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Combat Sports Insider: Volume One

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a column for As I write this, I’ve embarked on a new chapter in my life that caused me to step away from the site I created.

The current state of the U.S. economy has had an adverse effect on a lot of people and I am one of many who have seen their ability to earn a living compromised. After losing a couple of non-MMA writing gigs coupled with the rising cost to operate 5 Oz. while our ad revenue declined, I was forced to think out of the box.

Several months ago, to little fanfare, I formed a new LLC called Combat Sports Media. It was a soft launch to a company that I started as a third party business-to-business solution for companies in the MMA industry. The soft launch wasn’t the plan but a lot of things were put on hold when I was unexpectedly offered the opportunity to serve as the interim Chief Operating Officer for the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts.

I decided to end my year and a half long affiliation with WAMMA several weeks ago and have been putting all of my attention and focus into CSM, which includes web site management, public relations, consulting, and very many other basic service solutions for MMA companies.

Soon after accepting the promotion with WAMMA, I made a decision to hand off the editorial reigns of this site to Cory Brady. Cory has done a tremendous job with the site and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that he stepped up.

By way of CSM, I remain the full owner of 5 Oz. and still oversee all business operations pertaining to the site. I don’t have anything to do with the editorial direction of the site but I’ve decided to come back as a contributor on a limited basis. But I am not returning as a reporter or an op/ed columnist; instead I have launched this new column called the “Combat Sports Insider” as someone who is involved in the industry from a public relations and marketing standpoint.

Because I am embedded in the industry and work directly with multiple MMA companies, my perspective is a little different than most. I am sure some readers will appreciate the unique perspective I can provide while others will not. If you get something out of this column, then that’s great. If not? That’s okay too.

I will report on an occasional story or two and continue to experiment with this column but Cory will remain the Managing Editor of 5 Oz. with full editorial control.

So with my preamble out of the way, let’s get started.

KIMBO SLICE JOINS THE CAST OF THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER – I was as shocked as anyone by UFC President Dana White’s revelation earlier this week that Kimbo Slice has been cast for the upcoming tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Reaction to the news has been mixed, but a lot of people reserving judgment before rendering a decision as to whether Kimbo being added to the show is good or bad. Only time will tell but I predict that time will prove that the decision by all the principles was nothing short of genius.

Former EliteXC Live Events President Gary Shaw did an interview with AOL’s MMA Fanhouse reacting to the move. Shaw had been in discussions with Slice regarding the possible launch of his boxing career so naturally he was disappointed by the news. But Shaw also branded the decision as a step back for Slice. I am not so sure I agree.

The bottom line is that as of now, there is no over-the-air television network broadcasting MMA in primetime. Until CBS officially gets back into the MMA business, Spike TV is the biggest platform for a mixed martial artist based on the total number of households it reaches. From an exposure standpoint, the move makes perfect sense for Slice.

From a financial perspective, no one in the media knows for sure just how much sense it makes for Slice. But I severely doubt Slice is doing the show under terms of the standard TUF agreement. I can only assume that Slice is going to be well compensated for committing to spend up to six weeks locked away in isolation in the TUF mansion.

If Kimbo is receiving more compensation than any other fighter who has appeared on TUF, I don’t see it as an issue. Kimbo is a proven ratings draw who actually has more pro MMA experience than quite a few fighters that have been cast for the show in the past. And from Spike’s perspective, the presence of Kimbo is going to help TUF’s ratings and entice a lot of non-MMA fans to tune in just to watch Kimbo.

If Kimbo is being paid extra, then I like the move. At the end of the day, TUF is a reality television show and the primary purpose is to create compelling television. Lightning rods such as Chris Leben and Junie Browning have proven to be two of the most successful ratings draws in the show’s history. So Spike can either wait ever four years for a Browning or Leben to magically appear out of nowhere at TUF tryouts or they can go out and cast stars for the show.

