2.28.2009

FightTicker: A Social Issues Contributor's Thoughts on UFC 95 and 96


One of my colleagues on FightTicker is David Mayeda, PhD, FightTicker.com Social Issues Contributor. Dave is also well-known for having been the lead author on one of the authoritative texts on the social issues surrounding MMA. You can purchase his book here.

On FightTicker, Dave writes about a number of interesting subjects; two of his most recent articles have been on the aftermath of UFC 95 and the pre-event hype surrounding the upcoming UFC 96.

You can find his article on UFC 95 here and his article on UFC 96 here.

Take the time to check them out - Dave always offers great commentary on whatever aspect of MMA he chooses to write about.

-PreView


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MMA Big Show Announces New Sponsor


I just received a press release from MMA Big Show promoter Jason Appleton, announcing a New Title Sponsor for the upcoming March and April shows.

Check after the jump for the full press release.

-PreView


From the Press Release:

MMA BigShow Announces Partnership with Pure Romance as New Title Sponsor for March and April Events at Belterra Casino Resort & Spa
Pure Romance, Inc. Pure Romance will take the center of the MMA BigShow cage and the title of its new broadcast initiatives


Cincinnati, OH (February 28, 2009) -- MMA BigShow, the region's most-established mixed martial arts promotion, and Pure Romance Inc, a home-built multi-million-dollar company based in Cincinnati, formally announced today a major partnership establishing Pure Romance as the title sponsor of the first two MMA BigShow events of the year on March 7th and April 11th at the Belterra Casion, Resort & Spa.

Pure Romance will take the center of the MMA BigShow cage for the inaugural March 7th show at Belterra with their logo appearing prominently on the mat and in the resulting broadcast of the show.

"We are elated to have Pure Romance, Inc. as part of the MMA BigShow family," said Jason Appleton, owner of MMA BigShow. "It's a classy company that prides itself on its integrity and I feel it's a perfect match for what we do with the MMA BigShow. I could not be happier."

The March 7th MMA BigShow event, entitled RETRIBUTION, will pit IFL/Bodog Veteran Seth Bacsynski versus MMA BigShow 170lb Champion "Relentless" Roger Bowling. Also appearing on the card is WEC Veteran Brendan Seguin versus 185lb Champion Billy "Mojo" Horne.

The April 11 HEAVY HITTERS card will feature UFC Veteran Josh Hendricks, whose most recent fight was against Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 91 - Lesner Vs Couture, will be fighting current BigShow Heavyweight Champion Brian Heden, whose most recent fight ended with a knockout win over Rod Housely, who previously held titles in other promotions.

RETRIBUTION will be shot LIVE-to-tape as a one-hour television broadcast to air regionally on the CW the week prior to the April 11th event, which will also be shot live-to-tape for regional airing.

Future plans call for additional programming to be sourced from the content created at both the March and April shows and in addition to the scheduled Belterra fights, the television program will also feature a more behind the scenes look into some of the fighter's lives and personalities.
There are also plans to produce a reality show focusing on the training and lives of MMA BigShow fighters preparing for their fights, which will finish out each show.

Tickets for both the March 7th and April 11th shows are on sale now through Ticketweb, order by phone at 866-468-3401 or find direct links to fight cards and ticket sales pages at www.mmabigshow.com.

Tickets are $35, $45 and $55 depending on seat location for ages 21 and over only.


About Pure Romance Inc:

www.pureromance.com
Founded in 1993 by Patty Brisben, Pure Romance is an in-home party company which offers an exclusive line of heighteners, lubricants and bedroom accessories for relationship enhancement. Pure Romance products are not sold in stores but may be purchased at in-home parties or through a network of independent sales consultants. Currently, thousands of Consultants nationwide from all 50 states, Canada, and the Virgin Islands are teaching the art of romance. In a little over a decade, Pure Romance has grown into a multi-million dollar company, bringing in $43 million in retail sales during 2004 alone. Based in Cincinnati with 80 full-time employees, Pure Romance operates out of a state-of-the-art facility comprised of a 40,000-square-foot distribution center and a 10,000-square-foot Corporate Office. In addition to a full-time Customer Service Staff, the company also invested over a quarter of a million dollars to provide a fully automated communication system which offers Consultants 24 hour service and support. Other Pure Romance support systems include an in-house Marketing Agency, National Training Department, Health Education Department as well as a corporate interactive website.

About MMA BigShow:

www.mmabigshow.com
Founded in 2006 by Jason Appleton, MMA Big Show has built a name and reputation established by promoting the regions biggest and most successful events at venues such as the NKY Convention, Cincinnati Gardens Arena and many others where national veterans of promotions such as the UFC, Elite XC, IFL and others are brought in to fight MMA Big Show Champions such as Billy "Mojo" Horne vs. Josh "Bring The Pain" Haynes at MMA Big Show: Martial Fury at Belterra Casino Resort & Spa. Preparing for the 2009 year MMA Big Show has begun signing professional fighters to exclusive contracts such as Roger Bowling, Mojo Horne, Joe Ammerman and Dave Hess with more to come. Each Big Show fighter is also getting his/her own exclusive merchandise line of which they receive a percentage of revenues. 2009 will be a banner year for the Big Show as they broaden their television reach and build on an already successful promotion.


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2.26.2009

FightTicker: A PreView of Things to Come Installment # 1: Sponsorships


For a while, I have been meaning to start a recurring series on FightTicker, mainly to up the amount of original content I have on there. Well, I finally got off my butt and published the first entry in my new series, "A PreView of Things to Come." Thanks to Puddin' for designing the logo for the series.

Check after the jump for the full article, or you can find the original post on FightTicker here.


For some time now, I have wanted to start a recurring series focusing on current events in MMA. Various things have gotten in the way of that – mostly my own laziness and penchant for procrastination. However, I found a post yesterday that got me looking for other posts on the same subject, those led to more, and so on and so on.

However, don’t let the title fool you – this series will not be only about looking forward to the future of certain developments in MMA, but will focus on looking toward the future given the current state of things (I know, an entirely original concept :) )

As you noticed from the title, the first post in this recurring series will focus on sponsorships in MMA. Fair warning, there are a large number of links in the article.

The sponsorship aspect of MMA has intrigued me for a while. To that end, I have interviewed some people in the MMA clothing industry, to get their thoughts on sponsorships, among other things. These people include Luke Burrett of Silver Star, Tony Palazzo of ToeZup and Rick Brewer from House of Pain. All three had some great things to say about sponsoring MMA fighters; you should check out the interviews if you haven't already.

I am also intrigued by the number of articles that come out about the topic - admittedly, the number of these articles has risen as MMA gains more mainstream acceptance. Even here on FightTicker.com I have posted a few articles about the topic, particularly in instances where brands like Cage Fighter are banned from the Octagon. Cage Fighter has since made a return, as of UFC 92/

Full Tilt Poker

The UFC (mainly Dana White) is famous for its "our way or no way" style of dealing with fighters when it comes to issues like sponsors. Besides the UFC prohibiting its fighters from wearing Affliction apparel, one of the most famous examples of this was when the UFC banned Matt Lindland for wearing an unapproved shirt to the weigh-ins. The shirt that Lindland wore was for an online gambling company, and as the UFC's Sponsor Agreement states,

ABSOLUTELY NO pornography, tobacco, profanity, gambling/gaming, hard liquor, or other MMA orgs allowed as sponsors. Affliction and Extreme Couture products will not be permitted either.

Given this statement, and Lindland's obvious ban, how is it that Full Tilt poker - a gambling/gaming site - has become so prevalent in the Octagon?

The answer lies in the small print, and MMAPayout.com provides this excellent explanation:

Full Tilt Poker has been able to skirt a federal ban on online gaming by the duality of their usage of the .net/.com brands. The .net brand is used for educational/entertainment purposes and is the brand that is advertised through all of the company’s media. The .com is the money site that would raise the ire of regulators, with the .com accessible through using the software from the .net.

As MMAPayout.com states, there is a federal ban on online gambling, and the law surrounding their manipulation of .com versus .net has caused some entities to be skeptical of advertising for them, in spite of the money. Most recently, Spike TV has indicated they will not be allowing Full Tilt Poker as a sponsor on their broadcasts. The word actually came down on Friday, with speculation that Full Tilt might not even be seen on Saturday night's UFC 95 broadcast. However, I saw, as many of you did, that Full Tilt clothing placements were in full effect. Whether this is indicative of Spike's bowing down to a bigger paycheck or a last-minute decision that wasn't enacted, I don't know, but MMAPayout.com had this to say about the situation.

This gray area may [the .com versus .net] be a bit too murky for Spike to sign off on. The Fight Night and Euro Cards on Spike represent a more direct connection from Spike to Full Tilt (as opposed to PPV cards), making them unwilling to sign off on the UFC’s deal.

The same sources did indicate, however that Spike would not black out Full Tilt advertisements when they replayed UFC PPV events, since the events were not originally broadcast on Spike.

The UFC allowing Full Tilt is clearly indicative of its efforts to attract more people to the sport. The UFC, of course, has its own corporate sponsorship deals, with Bud Light, Harley Davidson, and now supplement company, BSN. Curious about how much money the UFC is going to make off that last one? A reported 10 million dollars over three years.

Advertising Banner Restrictions

Most fans are aware of the fact that the UFC is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to how much money it, as an organization, is making. Pay-Per-View revenue numbers combined with the fighters' reported salaries suggest the UFC is grossly underpaying its fighters. However, that is an issue for another installment. Why that fact is pertinent to this article is that the UFC's closed-door policy combined with their obsessive need for control shows why the UFC has done such things as standardizing advertising banners.

From MMAPayout.com:

By standardizing the format and size of the banners, our goal is to create a more professional appearance and improve their overall effectiveness on behalf of your sponsors. It will simply look better and that’s good for everyone involved in the event.

As has been the practice in the past, however, you may only display one (1) banner during the introductions only. After the introductions have concluded, the banner may not be displayed inside or outside of the Octagon® at any time.

- Total size of banner is 6' (6 feet) wide by 4' (4 feet) tall.

- All artwork (including venue logos) must be placed 6" below the top of the banner, center aligned.

- The venue logo shall be at least 44" wide by 4.5" tall. The font used is Arial Black. The background for the venue logo shall be black and the letters in white.

- UFC logos are to be placed 3" from the left and right edges of the banner, aligned with the bottom of the venue logo. The UFC logos should be separated by 2" gap on each side of the venue logo. The UFC logos shall be at least 5” by 1.5” and also be in white.

