ICF: Redemption ----- Post-Event Comments

What follows are the post-event comments I got from talking to the promoters Steve Stanton and Jeff Hale; Dan Christison and Steve Banks; current UFC fighter Jake O'Brien; Chris Curtis, the new ICF Welterweight Champ; and Chad Hinton from Cincy MMA and Fitness.

The pic is one of Dan Christison, immediately following his victory. More pics are available on the ICF website - you can find those here.

A1Entertainment handled the pictures/sound/video - you can find them on the web here.

In case you missed my live blog of the event, you can find that here.

Check after the jump for the full post.

As with the last show I attended, everyone was more than willing to talk to me, and it was great hearing what everybody had to say. I realize that this post has a bit of length to it, but since the guys were so willing to talk to me, the least I can do is post as much as I can of everything they had to say. However, if you're wanting to skip to a particular part, I've put the names in bold so they're easy to locate.

Steve Stanton

About the show: “I couldn’t believe how many people (about 1200) showed up. We did a lot of TV ads, [ads] on the radio – just good fights. This is our fifth show, we’re taking off December and we’re going to come back January 24th. I just signed a big deal with Turfway, to put on a show every other month. We’re trying to get down to Bel Terra [casino], and to Louisville, KY [to put on shows]."

About the card: “It was sick. Dan [Christison] is a tough dude, Lambchop is a tough guy, a good guy. People just underestimate Dan, he’s tough – got good standup, good on the ground, he’s been around for years. Dan is great – he brought a lot of people with him and did a lot of promotion for the show through the internet and myspace and things like that."

About the show coming up in January: “We’re actually doing a big biker rally, I’ve got Live 2 Ride involved in it, Tombstone Motorcycles is going to be a sponsor, so is Live 2 Ride – we’ve got Hooters on board, and Miller Lite. Just a big biker rally Saturday during the day, and coming Saturday night we’re actually going to have a Florence, KY cop fighting a biker. We’re going to call it “Pigs vs. Hogs”.

About his own mma experience: “We were affiliated with Militech Fighting Systems, but I bought in with Scott O’Brien and we changed it to Domination MMA. We’re actually getting ready to team with Team Vision. We’re going to have a Team Vision up in Ohio and in Kentucky.”

On plans to get some other big names for the show: “Dan Christison is such a good guy, he’s hooking us up with some other former UFC guys. We’ve got a lot of big stuff coming. We’ve got Roger Bowling [MMA Big Show Welterweight Champion] is going to come and have a fight with us, and Mojo Horne might have a fight with us soon – we’ve got a lot of big things going on.”

On Competing with other local promotions, like the MMA Big Show: “We’re 100% competing against each other. Jason Appleton is a good guy and he runs good shows – he does sick production – nothing bad to say about him or his show at all. We’ve got a lot of the same fighters fighting for us that fight for him. We’re just trying to do our thing and he does his.”

On Promoting a Women’s fight: “Dara, out of Team Vision is great, she’s tough. She’s going to be one of my highlight fighters. We’ll have at least two women’s fights next time, maybe three – this time I didn’t even promote the women’s fight that much, but it got the biggest crowd response of the night. We’ve got ad spots on SpikeTV, and a lot of big promotion stuff coming up."

On signing fighters to exclusive contracts: “We’re getting ready to start doing exclusive contracts with guys, and getting ready to start promoting specific guys, too – I’m excited about everything we have come up."

Jeff Hale

On the show: “I was really happy with the show, I was satisfied with the turnout. I’m pretty much the matchmaker for the promotion and I was very pleased with how the fights turned out. It seemed like the crowd was into it, like we had a lot of good, even match-ups.”

On promoting women’s fights: “I think there might be one other [local] promotion that does women’s fight. We’ve always wanted to have women on, and Dara looked awesome tonight. Greenwell looked great tonight – it was a good fight and we hope that will set us apart, and maybe bring out more women that might be interested in it. They’re grown women that make the choice to fight and they enjoy it.”

On the January 24th show: “Differently, all I’d like to see is more people. More people and keep getting the good fights. You could say you want to change a lot of things, but the fights were really good tonight and I was really happy with them. I wouldn’t change any of the fights we had; the match-ups were great. The only thing I might do is pray more people come in. (PV’s note – Jeff told me that with the layout they use, the venue could probably accommodate about 2700 people). If we could squeeze 1500-2000 people in there every time, you’d never hear me complain."

On the time it takes to do the ICF: “It takes up about all of my free time. If I have any free time, it’s usually talking to a fighter on the phone, talking to my partner Steve. Steve is a crafty talker, to say the least." (PV’s note – I jokingly asked Jeff if he was going to take Monday off after putting on such a good show, and he replied that since they weren’t putting a show on in December, he might take Tuesday off, too, but then it’s back to work.)

On the financial aspect of promoting a show: “It’s been good. I think it’s a misconception – people think ‘Look at all these fans, you guys are ripping in money’, but the problem is, all those pretty lights, those cage, the professional grade fighters, all that costs money. The amateurs don’t get paid, but we do try to help them out with paying their gas so they can get down here for the show, because a lot of the amateurs travel a long way. I’d say on this show we haven’t lost money, but it’ll put us back to even so we can start the new year at zero. We made the decision August 30th of this year – we did four pro fights, and it was a great show, but we had to pay out a lot more money than we brought in. We decided what we’re going to do is a series of all-amateur shows, because that’s where you build up your purse to pay the pro fighters. We’re going to use amateur shows to get more people interested – we’ll still have the same high level of production and great fights, and that way we can build up a surplus, and we can bring in these high level pro fighters and pay them to get them here so the fans can see them. The bottom line is, [if we] take care of the fighters, they take care of the fans.”

On having Dan Christison in the main event: “Getting Dan was a “ [we] lucked into” situation. I honestly can’t remember how we ended up meeting him, but he came out to our September 20th show to ref for us and see if he might be interested in fighting for us. Great guy, he’s got a great wife, and we all seemed to mesh pretty good. They’ve got all these connections, they put the name out there, I think they brought almost 70 people on their own. That is a talent pool we’d like to draw from. Dan is an amazing fighter, and he’s got great connections. Dan puts on a great show, he knows other guys that put on a great show, it’s a great friendship to have."

Dan Christison

About the fight: “He went for a head kick – I saw his body weight shifting and thought he was going for a kick – I made the assumption – and sure enough, he went for the head kick…once it went to the ground, I was trying to transition to the side-guard or full mount, but he did a really good job of locking me down. He left his arm hanging out and I saw his head turn toward my right elbow and I thought his face was going to stay there, and I came back with an elbow and I think I might’ve gotten him on the ear. That was unintentional, I was sorry, I told him I was sorry and we just kind of continued on from there….he went for the underhook and I was able to transition to the shoulder lock."

About fighting for multiple promotions: “It’s gone well for me! I think it’s an awesome thing - there’s only so much an individual fighter can do for the community, and as a fighter fighting at smaller shows, we don’t necessarily make as much money as we do at the larger shows, so as far as monetarily, we can’t push all kinds of money to different charities and things in the community, but what we can do is give our time, hopefully somehow, some way that can inspire others to do the same, and if everybody in the martial arts community does that, we’ll move mountains."

About fighting in the local shows versus the bigger promotions like the UFC: “I like pretty much doing everything. No matter where you go, the UFC gets its guys from somewhere. They’re coming from the shows like these, and they’re the very same guys that I’m fighting now, lending my experience and name to the event, and to the [fighter’s] experience. The guy I fought tonight, Steve, is going to take this experience and work the crap out of his ground game, move ahead and hopefully grow from it. As a martial artist, my first and foremost concern – yes, I’d love to do well, but I want to also inspire. At The Sandbox, that’s my school, that’s one of our mottoes – We Seek To Inspire."

Steve Banks

About the loss to Christison: “Hey, you know, it happens – I’m more disappointed that I slipped. I’m not really concerned that I got submitted – everybody gets submitted. I’m more concerned I slipped. Every fighter falls, it doesn’t matter who you are. Tonight I got caught in a submission. So be it, it happens."

About the match in general: “I think I had him standing up – it was fun, I enjoyed the punching, elbows, knees, kicks. I’ve actually been working on my ground game a lot – I had surgery on my left shoulder about a year-and-a-half ago, and it just so happens that’s the side he got. I did feel my shoulder come out. It happens. I’m happy to fight a guy my size, that was enjoyable."

About the future: “I’m going to try and fight as soon as I can. I don’t feel I was seriously injured in this fight. My shoulder popped, but it went back, it feels fine, not sore. I want to fight as soon as possible. I’d absolutely love to have a rematch [with Christison]."

About being a pro fighter: “I just enjoy doing it. I actually work at Home Depot, and this to me is just pure fun. I don’t look at it any other way. I’d love to go to the top, but it’s just going to take time. Every win takes you a step forward, every loss takes you three steps back."

