Archive for October, 2011

Alvarez wanted stake in Bellator

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Bellator Fighting Championships lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez got the news that Viacom had purchased a majority share of the promotion he fights for along with everyone else this week.

Alvarez (22-2) said he figured it would have been the UFC, not the world’s fourth-largest media conglomerate, that would have recognized the quality of the Bellator product and eventually buy it.

“Originally, when the UFC purchased Strikeforce (last March), I got very on edge,” said Alvarez, whom I interviewed Thursday on’s Last Call Internet radio show. “I called (Bellator owner) Bjorn Rebney to ask him if there was any possible way that I could buy stake in Bellator. The way (the UFC) was buying up promotions like that, I didn’t want them to come in on Bellator without me being able to capitalize on it.”

Rebney had been open to the idea of his star fighter purchasing stake in the company, said Alvarez, but followup discussions never happened.

However, once Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC, announced that it had signed a seven-year exclusive broadcast deal with the Fox Broadcasting Network across its multiple TV platforms in September, Alvarez said it was a foregone conclusion that Bellator would have filled the void left by the UFC on Viacom’s Spike TV. Bellator currently airs on MTV2, another Viacom property, while has recently begun airing Bellator’s preliminary bouts.

The plan is for Bellator to make its debut on Spike TV in 2013, once the cable network’s exclusive contract to air UFC footage only in 2012 expires.

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  • Published On Oct 28, 2011
  • Friendship powers late replacement Cerrone

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    Lightweight Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (above) is a late replacement on Saturday's UFC 137 card, where he'll go up against Dennis Siver. (AP)

    Donald Cerrone — who will fight Dennis Siver at UFC 137 — doesn’t do anything halfway, not even his nickname.

    The UFC lightweight has been called “Cowboy” since he started wearing Cowboy hats as a Denver high schooler. “In Denver there ain’t that many,” Cerrone explained. Now no one calls him anything else.

    Cerrone’s all-out-all-the-time attitude sometimes got him into trouble outside of the gym, but it’s also the reason he met Leonard Garcia, who grew up on a ranch and jokes that Cerrone is a “city slicker.” Garcia, a UFC featherweight, had the same intensity and was also trying unsuccessfully to stay out of trouble.

    “If you’re having fun as a young person, you’re probably getting into trouble,” Garcia admitted.

    Cerrone and Garcia met eight years ago, before Cowboy was a professional fighter and while Garcia was fighting in the Ring of Fire promotion. They’ve been inseparable ever since — interviews with Cerrone during fight week were set up by Garcia — and made the journey to the UFC together.

    “We truly believe that we’re blood brothers in some way, even though our skin complexions obviously show otherwise,” Garcia said. “I don’t know anybody that’s closer to me,” Cerrone added.

    When Garcia was invited to train at Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, N.M., for his UFC debut against Roger Huerta at UFC 69 he recommended Cerrone to be his training partner. They lived in a tiny room with bunk beds above the gym (The room was 8-by-10 or 12-by-6 depending on which fighter you talk to). Cerrone and Garcia still train at Jackson’s gym, but they don’t live in a glorified closet anymore. They live on the TapouT Ranch, a 10-acre training facility complete with cardio equipment, weights and a full-size octagon cage as well as goats, pigs, horses, chickens, peacocks, a boat, four-wheelers and motorcycles.

    “Our house is basically an amusement park for grown-ups,” says Garcia.

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  • Published On Oct 28, 2011
  • Munoz handles potential camp conflict

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    Brendan Schaub

    Brendan Schaub could be sharing a gym with a potential future opponent, Fabricio Werdum. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

    UFC middleweight Mark Munoz said heavyweight Brendan Schaub would be “a tremendous addition” to the fight team at Reign Training Center in Lake Forest, Calif., though the decision to bring him onboard won’t come without a little camp politics.

