Thursday MMA Blog

May 7, 2009

Griffin to Appear on “Dr. Phil”
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Thursday, 6:40 p.m. ET: From MMAJunkie -- Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian, and Dana White have taped an appearance on “The Dr. Phil Show.” Slated to air May 15, the UFC crew will be cautioning select idiots on the dangers of using their fighting skills in unpredictable situations.

Nothing will ever get me to watch daytime television, but this was a valiant effort. Doctor Phil, you may recall, was under suspicion of practicing psychology without a license and -- perhaps more egregiously -- shilling a diet book despite having the physique of a competitive eater. I would sooner take advice from Doctor Who. Possibly Doctor Mario.


ATT Trainer Bemoans Boxing’s Decline
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. ET: ProMMA has a rather melancholy interview with American Top Team stand-up trainer Howard Davis, Jr. bemoaning the lack of interest in boxing among youths.

“I would love to see more kids in the boxing gyms like I see little kids at American Top Team,” Davis told the site. “Hopefully, boxing promoters will do something to showcase more talent and create competitive fights on all levels like it used to be.”

Boxing dug its own grave with pointless fights, rampant egos, and outright greed, but that has little application in why more kids might be turning to MMA as a sports outlet. Training grappling is far more palatable to (educated) parents who don’t want to see Little Johnny get his nose pushed in at a Golden Gloves tournament; the UFC’s rise has also drawn more attention to wrestling rooms across the country, which are essentially school-subsidized base camps for anyone interested in MMA. Boxing has no academic equivalent.

MMA’s promise of more money for mid-card talent, school programs, and less chance of injury is creating a very poor long-term prognosis for boxing’s health. Davis is right to be morose.


Fedor vs. Aoki Tickling Contest to Air on HDNet May 8
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Thursday, 4:50 p.m. ET: Friday’s edition of “Inside MMA” (HDNet, 9 p.m. ET) is slated to air the April 29 eccentric grappling bout/demonstration/goof-off session between disputed greatest fighter ever Fedor Emelianenko and lightweight Shinya Aoki, a contest which ended when -- spoiler alert -- Fedor applied a lower-leg submission for the “win.”

I’ll say one thing about the Japanese: they have far more patience for screwing around than any crowd in the US. would. Can you imagine a UFC capped by two guys smiling and trading lapel chokes? They’d need a police escort to escape alive.

Trivia note: UFC 11 ended with Mark Coleman absent an opponent for the final, so he and training partner Kevin Randleman drilled wrestling technique as a way to placate the fans. Did it go over? The footage has never seen the light of day. Draw your own conclusions.


MMA Discography: The Best Bonus Features 4 (of 5)
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET: Nearing the end of our relentless investigation into the sordid world of DVD special features:

4. The Backstage Battles (UFC 88, 2008)

I can’t say exactly when it happened, but there was a point when UFC DVDs went from hosting snoozer generic featurettes to providing some truly compelling, highly polished glimpses into their production machine. UFC 88 might be the best of the lot with a 30-minute min-documentary that makes clever use of the split-screen to depict the constant motion of its producers: as one fighter crumbles to the mat, another is being queued up; directors are stuffed in a truck and conducting the camera eyes like a symphony; Joe Rogan induces manic episodes by downing a 5-Hour Energy shot.

There are some fans who might consider UFC employment a dream occupation. Be careful what you wish for: from all appearances, the last thing you’re able to do when you’re part of the engine is stop to watch a fight.

3. ‘Ultimate’ Rejects (The Ultimate Fighter 3, 2006)

I get it. Self confidence is a prerequisite for anyone willing to get punched in the mouth for a living. But there’s an incredibly blurry line between ego and outright delusion.

“The Ultimate Fighter” reality show hopefuls send in tapes by the case, and select footage from the season collections illustrate why most of them don’t get a callback. One prospect mentions he’s already had eight surgeries (I doubt being brittle is a selling point); someone’s idea of athletic prowess is slowly making his way up a hill of mild incline; another introduces the viewer to his turkey. His turkey’s name is Fred.