I also got the chance to talk briefly to “Irish” Jake O’Brien – he told me his next fight is going to be at UFC 94 (Penn vs. St. Pierre II) on January 31st, and that he was initially scheduled to face Christian Wellisch, but the UFC notified him it could be someone else, and that it hasn't been finalized.

In case anyone doesn’t know, O’Brien had almost a 14-month layoff between the Herring and Arlovski fights. He had to have neck surgery – he had both a herniated disc and a pinched nerve. However, O’Brien assured me that he’s running at 100% and he’s ready to get back in the cage after back-to-back losses to Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez. He also let me know that he’s got three more fights left on his current UFC contract.

I asked O’Brien what it was like to have his first televised UFC fight (third overall) be against Heath Herring, in his UFC debut. O’Brien told me that it was definitely a step up in competition for him,

I also spoke toChad Hinton, the MMA Big Show Lightweight Champ and co-owner of Cincy MMA & Fitness.

About the Fights: “I thought it was an exciting night – these guys put on a hell of show, the match pairings were great, a lot of good competition, one of the better cards I’ve seen in a while.”

On his teammate Marcus Finch’s tough decision loss: “We go back to business Monday as usual. My guys haven’t lost a whole lot. We’re a fairly new team. I was just talking to the guys tonight – we were actually, as a team, 29-1, coming into the fight. To lose two fights in one nights is a little humbling, but we feel it’s going to help us grow, help us get better. In order to get better sometimes, you have to lose. If anything, it’ll make Marcus a better fighter for sure.”

Chris Curtis, the newly crowned ICF Welterweight Champ had this to say: “I just came here on two fights back to back, so I was already in pretty good shape. He [Justin Hunt] had a pretty heavy right hand, so I worked a lot on that, just countering the right hand. He’s a tough kid, but this is what you put the hours in at the gym for, this is what we do everything for.”

FYI, two of FightTicker.com's newest site members fought on this card. Chris Curtis, TheActionMan513, and George Oiler, nofee. Drop them a line and say congratulations - they both deserve it.


So there you have it. Being at the show, it wasn't hard to see that Steve and Jeff had put in a ton of time getting this show together, and it clearly paid off for the fans. The fights were exciting, the the crowd seemed to really get into everything. I'll definitely be back on January 24th to see what they've lined up for us then.


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ICF: Redemption ---- Post-Event Comments Coming Soon

Saturday night I got to attend the Intimidation Cage Fighting: Redemption event at Turfway Park in Florence, KY. I was lucky enough to have a cage-side seat for the event, and it was a great time.

I just wanted to drop this quick post to let you all know you can find my live-blog from the event on FightTicker here, and I'll be back tomorrow with my post-event commentary, including discussions I had with the promoters, Steve Stanton and Jeff Hale; Dan Christison and Steve Banks on their fight; a couple of the guys from Cincy MMA & Fitness; and UFC Fighter Jake O'Brien, who was at the event cornering Christison. It was a great event, a lot of fun.

ICF has their next event at Turfway planned for January 24th, and I'm planning on covering that show as well. I'll give you more details on that as they're made available to me.

Check back tomorrow for my full post-event commentary.


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One-on-one with Stephens Vale Tudo's Aaron Stephens

In the next of my ever-expanding interview series, I'd now like to introduce you to Aaron Stephens, of Stephens Vale Tudo (SVT). Aaron is the coach/trainer/manager for Jason Stanley, a fighter I interview a while back. You can find that interview here. You can find SVT on the web here and on Myspace here.

Check after the jump for the full interview. Stephens has been on the MMA scene for a while now, and he's got a lot of great things to say.

PV: First, can you give us a quick introduction and some background on yourself?

Stephens: Hmmm, I’m originally from Flatwoods/Russell, KY, (which is where we have our school now). I started training (BJJ, JKD, Kickboxing, etc.) in early 1993 in Oklahoma City, when I was in the Air Force. My first instructor was Rafael Lovato, Senior. Coincidentally, Lovato Junior is now the second American after BJ Penn to win Black Belt Mundials (Worlds). Junior was around 10 when I started, lol. Now he’s a BJJ STUD! Anyway, I trained there for a couple/few years.

Also, during this time, I went to Carlos Machado’s in Dallas, Texas, sporadically. After that, I trained at USA Stars in Norman, Oklahoma. My main instructor there was Tony Equigua but I was most definitely influenced by the MASSIVE Judo presence there (Pat Burris is basically a Judo legend). I also got to work some with Ron Tripp (Sambo Champion who’s supposedly the only person to beat Rickson Gracie in competition - a Sambo Competition). While I was there, I also spent some time with Frank Trigg and Evan Tanner who trained there off and on.

I trained at USA Stars up until 1998 when my enlistment ended. Of course, I have to thank some of my most dedicated BJJ Instructors (virtually, via VHS) – Pedro Carvalho, Mario Sperry, Carlson Gracie, Jr. are a few who come to mind. Man, those guys spent a lot of 1 on 1 time with me to help me get knowledge. MANY THANKS to them! ;-)

PV: Tell us how Stephens Vale Tudo came about.

Stephens: Wellll, when I came back to this area in 1998, I had been training in BJJ, Judo, Sambo, Kickboxing, etc. for around 5 years and was a pretty decent fighter, competitor, and instructor. I was absolutely hooked on BJJ. I loved training and rolling every day. BUT, when I came back here, there was NOBODY doing BJJ.

I searched around for a while and found a group about 30 minutes away (Huntington, WV – Ground Zero / Ashley Lockwood, Head Instructor and all around GREAT guy). They were pretty much on about the same level as me so, I trained with them occasionally, when time would allow. Somewhere during this time, I was found, through the internet, by Joe Hall (now an Editor for Sherdog.com). He was a freshman at the University of Kentucky, but was originally from my area. Soooo, I began training him (when he came home) and some more of their friends from the High School that he went to. From there, word of mouth spread and before I knew it, I was teaching classes to 5 to 10 people a few nights a week in my garage at my house. Stephens Vale Tudo was born…

PV: Why Vale Tudo? Why not Stephens MMA or Stephens Combat Sports? What made you choose to have a vale tudo based approach to your training?

Stephens: O.K. Back when we were doing this in my garage, “MMA” was not the household name that it is rapidly becoming. I almost went with Stephens Submission Fighting but, I’m going to be completely honest here, I felt some loyalty to the BJJ I had incorporated soooo much of into our system. BUT, since I didn’t have “set” training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructors (my main instructors were white belts, so what belt was I gonna get?).

If you hadn’t been training in a Gracie garage, you probably didn’t have a belt. So, since I didn’t have a BJJ Belt, I didn’t feel that I could claim to be a BJJ Instructor. So, wanting to pay homage to my Brazilian training but not wanting to claim BJJ without a belt I went with Stephens Vale Tudo. Since we did no gi, stand-up, and everything, I liked the ring to it. I guess that’s pretty much it.

PV: What kind of classes/training do you offer? Who teaches the various classes?

Stephens: Currently, I teach all of the “Martial Art” classes (BJJ, MMA, Kids, etc.) – My son, A.J. (13) helps me teach the “younger” kids BJJ Classes. My girlfriend, Spring, teaches some awesome Cardio Kickboxing and Toning Classes. She also does a lot of personal training work.

PV: What is your day-to-day role at SVT?

Stephens: Daily, we open up, and I’m there most of the day. I have day and evening classes, etc. We’re pretty much there all day (9 to 9), 5 days a week. We both also have classes on Saturday.

PV: When you opened SVT, was training competitive fighters one of your goals?

Stephens: When I started SVT, almost 10 years ago, just being able to continue to roll was one of my only goals.

PV: Since you opened SVT, how have you seen the fight scene in KY change?

Stephens: That’s easy, there wasn’t one…

PV: Can anybody off the street walk in and train for fun, or do you focus more on competition-based training?

Stephens: We have classes SPECIFICALLY designed so that ANYONE (regardless of fitness level, experience, etc., can come in. I also have kids BJJ Classes ranging from 5 yrs to 15 yrs).

PV: How many staff members do you employ?

Stephens: There are currently 2 of us.

PV: How many fighters (pro/am/otherwise) do you train/coach?

Stephens: Probably only 3 or 4 guys. I’m very picky about when someone is “READY”, even for their first fight. Lots of guys are willing to jump in the cage, but very few are ready to do the WORK it takes to WIN.

PV: Do you have other roles with the fighters (i.e. manager/agent)?

Stephens: Yes, all of the above. We are like a family.

PV: Have you ever had to work on finding sponsors for your gym and/or fighters? If so, has it been hard to find sponsors?

Stephens: We’ve not really pursued the sponsor thing very heavily, but I do have some deals in the works as we speak.

PV: What is the public perception of your gym on a local level? Do you feel it’s well received and has a lot of community support, or is it more a situation where the community thinks you’re just a bunch of brawlers?

