The IFL's first card of 2008 looks as if it will be one of its better ones. Team Xtreme Couture and MMA Top Team will make their IFL debuts on the card, while three of the league's Grand Prix champions will defend their titles Feb. 29 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
In its championship matches, Roy Nelson will put the heavyweight title on the line against Fabiano Scherner. Matt Horwich will defend his middleweight crown against Tim Kennedy and Ryan Schultz, who upset Chris Horodecki to win the lightweight belt, will defend it against John Gunderson.
But the IFL has already doomed itself to second-tier status by its choice of dates. UFC 82 will be the next night in Columbus, Ohio, and, I predict, will garner more than 90 percent of the mixed martial arts coverage prior to the events.
Going against the UFC is bad enough for the IFL, but it's also chosen a weekend when boxing will have a big event. On March 1, Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez will fight in a rubber match. Their second bout, on Aug. 5, was chosen the Yahoo! Sports Fight of the Year and likely will win the same honor from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
The IFL seems to frequently find a way to bury itself, with the latest example being that it went head-to-head with UFC 79 on Dec. 29. League spokesman Jerry Milani said it secured the Feb. 29 date about a month ago, but the UFC's March 1 date was known well more than a month ago.
Part of the reason for the date is that the Orleans Arena wanted an event for its arena given that there is a NASCAR race in Las Vegas that weekend, which will attract about 150,000 people, but doing so is going to obscure a big IFL event.
It's too bad, because one would think the IFL would want to expose its product to the widest possible audience. Going on a weekend in which it wasn't guaranteed to be overlooked because of competition from the UFC would be a good start.
Now, it's on to a very busy mailbag.
Are you on acid? A fight for the ages? While the fight at UFC 79 between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva did feature thrilling moments of action, they were too few and far between. Liddell fought to not lose instead of to win. He had Silva hurt in the third round and backed off to look at the clock and then ran for much of the rest of the fight. When have you ever seen Liddell back off and backpedal when he had somebody hurt? Even though this was not a championship fight it should have been five rounds. Then we would've seen who really had the heart to come out on top. I've been a Liddell fan for years, but was disappointed he didn't engage more. I say a rematch set at five rounds is called for.
Castro Valley, Calif.
You're a tough guy to please, Scott. It's an opinion and you're entitled to think of the fight the way you want, but most of what I've heard about the fight is vastly different.
MMA IN THE OLYMPICS
As I was watching the broadcast of UFC 79 here in Manila, a thought came into my mind: Wouldn't it be great if MMA would be included in the Olympics? It surely isn't possible in 2008, but maybe in London it could become a reality. The only obstacle that this initiative could face is the lack of an amateur system in the sport, as professionals may not be allowed to compete in the quadrennial event. Just as professional basketball players are allowed to compete in the Olympics, maybe the same could be done with MMA. It would be another great avenue for fights to be held that wouldn't have been possible due to fighters belonging to different organizations. It would also be another ground on which undiscovered talent could be put on the world stage. MMA is certainly at its highest at this point, and having it at the Olympics is the culmination of the sport's epic rise as the premiere combat sport in the world.
Mixed martial arts in the Olympics is a terrific idea, but I believe it would have to begin as a demonstration sport. I think things move slowly in that world, so I think 2012 is out, too, but it's an idea that makes sense.
What was the sticking point for Fedor Emelianenko not coming into the UFC? I would assume it was his loyalty to his Russian comrades? Who do you think is the best boxer you have seen in MMA? I think Nick Diaz utilizes boxing fundamentals generously during all of his fights, but you have a better idea who is a more "pure boxer"?
The number one sticking point for Fedor was money. Secondarily, he wanted to compete in the World Sambo Championship and the UFC didn't want to allow it. There are a lot of good boxers in MMA. Marcus Davis comes to mind as one of the better ones.
How do you rank Quinton Jackson as the top fighter of 2007? Jackson got lucky in the championship fight with Liddell. If he fought the Liddell that just beat Silva, it would be a different story. Jackson was also lucky that Dan Henderson's cardio was bad in their fight. It was clear that Henderson beat Jackson in the first two rounds until he became tired. I just don't see Jackson as the top fighter of 2007. He just got lucky and will be surprised when Forest takes his title.
One could choose Jackson, Randy Couture or Anderson Silva as the 2007 Fighter of the Year and not be incorrect. I chose Jackson on the basis of the magnitude of his victories. Having said that, I don't think Henderson's cardio was bad nor was Jackson's knockout of Liddell a fluke. Remember, Hector, it was his second win in as many tries over Chuck.
COMPETING WITH GSP
With Georges St. Pierre's dominating performance over Matt Hughes, who can compete with him? I understand anything can happen in MMA but I don't see Matt Serra pulling off the upset again and I don't see anyone in his division being a threat to him. I would love to see him face B.J. Penn or even Anderson Silva. It seems as though B.J. or Anderson could be the only fighters within a reasonable weight class who could possibly defeat GSP. What are the odds that GSP gets B.J. or Anderson?
Santa Monica, Calif.
I don't think the odds are good of St. Pierre fighting either of those guys any time soon. St. Pierre is dominating and when he's at his best, as he was against Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes, there is no one better. But it's still less than a year since his loss to Serra, so I suggest we hold off on the unbeatable comments for a while.
I love MMA, but the UFC business model is more like pro wrestling than actual sport. The constant focus on story lines is becoming increasingly annoying. The involvement of UFC president Dana White's personal and emotional prejudices in signing or not signing fighters reeks of the WWE's Vince McMahon. I was under the impression that the acceptance of MMA as a legitimate sport was supposed to be the ultimate goal of the UFC. They went through all the trouble of sanctioning through athletic commissions in the attempt to do just that. It seems to me that the almighty dollar is the focus of the UFC with the fighters, and ultimately, the fans suffering the consequences.
El Paso, Texas
The UFC, in my opinion, treats the sport with respect. Having said that, it is a business and they have to sell tickets and pay-per-views. So they do what they can to drum up interest. The hard-core fans who will watch every MMA show make up a very, very, very small minority of the overall audience. I don't like the way White feuds with fighters like Josh Barnett and keeps them out of the UFC, but those are few and far between.
NOTHING TO SAY
I have finished reading your interview with UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta. I think you asked several good questions that fans want to hear answers to. However, as a sports fan, I often wonder what the point is of interviewing, then publishing, comments from guys like Fertitta, outside of allowing them to let everyone know that no matter what anyone else says, everything is great. It would have saved time and ten minutes of reading to say, "Dear reader, Lorenzo Fertitta had no intentions of answering my questions, but he wants you to know that everything is great and he has 'no comment' about Randy Couture."
I don't see where he failed to answer any question I asked him except for the one about Couture. And given that the situation with Couture is headed to court, it wasn't reasonable to expect him to say anything.
I LOVE IT!
Kevin, I just wanted to rave about your articles. I love how they are crisp and flow the way they do. I'm a huge fan of MMA (since the mid-90's) and read everything I can get my hands on. Your work is probably the best on the subject. We just seem to get a little more info in your articles than with other writers on the subject. Your last story "Always a Fighter" with Wanderlei Silva was great. I have a lot of respect for the man and what he brings to the UFC. I appreciate you showcasing Silva's respect and humility for his fans and those he gets into the cage with. That's a side of him and others a lot of people fail to see and what makes guys like that loved in and outside of the cage. It's always nice to get those extra details about those whom you write about. Just wanted to say you're doing a great job and am look forward to the next article.
Thanks, Mikey. It's kind of you. Wanderlei is a class guy who really cares about making sure the fans enjoy the show. That's why he's one of the most popular fighters in MMA history.
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