Week in MMA & Boxing #29
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
February 19th- February 25, 2016
Dos Anjos Out, Diaz In
Just 12 days before UFC’s first expected blockbuster event of the year, lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, who was scheduled to defend against Conor McGregor on 3/5 in Las Vegas, pulled out of the fight with a broken foot.
The announcement of dos Anjos being out came on the morning, and late that night UFC announced the new main event would be McGregor vs. Nate Diaz, at 170 pounds.
The injury took place on 2/19, but was kept quiet with the hope that somehow he would be able to fight on it.
The first two fighters asked to be replacements were Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo. Edgar said he was injured (he has a legitimate groin injury) and Aldo turned the fight down saying he couldn’t be ready on such short notice. McGregor made fun of both, saying Edgar had been talking and then it was offered and he backed out, and noted Aldo had said he was in camp to be ready in case there was an injury, there was an injury, and then he turned it down. It would have been difficult if not impossible at this late a date for McGregor to have made 145, so either man would have likely had to have faced him in a non-title match at 155 pounds.
John Kavanagh, McGregor’s coach, in an article about what happened the past few days, noted that back in September McGregor told everyone from 145 to 170 pounds to stay ready because you never know when there will be an opening, because it’s not uncommon for his opponents to pull out. Kavanagh noted this makes six of McGregor’s last 12 opponents who have pulled out. He said if you’re a viable contender prior to a big McGregor fight, you should stay ready.
Kavanagh also noted that McGregor, when told about dos Anjos being out, agreed to fight whoever was chosen and agreed to fight at either 155 or 170 so the best fight could be made.
At that point, the two names that seemed to have the most interest among fans were Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz.
Even though Cerrone’s record is far better than that of Diaz, Diaz did beat Cerrone in the head-to-head match. McGregor said that Cerrone was just destroyed by dos Anjos and that Diaz had beaten Cerrone, so he felt he was more deserving.
Dana White told Kevin Iole that the fight was offered to both Edgar and Aldo. Those in both Edgar and Aldo’s camp confirmed they were asked. Aldo’s coach, Andres Pederneiras, said he was asked but that Aldo wasn’t in good enough shape to fight so quickly.
The story of the show was built around McGregor trying to become the first UFC fighter in history to hold championships in two weight classes, and that’s out of the picture now.
The time frame of the withdrawal is almost identical (it was 11 days last year) of Aldo’s broken ribs that led to McGregor instead facing Chad Mendes.
Ali Abdelaziz, the manager of dos Anjos, told Kevin Iole that dos Anjos threw a kick and his training partner checked it. It hurt at the time but they continued sparring, but after the training session ended, the foot swelled up badly. He said that he called UFC and they sent him to a doctor who told him the foot was broken, that he wouldn’t need surgery, but that he needed to take six weeks off training. The timing where he’d be ready to return coincides with UFC 200 on 7/9, so provided McGregor doesn’t lose on 3/5, you’ve got your main event. Even if he does lose, they may go with the idea that he lost at 170, and thus could still challenge dos Anjos if he’s healthy at 155. At worst, he could defend against Edgar or Aldo at 145 at UFC 200.
Under nearly identical circumstances last year, when Aldo was injured in training but would have been able to fight a few months later, UFC created an interim title for McGregor and Mendes to fight over.
Cerrone, who just came off a quick win over Alex Oliveira on 2/27, and who has had words back-and-forth with McGregor for months, immediately started pushing for the match. Anthony Pettis, who was just announced for the 4/23 show in Las Vegas against Edson Barboza, also publicly tried to get the shot, as did Diaz, Eddie Alvarez, Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Abdelaziz, dos Anjos’ manager, said he offered Nurmagomedov to UFC, and it was turned down, but White denied that, said Abdelaziz was that full of shit, saying that Nurmagomedov hasn’t fought in two years and is booked to headline on FOX on 4/19.
Cerrone didn’t appear to take significant punishment in the Oliveira fight, and to me, made the most sense as far as being the biggest star of those available, having a storyline and being the closest to fighting shape, since he just fought. There are issues with trying to peak a second time 13 days later, but he’s still going to have his cardio conditioning that he can get back easier than a guy starting from scratch like Diaz.