- Camps have a 66"x32" workspace located 2.5" below the venue and UFC logos, 3" from the left and right sides, and 3? from the bottom of the banner to display their approved sponsors in.


I have noticed, as I am sure many of you have, the recent prevalence of the venue name and the UFC logo on all of the fighters' banners. Even though it only takes up a small row at the top, many fighters would likely say that such space could be used to throw in an extra sponsor and make some additional money. With the UFC taking control of part of the ad banners, what's next? 360 deals.

360 Deals

Also from MMAPayout.com:

The 360 concept would encompass the UFC getting a portion of all monies received by the fighter in his out of Octagon income in exchange for the UFC putting their promotional muscle behind the fighter. The UFC would play a large role in cultivating sponsor opportunities for fighters, etc. and would receive a large portion of said dollars under the scenario.

The mechanics of this are already being put in place it seems. Sources indicate to MMAPayout.com that Zuffa are directing their sponsors to specific fighters, though they have not asked for a cut yet. At the same time, sponsors are being okayed for some but denied to others, including recent sponsors like Cage Fighter and Full Tilt Poker (which you can read more about here.) Full Tilt was getting approved for fighters on the UFC 91 and Fight for the Troops card while similar deals with comparable sites were submitted and rejected for others, (though this policy was opened up for UFC 92.) One of the regular arguments for the UFC’s lower than boxing payscale is the ability to attract significant sponsor dollars, but these items are all at the UFC’s discretion and aren’t always adjudicated on an equitable basis, accepted for some but rejected for others.

Industry sources also indicate that the UFC has received stakes in both Tapout and MMA Authentics in exchange for sponsorships deals/ access to advertising in the Octagon. Such a strategy of having major holdings in primary sponsors of the UFC isn’t a new strategy. Zuffa has held/does hold significant stakes in UFC sponsor Xyience through the Zyen and Bevanda Magica subsidiaries. The UFC is quietly assembling a backlog of Zuffa-backed product to fill the pipeline to any possible fighters they sign to 360 deals. Such a scenario would be a vertical integration of the sponsorship field by the UFC, with the fight company being the conduit through which any flow of dollars would go.


If fighters start to accept these 360 deals, not only will the fighter/agent relationship suffer, but the fighters will continue to lose more and more autonomy and the UFC will get even more control over their fighters. Many of you remember the recent fight that broke out between the UFC and Jon Fitch and other members of the American Kickboxing Academy over refusals to sign over lifetime likeness rights for the upcoming UFC video game. Both sides did make some concessions, but again, the UFC wanted full control.

The question inevitably arises - so what? Supporters of a 360 deal might say that fighters would get more exposure that way and perhaps make more money. That sounds good in theory, but what about in practice? Left to their own devices, fighters and agents could work out some particularly lucrative deals for fighters that might help a guy like this weekend's KO of the night winner, Paulo Thiago, a relative unknown, make some good sponsorship money going into the event. However, with 360 deals, the feasible plan that the UFC would use would undoubtedly include various tiers, with fighters on the higher tiers making more money and getting more exposure.

In that situation, a guy like Paulo Thiago might not make too much money coming into his first fight in the UFC because he would be getting paid a flat rate under the 360 deal. However, because he was able to negotiate on his own with the help of an agent/manager, it's very likely that Paulo's KO of Josh Koscheck got him some extra money from his sponsors because of the extra post-win TV time he received.

Fighters as Brands

To make good money, it is important for a fighter to "brand" him or herself as an effective tool by which he can sell a company's product. Many of you could no doubt name certain fighters that always wear certain brands -- Rich Franklin and American Fighter, Anderson Silva and Sinister, Joe Stevenson and Warrior, Tito and Punishment Athletics. In some cases, fans can remember this because the fighter owns part of or the whole brand -- in other cases, fans are just so used to seeing fighters in that brand, it is something they automatically associate with the fighter.

Alternatively, fans can associate general brands with the UFC because of the prevalence and/or repetition of logo placement on the fighters' clothing. Condom Depot anyone? However, what drives these companies' bottom line is not recognition but sales. Many of you have seen Condom Depot but how many of you can say you have visited the website? I never did until just a few minutes ago, before I wrote this article. Take a wild guess at what they sell. They do have an interesting tagline, though: "Undisputed World Champions of Safe Sex", and they have apparently been in business since 1996. More importantly, for those of you who actually visited the website, how many of you actually bought something from them? I cannot say I have ever heard of someone ordering condoms online.

But again, so what? If someone gets paid for putting the logo on their clothing, who cares how many Logo Condoms that Condom Depot sells? (Yes, they have Logo Condoms.) Sales become important to the fighters because of some of the newer deals that MMA fighters are making. A typical sponsorship deal often involves the fighter making a set amount of money for wearing the clothing at an event, getting the logo on TV, giving the company a mention during a post-fight interview, things of that nature.

However, a new trend is emerging: royalties. When I spoke with Burrett, one of the things he stressed was giving his fighters royalties. He repeatedly stated that the fighters would make money off of every signature shirt the company sold. At that point, the company's bottom line becomes more important to the fighters. Maybe some sponsors do not want to do this because it would put more pressure on the fighters to make sure they rep the company. On the other hand, sponsors like Silver Star feel this business model will cause the fighter to become more active in the business because the more money the business makes, the more money the fighter makes.

Clothing companies are not the only ones making such a move. Today's press release from Round 5 stated the following:

As in the earlier Series, Carano will maintain creative control of her likeness, including the pose, facial design and shorts. She will have a major hand in creating the final design and will benefit from a royalty agreement that gives her a considerable portion of the proceeds from the sale of her unit.

Carano's deal with Round 5 is not a sponsorship, per se, but it helps her brand herself as a fighter, opening more doors to potential sponsors for her.

How Many is Too Many?

Carano's deal with Round 5 may open new doors for her, but as a fighter's popularity rises, so does the number of opportunities for sponsorship. Clearly, with the banner restrictions mentioned above, and the amount of space available on clothing, there is a limit as to how much space a fighter can utilize to make money. If you have the space, why not use it?

In an interview with XFC trainer and BJJ great Mike Yanez (who at the time of the interview was running Highlander MMA in Louisville), I asked Mike what he thought about the rise of sponsors in MMA. Here is what he had to say:

[It] helps - we need to get paid, so I hope it grows! Ill be a logo whore!

I had to laugh when I initially read that, but even then I was thinking that Yanez had the right idea. If the money is out there, why not get as much of it as you can? Perhaps the best recent example of a "logo whore" would be Dan Henderson in his most recent appearance against Rich Franklin at UFC 93. MMAPayout.com has a picture of the front and back of Dan's shirt that displays all ten of his sponsors. Ten. Think about that -- he has ten separate logos, in addition to his name and nickname, on the shirt.

On the flip side, you have guys like some mentioned above and Mark Coleman, who are paid to exclusively promote one company. In Coleman's case, his shirt showcased only the MMA Authentics brands (i.e. Cage Fighter). But even in Coleman's case, I'm sure the deal he structured was not to pay loyalty to a single brand, but to maximize his earnings. Some companies pay for these exclusive rights while others simply put stipulations on the other logos that can be worn with theirs.

In the same post comparing Henderson's and Coleman's shirt, MMAPayout.com offers an example of such stipulations, which can be found, for example, in a Tapout contract:

Except as set forth above, Fighter shall have the right to add up to four logos of the other companies to the clothing bearing the logo of Company, so long as the other company is not another clothing/gear manufacturer and so long as the other logos are not larger then the Tapout logo.

Companies such as Tapout can easily demand such stipulations because, as the preeminent brand in MMA, they can likely offer fighters better deals than they would find elsewhere.

What the Future Holds

I cannot predict the future. In spite of the fact that I am currently tied for first in the FightTicker.com Prediction Grand Prix, my ability to accurately predict things does not go beyond an occasional lucky guess in the main card fight results (although for UFC 95, I clearly screwed the pooch). If I could accurately predict things, I would definitely spend all my time playing the lottery and the stock market.

However, based on everything I have read in all the articles linked to in this piece, based on the few interviews I have done with industry insiders, and seeing that this past weekend's UFC 95 replay delivered more male viewers (18-34 and 18-49) than any other program in its time slot, I don't need a crystal ball to tell you that sponsor interest in MMA is going to continue to rise.

Now you're probably thinking, "Great, I just read all of that to hear this guy tell me something I already knew? Thanks, idiot."

But the statement is true (the rise part, not the idiot part) -- even on a regional level, more businesses are becoming interested in the impact that MMA is having on their customers. I was speaking with a fight team manager today who told me that he is working on a deal with a local chain of restaurants to pay for fight gear and sponsorship deals for some of his individual fighters. I will not mention the manager or the restaurant chain now since the deal is still being finalized.

But my speculation goes beyond the obvious. The UFC will continue to work towards 360 deals, but not many of them will come to fruition (if any) because such deals are bad for the sport and would ultimately lessen the credibility of the UFC. MMA agents like Ken Pavia would likely not encourage their fighters to sign such deals because of the control the agents and fighters would lose. The UFC would then have to find agents that would let their fighters sign such deals and then, given the UFC's history in other business matters, they would try to block out everyone who would not sign these deals. That would leave the UFC pulling fighters from only a few camps and the level of competition in the UFC would decrease.

Sure, there are probably many fighters out there now who would sign a 360 deal as quickly as they could grab the pen out of Dana's hand, but many of those fighters do not have adequate representation, and this scenario would only lead to more fighters getting taken advantage of by promotions that structured deals like this. There are always complaints about promotions floating around, and that is under the current promotional arrangements where fighters have more control. Would anyone care to bet that a 360 deal would ever leave a promotion in a bad spot? I doubt it. If a promotion has that much control over a fighter and it ever gets dissatisfied with the fighter, who is going to lose out, the promotion or the fighter? The fighter. Probably every time. Sure, a fighter could leave or sue, but look what happened to Randy Couture when he left the UFC -- the promotion froze him out until he came back. Randy only lasted as long as he did outside the organization because he had the money to fight the UFC. There are not very many other fighters who could put up a fight that long.

The UFC will ultimately abandon the concept of a true 360 deal. Even if it did get a few fighters to sign the deals, those who did not would eventually leave the organization and if there is one thing that Dana White does not like, it is helping his competitors thrive, and that is exactly what he would be doing by releasing a large number of fighters into the market.

Some of the regional or smaller promotions could implement something similar to a 360 deal with some success, mainly because the fighters would likely not have many sponsors, and an offer to get sponsors and promotion would appeal to a number of pro fighters. But this goes back to the importance of fighters establishing themselves as a brand. Doing this early in a career could also benefit a fighter in that it would allow a fighter to pick up sponsors and be promoted on a level they have not been exposed to at that point. They could then use that to form a relationship with those sponsors and when their deal expires take their sponsors with them to the next level.

