awarded $25,000 for Knockout of the Night.

This article originally appeared under National MMA News at MMAHawaii.com on June 20th, 2010.

Court McGee wins TUF honors, Hamill Edges Jardine in All Out War

Posted in Breaking News, The Ultimate Fighter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by jaytan716

Story By: Jay Tan- MMA Hawaii Staff Reporter – Photo by Silton Buendia

_MG_8731Camaraderie and career crossroads may have been the universal storyline for the top headlining matches at the 11th “Ultimate Finale,” held at the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

As is customary, the event was headlined by the “Ultimate Fighter” final, between Court McGee (Team Liddell) and Kris “Savage” McCray (Team Ortiz). The co-main event, at one point the headliner, was “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine vs. Matt “The Hammer” Hamill, in a light heavyweight bout that saw both men at a crossroads in their careers.

For Jardine, the bout represented a rebirth, as the Jackson’s MMA fighter claimed in a conference call interview that after three losses in 2009 and 2010, he had reworked and refined his fight skills.

“Me and Greg Jackson. . . We looked at all of my fights, from my first UFC fight until my last. And we started breaking down when I’m doing good stuff, when I’m doing bad stuff. And now there’s a little bit more rhyme and reason behind what I do. Like I can be – I can get back to my old style, if I want to, or I can get real clean and crisp and do new stuff, if I want to,” he explained.
“But it’s just I feel like I’ve come full circle, and I’ve needed these learning pains to get to where I am right now. And I’m excited now to show off a little bit and make another run for the top.”

Conversely, Hamill said he felt he was continuing his way to the top. In the post-fight press conference, Hamill stated that his goal was to crack the top 10 fighters in his weight class, and to do that, he had to beat fighters the caliber of Jardine.

The match was a back-and-forth war of attrition, almost exclusively on the feet. Jardine seemed to want to keep the fight standing, escaping Hamill’s clinch and keeping the former Utica wrestler at bay with low kicks and overhand rights. Hamill found himself chasing Jardine for much of the match.

In round two, the exchange of combos continued, though Hamill reached for more takedowns. Midway through the match, Hamill took several fingers to the eye, for which referee Herb Dean eventually penalized Jardine one point. The poke was apparently bad enough that Hamill spun away from Jardine and even fell to the ground, off-balance, but ringside physicians allowed the match to continue. At this point, Jardine was a house of fire with combinations, perhaps frustrated by the point deduction. Hamill’s reply was just as strong, taking Jardine down and throwing fast rights off a front facelock, then knees from a Muay Thai clinch. Jardine had a nasty deep cut in the middle of his face. Hamill scored a takedown early in the third round, and tried for seve_MG_8585ral more, though Jardine, who was visibly gassed, evaded most shots.

Judges award the match to Matt Hamill via majority decision (two wins, one draw), off scores of 29-27, 29-27, and 28-28.

One of the most interesting yet understated aspects about the McGee x McCray finals was the fighters’ mutual respect and admiration for each other. In numerous interviews surrounding the fight, both men demonstrated a mutual bond and friendship that was more characteristic than any pair of TUF finalists in any of the past ten seasons.

“I support him 110%, and he’s gonna do the same for me. I know he is,” McCray declared in the post-fight press conference.

Even before the opening bell, “Let’s Go Savage” chants resonated throughout the crowd. Both men started out with fast flurries in the center. McGee took the fight to the ground twice early, with McCray escaping to his feet both times, with McCray firing headshots the second time. McCray pushed the action with strikes, though McGee was never one to shirk from the challenge, forcing McCray to the fences. In round two, McCray stayed heavy with the striking and worked some dirty boxing from the clinch. McGee grounded the match again and worked a modified side choke / arm triangle. McCray escaped, but after another big double-leg takedown, McGee got the back and sunk in a rear naked choke until McCray was forced to submit at 3:41 of the second round.

After the match, McGee dedicated his victory to recovering addicts and people who faced drug and alcohol problems. McGee, himself a recovering addict who once overdosed to the point of near death, said “when I broke up like that, that’s seven years, man. All in one minute. I dedicate that fight to anybody who’s in the struggle, tonight. If you’d have come from where I came from to where I am today, man, you’d have been the same way.”

This article originally appeared under National MMA News at MMAHawaii.com on June 20th, 2010.

Scottie “Einstein” Epstein to join Team Liddell on TUF 11

Posted in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, Breaking News, The Ultimate Fighter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2010 by jaytan716

Scottie "Einstein" Epstein will be Chuck Liddell's assistant coach on the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter."

