The UFC held a conference call with the media earlier today to announce a new television deal with Spike TV and to discuss the UFC’s recent acquisition of former pro wrestler Brock Lesnar and the much anticipated bout between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79 in December.
Jennifer Wenk, the UFC’s head of public relations was the host of the call. Participants on the call included UFC President Dana White, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell, former PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva, Brock Lesnar, and Spike TV officials Brian Diamond and Kevin Kay.
Right off the bat Dana was asked if he purposely planned a conference call at the same time Randy Couture was slated to hold his press conference.
“Am I putting on a press conference to fuck with Randy Couture right now?” asked White. “Is that what you’re asking me? No, it’s not intentional. I’m here to announce the Spike deal and discuss the Lesnar signing as well as talk about Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva and their fight, that’s it. Is it a coincidence that we got this deal done the same week that Randy decided to speak out? No.”
White let everyone know that he still likes Couture as a person and would love to have him back. He was also confident that Couture would return in the near future.
“He’s mine,” claimed White “He’s under contract to me and he can’t fight anywhere else. I don’t know what his people are telling him but resignation or not he won’t be permitted to fight anywhere else. Besides that I love Randy. Randy is pissed at me. We’re friends and friends get pissed at each other. However I’m real confident that we’re going to kiss and make up real soon.”
The details of the UFC’s new deal with Spike TV are as follows:
The contract is a four year deal. There will be five more seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. Two seasons will take place in 2008, two in 2009, and only one season in 2010. The UFC and Spike TV are also developing a new television show that will premiere in 2010. The show will feature live fights and fighters of a “higher caliber” than those currently featured on TUF according to White.
White also stated that the UFC will produce 12 live events on Spike TV for next year.
“We’re going to do 12 live fight cards for next year,” said White. “We’ll continue to do UFC Fight Nights. We’re back in bed with these guys. They’ve been so good to us over the years and we’re going to do a lot of good programs.”
Some notes from yesterday’s M-1 Global press conference which took place in New York City…
- Sibling Sports LLC is the name of the undisclosed American entertainment company that purchased M-1. The company is formed by Sibling Theatricals Inc and Garlin Holdings Limited. Mitchell Maxwell will serve as President of Sibling Sports while Monte Cox will serve as President and CEO of M-1 Global.
- Fedor Emelianenko’s contract is a two-year, six-fight, multi-million dollar deal. He has a clause in the contract that will allow him to fight in other organizations. If the UFC is able to bring Randy Couture back and would like to set up a mega-fight between him and Fedor, M-1 will send him over and also pay Couture and the winner of the fight an extra $1 million.
- M-1 Global is planning their first show to take place in the United States in February. They would also like to host shows in Russia, Korea, Japan, and the Netherlands as well. At least three of the promotion’s events next year will take place outside of the United States. The first show in Japan will most likely take place next summer.
- The company is still looking for a television deal. HBO, Showtime, and HDNet are said to all be among the interested parties.
- The new stable of fighters recently signed with the promotion will be revealed within the next 7-10 days.
- Fedor’s next opponent has not yet been named. Josh Barnett and Mark Hunt are said to be the favorites.
- M-1 Global will continue to use a rule set similar to the set that PRIDE used before it’s collapse. The promotion would like to adopt a set of rules that could be used anywhere in the future however.
- According to Fedor, the UFC apparently turned down an offer from PRIDE to have Fedor fight Tim Sylvia when he was the UFC Heavyweight Champion for unknown reasons. Fedor also added that a similar offer was made to match up Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva when they were champions as well.
- The UFC made a contract offer to Aleksander Emelianenko but the deal was apparently much lower than what Aleksander is worth according to his brother.
M-1 and it’s brand new owner are scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday afternoon in New York City.
It will apparently be then when the signing of Fedor Emelianenko, who is scheduled to be in attendance, will finally go public and the undisclosed American buyer that purchased the promotion will finally be revealed.
It’s also expected that the promotion will announce it’s first event in the United States for February with Fedor headlining the card.
The UFC has won battles in the past.
