February 15, 2011
UFC prez White out to conquer world
By DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Now that he has conquered Toronto, Dana White has his sights set on nothing less than world domination.
The UFC head honcho told reporters on Tuesday that he was “blown away” by explosive ticket sales for UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre on April 30.
“This is going to be the biggest sport in the world,” the revved-up White said over the phone from New York City.
“We want to keep adding shows … We’re going to be putting on more fights in more places. There might be a day, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, when we’ll be putting on a show in Las Vegas and there will be a fight happening in Australia at the same time.”
White was sounding pretty hyped after the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first foray into Toronto sold out in mere minutes over the weekend — with 55,000 tickets being gobbled up in all when 42,000 had initially been offered — making the organization’s first stadium event its biggest ever.
UFC 129, featuring Canada’s favourite son, Georges St. Pierre, taking on American Jake Shields in the main event, raked in a record $11 million in ticket sales, and will shatter the attendance record of more than 23,000 set at UFC 124 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
“It was a big move to (initially) put 42,000 tickets on sale,” White said. “Every time we go up to the Bell Centre, we sell that thing out. But the question was, how many more people were really looking for tickets? When we put 42,000 on sale, I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about it and I’m absolutely blown away by the response.”
Selling out events is nothing new to White, but the magnitude of this one has him setting his sights on even bigger things: UFC coverage being beamed into more than a billion homes, a homegrown version of The Ultimate Fighter television series airing in countries such as Canada, the UK, and the Philippines (as soon as this year), and a possible date at the massive Cowboys Stadium.
“We’re in half a billion homes right now, on television world wide,” White said. “And we’re working on some deals right now, and we’ll get them done in the next few months, that will put us into over a billion homes world wide.”
The deals White is referring to is for television distribution in China and India, two huge markets that would truly make UFC a global brand.
With the outstanding response to UFC 129 and the money it is going to put in government coffers — White says $1.5 million just from ticket sales — provincial regulators are probably kicking themselves for not having sanctioned his mixed martial arts body sooner.
One of the reasons they dragged their feet, perhaps, was a lack of understanding, the perceived notion being that MMA is violent, brutish even. But these fighters are trained athletes — just like boxers — in disciplines that aren’t as easily understood by the casual observer. Anybody can watch a boxing match, not everyone can comprehend the intricacies of jujitsu, karate, kick boxing and judo.
Whatever happened to boxing anyway? It used to be that when we wanted to watch a good bust-up we turned to names like Ali and Foreman, Leonard and Hearns.
But boxing imploded on itself. Too much corruption, too many governing bodies, and not enough bouts between the fighters we wanted to see. And if you really wanted to know who the toughest guy on the planet was, didn’t you need to incorporate all fighting styles? You might be a great boxer, but could you win a street brawl? You know, Charles Bronson-style from Hard Times. So MMA took all the various styles and stuck them under one umbrella. And now, it’s names like Ortiz, Liddell, Emelianenko, Overeem, Silva and St. Pierre who rule the roost. Sure boxers Pacquaio and Mayweather are still huge household names, but what’s the chance we’ll actually ever see those two fight?
So brush up on your sambo (Russian judo), your Muay Thai (kick boxing), and your Brazilian jujitsu, because mixed martial arts is here to say.
If you think, it’s only people in Ontario who snapped up those tickets for UFC 129, think again. “This is going to be a global celebration,” director of Canadian operations Tom Wright said on Tuesday. “Tickets have been bought not only from all across Canada but all around the world.” … With UFC 129 ticket sales under their belts, Wright and White are already looking to other Canadian locales. “We want to be back in Vancouver this summer and we will. And there are great opportunities here to take our sport right across the country,” Wright said. … Ex-UFC welterweight and The Ultimate Fighter 4 cast member Jeremy Jackson was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life for sexual assault. The 28-year-old pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that he raped his ex-girlfriend during an attempted burglary.
Fedor's days numbered?
What’s next for the man some consider to be the greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all time?
Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko (31-3, 1 NC), who went almost 10 years without losing a bout, has now lost two in a row, his second defeat coming at the hands of Antonio Silva on Saturday night’s Strikeforce main event.
The veteran will have some time to decide his fate after receiving a three-month medical suspension because of a swollen eye that ended the fight, though it has been reported he could decide his future as soon as next month.
After Silva delivered a second-round beating that closed Fedor’s eye and forced doctors to step in, the legendary fighter said he was considering retirement.
“Maybe it is time to leave. Maybe this is my last time,” Fedor said.
However, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said after the bout he believes Fedor has plenty of fight left in him and could even return as an alternate in Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix, which continues on April 9.