Diaz creates a very different style match up for McGregor, with his length and style, but for his style to work its best, he needs to be in top shape. McGregor claimed that when it was offered to Diaz, he agreed but held out for more money, and then during the day asked that the weight be changed, first to 160, then 165 and finally McGregor said he offered 170. Diaz claimed he would have fought at 155. Diaz is an inconsistent fighter, who at times, like in his last fight with Michael Johnson on 12/19, looks great. But he’s also lost three of his last five and five of his last ten, including convincingly one sided loss to Benson Henderson, Josh Thomson and dos Anjos.
While the fight no longer has a championship involved, nor McGregor going for history, after the press conference, as far as man vs. man interest, there is far more with Diaz than there was with dos Anjos. The fight is likely to be the size of Diaz vs. the conditioning of McGregor.
Given Aldo’s mentality, he wasn’t at this point going to go into a fight with McGregor at a handicap of not being close to his best shape. No matter what the money is, he’s not going to put himself in position to have another loss to McGregor by fighting him when it’s not for the title and he’s not at his best.
Silva vs Bisping Fight Pass Show
This week’s show is the biggest Fight Pass card to date. It will be very interesting regarding the growth of the service over the next week, although UFC will likely say little or nothing about it as they’ve kept Fight Pass information pretty quiet. But the feeling is this is a 350,000 buy PPV (or at least would be if it was held in the U.S. with the press of an Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping fight) or probably close to a 2 million viewer FS 1 show (although live in both cases it would be lower due to the early start time in the U.S.).
The show starts at 12:45 p.m. Eastern time with Martin Svensson vs. David Teymur, Thibault Gouti vs Teemu Packalen, Jarjis Danho vs. Daniel Omielanczyuk, Rustan Khabilov vs. Norman Parke, Brad Scott vs. Krzysztof Jotko, Arnold Allen vs. Yaotzin Mesa, Scott Askham vs. Chris Dempsey, Marlon Vera vs. Davey Grant, Mike Wilkinson vs. Makwan Amirkhani, Brad Pickett vs. Francisco Rivera, Tom Breese vs. Keita Nakamura, Thales Leites vs. Gegard Mousasi and Silva vs. Bisping.
If Silva wins, he would probably get the Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold winner next if he wants it. He’d get Rockhold for sure. If Bisping wins, it’s tougher because Rockhold beat him handily when they fought before, and more likely Rockhold would face the winner of the 5/14 Ronaldo Jacare Souza vs. Vitor Belfort fight
Kimbo vs Dada 5000 - Pathetic
Dada 5000 and Kimbo Slice had one of the worst fights I have ever seen in my life on 2/19 at the Toyota Center in Houston for Bellator’s first major show of 2016. The idea was to put the two heavyweights in the ring, and they’d throw down, figuring it would be a short fight, limited in skill, but explosive and be over quickly.
The problem was both guys got gassed out so badly that their punches lacked any steam and they couldn’t hurt the other. Fans were booing. Really, this was one of the worst fights in MMA history, even if there were people who found it very entertaining in a perverse way.
Finally, after two rounds of gasping for air lazy punches, Dada collapsed, more from exhaustion than the weak punches, and the fight was over.
Dada had to be carried out on a stretcher and was rushed to the hospital.
At one point he was in critical condition. His went into cardiac arrest after the fight, and his heart stopped beating briefly while backstage at the Toyota Center. He was rushed to a local hospital. He also suffered from renal failure. It was touch-and-go, and he was still hospitalized four days later, although doing much better.
There were a number of problems that could have led to the worst thing possible for the promotion and the sport, a death in a highly publicized and highly rated fight, especially of an older, overweight fighter who had limited skill and no conditioning. It’s horrible when a young fighter passes away, and boxing has survived that multiple times each year. MMA has survived its few deaths, although none have come in nationally televised fights, nor in any major league promotions. A death in such a situation of a trained fighter would create a lot of controversy because of the nature of a sport that still has much of the country not fully understanding it. But if it happens in one of these gimmick ratings fights, with a non-fighter, the media would have a field day, and it could have threatened the company’s future.
