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.”
Dana White is obviously excited about the signing of Lesnar and plans to market him heavily.
“We plan on advertising Brock Lesnar’s signing everywhere,” said White. “He’s popular everywhere. He was very popular in the WWE. He’s a very powerful wrestler. As you’ve seen in the past with guys who are talented wrestlers like Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, and even Chuck Liddell, wrestlers usually do very well in the UFC so we have high hopes for Brock.”
White dismissed the fact that Lesnar is just a professional wrestler trying to prove that MMA is easy to take on.
Well yeah he was very popular because he was in the WWE but fighters better take him seriously,” stated White. “He’s one of the best wrestlers around and wrestlers do well in this sport. He’s so athletic. He tried out for the NFL. He has to cut weight to make 265, he’s one of the biggest guys I’ve ever seen. We’re going to bring someone in and test him. We’re going to see if Brock Lesnar can really fight. We don’t match people up against tomato cans. We’re going to challenge him. “
Lesnar noted that he wanted to dismiss that claim as well and prove that he does belong among the best heavyweights this sport has to offer.
“Why am I fighting in the UFC?” asked Lesnar. “Pride and dignity. I’m a professional athlete. I want to put challenges in front of me and conquer them. What I want to prove to the world that Brock Lesnar should and can be taken very seriously. This isn’t a joke to me. I’m training full time, trying to learn every discipline that I can.”
White also noted that Lesnar’s first fight will most likely take place in February.
When it comes to Andrei Arlovski, the situation surrounding the former champ has gotten even more confusing. Arlovski’s camp has said that the UFC is not using Arlovski for unknown reasons. When asked about Arlovski’s status, White acted surprised when told that Arlovski’s management team was unaware of the reasons why their client was being used.
“Arlovski is kind of sitting on the bench right now,” said White. “We’ve talked to his guys and we haven’t gotten anything. I deal with contracts every day. I have over 250 fighters under contract. I sift through contracts every day. I have Couture mad at me and I have Arlovski to deal with. If he wants to talk I’ll fly out to Chicago tomorrow.”
White was very vocal about the Liddell-Silva fight in December as expected. He talked about his decision to give time to let Liddell think about his future and the troubles he had in making the fight happen.
“I needed to give Liddell some time to get back home, rest, and think about things,” said White. “Plus you have to make sure he’s not injured. You know let him heal up his bumps and bruises. Of course Chuck being Chuck he wanted to take this fight. Wanderlei Silva is the most popular fighter coming out of PRIDE. I think when he was sitting ringside when Chuck was fighting Keith Jardine, he was probably even more nervous than Chuck’s family and friends.They’ve wanted to fight for years. I’ve wanted to put the fight on for years and it’s finally happening.”
“There were so many times where I didn’t think it was going to happen,” continued White. “We had to go out and buy PRIDE and then acquire all the fighters. This is a crazy business. You know Wanderlei Silva lives in Vegas now. He used to be my enemy and now I see him everyday, you know driving around, working out in the gym. It’s crazy. When people walk into the arena and see Chuck and Wanderlei they are going to know it’s going to be the craziest event ever.”
When asked about the fight, Liddell said that it was a chance to get finally back up his claims against Silva while Silva wants to get into the light heayvweight title picture.
“I want to go out there and prove I can knock him out but I also want to put myself back in contention and back on the round to get the title back,” said Liddell. ““After he fought and won the title in PRIDE, I knew that I wanted to fight him. He has a great style. Our styles would make for a great fight and I think I can knock him out.”
“For me its an opportunity to get back on top,” stated Silva. “I want to fight Chuck and then I want to fight for the belt.”
Other miscellaneous tidbits that I picked up…
- Despite the rumors, White said there are no plans for the UFC to put on a live fight during halftime of the Super Bowl.
- Until Randy Couture tells White anything further, he is still the heavyweight champion.
- White thinks that B.J. Penn’s next fight will be in December against either Sean Sherk or Joe Stevenson.
- White discussed the new formation of M-1 and talked about how it’s coming in with similar hype as the IFL and asked to look where the IFL is now. Says there will be a lot of money being thrown around in the next few years.
- White said that Forrest Griffin had a lingering shoulder injury but is now having surgery to get it corrected. He’ll be unavailable until next year. White also had an interesting quote concerning Griffin:
“A few years ago Forrest Griffin was a police officer that was about to quit MMA.” said White. “He had fought in all of the smaller shows and it wasn’t getting him anywhere so he was ready to hang up the gloves. Then he heard about the Ultimate Fighter show and decided to sign up and then last month he beat Mauricio Rua who was considered by many to be the top 205 lb fighter in the world.”
- White is currently working on a deal to have a live event take place in Mexico.
- The UFC will return to Texas in 2008.
- At one point Dana said and I quote “Fedor sucks”
- White went into detail about how PRIDE didn’t run their company like an actual company and how that contributed to their demise.
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