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Goddamn it’s a slow news day. My bet is the majority of people normally blogging are busy scalping UFC83 tickets (fuck you all to death and I piss on your graves). So in the meantime I’m gonna talk about something I normally don’t : The Ultimate Fighter. We have a bit of a love hate relationship with TUF here … I’m trash and I love it (well, I love to hate it), but our readers are generally educated and don’t give a shit about it. But I can’t help myself!

News came out last week that the UFC had doubled the number of contestants and would be cutting half of them before the house. I seem to remember someone suggesting that….

-They should bring 30 guys in and cut 14 of them
The initial workouts where coaches test out the fighters is cool, but imagine how much cooler it would be if half the fighters there were gonna get cut? You’d see fighters pushing themselves twice as hard, emotions flaring, people stressing. In short: good reality television. Again, The Ultimate Fighter is passing up tons of excellent drama by not having an axe over the heads of everyone who’s made the initial cut. Line up the fighters at the end of the training and have the coaches call their fighters one by one. The guys who don’t get called go home. What better way to have the biggest collective TUF cry in the history of the series?

Note however that I’m not bringing this up in a lame-ass ‘UFC stealing my ideas’ kinda way. I stole my ideas off of America’s Top Model (respect), and I don’t doubt that UFC and Spike brass spent a week or two locked in a basement with cheetos and orange Crush watching 1000 reality shows for new ideas too. That being said, I went back and re-read my old posts about how to fix the Ultimate Fighter, and the ideas were surprisingly sound. Check em out:

The main reason everyone dismissed the whole “UFC is for sale” news probably has to do with the fact that the UFC is ‘doing great’ and Zuffa would be ‘insane’ to sell it. But I just wanted to take a second and play devil’s advocate here. Obviously I’m not much of an insider and all I have are my opinions and my butterknife-sharp intuition, so keep that in mind as you read this and feel free to play along in the comments

If you ask me, there has never been a better time to sell the UFC. While Dana White’s statement of “MMA not being even close to as big as it can be” is very true, I’m also seeing a lot of signs that point towards a major shift in the way the sport runs which will make it a lot harder to make the big bags of moneys the UFC is right now.

1. Competition
You can’t paint the competition with the same brush you did in the past. In the past it was any sleazeball with a couple grand and a decent lawyer. Now you’ve got guys like Mark Cuban and Gary Shaw stepping into the ring, along with corporate big boys like LiveNation and possibly Golden Boy. These are people with established entertainment credentials and easy routes to TV deals with big networks. That completely changes their ability to compete with the UFC.

2. Basic Fighter Salaries
It’s only been in the past year or two that fighters have become malcontents regarding the scraps the UFC throws from the dinner table. If you ask me, the fact that they throw around retarded bonuses worth 10 times the base pay of many fighters probably pisses them off even more. The UFC’s been getting flack for shitty fighter pay for a while, and guys like Jon Fitch have worked second jobs bartending while keeping quiet on the situation. I don’t see that lasting much longer. Between regular tarring from people like the LA Times and other fighters who feel secure enough to finally speak out, the UFC simply won’t be able to get away with paying their lower level fighters so little for much longer.

3. Star Fighter Salaries (and contracts)
Now we’re into big boy contracts. These are shrouded in secrecy, with guys like Matt Hughes implying he makes way more under the table than is declared to athletic commissions. But tell that to guys like Andrei Arlovski and he’ll probably say something different. My bet is the UFC gives bonuses to it’s loyal subjects, and anything from discussing pay with reporters, refusing to sign a restrictive contract, or turning down a fight can lead to being kicked out of the secret money club. Regardless, with the rise of competition you’re already starting to see a number of UFC fighters jumping ship or preparing to jump ship. Up until 2007 Dana White could say he “never lost a major star to another promotion” (which is kinda not true to begin with but whaddevah). I think 2008 is going to be the year of that, and it’s only going to get worse as the competition develops and their exposure matches their paychecks.

4. The rising cost of doing business
It’s not just salaries that are set to go through the roof in the next few years. Lots of people dismiss the cost of expansion but it’s a fucking expensive process with lots of hit or miss scenarios costing the UFC millions of dollars. Plus as salaries go up, so must sales. This means more dollars spent on marketing and advertising.

5. Dana White’s reputation
Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch but roll with me here. Lots of people say Dana White’s the greatest and worst thing that ever happened to the UFC. While there’s no denying he’s been a driving force in keeping it on the tracks thus far, we’ve hit a point where his style of doing things has burned a lot of major bridges. He was unwilling to lock in a deal with HBO. Word is one network specifically dismissed the UFC because they were unwilling to work with Dana White. Dana’s tactics managed to keep him on top of the pile for years but there are increasing signs that his style of doing things won’t fly any more.

So there you have it. At the moment things seem great but when you look at the wave coming in the distance (serious competition, fighter pay exploding, cost of business going way up), you have to wonder if the UFC would rather gamble it’s fortune or cash out while it’s ahead. Smart business owners don’t wait till the writing is on the wall to sell. They sell while things are still looking up. Before the shit hits the fan, if you will.


(hot women at Frank Mir’s UFC 81 afterparty? Guess that’s what winning’s all about!)