In this case, Dada crash dieted from 305 pounds to 265, the top limit for a heavyweight. He was suffering from exhaustion and dehydration. In trying to lose weight, he went on a diet of mostly eggs and bananas, which caused a high potassium level, and he didn’t drink hardly any fluids, thinking by doing that he would drop water weight.
Fighting is dangerous for young, highly conditioned and heavily trained athletes. For older men who are not well trained, who don’t have skill or defense, it’s too dangerous. That’s why there have been too many tragedies in Tough Man contests as compared with MMA, because skill and conditioning lowers the risk.
People wanted to see the Freak show
While it may have been the worst fight in years, people wanted to see it. It was the most-watched fight in Bellator history, with 2.5 million viewers. The entire show did 1,964,000 viewers, beating Bellator’s previous full show record of 1,580,000 viewers set on 6/19 for a show headlined by Slice vs. Ken Shamrock. That fight was awful as well. Shamrock vs. Slice was a slow motion fight that one would have thought would have killed both men’s very significant drawing power dead. Except it didn’t. They both drew better coming back.
For the same reason, one would think this fight would kill whatever aura was left of people wanting to see Kimbo fight. But people were saying that after the James Thompson fight, the Seth Petruzelli fight, the Roy Nelson fight and the Houston Alexander fight, long before the Shamrock fight.
The show also did far better with DVR viewership than most sports events. Adding the viewers who watched it on DVR as of Monday night, the show itself averaged 2.2 million viewers, the Slice vs. Dada fight averaged 2.9 million viewers, the Shamrock vs. Gracie fight averaged 2.7 million viewers and the final minute of the Slice vs. Dada fight had 3.3 million viewers.
The overall live number would have been the third largest viewership for an MMA show on American cable since early 2011, trailing only the January 18, 2015 Conor McGregor vs. Dennis Siver show (2,751,000 viewers) and the 1/17 T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz bantamweight title fight show (2,288,000 viewers). Before that, you have to go back to March 26, 2011, for a UFC show on Spike headlined by Phil Davis vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, which did 2,173,000 viewers.
As far as the other numbers went, for the live showing, Slice vs. Dada did 2.5 million viewers and Shamrock vs. Gracie did 2.4 million. The peak rating was 2.7 million which came for the last minute of the Slice vs Dada fight. As bad of a fight as it was, and some of this is the “so bad it’s good” thing that has proven the case many times with an incredibly bad pro wrestling segment doing well in the Monday Night Wars era, the audience for that fight grew from start-to-finish. The previous Bellator record was Slice vs. Shamrock which did 2.3 million. The difference in numbers doesn’t really say it was the Slice fight that was the draw because it did slightly more. For one, it went three rounds, giving it more time to build a rating than the 2:22 that the Shamrock fight went. Plus, the 11:16 to 11:30 time slot is slightly better on a Friday night than 11:54 to 11:57. So it was the combination that was the draw. Both did more than triple what Tito Ortiz, another big name from the past, who was challenging modern fighter Liam McGeary for the light heavyweight title did.
The show beat everything all day and night on television in the Male 18-34 demo, and Spike beat not just everything on cable, but also the network programming, in prime time in Males 18-34 and 35-49. In Males 18-49, In the adult 18-49 demo, the most sought after demo, Bellator beat all but two shows on television on broadcast or cable over the 24 hour period.
In addition, a 90 minute special preceding the show called “Kimbo Slice: The Truth,” did 872,000 viewers. After the show was over, a 30 minute special on Benson Henderson, Bellator’s recent big signing, did 818,000 viewers.
The audience was 67% male in the 18-49 demo. The show did a 0.59 in 12-17, 0.89 in 18-34, 1.05 in 35-49 and 0.50 in 50+.
The show drew 8,663 fans to the Toyota Center, the second largest crowd in company history, trailing only the 9/19 San Jose show. The gate was in excess of $620,000.
One would think that at some point the public will tire of watching guys who can no longer fight but were famous years ago put on these displays. And when they send Bellator the message, the message will probably register. Until those fights don’t draw, a promoter, particularly of a secondary struggling brand, is going to have to pay attention to what works.
