Wednesday Blog: Sapp-Lashley Official; Atencio’s Opponent Named

May 6, 2009

Jones, Jr. and the Snowball Effect
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wales News Service/Splash News

Boxing legend Roy Jones, Jr.
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. ET: The Internet is like a bad game of telephone. You remember that: sit in a circle and whisper something to your neighbor, who does the same. By the time it gets back to you, the message has been mangled.

Stupid game. Never played it.

But the Web does. Somehow, CBS’ report that boxer Roy Jones, Jr. might be willing to engage Anderson Silva in a mixed-style fight has morphed into Jones contemplating a career change.

During a media conference call Wednesday, Showtime Senior Vice President Ken Hershman responded to Nick Diaz’ petition to get Jones for a Strikeforce fight by saying it would “be a very long shot.”

Of course it would. Why would Jones be interested in fighting for Strikeforce? Or against Nick Diaz?

If the Silva story is true, it makes a hint of sense: Silva has wanted to box Jones, and Jones was ready to oblige him. There’s some kind of mutual admiration society at work there. For what I’d imagine would be a spectacular amount of money, Jones appears willing to say the hell with it and fight Silva in a cage. Maybe he sees the historical value in it. Maybe he’s off the rails. Who knows?

Whatever the motivation, how that translates into Jones begging for any MMA fight he can get is beyond me. Silva is regarded by many as a pound-for-pound great, and by some as the absolute pound-for-pound great. If Jones has an itch to do something radical, that’s a guy to get out of bed for.

Nick Diaz, in contrast, was bounced from the UFC for failing to deliver. That’s a precipitous drop in competition. If you’re going to risk losing -- and Jones would be risking big -- then risk losing to the best.

Worse: Even with CBS driving the wheel, Strikeforce doesn’t have the promotional infrastructure of the UFC to make it as big and profitable a fight as it could potentially be. And while Hershman said money wouldn’t be an issue, I imagine it would turn into one quickly -- Jones, loose of marbles or not, isn’t going to get triangle-choked for a few hundred grand and some comped tickets.

But wait. It gets better. "I think it's an insult to the integrity of mixed martial arts to think Roy Jones, or any professional boxer, could just come in and fight Nick Diaz in a mixed martial arts context,” Hershman said. “In a boxing context, it's completely different.”

Gimme a Motrin. This is the same Hershman that colluded with EliteXC and Gary Shaw to employ Z-level brawler Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, whose arenas consisted of freshly-mowed lawns and Miami boatyards. Apparently, grass burns carry more weight in his office than Olympic medals and a “Fighter of the Decade” seal from Ring magazine.

All of this smacks of a guy who knows he’s getting turned down for a date, but anticipates it by saying he wouldn’t bother in the first place.

Gimme another Motrin.

Lashley-Sapp, Yvel-Rizzo Official for Mildly Interesting PPV
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 4:10 p.m. ET: There are few guarantees in the fight business, but one trend remains consistent: any non-UFC pay-per-view event is destined to be a dismal financial failure. Fans trust a brand name, and with the sport’s leading promotion holding events every month -- sometimes more -- there’s simply no breathing room for an unproven commodity.

In an effort to turn that tide, Fight Force International’s “Ultimate Chaos,” a Biloxi, Miss., show airing June 27, will attempt to make use of a semi-recognizable Bobby Lashley as the headlining draw against Bob Sapp. Lashley was last seen in March in a turgid win over Jason Guida; he’s also expected to fight Mike Cook at a Maximum Fighting Championship event on May 15, which would seemingly jeopardize his participation here.

Sapp, meanwhile, is known primarily for his outsized personality, which brought him incredible levels of fame in Japan but appears out of place in the less-cartoonish mixed martial arts climate of the U.S. His bulk is more suited for grappling than striking -- try getting a 350-pound athlete off of you sometime -- but a preoccupation with overseas celebrity and a thimble-sized gas tank hasn’t taken him far in actual competition.

Far more intriguing is a bout between Gilbert Yvel and Pedro Rizzo, two lead-legged hitmen who can end a fight more abruptly than tear gas. Rizzo annoyed fans in his UFC prime with a shuffling counter-attack style, but Yvel isn’t the type to sit around and wait for an opening; he’ll rip himself one. Fun while it lasts.

As for “Ultimate Chaos” as a whole: the last time I checked, iNDemand -- the PPV content funnel for most of the nation’s cable operators -- demanded a hefty upfront fee for participation, along with an uneven revenue split for burgeoning events.