Stephens: Between Spring and I, we do a lot of good things for people in the community. Actually, we’re still largely unknown. But, with us doing personal training and her doing Cardio Kickboxing and Toning classes, we’re WAAAAAYYYY more than a BJJ/MMA school.

What kind of things do you do to promote your gym and fighters?

Stephens: Right now, nothing. I don’t want them known yet. ;-)

PV: Are there any other gyms that offer what you do in the area? If so, do you find that you’re competing with them for students, or do all of the gyms seems to find an equal amount of success?

Stephens: Our nearest neighbor is 20 plus miles away and we really don’t compete for students. Completely different markets. We have a good, respectful relationship and that helps.

PV: How many of your fighters are able to train on a full-time basis?

Stephens: One (Jason Stanley) is currently it and we’ll see what happens.

PV: What’s an average day of training like for one of your fighters?

Stephens: When Jason’s in “full swing” he’s got an average of 2 or 3 “sessions” per day varying from weights, technique (ground and standup), running, core work, etc.

PV: What are some of the promotions/competitions your fighters have competed in (MMA or otherwise)?

Stephens: Kentucky Fighting Challenge, North American Grappling Association, Smokey Mountain Grappling Open, Tennessee State BJJ Championships, Extreme Grappling Open (EGO), Sinister Grappling Championships, Tri-State MMA, even Danger Zone back in the day (Dan Severn and Becky Levi’s old promotion in Indiana).

PV: What events do you have coming up?

Stephens: In BJJ, we have the Helio Soneca (my BJJ instructor) Tournament in Louisville on December 7th and we will be competing at the Arnolds (NAGA) in March of next year.

PV: Do you also corner your fighters? If so, how much importance do you place on the coach in the fighter’s corner?

Stephens: I definitely try to corner my fighters when they fight. I believe that it’s HUGE. The coaches voice serves many purposes, ranging from specific things to do and work to just being a voice of comfort for a fighter in a bad spot.

PV: What do you like most about running SVT?

Stephens: ALL OF IT.

PV: What do you like least?

Stephens: NONE OF IT.

PV: What’s one thing you’ve had to deal with you wouldn’t have imagined when you started SVT?

Stephens: Five year olds!!! LOL. You gotta love ‘em.

PV: What kind of financial issues do you face that the general public might not know about?

Stephens: LOL, ALL OF THEM!!!

PV: Do you like to follow MMA in your personal life (i.e. watching UFC events)?

Stephens: Not a huge MMA Fan actually. I went to UFCs and met fighters many years ago. Lots of awesome stories. Imagine sitting in a Hotel bar where the only people in there are you, your buddy, and Randy Couture and his brother. I didn’t even approach them. I had a picture with Chuck and Tito on each side of me in a Hooters in Rome, Georgia. Coincidentally, the other guys (unknown at the time) setting at the table with Chuck and Tito turned out to be….. THE TAPOUT CREW.

A picture with me having Kevin Randleman in a headlock (his idea). Watching a UFC when there were only 1500 people in the place. Sitting on the edge of the mat (hotel conference room) watching Pat Miletich cut 12 pounds for a fight (rolling and “cooking” in his suit) not realizing that several of the guys hanging around in the room were future STARS (Matt Hughes for one).

If you watch Mark Coleman’s pre-fight reel for the First Pride Grand Prix (where he’s doing takedowns on Brandon Lee Hinkle) you’ll see some of my students and I sitting along the wall – we were training with them when the Japanese guys came in to film his pre-fight video.

ANYWAY, THAT WAS FUN. THOSE WERE THE DAYS… Those days are gone. It’s just not the same today. I paid $230 per ticket to set in nosebleed seats in Columbus, OH. I watched the fight on the big screen. To me, the golden era has passed. ;-)

PV: Is there a particular fight team or camp that you admire?

Stephens: Miletich, Jackson, Sityodong, Rickson Gracie (a truly AMAZING SPIRIT), Renzo Gracie (himself and his team). That’s it for now, although I’m sure I’m missing some.

PV: Do you have a training background in combat sports? If so, what?

Stephens: Dating back to 1993, when I started, I’ve trained in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Judo, Combat Jujitsu, Sambo, Shootfighting, JKD, and Muay Thai. My first love and still #1 is BJJ.

PV: Are there any particular hobbies you enjoy in your down time?

Stephens: I enjoy reading and collecting books. I’m a computer geek so I play computer games with my sons when I can. Used to like to shoot hoops but I’m too busy teaching classes these days. I try to spend time with my family and the love of my life (Spring) and after that, there’s just not much else that fits.

PV: Thank you for taking the time to do this, Aaron – is there anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?

Stephens: First and foremost, to my family and loved ones. They are #1, hands down. Secondly to my SVT Family. To our friends and students, for choosing to share their lives and goals with us and for giving us the opportunity to serve them and help them achieve. Thanks to you PreView, for the opportunity to reflect on some of my fun times back in the day. It’s been a while. LOL.


So there you have it. Stephens has some great stories - I particularly liked hearing what he had to say about being a UFC fan before it was cool.

Stay on the lookout for updates on Stephens, SVT and Jason Stanley - they've got a lot to offer in the MMA world.


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A Look at the Nevada State Athletic Commission's New(ish) Drug Testing Policy

In a post I wrote for FightTicker yesterday, I commented on the fact that two more UFC 91 fighters testing clean in another round of the Nevada State Athletic Commission's year-round tests, I had a couple questions about this testing policy because I didn't know much about it.

I started researching a little bit and found the memo, dated May 24, 2008, that John R. Bailey, chairman of NSAC, wrote to all NSAC Licensees. You can check it out yourselves here. (It's a .pdf file.)

Check after the jump for some text from the memo as well as my thoughts on their new drug-testing policies. For another post I did on drugs in MMA, go here.

From the memo:

Therefore, in addition to the steroid and drug performed on contestants on fight night, the Commission will be requiring fighters licensed by the Commission, and applicants for such licensure, to submit to these tests when ordered by the Commission at other times during the year. (The costs of these "pre-fight night" tests will be paid by the Commission if funds are available; otherwise, the costs will be paid by the fighter or the promoter.) The process for selecting which fighters are required to submit to these tests will be based on: (i) a random selection; (ii) some indication that a particular fighter may be using a prohibited substance; (iii) the fact that a fighter has previously tested positive for using a prohibited substance; (iv) a request by a Commissioner; or (iv) any other cause determined by the Commission.

I realize that last (iv) should be (v), but I'm quoting from the original.

First, let's start with what will likely be one of the less controversial/easier to deal with complaints. The potential financial cost. If the promoter runs out of money, they're going to charge the fighter. Sure, that might not make a difference to guys like Couture or Lesnar, but what about guys fighting in the smaller promotions making $500 to show and $500 to win? Drug tests aren't cheap. To combat this, the Commission could just raise the cost of licensing fees, to make sure there was some surplus money that could pay for these tests, but who do you think that extra cost gets passed on to and hits the hardest? The fighters. So let's hope that NSAC has been stashing away money for some time now, because nobody likes a raise in fees.

As many of you have undoubtedly realized, the process by which someone can receive one of these pre-fight night tests is fairly subjective. Sure, I understand testing people who have previously tested positive for a banned substance, but testing someone on "some indication...a request by a Commissioner...or any other cause determined by the Commission" could cover pretty much anything. First of all, let me say that I am in favor of this, in principle. I also understand that NSAC is supposed to be a non-partisan commission, above the influence of promotions.

But let's be real - this process could easily be abused. Not to mention, if a particular fighter pissed off one of the Commissioners, that Commissioner could cause the fighter to be randomly tested every week - or for that matter, every day. I'd like to believe that such an abuse of power would quickly be noticed, but one man's abuse of power is another man's modus operandi.

I understand that some people could be particularly wary of the "...any other cause..." language because of the potential for massive invasions of privacy. However, let's not forget - these are not just random people on the street being picked for drug tests - they are athletes who chose to apply for a license to fight. They know sports are drug free, and should behave as such. I'm not judging what anyone chooses to do on his or her own personal time, but I think it's ludicrous when some athletes get upset when their licenses are suspended, or when they're fined. The broke the rules that were outlined for them at the very beginning and they should be accordingly punished.

Additionally, I'm sure some fighters will make the argument that they agreed to testing when they were signed up for a fight, but not year-round. Frankly, that's probably just not true. Sure, the fighters did not likely anticipate being tested year-round, but I'd almost guarantee that all NSAC license applications (prior to this new change) had in language that stated that the licensee could be subject to random testing at any time.

Some other relevant language relates to what happens if one of the fighters fails one of these tests.

If a fighter either fails to take the test within the required timeframe (determined by the Commission) or fails the test, the Commission may refuse to license the fighter, refuse to allow the fighter to compete, and/or discipline the fighter.