    Schaub, who’s trained exclusively at the Grudge Training Center in Colorado and Jackson/Winkeljohn’s gym in New Mexico for the last four years, visited Reign for four days last week and plans to return in November for at least two weeks. Munoz said he’s gotten every indication that Schaub plans to commit to Reign full-time thereafter, but there will be one catch.

    Mindful that a fight with potential Strikeforce import Fabricio Werdum could be on his immediate horizon, Schaub inquired if the Brazilian fighter, who occasionally comes to Reign from its sister gym, King’s MMA, would be there.

    “I told Brendan that Fabricio hadn’t trained here for three months because he was off doing seminars and other things. I hadn’t seen Fabricio in a long time,” said Munoz, who calls Werdum a “good friend.” “Next thing I know, Master Rafael Cordeiro let’s me know that Wanderlei (Silva) and Fabricio are on their way the first day Brendan’s here.”

    Munoz told Schaub he couldn’t turn Werdum away, and the two managed to get in their workouts on opposite ends of the room. Munoz said Schaub and Werdum even had a cordial exchange.

    Fast-forwarding to this week, Schaub and Werdum have both publicly expressed their desire to fight one another (keep in mind fighters usually know more about their next match-ups then they let on these days). With Schaub coming back to Reign shortly and eying a permanent move, Munoz said he’d have to look out for his own fighter first.

    “It’s a tricky situation because we did create a partnership between Kings MMA and Reign. I had a short conversation with Master Rafael (Werdum’s coach) on Wednesday. I haven’t talked to Fabricio yet, but there will be some discussion after my fight,” said Munoz, who headlines against Chris Leben on Nov. 5 at UFC 138 in Birmingham, England. “They know Brendan could be making this his home gym.”

    Munoz said if Schaub commits to his gym full-time, it would supersede Werdum’s once- or twice-a-week visits — at least until after the fight.

    “If he’s going to abandon his life in Denver, make that jump, and totally entrust us with his life and career, I think that merits a little reciprocation on my part,” said Munoz. “Brendan’s a great guy, so I’m going to give him that.”

    What can Schaub expect from Reign?

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  • Published On Oct 28, 2011
  • Experts’ predictions for UFC 137

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    B.J. Penn (above) has won just one of his four fights since 2009, but the former two-division UFC champ is a slight favorite over Nick Diaz at UFC 137. (AP) analysts Ben Fowlkes, Steven Marrocco, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 137 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

    B.J. Penn vs. Nick Diaz

    FOWLKES: A lot of people see holes in Diaz’s game before they have to get in there and mix it up with him. I doubt Penn can finish him, and Diaz only gets better as the fight goes on. Penn … not so much. Diaz by decision.

    MARROCCO: Diaz is still vulnerable to takedowns, and Penn’s a bit tighter on the feet. “The Prodigy” has more ways to win, and just maybe, he’s a bit more clear-headed. Penn by decision.

    WAGENHEIM: Penn is 1-2-1 since 2009, while Diaz is on a 10-fight win streak. But Nick hasn’t been picking on guys his own size — in terms of talent. Penn by decision.

    WERTHEIM: Diaz is like the poor man’s Penn. A potentially good fight, Penn’s X factor will be the difference. Penn by decision.

    Cheick Kongo vs. Matt Mitrione

    FOWLKES: Kongo sure looks impressive, but he’s nowhere near the athlete that Mitrione is. I think Mitrione will show his continued improvement here, stopping Kongo late. Mitrione by TKO.

    MARROCCO: Kongo is a slow starter and Mitrione has an NFL rush. But Mitrione is just crazy enough to walk into a straight right from the far more experienced Kongo, and that’s bad news. Kongo by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: You wouldn’t expect a guy nicknamed “Meathead” to be a smart fighter, but Mitrione is capable of making Kongo’s head spin by using his cranium to control the way the fight is fought. Mitrione by TKO.

    WERTHEIM: Mitrione is undefeated and a potential star in the making. Kongo has the experience (and kickboxing), Mitrione has momentum. Mitrione by decision.