If these kinds of fights are to take place, commissions need to test the cardio of older fighters. A guy who isn’t in shape to do two hard minutes shouldn’t be booked for 15 minutes. And in fights with older fighters, they need to also be tested for hydration levels before the fight, along with far stronger physicals (many states to have more demanding physicals for fighters over the age of 35 in some places, 40 in others).
Some would say the scare that was the hospitalization of Dada should put an end to these kinds of fights. But the ratings indicate at least what the public wants this week. It may change at some point and the ratings will tell that lesson as well. But it didn’t change after Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar, nor after Shamrock vs. Kimbo. If nothing else, if they are going to do legends fights, they need to not have crash weight cuts, strong testing, and shorter time limits, perhaps three minute rounds instead of five minutes. I sent that idea to Scott Coker, who promoted the show, and he seemed receptive, saying he was telling people the same thing.
Gracie vs Shamrock 3
Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock met for the first time at UFC 1, on November 12, 1993, with Gracie winning via choke in 57 seconds. A rematch, on April 7, 1995, in Charlotte, NC, is still the longest match in UFC history (36:06) and will be perhaps forever given the longest a match can go now is 25:00. It wasn’t a great fight, but it was the biggest PPV success the UFC had prior to 2005, and in doing 282,000 viewers at the time there were only about 25 million homes who could even get PPV, it was the largest non-boxing sports PPV event ever held up to that point in time.
That fight was ruled a draw. There were no judges in those days. Both men for years claimed they should have won.
Shamrock had attempted to get a rematch for two decades, with no interest from Gracie. Shamrock believed that it was only because he looked so terrible against Slice, that Gracie, seeing that fight, jumped at the chance of a rematch.
Not much happened in the first two minutes. There was the strange situation where Gracie was allowed to fight without taping his hands, because he thought it would improve his grip. Both were cautious. They finally locked up and threw knees. Gracie kneed Shamrock right in the groin and Shamrock then took a knee to the side of the head. Gracie took him down and finished him with punches on the ground.
Even though Shamrock should not be fighting at 52, given the history, the long frustration and Gracie not being a hard hitter, having a fight where Shamrock would either get his retribution, or lose and it’s over, wasn’t the worst thing for the two pioneers.
But the immediate feeling was terrible, in the sense Shamrock lost again, but it was due to the low blow. He blew up at first, screaming that Gracie did it on purpose and was absolutely stunned when the fight was called, as he was taking punches while screaming he was kneed to the groin.
Gracie was ruled the winner in 2:22.
The replay clearly showed the knee landed low. Every state has different rules regarding replays and overturning decisions. In Nevada, the rule is that referees can and should use replays if the final winning move is an illegal blow.
Now you can’t overturn a match in my opinion if the ref missed a foul a minute or even 30 seconds earlier, even if that changes the momentum. But if the foul incapacitates the fighter and he’s then beaten down immediately after, and the ref misses that, that should be a no contest.
Gracie actually tried to take credit for it as a win, smiling and said he and Shamrock come from the era where there were no rules (well, there were a few, and groin shots were illegal in both prior Gracie vs. Shamrock fights, but they were legal for a short period of time in between) and it was a fight to the finish.
Shamrock filed a protest with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations. His complaint said the rematch shouldn’t be called Gracie vs. Shamrock 4, but be the continuation of Gracie vs. Shamrock 3.
Next Big Bellator show
They announced the next tentpole event would be 5/14 in San Jose, which will go head-to-head with a UFC PPV show. The two top matches are Phil Davis vs. King Mo Lawal for the top contender at light heavyweight, and Josh Thomson vs. Michael Chandler for the top contender at lightweight. Davis was to face Liam McGeary for the title, but McGeary is injured. Davis won a tournament in San Jose where Lawal won his first match and was injured before the finals. But Lawal came back and won the Rizin tournament on New Year’s Eve at heavyweight.
UFC Fight Night review
Donald Cerrone rebounded from his quick title loss to Rafael dos Anjos on 12/19 with a first round finish over Alex Oliveira in the “Battle of the Cowboys” main event of UFC’s 2/21 show in Pittsburgh.