Sponsorship is important to most fighters, but especially those on a regional level. Chad Hinton told me that what he made in his first sponsorship deal was more than in his first few pro fights put together. As MMA continues to grow on the regional and national levels, so will the sponsorships. Not every fighter will be able to quit their full time jobs and train full time, but many of them will likely be able to devote more time to their training, resulting in more fighters being ready to fight and more fighters will mean more events. More events means more MMA for fans to watch and more fans watching means more fans seeing the sponsors' logos and buying the sponsors' product, and then we cycle through all that again.

The true effectiveness of MMA sponsorships on commercialism as a whole will likely not be known for a while. Sure, Affliction sold enough shirts to nearly every Tom, Douche, and Harry out there to make them think they could run a promotion, but where will Affliction be one year from now? Five years? Ten?

If you are interested on the effect, and measuring the effect, of sponsorship dollars in sports in general, make sure to check out this article from SportsBusinessJournal.com.

Thanks for coming along for my inaugural post in the series. I'll try to make the next one shorter :)

-PreView

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FightTicker Radio Shows 5 & 6 In the Books


Like I stated here, FightTicker Radio is back, complete with a new co-host - yours truly. Pramit recently asked me to co-host and I jumped at the chance. Over the last couple shows, we've discussed various events, such as last weekend's XFC event, the UFC and UWC. For those of you that missed the live shows, they are now archived and can be listened to, or downloaded, for free here.

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2.23.2009

MMA Big Show Officially Announces April 11th "Heavy Hitters" Event


MMA Big Show has announced their next event at Belterra Casino, for April 11 - which will feature a main event bout between Josh Hendricks and Brian Heden.

Check after the jump for the full press release, sent to me by MMA Big Show promoter Jason Appleton

-PreView


From a Press Release:

MMA Big Show: HEAVY HITTERS - April 11th at Belterra Casino Resort & Spa

Prior to his loss to Gabriel Gonzaga on UFC 91 Lesner Vs Couture, Josh Hendricks has been a pro since the Fall of 2002 and is unbeaten in his last 10 fights with one no contest. His wins have been a combination of submission victories via choke or TKO. The 32-year-old Ohio native stands 6'2" and weighs 246 pounds, listing wrestling and jiu-jitsu as his strengths, having earned All-American honors twice as a wrestler at Ashland (OH) University.

Brian Heden is currently 12-6 as a professional fighter at the age of 23 years old. Having went the distance with UFC Legend Dan "The Beast" Severn and his last fight for the Big Show ending in a devastating knockout of Team Vision Owner Rod Housely winning him his Title, Brian Heden is a serious heavyweight force with heavy hands.

These two fighters will make up the Main Event of MMA Big Show: Heavy Hitters on April 11th at the Belterra Casino Resort & Spa in Indiana. Tickets are now on sale and are $35 General, $45 Balcony and $55 VIP Floor. Ages 21+ welcome.

Also on the card will be Ultimate Fighter Veteran Joe Scarola. Scarola is known for his drag out falling out with UFC's own Matt Serra during the season.

There will be 12 fights on this April 11th card entitled Heavy Hitters.

Cincinnati-Dayton Taiko Drum Group will be opening the MMA Big Show: Heavy Hitters and the MMA Big Show: RETRIBUTION with a 15 minute performance at the Belterra Casino Resort & Spa which will be followed up by an additional 15 minute performance during intermission.

The Cincinnati-Dayton Taiko Group was formed in 1999 with the support of the Japanese-Americans Citizens League (JACL) of Cincinnati and Dayton Ohio. They are a non-profit arts organization dedicated to promoting Japanese-style taiko drumming through performance and education. Jim Shimko, their music director, holds a Bachelor's degree in Music and has taught music for over to 20 years. He has been involved in taiko drumming for over 10 years.

Their performances are based on a traditional foundation but emphasize the fun and community spirit of taiko. Taiko drums are large drums played in an ensemble format which allows for thundering sounds and exciting rhythms. Besides the large drums, we include a variety of world percussion including shekere, small cymbals, and a large gong. Their style is based on the Osuwa style which was founded by Daihachi Oguchi Sensei of Japan.

An example video of Taiko drumming can be found here.

The doors will open at 6:00pm and the Cincinnati-Dayton Taiko group will begin at 6:45pm, first fight at 7:00pm.

Tickets are: General Seat $35, 2nd Floor Balcony $45 and VIP Floor $55.
Ages 21+ Only Please.

Tickets are On Sale Through TicketWeb Here


MMA Big Show


(Originally posted at FightTicker.)

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2.22.2009

XFC 7 School of Hard Knox Post-Event Press Release

From the Press Release

The Next Generation of MMA Superstars Graduate with Honors at XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox”

Undefeated Heavyweight Chad Corvin, Ex-UT Linebacker Ovince St. Preux Prevail in the First-Ever Pro MMA Fight Card in Tennessee History



Knoxville, TN: As the first professional Mixed Martial Arts fight card ever allowed in the state of Tennessee, XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” was history-making even before the first bell chimed. Taking place at Thompson-Boling Arena on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the promotion showcased some of the top emerging talent in the sport, including a pair of undefeated heavyweights, Chad Corvin and Scott Barrett, in the main event. And because of the fast fists and electrifying knockouts during the fight card, XFC 7 also made history by catapulting the careers of the next generation of MMA champions to the cusp of superstardom – and perhaps converting the state of Tennessee into MMA fans in the process.

Ovince St. Preux, the ex-University of Tennessee linebacker and “wedge-busting” special teams ace, received the loudest ovation from the crowd – and opponent CT Turner of Tampa, Florida certainly received the loudest boos, especially after taunting the audience by expressing his support for the Florida Gators with a theatrical “Gator Chomp” while walking to the cage. In pre-fight trash-talk, Turner vowed to “destroy Ovince like the Gators destroyed the Volunteers in football,” but St. Preux definitively silenced Turner with a jaw-busting rear leg kick to the chin that blasted Turner to the canvas. Out cold, the referee immediately stopped the fight at 2:36 in round one.

“Oh boy, when I saw him do the Gator Chomp, I knew I had to win this fight!” exclaimed St. Preux. “Otherwise I’d never hear the end of it. CT is a great athlete, but he kept putting his hands down. The moment I saw him drop his hands, I just knew I was going to connect with that kick. It’s a great feeling getting the knockout of the night, and I can’t wait to do it again!”

Immediately after the fight ended, XFC president John Prisco announced to the audience that St. Preux had earned a return bout in XFC and would appear in the organization’s next promotion in Knoxville on April 25. “That was one of the most devastating knockouts I’ve ever seen in my life,” remarked Prisco. “He nearly knocked CT’s head clean off his neck. Ovince deserves another chance to fight in the XFC, and he has an opportunity to do something very, very special in his young MMA career.”

In a shocking upset, unheralded Sarah Wilson of Waterloo, Iowa submitted four-time female world boxing champion Chevelle Hallback at 2:36 in the first round. Hallback’s raw physical strength and pure punching power initially staggered Wilson, but the 21-year-old fighter from Iowa locked in a triangle from the mount and refused to release it, forcing Hallback to eventually tap out at 3:03 in the first round.

“Coming into the fight, I knew I was going to be the underdog,” said Wilson. “Chevelle is unbelievably strong – and she’s actually one of the nicest girls I’ve ever met – but my teammates pushed me hard. I worked specifically on takedowns and in the clinch. And I didn’t travel all the way from Iowa to lose.”

XFC president John Prisco congratulated Wilson on her stunning victory, saying afterwards: “This fight epitomizes what the XFC is all about, and that’s providing an opportunity for undiscovered talent to achieve their dreams and launch their young careers. We don’t protect fighters in the XFC, no matter who they are. Sarah elevated her profile in the sport with that outstanding victory, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Chevelle. Her ground game and jujitsu just needs to catch up with her boxing.”

In the main event, undefeated heavyweights Chad Corvin of Elizabethtown, Kentucky and Scott Barrett of Atlanta, Georgia met in a highly anticipated showdown between rising contenders. Early on, Barrett tried to neutralize Corvin’s vaunted punching power by wrestling Corvin to the ground, to mixed success: Barrett managed to take Corvin off his feet, but even while on his back, Corvin kept firing haymakers. Both fighters arose from the canvas several seconds later and collided awkwardly; Barrett suddenly dropped to the ground, holding his knee and writhing in agony, unable to continue. The referee stopped the bout due to injury 1:30 in the first round.

“A win is a win, but it’s a shame he blew his knee out,” said Chad Corvin. “I knew his game plan was to take me down, but I can still hit hard from the ground. It’s just a real shame it had to end like that.” Regardless, Barrett became Corvin’s fifth straight opponent to be stopped in the first round – with none of these opponents even lasting two minutes against the 23-year-old, 250-pound heavyweight.

Local favorite Shane Matchette of Knoxville exploded in round one against Gerardo Julio Gallegos of Lexington, Kentucky, forcing the action with his fists and ground games. But Matchette was caught at the end of the first with a vicious left-right combination that jolted him off his feet, and he stayed down for several seconds after the bell chimed. Matchette appeared to recover between rounds, pressing the action once again in the beginning of round two, but Gallegos upended him with a sudden takedown, stopping him by TKO with a flurry of punches at 1:41 in the second.

Nate Jolly of Cincinnati, Ohio out-dueled Johnny Cardona of Miami, Florida in a back-and-forth barnburner on the undercard, finally catching his opponent with a barrage of lefts and rights at 3:52 in the third round. Jolly has a 21-2 amateur record, a 2-0 professional record, and took third place in the Olympic Trials in wrestling for three straight years.

Afterwards, John Prisco reflected on a historic night of Mixed Martial Arts: “Our goal was to introduce professional MMA to the state of Tennessee and showcase to the audience exactly what makes this sport so special. Well, this was a night full of outstanding fights, jaw-dropping knockouts, amazing upsets, and dedicated young warriors with big punches and even bigger hearts. I’m absolutely convinced that not only will the XFC grow MMA in Tennessee, but when we return to Knoxville on April 25, the sport will be even bigger. We’re building something with staying power here, and I’m so grateful to the Knoxville community for welcoming us with open arms. With your support, I promise you – MMA and the XFC will be here for a very long time.”


