Tuesday MMA Blog: An Eastern European MMA Journal

Apr 27, 2009

Dana Twits
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 8:40 p.m. ET: Say, what’s Ashton Kutcher up to? Is he discovering uranium? Maybe. Is he staring at a shiny quarter on the floor? More likely.

Thanks to Kutcher’s Twitter -- a regular mass-messaging update of his inexplicable existence -- we now know his days are every bit as vapid and intellectually bankrupt as we imagined them to be. More compelling for MMA fans might be the Twitterings of UFC President Dana White, which went live in February but somehow escaped my attention until now.

Most of White’s entries are surprisingly humdrum and muted (“Running a little behind,” “I am pumped for the fights tonight”), but expect public relations chaos the next time he gets nice and worked up over a real (or imagined) slight.

The UFC’s Twitter, however, gets the hype dialed in nicely by guaranteeing an “awesome replacement challenger” for Dan Miller at UFC 98. (Yushin Okami dropped out.)

But with Ed Herman the likely fill-in per MMAWeekly, that “awesome” is relative to the short notice involved, not “awesome” as in the announcement leaving you in need of a defibrillator.

Update at 9:20 p.m. EST: MMAWeekly is now reporting Chael Sonnen as the replacement instead of Herman.
Canseco in MMA Devolves from Confirmed to ‘Probably’
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Anna Pocaro/London Ent/Splash

Did Dream jump the gun?
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET: The Globe and Mail quotes Jose Canseco’s manager, Dennis Holahan, as saying Dream may have jumped the gun a bit in announcing the excommunicated baseball star’s ring appearance against Hong Man Choi on May 26.

“It probably won’t be a sure thing for another week or 10 days,” Holahan said.

That sounds like plenty of time for someone who cares about Canseco’s well-being to sit him down and gently explain the catastrophic potential for injury against a brick wall like Choi; you know something is clearly about to go wrong when you have to handicap a fight based on one athlete’s effectiveness against Fedor Emelianenko and the other’s against Danny Partridge.

MMA Movie Moonlighting: Part 4 (of 5)
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 6:05 p.m. ET: The penultimate installment. Be brave.

See It: Don Frye in “Godzilla: Final Wars” (2004)

Don Frye: captain of a spaceship. So why does he need a sword? Who the hell knows? I’ve sat through this film twice, and it actually makes less sense with repeated viewings. Which is fine, because assets like Frye and giant rubber monsters don’t need a punch-up from David Mamet. Understand that you’ll get Frye barking out lines like, “This mission will decide the fate of the human race,” and hit the dimmer switch on your brain and you’ll be just swell.

Frye, incidentally, mean-mugs Godzilla at one point. That’s a 50/50 fight.

Miss It: Tim Sylvia in “The Death and Life of Bobby Z” (2007)

There’s a pretty healthy list of bare butts I wouldn’t recoil in horror from. Tim Sylvia’s is not among them.

Sylvia can be glimpsed briefly in the opening sequence of this abominably bad film, intended for theatrical release but regulated instead to the “2 for $5” bins that clog Wal-Mart aisles. Or, to be more accurate, it’s really Sylvia’s gelatinous, quivering backside that dominates the frame, mounds of adipose tissue shamelessly paraded in front of the unsuspecting viewer.

This is the kind of scene movies don’t recover from. And this is no exception.

Fedor Talks Anderson Silva
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 4:35 p.m. ET: Wouldn’t it be great to see Fedor Emelianenko just completely flip out one of these days? Screaming, throwing chairs and then sliding into the fetal position while sobbing -- anything to make us believe he’s not a product of Cyberdyne?

Just me? OK.

Emelianenko spoke to Sherdog.com this week and offered his typically monotone responses about his fighting future. Eventually, he will begin blinking once for yes and twice for no.

(In fairness, the language barrier is probably a huge obstacle in getting candid comments from the Russian. Is there a Stary Oskol equivalent to Mike Wallace?)

On the topic of Anderson Silva, who seems perpetually preoccupied with fantasy matchups against Roy Jones and Emelianenko, the Russian gave a verbal shrug. “Why not?” he said.