As far as promoters are concerned, “Risky Business” might have been a better title.

MMA Discography: The Best Bonus Features 3 (of 5)
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 4:00 p.m. ET: The VHS format’s idea of a bonus feature was a hard plastic case instead of a cardboard one; now you can get DVD packages shaped like Darth Vader. How times have changed.

In addition to fancier clothes, increased storage on DVD also means more footage for fight fans. Continuing the rundown of the best special features:

6. Prisoners of War (Extreme Fighting 2, 1996)

In an effort to circumvent the political turmoil drowning MMA in the mid 1990s, Extreme Fighting chairs Donald Zuckerman and John Perretti took their sophomore show to the Kahnawake Indian reservation in Quebec, Canada. Instead of the expected apathy, they got a heated reception from Quebec lawmakers determined to run their dogfight out of town.

The ensuing struggle -- including the arrests of “Conan” Silveira and other athletes -- are captured in this short documentary, which also films a seething Perretti deeming fleeing fighter Orlando Weit a “piece of s--t.” Perretti had room to talk; he immediately flew back to Quebec when he got word of the arrests so he could be locked up in solidarity.

An interesting snapshot of the sport’s formative browbeating: 10 years on, we’ve got Burger King plastered on the canvas. That’s progress for you.

5. Ranallo vs. ‘Cro Cop’ (Pride 27, 2004)

It would be easy to run down impish play-by-play announcer Mauro Renallo for doing a tail-tuck when looming heavyweight serial killer Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic decides to have some fun with him. It would also be extraordinarily hypocritical, since I wouldn’t want a ticked Filipovic within my city limits, much less in my face.

Renallo is seen here during an initiation of sorts, being introduced to Filipovic and then falling victim to his (fabricated) temper when he tries to define what “funeral” means.

“I know what mean!” Filipovic barks. It gets better -- or worse, depending on whether or not you happen to be Renallo -- from there. At one point, the broadcaster seems to cover three miles of separation between himself and Filipovic in four seconds flat, a land-speed record that should’ve landed him a Wheaties box.

Not quite as amusing as Filipovic’s film debut, but close enough.

Jones Jr. Agrees to MMA Match; White Turns into Scrooge McDuck
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 11:53 a.m. ET: Exciting news diffused: CBS Sports reports that boxing great Roy Jones Jr. has verbally agreed to face rival/admirer Anderson Silva -- not in a boxing match as previously discussed but in the UFC’s Octagon.

No brainer, right? Played at the right pitch, a high-profile boxing vs. mixed martial arts angle stands a good chance of being the most successful pay-per-view of all time. With Jones on the decline and fighting Silva on his home canvas, the UFC stands to reap great reward for minimal risk.

Too bad UFC President Dana White isn’t interested.

“You won’t see a Silva versus Jones fight while Silva is under contract with me,” White told CBS’ Michael Woods. “I don’t want to say anything bad about Roy Jones. I like Roy Jones and was a fan of his, but he mattered like 15 years ago. He’s not anywhere near the best boxer in the world. He must’ve spent all his money.”

White is going to get henpecked for this one, and while it could be argued he’s showing restraint in not promoting an obvious sideshow, it’s not consistent with what the UFC has done in the past.

In 2002-03, the rumor was that management was pursuing Shannon Briggs for a possible UFC run, including a shot at then champion Tim Sylvia; in 2007, White made grandstanding rebuttals to Floyd Mayweather’s incendiary comments about MMA by offering him a fight with Sean Sherk.

Granted, Mayweather is USDA prime right now, while Jones might be considered flank steak. But is throwing him in there any more egregious than using a clearly weathered Ken Shamrock as pre-chewed chum for Tito Ortiz to garner big television ratings? On three separate occasions? Or White himself pushing for an utterly ludicrous boxing match with Ortiz?

There’s obviously more to the story here, and much of it may have been written by White himself. In boasting of Silva as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, he’s created a scenario where a lucky left by Jones would be a catastrophic public relations nightmare.

White is correct; the UFC doesn’t need this fight. Business is good in a bad economy, and it makes no financial sense to risk damaging the brand’s image by having a newly unreliable Silva make a mistake and get clocked.

But one thing about White -- in total dichotomy to his verbal toxicity and brash public persona -- is that he seems to genuinely care about pleasing fans, and there isn’t a combat sports fanatic alive who wouldn’t pay a premium to see one of the great boxers of our era in the Octagon.

What a disappointment.