Final results from XFC 7:

Derek Shaffer defeated Mark Tyler by submission, 2:38 in round one

Anthony Stevens defeated Stoney Hale by split decision after three rounds (two judges called it 29-28, 29-28 for Stevens; one judge called it 29-28 for Hale)

Jason Wood defeated Horacio Rodriguez by submission, 2:27 in round one

Dustin Walden defeated Andre Boyd by TKO, 1:11 in round one

Rafaello Oliveria defeated Robert Thompson by submission, 4:50 in round one

Nate Jolly defeated Johnny Cardona by TKO, 3:52 in round three

Gerardo Julio Gallegos defeated Shane Matchette by TKO, 1:41 in round two

Joe Heink defeated Scott Porter by TKO, 1:00 in round one

Ovince St. Preux defeated CT Turner by TKO, 2:36 in round one

Sarah Wilson defeated Chevelle Hallback by submission, 3:03 in round one

Chad Corvin defeated Scott Barrett by referee stoppage, 1:30 in round one

###

About Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC): Xtreme Fighting Championships – better known to MMA fight fans worldwide as XFC – is the Southeast’s leading independent MMA promotion, and stages the largest live shows in the entire sport this side of UFC. Dedicated to launching the careers of the MMA superstars of tomorrow, XFC’s next mega-event, XFC 8, takes place on April 25 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, and will be broadcast live on national television, exclusively on HDNet. For more information about XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.

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FightTicker: XFC 7 School of Hard Knox Fight Blog


(PV's Note: This is my live blog from Friday night. Because there was no internet access available at the arena, I posted it today.)

It might be cliché, but there is truth in the statement that tonight is an historic night for Mixed Martial Arts in Tennessee. Here at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, the promotion that is the first to host the first pro sanctioned MMA event in Tennessee is not the UFC, but the upstart Florida-based promotion, the Xtreme Fighting Championships.



Fellow FightTicker.com blogger Puddin and I are here waiting for the event to get started. I have a cage-side seat and Puddin isn’t far behind me.

I already spent some time speaking with XFC head trainer and BJJ great Mike Yanez and the man he trains under, the legendary Pablo Popovitch, in addition to main event fighter Chad Corvin, who told me he has been looking forward to this fight for months. Lot of familiar faces in the crowd – Hardrock MMA promoter “Hardrock” Higdon and his fiancĂ© and co-promoter, women’s MMA fighter, Vanessa Bohleber, as well as Greg Franklin, who is one of tonight’s referees. John “The Mulatto Mauler” Mahlow, XFC Lightweight Champ, is here as a commentator.

One very special guest, who got a huge round of applause from the crowd is State Senator Tim Burchette, who played a large part in bringing MMA legislation to Tennessee.

There are eleven fights on tonight’s card, headlined by a Heavyweight match-up between Scott Barrett and Chad Corvin. There are two co-featured bouts – the first, between Sarah Wilson fighting out of Roundkick Gym, and women’s pro boxing phenom Chevelle Hallback. The second features a Light Heavyweight match-up between former UT football player Ovince St. Preux and XFC exclusive fighter CT Turner.

There’s a trailer for the movie “Warrior”, about a mixed martial artist who recently returned from an overseas stint in the Army. The movie is scheduled to film this year and will feature clips from various XFC events that will provide a backdrop to the story.

There is also a video tribute, put together by the XFC, to the men and women of our Armed Forces.

Finally, the XFC did something I have never seen at an MMA show – they introduced all the fighters to the crowd, having them all “toe the line” and face off. The cheers sounded the loudest for Shane Matchette, Chevelle Hallback and main event fighters Chad Corvin and Scott Barrett.

----------

Derek Shaffer vs. Mark Tyler (145)

The first fight of the night is a featherweight match between Derek Shaffer out of XFC MMA and Mark Tyler, making his professional MMA debut, fights out of Team Oxendine/Moab.

Round 1
Tyler comes in with a leg kick. Shaffer shoots in and takes Tyler down. Shaffer is posturing for position, dropping a shoulder on Tyler. Shaffer is inside Tyler’s half-guard, trying to land shots from the top. Shaffer ties up one of Tyler’s arms and lands two shots to the face. Shaffer looks for a kimura from the top but Tyler escapes. Shaffer lands more shots from the top, trying to pass Tyler’s guard. Tyler goes for an upkick but misses and Shaffer lands an elbow to the head on the way down. Shaffer has side control. Tyler tries to get out by standing, but Shaffer, crouching, does a low front flip, catches Tyler’s arm and pulls him down, going for an armbar. Tyler is fighting, trying to get out, but Shaffer elevates his hips and cranks Tyler’s arm, securing the victory via tapout.

Shaffer wins at 2:38 in Round 1 via submission (armbar), making history as the first fighter to secure a Professional MMA victory in Tennessee.

----------

Anthony Stevens vs. Stoney Hale
(185)

Stevens, making his professional MMA debut, fights out of SSF Submission Academy and Hale fights out of Team Oxendine.

Round 1
Stevens lands a leg kick. Hale fakes a punch and shoots in but Stevens reverses and scores a double-leg takedown. Stevens lands shots from the top, working from side control. Hale rolls and stands. Hale throws a big right and Stevens misses with a leg kick. The two trade hard punches in the center. Hale goes in for the clinch, but Stevens scores another double-leg takedown. Stevens transitions from the North-South position to side control and lands some shots to Hale’s head and a knee to the body. Hale lands a knee to the body, from the bottom – then another. Stevens transitions to full mount, but Hale uses the opportunity to stand. Stevens lands a body kick and Hale a punch. Stevens scores another takedown but almost gets locked in a guillotine choke in the process. Hale has full guard now and is landing heel kicks to Stevens’s legs from the bottom. Referee Greg Franklin warns them to be more active or they’ll be stood up. Stevens lands two body shots from the top, and Hale answers with another heel kick to Stevens’s leg. Ref Greg Franklin stands them up when the action slows.

Hale lands a two-punch combination then a hard leg kick. The two trade knees and Hale pushes Stevens against the cage, going for the takedown. Hale picks up Stevens and slams him and the crowd shows their approval with the loud cheers. Stevens stands and pushes Hale against the cage. Hale comes in with a jab and pushes Stevens against the cage. Hale lands a foot-stomp while Stevens defends the takedown. Hale lands the takedown and Stevens pulls guard. Hale lands some shots to the body as the round expires. A very close round, it’s going to be a hard one for the judges to score.

PreView sees it 10-9 Stevens.

Round 2
The two trade punches to open the round and then both land knees. Hale shoots in looking for the double-leg takedown and Stevens resists but can’t hang on and is slammed hard. Hale transitions to the mount and lands body shots from the top. Stevens is scrambling, but can’t shake Hale off. Hale utilizes the short body bumps, landing his whole weight on Stevens’s torso. Stevens has both hands locked around Hale’s back, preventing him from posturing up. Hale transitions to side control and the two stand. Stevens rushes in and looks for a takedown, pulls Hale down and lands on top, in Hale’s half-guard. Hale lands a few shots to Stevens’s head from the bottom and pulls Stevens down, so he can’t posture up. Ref Greg Franklin stands them up again.

Hale lands a leg kick and misses with a big right hook. Stevens lands a leg kick then a three-punch combination and takes Hale down and tries to take his back but Hale crouches and rolls Stevens off the top, jumping on him to take top position. Hale has one of Stevens’s arms tied up and landing shots to the head. Hale works for the kimura but Stevens pulls out of it. Hale lands elbows to Stevens’s head, but Stevens manages to stand. Hale has Stevens pressed up against the cage, looking for the double-leg takedown. Stevens defends, but Hale picks him up for a big slam. Hale immediately starts landing shots from the top and knees to the body. Hale backs off and the two stand. Hale goes in for a punch, but misses, as Stevens misses with one of his own. Stevens briefly lands the top position before the round expires.

PreView sees it 10-9 Hale.

Round 3
Hale comes in with a leg kick and Stevens misses with a jab. Stevens lands a leg kick of his own but takes a hard shot to the face. Hale moves in, looking for another double-leg takedown and manages to land it after some hard defense from Stevens. Hale lands knees to the body. Stevens reverses and takes the top position. Stevens is largely inactive on the top, trying to pull his leg out of Hale’s half-guard. Stevens lands a couple shots to Hale’s face, but Hale has Stevens locked up, preventing him from posturing up. Stevens lands two shots to the body, then two to Hale’s head. Stevens lands some elbows from the top as Hale works to land body shots from the bottom. Stevens lands a couple more body shots, trying to loosen Hale up, so he can land more short elbows. Stevens transitions to side control, landing shots from the top. Hale rolls and stands, but eats a knee to the face on the way up. Both fighters swing for the fences and Hale pushes Stevens up against the fence to land another double-leg takedown. Hale has a cut over his right eye now and is bleeding. The two stand and Stevens lands a high kick and two punches which Hale answers with two of his own before scoring another takedown. Hale lands a couple knees to the body and works to land more but Stevens reverses and takes the top position and immediately starts landing elbows and knees to the body.

PreView sees it 10-9 Stevens

Anthony Stevens wins via Split Decision (29-28 Stevens, 29-28 Hale, 29-28 Stevens).

----------

Jason Wood vs. Horacio Rodriguez (145)

Wood fights out of Strike Team Cagefight. Rodriguez fights out of Supreme Combat.

Round 1
Wood comes in with a short left hook and Rodriguez looks to take it down but Wood defends and looks for an armbar from the bottom. Rodriguez picks Wood up, trying to slam, but Wood hangs on, now looking for a triangle. Rodriguez gets through guard to land a punch, but gets locked up in an armbar again before he spins over the top of Wood’s body and pulls out. Rodriguez is working from side control landing shots from the top. Rodriguez transitions to full mount but Wood pulls guard. Rodriguez stands, trying to get through Wood’s guard and picks him up for a short slam. Rodriguez lands a body shot from the top and Wood looks for a guillotine from the bottom. Rodriguez pulls out and Wood get his legs up looking for a triangle. Rodriguez tries to spin out of it and manages to roll Wood over, but Rodriguez only gets his head out and Wood still has his arm locked up. Rodriguez taps to the armbar.

Jason Wood wins via submission (armbar) at 2:20 of Round 1

----------

Dustin Walden vs. Andre Boyd
(155)

Walden fights out of Team Oxendine. Boyd is making his professional MMA debut and fights out of House of Pain MMA.

Round 1

Walden comes in with a left hook that Boyd answers with a right to the body. Walden misses with a leg kick, then a superman punch, but lands a knee. He looks for a standing guillotine but Boyd pulls out. Boyd lands a short right, but Walden answers with a three-punch combination and a leg kick which Boyd checks. Walden misses with another superman punch but lands a hard right that stuns Boyd. Walden goes in with another right and a knee and tries to sink in a guillotine, but lets go of it to start a ground and pound assault that has ref Greg Franklin rushing in to stop the fight as Walden lands numerous unanswered blows.