Such contagious energy. Like most “dream” matchups, if Emelianenko-Silva takes place at all, it’ll happen when both men are over 40 and absolutely nothing hinges on the outcome. 2019 is shaping up nicely.

Page’s Big Punching
By Greg Savage ([email protected])
Thursday, 2:35 p.m. ET: The punch that knocked out Marcos Galvao in March for one of the scariest finishes of the year could have been worse, Damacio Page told me while I was in Albuquerque, N.M., to document Rashad Evans’ training camp for Lyoto Machida.

“I didn’t even hit him in the right spot,” said Page, who’s nicknamed “The Angel of Death” and recognized as Greg Jackson’s top bantamweight. “I hit him on the cheek.”

It isn’t often someone lands a shot that leaves an opponent stiff and seizing for more than five minutes, only to tell people that it wasn’t even the hardest he has ever hit someone. That’s the case with Page. He said he landed a much more brutal shot when he knocked out Rod Montoya with an elbow while being featured on the “Tapout” reality show.

“The Galvao fight was scary because he just wasn’t moving. He was all stiff, and I was scared he was going to die,” remarked Page with reticence in his voice. “I have knocked people out before, and usually they just pop back up after a few seconds, but neither of those guys did.”

The heavy-hitting bantamweight will return to action in the WEC cage this August, most likely in Las Vegas. He seemed excited at the prospect of fighting Joseph Benavidez, Urijah Faber’s highly regarded teammate who just beat a very tough Jeff Curran earlier this month. He may have to settle for another opponent, however. Rumors have been circulating about a possible Dominic Cruz-Benavidez matchup.

Dream 9: Jose Canseco’s Worst Nightmare
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 1:35 p.m. ET: Because the week isn’t over until the Japanese spit in the face of human compassion, FEG has announced its lineup for Dream 9 on May 26 will feature a David vs. Goliath tournament capped by the MMA debut of MLB castaway Jose Canseco.

Words fail me, which might be considered dereliction of duty for a blogger, but there you go.

Canseco will be facing Hong-Man Choi, a guy whose pituitary tumor once produced more human growth hormone than BALCO. At 7-foot-something, Choi actually has a semi-credible K-1 record because he’s just too damned big for mere mortals to deal with. Canseco is 44 years old, was TKOed in a celebrity boxing match last summer and recently admitted in an A&E documentary his struggle to produce testosterone naturally after years of steroid use. A classy affair all around.

It should be noted Japanese promotions enjoy making up complete nonsense and passing it off as fact in an effort to stir up publicity, and that all of this might be news to Canseco. If he declines participation, I’m sure the Bearded Lady will gladly step in.

Just so you know where they’re coming from, the audience being pandered to here is also fond of watching bulbous men beat each other over the head with florescent lighting. Enjoy the contact high.

Foupa-Pokam’s Rest Stop
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 1:30 p.m. ET: Only days after being defeated by Denis Kang in his UFC debut, delightfully named Xavier Foupa-Pokam has agreed to step in for an injured James Irvin against Drew McFedries at UFC 98 on May 23.

The good: Foupa-Pokam’s gamesmanship will probably endear him to the UFC, earning him at least one more fight even if he goes 0-2.

The bad: Having a few weeks to prepare for McFedries, a guy who hits as hard as a New Year’s hangover, might not be the best thing for your long-term cognitive functioning.

Major Leaguer to MMA
By Brian Knapp ([email protected])
Thursday, 11:45 a.m. ET: Jose Canseco, the first man to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, will make his professional mixed martial arts debut at Dream 9 on May 26 at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan. The 44-year-old former outfielder and designated hitter will lock horns with 7-foot-2 South Korean Hong Man Choi as part of the Dream Super Hulk Tournament, an eight-man open-weight competition put together by Fighting and Entertainment Group.

A six-time all-star who ranks 32nd on the all-time list with 463 home runs, Canseco spent 17 seasons in the major leagues. He was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1986 and won the AL Most Valuable Player award two years later, when he batted .307, hit a league-high 42 home runs, drove in 124 runs and led Oakland to the first of three consecutive World Series appearances.