With the right moves, Spike can maximize the dividends from Slice’s presence by holding him out until the final first round matchup. With 16 heavyweights cast for the show, that means that Spike could guarantee itself as many as 7-8 episodes with Slice on the show. Slice’s stay on the show could be extended even longer if he draws a favorable first round matchup. And the longer Kimbo stays, the more exposure he can generate for other fighters in the house.

Dana White also deserves a ton of credit for the move. He’s put himself in a win/win situation. If Kimbo loses in the first round and proves to be a total bust, Dana can look into the TUF cameras and say “See, I told you this guy couldn’t fight. This sport is much tougher than people realize and you have to be a world class athlete to make it in the UFC.”

However, if Kimbo steps up and has improved as a fighter during his time away from the limelight, then Dana will still benefit. If Kimbo proves to be a success and makes it into the UFC, then White and the Fertittas are going to make a lot of money with Slice.

But regardless of whether KImbo makes the cut or not, one thing is for sure: TUF’s ratings are going to skyrocket and that’s the name of the game.

One thing that the UFC and Spike will have to do is make sure they cast 1-2 antagonistic fighters on the show. In my limited dealings with Slice, I’ve known the man to be nothing less than a gentleman. He’s a soft-spoken guy who likes to mind his own business. Believe it or not, he’s someone that could easily blend into the woodwork after the first couple of episodes. He’s not going to urinate in someone’s bed or taint someone’s sushi. Kimbo’s the guy who is going to go crazy if he feels he’s been disrespected. As such, there is going to need to be one or two fighters that create situations that force Kimbo to react.

LIVE FROM KANSAS CITY – As I write this article, I am in Kansas City working for the M-1 Challenge. Right now, M-1 is the biggest client for Combat Sports Media. I am working with the company in a number of different roles, which I really enjoy. In addition to managing their entire Internet operations, I also assist with U.S.-based PR. I also have a lot of other smaller responsibilities.

In case you don’t know, the M-1 Challenge is a team-based International fight series featuring 16 teams from around the world competing in a year-long competition to determine which country is the best in MMA. We produce shows all over the world in countries such as Holland, Bulgaria, Japan, Brazil, and of course, the U.S.

There are a lot of challenge being an International fight promotion that holds shows all over the world. From an operations standpoint, Kansas City has been smooth, with one exception: the State Boxing Commission. We’re all staying on the Missouri side of K.C. but the event will be held in the Kansas side of Kansas City at Memorial Hall tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

The show, which will be taped for future airing on HDNet, has had a few lineup changes due to some concerns expressed by the Kansas Boxing Commission. They’ve been pleasant to deal with and are merely doing their job. Safety first. It turns out one of our fighters arrived and had to be removed from the card because he’s under medical suspension (and he didn’t even know it). We had another fighter from Turkey who claimed he was 4-2 but we could not produce any documentation showing that he was a professional fighter.

As such, we had to make two changes just 36 hours from the card after already having made two changes just seven days ago. But that’s the MMA business and that’s what happens when you fly fighters in from all over the world for a show.

Having two fighters drop off the card was bittersweet, because I am really excited about the fighters we added. Ryan Sturdy, the Extreme Challenge middleweight champion and a rising prospect with a 9-2-1 record, had been set to fight Abdullah Ahmady. Ryan is a fighter that a lot of people in the Midwest are excited about and he just needs a little exposure before the rest of the country realizes just how good this guy is.

But Ryan almost didn’t fight because Ahmady was not licensed. So M-1 had to act fast and a bunch of calls were made with a lot of options explored. In the end, we were able to fly out a guy who I had trained briefly with years ago at Daddis Fight Camps in Philadelphia.

Making the trip out and fighting Ryan in a light heavyweight bout will be John Doyle. John’s story is unique in that he began his career 6-1 and was thought to be someone who had a UFC future. But he fell on hard times and his record is now at 7-7. But John is tough and was already training for a fight, so Sturdy vs. Doyle has a chance to be the fight of the night.

John’s toughness is why I am glad he is here. He’s someone who took a fight on eight days notice vs. Rafael Feijao last year at EliteXC “Street Certified.” He’s also a guy who once fought Brendan Barrett in Atlantic City and fell through the ropes and slammed his head on the floor. Despite the spill, he was ready to jump back in the ring with a huge welt on his head and the commission had to stop him.