Walden wins via TKO (strikes) at 1:11 in Round 1

----------

Rafaello Oliveria vs. Robert Thompson
(170)

Oliveria fights out of Premier Martial Arts. Thompson fights out of Rush MMA.

Round 1
Oliveria opens with a good leg kick. Thompson answers with a left and Oliveria lands another hard leg kick then shoots in. Thompson defends the takedown but Oliveria gets him down. Thompson struggles and Oliveria transitions to take Thompson’s back, standing. Oliveria gets one of his legs locked in between Thompson’s and then locks in the second. He works his arm under Thompson’s chin, but Thompson resists, still standing, with Oliveria on his back. Oliveria lands some shots to the side of Thompson’s head to loosen him up for the rear naked choke. Oliveria lands more shots from Thompson’s back and Thompson is fighting to not get choked out. Oliveria lands four more unanswered blows and Thompson finally shakes him off his back and immediately starts ground and pound. Oliveria lands an upkick but Thompson keeps working. He comes down with a big punch and Oliveria rolls over with Thompson trying to take his back. Oliveria defends and works for a double-leg takedown, eventually pulling Thompson down. Oliveria lands shots from the top, inside Thompson’s full guard. Oliveria starts to land elbows from the top and then hammer fists. Thompson ties up Oliveria’s arms, but Oliveria uses that opportunity to transition to side control, then full mount when he pulls his arms free. Oliveria gets one of Tthompson’s arms, but can’t lock in the kimura. He takes Thompson’s back and works for a choke, but lets go to land more shots to Thompson’s head. Oliveria rolls over to go for an armbar from the bottom, and then stops because he thinks Thompson tapped. Thompson protests, saying he didn’t tap and the ref doesn’t know what happened. The two fighters quickly agree to restart from the same position and Oliveria sinks in a triangle in the last ten seconds of the round.

Oliveria wins via tapout (triangle choke) at 4:50 of Round 1.

(A replay shows that Thompson did make some “tapping” motion to the initial armbar.)

----------

Nate Jolly vs. Johnny Cardona (155)

Jolly fights out of Team Oxendine. Cardona, making his professional MMA debut, is a Pablo Popovitch fighter and fights out of Highlander MMA.

Cardona comes in with two jabs that fall short. Both are testing the distance. Jolly lands a right and Cardona answers with a left. Cardona misses with a superman punch and Jolly lands a left. They clinch and trade knees. Jolly tries to throw Cardona but falls short. Cardona comes in with looping right hook that finds its mark and Jolly answers with a two-punch combination. Cardona pushes Jolly against the cage and Jolly lands a couple elbows to the body before Cardona takes the fight to the ground. Jolly pulls guard and Cardona lands hammer fists from the top. Cardona stands and Jolly lands an upkick which Cardona answers with two leg kicks from the standing position with Jolly on the ground. Cardona dives in with a big right that finds its mark and Jolly pulls guard. Cardona stands again and lands shots from the top. Cardona tries to stand again and Jolly looks for more up-kicks. Cardona lands another big right on the way down and then eats a leg kick. Jolly stands but Cardona jumps on him and looks for a guillotine. Jolly takes Cardona down with a slam and Cardona pulls guard. Cardona tries to work the rubber guard from the bottom and lands heel kicks to Jolly’s back. Cardona is working with a very high guard and Jolly passes landing some head shots. Jolly lands two big knees but Cardona is still fighting and both are swinging for the fences. Cardona takes Jolly down but Jolly works his way back up and lands a knee. Jolly lands a big right that stuns Cardona, but Cardona clinches up to close the round.

PreView sees it 10-9 Cardona

Round 2
Both fighters test the distance to start the round, circling the cage. Cardona lands a big right hook and the two clinch up and trade knees. Jolly lands a head shot and Cardona answers with a knee to the body, then another. Jolly lands a knee to the body and both are jockeying for the dominant position. Jolly lands a short right hook and the two separate. Cardona shoots in but Jolly defends. Cardona pushes Jolly against the cage looking for the double-leg takedown. Cardona works for a single-leg but Jolly defends. Jolly lands a big knee followed by a two-punch combination and an elbow. Cardona lands a knee to the body and the two separate. Cardona lands a leg kick and Jolly misses with a big right hook. Cardona lands a right and the two clinch up. Cardona lands a knee to the body and tries to land a knee to the head but slips and falls and Jolly tries to take the dominant position on the ground. Cardona transitions and looks for an ankle lock. Jolly is landing shots from the bottom to Cardona’s head. Cardona follows up with a head shot of his own, then two body shots. Cardona stands briefly, still in Jolly’s guard, but goes back down, working on more body shots. Jolly locks Cardona’s arms up and the Ref stands them up.

Jolly comes in with an overhand right followed by two knees to the body. Cardona lands a knee to the body and both fighters miss with simultaneous overhand rights to end the round.

PreView sees it 10-9 Jolly

Round 3
Cardona tries a superman punch and shoots in but Jolly defends. Cardona is working for a single leg and gets Jolly down. Cardona gets a knee on Jolly’s body and lands shots to the head. Jolly sweeps and the two stand. Cardona lands a left and Jolly a right. Jolly lands another big right as Cardona comes in for a takedown. Cardona lands a knee to the body and Jolly answers with one of his own followed by a knee to the head. Jolly lands two short jabs and the two are against the cage. Cardona pushes off and shoots in for a takedown and ends up in Jolly’s half-guard. Cardona is trying to pull his leg out and ref warns them to stay busy or he’ll stand them up. Cardona lands two body shots and pulls his head free and tries to spin out. Cardona attempts a knee bar but Jolly takes top position and lands two hard shots to Cardona’s head. Jolly lands more unanswered shots, but Cardona is still trying to defend himself. Jolly lands more shots until Ref Greg Franklin steps in to stop the action.

Nate Jolly wins via TKO (strikes) at 3:52 of Round 3

(Mike and I agreed this was easily Fight of the Night. Both fighters showed tremendous heart and skill until the end.)

----------

Shane Matchette vs. Gerardo Julio Gallegos (185)

Matchette, making his professional MMA debut, fights out of House of Pain. Gallegos, making his professional MMA debut, represents Submit Pit and Team Reaction. Matchette, fighting out of Knoxville, is a huge crowd favorite. Gallegos ‘ walk-out shirt came from Fight For Life USA.

Round 1
Matchette opens with a leg kick, then another. Matchette misses with a body kick but then lands a head kick and shoots in, but Gallegos sinks in a guillotine and pulls guard with Matchette standing. Matchette slams Gallegos and lands body and head shots while he tries to pull his head out. Matchette pulls his head free and lands more body shots. Matchette picks Gallegos up to slam him, twice, trying to get out of Gallegos’s full guard. Matchette lands an elbow to the head from the top followed by two more head shots. Matchette lands two body shots, then more elbows from the top. The crowd is going wild as Matchette works the ground and pound. Matchette pulls out of a submission attempt and stands and lets Gallegos up. The two clinch and Matchette lands a knee to the body. Matchette goes for a single-leg takedown and Gallegos lands a solid right. Matchette lands a three-punch combination and takes Gallegos down. Matchette gets a knee on one of Gallegos’s arms and lands body shots from the top. Gallegos utilizes a single-leg sweep and pushes Matchette against the cage. Gallegos takes the top position, but Matchette is still landing shots from the bottom. Gallegos takes the side position and tires to wrap up Matchette’s head and arm for a choke from the side. Gallegos is trying to work Matchette’s arm out free for a kimura but Matchette defends and pulls out and the two stand. Matchetet lands a knee and then multiple unanswered shots to Gallegos’s head. Gallegos answers with an uppercut that stuns Matchette and Matchette goes down. Gallegos lands a couple more frenzied shots as the round ends.

PreView sees it 10-9 Matchette

Round 2
Matchette opens the action with a body kick, then another. Gallegos lands a short left and Matchette shoots in but Gallegos defends, looking for the guillotine. Gallegos lands more shots and the fighters are slugging it out, both landing hard shots. Gallegos gets the action to the ground and lands punch after punch to Matchette’s head. Matchette looks for an armbar from the bottom but can’t capitalize. Gallegos is working from side control and transitions to the North-South position, sinking in a North-South choke and the referee moves in to stop the fight.

Gallegos wins via TKO at 1:41 in Round 2

(It appeared from my viewpoint that Gallegos won the fight via tapout due to the North-South choke, but it was ruled a TKO.)

----------

Scott Porter vs. Joe Heink (170)

Porter, making his professional MMA debut, fights out of Bowling Green Beat Down. Heink fights out of Highlander MMA.

Heink opens with a jab and Porter answers with a right. The two circle and Heink takes it down. Heink is in half-guard looking to pass but Porter is hanging on tight. Heink passes and lands shots from the top. Porter tries to kick him off and stands and Heink immediately moves in and clinches up. Porter lands a knee, then another, and backs off and Heink moves in with a jab that pushes Porter back. Heink comes in with a hard right followed by an uppercut and a right hook that floors Porter. Heink rushes in to land more unanswered shots as Ref Greg Franklin runs in to stop the fight.

Joe Heink wins via TKO at 1:00 in Round 1.

(Mike Yanez came into the ring after the fight to present Joe with his brown belt in BJJ.)

----------

Ovince St. Preux vs. CT Turner
(205)

St. Preux fights out of Knoxville MMA Academy and Turner is an XFC and Yanez BJJ fighter.

St. Preux opens with a leg kick. Turner shoots in and goes for the takedown but St. Preux defends. Turner keeps changing directions and takes St. Preux down. Turner has side control and is landing shots from the top. St. Preux turns over and gets out, stands and the two clinch up. Turner sweeps and takes St. Preux down and has the full mount. St. Preux turns over and Turner takes his back and sinks both of his legs between St. Preux’s, getting the hooks in. Turner rolls over, looking for the choke, but St. Preux defends. St. Preux turns and ends up in Turner’s full guard. Turner lands shots from the bottom while St. Preux tries to get a dominant position from the top. St. Preux lands a shot to the body and Turner answers with more shots to S’s face. The ref stands them up.

Turner comes in with a left that St. Preux answers with a leg kick. Turner fakes an overhand right but backs off. Turner feints, and St. Preux fires off a headkick that knocks Turner out cold and sees the entire crowd jump to its feet.