Since he left Major League Baseball in 2001, Canseco has drawn the ire of media, fans and former teammates for his role in blowing the whistle on rampant steroid use in the major leagues. In a tell-all book, “Juiced,” published in 2005, Canseco admitted to using anabolic steroids and pointed the finger of accusation at former teammates Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez. Palmeiro later tested positive for suspected steroid use.

No stranger to the spectacled combat sports scene, Canseco, who turns 45 this summer, fought former Philadelphia Eagles kick returner Vai Sikahema in an exhibition boxing match last July. Though he claims to have earned black belts in multiple disciplines, Canseco was knocked out in the first round. In January, he fought radio personality and former child star Danny Bonaduce to a majority draw in a three-round exhibition bout.

Canseco will not be the first mainstream sports star to cross over to MMA. In 2006, former NFL wide receiver Johnnie Morton made his ill-fated debut at a K-1 show in Los Angeles and was leveled in just 38 seconds by Bernard Ackah. After the bout, Morton -- a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1994 -- tested positive for suspected steroid use. Former NFL players Herbert Goodman, Rex Richards and Marcus Jones have made more successful transitions to MMA.

Choi, an accomplished kickboxer, has produced lukewarm results in MMA. He last appeared at a K-1 show on New Year’s Eve, when he succumbed to leg kicks from 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix winner Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. In 2007, he fought and lost to Fedor Emelianenko -- the man almost universally recognized as the world’s premier heavyweight mixed martial artist.

Stevenson, Others Training at Jackson’s
By Greg Savage ([email protected])
Thursday, 2:00 a.m. ET: Greg Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts school in Albuquerque, N.M., has become a Mecca for fighters looking to take another step in their development. Dave Mandel and I made the trek this week to visit with UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and discuss his first title defense against tough challenger Lyoto Machida. We got much more than we bargained for.

First off, we knew UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre was going to be here -- he has been a consummate teammate for the likes of Evans, Keith Jardine and Nate Marquardt -- but we did not expect to find so many others. Among the visiting pros preparing for fights at Jackson’s are Joe Stevenson, Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Dale Hartt.

Stevenson is here for the next eight weeks to prepare for his showdown with Nathan Diaz. The former TUF winners, both coming off of losses, will square off in June in what may be a pivotal bout for both of their careers. The fact that Stevenson has put everything on hold to come to Albuquerque to train speaks volumes about the quality of instruction here.

I was talking to Greg Jackson about the continual flow of fighters into his gym and, like always, he credited the team of coaches they have in place and the success of the fighters they tutor as the main reason for it. With a team featuring the likes of Evans, St. Pierre, Marquardt, Jardine, Joey Villasenor, Shane Carwin, Donald Cerrone, Leonard Garcia and Damacio Page, it’s no wonder they have developed the reputation they have.

It is reminiscent of the days when fighters would leave everything behind and make the journey to Bettendorf, Iowa, where the famous Miletich gym housed multiple world champions. And like Miletich’s in its heyday, you can’t make a visit to Jackson’s nowadays without running into a champion preparing for a fight.

Maia-Marquardt Set for UFC 102
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET: As an admitted MMA grump, it takes a lot to impress me. So either the Zoloft is finally rubbing my serotonin the right way or the UFC has become an automated assembly line for terrific fights this summer: Demian Maia announced on his Web site that he’s slated to face Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 in Portland, Ore. on Aug. 29.

Is it a No. 1 contender’s fight for Anderson Silva’s 185-pound title? That would probably depend on the result of July 11’s Michael Bisping-Dan Henderson bout. If Bisping wins, a title fight in the U.K. would make terrific business sense; if Henderson wins, the UFC may not be too hyper to throw him back in the Octagon with Silva, leaving the winner of Marquardt-Maia at the front of the line.

The tiebreaker should really depend on how impressive the respective victories are. If Bisping decisions Henderson, meh. If Marquardt or Maia can finish the other -- a difficult task -- they should be given priority.

An alternative theory could see Silva beating Forrest Griffin Aug. 8, Rashad Evans defeating Lyoto Machida May 23 and Evans-Silva meeting in the fall, leaving the winner of Bispin --

You know, let’s just wait and see what happens.

MMA Movie Moonlighting: Part 3 (of 5)
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. ET: Because what could be better than watching real fighters get beaten up by dwarfish, pampered Hollywood actors?

