Archive for January, 2012

FTC closes probe, plans no action against UFC

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The Federal Trade Commission has concluded and closed a six-month, nonpublic investigation of Zuffa LLC., the owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and will not take further action at this time, an FTC spokesperson confirmed to on Tuesday.

According to closing letters to parties involved that were made public Tuesday, the FTC Bureau of Competition investigation focused on Zuffa’s March 2011 acquisition of Explosion Entertainment LLC., which owned the rival Strikeforce promotion, and whether the purchase violated Section 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act or Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Section 7 of the Clayton Act  “prohibits mergers and acquisitions when the effect may be substantially to lessen competition, or tend to a create a monopoly,” according to FTC guidelines.

Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.’’

“No action has been taken in regards to this part of the investigation,” said the FTC spokesperson, though he said the governmental agency reserves the right to revisit the matter in the public’s interest.

Zuffa purchased Explosion Entertainment, established by Scott Coker and Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment, a sports franchise company, for a reported $40 million. Coker became the general manager for Strikeforce, which plans to hold six events on Showtime this year.

– Loretta Hunt

  • Published On Jan 31, 2012
  • UFC On Fox 2 averages 4.66 million viewers

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    The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s second live event on network television averaged 4.661 million viewers for an average 2.6 household rating Saturday on FOX, according to Nielsen ratings obtained by

    The 2-hour and 19-minute broadcast, which started at 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST), peaked with an average 6.080 million viewers (from 10 to 10:19 p.m.) during the five-round main event pitting former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans against Phil Davis. (Minute-by-minute peak numbers couldn’t be immediately obtained.)

    Last November, the first one-hour UFC telecast on FOX garnered an average 5.675 million viewers for a 3.1 household rating. It peaked with 8.802 million viewers during the 64-second heavyweight championship bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, making it the most watched fight ever (live or taped). This record was previously held by EliteXC’s Kimbo Slice-James Thompson heavyweight tilt on CBS in May 2008. Slice-Thompson, which lasted 10 minutes and 38 seconds, peaked with 6.51 million viewers. The event averaged 4.8 million viewers for a 3.0 share.

    In half-hour block ratings, UFC on FOX 2 made steady gains throughout the evening, starting with an average 3.425 million viewers from 8-8:30 p.m. Subsequent half-hour ratings were 3.988, 4.672, and 5.661 million.

    Viewership also rose gradually in the key male and adult 18-34 and 18-49 demographics until 10 p.m., when it fell slightly (.1-.2) in three of the four groups (it gained .1 in adult 18-49). The telecast averaged a 3.2 household rating in the male 18-34 and 18-49 demos, and a 2.5 and 2.4 in the adult 18-34 and 18-49 demos.

  • Published On Jan 31, 2012
  • Grading UFC on FOX 2

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    Main event winner Rashad Evans (left) will fight panel member Jon Jones in his next challenge. (Mike Dinovo/US PRESSWIRE)

    The Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to network television Saturday with a three-fight, two-hour and 18-minute offering in prime time on the east coast. (West coasters tuned in at 5 p.m.!)

    The first UFC on FOX telecast in November lasted only one hour and featured one, somewhat anti-climatic 64-second heavyweight title bout. Still, it served as an educating first-run between the two production teams (Zuffa uses its own production team for all of its events). Let’s see how FOX and the UFC fared with an expanded presentation this second time around.

    Panel Boosted by Legend

    I’ll start with the FOX Sports panel table because that’s where the November broadcast struggled the most. In the middle chair, an erratic UFC President Dana White was gone and replaced by retired six-time UFC champion and Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Full disclosure here: I’ve interviewed the very smooth and eloquent Couture countless times since 2001 and wrote his memoirs with him in 2008. Still, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that would argue with me that Couture didn’t do a stellar job on Saturday night. Relaxed and always smiling, Couture was engaging and easy to understand (something I think is crucial at this point for the new audience demo). Couture’s superb wrestling credentials (he’s a four-time Olympic alternate) made him the expert to cast with four of the six fighters hailing from amateur wrestling backgrounds. Since 2001, I saw Couture’s future career in sports broadcasting; Couture has a great instinct for what the audience wants to know (before they even do) and can deliver it. FOX was right on the money to hire him. They shouldn’t let him go. He will be a reliable anchor for the team in years to come.