I emphasized "may" because of, once again, the potential for abuse of power/disparate treatment. This sort of power the Commission has once again allows for potential manipulation. If the language had read "will" refuse to license the fighter, or "will refuse to allow the fighter compete", the fighters would know beyond a reasonable doubt that if they tested positive, they would not be competing. However, the "may" allows for the possibility that somebody might still be allowed to compete if they test positive, and hypothetically, a powerful promoter or executive could attempt to sway the commission to allow the person to fight.

But that's a hypothetical situation. I actually don't have a big problem with this language because it gives the Commission some wiggle room. It's not hard to imagine a situation where the Commission would need some leeway, such as where a fighter took a prescribed diuretic to help rid his body of a staph infection long before a fight was supposed to occur, but because of these year-round tests, he tested positive for a banned substance. Because the Commission has "may" in there and not "will", they are not required to refuse the fighter a license or prevent them from fighting. They could, for example, just order a regular round of tests until the fight occurs to make sure that the diuretic is out of his system long before it would help him as a performance enhancer.

Athletic Commissions get a lot of bad press, whether it be from guys like Armando Garcia, who recently resigned from the California State Athletic Commission (to see a comprehensive list of the bad decisions Garcia made or was a part of, check out FightLinker.) However, the bottom line is that the Commissions are looking out for the fighters, whether or not they look out for themselves. Their decisions may be unpopular, but they're meant to keep the fighters safe, level the playing field, and bring legitimacy to the sport.

NSAC's website has a number of other articles/memos/studies linked on their website, so I'll likely be posting on some of those in the future, too.

Until then, I'm just waiting to see how this new policy plays out.


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PreView's Picks for UFC 91 & Lesnar vs. Couture Roundtable

This Saturday I'll be watching UFC 91, and the main event is the fight that the UFC has billed as the biggest in its history - Randy Couture (Heavyweight Champ) vs. Brock Lesnar.

There is a lot of drama leading up to this fight, including the fact that Randy Couture hasn't fought in over a year due to contract disputes with the UFC, and this is only Brock Lesnar's 4th professional fight. Add to that the fact that the winner will only really get 1/2 of the Heavyweight championship, as there was an interim Heavyweight champion named - Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Nogueira will be facing former Heavyweight champion Frank Mir for the interim title, and then the winners of both matches will meet to unify the titles.

For those of you who aren't mma or UFC fans, I know that may seem like an odd situation. Regardless, as I generally do, I'm posting my predictions for UFC 91, sans my extended analysis. This time, it's picks only. However, on FightTicker.com, a number of us participated in a roundtable about the Couture vs. Lesnar fight. In addition to my picks, I'm posting a link to the roundtable after the jump.

Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar - Lesnar via TKO (strikes), Round 3

Kenny Florian vs. Joe Stevenson - Stevenson via Split Decision, Round 3

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Josh Hendricks - Hendricks via TKO (strikes), Round 2

Nate Quarry vs. Demian Maia - Quarry via TKO (strikes), Round 2

Dustin Hazelett vs. Tamdan McCrory - Hazelett via Submission (armbar), Round 2

Jorge Gurgel vs. Aaron Riley - Gurgel via Submission (choke), Round 2

Jeremy Stephens vs. Rafael dos Anjos - Stephens via Unanimous Decision, Round 3

Alvin Robinson vs. Mark Bocek - Robinson via submission (choke), Round 1

Matt Brown vs. Ryan Thomas - Brown via Unanimous Decision, Round 3

To check out the FightTicker Roundtable on Couture vs. Lesnar, go here. We'll be back with more roundtables for the next few UFC events.

I'll be back with my post-event thoughts on Sunday.


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Intimidation Cage Fighting: Redemption On November 22, 2008

Indimiation Cage Fighting: Redemption, on Saturday, November 22, 2008 at Turfway Park in Florence, KY. Check out the ICF on the web here.

I'll be covering the event, so you can expect a post-event write-up for sure, and a live-blog of the pro fights, if there's available net access.

Doors open at 6pm, Fights start at 8pm. Tickets are $25, VIP Tickets are $35.

I've never attended an ICF before, but they're put on by two guys who train at the local Militech Fighting Systems affiliate - and on a random note, one of promoters attended the same law school I did (although at a different time), so I'm always happy to help support colleagues.

I'll make more info available to you as it comes to me.


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Rich Franklin Helping Out the DAV

I would consider myself a long-time supporter of Veterans' issues - from doing what I can to bring awareness to the POW/MIA groups and the issues they've been dealing with for years, to doing the small part I can do in supporting and encouraging candidates and legislation that benefits veterans, I would say that at most I've done a little bit to help. But only a little.

Guys like former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin are doing great work - Franklin is using his position as a prominent MMA fighter to support the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization.

Check after the jump for part of the story from MMA Junkie as well a link to the full article and a few more of my thoughts.

From MMA Junkie:

Former UFC middleweight champion and UFC 93 headliner Rich Franklin has joined the Disabled American Veterans organization as a spokesperson and ambassador.

Formal announcement of Franklin's involvement, which will be the basis of a tribute program called "Real American Fighters," will be formally announced on Tuesday (Veterans Day) during his visit to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, DAV officials have confirmed with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).

Franklin has been a longtime supporter of the U.S. military and even left for the Middle East to visit troops in the hours immediately following his UFC 88 victory over Matt Hamill.

Franklin's Real American Fighters program will serve as a "tribute to the men and women of the U.S. military who have been wounded in defense of our freedom," according to the DAV.

The initiative will receive funding from limited-edition American Fighter T-shirts sold by Franklin and the apparel company, which he co-owns. He also recently filmed a public service announcement for the organization, and he will continue visiting disabled veterans on behalf of the DAV while serving as an ambassador between the DVA and the mixed-martial-arts community.

"I believe that no one should ignore, forget or disregard the sacrifice that the men and women who go to battle give," Franklin stated. "When I visit a disabled veteran who has lost a limb or has an injury so severe that their life is changed forever, I think we all need to get on our knees and thank God for these real American fighters."

Yet another great move by Franklin - this guy is tireless in his efforts to help out anybody he can. Taking this step to help the Disabled American Veterans is awesome. We need more people like him - not just in the mma community, but in the country - to step up and do their part.


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Video of Junie Browning at Xtreme Couture

Found this video of Junie Browning today on one of the mma blogs on Yahoo:

Check after the jump for the video and my thoughts on it.

A lot of this is typical Junie, like when he says "Half the stuff I did I don't even remember cause most of the nights were a drunken blur."

However, I think there are hints that his maturity level has gone up some. He talks about his time at Xtreme Couture as a positive thing, as well as the fact that he's signed with Denaro Sports Marketing and that he's been living with Shaun Thompkins. For anyone not familiar with Denaro, their clients include such fighters as Mac Danzig, Gabriel Gonzaga, Luis Cane, and so on. (However, they're not immune to having troublesome clients, as they also represent Melvin Guillard and Chris Leben.)

Regardless, I think it's evident that someone has worked on Junie's public persona, whether it be his new agents, Couture, or somebody else -- he seems like he's calmed down some, and he says that he hasn't "gone out" since he's been in Vegas and that the only thing he's been drinking is water. I think that's probably an exaggeration, but I think everybody would agree that they run a tight ship at Xtreme Couture.

Finally, I think it's interesting that Junie said he felt that he wasn't being used by Dana White or the UFC. He didn't elaborate on it too much more except to say that he thought TUF was designed not so much for the hardcore MMA fan, but for the more casual fan, to get people watching the UFC who might not otherwise watch it.

While this may be true, I think that last week's episode was one of the nastiest we've seen in a while, if not ever, and even though it may not turn the casual fan away from the UFC events, it's definitely going to turn fans off from the show. Just take a look at all the posts that sprung up after last week, of people criticizing the show.

In spite of all that, I'm interested to see what Junie does with his time at Xtreme Couture. He's got a wealth of opportunity there -- I, for one, am hoping he doesn't waste it.


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Interview with Dr. Randy Borum, Combat Sport Psychologist

In my campaign to share with you as many aspects of mma as possible, I'd now like to introduce you to someone who holds a role I think many of you would definitely consider to be "outside the box." Please meet Dr. Randy Borum, a Combat Sport Psychologist.

I first came across Dr. Borum's blog, CombatSportPsychology, and found a number of things he had to say very interesting and informative. He authors a monthly column for Black Belt Magazine and has worked with fighters from numerous professional combat sports organizations.

Check after the jump for the whole interview.

First, thanks for agreeing to the interview. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself; your official job title(s) and your educational background?

My pleasure. Thanks for your interest. I am a Professor at the University of South Florida where I teach and do research on violence and national security issues. I have a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. I am a licensed and board-certified psychologist and a Certified Sport Psychologist. For several years, I was a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and I did some strength coaching for my University's Boxing Team back when it was active.

What inspired you to get into the field of combat sports psychology?