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  • Published On Oct 27, 2011
  • Bellator champ Askren proving them wrong

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    Ben Askren (in blue), the reigning Bellator welterweight champion, won a pair of NCAA wrestling titles at Missouri. (Marlene Karas/US Presswire)

    Ben Askren can’t fly, but you better not tell him that. The reigning Bellator welterweight champion loves to prove people wrong.

    He says the primary reason he chose to wrestle at Missouri was that the team felt like family, but the “experts” who pointed out that the Tigers had never produced a national champion certainly had something to do with his decision.

    “I guess the joke is on them now,” said Askren, who won two national championships and became the second wrestler in NCAA history to win multiple Hodge trophies, the wrestling equivalent of the Heisman.

    Ben followed up his collegiate career with a trip to the 2008 Olympics, where he lost his opening match. Some USA Wrestling officials believe Askren gave up wrestling too early, but the reality is that even before Askren had finished his senior season at Missouri he was already starting to fall in love with MMA. John Mesenbrink, Askren’s high school coach, said that MMA was “on the horizon” even when Askren was training to be an Olympic freestyle wrestler.

    “Freestyle is not my cup of tea,” Askren admits. He cites rule changes: Push-out points are “a joke” that reward inferior wrestlers for “getting lucky,” winning individual periods neutralizes his phenomenal conditioning and grinding style, and removing forced partier position makes it more difficult for Askren — who holds the NCAA single-season pins record — to wrestle from the top position. “Everything I was good at they kind of took away,” Askren said. “But you’ve got to go with what life gives you.”

    For Askren that was jui-jitsu. The “funky” wrestling style he perfected at Missouri made it easy to learn BJJ, which also emphasizes flowing from position to position. Then there’s the fact that Askren didn’t dream of being an Olympic champion until after he starting having collegiate success. He didn’t watch his first Olympic wrestling match until he was 16, but remembers watching UFC 1 with his father at age 9.

    Mesenbrink adds that Askren wanted a new challenge. “He really loved that starting over again,” said the coach who now helps Ben run the Askren Wrestling Academy in Wisconsin. People doubted Askren all over again. After a successful collegiate career Askren was almost expected to have international wrestling success, but MMA was a different animal.

    “It’s just so funny the more people that say it can’t happen the more he makes it happen,” Mesenbrink said.

    Askren admits that his striking skills still need improvement — which is why he’s training with kickboxing guru Jeff “Duke” Roufus in Milwaukee — but the former wrestler has a perfect 8-0 record in MMA. Saturday he’ll try to defend his Bellator welterweight title against Jay Hieron, the best wrestling mixed martial artist Askren has faced in his career. Hieron believes he can out-wrestle Askren and win the fight.

    “He’s delusional. I’m glad. That makes it easier for me,” Askren said confidently. “I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to take him down and beat him up.”

    Askren adds that he isn’t content with the Bellator title. He believes he can be the world’s best MMA welterweight in three to five years, a goal Mesenbrink believes is realistic. You better not tell him he can’t do it.

    – Stephen Boyle

  • Published On Oct 27, 2011
  • Three thoughts from Donaire-Narvaez

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    Nonito Donaire

    Nonito Donaire dominated the action -- and Omar Narvaez -- throughout the night. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK — Three quick thoughts from Nonito Donaire’s lopsided decision win over Omar Narvaez:

    Zzzzzz. It wasn’t quite Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey, but it was close. Donaire was his usual active self, throwing an average of 55 punches per round, according to CompuBox. Narvaez, however, just didn’t come to fight. He didn’t throw more than 32 punches per round, averaging 25. He landed just six punches — six – a round, an impossibly low number that indicated that he was, as Floyd Mayweather so aptly puts it, in survival mode. After the 11th round, the 4,425 inside the Theatre at Madison Square Garden started chanting “this is bullsh–;” after the final round, Donaire leaned over to HBO announcer Roy Jones and said “this was bull—-.” Just a boring fight all around. Donaire, in fact, summed it up best. Said Donaire, “I guess I know how Pacquiao felt with Clottey.”