See It: Semmy Schilt in “Transporter 3” (2008)

Semmy Schilt is big -- 6’10” or maybe a little bit more. Used to fight MMA but now competes primarily in K-1, where he’s fond of digging his massive foot into stomachs without fear of reprisal. (When you have to balance on a foot stool to try and clip a guy’s chin, you can’t put much juice into it.)

His borderline-gigantism is used to good effect in “Transporter 3,” which answers the lingering questions left over from the first two “Transporter” films. Schilt -- inevitably playing a henchman -- looks like Shaquille O’Neal next to star Jason Statham’s Mugsy Bogues. Wisely, he’s given no lines of dialogue and is instructed simply to toss Statham around without shutting down production by accidentally killing him.

The sequence is probably in homage to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s lopsided bout with Bruce Lee in “Game of Death.” In both cases, the film’s stars were better off avoiding a beating and simply waiting for a low-flying plane to pass by.

Miss It: Jerome LeBanner in “Babylon A.D.” (2008)

“Scary” is not often a word used to illustrate the French, but Jerome LeBanner can be counted as a glaring exception. Serve him a stale croissant and expect to be treated for a collapsed lung.

A K-1 star for nearly two decades, the densely muscled Le Banner appears opposite Vin Diesel in the science-fiction film “Babylon A.D.” as a primal-looking savage locked into a Plexiglas box at a nightclub and forced to fight unlucky patrons. I don’t know if the screenplay called for specific grunts, or allowed him to improvise grunts, but either way, he grunts to convincing effect.

He’s unable to kill Diesel’s character, unfortunately, which would have spared us the remaining 90-odd minutes of yet another dystopian future snooze. As Diesel lives, so our attention span must die.

Jardine-Silva Added to UFC 102
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 3:05 p.m. ET: With Forrest Griffin meeting Anderson Silva on Aug. 8, rumored Griffin opponent Thiago Silva was left without someone to punch in the face.

Problem solved: MMAJunkie was first to report that Silva will now face gritty faux-motorcycle enthusiast Keith Jardine at UFC 102 on Aug. 29.

Jardine is the light heavyweight division’s most inconsistent fighter, turning up some nights to best the likes of Griffin and Chuck Liddell, and then stroll in for periodic split-second muggings against Wanderlei Silva and Houston Alexander.

It’s almost like styles dictate fights. Silly, right? At any rate, if Jardine’s Kryptonite is smash-mouth style striking, he’s not going to have a terrific evening against Silva.

Jardine-Silva Added to UFC 102
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 3:05 p.m. ET: With Forrest Griffin meeting Anderson Silva on Aug. 8, rumored Griffin opponent Thiago Silva was left without someone to punch in the face.

Problem solved: MMAJunkie was first to report that Silva will now face gritty faux-motorcycle enthusiast Keith Jardine at UFC 102 on Aug. 29.

Jardine is the light heavyweight division’s most inconsistent fighter, turning up some nights to best the likes of Griffin and Chuck Liddell, and then stroll in for periodic split-second muggings against Wanderlei Silva and Houston Alexander.

It’s almost like styles dictate fights. Silly, right? At any rate, if Jardine’s Kryptonite is smash-mouth style striking, he’s not going to have a terrific evening against Silva.

Will Anderson Silva Sabotage the 205-Pound Division?
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. ET: In sliding Anderson Silva to the light heavyweight division, the UFC might find that a problem solved -- finding opponents to push the pace against its sleepy middleweight champion -- might result in a problem made.

Forrest Griffin, former divisional champion, is obviously looking to get back in contention; the UFC needs contenders on deck once the Machida/Evans/Jackson triangle has been squared. A defeat for Griffin here turns that road into gravel. And if Silva continues to compete at 205, picking off potential opponents for potential champion -- and friend -- Lyoto Machida, the pool of challengers could grow thin.

The Silva appearances at 205 could be sporadic at best, limited to fights while challengers to his 185-pound title become more visible. Hopping between divisions, while entertaining, doesn’t do belts a proper service. (B.J. Penn, so insistent on fighting Georges St. Pierre, left his lightweight belt on the bench for over a year in the process.)

