Notes: Fall schedule; TUF fallout

The Sept. 19 head-to-head battle between boxing and the UFC isn't likely to be the last time the UFC goes straight up against a competitor.

As things stand, there is at least one, and maybe two, more promotional battles between now and the end of the year, like the one that pitted Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez against UFC 103.

And with more major MMA events than ever likely happening next year as UFC, WEC and Strikeforce are all planning on increasing their schedule, such clashes are likely to step up in 2010 and beyond.

On Nov. 14, boxing has Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto, arguably two of the three biggest active drawing cards in the game, on pay-per-view. UFC counters with UFC 105, headlined by Randy Couture (16-10) vs. Brandon Vera (14-3) from Manchester, England.

If this were head-to-head on pay-per-view, boxing would win handily, as it did on Sept. 19. But this time UFC will be presenting a pay-per-view caliber event on basic cable's Spike TV. Couture is the UFC’s most popular fighter to fight on a live Spike show since Tito Ortiz met Ken Shamrock three years ago.

The second head-to-head showdown is not yet official, but would place on Dec. 12. UFC 107, headlined by B.J. Penn (14-5-1) vs. Diego Sanchez (21-2) for the lightweight title, is announced for the company’s debut in Memphis.

While not yet officially announced, Strikeforce has a hold on the HP Pavilion in San Jose for a show on Dec. 12, and former football great Herschel Walker, during an appearance on ESPN2, tabbed mid-December for when he would like to make his MMA debut.

Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker earlier this week said the card was tentative. But as of Friday, the California State Athletic Commission's Web site specifically lists a Dec. 12 date and a 7 p.m. local start time for a Strikeforce-promoted MMA event at the HP Pavilion on its official events schedule.

If the date proceeds, it would be the first time a Showtime MMA event would go head-to-head with a UFC pay-per-view card.

The head-to-head battles are only part of a loaded fall season, as October has four major events.

On Oct. 6 in Yokohama, Japan, the DREAM promotion has a one-night featherweight tournament featuring former world Greco-Roman wrestling champion Joe Warren (2-0), jiu-jitsu ace Bibiano Fernandes (5-2), Gumby-like submission master Hideo Tokoro (22-16-1), and Hiroyuki Takaya (11-5-1).

Oct. 10 in San Antonio has Donald Cerrone (10-1) vs. Ben Henderson (9-1) for the World Extreme Cagefighting interim lightweight title, with the winner to face champion Jamie Varner when Varner’s various injuries heal.

Oct. 24 in Los Angeles features Lyoto Machida (15-0) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (18-3) for the UFC light heavyweight title in a fight that may be a tough sell with two Brazilians headlining against each other. And Oct. 25 in Osaka, Japan is another Dream show, the first time a major Japanese MMA promotion has used a cage. While not signed, a match they are working on falls into Japan’s frequent freak show fight mentality.

Kiyoshi Tamura, a 40-year-old former pro wrestling superstar who has done MMA matches as long as the sport has existed, faces Gilbert Melendez, one of the top non-UFC lightweights in the world.

November is loaded, with Strikeforce events on both Nov. 6 in Fresno on Showtime with a minor show, and Strikeforce’s first event in CBS the next night in suburban Chicago, featuring consensus world top heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers.

The biggest WEC fight remaining this year takes place on Nov. 18 in Las Vegas with featherweight champion Mike Brown (22-4) facing Jose Aldo Jr. (15-1). And UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (4-1) defends his title against his most physically formidable obstacle of his career in Shane Carwin (11-0) on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas in what looks to be the most anticipated match remaining this year.

Nelson talks Kimbo win

A month ago, Roy Nelson, the former International Fight League heavyweight champion was barely a household name in his own household. But he became an instant star by finishing Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson in a match on The Ultimate Fighter reality show that was taped in June, and aired on Wednesday night on Spike TV.

Between the first-run and immediate replay showing, it was viewed by one out of every 12 men in the U.S. between the ages of 18-34. About 2.28 million Males 18-34 watched the fight on the first broadcast, and another 450,000 watched the replay. That’s more than any show on television so far this week with the exception of the NFL.

The match's 3.7 overall rating and 5.3 million viewers set records for any mixed martial television show in U.S. history. Another 1.5 million watched an immediate replay.

Even those who went in expecting record numbers had to be blown away by the figures. But nobody is fooling themselves into thinking this is some kind of a new benchmark for interest in MMA, or even fighting, as much as an example of America’s fascination with celebrities.

"Kimbo bringing a whole new audience is great," said Nelson. "I can’t wait for Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger to fight. It’ll bring eyes."

It’s hard to fully explain what makes Ferguson what he is. He was the right guy with the right look who came along during YouTube's ascendancy. Originally marketed as an uncontrollable street fighter, the kind that hits on people's stereotypes of prison fighters, the reality was, that person only existed in imaginations.

"The first time I saw him was in Costa Rica when I was fighting in (the now-defunct BodogFight promotion)," Nelson said. "One of my friends showed me his fight and I thought, 'Oh, whoop de doo.' It was like watching a gang banger. It wasn’t that cool. That’s where a lot of people don’t understand the sport. There are people who would fight all day, just go to the local prison or gym.

Over the three weeks of The Ultimate Fighter, the producers tried to change Kimbo's image. Instead of being marketed as a fighter of the caliber that clearly he wasn’t, as happened with Elite XC, he was remade as a humble man with six children who never let his fame go to his head.

As a fighter, he was portrayed as a famous beginner, with the idea he can punch hard. Now, at 35, he’s starting at square one trying to become a real fighter, although in reality he’s been training to be an MMA fighter now for a couple of years and he was largely helpless against Nelson once the match was on the ground.

It was an absolutely remarkable bit of promotion, because now, when Slice loses, he only becomes more endearing, as long as he keeps working hard and coming back for more.

As far as when will people no longer gravitate toward Kimbo? There is no telling. People thought he was exposed when he headlined the first CBS show in 2008 and struggled to beat handpicked James Thompson. People thought he was really exposed against Seth Petruzelli, when he was knocked out in 14 seconds last October. And he was exposed again by Nelson. And at this point, it would be a safe bet that when he fights next, presumably on Dec. 5 on Spike for the Ultimate Fighter 10 finale, a huge audience will watch again.

Slice talked up a potential rematch with Nelson, saying, "You gave me your best. You didn’t beat me at my best. Now I know how you’re coming. Damn, right I’ll rematch Roy."

But Nelson said he and Slice became friends on the show, and talked that it was more likely and better for Slice to drop to light heavyweight.

"He’s talking about going to 205," said Nelson. "At heavyweight, he really doesn’t have a chance as we’re a little more well-rounded than the 205 pounders," which is a statement many would argue against.

Still, Nelson made fun of all the hype surrounding Slice. "The one thing about Kimbo is he does hit hard," he said. "He’s a 230-pound man, but he’s not the hardest guy I’ve ever been hit by. We both said to each other after, 'You hit kind of hard.' I did exactly what I wanted to do. I baited him to come in for the kill so I could clinch him and take him down."

"He can come and train with me and learn some jiu-jitsu and wrestling because that’s where he’s really lacking. Or he can go to 205 and stay with the guys who are just going to stand there and bang."