Another addition is one of my favorite personalities in MMA, Lloyd “Kadillac” Marshbanks. Lloyd will be returning as USA East’s heavyweight when he takes on Toni Valtonen of Finland. Lloyd is one of the nicest guys you will encounter in fighting. He’s also a damn good fighter. According to Sherdog, he’s 16-8 but urban legend says his record his actually 50-8. Lloyd has fought a lot in Mexico, where MMA is not sanctioned. And early in his career, he fought in backyard gambling BBQs (long before Kimbo Slice and YouTube). He actually got the nickname “Kadillac” because when a defeated opponent couldn’t pay up, Lloyd accepted a Cadillac that he had in his driveway as payment.

Another fighter to watch is Liron Wilson, an American fighter competing for Team Turkey against the World Team’s Michael Kitta. Liron is an outstanding athlete who was a national track star while in high schoo. He’s 4-2 and actually just fought eight days ago, submitting an opponent just two minutes in their fight. Liron was already in fighting shape and came out unscathed in his last fight and jumped at the chance to come to Kansas City.

M-1 doesn’t always get a lot of press but it should, because we have some tremendous fighters competing for us. One of our best, Lucio Linhares, will also be in action at Team Finland’s middleweight. Lucio is Brazilian but ended up moving to Finland after conducting a series of seminars there. The BJJ black belt is set to face another BJJ black belt, Valdir Araujo.

Araujo is a name to watch even though he’s just 2-0. He trains out of Team Nogueira and has won major grappling titles in both Europe and Brazil. His most recent fight took place for Reed Wallace’s Revolution Fighting Championships in Florida. Araujo fought Adler Volmer, who represented the U.S. this past summer at the Beijing Games as America’s Judo champion. Despite Volmer’s credentials, Valdir still choked him out in round one.

One other fighter to keep an eye on is Renato Migliaccio. If you haven’t heard of him, you soon will. Currently training and fighting out of Connecticut, Renato is a black belt under the late Ryan Gracie and is 5-0 since beginning his MMA career. He will look to go to 6-0 when he faces Finland’s Niko Puhaka.

There’s a lot more I could tell you but if you want more info, just go to And if you haven’t been watching our show on HDNet, you’re missing out on some of the best International MMA prospects in the world right now.

NEXT STOP: ST. LOUIS (and Strikeforce) – This has been a crazy week for me. After I am done writing the press release and updating the website following tonight’s M-1 Challenge, I have to wake up early tomorrow and hop a plane for St. Louis and serve as a research assistant on Showtime’s production team for Strikeforce.

The travel is crazy but I love MMA and I am getting to do things right now that some people only dream of. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be getting some of these opportunities, but a part of me can’t wait to get home and see my son and my wife (whose knee is doing very well by the way and she’s going to be ready to fight sooner rather than later).

The Showtime production team is a well-oiled machine and Scott Coker and his crew are incredibly organized and efficient. I am really looking forward to the show. Obviously, Scott Smith vs. Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Shields are going to be great fights but I really want to see how well Brett Rogers handles a step up in competition in Andrei Arlovski. When I first heard about the matchup, I just assumed that it would be the first loss of Brett’s career. But upsets happen all the time in this business and I am starting to smell an upset. Arlovski is much more athletic than Rogers, but Brett is so much bigger and stronger. In some ways, this matchup reminds me of Arlovski vs. Tim Sylvia and we know that Sylvia won two of those fights.

There’s also going to be an intriguing undercard fight that won’t be shown on TV that I am looking forward to. Rafael Feijao will be facing Mike Kyle. I’ve never watched a Feijao fight that wasn’t exciting and Saturday shouldn’t be any different. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him fought so I am glad he’s finally back in action.

FABER VS. BROWN II – It’s a great weekend for MMA. You have the Bellator Fighting Championships (which I can’t believe I am going to miss as one of my trainers at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu United in Jenkintown, PA, Wilson Reis, will be in action) and the M-1 Challenge on Friday. Then on Saturday, you have Strikeforce. And on Sunday, the WEC returns to VERSUS.