Yamma’s bringing back open weight tournaments
The more I read about Yamma the more I think it’s all just an elaborate April’s Fool joke. It’s gonna be international. It’s gonna feature open weight tournaments. It’s gonna feature legend vs legend. Bob Meyrowitz can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk? This isn’t 1993. You can’t just get away with doing whatever you feel like. MMA rules still apply even if you call your product ‘pit fighting’. I have a feeling this is going to be awesomely horrible.

No jail time for Koppenhaver
Jon Koppenhaver dodged an ass raping and is expected to escape jail time in exchange for a guilty plea and probation relating to an assault charge. Now that he’s no longer faced with a stint in the clink, he no longer needs to bulk up for protection and plans on dropping down to lightweight.

Golden Boy getting into MMA?
Golden Boy wants to get into MMA. Maybe. Or perhaps they’re more interested in picking up a soccer club. Who knows. Looks like they’ve got a big pile of money and are wondering what to spend it on. I just wonder if they’re smart enough to realize that getting into MMA is more about BURNING money than spending it.

Brandon Vera’s back in June
Expect more unfounded hype as Brandon Vera returns to the octagon sometime in June. No word yet on who he’ll fight, but as it stands there’s not too many heavyweights floating around without a dancing partner at the moment. Is it too much to hope for Vera / Crocop?

The UFC isn’t for sale
Hey, here’s some non-news news. Don’t you love non-news news? This non news is the fact that the UFC isn’t for sale. Pretty big deal huh? Anyways, just thought you oughta know that nothing was going on there. OR IS THERE????

Keith Jardine vs Wanderlei Silva?
The guys at 5ounces do some speculative deduction and come to the conclusion that Keith Jardine could be fighting Wanderlei Silva in May. I have to wonder how many stars Jardine is going to tarnish before the UFC remembers his kryptonite is unknown dudes with ‘power in both hands’.

Dana White mocks Koreans
Dana White called Hong Man Choi “Long Duck Dong“. That’s pretty good for an off the cuff racist remark, but he could do better than that. I’d include some examples here, but I really don’t want to piss off Asians. They’re gonna run the world in a few years, and while Koreans are near the bottom of the Asian totem pole, they’ll still be above the white gaijin in the new world order.

Zuffa files injunction against Randy Couture
Zuffa’s set in motion their request to stop Randy Couture from doing anything related to MMA. And since MMA is Randy Couture’s life (well, that and shitty movies), they’re basically seeking an injunction against him living and breathing.

The fuckover is now complete: Andrei Arlovski will face off against the Ultimate Blanket Jake O’Brien in the preliminaries of UFC82. That’s right, baby: going out against a blanket in the dark matches. When Dana White wants to bury you, he buries you good.

Let’s quickly run through the events leading up to this news, Fightlinker stylez:

May 2007 : Arlovski sucks it up against Werdum, loses his title shot.

August 2007 : People realize something is up. Where the fuck is Andrei?

September 2007 : It comes to light that Zuffa has benched Arlovski until he agrees to a new contract

October 2007 : All quiet on the Arlovski front. We take the down time to analyze his girlfriend’s titties.

November 2007 : Dana White says he has no idea why Andrei Arlovski isn’t fighting. He claims he’d be on a plane to Chicago in a second if there was something that could be done. Later that month Dana White reiterates on a phone interview that he doesn’t think Arlovski is going anywhere.

December 2007 : Well shit! Word starts to come from legit websites (aka not us) that Andrei is waiting his contract out and plans to jump ship. Arlovski’s people quickly state for the record that this is retardulous (nervously eying the UFC’s legal team while they say it).

January 2008 : Andrei Arlovski’s management and trainers look like they’re going to be participating in the IFL. Eyebrows are raised across the board and people await the inevitable backlash from Dana White, who hates the IFL with the intensity of 5000 suns. That’s when we hear the first mention of Arlovski getting ousted by way of blanket.

Okay, here’s a clusterfuck of a situation. The UFC says they want Mirko Crocop to fight. Mirko Crocop keeps saying he wants to fight. Yet days and weeks have gone by, events have been booked and still there is nary a sign of Croat-checkered tights on the UFC’s horizon. So what the fuck is going on? Is this another case of Dana White double-speaking like with Andrei Arlovski? Is this a case of Mirko Crocop trying to muddy the waters as he prepares to jump ship?

Who fucking knows.

All I do know is that there’s a common thread connecting a whole bunch of bullshit : Ken Imai. Who the hell is that? That’s Crocop’s retardo Japanese manager. He also happens to be Takanori Gomi’s manager. Now I’m not smart enough to be talking indepth about the crazy shit going on over in Japan or what’s up regarding anything with Japanese fighters or fight policy. But one thing I will say in general terms just so you all can play along at home is this: Ken Imai is the guy behind all the bullshit that’s been happening with Mirko Crocop, Takanori Gomi, and the UFC. I’d bet my left nut this whole thing is his damn fault.

There seems to be a general rule in MMA lately that if you involve the Japanese or the Russians, shenanigans will occur. I’m all for zesty shenanigans that result in more fights for all. The drama’s great for site traffic, and who doesn’t love some insane backroom dealings? But lately all the zest has been sucked from shenanigans and we’re left with my favorite fighters sitting out for months or years. And that just sucks balls.

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