This was a busy weekend for the sport and this site. I have a lot to say and not much time to say it in so I wanted to get some of my thoughts out via some rants.
— One thing that really disgusts me is when knuckleheads run to their keyboard and make serious accusations with absolutely no proof. If you’re not happy with something, go ahead and express your opinion. However, accusing someone of taking a dive or accepting a payoff when you have absolutely no proof — or even logic — to back you up is completely over the line. But hey, this is the Internet, where there is no line. But Dan Miragliotta is an employee for the New Jersey Athletic Control Board, not EliteXC, the UFC, etc. What would be his motive to engage in nefarious activity? Getting paid? Is what someone would be willing to pay him worth the risk of getting caught?
But forget about that and let’s think about this: if you were EliteXC and you were going to fix the fight between Kimbo Slice and James Thompson, wouldn’t it behoove you to make sure Thompson took a dive in round one and made sure the fight stayed standing? Slice’s performance on Saturday was not one that will help the future of EliteXC. A big part of Kimbo’s allure is his mystique and a lot of that mystique was exposed. His ground game needs a lot of work and the fact that he couldn’t finish a guy early that is notorious for a weak chin isn’t going to help him increase his fanbase further. Kimbo didn’t lose Saturday night, but his performance hurt his stock in the eyes of a lot of people. And before I get labeled a Kimbo hater, I am someone who has supported his involvement in MMA for quite some time. I will continue to do so, because I am a fan, but I’ve got to call it like I see it.
But after reading a lot of comments here and other places along with e-mails I received, I wonder where our collective ability to debate has gone? People can’t make a point without making some sort of blanket accusation or personal attack. I’d really like to see more people make more-informed arguments and start articulating their thoughts better instead of just trying to take the quick and easy way out. Can no one argue a topic based on its merits anymore instead of constantly resorting to hitting below the belt. If you don’t have the time to express a point properly, maybe you shouldn’t be posting on the Internet?
On that note, I am sure this public gripe will be met with at least one personal attack.
— People need to sober up and cut out this “fix” talk. Dan Miragliotta is not on the take. He just had a bad night. The Joey Villasenor vs. Phil Baroni stoppage was early, as was the main event. But maybe he’s not entirely to blame. NJACB always has had a strong track record of acting in the best interests of a fighter. However, perhaps it was possible they were even more cautious than usual on Saturday because they knew the event was under a microscope. It’s a theory I had immediately following the event and it looks like it could have merit, as famed Philadelphia Daily News boxing writer Bernard Fernandez wrote the following:
“…even more restraint was exercised by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, whose referees apparently were instructed to stop bouts at the first sign of physical damage, lest people believe MMA is, you know, violent.”
I think this was evident when Scott Smith was not given his five minutes to recuperate following a foul. I can’t blame the doctors for not allowing the fight to resume immediately once Smith expressed that his vision was impaired. But again, he was owed five minutes to see if his vision could return. The lesson learned here is that fighters need to be more litigious when they speak with doctors, many of whom are making decisions to decrease their vulnerability to a lawsuit. A fighter needs to specifically say they want their five minutes.
— Combat in the Cage promoter Ed Hsu counted 22 unanswered elbows delivered by Thompson to Kimbo at one point. Granted, they didn’t do a lot of damage, but 22 elbows are 22 elbows. Miragliotta erred on the side of caution when he stopped the fight in favor of Kimbo, but why didn’t he show the same caution when Kimbo was absorbing all of those elbows? To me, it’s not an issue of integrity, it’s an issue of consistency. Referees are human too, and sometimes they make mistakes.
— Can we please give some credit to Thompson? He said he was tired of just being a guy known as an “entertaining fighter” and that he wants to win fights. He didn’t win Saturday, but what we saw from him was his best performance in quite some time. Yes, he still has plenty of holes but Thompson showed some semblances this past weekend of being a mixed martial artist as opposed to just a brawler with a marketable look. Sure, Thompson missed a golden opportunity to secure mount at one point but he did trap Kimbo’s arm at one point, Matt Hughes-style, and briefly had a crucifix. He still has plenty of room for improvement but Thompson looked much improved and actually showed a pretty strong chin.
— To all those people who insist that the Brett Rogers and Kimbo Slice altercation following Saturday’s show was somehow staged, I beg to differ. Rogers’ contempt for Kimbo is something that was apparent the week leading up to the event. I spoke to him on Thursday and he wasn’t hiding the fact that he wasn’t happy about the fact that a guy he had knocked out in the first round this past February was fighting in the main event instead of him. Who can blame Rogers for feeling the way that he did? And being someone who is outspoken, how can I fault Rogers for speaking his mind?