All we have to do is look no further than the tale of how Zuffa came in and saved the promotion that was nearly driven into the ground by Senator John McCain and the idea that mixed martial arts was nothing more than human cockfighting. Fast forward almost seven years later and the UFC has become the driving force behind MMA’s giant growth in popularity in recent years.
Now the UFC is seemingly on top of the world. Yet they have another battle to take on.
This day already had a lot of news going around. Well I’ve got some news alright.
Brian Knapp of The Fight Network is reporting that UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture has decided to leave the UFC, citing the UFC’s failure to sign Fedor Emelianenko as one of the main reasons for him walking away:
In South Africa shooting scenes for his lead role in the upcoming feature film “The Scorpion King – Rise of the Akkadian,” Couture made the announcement official in a letter to UFC president Dana White. The UFC’s inability to land PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko played a prominent role in the decision to walk away, according to Couture.
“I appreciate this opportunity the sport of MMA and the UFC has given me,” the UFC Hall-of-Famer said. “However, I’m tired of swimming upstream at this stage with the management of the UFC. It only makes sense at this point in my career to fight Fedor Emelianenko, and since he’s now signed with another organization, I feel like it’s time to resign and focus on my other endeavors.”
This is absolutely insane. I don’t even know what to say right now. A huge blow to the UFC. I’ll have more on this throughout the day/night.
Update 3:07 PM: MMA Weekly has confirmed Couture’s resignation from the UFC with representatives of the Xtreme Couture training facility.
Some immediate reaction from the fellow blogs and others:
Five Ounces of Pain: Report: Randy Couture leaves the UFC!
Bloody Elbow: HUGE NEWS: Randy Couture Leaves UFC
MMA Junkie: Report: After UFC’s Failure to Sign Fedor Emelianenko, Randy Couture Leaves UFC
UFC Mania: No Fedor, No Couture: Reigning UFC heavyweight champion resigns
Wrestling Observer: Couture quits UFC
MMA HQ: Randy Couture Leaves UFC
UFC Daily: Report: Randy Couture Leaving the UFC, Vacating Heavyweight Title
Sprawl N’ Brawl: Couture leaves the UFC!!
411 Mania: Randy Couture Quits UFC
FOX Sports seems to be the only “mainstream” news source to have picked up on the story so far.
Update 3:32 PM: Sherdog chimes in with some exclusive quotes from Couture himself:
“The motivation for the decision is two-fold,” he continued. “I know Fedor (Emelianenko) just signed with another organization and that’s the only real fight that makes sense for me at 44 years old as the heavyweight champion of the UFC. That’s the fight I wanted and if that can’t happen it doesn’t make sense for me to compete with all these other guys. And then obviously that’s not going to happen now. And, two, I’m tired of being taken advantage of, played as the nice guy and basically swimming against the current with the management of the UFC. I have a lot of other things going on in my life that I’m doing just fine with. I don’t need the problems. I don’t feel like I get the respect I deserve from the organization, and that’s motivation No. 2 for the letter of resignation that was sent today.”
So it seems that Couture’s decision goes far deeper than just the UFC failing to grab Fedor. It’s almost like a flashback of 1997, when Couture first encountered problems with the UFC.
Update 4:08 PM: UFC President Dana White has released this official statement on the situation:
“I’m not surprised at all by Randy’s decision. I talked to Randy several weeks ago and he said that if he couldn’t fight Fedor, then he has nothing left to prove in the sport of mixed martial arts.
He has been doing a lot of acting, and I know he is in South Africa right now filming a movie. I think it’s a great move for Randy’s acting career to retire from fighting while he is on top.
As we all know, Randy retired before. The landscape in MMA changes every day. So when he is ready to come out of retirement again, he is still under contract with me, and I’m ready to promote him.”
Couture’s agent has stated that Randy’s contract was on a fight-by-fight basis. However Dana says that Randy is still under contract with him no matter what. Hmm…
Update 5:32 PM: An official statement via Randy’s official site.
