Mail Call

By Jake Rossen Oct 8, 2007
Second only to the requisite Monday morning steroid scandal, there is no better way to fill precious real estate than with a smattering of your letters, comments and invectives.

October's mailbag takes the bulk of its inspiration from September editorials, which included thoughts on "The Ultimate Fighter" headaches, UFC 76 and the unbearable lightness of being a PRIDE testicle-smoocher.

In no particular order:

‘TUF' Enough

I think many cynical fans view all TUF contestants as B-level fighters (if that). Of course, every season has had its duds, but I'm fairly certain this is intentional. There is simply no way the producers of the show could expect the fighters to fight multiple times in just a few weeks without receiving injuries if every contestant was extremely dangerous. It seems to me that the UFC probably has a handful of guys selected for their marketability and skill that compose the small group of likely winners for the season. All the others are there to make for showcase fights and drama in the house.

By the way, I typically dislike reality shows, but TUF seems different. Sure, I have to ignore about 45 minutes of blatantly manufactured drama and various homo-erotica, but the fights are real. So I suppose a reality show is as good a place as any to put the sport in the mainstream's attention. -- Richard Spencer

There is undoubtedly a contingent of TUF castaways that were groomed to be chattering little pests with the fight IQ of a limbless newborn. The show gets its reputation in part from that, but it's unfair to make the blanket statement that all contestants are useless. Forrest Griffin (Pictures) settled that issue once and for all on Sept. 22.

I am curious about the fighter that was denied a Bible. I am a minister and it makes me curious to hear that, especially considering that during season 2, the coaches were seen having a Bible study with some of the fighters. Thanks for the info. -- Mike Chipman

Even more inflammatory is the recent footage of a Matt Hughes (Pictures) Bible study during practice. Talk about uncomfortable for the Scientologists of the group.

The athlete (who will remain unnamed, to protect his privacy) was denied the text on the grounds that no books were to be allowed whatsoever, and if producers had granted him his request, they would've had to do it for everyone.

It's a bizarre little corner of the world to be in. I even feel a twinge of sympathy for Joe Scarola, who succumbed to his cabin fever on a recent episode.

Just a twinge, though.

I liked your article about TUF. Sherdog owes some of its success and its content-sharing agreement with ESPN to TUF. Anytime something grows, the new people have no sense of history and instead of trying to be teachers and custodians of the past, pre-TUF fans get indignant and pissy with new people. I would have like to see some stats from your site regarding the number of posts pre and post-TUF. The number of members pre and post would be a great number to know.

The marketing plan of Dana White has been magnificent. Putting fights on free TV to draw people to the PPVs was a great move. Not to mention all the advertising space TV now sells thanks to White. While the format of TUF has grown tiresome, the basic concept still works: give fans someone to care about and the fans will turn that person into a star. -- Bill Wagner

"The Ultimate Fighter" has been a tremendous boost for MMA content of any size, shape or amount of Web traffic, and has been no exception. Television remains the most influential medium in the world. You know you're reaching people when an audience in the 3 million to 4 million range is considered a "failure" on the networks.

I would hesitate to grant the sport's recent surge of success solely to White, though. Putting fights on free TV is pretty much a no-brainer; I'd give equal respect to Spike executives who decided to take a chance with a bastard sport that was all but dead. That was the call that shook everything up.

The matchmaking by Joe Silva is good for fans of MMA but bad when it comes to getting that one or even two big money fights. At this point even you need a Grand Prix in the LHW division to figure out who the real No. 1 contender is. Griffin-Silva would be "fine" but Jardine theoretically took Liddell's spot in the title picture seeing as how he needed two straight wins to get another title shot. So Jardine has a legitimate beef about getting his shot, then so does Houston Alexander (Pictures) who even at his age I think is the "next big thing" who KO'd Jardine not too long ago. Then again Jardine KO'd Forrest not to long ago so how does Forrest get his shot before Jardine does? See what I'm saying? -- Luis Cruz

UFC 76 scrambled the contender picture at 205 to spectacular effect. The rightful No. 1 contender for Jackson's belt is Wanderlei Silva (Pictures), who owns two wins over him and a storied record as a light heavyweight -- even if closer scrutiny reveals a reliance on undersized middleweight challengers.

Alexander needs one more quality win to be propelled up to contention, preferably against a tenured opponent like Tito Ortiz (Pictures) or Chuck Liddell (Pictures). Griffin and Jardine should meet once more to decide who keeps climbing.

Why the hate on Lyoto Machida? That guy's the future of the light heavyweight division, although he'd be great at 185. It'd be interesting to see him fight Rich Franklin (Pictures) again or Dan Henderson (Pictures) at that weight. Or the champ. It's not often you see a guy come along with the natural talent and defense that Ryoto has. A little respect, please. -- Joe Lessard

I have respect for Machida's record and fighting acumen, but he is the Lunesta of MMA. Put a belt on that guy and watch the arenas evacuate like the Rapture just hit.