Silva’s ambitions work if he’s willing to contend for both titles and if he’s capable of fighting more often. I’m excited for the Griffin bout. I’m less excited if it means Silva’s belt goes into storage.

Fedor Submits Aoki. (Maybe. Not really sure.)
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 11:40 a.m. ET: Lest we forget Japan might as well be another planet, sandwiched between credible bouts at Wednesday’s Deep/M-1 Challenge in Japan was a five-minute exhibition between reigning heavyweight Godzilla Fedor Emelianenko and comparative Mothra Shinya Aoki.

Since M-1’s agreement with HDNet forced a blackout of the footage, we have to rely on the play-by-play of Japanese news site Kamipro -- at least, until some wiseguy with a camera phone logs onto YouTube.

The highlight:

29日、ディファ有明で開催された『DEEP M-1チャレンジ』で青木真也とエメリヤーエンコ・ヒョードルのエキシビションマッチが行なわれた。

Crazy, right? I can’t believe Fedor pulled off a エメリヤーエンコ in the middle of a が行なわれた.

According to Google Translate, it appears Emelianenko won, as “Aoki took a tap from the Achilles tendon in the hold without changing the leaf color.” That clears it right up, then.

Tito, PETA and You
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET: Lest you think cage fighters are across-the-board sadists -- I’m looking at you, Assemblyman Bob Reilly -- Tito Ortiz has filmed a spot for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that condemns dog fighting. A bold stance to take, and one that could completely ruin the chances of staging my long-planned Chi-Poo vs. Rottweiler pay-per-view.

Ortiz’s main point seems to be that, unlike animals, MMA athletes have free will and make a choice to get into a fight. True enough, but I’m a little uncomfortable with reinforcing the opinion that combat sports are little more than an elective death wish. Would Roger Federer tell me he makes a choice to play tennis in order to prove a point about dogs?

Nah. Doubt it.

Silva-Griffin Breaks East Coast Dry Spell
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Tuesday, 8:20 p.m. ET: Can’t blame the UFC for making infrequent treks to the East Coast. There’s the weather -- and the smell.

Their last appearance, UFC 78 in Newark, N.J. in November 2007, was headlined by Michael Bisping and Rashad Evans. As mega-cards go, it did not tax anyone’s adrenal glands.

But credit is due for assembling a very worthwhile attraction -- Anderson Silva and Forrest Griffin -- for Philly’s Wachovia Center on Aug. 8. Along with the headlining B.J. Penn/Kenny Florian bout, I’m optimistic that it’s a signal more high-profile cards will get transplanted from the West Coast.

If we can get an In ‘N Out here, I will have no cause to ever get on an airplane again.

MMA Movie Moonlighting: Part 2 (of 5)
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Tuesday, 6:35 p.m. ET: The second in a series looking at athletes-turned-actors, a transformation that proves surprisingly difficult. And by “difficult,” I mean you should view some of the following only if inebriated or recovering from a head injury.

See It: Forrest Griffin in “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (2007)

Depending on who you talk to, Griffin may or may not be cast against type here as attitudinal jerk Mike Kona, a cage fighter suspected of killing a teenage girl found in the woods. Griffin grunts and sneers effectively, but the real highlight is watching him in action against Renzo Gracie during the show’s skeletal “event” footage: Griffin ends the fight via a rear-naked choke. That is some bold creative license.

Miss It: Bas Rutten in “The Eliminator” (2004)

There is probably a good movie to be made that features Bas Rutten. This is not that movie.

The former King of Pancrase portrays Dakota Varley, an ex-SEAL stranded on a desert island and forced to fight his way off for the amusement of maniacal millionaires. If that plot sounds cribbed from “The Most Dangerous Game,” to the point where someone should have sued someone else into oblivion, it is.

Dialogue is stilted; cinematography is a notch below a VHS camcorder at a birthday party; special effects are not at all special. If a stuntman needed to be set on fire and shot, it’s possible he was actually set on fire and really shot.

Michael Dudikoff would consider this below his standards. That is a damning statement, but I stand behind it.

Tapout’s Good Chemistry
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. ET: In a freshly circulated press release, increasingly ubiquitous apparel company Tapout has announced a partnership with Champion Nutrition to release a line of Tapout-branded athletic supplements.