If I had the money, I’d fly right from St. Louis to Sacramento so that I could see the rematch between Urijah Faber and Mike Brown. Jose Aldo vs. Cub Swanson is also another fight to watch.

I am a big fan of Faber and predicted him to win the first fight vs. Brown. Well, I called that one wrong. Soon after, I really believed that Faber would win the rematch. But after watching Brown dismantle Leonard Garcia, I did a 180. Mike Brown is just too strong, too technical, too tactical, and too versatile.

I believe Brown wins the rematch and is going to really go on a roll and clean out the 145 lbs. division in the WEC, which says a lot consider the WEC has brought in a ton of great fighters into their featherweight division. In time, Brown will prove to be every bit as unbeatable at 145 as Anderson Silva is at 185. Yes, he’s that damn good.

If Faber loses, I’d really love to see him drop to 135 lbs. For a while now, Faber vs. Kid Yamamoto was considered a dream matchup. But not a lot of people in the U.S. know about Yamamoto. However, thanks to VERSUS and a lot of press over the last year, people know about Miguel Torres. Faber vs. Torres at 135 lbs. is a much bigger fight in the U.S. than Faber vs. Yamamoto. Torres vs. Faber is so big that you could probably put it on pay-per-view and draw between 80,000-100,000 buys.

UNTIL NEXT TIME – It’s great to be back writing. I hope you enjoyed some of the insight here. It’ a bit of a departure from the style of writing I’ve contributed to this site in this past but my hope is that some of you will still find some benefit from it. I am working on some really big things right now that I hope I will be able to share with you in this column.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    Always nice to read your work. Well-stated on all accounts.

  • Tim-Fightergirls says:

    Hey Sam – Its nice to see that you’ve been taking it easy. *lol* Seriously though, best wishes with CSM, so far it sounds like things are going great.

    Also, how about finding out from Scott Coker when he plans to let the women start fighting 5-minute rounds. Strikeforce is now the “platform for Women’s MMA” and as such, he needs to showcase them as professional athletes and not amateurs who can only fight 3-minute rounds. If he states it’s the CSAC that mandates this, that’s not the case. Here’s what Gil DeLuna, Acting Assistant Executive Officer for CSAC, wrote in response to our letter questioning this. “Thank you for your correspondence. I contacted our legal counsel on this. Rule 512(b) applies to both men’s and women’s mixed martial arts and allows 5 rounds with each round not to exceed 5 minutes. If the promoters want to have 5 minute rounds the Commission rules authorize same.” So, as you see, its Coker’s decision, not the CSAC.

  • Hey Sam nice to see you back. Good luck with CSM and have a great time in St. Louis. Articles like this are nice to read because a lot of people have no idea what goes on behind the scenes and how much work goes into running a site and putting together these cards.

  • Hi Sam, it’s nice to hear from you. I’m not sure if this should really be directed to you but I felt compelled to write it anyway. One of the things that initially kept me coming back to this site (I’ve been reading for quite a while now and I recommend it to anyway that will listen) was your writing style and well as the intelligent and well-thought out articles that you wrote. You mentioned that Cory is the managing editor now (and has been for a while). While I can’t speak intelligently about the specific obligations of a managing editor, I would imagine that editing articles is one of the requirements.

    By no means am I writing this to insult anybody but rather to offer my constructive critisism, for what it’s worth. Recently, some of the articles on the site have been pretty hard to read from a grammar point of view and I (as I’m sure others) would love to see some better editing/proof-reading.

    As a fellow business owner, I can appreciate that this site is your “baby” and I always want to know what I’m doing wrong so I hope that you don’t take offense to this post. I always encourage my employees and customers to tell me what I can do better. I would much rather know than hear “everything’s great”.

    My only other critique is that there aren’t enough new articles, but I say that tongue-in-cheek since I’m a daily reader and I know that’s not really realistic. Other than that, keep up the great work and thank you.


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