Matters of PRIDE

"PRIDE and Prejudice" was a very fitting title for your recent article, albeit for reasons beyond your original intention. While it is clear that several PRIDE super stars have disappointed their fans with horrific performances in the Octagon, one cannot yet dismiss PRIDE. Why is this? By the simple fact that two PRIDE veterans, Quinton Jackson (Pictures) and Anderson Silva both gained the UFC's middleweight and light heavyweight titles without skipping a beat. Several MMA writers have made this perplexing error. The explanation seems likely to be disingenuous journalism by a biased journalist. -- Andrew Roberts

When a journalist composes an opinion-editorial -- which is virtually my reason for being a loyal typebot -- his very existence depends on being "biased." That is, to have a point of view and do his or her best to defend that perspective.

I get the feeling that many people confuse my blather for actual news content, which should obviously remain objective. I do plenty of that, too, but not in this space. Maybe a return to "This editorial does not necessarily reflect the views of, etc." is in order.

Obviously an anti-PRIDE, pro-UFC diatribe article that tries to portray rumors as facts.

Can you please link the viewers ONE source with any of your claims that PRIDE encouraged its fighters stage endings, accusations of steroid uses, threats of burn notices? -- Phil Leung

Dan Henderson (Pictures) has gone on the record with me about it, stating that PRIDE officials told him he would have some serious problems with renewing his contract unless he took the rematch with Murilo Bustamante (Pictures) on short notice. He was hunting and drinking beer at the time the call came in, and was only four months removed from ACL surgery.

I enjoyed the pageantry and stylized violence of PRIDE as much as the next guy, but the chairs there conducted some very shady business. And now that the organization is defunct, you're likely to start hearing more about it.

Making the statement that famous fighters who made their mark in MMA through PRIDE were given squash matches such as Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) has to be the most unintelligent statement ever made about MMA ever. Wanderlei Silva (Pictures)'s did not continue to rain [sic] as the Middleweight Champ by beating low class cream puffs, his record speaks for itself. The best examples are his double victories over Quinton Rampage Jackson, not only did he beat him both times, he knocked him out in both matches.

Now if Wanderlei was given weak fighter after weak fighter to fight for those six years, then he wouldn't have been able to handle the current 205 champ of UFC, but none of those matches ever went past the second round. -- Alex Andrade

Silva's level of opposition has annoyed me for years. He had two absolutely dynamite performances against Jackson that made me believe in the myth of the Axe Murderer … but the majority of his career in PRIDE came against a parade of national heroes who were the proverbial lambs to slaughter.

This is a guy who fought a karate practitioner with a 0-0 MMA record in front of a record crowd in Japan, fer crying out loud. It's not Silva's fault -- the guy would fight a rabid grizzly -- but PRIDE kept his aura of invincibility very well protected.

I suppose I could really have put myself in the category of PRIDE fans who thought that the ranks of UFC fighters would get decimated once matched up. And what you say about us was all true. I'd also written Griffin obituary and thought that Shogun was set to rip through the LHW division. The last 12 months or so have definitely made me re-think my standpoint on Fedor. He's really the last of an almost extinct breed of fighter who can hold that unbeatable aura about them. So many people have been made to look 'only human' (except Couture who clearly isn't human) -- Fedor may be next in line to be humbled by the UFC cage.

One small thing you didn't mention though: Odds-makers still favor PRIDE often and are getting it wrong. Perhaps we still have a window of opportunity to make a little money! Just a thought. -- Peter Jones

I was absolutely of the mind Griffin was going to get a helping of knuckles al dente against Rua and make no claim to believing otherwise, but I've long said that a Fedor run in the UFC would not end with him being undefeated.

Now that rumors are circulating he's signed with Russia's M-1 promotion to go on a freak show tour, I'm apparently not the only one doubting his abilities.

Oddsmakers, incidentally, create lines based on whom they think the public will support, not on whom they think stands the best chance of actually winning.

With UFC fighters upsetting most of the PRIDE fighters, could this be a clear indication that the Pride fighters can't compete without the use of steroids? Japan never tested for anabolics and obviously, the U.S. does. Do you think this will cause all of the PRIDE's greats that we know today, to be near extinction? -- Geoffrey Ivonnet

Perhaps some PRIDE athletes panic at the idea of steroid testing, but it's common practice in the States to time consumption and beat the pee cup. Give the imported fighters time to learn how to work the (extremely flawed) system.

Chuck did real well in PRIDE, right? Hmm how about the man who beat Couture, Josh Barnett (Pictures)? KTFO by Cro Cop? Wait what about Rampage was he not in PRIDE?

Anderson Silva, I clearly remember someone tapping him in PRIDE.

Truth is that when fighters crossed over, both UFC and PRIDE guys did not do as well on average in the opposing promotion.

Can you imagine Couture in the ring? Where he cannot press people against the cage? He would get KTFO or tapped until he adjusted. -- Dima Yashkir

To your point, Couture had a spotty record in RINGS, losing by submission three times in six efforts. The cage is undoubtedly affecting some athletes coming from overseas. No argument there.

Liddell's 2-1 record in PRIDE is pretty good, a mirror image of Cro Cop's mark in the UFC. (An inverted 1-2, for you fact checkers already composing e-mails.)

Jackson and Anderson Silva have done a lot to dispel notions that PRIDE talent was universally flawed, but as previously stated: It's the fighter who does the fighting, not the brand name.

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