Another Cyborg Joins Strikeforce, Fights Villasenor

Since joining the UFC and enjoying a host of stateside press, Wanderlei Silva is no longer as scary as he used to be. He laughs, he tells jokes, he plays rock, paper, scissors with Rich Franklin: not exactly the stuff of nightmares. We’ve ruined him.

The world minus one Chute Boxe soldier that could mean-mug the devil himself, Strikeforce has signed Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos for a June 19 date in Kent, Wash., against Joey Villasenor; Santos is the husband of Cristiane Santos, who also bears the nickname “Cyborg.”

Confused? Go complain to them. Hope you don’t have any further use for a larynx.

Strikeforce also announced a June 19 appearance by Jorge Gurgel, a former “The Ultimate Fighter” cast member and recent UFC castaway who seems to prefer brain-smelting slugfests over using his black belt in jiu-jitsu. Odd guy.

Sapp-Lashley Official; Atencio’s Opponent Named
By Mike Fridley ([email protected])
Photo courtesy: Affliction

Bobby Lashley and Bob Sapp.
Wednesday, 4:30 a.m. ET: Ending weeks of speculation, Prize Fight MMA and Fight Force International announced on Tuesday that heavyweight prospect Bobby Lashley (2-0) will confront Bob Sapp (10-3-1) on June 27 in Biloxi, Miss.

The event, set to air live on pay-per-view, will also feature bouts pitting Din Thomas (24-8) against Javier Vasquez (12-2) and Gilbert Yvel (35-13-1) vs. Pedro Rizzo (16-8).

Also announced, Affliction VP Tom Atencio (1-0) will return to the cage to square off against Randy Hedderick (1-0).

Atencio Prods White
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 4:00 a.m. ET: Heavily spectacled Affliction Vice President in Charge of Hemorrhaging Money Tom Atencio is making the PR rounds to promote his second professional fight in Biloxi, Miss., on June 27, and multiple outlets -- including this one -- quote him chastising Dana White for not putting his butt where his money is.

Or something like that. “[Dana] talks like a fighter, so why doesn’t he fight?” Atencio said.

That kind of logic could spell doom for thousands of Jersey shore meatheads in very short order. Atencio, meanwhile, is shooting down rumors that Affliction’s third show in the summer could be its last: He got some help from contracted athlete Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who told Fighter’s Only that a deal with HBO might be pending.

“A promotion … that might be making ties with HBO is far from collapsing,” Nogueira said, though he might be drawing his own conclusions there. With buy rates for Saturday’s Pacquiao/Hatton card reputed to be in the 1.5 to two million range, HBO may no longer be all that eager to diversify their combat portfolio.

UFC 101 Gets Bigger
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Photo by

Grove will take on Almeida.
Wednesday, 3:30 a.m. ET: Among the confirmed matchups for UFC 101, taking place Aug. 8 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, is a potential loser-leaves-town match between “Ultimate Fighter 3” winner Kendall Grove and Ricardo Almeida.

Grove was on the public chopping block in March, with UFC brass hinting a loss against Jason Day could mean termination. (Grove won.) Almeida, meanwhile, is 2-1 since his comeback in early 2008. Swell on the surface, but recent roster trims probably wouldn’t ignore a 2-2 split, especially if Almeida looks as underwhelming as he has in recent outings.

Amir Sadollah meets undefeated All-American Johny Hendricks in a welterweight bout. Kurt Pellegrino and Josh Neer are also expected to compete.

‘Street Fighter’ to MMA: Part 3
By Tomas Rios ([email protected])
Wednesday, 3:00 a.m. ET: Two towering muay Thai practitioners with a penchant for blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mass-scale destruction -- this one is a gimme. So much so that I can’t be the only one who got flashbacks when Silva gave Chris Leben a mouthful of busted teeth. After all, find me someone who played “Street Fighter” and I’ll show you someone who got the Anderson Silva treatment the first time they crossed Sagat.

Career wise, the similarities are just as obvious. Sagat started out the “Street Fighter” mythology as top dog before getting knocked down a peg; Silva’s status as pound-for-pound kingpin is in question after a pair of less than enthralling performances. While Silva may not have the matching chest scar, I’ve heard that Demian Maia is close to mastering the dragon fist.

Regardless, nothing is more fun than watching Anderson Silva when he’s on. It’s like watching Michael Jordan turn the Clippers into a pile of ankle-less blobs. The same goes for watching some hapless button-masher try to last more than 15 seconds when Sagat time rolls around. I may see one more than another nowadays, but both still bring a smile to the face of anyone who graduated from quarters to pay-per-view.

Check the blog all day for more entries.

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