CP: Couture retires from UFC
Baltimore Sun: Shocker! Randy Couture quits UFC
Yahoo! Sports: Couture stuns MMA world with retirement
NBC Sports: For Couture, a matter of Pride
Five Ounces of Pain: Randy Couture and Dana White release statements
More and more people are pointing out that Randy hasn’t announced his “retirement” which continues to lead me to believe that a battle between Couture and White is inevitable when it comes to Couture’s status with the UFC. Of course this could all mean nothing if White’s remarks about his promotion of Couture were just like his claiming of Josh Barnett still being under contract with Zuffa earlier this year.
When news broke yesterday that Fedor has signed with M-1 and M-1 was recently purchase by an unknown American company, thoughts of Ed Fishman and this new PRIDE that everyone was talking about flashing through my head.
Now I’m not sure that’s the case.
Many rumors have been swirling around today varying from Nobuyuki Sakakibara to Shane McMahon being part of the group that purchased M-1. Who the hell knows at this point.
However the infamous Zach Arnold has revealed details on a new Japanese promotion forming as we speak:
A press release was sent out to members of the Japanese media today (not on a public scale, but specifically addressed to members of the Japanese press) for a new company called World Victory Road Inc. in Japan. The press release states that there will be a press conference on the 2nd floor of Tokyo’s Prince Hotel on the 15th (this Monday at 3 PM JST). The press release states that representatives from Don Quijote (one of PRIDE’s former sponsors and current sponsor of Kazuhiro Nakamura) and FILA are expected to be in attendance. The most interesting name listed as a guest for the press conference is Chairman Fukuda of the Japanese wrestling association. He was a figurehead that PRIDE tried to recruit before that organizaton hit troubled times. Also on the guest list is Mr. Kinoshita of the Kinoshita Group, a construction company.
Interestingly enough, the cell phone number at the bottom of the private press release belongs to an employee of J-ROCK, the management group of Hidehiko Yoshida. One media source claims that a top figurehead for the new organization is former UFC-Japan promoter, Akira Sakata.
Big news for Japanese fans right there.
As far as M-1 goes, Sherdog has some more information on the promotion and an official announcement:
Sherdog.com has learned the new organization will run under the M-1 Global moniker and plans to promote shows in Russia, Japan and the United States with the first event possibly coming to fruition as soon as New Year’s Eve.
A news conference has been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 23 in New York City to announce the signing as well as to introduce the new promotion to the media.
Loretta Hunt of The Fight Network is reporting through a source close to M-1 that Fedor Emelianenko has signed an exclusive deal with the promotion:
PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko has committed exclusively to the new ownership of M-1 Mix-Fight Championship, which has been purchased outright by an undisclosed American entertainment-related company, according to a source close to the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Established in 1997, the St. Petersburg-based M-1 held over 30 events under the ownership of Russian businessman Vadim Finkelstein, also the long-time manager of the much-sought-after Emelianenko. Finkelstein is also the proprietor of the Red Devil Sports Club, a facility and team that houses numerous Russian fighters, including PRIDE veteran Roman Zentsov and former UFC middleweight Andrei Semenov.
Now notice what was just quoted above - M-1 was purchased by an undisclosed American entertainment-related company.
I’m just going out on a limb here but with all the rumors floating around about a “new PRIDE” coming together, I have two questions to ask: Does this “undisclosed American company” have anything to do with Ed Fishman? Also, did Fedor decide to sign with M-1 instead of the UFC because this might be “the new PRIDE”?
Finkelstein is going to help with the running of the promotion, meaning that Fedor is obviously going to be the focal point of things.
Anything is possible at this point but we won’t have to wait very long to find out exactly what’s going on as a formal announcement of the purchase, the Fedor signing, and the promotion’s next event is expected before the end of October.
News and Notes
- Fedor Emelianenko has denied an invitation to compete in Super Challenge Grappling’s December event:
Promoter Paulo Vasconcellos traveled to Russia and invited Fedor Emelianenko to compete in December’s Super Challenge Grappling event, which will pit eight Brazilians against eight foreign competitors in an open-weight submission tournament in Brazil. However, the top-ranked heavyweight kindly refused the invitation, according to the promoter.
Nothing big, just some different Fedor news…
- Gilbert Melendez’s hand is injured but not brokenaccording to a recent set of x-rays. Since there are no broken bones, Melendez would like to be part of Strikeforce’s next event in November:
“I got it x-rayed. The guy said I was lucky. No break. Just a lot of swelling. I’m getting a sonogram … to make sure there are no torn tendons.”