By Jay Tan

10th Planet instructor / brown belt Scottie “Einstein” Epstein will be Chuck Liddell’s assistant coach on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which will debut on March 31st and run through June.

“This is a great opportunity. . . It makes 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu go to a whole other level of respect. It legitimizes it more and more,” said Epstein.

Season 11 of “TUF” begins shooting this month, and will feature 16 middleweight fighters competing for the traditional “Ultimate Fighter” three-year contract. This will be Liddell’s second tour of coaching duty, as it will be for his opponent, Tito Ortiz. Liddell coached the inaugural season of the show in 2006, against Randy Couture, while Ortiz coached season three, against Ken Shamrock.

“This show is a show that I watch. . . ‘Dexter’ and ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ are the only shows that I’ll watch every fuckin’ episode. So I get to be a part of that. So that’s exciting for me. What really will be exciting is, hopefully, guys that I’m teaching use the shit that I’m teaching. . . It excites me to corner, it excites me to fuckin’ get paid for it, and to get recognition for it.”

This won’t be Epstein’s first exposure on national cable TV, as he previously was featured on an episode of “TapouT” two years ago, in connection with his 2007 match against Sergio Quinones. This time, however, “Einstein” is all too happy to defer the limelight to Liddell and the 16 competitors, explaining “[with] the TapouT show, there was pressure on me. There’s no pressure on this. . . So this is a lot more fun for me, and I get to fuck around a lot more . . . live my life and not really worry.”

Although the announcement that Liddell and Ortiz would coach season 11 and subsequently face each other in a third match was met by many MMA fans with anti-climactic disappointment, Epstein is one of the vocal enthusiasts for the match, believing that this will be the opportunity for Liddell to reinvent himself as a ground specialist.

“I’m training him 3-4 days a week. He flies down to train with me. That makes me feel good about myself. That that guy trusts me that much. . . Which is why I want him to submit Tito immediately. I want Tito to be taking him down, he sprawls . . . smash, choke him the fuck out. That’ll be his first submission ever in his professional [fight career].”

This will be the second 10th Planet / Legends MMA member to coach on “The Ultimate Fighter,” as Chris Reilly served as striking coach for Team Rampage on season seven (Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin).

Best of luck to Einstein and Team Liddell.

Evangelista vs. Aina set to headline first-ever ShoMMA Event on May 15

Posted in Breaking News, Strikeforce with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2009 by jaytan716

On the heels of Showtime’s April 4 announcement about SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers, the cable premium has officially signed Billy Evangelista (9-0) vs. “Iron” Mike Aina (11-6-1) as the series’ inaugural main event. As speculated, it will take place on May 15 at the Save Mart Center in Evangelista’s hometown of Fresno, CA.

Aina and Evangelista has previously been rumored to compete on Strikeforce’s upcoming event at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO.

Female fighter Kim “Sugar Free” Couture (1-1) is also scheduled to appear on ShoMMA, although an opponent has yet to be named.

SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers replaces ShoXC: Elite Challenger Series as the network’s platform for young, burgeoning mixed martial arts fighters. The series complements Showtime’s higher-profile Strikeforce events, the first of which is scheduled for April 11 and features Frank “The Legend” Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz in the main event.

Although Evangelista and Aina’s respective resumes reflect the “classic match-up of striker vs. grappler,” both fighters have demonstrated impressive all-around proficiency in prior matches. Evangelista is an experienced wrestler and Muay Thai kickboxer who holds wins against submission specialists like Nam Phan and Ryan Bixler.

Aina, in comparison, is a longtime disciple of B.J. Penn, yet boasts six KO’s in his 11 victories.  His 2007 match against Diaz, which saw Aina get the better of several striking exchanges, had a lot of fans and experts talking about his striking aptitude.

“Billy is no slouch. I’m expecting a really tough fight because we have similar styles.  We both like to stand up even though we’re both also well rounded. I’m going in with a positive mindset and I’m ready to work hard in there,” Aina noted in a release issued by Showtime.

Added attraction Kim Couture, who has looked to establish herself outside of her celebrated husband’s shadow, impressed many fans for her tenacity in her June 2008 debut match.  Although Couture took a decision loss to Kim Rose, the fact that she suffered a broken jaw early in the first round and continued to go the distance forced many doubters to give the striking spouse her due. More recently, Couture beat Lina Kvokov via first round TKO at Strikeforce: Destruction in November.

SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers will be broadcast live at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) on Showtime. Tickets for this event go on sale Monday, April 13, at 10:00 a.m. PT.  They are available at the Save Mart Center box office and select Save Mart Supermarkets, as well as at through all Ticketmaster outlets and Strikeforce.com.