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HDNet Fights conference call notes with Mark Cuban and Guy Mezger

Mark Cuban conducted both a press conference locally in Dallas this morning and also a conference call for the national media soon after. The press conference and the conference call was to announce the formation of HDNet Fights that will be televised every Friday on Cuban’s high-definition subscription cable channel, HDNet.

HDNet already televises MMA content but today’s announcement confirmed recent reports of an extension of MMA coverage on the network with fights being offered every Friday night. The plan is to offer 24 MMA event telecasts in the upcoming year. Additionally, a new magazine-style program called “Inside MMA” that will also air every Friday and be hosted by Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten. The show debuts this week.

HDNet Fights will be working with other promotions such as the IFO and Art of War, however, Cuban’s new group will promote cards of its own. The first Cuban-promoted card is scheduled for October 13 from the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX.

Guy Mezger, who is essentially Cuban’s day-to-day MMA operations manager, was on the call and announced several matches.

They are as follows:

– Main event: Erik Paulson from Shooto fame will be taking a break from his training duties and coming out of retirement to fight 5-time kickboxing champ Jeff Ford. This will be a light heavyweight matchup.

– Former UFC heavyweight title contender Justin Eilers will be taking on Justin Howard.

– Freddie “Speedy” Espiricueta will fight Jason House

– Former UFC fighters Pete Spratt (of Houston) will be taking on Sammy Morgan

– Sean Salmon will be fighting Leopoldo Serao

– T.J. Walberger will go against Anthony Lapsley

– Justin McDowell will fight Ivan Jorge

– In a battle of super heavyweights, Joel Traves will do battle with Sunia Filikitonga

Other fighters are listed on the promotions web site ( so I’m assuming there will be more matches.

Highlights of the press conference include:

– There was talk of Fedor but nothing new to report. Cuban confirmed they’ve offered some things that interest Fedor’s camp and that the UFC has offered Fedor’s camp some things that interest them.

– I asked Mezger about other big name free agents. He wouldn’t get into specifics but I asked him if they’d be interested in Josh Barnett. He not only said that they’re interested but that discussions have taken place. He mentioned that if they were to sign Fedor, they’d need someone to fight him and that a lot of people aren’t willing too. We all know that Barnett would be willing too.

– A lot of fighters signed for the first card are on one-fight deals. Mezger is exploring possibilities with certain fighters who could fit into a situation where they’d be signed to multi-fight contracts.

– There was a lot of talk about the IFL. Ring of Fire, Art of War, and Richard Steele’s IFO will all be promotions that HDNet Fights will be working with but with 24 shows planned, they will need to work with more companies. The IFL’s HD rights for 2008 are not secured so there’s nothing to stop them from working with Cuban at this point in addition to their deals with Fox Sports Net and MyNetwork. Also, don’t rule out HDNet as a possible solution to the whole IFL live telecast issue.

– Josh Gross from mentioned in an article today that Cuban has been talking to the WWE and Vince, Shane, and Linda McMahon.  Gross didn’t offer much detail so I asked Cuban if he could elaborate. Basically, the McMahons aren’t looking to start an MMA promotion. However, they have existing PPV distribution and Cuban expressed an interest in talking to them about production since they are already doing so much of it.

– Justin Eilers dropped a nice little nugget of info. He’s training in Vegas now at the Vegas Fight Club where Tony Fryklund trains. Eilers actually trained in a boxing gym for a while in Iowa after leaving MFS. Apparently his decision to leave MFS wasn’t one that came on good terms. He reluctantly revealed that he had a beef with Tim Sylvia. Basically, when Eilers got the title shot against Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia didn’t feel like he deserved it and felt that the title shot should have been his. Instead of being a good teammate and sucking it up, he just refused to work with Eilers in helping him get ready for the match. You know, I’ve defended Sylvia in the past but that’s a bullshit move on his part.

– Right now HDNet has 6 million subscribers. It’s available to most people who have satellite. Technically, you don’t even need an HD set. You just need the HD box and you can hook it into the S-video connection of your TV and subscribe. It’s not available on Comcast but Cuban said they are working on that.

  • Tanner says:

    I’m guessing because Sean Salmon lost to Travis Wiuff at the IFO event recently that he was cut from his UFC contract. I thought maybe Sam would be able to shed some light on this situation through his partnership with MMAJunkie, One of Salmon’s sponsors while he was in the UFC. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

  • I think the IFL is a perfect fit for this, especially if they would add more teams to increase the frequency of events.

    It is a 10 fight card from what I hear.

    Also, their deals with fighters are said to not be exclusive (one fight or not) so a lot of fighters who have existing contracts that allow them to fight for other promotions might find this as a good place for fights.