But back to the topic at hand: was the whole thing nothing more than a page out of pro wrestling? No, it wasn’t. If Kimbo vs. Rogers is the next fight we’re going to see, why did they let Antonio Silva into the cage after Rogers won? And why would they stage that altercation with major executives from CBS in the room? Finally, why would EliteXC try to arrange something between the two fighters when Gary Shaw has no interest in making that match anytime soon? Mark my words: you’re going to see Rogers and Silva fight for an EliteXC heavyweight title in the Fall on CBS.
— I’ve been a loyal Philadelphia sports fan since the age of eight and to me, MMA is an extension of the sports teams we have in this town. That’s why I get as hyped as I do when I see a Philadelphia-fighter compete on a big stage as I do when the Phillies or Eagles are involved in a big game. And I was extremely proud Saturday night of the Philly-area fighters involved with Saturday’s event: Mike Groves, Zach Makovsky, Wilson Reis, Matt Makowski, and Jon Murphy. All five trained hard for their respective fights and put it all on the line. Thanks to these five, a lot of Philadelphia-area fighters will begin to see more opportunities.
It was also a proud moment getting to see three of the city’s biggest and best camps, the Fight Factory, Daddis Fight Camps, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu United get some time in the spotlight. Trainers such as Stephen Haigh from the Fight Factory, Brad Daddis and Rigel Balsamico from Daddis, and Jared Weiner from BJJ United are major reasons why there are so many top fight prospects are starting to emerge in Philly.
The strange thing is, a writer by the name of Kerith Gabriel wrote an article in the Philadelphia Daily News with the headline: “Mixed martial arts blooms in Philly area.” The headline is dead-on, but that’s about one of the only things the article gets right. The piece focuses solely on Balance Studios, which is a great MMA gym and definitely worthy of being a focal point of the article. But how do you do an article about the Philadelphia MMA scene and not mention Reis, Murphy, Makovsky, Groves, and Makowski? After all, they are five area fighters competing on one of the most historic cards in the sport’s young history. And how do you talk about top gyms in the area without giving the Fight Factory, Daddis, or BJJ United any kind of mention? If someone can explain this to me, I’d really appreciate it.
But overall, Saturday was a great night for fighters from the Northeast — the most overlooked region in MMA when it comes to fighters on the national scene. James “Binky” Jones once again delivered in a big match and is now 3-0. After he tapped out Calvin Kattar with a rear naked choke, Jones once again reiterated his desire to fight at 150 lbs. There might not be a lot of top guys at that weight for him, but one that I do know of is Weiner. Jared is a world class grappler a win in his only pro MMA fight under his resume. He hasn’t gotten to compete much recently in MMA because he’s been busy with his school, but I know he’s looking for an MMA fight at 150 lbs. Jones and Weiner are friends, but I think it would be a great fight and one that could sell a lot of tickets on a card held in the Northeastern corridor of the U.S. A bout between Jones and Weiner is something that would be perfect for the IFL’s upcoming show at the Izod Center in Jersey this August.
— People can say all they want about the ratings, but the bottom line is that CBS is happy with the results, which means that we will see a second EliteXC show on network primetime television. The question is, are other networks happy with the ratings? If so, then the UFC will have improved leverage when it goes to the bargaining table to negotiate deals with networks that are looking to get into the MMA game. I’ve been told by several sources that NBC and FOX were waiting to see the ratings for Saturday before making a decision about how to move forward. You’d have to think that with the solid ratings Strikeforce has been doing in their late-night slot that NBC will give serious thought to putting the show on during a better timeslot in light of EliteXC’s ratings between 9-11 p.m. ET on Saturday. And if you’re FOX, you’ve got to be wondering how well the industry leader, the UFC, would do in the ratings with all of their star power if EliteXC can do as well as it did? If Kimbo vs. Thompson can do those kind of ratings, what might Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva II do?
— It was another strong showing Sunday night by the WEC. Miguel Torres is simply amazing. And Urijah Faber’s standup is starting to rival his ground game. We need to see Faber vs. Kid Yamamoto, and it needs to happen soon. If that can’t happen, why not a dream match between Faber and Torres? Also, thinking out of the box: if I was Zuffa, I wouldn’t be pitching the UFC to the networks. The UFC is already making hundreds of millions of dollars and is doing quite fine without network television. Why not try and go to the networks and show them the VERSUS telecasts and sell the networks on the WEC as the anti-EliteXC. EliteXC is clearly going the entertainment route while Zuffa could sit down with a network and try to sell them on the pure-sport approach of the WEC. So the networks would get a product that even their sports divisions could back and Zuffa wouldn’t have to worry as much about sacrificing creative control since it’s not their A-brand and they wouldn’t have to worry about losing PPV revenue since the WEC doesn’t air on PPV. So the WEC’s top fighters aren’t mainstream stars? Well, were Scott Smith, Robbie Lawler, Gina Carano, and Kaitlin Young mainstream stars? No, and they still pulled a solid rating.