The Weekly Wrap: Dec. 20 – Dec. 26

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By Jack Encarnacao Dec 27, 2008
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship launched the go-home push for what has traditionally been its biggest show of the year, the New Year’s Eve weekend pay-per-view, which this year is entitled “The Ultimate 2008.” All fighters made weight during Friday’s weigh-in in Las Vegas, capping a buildup that started with storylines for UFC 92 being laid out on a “Countdown” special that aired several times throughout the week on Spike TV.

The hype show focused primarily on the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira v. Frank Mir and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson v. Wanderlei Silva fights and less on the Forrest Griffin v. Rashad Evans tilt for the light heavyweight title. The “Countdown to UFC 92” special drew 733,000 viewers for its premiere on Dec. 22, much more than the special that built up the near record-breaking UFC 91 event in November, according to MMA Payout. UFC 92 could easily attract enough pay-per-view orders to earn the UFC the title of the biggest single-year revenue generator in pay-per-view history, atop the leading professional wrestling and boxing promotions.

Some $2 million in tickets had been sold for the event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas as of early this week; that figure could hit $3 million with casino buys factored in, according to The Wrestling Observer. A good amount of higher-priced tickets were still available as late as Friday.

Instead of their time as rival coaches on the recently concluded season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the narrative for the Mir v. Nogueira fight mostly focused on two scary accidents that took place in both men’s lives -- Mir’s near career-ending motorcycle accident and an incident in which Nogueira, at age 11, was accidentally run over at a birthday party and suffered serious injuries that required some 100 stitches. The fight was framed as a battle between the two best submission heavyweights in UFC and Pride Fighting Championships history.

Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

A Griffin win could put
him in top consideration
for “Fighter of the Year.”
Meanwhile, the “Countdown” feature on Jackson v. Silva III saw a dead-serious Jackson claim he’d never watched the legendary second fight between the two in Pride, although he told Sherdog.com's “Savage Dog Show” this week that he’s scrutinized both Silva fights and knows how to approach their third meeting. A real sense of bad blood came across on the “Countdown” show, which utilized footage of the pair’s fights in Pride effectively, with Silva laughing about and dwelling on his two wins over Jackson.

The special did not touch at all on Jackon’s highly publicized arrest for driving recklessly, reportedly in a fasting-induced stupor after losing the light heavyweight title to Griffin at UFC 86 in July. While he was all-business in interviews leading up to the fight, Jackson, who trained entirely in England for UFC 92, was back smiling and hamming it up for a press conference on Tuesday. Silva suggested the UFC should pencil in his name as a sure winner of the “Knockout of the Night” bonus.

As for Griffin, the “Countdown” program played up the idea that he has been consciously distancing himself from his accomplishments by keeping his title belt at UFC headquarters, only taking it out for photo shoots. His boxing trainer, Ron Frazier, told Sherdog’s “Beatdown” radio show this week that Griffin has developed the swagger of a champion and is a subtly different person compared to the self-deprecating Georgian who won fans by taking season one of “The Ultimate Fighter.” A Griffin win could easily put him in top consideration for “Fighter of the Year.” The undefeated Evans was portrayed as confident; his trainer, Greg Jackson, told “Beatdown” he planned to fly out to Evans’ camp Christmas afternoon and that Evans was sacrificing holiday time with family to prepare for the fight.

In another UFC 92-related development, sports media in Japan reported that 2008 Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii has accepted an invitation from UFC President Dana White to attend the event.

Ishii, who won the gold medal in Judo at 220 pounds in Beijing, told Japanese media recently that he wants to break into the sport through either the UFC or World Extreme Cagefighting instead of the Japanese promotions that aggressively courted him. Ishii told the Japanese sports Web site Sanspo.com he will invite White to see one of his training sessions and will likely sign a contract the next time he visits America.

The UFC has not made any public statements about its interest in Ishii, who made similar proclamations not too long ago that he would fight for a Japanese promotion in 2009.
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