    I think they are doing this right by not taking on the UFC directly. I am looking forward to their first card I just wish the channel wasn’t a premium channel though.

  • I don’t know if the lone loss (combined with 3 wins) will cut him from his UFC contract but from what I know he is basically on indefinite leave from the UFC and is free to fight wherever he chooses. Sam might have more but those are the basics as I understand them.

  • Tanner says:

    And that was how I understood it too. I’m just thinking that there may be serious implication of asking for a leave of your contract and then dropping a fight outside the UFC. Thanks for the input.

  • Sam Caplan says:


    The UFC has made no official announcement but I can tell you that it’s company policy that if you lose outside of your contract that you are released from your contract.

    I don’t think the UFC would allow Salmon to appear on such a high-profile show that will be televised if he was still under contract to Zuffa. But that’s purely conjecture on my part and based on no inside info. I’d look into it for you guys but I’m working on a fairly explosive interview right now that I am trying to get finished up.

  • Tanner says:

    Thanks for the insight Sam. I wasn’t really a huge fan of Salmon as he’s the typical wrestler turned MMA fighter. I’m a jiu jitsu guy and it just tickles me whenever wrestlers get caught in Guillotines from a take down but thats just me. I did like Salmon’s articles on UFCJunkie tho. I hope he does do well in his career but that could be a sad note for him.

  • Looking forward to the interview Sam. I know that’s the normal policy but I haven’t heard anything from Junkie saying that (whether they have info on his contract I don’t know). He may very well have been let go to appear on something like this but I don’t know what kind of fights are and aren’t allowed when on leave from the UFC.

    Is his fight going to be televised? I assume (like the UFC) they won’t broadcast every fight.

  • Also I thought I’d add that it seems Salmon first fight for HDNet will be at 185 lbs. whereas his UFC fights all took place at 205. I don’t know if his fight at Fight Festival is 185, 205, or somewhere in the middle.

  • Jason says:

    I’m interested to see how this will play out. In the short term I think they will struggle, even if they do sign Fedor. If Fedor truly has a fighters mentality then yes money is important, but most fighters I know want to prove their the best and that won’t happen when a stable of the best heavyweights are in the UFC. If Cuban is able to snag a few fighters away from the UFC when contracts come up for negotiations he may have a chance;however I think this will be the opportunity that will force Dana to provide his fighters more lucrative contracts in order to keep the top talent. Basically a win win for all fighters, especially the lower card or B-level fighters.

  • […] offering, Cuban’s foray into MMA is good for the sport. Past his own show on October 14th, he’s planning on featuring 24 full fledged MMA events on his HDNet Fight Night program through 2008. Some of the names he mentioned were the IFO (Steele Cage), Art of War, and even the […]

  • Tanner says:

    I posted the same on Junkies site and Matt Salmon posted saying that Sean wasn’t cut. you can check it out in the comments:

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Tanner, I read that post a little earlier.

    Obviously, Matt is a very credible source in regard to his brother’s career. That being said, I’d be very surprised if the UFC allowed a contracted fighter to appear on HDNet for Cuban.

    As I said earlier, the UFC’s policy for when a fighter on leave loses outside of the company, he is usually released from his contract. Perhaps they are making exceptions in the case of Sean?

    I’m eager to hear his comments so he can set the record straight.

  • Mika says:

    All I know is that Comcast doesn’t carry HDNet yet… damn you Comcast!

  • […] those with other organizations such as the Art of War and Richard Steele’s Cage Promotions. (Five Ounces of Pain has more of the […]

  • Captain7 says:

    There is always the possibility that because Salmon is known by so many ufcjunkie fans that the UFC will give him another chance. Or it could be that he has 3 wins and only one lost since he stopped fighting for the UFC.

  • el feo says:

    well no need to defend Tim Sylvia anymore is there Sam? I wonder if he’d pull that with Ben Rothwell in a similar hypothetical situation in the future.
    If and when Ben escapes from Ifl. No knock on IFL,I dig it but Ben’s ready for top 10 fights.
    I expect Brandon Vera to handle biz and win me some money in the process.

  • Tanner says:

    Sam – I would say he’s fairly credible as well. lol. I’d also like to hear what Sean says about it. Junkie said he was going to be submitting a blog or a column in the near future that could contain some information. I’d also like to see sean at 185, I think that in todays MMA game that if you’re not cutting weight to get to 205 you’re probably not big enough. It seems like that for most divisions. 185 is natural 205 guys cutting down. 170 seems like natural 180-185 gives are cutting to 170 etc. with a few exceptions. I think that the move to 185 will probably be best for him.

  • Bryan says:

    I’d like to see HDNet work with the Revolution Fight League out of Louisville, KY. A top notch MMA promotions company.


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