St. Preux wins via KO at 2:36 of Round 1

(Mike and I both agreed this was KO of The Night. XFC President John Prisco came into the ring to inform the crowd that St. Preux will appear on the XFC’s sophomore event in Tennessee on April 25th.)

----------

Sarah Wilson vs. Chevelle Hallback (135)

One of the nights co-featured bouts is a 135 pound match-up between Sarah Wilson, fighting out of Roundkick Gym and XFC fighter Chevelle Hallback

Hallback immediately lands a right that stuns Wilson, followed by about a ten-punch combination that Wilson must clinch to stop. Hallback still lands shots from the clinch and sweeps Wilson, taking her down. Hallback stands and dives in with a hard right. Wilson is trying to pull guard, but Hallback picks her up and slams her. Wilson locks in a triangle attempt, but Hallback pulls out of it and slams Wilson again, then again. Wilson is still trying to lock in the triangle from the bottom and Hallback picks her up and slams her again. Wilson pulls Hallback’s head down, trying to secure the choke, but Hallback is resisting. Hallback spins trying to get out, but Wilson now has the triangle locked in from the top and she rains down shots, causing the crowd to jump to its feet. Wilson continues the ground and pound and still has the triangle locked in. Hallback taps, ending the fight.

Wilson wins via submission (triangle choke) at 3:03 of Round 1

(Mike and I agreed Wilson’s triangle choke was Submission of The Night.)

----------

MAIN EVENT

Scott Barrett vs. Chad Corvin (HVY)

Barrett fights out of Megladom Gym. Corvin represents Submit MMA and E-Town BJJ.

Round 1
Corvin misses with an overhand right and Barrett moves in for the takedown but Corvin locks in the guillotine and then takes him down with a whizzer. Barrett looks for a single-leg and Crovin lands shots to the head before he goes down. Corvin is landing shots from the bottom as Barrett tries to pass guard. Corvin lands more hard shots from the bottom and Barrett finally answers with a shot from the top. Corvin rolls over and stands and Barrett takes the fight back down to the North-South position. Barrett lands a knee to the head, then another, but then slips – and appears to be injured - and Corvin goes in to land shots to Barrett’s head. Barrett has apparently injured one of his knees. Ref Greg Franklin rushes in to stop the fight.

Corvin wins via TKO (Referee stoppage) at 1:30 in Round 1.

----------

Tennessee's first sanction Pro MMA card saw a lot of action and some exciting upsets. Overall, a great event. I do think some of the referee stand-ups were a bit premature, but it was certainly a card filled with some exciting fights.

The XFC will return to Tennessee on April 25th, an event that will be televised on HDNet.

Check back in the coming days for some interviews post-event commentary from Mike and myself, as well a number of interviews we did after the event.

-PreView

(Originally posted at FightTicker.)

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2.19.2009

Chevelle Hallback is Keeping an Eye on Carano and Cyborg


As part of my coverage of the upcoming XFC 7: School of Hard Knox event, I interviewed Chevelle Hallback. What follows is a press release on Hallback sent to me by the XFC in which, among other things, Hallback discusses where she discusses her place among the top contenders in women's MMA.

Check after the jump for the press release.

-PreView


From the Press Release:

When you’re a four-time female world boxing champion, having captured titles with the IBA, IFBA, WIBA and WBAN, you’re going to be held to an extremely high standard. When you’ve won fights on FOX Sports, ESPN and Pay-Per-View, the audience will expect to witness blazing hand-speed and thunderous punches whenever you compete. And when you’re so dominant in prize fighting that EA Sports has even featured you as a playable character in its “Knockout Kings” video game franchise, fans will expect you to deliver a dominating performance from the moment the first bell chimes.

Even when you’re trying to master a brand new sport.

And when – in your Mixed Martial Arts debut – you utterly decimate former EliteXC fighter Melissa Vasquez, stopping her after a barrage of punches in just 41 seconds, the expectations of fans and industry experts changes once again.

Now, it’s not just a question of whether or not Chevelle “Fists of Steel” Hallback will eventually battle the likes of Gina Carano or Cyborg Santos. It’s a question of when.

And also, whether or not she’s already the best female fighter in MMA.

“I try not to get caught up in the expectations game,” said Chevelle Hallback from her training camp in Tampa, Florida. “I’ve learned that the only expectations I can fully control are my own – and my personal expectations aren’t influenced by outside opinions. All I’ve got to say is, I’m working nonstop to learn all the nuances of MMA, and when those big fights happen, believe me – I’ll be ready."

Before stepping into the cage against Carano or Santos, Hallback will face Sarah Wilson, a Muay Thai expert from Waterloo, Iowa. Wilson brings an amateur record of 7-0 and a professional record of 1-0 to her fight against Hallback on the undercard of XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox,” the first-ever professional MMA fight card in Tennessee state history. The event takes place on Friday, February 20 at the 21 thousand-capacity Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Since signing with Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC) in November of 2008, Hallback has trained full-time with XFC trainer Mike Yanez, a Popovitch black belt in BJJ. Yanez’s fighters have won 80% of their professional and amateur bouts, and Hallback credits Yanez for her accelerated MMA development. “Mike knows the game, but more importantly he knows how to teach,” said Hallback. “He’s so well-versed in MMA’s intricacies, every minute I’m learning something new. The submissions, the counter-holds, the ground game – I’ve learned that just a subtle change in body position can literally be the difference between winning and losing. And I don’t plan on losing.”

According to Hallback, MMA training is significantly more challenging than the training she undertook for boxing. “Boxing is primarily preoccupied with footwork and hands,” Hallback explained. “MMA is about the total body – from head to toe. And the flexibility training is completely new to me! Retraining my body for MMA was difficult at first, but my body eventually acclimated itself to the sport. And now, rolling on the ground is as automatic as firing a three-punch combination.”

Speaking of punches, did Yanez try to tweak Hallback’s boxing technique? “No, he left that pretty much alone,” she laughed. “My fists are a proven commodity. And I don’t want to sound arrogant, but any girl who wants to trade punches with me is absolutely crazy. And if she does want to trade, she won’t be trading very long, I promise you.”

And does Hallback think she’s now ready to fire those punches at Gina Carano or Cyborg Santos? “Yeah, I’m ready now,” she immediately replied, “but I’ll be more ready one month from now. And even more ready one month after that. I’m still improving, and within six months, I don’t think anyone will be able to talk about the top female fighters in MMA without mentioning my name. I respect the world out of girls like Gina and Cyborg. They’ve already done so much in the sport – and I’m still learning. They’ve earned their right to be at the front of the line. I’ve gotta wait, just like everyone else.”

Hallback then flashed a wide grin and added: “That means that Sarah Wilson and all the other girls waiting in line with me should be on the lookout. ‘Cause I plan on shortening this line, one fight at a time.”

XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox,” the first-ever pro MMA fight card in Tennessee state history, takes place on February 20 at Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena. Undefeated heavyweights collide in the main event when Scott “The Bear” Barrett battles Chad Corvin in a showdown between two of the fastest-rising prospects in the sport. Tickets are now available at the Thompson-Boling Arena box office and Tickets Unlimited outlets, including Cat's Music, Disc Exchange, and Fye Music.

###

About Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC): Xtreme Fighting Championships – better known to MMA fight fans worldwide as XFC – is the Southeast’s leading independent MMA promotion, and stages the largest live shows in the entire sport this side of UFC. Dedicated to launching the careers of the next generation of MMA superstars, XFC’s next mega-event, XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” will take place on February 20, 2008 in Knoxville, Tennessee. XFC 7 will make history as the first-ever pro MMA event in Tennessee state history. For more information about XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.


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2.18.2009

FightTicker Radio is Back!


FightTicker Radio is Back! The show returns Thursday night at 7pm ET. It's an internet-based show, so anyone can listen in via the web.

I'll be co-hosting the show - we'll be discussing this weekend's XFC, UWC and UFC events.

Full details on the show, including the call-in number, can be found here.

-PreView


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ICF: Breakout - Press Release


I recently reported on the fight card for the upcoming Intimidation Cage Fighting event, Breakout, which will take place April 11th at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, OH.

What follows is the official press release for the event sent to me by ICF Promoter, Steve Stanton.

-PreView

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From the Press Release:

Intimidation Cage Fighting will present "ICF: Breakout" on Saturday, April 11th at U.S. Bank Arena. "ICF: Breakout" will feature former UFC fighters along with the areas top professional and amateur MMA rising stars. ICF will be the first regional promotion to bring professional mixed martial arts to U.S. Bank Arena.

In a co-main event, MMA legend and former UFC, WEC and KOTC veteran Shonie Carter will take on ICF pro Victor O'Donnell. Carter is a vet of the cage and has compiled an overall record of 67-16-7, with a record of 35-16-7 in major MMA organizations. His UFC record is 3-3, winning fights against Brad Gumm at UFC 24, Adrian Serrano at UFC 26, and Matt Serra at UFC 31. He defeated Gumm and Serrano by unanimous decision, and knocked out Serra with nine seconds left in that fight. O'Donnell is an undefeated pro out of Cincinnati with a record of 6-0.

Former UFC and TUF fighter Dan "The Sandman" Christison will square off against former UFC vet and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz. Cruz carries a 4-2 pro MMA record while Christison has won his last 6 fights. Other fights will include Ultimate Fighter star and Cincinnati native Luke Zachrich against Jonathan Hines and former UFC fighter Jeff Cox will take on Cincinnati's own undefeated pro Chad Hinton.

The under card is stacked with four more pro fights and six amateur title fights.

"We are thrilled to be hosting ICF: Breakout," said U.S. Bank Arena Vice President & General Manager Kristin Ropp. "The Tri-State region, particularly Cincinnati, has proven to be a strong hotbed of MMA fans. We were honored to host UFC 77 and feel that ICF will pickup right where the UFC left off."

Since ICF's inception just over 7 months ago, Intimidation Cage Fighting has partnered with Northern Kentucky's Turfway Park to bring six events to the venue in 2008-2009. Now, ICF will call Cincinnati, Ohio's U.S. Bank Arena home.

Tickets, $78, $53, and $38, are on sale now at the U.S. Bank Arena box office, all Ticketmaster locations including select Kroger Stores, call 1-800-745-3000, and online at www.ticketmaster.com. For more information about this event and to view the full fight card visit www.ICFMMA.com.

About Intimidation Cage Fighting

Intimidation Cage Fighting, LLC is the Midwest's fastest growing Mixed Martial Arts promotion. The ICF produces professional and amateur MMA events featuring the nations top fighters. For more information, or current ICF fight news, visit www.ICFMMA.com.