I was a police officer for a while before I was a psychologist and I began studying sport psychology and motor behavior principles back in the mid 1980s to help understand how they might be applied to help police officers perform well (mentally) in high-stress, high-risk situations. I knew some competitive grapplers and professional mma fighters who talked to me about the mental aspects of their game. I saw some applications of what I had learned back in the 1980s combined with new sport psychology research and other things I had learned about psychology and human performance. I shared it with them and they found it to be helpful. I figured that there must be a lot of sport psychologists working with combat sports, so I did some searching to network and share ideas. I was surprised to find that there were very few sport psychologists who had worked at all with combat sport athletes, and none of them really specialized in those sports. I began writing some articles integrating research and scientific findings with critical aspects of the mental fight game and applying them to practical challenges these athletes sometimes face. I don’t really know many other sports well enough have a good sport-specific understanding of the mental skill nuances, so I really focus only on combat sports.

What is your favorite combat sport, and who is your favorite fighter?

I like different things about different disciplines – BJJ, boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, judo – they each have really interesting mental skill components that play out in different ways. I am more drawn to striking, but overall, if I had to choose a “favorite”, it would probably be mma because it is integrative and draws from so many disciplines and styles. As for my favorite fighter, I try not to play favorites, but I really admire those who commit to being respectful and I most enjoy watching those who have precise, strategic, and somewhat unorthodox striking games. Who does that sound like? I do like Anderson Silva’s game, but I have a group of “favorites” – ranging from champions to those who are relatively unknown.

I understand if you can’t answer this next one, but let me go ahead and ask - With what fighters have you worked? Also, inasmuch as you can disclose such information, was the time you worked with these fighters before a general fight, or before something bigger like a championship fight?

I understand the question, but as a matter of professional ethics, it’s not really appropriate for me to mention specific names. I can say that I do a very limited amount of direct consultation with athletes – mainly pro MMA fighters – some have fought in the UFC, KOTC and other international promotions. I have also consulted with some professional boxers, MuayThai competitors, and elite-level grapplers. Some have been prior to championship or other critical matches; others just wanting to hone their mental game or work though a particular performance problem.

Are you typically contacted by the fighters themselves or by a larger organization, like a training center or fight team?

Typically, the fighters themselves will reach out directly. I have been contacted by a fighter’s manager and medical advisors to organizations, but most initial outreach comes from the competitors.

When you work with an athlete, do you tailor a program to the individual athlete or do you have a set curriculum you follow?

It’s always individually tailored. There are some core skills and core competencies that most fighters need to learn if they are competing at the elite level, but how they apply those skills most effectively varies from person to person. This is not a “one size fits all” kind of thing. I suppose some people can put together a set curriculum or canned program – and it may help some people – but my experience is that at the upper levels of competition that the nuances become increasingly important. It’s generally not right to think that just because a skill works for me or for any other specific person, that it will work the same way for everyone.

Here’s a practical example: generally speaking, competitive fighters need to learn how to manage and regulate their levels of physiological arousal and intensity. But the optimal “zone” is not the same for everyone. Some fighters need to feel calm, others need to feel controlled aggression, still others need to engage at a vigorous or high level of intensity. So sport psychology interventions work best when they are framed in terms finding a good “fit”. There are a few “right ways” and “wrong ways”, but mostly the key is finding what’s right for you. I try not to take away from a fighter any skill or strategy that works effectively for him or her. Instead I try to give him additional tools or help him to use his existing strategies in a slightly different way that will facilitate his or her best performance.

Regardless of the approach you take, what are some of your favorite techniques to use and which ones have you found to be most successful?

Techniques, exercises, drills – whatever you want to call them – are just tools. Those tools are used to build skills. Sport psychology is about building an effective sport-specific mental skill set. But building skills takes practice. It's interesting that most fighters will tell you that mental skills are really important, but in their own training, they spend nearly all of their time on physical training and very little on enhancing mental skills – even though physical conditioning usually peaks out before mental conditioning. Some fighters don't realize or don’t believe that psychological skills can be trained and developed, but they can. So I can teach a technique like progressive muscle relaxation or diaphragmatic breathing, but unless the athlete makes a commitment to practice – just like learning a submission or striking combination – the skill won’t develop and it can’t be applied most effectively to improve performance.

I try to look at the skills needed and how they are being applied, then I’ll think about which techniques might offer the best starting point for a specific fighter to move toward enhancing that skill. At the broadest level, there are three behavioral components of fight performance that are affected by psychological factors: Thoughts (Cognition); Feelings (Emotion) and Physical (Somatic).

Skill sets usually focus in some way on regulating thoughts, feelings and physical responses, each of which can affect the others in different ways at different times. A negative thought like "I'm gassing- I won't make it to the end of the round" may lead to feeling discouraged and having physical sensations of fatigue. On the other hand, rehearsing confident thoughts like "I am strong and powerful and completely prepared for this match" may lead to feelings of excitement, which produce physical sensations of energy.

Some of the core skills are the ability to stay fully in the present moment (a state of “flow” or being “in the zone”), regulating arousal or intensity, confidence, focus/attention, and goal setting.

How much of a fighter’s win or loss would you generally attribute to the mental aspect of their game?

Over the years a lot of combat sport trainers and athletes have said that 80-90% of a fighter’s success comes from mental factors. Pat Miletich said it about MMA. Freddie Roach said it about boxing, and Dan Gable said it about wrestling. In reality, I guess there's no way to precisely measure these things, but it does all point to the fact that psychological factors are critical for effective fight sport performance. It may be particularly important at the elite levels because fighters are already matched up on size, experience and skill.

Are combat sports something you follow on your free time as well, or would that be too much “taking the office home” with you?

Sure, I follow them on my free time. I enjoy them and I learn from them. I do what I do in combat sports because I love the sports and I enjoy helping participants achieve their potential. My wife also enjoys watching mma.

What exactly is Crazy Monkey Defense and what is your affiliation with that program?

The Crazy Monkey Defense Program was created by Rodney King of South Africa (not the guy from LA). Rodney is an innovative martial artist, a skilled striker and has black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Rigan Machado. The term “Crazy Monkey Defense” really just refers specifically to a striking defense in which your elbows and forearms are in constant motion shielding your face, so that your head is protected and incoming strikes are more deflected than absorbed. You see lots of guys use variations of it. Rampage is one example. But Rodney has evolved a program that goes beyond just the defensive maneuver. He has done the “competition” thing in the past, but he is interested now in transforming the way martial arts are taught, coached and experienced. He asked me if I would be willing to serve as the official Performance Psychology Advisor to the program. I agreed. Rodney collaborated in creating a training journal for martial artists. You can get it as a free e-book if you register on the Crazy Monkey Defense site (also free). It’s definitely worth checking out the CMD site. Rodney has some great training videos and some exciting new ideas about martial art training. (PV's Note - check out CMD on the web here.)

Two of your colleagues, Drs. Ted Butryn and Matt Masucci are working on an MMA Sport Psychology Research Study. As much as you are able, tell us about this study, what the goals of it are, and how you think it will affect combat sport psychology, since it is one of the first of its kind.

They are terrific guys and thoughtful researchers. They are interested in the stressors faced by MMA athletes, and how they cope with stress in their matches, as well as during training. They are interviewing fighters from across the US and Canada and doing follow-up interviews with some to see how things evolve over time. They presented preliminary results at the largest Sport Psychology conference in North America last September, and they hope the final published results will be of use to academics, coaches, and fighters.

Studies like this can obviously prove very beneficial – what kind of study would you like to see completed – what kind of study (and what kind of subjects) do you think would provide the most useful information?

In fact, I have recently collected data from about 400 combat sport athletes. People were very gracious about participating. I have a series of questions I would like to pursue, ranging from some basic science issues like understanding the link between recurrent concussions and depression, to exploring the role of mental toughness and to identifying strategies that successful competitors use for self-regulation and improvement in different combat sports. One very basic product I hope to generate is a brief paper-and-pencil instrument that combat sport competitors can use to assess their own strengths and growth areas in sport-specific mental skills. I don’t want to sell it, but rather to make it freely available to whoever would want to use it – maybe online. It will be a few months before I have the data analyzed to ensure the instrument’s reliability and validity. Then, I’ll have to think about the dissemination plan. I’m hoping some people will find it useful.

How have you seen your field grow in the past 5 years?

The field of sport psychology, generally, is growing. Psychologists have been studying sport performance since the late 1800s, but they really didn't begin performance consulting with athletes until the 1960s. The U.S. Olympic Committee only hired its first full-time sports psychologist in 1985.

The systematic application of psychology in combat sports is really just beginning. What we have seen over the past five years is some combat sport athletes who publicly have discussed their consultation with sport psychologists and the benefit they derived from that. So, I think competitors have become more interested and receptive to what sport/performance psychology might have to offer. That’s a good start. It helps to get us past the hurdle where people think sport psychology is only for people who have mental disorders. At the same time, it has opened the door to increase discussion about some very common problems that many people – including fighters – struggle with – including depression. There are tools that help combat sport athletes improve their competitive performance, but also enhance their quality of life. We’re making progress.