The Fight Night show, going head-to-head with WWE’s Fast Lane, didn’t have much star power depth, but featured mostly solid to good fights with quick finishes on top and a great fight with Lauren Murphy vs. Kelly Faszholz underneath.
The show did 983,000 viewers, up 11 percent from the 2015 prime time average, peaking with 1,207,000 viewers for the main event. It was the second most-watched sports event on television for the night, trailing an NBA game between the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers on ESPN that did 1,645,000 viewers.
The prelims, headlined by Alex Garcia vs. Sean Strickland, and with no major names involved, did 829,000 viewers, up 18 percent from the FS 1 prime time average for such shows.
The live event at the Consol Energy Center drew 7,330 fans paying $572,547, which is normal range for such a show given the star power.
The $50,000 performance bonuses went to Faszholz and Murphy for best fight, and to Cerrone and Chris Camozzi for finishes. The bonus saw Cerrone extend his previous record for most performance bonuses for a career to 16.
McGregor’s Sports Illustrated cover makes him only the third MMA fighter to reach that status. Ronda Rousey (2015) was the only UFC major star put on the cover.
McGregor has said that he’s committed to UFC 200. He had put on noticeable weight for the dos Anjos fight, and he was having trouble making 145 before, so I can see him vacating that title with a 155 title win. He’s also said that after UFC 200, he wants to fight in Boston and Dublin. He’s also said that he has no issues with UFC nor is he thinking about starting his own promotion. He actually started his own promotional company and those close to the situation had given us a lot of details on it, but everything must be on good terms right now.
McGregor, in talking with Severe MMA, called himself, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta a team and that, “I’m not trying to break out, I’m trying t grow, be eye-to-eye and get my f***ing share of the pie and that’s it. They know that. I will always be in association with Zuffa and the great team at the UFC. It’s an honor to grow with this company.
UFC in Holland
Andrei Arlovski vs. Alistair Overeem was announced as the main event of the 5/8 debut in Rotterdam, Holland. This was a surprise since both are out of Greg Jackson’s camp, and Arlovski looks to be in line for a title shot while Arlovski was just knocked out in less than a minute by Stipe Miocic. And both are hard hitters who have been knocked out numerous times, so whoever lands the first good shot has a great chance of winning. A lot of people were expecting Overeem vs. Cain Velasquez, but Velasquez hasn’t been medically cleared and for obvious reasons, they wanted Overeem to headline the Holland debut
UFC buys Glory Rights
UFC announced that Fight Pass will be adding two new sports on the network, which will be monthly kickboxing and fairly regular high-level Jiu Jitsu. They announced a partnership with Glory kickboxing and Eddie Bravo Invitational Jiu Jitsu. The Glory SuperFight Series will debut next week, with a live 2/26 show from Chicago. Essentially what Glory is doing is taping two separate shows every month, dividing the talent equally. Half the show will air live on Fight Pass. The other half will air on tape delay on ESPN 2.
The Fight Pass main event for the first show will, in a unique twist, feature Joe Schilling, a regular in Bellator as an MMA fighter, facing Mike Lemaire in a bout where the winner may be in line for a middleweight title match with Artem Levin. It’s notable that Glory had worked with Bellator including being a part of the Dynamite show in September in San Jose. The second Glory show will be March from Paris and feature two title matches, and they will be running monthly events for the rest of the year. The Eddie Bravo Invitational is scheduled to have its first live show I April, and run five or six events during 2016.
Perhaps the biggest news from the deal with Glory is that UFC will have the rights to the entire fight library Glory owns, which is not just their 27 shows, but more than 100 K-1 shows from 1993 to 2012 which include the biggest kickboxing matches from around the world including the Grand Prix shows and Dynamite New Year’s Eve events, as well as seven It’s Showtime kickboxing events. With the K-1 library, UFC Fight Pass will add another 2,000 hours of footage.