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2.17.2009

Get to Know XFC Competitor Ovince St. Preux


Among the fighters featured on this weekend's XFC 7: School of Hard Knox card in Knoxville, Tennesee, the one who is most likely to walk out to the loudest cheers is Ovince St. Preux, who played football while he attended the University of Tennesee. St. Preux meets CT Turner in a highly anticipated light heavyweight match-up.

Check after the jump for the full press release.

-PreView


From an XFC press release:

Knoxville, TN: One of the lesser-known specialties in football is “wedge-busting” on special teams. Considered by The Sporting News the most violent position in all of football, the “wedge-buster” takes the field on punt and kickoff coverage, sprints at full speed, locates the wall of blockers trying to protect the returner, and then – boom! – sacrifices his body to take down the wall, allowing his defenders to tackle the returner. It’s arguably the most underappreciated aspect of the game, and often the cause of football’s most teeth-rattling collisions.

“You don’t have to be crazy to be a wedge-buster,” laughed Ovince St. Preux, formerly the wedge-busting special teams ace for the Tennessee Volunteers. “But you know, sometimes a little craziness helps. My mission was to smash through that wedge and collapse the wall by any means necessary. Whatever it took to ensure a Volunteer victory, that’s what I did.”

His willingness to sacrifice his own body and absorb obscene amounts of punishment is now serving him well in his new sport, the Mixed Martial Arts, also known as cage fighting.

On Friday, February 20 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville Tennessee, Ovince St. Preux will battle CT Turner in a light heavyweight showdown between rising prospects at XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” – the first-ever professional MMA fight card in Tennessee state history. And for Ovince, it’s the opportunity to bask in the cheers of the home crowd one more time.

Originally from Immokalee, Florida, Ovince was one of the nation’s most sought-after athletic prodigies in high school sports. He went 26-1 his senior year as a wrestler, taking second in the state at 189-pounds, but it was his prowess on the football field that earned him full scholarship offers from the top schools in the Southeast, including Miami, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Clemson, Louisville and Georgia.

One trip to Knoxville was all it took for Ovince to sign with the Volunteers in 2001. “I felt at home here,” he recalled. And he made it his home, too; after graduating in 2004 with a double major in sociology and criminal justice – and a minor in political science – he’s remained in Knoxville ever since.

On the football field, Ovince quickly learned that the differences between SEC football and high school competition were considerable. “I came to Tennessee as a 195-pound defensive end,” he said. “They moved me to linebacker because I was so undersized, but the position was never a natural fit. I managed to build my body up to about 240-pounds after living in the weight room for a few years. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the frame to support it. Today I fight at 205 and that’s where I’m at my athletic best.”

Instead, he made his living as the Volunteer’s special teams ace and wedge-busting specialist. “You didn’t read a lot about what I did in the Sunday morning stat sheet,” noted Ovince, “but if I didn’t do my job on Saturday, the Vols couldn’t win. And I know it sort of looks like raw brutality, but there’s actually an art to the violence. You need to maximize your leverage and body position to blast through a blocker who might outweigh you by 50-pounds. Otherwise you’d get your head knocked off.”

For the most part, Ovince managed to keep his head intact. Over the course of his entire football career, he missed zero games and just two practices due to injury.

“The best part of playing at Tennessee was joining an exclusive football fraternity comprised of all past and present Volunteers,” Ovince said. “One of the things that really impressed me back in my playing days was the undeniable connection the old Vols felt towards their school. They might be NFL superstars or Super Bowl champions in other cities, but once they come back to Knoxville, they’re just another member of Vol Nation. Peyton Manning used to come back to campus and practice against us in seven-on-seven drills. Man, Peyton’s release sounded like a cannon! And the ball got to the receiver so fast, I couldn’t get close to breaking up the pass. But the way the old Vols like Peyton would relate to us, you could tell that their time at UT really meant something special to them. Once a Volunteer, always a Volunteer.”

After his days on the gridiron were over, Ovince’s life went in a new direction when a friend announced that he was taking a kickboxing class. “I wanted to tag along because I was curious what it would be like. Plus, I missed competing in sports and I thought it sounded pretty cool. Once I got there I realized that it was less about kickboxing and more about MMA. And it was love at first sight. The competition, the aggression, the violence – almost immediately, MMA became my one true passion.”

Ovince started training with local MMA expert Eric Turner, owner of the Knoxville Mixed Martial Arts Academy. But back then, Eric didn’t own a gym. “We used to train in his garage,” smiled Ovince. “And if it was 20 degrees outside, it was 20 degrees inside the garage. No complaints. When you’re passionate about what you do, you just block everything else out and focus on elevating your game.”

Early into his new career as a Mixed Martial Artist, the same athletic talents that once captivated the Southeast’s top college scouts – and his willingness to sacrifice his own body to achieve victory – has started to turn heads in the MMA industry. Ovince traveled to Mississippi to fight in the “King of the Cage” tournament in May of 2008, winning his first fight by first round submission with a rear naked choke, and his second fight by first round knockout. He’ll bring a record of 11-2 as a pro and amateur into his fight against heavy-handed CT Turner, originally of Louisville, Kentucky but now fighting out of Tampa, Florida.

“I’ve never worked harder to prepare for a fight than this one,” said Ovince, taking a break between pounding the heavy bag. “CT is real aggressive and has strong jujitsu. He’s 5-1 as a pro and 3-0 as an amateur, so I know he’s gonna be confident and look to force the action. Plus, he’s been running his mouth for a long time – saying he’ll destroy me like the Gators destroyed the Vols. Whatever, man. Now I’m hearing he’s gonna wear a Tim Tebow jersey when he walks to the cage to try to get under my skin. I find that stuff more funny than anything else, but yeah – it’s a motivator, too. That’s my school you’re talking about.”

Ovince paused briefly before returning to the heavy bag, grumbling under his breath: “Like I said before, once a Volunteer, always a Volunteer. And he’s just another wedge that needs busting.”

XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox,” the first-ever pro MMA fight card in Tennessee state history, takes place on February 20 at Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena. Undefeated heavyweights collide in the main event when Scott “The Bear” Barrett battles Chad Corvin in a showdown between two of the fastest-rising prospects in the sport. Tickets are now available at the Thompson-Boling Arena box office and Tickets Unlimited outlets, including Cat's Music, Disc Exchange, and Fye Music.

###

About Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC): Xtreme Fighting Championships – better known to MMA fight fans worldwide as XFC – is the Southeast’s leading independent MMA promotion, and stages the largest live shows in the entire sport this side of UFC. Dedicated to launching the careers of the next generation of MMA superstars, XFC’s next mega-event, XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” will take place on February 20, 2008 in Knoxville, Tennessee. XFC 7 will make history as the first-ever pro MMA event in Tennessee state history. For more information about XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.

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2.16.2009

FightTicker Exclusive: One-on-One With XFC President John Prisco


In anticipation of this weekend's XFC 7: School of Hard Knox, I would like to share with all of you another interview in my five-part series - this one with XFC President, John Prisco.

John had a lot of great things to say about the XFC, its fighters and new line of gyms, what it is like to be in the same business as the UFC and the XFC's continued plans for expansion.

Check after the jump for the full interview.

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FightTicker: John, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions – first, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Prisco: Thanks so much for offering me this opportunity, Brian. I guess I’m a lot like most of your readers: I firmly believe MMA is the greatest sport on the planet and its best days are yet to come, and I’m an unapologetic fan of the sport. It’s really a dream come true for me to play a small part in helping to grow MMA across the United States, and I’ve built the XFC around one central premise – that there’s more undiscovered talent in MMA than established talent.

Modern MMA is only about 18 years old, and each year exponentially more aspiring fighters join the sport by training in an MMA gym, entering amateur tournaments, or competing on the pro level. And on top of it, as MMA becomes more readily accepted by mainstream America, an increasing number of top-flight athletes – I’m talking NCAA champions, Olympic medal contenders and Division I-A standouts – are now striving for MMA greatness. So we all know who the most famous fighters in the world are… but I’m not so sure we still know who the best fighters in the world are.

XFC firmly believes that there are dozens of fighters – maybe more – toiling away in anonymity in MMA gyms and low-end fight cards worldwide that could dominate the most celebrated champions of today. Maybe not right now – maybe they’d need a year or two of intense training, combined with the support of a promotion like the XFC that’s willing to invest its resources in their long-term development – but the undiscovered talent is definitely out there, Brian. And we’re gonna find it.

As for my personal background, I grew up primarily in the New York City area and was involved in multiple business ventures, including event entertainment, nightclub management, real estate, and professional boxing. I’ve been fortunate over my career to have made a pretty good living, and right now I’ve placed all my life’s savings into the XFC. That’s how much faith I have in our business vision.

I’m also married to a wonderful woman named Lisa, and she’s been my wife for over 18 years now. And we have two young children that I absolutely adore.


FT: How does it feel to be the promotion putting on the first regulated pro MMA show in Tennessee?

Prisco: It’s a tremendous honor because you’re introducing MMA to a brand new audience. We’re basically serving as goodwill ambassadors on behalf of MMA, and it’s a responsibility that the XFC takes extremely seriously. Tennessee is a big area, Brian. There’s over six million people in Tennessee – which means that this one state has a larger population than over 120 separate countries around the planet! If we do our job well, I really believe we can transform Tennessee into diehard MMA country for years to come.


FT: Your shows in Florida have been met with great success – averaging over 10,000 fans per show. What kind of numbers are expecting and hoping for in Tennessee?

Prisco: Honestly, I don’t know. We have a great deal of experience promoting in Florida, and we’ve reached the point where we can pretty accurately predict our final attendance numbers in the Tampa market based on pre-event ticket sales, media interviews and other factors. But Knoxville is a brand new market – and all markets have their own personalities. For example, live events in Tampa have a large number of attendees who purchase tickets day-of. The greater Tampa Bay region has a very large population – larger than Miami – and Tampa is used to hosting major sporting events all year long. Over just the past four-or-so months, Tampa has hosted the Super Bowl, the World Series, the ALCS, UFC, XFC, and countless headlining musicians and entertainers. Plus, you’re always competing with the weather and the beaches.

I’d expect there to be less day-of ticket sales in Knoxville than Tampa. The overall population is much smaller, but you also have less competition for our target audience’s entertainment dollars. So we’ll just have to see how everything plays out.