Where do you see your field going in the next 5 years?

Sport psychology still is not used as systematically or as effectively as it could be. With FILA's recent recognition of grappling as an international sport and the explosive growth of Mixed Martial Arts in particular, I hope there is an opportunity to make sport psychology a regular part of combat sport training.

I suspect the next five years will see continued growth in understanding and acceptance of psychology’s contributions to combat sport training and competition. We will probably see more competitors and more training camps making use of sport psychologists. I also hope the enthusiasm spreads to young sport psychology and sport science researchers who can help build our base of sport-specific scientific foundation of knowledge to improve performance.

You write a monthly column for Black Belt magazine – how do you think exposure like this helps your discipline and the fighters who study it?

Although the magazine is very popular among traditional martial artists, I’m not really sure how many people read the “Psyched!” column. But it’s the only martial arts or fight-related publication I know of that has a column dedicated to sport/performance psychology in every issue. My hope is that it exposes martial artists and fighters to some new ideas that can help to improve their performance.

Obviously, all of the information you’ve learned can’t be imparted in just a few days, but have you ever thought about offering a weekend clinic or seminar, for fight teams or individual fighters to attend, to help with some of the pre-fight and training techniques you offer? Or would such mass learning not be possible due to the personal nature of what you offer?

I do think it is possible to convey some basic skills and information in a seminar-type format. I am not opposed to the idea, but I just haven’t actively sought opportunities to do it. We have an awesome cadre of pro mma fighters here at my home gym, Gracie Tampa, and I am doing some overview seminar stuff for them, but I haven’t tried to market anything publicly.

Individually, on a short-term and/or long-term basis, what do you hope to accomplish within your field?

Well… in advancing sport psychology for combat sports, I don't have a specific "ultimate goal" in mind. I do the writing and work I do in this area mostly because I love the sport and I enjoy helping fighters achieve their potential. I'm not trying to build an empire or even a cottage industry. What I have been doing is just trying to share information and ideas about how psychological principles might contribute to combat sport training. As I said, I think that people know the mental side of the game is important, and they may even know how to discipline themselves and be tough, but they don't necessarily know how to assess and build a mental skill set to complement the strength, conditioning and fighting skills. Some don't even know that factors like concentration, confidence, relaxation, and mental toughness are skills that can be learned, practiced and developed.

So I guess my first goal is get more fighters and trainers to think systematically about their mental game in the same way that they think about fighting skills, conditioning and nutrition as parts of the big picture. Many elite-level fighters or fight camps have a strength and conditioning coach or a sport nutritionist that they consult with – but how many have a sport psychologist? Sure - psychologists can help people who are depressed or who have serious psychological problems, but those with an understanding of sport psychology can also do so much more – not just to provide treatment, but to enhance performance and to take their fight game to the next level.

My second goal would be to help encourage the next generation of sport psychologists – researchers and clinicians – who are interested in focusing on combat sports. There are a bunch of really interesting research questions yet to answer and, and there are increasing opportunities to help fighters and other combat sport athletes to achieve their potential.

Where did you come up with the monkey logo on your blog?

The monkey with boxing gloves is one of the old logo elements from the Crazy Monkey Defense program. Their artist and designer really does great work.

So far, what has been your most enjoyable experience as a combat sport psychologist?

I don't know that I can identify a single experience, but I always find it to be incredibly rewarding when I can consult with a fighter who is genuinely interested in improving his game or who is struggling with a particular problem that is holding him back – then he follows through on what we discussed and comes back to say: "That really worked" or "That was really helpful." This is one of the few things I do professionally where I get feedback at the individual level. For me, those are probably the best moments.

Thanks for all of your time – is there anyone you’d like to thank?

I’d like to thank the fighters and other combat sport athletes who have taught me so much about the sports and who have trusted me to support them. I am also grateful to those who participated in my research study. Combat Sports International helped out by providing a discount to people who completed the surveys. They were very generous. Kirik Jenness, President of MixedMartialArts.com also helped to get the word out. He is a true gentleman who is strongly committed to MMA, and has always been incredibly supportive of my efforts.

I have a blog/site where I have most of my past articles posted: CombatSportPsychology. If anyone is interested in MMA training in the Tampa Bay area, they should definitely check out my home gym Gracie Tampa. Rob Kahn owns the school, and Cristina Rodriguez (2007 World Grappling Games Bronze Medalist) manages operations. They have an awesome cadre of competitive grapplers, and fighters who I learn from everyday. Rob’s a Royce Gracie Black Belt, who is incredibly innovative. His jiu-jitsu game is phenomenal. Gabe Maldonado is one of a best striking coaches I ever had the privilege to work with. Jeremy “Buttercup” Thurlow has built a world-class strength and conditioning program for the school. They have had fighters on five seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike.

Grapplers looking for the best tournaments should definitely check out Grapplers Quest. Gracie Tampa’s manager, Cristina Rodriguez, is their new National Event Coordinator and definitely knows how important it is to competitors that events run smoothly, safely and fairly. Grapplers Quest aims to be the Nation’s top grappling promotion.

Thanks to everyone else who takes time to read this interview and other articles on my blog. It’s your interest that will help us collectively to move forward.


So there you have it. Again, thanks to Dr. Borum for agreeing to the interview - check out his blog from the link above, or the banner at the top of the main page.

Until next time...


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Is Liddell Still Relevant In the Title Picture?

Another post I put on FightTicker.com today - I found this article on Yahoo: Sports -a sort of profile of Chuck Liddell after his devastating KO loss to Rashad Evans.

As you'll see after the jump, I don't think Liddell should be written out of the picture just yet.

From Yahoo:Sports:

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell is fighting a battle of meaning in the public eye: can one punch change everything?

Liddell, 38, built his reputation giving and taking punches. From 2004 to 2006, he cleaned out the sport’s marquee division, collecting wins against stars like Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz, who, like him, built the foundation for the UFC’s explosion in popularity.

But a new guard has encroached upon Liddell’s legacy, and chinks have begun to appear in his armor. Spearheaded by the minds at Jackson’s Submission Academy in Albuquerque, N.M., Liddell has lost to three out of his last four opponents, and his light heavyweight title to Quinton Jackson at UFC 71.

A spectacular knockout loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 88 brought the subject of retirement into sharp focus. After the fight, Liddell said he’d decide in the gym, not in the pressroom, whether to hang up his four-ounce gloves.

I think the most relevant thing Liddell had to say was this:

“I have one fight I get caught, and all of a sudden my striking is no good?” Liddell poses. “That’s kind of how you guys feel in the sport. You media guys, (if) you lose a fight – nobody was saying that when I beat Wanderlei (Silva). Nobody was talking about how my striking was overrated. Now eight months later, I lose a fight, and my striking is no good.”

I think this is very true. Yes, Liddell's style can be predictable, and he obviously suffered from this deficit in the Rashad fight - however, I think he's right - nobody was talking like this when he beat Silva.

A fight against another Silva - Anderson - could definitely show people if he's been working on his overall game. He's got decent kickboxing, and he can definitely wrestle, he's just been relying too much on his bread and butter - the counter punching and power punching.

I think Liddell is still relevant in the title picture, but his next fight could certainly determine how relevant, and a win over Silva would definitely send his stock back up. Silva has never fought a guy like Liddell, and Liddell has never fought a guy like Silva. Ultimately I think Silva would come out on top, but I think Liddell has the potential to take Silva to the third round, and legitimately, unlike Cote.


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UFC Crushes the Competition, and Gets the Recognition

Thanks to 3L for the heads up on this - if I still had a running stab count going on the blog, I'd retract one because he pointed this out.

After the jump you'll find a link to an article about the UFC on MSNBC - the writer analyzes it from the angle that the UFC has survived (and thrived) in a time when we see mma promotions dropping like flies.

From MSNBC.com:

When Johnny Drama is called into the eight-sided cage by Chuck Liddell during an episode of HBO’s hit series “Entourage,” the mixed martial arts fighter demands that the terrified Drama – who had mouthed off at Liddell in a parking lot – get down on his knees and beg for forgiveness.

In a nutshell, that is how Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – of which Liddell is a top star – has treated all competitors. Last month, mixed martial arts organization EliteXC failed. In the last few years, UFC has purchased a huge rival, Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships, along with
World Extreme Cagefighting and World Fighting.

Today, UFC is the undisputed champ of the mixed martial arts world. According to Forbes, UFC is likely to generate $250 million this year, about 90 percent of all mixed martial arts revenue. The matches often sell out venues, such as the 13,300-capacity MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, at an average ticket price topping $250. Three of its cable shows – The Ultimate
Fighter, UFC Fight Night and UFC Unleashed – are staples on Spike TV.

