LONDON – There has been a mini-storm among mixed martial arts fans about the main event of UFC 76 on Sept. 22 in Anaheim, Calif.
Houston Alexander can't understand the fuss.
And he's the one who was affected the most.
In his UFC debut, Alexander knocked out Keith Jardine in just 48 seconds of their bout at UFC 71 on May 26.
But UFC president Dana White chose Jardine, and not Alexander, when he needed an opponent to face Chuck Liddell at UFC 76. When his initial plan to match Liddell with Wanderlei Silva fell through because Silva wasn't going to be ready to fight, White turned to the one-time contestant on The Ultimate Fighter.
That led to an uproar, but Alexander, who faces Alessio Sakara on Saturday at UFC 75, doesn't have an issue with the UFC's matchmaking.
"They're a smart organization and whoever they want me to fight, I'll fight," Alexander said. "They know what they're doing. I'll take whoever they bring me."
'ONE FEDOR AWAY'
White said the UFC is "one Fedor away from having them all," a reference to those he considers the world's finest fighters.
Fedor Emelianenko is the Pride heavyweight champion and is widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He was a unanimous selection as No. 1 in each of the first two Yahoo! Sports polls.
His representatives have been negotiating with the UFC for a deal and White admitted Thursday that talks are going nowhere.
But despite the lack of progress, White said he remains optimistic he'll be able to sign Emelianenko eventually.
Outside of Emelianenko and Josh Barnett, all of the world's top heavyweights are under contract with the UFC. That fact, White believes, is what eventually will lead Emelianenko to the UFC.
"If someone signs him just to make a splash, OK, but then who does he fight?" White said. "You think they can put him on a bus and travel him around the country like some traveling (expletive) circus and have him fight Josh Barnett all the time?
"This has been just a crazy (expletive) time, and each time I think it can't get any more ridiculous, it does. But you know what? I still think we're going to get him. We have everybody else, so if he really wants to prove he's the best, he has to fight our guys."
FAN OF THE MEDIA?
Light heavyweight Michael Bisping, who faces arch rival Matt Hamill in one of Saturday's chief co-features, has been heavily in demand among the British media as the top British fighter.
And though Bisping said the attention can make life hectic, he has no problems accommodating the many requests he's received.
"I enjoy all the attention because it makes you more valuable and the paychecks get bigger as a result," Bisping said. "I understand how all of these work together. I do interviews and get my name out there and people want to see me and when people want to see me, sponsors want to be involved. You can be the best fighter in the world, but what does it mean if no one knows who you are or no one cares about you when you fight? You have nothing."
Bisping is from Manchester, England, and fought at home in April when he defeated Elvis Sinosic. He said he allowed himself to be distracted prior to that fight and got caught up in the fan reaction.
He's more prepared for it this time and said he spent time in a hot tub at his Big Bear, Calif., training camp mentally preparing.
"I just visualized myself coming out and getting in so I know what it's going to be like and I know how to deal with it appropriately," Bisping said. "I let myself get caught up in that a little bit the last time. I know there's going to be a big crowd here in London and I know it's going to be very supportive, but I'm more prepared."
HOOKS AND JABS
Bisping said he has made no decision on a move down to middleweight. "It's something to think about, at least, but not right now," he said. … Mirko Cro Cop will be fighting for the fight time since he was knocked out in April by a kick to the head from Gabriel Gonzaga. He said he used kick boxing star Remy Bonjasky as one of his primary sparring partners to prepare him for his bout against Cheick Kongo, a Frenchman who has a kick boxing pedigree. … Henderson said one of the things he misses about the demise of the Pride Fighting Championship are the elaborate fighter introductions Pride used. The UFC used to use those types of entrances, but eliminated them as part of cost saving measures when it was bleeding money several years ago. "They were fun and I kind of liked them," Henderson said. "I'm a fan, too." … White said he thought fans didn't know Henderson because Henderson fought so long in Pride. He noted that the Pride pay-per-view on which Henderson defeated Wanderlei Silva to win the light heavyweight title did incredibly poorly. "I'm not exactly sure, but I heard something like 16,000 to 20,000, in that range," White said. "The people don't know Dan now, but that's my job." Henderson laughed at the notion. "They know me," Henderson said. "That's just Dana talking. Don't buy that. They know who I am."
- Wanderlei Silva
- Houston Alexander
- Michael Bisping
- Fedor Emelianenko