There is some dispute over the rights to the K-1 footage. A group called K-1 Global claims that they own the footage of the K-1 promotion and all the K-1 trademarks and assets and that UFC would need to make a deal with them for the footage. Their claim is that in 2013, during the bankruptcy proceedings for the original K-1 promotion, the former owners, FEG (Fighting Entertainment Groups) sold certain parts of the library to Glory Sports International, but claimed that FEG by that point no longer had the legal rights to sell that footage because those assets has already been purchased through bankruptcy court by K-1 Global. K-1 Global said that there are legal proceedings ongoing in Japan that date back to the announcement of the sale of the footage to Glory
New Bellator Kickboxing Promotion
Scott Coker announced on 2/18 at a press conference with John Slusser of Spike TV that they are creating a sister promotion, Bellator kickboxing, which will air regularly on Spike. Coker got his start as a kickboxing promoter in San Jose in 1985, and provided filler programming content for ESPN and ESPN 2 until 2005, using the name Strikeforce. He then turned Strikeforce into an MMA company, building it around Frank Shamrock and Cung Le. Le was Coker’s biggest drawing card in the kickboxing days.
After Spike canceled Glory due to weak ratings, they started talking about this deal. The difference is Viacom and Spike will own the promotion. The top stars announced for the promotion included Raymond Daniels, Joe Schilling, Anastasia Yankova, Melvin Manhoef, Kevin Ross (the fiancé of Gina Carano and the guy who introduced Carano to kickboxing when Carano was in college) and Keri Melendez (the wife of Gilbert Melendez).
The first show will be a combined MMA and kickboxing event on 4/16 in Torino, Italy. There will be a live MMA show at 3 p.m. featuring Alessio Sakara vs. Brian Rogers as well as Patricky Pitbull Freire and Yankova. Then, at 9 p.m. will be the first kickboxing show, with Manhoef vs. Alexandru Negrea and a 165 pound world title fight with Karim Ghajii defending against 158 weight class champion Mustapha Haida. Coker noted that some of the MMA fighters will do kickboxing matches and some of the kickboxers will do MMA fights, like Schilling already does. Schilling said he also wanted to do regular boxing on Spike
Brooks not Happy with Bellator
Will Brooks, the company’s lightweight champion, was unhappy this past week and expressing it on Twitter, saying he plans on fighting out his contract. I think he feels that as champion in the company’s best weight division, he should be promoted as a star, but he actually doesn’t even have any fight announced. Josh Thomson is fighting Michael Chandler instead of Brooks, even though Brooks has two wins over Chandler and has a 17-1 record, or at least that’s how it’s planned, and Benson Henderson is fighting Andrey Koreshkov instead of Brooks.
Herschel wants another Fight
Herschel Walker said that he’s told Scott Coker that he’s up for doing one more fight. Walker turns 54 next week. I recognize that Walker is one of the greatest all-around athletes of his generation (world class in football, track and boblsed racing) and had he come into MMA in his 20s would have probably been great at it, but fighting after 40 isn’t a good idea for all but the best fighters and after 50 is a worse idea.
ONE MMA Under Suspicion
When it comes to the weight-cutting issue and One Championship coming up with a game changing policy, based on the last couple of shows, I’m very suspicious. Everyone was fighting at the same weight they had been fighting at. A real policy where you fight at walk-around weight would mean at least 90 percent of the fighters would move up one class, and some two classes.
Ben Askren and Luis Santos have a feud of sorts there. Santos was cutting a lot of weight to get to 170, as in their first meeting, he was tons bigger than Askren and was throwing him around until an eye poke by Askren ended the first a few minutes in. A rematch for Askren’s welterweight title saw Santos miss weight. Then they made an agreement that Askren would still fight him as long as he didn’t weigh more than 182 in the cage, and he couldn’t make that weight either.
When the new policy was announced as a lot of the fighters, used to cutting, were negative because they thought they’d have to fight a weight class up, Askren said they didn’t understand because they’d still be facing the same people. He noted that he’s moving to 185, a few pounds heavier than his walk-around weight but he’s fine with it because he’ll be fighting guys his same size. He noted that Santos couldn’t make even that weight given they were to fight at walk-around weight and he’s more than 200 pounds.
Well, here we are and on the 2/20 show, Santos was fighting at 170, where he beat Rafael Silva in 1:17. That tells me they aren’t monitoring the fighters’ weights nearly as much as they said because I don’t buy that the guy dropped 30-35 pounds of “natural” body weight and walks at 170