Expect fighters to begin thanking Tapout profusely for their protein and recovery drinks during post-fight speeches beginning this summer.

Randleman Politely %[email protected]*# Refutes Accusations of Ducking Cavalcante
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Tuesday, 4:20 p.m. ET: Speaking to FightHype.com, a long-shelved Kevin Randleman denied charges he was avoiding Rafael Cavalcante for Strikeforce’s June 6 card.

Critics are welcome to introduce themselves to Randleman in person, he says, at which point “I will spit in their [expletive] face. I will go to jail for beating your ass.” At least things won’t be uncomfortable.

Randleman is probably the most gifted pure athlete to ever enter mixed martial arts. He is also rudderless, prone to poor strategies and exerting more energy out of the ring than he does inside of it. The anticipation of watching a Randleman bout is often more interesting than the action itself.

Redemption Ahead? Silva-Griffin Rumored for Aug. 8 UFC
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Tuesday, 3:15 p.m. ET: [Update confirming the fight below.] Fan fiction or fact? MMABay is going with the latter: the site reports that UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is scheduled to make another move up in weight in order to meet game dog Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 on Aug. 8 in Philadelphia.

If you’ve opened your Web browser at any point during the past two weeks, you’ve noted that Silva has come under fire for a slumbering performance against Thales Leites on April 18. Griffin, in contrast, entertains due to a complete inability to move backward or laterally. (This is a compliment. A clumsy one, but a compliment all the same.)

If true, it’s a pretty classic example of the UFC’s passive-aggressive punishment program for athletes who have temporarily fallen out of favor. Tito Ortiz was given Lyoto Machida for his final contracted fight, and he looked predictably lost; I assume a disinterested Roger Huerta has yet to fight his last bout because the UFC is trying to make weapons legal in one of the southern states.

Silva is unquestionably the more technical and gifted striker, but Griffin is a massive -- and I mean massive -- 205-pound athlete. Off-season, his forearms resemble Lou Ferrigno’s thighs. He could be a very effective bully in the clinch.

Silva-Griffin would join B.J. Penn’s rumored lightweight title bout with Kenny Florian on the same card.

Update: Yahoo’s Kevin Iole has confirmed with UFC president Dana White that the fight is official.

The King of the Balkans: An Eastern European MMA Journal
By Tim Leidecker ([email protected])
Tim Leidecker/Sherdog.com

Sofia, Bulgaria.
Tuesday, 3:00 a.m. ET: Sherdog.com’s Tim Leidecker traveled to Bulgaria and Slovenia recently to attend two shows promoted by Eastern European powerhouse World Free Fight Challenge. Instead of the usual event report, Leidecker examined why this promotion is successful, conducted an extensive interview with promoter Zlatko Mahic and also caught up with Alistair Overeem, who’s wanting a New Year’s Eve showdown with Fedor Emelianenko.

WFC 7: Guedjev vs. Carvalho

April 3: The first show I attended was WFC 7, which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria. At the sauna I bumped into Alan Omer from Germany and Bruno Carvalho from Brazil (via Gothenburg, Sweden), the only two non-Eastern European fighters on the card, who were in the process of making weight. Carvalho was headlining the event and trying to wrestle the WFC middleweight title from defending champion and local hero Lubomir Guedjev. With the help of his experienced cornerman Hamid Corassani, Carvalho easily shed the remaining nine pounds he needed to lose.

A bus took the fighters to the city’s biggest press center, where the weigh-ins were taking place. As nice as the press room was, it also presented difficulties due to the soft floor: The scale suddenly showed most of the fighters a pound over weight. Fighters began doing sprints down the corridors and light grappling in order to break a sweat, which prompted the workers who had nothing to do with the WFC press conference to come out of their offices and shake their heads in disbelief.

In the end, everybody was on weight and had time to explore the city afterward.

“What really astonished me (about Sofia) was the extreme divide between rich and poor,” Corassani told me.

He was right. You either had rich business people driving around in the newest Mercedes or people panhandling for a couple of Lev. Even a couple of blocks down from our four-star hotel, there were ghetto-like circumstances.

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