But one thing that I want to make very clear is that we want to do this right. XFC is returning to the 21 thousand-capacity Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee on April 25 for our first-ever fight card that will be broadcast live nationwide on our new HDNet television deal. If we deliver the kind of product on February 20 that has made XFC the fastest-rising promotion in the sport, then our April 25 show will have fans literally hanging from the rafters. We’re not interested in a one-off event, or selling tickets by signing a past-his-prime fighter whose name recognition now outweighs his in-cage abilities, and boring the audience. We’re going to grow XFC’s presence in Knoxville the same way we’ve grown our company, and that’s by consistently delivering exceptional value and incredible action for our audience. Our plan from day one was to generate brand loyalty and cultivate a dedicated fan base that doesn’t just want to see XFC once – but repeatedly.

In my opinion, those big numbers that we’ve drawn in Tampa only tell half the story. See, with enough money, any promoter could draw a huge crowd once – but we’ve drawn some of the biggest numbers in North America not just once, not just twice, but five different times in that one single market. And fans aren’t stupid. If you don’t have a good product, they’re not going to come back. The secret to the XFC’s success is that we happen to have a damn good product, Brian.


FT: Talk to me about the XFC line of gyms. I know you started with a gym in Tampa and you’re looking to expand nation-wide. What gave you the idea for a line of XFC-branded gyms? So far, has the concept worked out like you thought it would?

Prisco: Our first gym opened in Tampa, and earlier in the month we opened our second gym in Brandon, Florida. We currently have gyms opening in Tennessee, Kentucky, and other areas throughout the Southeast and beyond.

The idea behind it is this: MMA is exploding in popularity nationwide, and you have an increasing number of people – old and young, men and women – who want to learn the art of MMA combat and emulate the stars they see on TV. And XFC is a company with proven experience and undeniable credibility in developing young talent in this sport, so why in the world would you sign with Brand X when an XFC gym is right around the corner? When we attach the XFC brand to a gym, you’ll know that you’re receiving expert tutelage at state-of-the-art training facilities. We’re very protective of our name, and will only offer customers the best MMA training available. For example, our Florida gyms are under the direct tutelage of Mike Yanez, a Popovitch BJJ black belt whose fighters have won 80% of their pro and amateur fights. That’s a standard of excellence few others can match, Brian.

When I was a kid, the trendy thing was learning judo or taekwondo at the neighborhood karate dojos. Movies like The Karate Kid had all kinds of folks interested in learning the crane kick! But these one-discipline martial arts dojos are completely antiquated now, Brian. MMA has proven them ineffective in fully preparing someone for one-on-one combat. So not only does MMA provide superior training, but it also offers a better cardiovascular workout, which is critical for lots of people who also want to lose weight and be in better overall conditioning.

Mark my words, Brian: Within 10 years, at least 90% of these karate dojos will be extinct. They’ll be replaced by MMA-themed gyms. And the XFC will be ideally positioned to take a leadership role in this emerging industry. If anyone is interested in opening an XFC gym franchise, please call our office at 813.374.0237, or e-mail us at info@mmaxfc.com.

‘Course, there’s also one other benefit: If we do this right, XFC will have an exclusive pipeline of new fighters from these gyms that we’ll be able to promote on our shows. If our game plan is predicated on finding the superstars of tomorrow, what better way than through our own gym network?


FT: You once said that the goal of the XFC was never to compete with the UFC. You’re expanding into multi-state promotion, you’ve signed a deal with HDNet and you’re working on international distribution of your television programming, and you’ve hosted women’s mma fights (something the UFC has not done), and you’re hosting two shows in Tennessee, approximately six weeks before a UFC show and then about three weeks after that same UFC show. Is competing with the UFC still not a goal of the XFC?

Prisco: In a way, I suppose you’re always competing with everyone else to deliver the best possible product, so in that sense, the XFC is competing with the UFC. But it’s not an adversarial competition because we’re both pursuing radically different business models.

The UFC is one of the greatest sports business stories of all-time, and without any doubt whatsoever, they’ve done more good for MMA than anyone else. They’ve created an opportunity for the XFC and every other promotion out there, and all the industry insiders who grouse about Dana White’s sharp elbows should remember that. If the UFC hadn’t succeeded, none of us would even have a chance to make a living in MMA, and that’s something none of us should ever forget.

But the UFC is essentially a private fight club with its own rules, titles and regulations. See, traditionally in the fight game – particularly boxing – fighters from all over the planet would take fights on their own to move up the ladder of a sanctioning body’s top-ten list, and try to work their way into a title shot. And if they win the title fight, they’re the new world champion. It was a flawed system because promoters like Don King seemed to exert undue influence on who was ranked where, but for the most part, the deserving fighter would eventually compete for the title.

The UFC isn’t doing this, Brian. Instead, they sign a small number of fighters and match them up in the most marketable fights possible. Their champions are the champions of their own private fight club, and guys like Fedor [Emelianenko] don’t even exist.

At the XFC, we’re doing something different. We want to find the next generation of superstars and provide them with an opportunity to compete – no matter what t-shirts they wear or their past promotional relationships. We’ve brought in fighters from Africa, Russia – all over the planet, because MMA’s talent base is truly global, and being exclusionary limits your ability to grow. We’re not trying to sign the most established names of today; we’re an inclusive promotion that’s dedicated to identifying and promoting the champions of tomorrow.

I’m a huge fan of the UFC, and when they came to Tampa, Dana and I spoke briefly – not about anything earth shattering, but I wanted him to know firsthand how much respect and admiration I have for what he’s accomplished. The UFC is the most powerful entity in this sport, and deservedly so. From the ground up, they’ve built their own private universe of fighters, titles and feuds – and they have the infrastructure and TV relationships to sell these feuds and matchups better than anyone else in the history of the industry. God bless ‘em for it, and I wish the UFC nothing but continued success. But that’s not who we are, Brian. So I don’t view us as being in competition.


FT: You once spoke of the XFC’s brand identity as the “ultimate steel-cage proving ground for the “champions of tomorrow””. How do you think the XFC is filling this brand identity so far?

Prisco: It’s been the primary reason for our success. And I think it’s fair to say that we work harder than anyone else in MMA at elevating the profiles of our fighters – keeping the focus on them, not on us. You get our press releases, Brian, and I’m sure you’d be the first to acknowledge that we’ve dedicated our time and company resources not to just bragging about how wonderful the XFC is – but to educating our audience who these fighters are, and more importantly, why you should care about their careers.

Whenever the UFC, Strikeforce, Affliction or anyone else announces a new event, the first question on everyone’s minds is ‘Who’s fighting on the card?’ The more you recognize the various names on the card, the more likely you are to want to see the event.

The XFC is doing something diametrically different. And whether or not a fighter is a household name or is just beginning his career, if we honestly believe he has a legitimate chance to develop into a superstar, we’ll match him against another aspiring superstar – and let the best man win.

We’re not just a promotion company. We’re following a specific vision – and if we do our job right, the entire sport of MMA will be the beneficiary.


FT: You’re notching some great successes – any big setbacks you didn’t see coming?

Prisco: No, not really. Because we’re so deliberate with our decision-making, we tend to avoid the kinds of cataclysmic missteps that have killed so many other promotions. That’s not to say we’re perfect. Sometimes we’ll provide an opportunity to a young fighter who looks great on video and says all the right things beforehand, but when he gets in the cage he just doesn’t deliver. Even worse is when we have to drop a fight because the fighter failed to take the opportunity seriously.

I don’t want to name any names because I’m not into fighter-bashing, but we were planning on featuring a certain TUF alumn on the undercard of XFC 7. This person was gonna fight Robert “Iron Man” Thompson, a 5-0 fighter with some outstanding tools and impressive credentials – a real entertaining matchup. Unfortunately, this TUF alumn vanished after we signed the fight. I couldn’t reach him, nobody on our team could reach him, and even his own manager couldn’t reach him. We called the gym where he’s supposed to train and still couldn’t reach him. We didn’t want Robert Thompson to lose his opportunity to compete on the card, so we waited as long as we could, but eventually replaced the TUF alumn with a young man named Rafaello Oliveria, a rising prospect with a 5-1 pro record. It should still be a great fight, but it’s disappointing when things don’t go as planned.


FT: What’s the next state into which you’re looking to take the XFC?

Prisco: We’ve had Kentucky on our radar for a while now. I think Kentucky could easily become a hotbed of MMA action for a whole host of reasons. We’re also negotiating with other states, primarily in the Southeast but also several Western states, and quite a few international venues.


FT: You made big strides in the last year – where do you see the XFC a year from now?

Prisco: This time next year, we’ll have aired at least four live fight cards on HDNet at some of the biggest sports arenas in the country. A large number of XFC gyms will open nationwide, and XFC programming will be on the air in at least seven foreign markets. Unlike the other promotions that have to purchase their talent, we’ll continue to develop our talent – and these young warriors will become some of the most talked-about fighters in the sport. XFC DVDs and merchandise will be on the shelves of the leading retail chains, including Wal-Mart. Each fight card will continue to improve, and the XFC will continue to generate some of the largest crowds in the whole industry. Basically, we’ll still be doing what we’re doing – only more so.

What’s really exciting, Brian, is that this vision is executable. In many ways, we’ve already done most of the heavy lifting. We just need to work hard, stay smart, and understand what our target audience really wants to see.


FT: John, thanks for taking time out of your day – is there anyone you’d like to thank or give a shout out to?

Prisco: This might sound corny, but more than anything else, I want to thanks all the MMA fans reading this interview – including those who’ve never seen the XFC product yet. Believe me, I fully appreciate how deeply passionate you are about this sport, and without your dedication and loyalty, MMA wouldn’t be the thriving, growing sport that’s taken the world by storm.

And yeah, I know that other promotions out there are hostile to the online media; they want you to only visit their websites to learn about the fighters you care about, and don’t really cooperate with these sorts of interview requests because they want to control all the information. But that will never be how the XFC operates. Without the diehard fan, we don’t exist. So thank you!

You see, more than anything, we’re all MMA fans. We’re all united in wanting to see this sport grow and prosper – and be there on the ground level as the next generation of superstars launch their careers. The personal feuds and promotional politics only distract us from concentrating on what MMA is really all about, and that’s the fighters in the cage and the fans cheering in the stands. So the way I see it, we’re all in the same boat – and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thanks so much, Brian – and for any of you in driving distance to Knoxville, please come to XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox,” the first-ever pro MMA fight card in Tennessee state history! Tickets are now available at the Thompson-Boling Arena box office and Tickets Unlimited outlets, including Cat's Music, Disc Exchange, and Fye Music. For more information, please visit www.mmaxfc.com!

----------

Thanks again to John for taking time out what I'm sure is a busy final week making sure everything for XFC 7: School of Hard Knox shapes up.

I am sure it is going to be a great show and I am really looking forward to covering the event for FightTicker.

-PreView

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