”They offer the highest level of product in the marketplace,” said Shawn McBride, vice president of Ketchum Sports Network. “UFC is laser-focused on mixed martial arts. It’s a great case study.”

The article goes on to talk about some of the UFC's sponsorships and the financial situation the UFC was in when the Fertittas bought it.

In spite of the fact that many people wouldn't be exposed to too many new things from this article, I wanted to point it out because of the exposure on MSNBC, and under the "Sports Biz" section.

In addition to that, we don't have a major news outlet talking about how brutal they think the UFC is, or how it's only rednecks that watch it, and so on and so forth. Instead, we have an intelligent commentary on the UFC, and its dominance in the world of MMA promoters.

While this isn't the first article of the sort, I can only hope it won't be the last - hopefully, the recognition of the financial success will lead others to recognize the athletes' successes in the combat sports world as well.


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MMA Big Show: Relentless - Amateur Fights and Post-Event Coverage

This event wrap-up will cover the eight amateur fights from the MMA Big Show: Relentless, that I watched last night, as well as some follow-up with the new 155 lb champ Chad Hinton and one of his trainers and coaches, Dahei Haile.

Check after the jump for the coverage, as well as a link to my FightTicker.com live-blog of the three pro fights from the event.

I’ll be putting each fighter’s team affiliation with their name, but in lieu of listing a link with every name, I’ll put the two I have here.

You can check out Cincinnati MMA & Fitness here and you can check out Team Vision here.

Mike Yanez was the referee for all the fights. I recently interviewed Yanez – you can find that out here.

The event was held in the Northern Kentucky Convention Center – for more info on the venue, go here.

Additionally, the vendor House of Pain had a table there, and they gave away a customized gym bag and a $100 shopping spree away to one of the audience members. You can find them on the net here. They sponsor athletes from MMA fighters to bodybuilders.

Also, what follows will be the full descriptions of what transpired in the amateur fights. I know some of you may not be much for reading fight descriptions for a smaller promotion after they’ve happened,, but I couldn’t post them all last night because I had to conserve my battery for the pro fights, as there was nowhere for me to plug in.

As for the fights….

Alex Smith (Cincy MMA & Fitness) vs. Matt Johnson (Independent) (135 lbs)

At the start, Johnson pushed the action, and the fighters clinched up. Johnson got a takedown and ended up in Smith’s full-guard, and Smith had one of Johnson’s arms wrapped up. Smith looked for a guillotine, but Johnson scrambled, got side control and transitioned to a full mount. Smith swept Johnson and took Johnson’s back. Smith locked in an armbar, but it was too late.

PreView saw the Round 10-9 for Smith.

Smith initiated the clinch and attempted a standing guillotine. When that didn’t work, he threw some knees to the head, scored a takedown and landed on his back with Johnson his full guard. Smith swept Johnson to gain the top position while Johnson attempted an armbar. Smith threw hammer fists until Johnson gave up his back where Smith ended it quickly by Rear Naked Choke.

Smith wins by tapout due to Rear Naked Choke at 1:30 of Round 2.

Kevin Cantley (Cincy MMA & Fitness) vs. John Heiser (Bushido Fight Team) (145 lbs)

The fight started with Cantley trying a couple quick jabs that didn’t have much of an effect. He shot in and scored a double-let takedown and ended up in Heiser’s full guard. Cantley worked some ground and pound until Heiser rolled and was able to stand up. Cantley landed a big head kick followed by a right uppercut which knocked down Heiser. Cantley got Heiser into a guillotine, but Heiser was grabbing the fence, which initially prevented Cantley from getting it fully locked in. Cantley persisted, though and won with the choke.

Cantley wins by tapout due to guillotine choke at 1:53 of Round 1.

Elliot Spence (Cincy MMA & Fitness) vs. Bill Bauer (Team Tarhe) (150 lbs)

This match got off to a quick start as Spence shot in and took Bauer down hard, ending up in Bauer’s full guard. Spence picked Bauer up twice and slammed him, putting him up against the cage. Spence looked for a standing guillotine while throwing knees to Bauer’s body. Spence got another takedown and landed some big right-hands from inside Bauer’s guard. Spence worked out of the guard into side control, then full mount, working ground and pound. Bauer rolled out, swept Spence and stood up, but Spence regained control, got double underhooks and took Bauer down again to end the round.

PreView saw the Round 10-9 for Spence.

Bauer came out firing with a big right hook that missed and allowed Spence to shoot in and push Bauer against the cage. Spence threw three unanswered knees and utilized dirty boxing while Bauer responded with his own knees to Spence’s body. As the two split, Spence landed a big knee to Bauer’s face, which stunned Bauer long enough for Spence to hip toss Bauer and get side control which he transitioned into a crucifix and used ground and pound until Bauer verbally submitted.

Spence wins by verbal submission at 1:03 of Round 2.

DJ Smith (Team Dobusutai) vs. Eric Funkhouser (Bushido Fight Team*) (155 lbs)

Smith came out with a right hook, but both fighters backed off, trying to feel each other out. Smith had a significant reach advantage. Funkhouser landed a big right hook that set up a suplex, landing him in side control. Funkhouser landed some knees to Smith’s body while Smith was landing some punches from his back. Funkhouser got full mount and transitioned back to side mount, looking for the kimura. Smith rolled in sort of a backwards somersault that impressed the whole audience, but Funkhouser got back in full mount, and got what looked like to be a kimura, but the angle prevented me from getting an unobstructed view. After holding this position for about 20 seconds, the referee stopped the fight**.

Funkhouser wins via ref stoppage at 2:25 of Round 1

*Our official roster listed Funkhouser as coming out of the Bushido Fight Team, but he was announced as a Four Seasons fighter.

**The ref stoppage elicited a lot of boos from the crowd, with a number of people screaming things like “He didn’t tap!” However, from where I was sitting, this was the right call. If Funkhouser would’ve applied any more pressure, Smith’s arm would’ve been dislocated.

Chris Curtis (Team Vision) vs. Jay Finnegan (Spartan Athlima) (170 lbs)

Curtis, in a southpaw stance, started things off with a good leg kick. They clinched up and Finnegan attempted to land some knees. Curtis took him down, but Finnegan scrambled back up as both fighters threw knees. Curtis lands another solid leg kick followed by a right hook and a guillotine attempt. As Finnegan attempted to push Curtis off, Curtis landed a three-hit combo. Finnegan tried a kick to the body, but it only grazed Curtis who answered with another big leg kick and a huge left hook that floored Finnegan. Curtis quickly got the full mount and ground and pounded Finnegan until the ref stopped it.

Curtis wins via ref stoppage at 2:01 of Round 1

Ben Cox (Independent) vs. Matt Egner (Cincy MMA) (170 lbs)

First, I have to give props to Egner. He took this fight on about ten minutes notice as Cox’s other opponent dropped out for an undisclosed reason. In spite of not planning to fight, Egner was definitely ready. This was my pick for Fight of the Night, barely edging out Hinton vs. Ammerman.

Cox started things off with a couple jabs. Egner came out swinging hard as the two clinch and Cox throws knees, setting up a big slam which lets him get the full mount and start the ground and pound. Egner swept, landed in Cox’s full guard. Cox looked for an armbar from the bottom, but Egner picked him up and slammed him and ended up in the full mount. Cox looked for an ankle lock, but Egner swept him again and stood, leaning over to land some head shots. Cox pushed Egner off, but Egner landed more shots as Cox stood. Egner threw a body kick, but Cox caught it, picked Egner up and slammed him, got the full mount and started ground and pound while he looked for an armbar. Cox locked the armbar in tight, right as the horn sounded ending the round and saving Egner*

PreView scored this round 10-9 for Cox.

Cox started off the round throwing some big shots, pushing Egner against the cage. Cox threw knees to the body while Egner landed a couple uppercuts as the two split. Cox threw a head kick, but missed, followed by a leg kick and a hard jab. Egner was throwing hard shots of his own as the two threw as many punches as the crowd went crazy because of all the action. Egner then threw a jumping/flying knee and the arena exploded with cheers. Cox had no answer for this assault and was now bleeding from his nose. Cox pushed Egner up against the cage and shot in looking for a takedown, but Egner was able to sprawl. Cox rolled and landed in Egner’s full guard, with his nose bleeding all over Egner’s face. Cox picked Egner up a couple times and attempted to slam him as the round ended.

PreView scored this round 10-9 for Egner

The large number of Cincy MMA & Fitness fans in the crowd started the round with chants of “Egner, Egner”. Egner came out with a jab as Cox landed a hard inside leg kick. Egner landed more unanswered shots which caused Cox to try to clinch where Egner landed some hard lefts. Cox was still looking for the clinch as Egner landed more lefts. Cox landed a big knee to the body, but Egner was still firing off punches as quickly as he could. Cox shot in again, but Egner sprawled again and stood as Cox tried a front kick to end the match.