    Again, don’t blame Donaire. Donaire did everything he could to get Narvaez to engage. He purposefully opened up his head and body in an attempt to draw Narvaez in and, Donaire said, “make it an old school war.”

    “I never saw an Argentine fighter fight that way,” Donaire’s promoter, Bob Arum, said. “You have seen the Argentine kinds the way they fight. We knew the guys was a tremendous boxer and we figured based upon his past he would come to fight.”

    He didn’t. Donaire, though, was looking for the knockout from the opening bell. That’s just the kind of attitude you want from a charismatic fighter who figures to become a big star in the years to come.

    Moving on up. The plan has been for Donaire to move up to 122 pounds after the fight, a move Donaire confirmed Saturday night. Donaire, who weighed in at 116 pounds on Friday, rehydrated up to 130 pounds on fight night. Here’s the plan: According to Arum, his first call will be to the promoter for Toshiaki Nishioka, the WBC super bantamweight champion who outpointed Rafael Marquez earlier this month. Nishioka, Arum says, wants to fight again in May. But Arum says he will try and make a fight in March by sweetening the offer. After that, Arum is eyeing a possible unification match with WBO titleholder Jorge Arce. That fight, Arum says, could take place at the new stadium opening in Manila in June. Either way, the 28-year old Donaire figures to be busy: Arum says he hopes to get him in the ring four times in 2012.

    Chris Mannix

  • Published On Oct 23, 2011
  • Kelly Pavlik splitting with trainer Jack Loew?

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    Former champ Kelly Pavlik has fought only once over the last 18 months. (AP)

    NEW YORK — Is Kelly Pavlik leaving trainer Jack Loew? That was the story rippling through Madison Square Garden on Saturday where Pavlik, 29, was in attendance to watch Nonito Donaire’s bantamweight title defense against Omar Narvaez.

    According to, Pavlik, the former lineal middleweight champion who has fought once in the last 18 months, plans to leave Loew and train with Robert Garcia at his gym in Oxnard, Calif. Garcia currently trains, among others, Donaire, Antonio Margarito and Brandon Rios.

    However earlier this evening I sat down with Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs) and asked him point blank if Loew would continue to train him.

    “Right now we’re staying with Jack,” Pavlik said. “That’s guaranteed. There’s no reason not to.”

    It’s possible Pavlik did not want to publicly announce his decision to leave Loew until he talked to him. Loew was at Foxwoods last night working the corner for Darnell Boone and did not make the trip to New York. When I spoke to Loew, he told me he was ready and able to train Pavlik whenever he was ready. It’s also possible Loew won’t be cut out completely: according to sources familiar with the situation, Loew could continue to work with Pavlik as a co-trainer.

    Still, moving out of Youngstown, Ohio, where Pavlik has trained virtually his entire career, is a done deal. Pavlik has battled alcohol problems in the past, which have led to two separate stints in rehab. Many have attributed those problems to living in the suburban Ohio town where he grew up. In a meeting earlier this week, a source said, Top Rank executives explicitly told Pavlik that he needed to train somewhere else. And Pavlik told me he was eager to start working away from the distractions of his hometown.

    “I will be heading out of town to train,” Pavlik said. “People say a lot of things about me [in Youngstown]. I don’t need that. After camp I’ll come back and live my life.”

    – Chris Mannix

  • Published On Oct 22, 2011
  • Three thoughts from Rodriguez-Rosinsky

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    MASHANTUCKET, Conn. –  Three quick thoughts from Edwin Rodriguez’s thrilling win over Will Rosinsky on Friday:

     1. A great fight. After the eighth round, revved-up promoter Lou DiBella (when is Lou not revved up?) powered past press row with a question: “When has a pay-per-view headliner been as good as this?” You know what? Lou was right. The hyped Rodriguez was a big favorite coming in against Rosinsky, a former national Golden Gloves teammate. But the granite-chinned — and I mean granite-chinned — Rosinsky turned a prizefight into a street fight, absorbing heavy shot after heavy shot while dishing out plenty of his own. Rodriguez and Rosinsky seemed to trade power shots the entire 10 rounds. When has a fight with no knockdowns been this good? Bizarrely, all three judges scored the fight a shutout. Right decision, wrong score. Rosinsky picked up three rounds on my card and was close in several more.