I believe there’s a Strikeforce in November,” Melendez commented. “If I’m healthy and I’m ready to go, I wouldn’t mind jumping on there. I’m in good shape. I want to keep fighting.”
- Speaking of being part of Strikeforce’s November event, former UFC heavyweight title contender Paul Buentello will fight on the card according to Brian Knapp of The Fight Network.
Massachusetts State Boxing Commission head Dan Fitzpatrick thinks that the state will probably never legalize MMA:
“My sense is before they ever regulate and allow it, the state would have all kinds of hearings and take a long time to pass it if it ever passed at all,” said Dan Fitzpatrick, chairman of the Massachusetts State Boxing Commission. “My gut tells me they wouldn’t allow it.”
- Five Ounces of Pain is looking for some more writers...
Sherdog: Mail Call
MMA Weekly: Jorge Masvidal’s Next Step
The Fight Network: Uchimura Crowned First ZST Welterweight Champion
MMA Junkie: Pictures from “Strikeforce at the Playboy Mansion”
UFC Mania: Sports Science: Rampage Jackson hits hard (video)
Bloody Elbow: The 10 Point Must System Explained (Kind Of)
Five Ounces of Pain: Combat in the Cage results for Oct. 6 in Trenton, NJ
Fight Opinion: Monday chalkboard: UFC’s chances in Japan
Houston Chronicle: Fast-growing WEC looks to add depth
Press of Atlantic City: Upcoming Kimbo Slice Atlantic City fight canceled after investor drops out
Boxing Scene: Boxing and MMA: There’s Room for All of Us
411 Mania: UFC’s Future and the Promotional Machine
News and Notes
- Sam Caplan of Five Ounces of Pain is reporting that Ricardo Arona is not close to signing a deal with the UFC, or any organization for that matter:
While Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer has already said as much, FiveOuncesOfPain.com can confirm that there is very little validity to the rumors that Ricardo Arona is close to finalizing a deal with the UFC.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com contacted a source close to Arona via e-mail and that source has indicated that he will be in Europe for the next 40 days, making a deal almost impossible to complete. Furthermore, Arona has made no mention to the source about the possibility of signing with the UFC.
- Speaking of Caplan, it seems that he has added Adam Morgan to his team at Five Ounces. I that brings Adam’s total of websites written for to four. Adam is a monster.
- The Fight Network’s Great Fight North column has some good news inside:
Jonathan Goulet is hoping to fight next in November despite dislocating his elbow against Dustin Hazelett at UFC 76.
Bill Mahood’s fight against Bobby Southworth at this weekend’s Strikeforce event will not be for Southworth’s Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight Title.
Denis Kang is apparently training for a return at an October or November K-1 Hero’s event.
- MMA Junkie is reporting that Dean Lister may be taking on Jordan Radev at UFC 79 in December:
UFC rookie Jordan Radev (11-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) will likely face Dean Lister (9-5 MMA, 2-1 UFC) at UFC 79 in December.
MMAjunkie.com learned of the fight from a source close to the fighter, but Ken Pavia, Radev’s agent, said he couldn’t comment on the report or confirm that a deal was close to being signed.
- In a recent interview with FOX Sports, UFC President Dana White stated that he’s still confident he can sign Fedor and Brock Lesnar still isn’t officially with the UFC:
He also was very confident of signing Fedor Emelianenko, but felt it wouldn’t happen until after Emelianenko competes in a Russian sambo tournament in the fall. White said it was incorrect the story, claimed by Kurt Angle, that Brock Lesnar had signed with UFC. But he did hope to make the deal.
HDNet Fights hosted a conference call earlier this afternoon to promote their new venture into the world of mixed martial arts as well as their inaugural event which will take place on October 13th at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas. HDNet Fights officials eatured on the call were HDNet owner Mark Cuban and UFC and PRIDE veteran Guy Mezger. The fighters participating were Erik Paulson, Jeff Ford, Justin Eilers, Jason House, and Freddie Espiricueta.