And then there’s Matt Horwich, who wants a contract so he can buy a ranch and “grow some organic food.”

It’s this kind of thing that makes me believe people in television are, contrary to belief, significantly underpaid.


Spike Considering Jackson as ‘TUF 10’ Coach
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Thursday, 4:15 p.m. ET: There’s a price to pay for single-handedly resurrecting MMA in the United States, as “The Ultimate Fighter” did in 2005. By slotting elite fighters as coaches, titles are sometimes put on the shelf for months at a stretch to accommodate taping.

The latest stutter: Quinton Jackson’s potential participation in a fall season, possibly against the winner of the Rashad Evans/Lyoto Machida light heavyweight title fight May 23, would mean the belt could go unchallenged for the remainder of the year.

Good marketing? Undoubtedly. A tough way for divisions to ever gain any momentum and for contenders to get backlogged? Uh-huh.


UFC 100 Earmarks Two for Hall of Fame
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Thursday, 2:34 p.m. ET: Fanhouse passes word that UFC 100 will induct two new members into the promotion’s proprietary Hall of Fame the weekend of July 11.

Not too crazy about promotionally dictated balloting: it would seem to favor athletes on good terms with management, not contentious ex-employees who delivered in the cage. Both Frank Shamrock and Tito Ortiz are anvil-subtle choices; I would peg their chances of showing up in July only if it begins raining frogs in Nevada.

Since there are no published criteria for entry, there’s really no way to handicap potential inductees -- but if UFC President Dana White really wants to drive a nail into the retirement of Chuck Liddell, this would be a pretty big hint. Then again, current members Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Randy Couture and Mark Coleman are all still on the circuit.

Oleg Taktarov, who had the constitution of a leather boot when the UFC was at its most savage and dangerous, seems promising, but there are questions surrounding the integrity of how he got to the finals of UFC 6. The same holds true for Don Frye, a 10-1 Octagon pioneer who’s faced allegations he benefited from Mark Hall throwing their semi-final fight at the Ultimate Ultimate 1996.

Process of elimination would leave Liddell and possibly Charles Lewis Jr., the late Tapout founder who was an early and vocal supporter of the sport. The latter choice invites some controversy from purists who only want athletes admitted, but that ignores the massive contributions those outside of the ring have made in order for the sport to exist at all. The International Boxing Hall of Fame has a “Non-Participant” class, and there’s no reason the UFC could not adopt the same policy.

To that end, Helio Gracie should have been the first inductee. Still time to correct the oversight.

Shaq’s (Legal) Elbows

From the MMA-is-spreading-like-a-disease dept: Yahoo reports ceiling-scraper Shaquille O’Neal trains grappling and stand-up in Orlando with Royce Gracie black belt Jonathan Burke.

“We can work drills 20 times through, and he works his tail off on everything,” Burke told the site. “He has way more talent with this stuff than people would imagine.”

Considering the NBA’s distaste for having star players on crutches, I’m guessing O’Neal doesn’t work his heel hooks too often. He also holds a moral victory over Antonio Tarver in a charity boxing match.



Business as Usual
By Greg Savage (greg@sherdog.com)
Stephen Martinez/Sherdog.com

MTB is business as usual.
Thursday, 3:10 a.m. ET: There is something to be said for the secretary that hits the lottery and still shows up for work the next day.

While the WEC title and the limited fame that comes with it surely don’t add up to millions of dollars -- at least not yet -- Mike Thomas Brown finds himself in an analogous situation.

Here he is, a world champion and top-10 pound-for-pounder, and he is still working his regular shift at the front desk of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla.

Becoming a champion and having your fights aired over and over on Versus will tend to make you a recognizable person. “Brownie” has competed for so long in relative obscurity; the attention he gets on a regular basis now is something new -- but still exciting -- and sometimes interesting too.