     2. Let’s see them both again.  With the Showtime cameras rolling, Rodriguez and Rosinsky put on the fight of their lives. They may not meet again, but both will get another shot at a big fight. Rodriguez is being groomed for an eventual title shot at super middleweight. DiBella, meanwhile, told me he picked up Rosinsky’s option and will match him against anyone outside of the top-five at 168 pounds. Certainly, no one will be disappointed to see either in the ring again.

    3. More problems with judging.  After the fight, judge Glenn Feldman said “I tried like hell to give Rosinsky a round. I couldn’t.” How? Rosinksy clearly won the first round on my card and was life and death with Rodriguez in every one after. Did Rosinksy win? Of course not. But that three supposedly qualified, trained judges could not score a single round for Rosinsky is baffling. Far too often fans leave fights wondering how they could see something so differently than the judges did. This was another one of them.

    Chris Mannix

  • Published On Oct 22, 2011
  • Texas expands drug testing for UFC 136

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    Heavyweight Dave Herman (right), shown here at UFC 131 in June, said he was removed from UFC 136 for failing a drug test. (Kathleen Hinkel/Icon SMI)

    It’s no secret that Texas is viewed as one of the more lenient locales when it comes to licensing combat sports’ athletes.

    In 2010, boxer Antonio Margarito resumed his career in the Lone Star state despite being denied licensure in both Nevada and California after he served a one-year suspension for a hand-wrapping scandal.

    Regarding MMA, the state’s governmental agency hasn’t required any drug testing of its applicants in the past, and approved two fighters, Josh Barnett and Chael Sonnen, for licensure in 2011 despite both having unresolved licensing issues with other state commissions pertaining to positive drug tests.

    At least the days where mixed martial artists bypass drug testing altogether in Texas might be behind us.

    The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation required four contestants to undergo drug testing surrounding UFC 136 on Oct. 8 at the Toyota Center in Houston — the second time in four months that the state body has asked this of MMA applicants since it started regulating the sport in 2003.

    Two fighters were asked to complete drug testing prior to their bouts, while another two were tested following their bouts, said Susan Stanford, the public information officer for the TDLR. Stanford said the pre-fight tests were paid for by the contestants as part of their application process and the regulatory body funded the post-fight testing.

    The TDLR won’t identify who was tested, what drugs they were tested for, or the results, pending a review from the agency’s general counsel to determine if this information is protected under the state’s Public Information Act.

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  • Published On Oct 20, 2011
  • Georges St-Pierre to miss UFC 137 with injury

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    UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre suffered a knee injury during training on Tuesday and will miss his upcoming fight at UFC 137. (AP)

    The main event of UFC 137 has changed … again.

    UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has been forced to withdraw from his Oct. 29 title fight with Carlos Condit due to a knee injury suffered during training, according to UFC president Dana White’s Twitter feed.

    “I just land in NYC and what do I always say!? I have to deal with bad s— everyday!! GSP is out with an injury!!! #oneofthosedays,” Dana White tweeted on Tuesday.

    St-Pierre, widely regarded as one of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA (he’s No. 2 in’s rankings), had been training in Montreal for the 10th defense of the welterweight title he’s held over two stints since 2007.

    B.J. Penn will now meet Nick Diaz in the main event, while Carlos Condit will be removed from the card to wait for the champion to recover.

    “It’s GSP’S knee. We will sit Carlos to wait for GSP. It’s looking so far like he could be ready in a couple months. Still early to tell tho,” White tweeted minutes after his initial tweet that broke the news.

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  • Published On Oct 18, 2011