While his eye didn’t look very good after the bout, Fedor has been cleared of any serious injury.
“In regards to continuation of my career, we will decide very soon. It’s in God’s hands,” the Russian added in a tweet on Tuesday.
Coker had better hope the Russian is not done with mixed martial arts. The Feb. 12 event averaged 741,000 viewers and peaked with 1.1 million for Fedor’s fight against Silva. Both ratings topped Strikeforce’s previous bests set in August 2009 when female fighters Gina Carano and Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos headlined the event.
Gina back to settle score
Gorgeous grappler Gina Carano has announced her return to the ring.
The fan favourite and pinup made her announcement during an appearance on Saturday night’s broadcast of Strikeforce. Carano, who ranked 16th in Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list for May, 2009 and whose father, Glenn, was a backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, from 1977-83, says she’ll most likely return to the octagon in June.
Carano’s last fight was in August, 2009, a loss to Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos.
“I think I just need to settle the score with myself,” Carano said of returning to the ring. “I need to get back in there for me. I just want to walk away from it knowing that I left it all in there, I left it all in the cage.”
She reportedly hasn’t been seen around mixed martial arts very much since the loss as she has been busy filming Haywire with director Steve Soderbergh. The movie is set to debut in April. Unlike the UFC, Strikeforce sanctions women fighters.
Title shot on line
Former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn and welterweight Jon Fitch got some extra motivation on Tuesday for their main event at the soldout UFC 127 in Sydney on Feb. 26.
UFC president Dana White said during a conference call that the winner of the Sydney bout would get a shot at the title next time out.
“They’re definitely in the title picture,” White told reporters. “Penn has held titles in both weight classes. Fitch has fought for the title and literally dominated that division for a long time, just didn’t win the title. So whoever wins this is the No. 1 guy.”
While that must have given the two fighters extra motivation, both said they are just trying to stay focused on the task at hand.
“I’m not thinking about that. I’m not thinking about titles. I’m just happy to fight an opponent of Jon Fitch’s level and Jon Fitch’s stature,” Penn said during the conference call.
Finch agreed with Penn’s thinking: “I don’t really want to be thinking about anything but fighting B.J. right now. He’s such a dangerous opponent and he’s been around so long that if I don’t give him my full attention and focus, that would be a huge mistake.
“BJ is dangerous at any weight class,” Fitch added. “If you make mistakes he is able to capitalize and put you away. I’ve got certain advantages with size, but it’s not going to be enough. I’ve had to work a lot on speed and explosiveness and keeping everything tight.”
He's not a Lesnar victim
You might have thought the January announcement by former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar that he was going to coach Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter would have thrown training partner Chris Tuchscherer for a loop as he prepares for his upcoming UFC 127 bout against Mark Hunt.
But it seems as though Tuchscherer has already shaken off the news and gotten on with business.
Tuchscherer says that not only has he continued to work with most of his regular team for his Vegas fight, but he has also began working with Greg Nelson again, at the MMA trainer’s facility in Minnesota.
“It hasn’t sidetracked me at all,” the former Division II all-American wrestler said of Lesner’s TV stint. “I’ve been getting good training in, done some different things and switched up some things that I think are gonna be better for me.”
The 35-year Tuchscherer is coming off a first-round TKO loss to rising fighter Brendan Schaub at UFC 116 last July and will be looking to even his record at 2-2 when he takes on Hunt.
Dana all thumbs in this fight
The war of words, er thumbs, seems to be heating up between UFC head honcho Dana White and M-1 Global’s director of operations Evgeni Kogan.
White was reportedly all smiles after 3-to-1 underdog Antonio Silva took down Russian Fedor Emelianenko on Saturday night in Strikeforce’s main event. Well, he tweeted a “happy face” to his more than 1 million Twitter followers, anyway. White said on a Tuesday conference call that he didn’t actually watch the fight.
“I didn’t see the show,” White said. “Whenever they fight, people text me and give me updates on what’s going on.”
White let his thumbs do the talking after Silva’s shocking upset at the IZOD Center in New Jersey. Not only did he post the happy face, he also tweeted: “M1 = M done!” and “ he was INCREDIBLY mismanaged!! Worst management in fight history.” This was a clear jab at the Russian’s manager Vadim Finkelstein.
Kogan apparently is one of White’s Twitter followers because he responded by standing up for Fedor and Finkelstein.
““Easy to be a prick tweeting on your phone, isn’t it? Come see us and say it to Vadim’s face — we’re in Jersey, coward,” Kogan tweeted in reply.
The UFC prez has coveted Fedor over the years but has never been able to lure him away from Strikeforce or M-1 Global.