“Some people,” says a chuckling WEC champ, “on the phone, they’ll call the gym and then, ‘this is Mike, how can I help you?’ You know, I’m like a secretary, and they’ll be like ‘s---, this is Mike Brown?’ And they will want to gab for like 45 minutes about who knows what.”

Money and fame have changed many a person but that is not a concern for Brown’s friends and teammates at ATT. They note the fact that he is still driving his Ford Focus and continues to live the same way he did before he became champ as evidence that he just will not change, no matter how much success he attains.

Brown’s own words echo those sentiments as well.

“I think most of those people who allow that stuff to change them held those views all along. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t see myself or any of my teammates having those issues.”


Unheated Rivalry: Jackson and ATT
By Greg Savage (greg@sherdog.com)
Thursday, 2:30 a.m. ET: When Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves step into the Octagon on July 11, they will be fighting for not only the UFC welterweight championship, but also for their coaches and teams. And while they might frown on carrying on a little dialogue in the build up to the fight, their coaches, who have become bosom buddies since doing a seminar together in March, will surely keep the rhetoric in the realm of the tasteful.

The newfound friendly rivalry will turn hot when Greg Jackson’s star pupil St. Pierre faces off with Ricardo Liborio’s top student, Thiago Alves.

“We are coming for you Greg Jackson, we want all your belts,” joked a smiling Liborio.

Liborio’s Florida-based American Top Team has long been recognized as one of the top camps in the MMA world, but they have never had a UFC champion in their stable. WEC featherweight ace Mike Thomas Brown helped scratch that itch a bit when he knocked out Urijah Faber last November to secure ATT’s first Zuffa belt.

While it fits in nicely with the slew of titles from Japan and North America that dot the Coconut Creek gym’s walls, Liborio will not rest until his camp has a UFC belt to go with them.

Alves will take his shot at the UFC welterweight champion this summer, and he may have a little extra pressure come fight night. His coach told me he wouldn’t mind putting up a little wager with Jackson, because he is supremely confident in Alves’ abilities.

It was kind of funny to hear Liborio gush about Jackson first thing when we got to the gym, but I had to tell him the same thing happened last week in Albuquerque when we were in town to interview Rashad Evans at Jackson’s place.

It is actually heartening for me to see two guys I truly respect -- guys who will be butting heads by proxy for the foreseeable future -- show this kind of respect and admiration for each other. With all the silly stuff that goes on in the combat sports world it is good to see the tenants of martial arts are alive and well in two of the sport’s biggest camps.


‘Street Fighter’ to MMA: Part 4
By Tomas Rios (trios@sherdog.com)
Elizabeth Lippman/Splash News

GSP = Ryu?
Thursday, 2:00 a.m. ET: Ryu is the vintage fighting game character, a balanced model of speed and power with an offensive arsenal designed to create problems for any style. Watch a Georges St. Pierre fight and you’ll wonder if he is actually a video game character come to life. I know everyone thinks of “The Karate Kid” when St. Pierre rocks the karate gi to the cage, but I see more than a hint of his “Street Fighter” counterpart.

Even their fighting careers mirror each other, what with Ryu’s never-ending quest for the next challenge and St. Pierre keeping a fight schedule that reads like a who’s who of MMA. The all-consuming search for greatness seems not to lie in beating the current challenger but in beating him and finding the next one. At least in the case of St. Pierre, we end up getting to see a titan of fight sport go after the biggest fish he can find, unlike other pugilists who shall remain unnamed … or not: Pretty Boy Floyd.

So while everyone waits on the Pretty One to decide if he actually wants to go after a challenging bout again, the MMA fan gets to see the Wandering Warrior take on all comers. In other words, St. Pierre is the best thing Canada has given the world since Jim Carrey pre funny lobotomy. Man, remember when that guy was funny?

Check the blog all day for more entries.





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