PreView scored this round 10-9 for Egner

Egner wins via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

*The armbar at the end of the first round was very reminiscent of Penn-Pulver I – had Cox had even 2 more seconds, I think he would’ve submitted Egner, but Egner was saved by the horn. After the event was over, a number of Cox’s people asked people sitting around the cage if we had seen Egner tap due to the armbar. I didn’t hear anyone confirm a tap and if Egner did tap, I didn’t see it, and when the round ended, the two were at the cage almost right in front of the table where I was sitting. The event was taped, and some people said they saw it on one of the big screens around the room, so maybe the footage will reveal something different, but even if it did, it wouldn’t change the result.

Marcus Finch (Cincy MMA & Fitness) vs. Donald Young (Independent) (185 lbs)

This fight saw Donald Young making his MMA debut* against the 4-0 Finch. Finch came in with a left hook setting up a sweep which allowed him to get the side mount and then full mount. Young scrambled and ended up in Finch’s full guard and landed some lefts to Finch’s head while Finch worked for an armbar from the bottom. Young was grabbing the fence to keep himself from being put down by the armbar, but the ref couldn’t see this from his vantage point. Young landed some body shots as Finch made a triangle attempt. Finch let go and ended up in side control, landing some big shots to Young’s head and body that set up a full mount where Finch started to rain down hammer fists on Young’s face. Finch looked for a keylock as the round ended.

PreView saw the round 10-9 for Finch

The round started off with the two circling each other before Finch threw out a short front kick to set up a takedown. Young got Finch in a guillotine, which Finch pulled out of, but was still in Young’s full guard. The action slowed so the ref stood them up. Young threw a hard inside leg kick and wrapped up Finch and landed multiple knees to Finch’s head as the two were standing, clearly slowing Finch down, keeping him neutralized until the round ended.

PreView saw the round 10-9 for Young

Finch came out quick with a double-leg takedown and immediately took Young’s back. Young scramble and managed to turn over, but was still in the bottom position as Finch set up a fight-ending keylock.

Finch wins via tapout due to keylock, at :24 of Round 1

Dave Heidorn (Cincy MMA & Fitness) vs. Seth Chandler (Team Dobusutai) (205 lbs)

Both Heidorn and Chandler were making their MMA debuts, and I don’t think the fight went the way either had imagined it would. Chandler came out firing with a huge leg kick. Heidorn shot in, but Chandler sprawled and the two stood up. Heidorn landed a left hook and then both were swinging for the fences as they locked up. Heidorn went in for a takedown, which Chandler was able to resist for a few seconds, but eventually fell. At this point, something happened to Chandler’s knee and he immediately indicated to the ref he couldn’t go on. The ring doctor came in and confirmed this.

Heidorn won via doctor stoppage at 1:17 of Round 1

For my live blog of the three pro fights, check here.

After the event, I was able to speak with Dahei Haile, Chad Hinton and Jason Appleton.

Haile, head coach of Team Xtreme out of Cincy MMA and Fitness told me they offer a full program of muay thai, bjj and mma for a complete system. When I asked him what he thought of the event, he said, “We came in, we did the work that we needed to, showed everyone what we’re able to bring. Our fighters came in and did what we planned for them to do, and came out victorious.”

When I asked him specifically about Hinton’s performance, he said “[Hinton’s] performance was as expected. We knew Ammerman was going to be a little wild and try to utilize his reach and his range. We played off of that and took it from there.”

With Haile was Lonnie Scott, a muay thai instructor at Cincy MMA & Fitness, and Corey Boyle, a bjj instructor. Both guys stated they’d been with Team Xtreme since the beginning, and Haile stated the team was a little over a year old.

I asked Haile whether training fighters was a specific goal of his when he got involved with Cincy MMA and Fitness, and he stated that competing was definitely an option, but not a requirement – Haile did stress that he felt anyone they trained would be in fighting shape, whether they actually decided to compete or not.

Cincy MMA & Fitness ended up having seven guys fight, and they went 7-0 for the night, so they’re clearly doing something right over there.

I then spoke to Hinton, the new MMA Big Show Lightweight Champion. I asked Hinton how he felt going into the fight, and he said “I felt great, real confident, conditioning was there, my team was there. My team kind of set the pace for me tonight going into my fight, so I was pretty confident.”

When asked about how he felt about his opponent going into the fight, he responded, “I did my homework on Joe, I knew he was very aggressive, I knew he was very strong and I knew his cardio was there, so I definitely stepped up our cardio and did a lot of takedown defense and takedown execution, so everything went pretty well as planned.”

During the fight, Ammerman was on the wrong end of an accidental eye poke and then Hinton was on the wrong end of an accidental groin kick (and then a couple shots to the face as the ref was trying to break them up). I asked Hinton if he thought this changed the pace of the fight, having to stop and re-start twice. He said, “I don’t think so…things like that happen when you’re in full contact sports. He got me pretty good and hit me a couple times after he kicked me in the nuts, but it’s all good, things like that happen.”

Hinton said he’d been a pro fighter for a little over a year now, and he said that MMA Big Show and Jason (the promoter) had been really good and fair to him, and that he was open to whatever was in front of him because he’s “[t]hirty-seven years old, so I’ve got to kind of take what comes.” Those who saw my live blog likely noted that I said Hinton looked huge going into the ring – however, in spite of the look, he stated that when he came into the fight, he didn’t weigh much over 165 after rehydrating post weigh-in.

Last, but not least, I got a chance to speak to Jason Appleton, the man behind MMA Big Show. When I asked him what his first thoughts were post-event, it gave me a laugh when the first thing he said was “I’m tired and my feet hurt.” Frankly, I think this was probably a gross underestimation of how Appleton actually felt. From observing him throughout the night, it wasn’t hard to see that he is familiar with all aspects of his promotion, and takes great care in making sure he knows what’s going on. When the event didn’t start at the stated time of 7:00p.m., he was quick to get on the mic and let everybody know what the official reason was (commissioner hadn’t shown up yet) and that it wouldn’t be much longer. When it appeared like someone had a problem or needed a question answered, he was the one doing the solving and answering. I know that I personally was very appreciative towards him for the ring-side seat I had and for the time he took to talk with me both before and after the show.

He said he thought both of the main event fights were great, Hinton and Ammerman was a phenomenal fight and that they fought their asses off for three full rounds.

In his second event at the NKY Convention Center (his first event, two years ago, was also there), he said he hadn’t seen the official numbers yet, but he would guess there were about 2,000 people in attendance.

He’s working on another event for February 7th, which will be in Ohio, and he stated that contracts hadn’t been signed on the location yet, but he’s hoping to make a announcement in the next two to three weeks. He also stated that the next show will be “a whole other ballgame” and that Relentless had been a test run for a number of things (i.e. video coverage) they wanted to implement for the next show, where he expects a number of UFC vets to be featured. He expects there to be about 6,500 seats available for that event, which is a marked increase in the number he has tried to fill so far, so as he put it, “We’re going for broke.” Appleton did acknowledge that there were some bugs in the test run, but that overall, things had gone well, and they take steps forward with every show they have.

When asked about Yanez’s decision to stop the Smith fight, he said that at first, it threw him, because he couldn’t see what happened because of the angle, but once it was explained to him that Smith was caught in a submission and was at risk for serious injury, it was the right decision on the part of the ref.

Overall, Appleton said that he was happy how things went, but there was room for improvement. He was happy with the marketing that they had for the show, but said that due to the large amount of radio and billboard coverage, he was surprised the show wasn’t sold out.

I questioned him about how Sammy Morgan (who was supposed to face Roger Bowling in the night’s main event) dropping out only ten days before the show affected his operation and he told me he was “[s]hocked in a lot of ways, because when you’ve got a guy like Roger – in my last event I went through four replacements for Roger – this show, we went through three guys….I don’t know what it is, but when I book a fighter who, his price is high, his record is high, and then his trainers tell me ‘In a nutshell, man, I’ve got to be honest with you, but he’s lost four in a row at this point, he’s in a downward spiral and we want to stop it right here, we don’t think Roger is a good fight for him.’ So, are his ribs broken or not? (Sammy’s stated reason for dropping out was aggravation of an injury he had before his second round TKO loss to Duane Ludwig.) You just can’t trust anybody – guys sign contracts and they back out on them. A lot of these bigger teams have team doctors who will back them up so they can get out of contracts.”

I asked him if situations like this made him want to sign fighters to exclusivity clauses and he said he wanted to do that as soon as his shows stopped losing money. Appleton also told me that ideally, he’d like to put on 10-20 shows a year in various areas, but that he felt in any one given market, if you do more than one show a quarter, you can sell yourself short because the local crowd would thin out if you inundated them with shows.

I definitely enjoyed the event, and I’m looking forward to the next one. The fights were exciting, the crowd was great – Jason Appleton put on a hell of a show.


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