(Handy tip: escorts are not tax-deductible, even for world-renowned Web site operators whose last name rhymes with "bear frog.")
Because MMA has been such a scrutinized industry for so long, the missteps of its upper management can take on a kind of operatic stumbling, one that feeds grousing and promotes stilted growth for years to come.
The most recent example was the IFL's executive decision to portray their recent debut on network television as an errant episode of Cops, complete with EMT officials scrambling over a downed athlete like he had just been gunned down.
The gaffe was only the latest in a sport that's seen its fair share; there will be more. Contrary to belief, the business of socking someone in the grill has never been an exact science.
Some of my favorite blunders:
SEG allows Horn-Takase to go on
On the surface, UFC 21 didn't appear to be a crucial program for the struggling promotion. It was headlined by a largely purposeless main event between aging stars Maurice Smith (Pictures) and Marco Ruas (Pictures). Worse, it came during the infamous cable blackout of the late 1990s.
Though the Iowa arena was sparsely populated, it did hold several important members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who were on hand to survey the MMA landscape for possible sanctioning. Highlighting the undercard was a bout between Jeremy Horn (Pictures) and Daiju Takase (Pictures), a tough Pancrase veteran from across the shores. Horn was competing as a middleweight, which capped at 199.9 pounds. Officials were told Takase would weigh in at or near the limit.
When the scale was consulted, he was a scrawny 169 pounds, making the bout a somewhat obscene mismatch. Incredibly, SEG honcho Bob Meyrowitz allowed the fight to continue as planned. NSAC officials watched as Horn overpowered and pummeled a man who rightfully should've been two weight classes below.
Meyrowitz was told off record not to bother to pursue sanctioning, since he didn't have the requisite number of votes. How much the Horn-Takase mauling contributed to their opinion is unknown, but it obviously didn't help.
International Blight League
Considering his questionable fighting acumen, Wes Sims (Pictures) expiring on television isn't as unlikely a scenario as one might think. But it certainly didn't help the IFL's stature as a respectable group that their debut on network television, Battleground, featured such hyperbolic stunts as a faux 911 call and the repeated promise of someone getting strapped to a stretcher.
It was fight promotion by way of Art Davie, and it smacked of clueless network intervention. The IFL swears that the tactics have been scrapped for upcoming installments. The one positive: MyNetworkTV is a black hole of programming, with the IFL barely improving on the Spanish soap operas their time slot used to host. Tanto major.
Zuffa locks up Rizzo
Believe it or don't, but there was a time when sluggish Pedro Rizzo (Pictures) was considered the hottest heavyweight prospect in the sport. He had numerous highlight reels knockouts to his credit, including a stunning display of amateur anesthesia over Josh Barnett (Pictures).
Sensing Rizzo would be a major player in their promotion, Zuffa locked the Brazilian into to an unprecedented six-fight, six-figure contract, the downside of which would be paying him a quarter-million for the final fight.
Before the ink was dry, Rizzo lost a rematch with Randy Couture (Pictures). After knocking out Andrei Arlovski (Pictures), he dropped two more to Vladimir Matyushenko (Pictures) and Gan McGee (Pictures). Rizzo eventually collected his small fortune on a dark match, a plodding decision win over Ricco Rodriguez (Pictures). It was never even televised.
It was a considerable investment in an athlete who had already shown a propensity for lackadaisical performances. When Zuffa discussed closing up shop in 2004, it seems likely that the money pit that was Pedro Rizzo (Pictures) was not an encouraging counter-argument.
UFC 33's cup runneth Over
Freshly scrubbed, the "New" Ultimate Fighting Championship and its owners negotiated a deal to return to pay-per-view television in 2001. While it may seem an alien concept now, with a new promotion springing up on iNDemand monthly, the sport was ostracized from the dial for years.
This was big stuff.
In the ensuing excitement over their new lease on life, no UFC employee thought to sit down and properly manage the allotted time. As a result, iNDemand lopped over the remaining rounds of the Tito Ortiz (Pictures)-Vladimir Matyushenko (Pictures) main event. It was an appropriate climax to what had been a sleeping pill of a program, one full of sluggish decisions.
The dull bouts and inexplicable production burp delayed the UFC's eventual success by years, according to president Dana White. That it didn't bury it for good is some kind of miracle.
"Shogun" Rua posts up
Perhaps Chute Boxe places too much emphasis on cranial trauma and not enough on the basics. Whatever the case, the regimen probably got scrutinized after emerging star Mauricio Rua (Pictures) made a costly rookie's mistake.
His feet ensnared in the action figure-sized arms of Mark Coleman (Pictures), Rua fell down to the mat and posted his arm to soften the fall. Unfortunately, his arm's rigidity coupled with the velocity resulted in a dislocated elbow. Rua howled as chaos consumed the ring, with Chute Boxe allies brawling with Hammer House alumni like it was a battle for Sparta.
Rua healed up, but the mistake cost him months of training time and a fight or two. At least he's still got his smile — providing he keeps remembering to duck.