    Another reason why Couture works so well in the broadcaster’s role is he’s had a massive amount of on-camera experience in film and television; Couture forgot about the camera a long time ago. Unfortunately, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones didn’t have that same reaction Saturday. I can honestly say we’ve found something that Jones isn’t phenomenal at out of the gate. Jones was nervous, which manifested by him constantly looking down at his notes and breaking eye contact with Couture, FOX commentator Curt Menefee, and mostly importantly, the audience. Jones did have some charming moments when he wasn’t chained to his notes and he certainly has potential (We’re talking about a 24-year-old here). I understand his inclusion on the panel, being his next challenge will come from main-event winner Rashad Evans. Still, I believe a well-rounded, untethered journalist would, well, round out the panel. I like the “Tonight’s winner fights me next” angle, but that could be accomplished by having the fighter guest on the panel in the last segment following the main event’s conclusion. It would make a much bigger bang there.

    On a quick note, who doesn’t like Curt Menefee? I doubt he has time to watch the UFC and MMA given his schedule with the big sports, but boy, he sure rattles off MMA stats like a pro. Bonus points for his easy, unforced interactions with Couture.

    Overall, Panel 2.0 was a vast improvement on its predecessor.

    Previous Grade: C+

    Grade: B

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  • Published On Jan 30, 2012
  • Reviewing UFC on Fox 2′s undercard

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    Charles Oliveira (right) and Tim Tebow have more in common besides being winners. (Mike Dinovo/US Presswire)

    CHICAGO — The Tim Tebow of the UFC doesn’t speak English.

    His name is Charles Oliveira (15-2, 1 NC) and the back of his walkout shirt reads, “My power come from God,” who Oliveira credited with helping him scramble into a successful submission after Eric Wisely (19-6) escaped both the ankle lock and knee bar.

    “God gave me the power. God showed me the way,” said Oliveira through his translator. “He helps me and gives me support and it’s my job to get that message out.”

    After a lightning fast 14-0 start to his MMA career, former top prospect Oliveira dropped two of his next three fights, but he made his featherweight debut in style on the UFC on FOX 2 undercard. Oliveira successfully switched from an ankle lock to a knee bar to a calf slicer and submitted Wisely in the first round. He said he was ready for the fight to go to any position.

    “I’m a professional fighter, “Oliveira said. “My gameplan is to fight standing up and to fight on the ground.”

    Oliveira, who had previously fought at lightweight in the UFC, said he normally walks around at about 157 pounds so he expects to remain at 145 for the foreseeable future. He even weighed in at 144 pounds just to show that he could make the weight cut.

    “This is my division now. The cut wasn’t easy, but I feel strong and I feel fast,” said Oliveira, who wants to be viewed as a true professional who makes weight every time he fights.

    The win snaps a three-fight winless streak for Oliveira, but he said he didn’t feel pressure from his coaches or Dana White to win this fight. Oliveira put all the pressure on himself and refused to crumble under it. He wasn’t the only former top prospect to put on a solid performance on the undercard.

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  • Published On Jan 28, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for UFC on Fox 2

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    Rashad Evans (above) is favored to defeat the fast-rising Phil Davis in the main event of Saturday's UFC on Fox 2 in Chicago. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC) analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC on Fox 2 on Saturday in Chicago.

    Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis

    FOWLKES: If it were a straight-up wrestling match, I’d take Davis. But Evans knows the tricks of this trade a little better, and he’s more comfortable in the big fights. In a match-up this close, that experience could make all the difference. Evans by decision.

    HUNT: The athletic Davis has the right body type (lanky reach, thick lower half for explosive shots) to negate champion Jon Jones’ assets in another year or two. But it’s that year or two of missing gym time that will give Evans the edge Saturday. Evans by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: If Davis can take this fight to the mat, his wrestling pedigree (2008 NCAA champ, 2006 runner-up, four-time All-American) will trump the usually superior grappling of Evans. But I have my doubts that, with barely three years in the MMA game, he’s developed the cage savvy to come to grips with Rashad, whose footwork and fast hands should send “Mr. Wonderful” to the canvas not on his own terms. Evans by TKO.

    WERTHEIM: This is a big step up for Davis and the conventional wisdom is that he a placeholder so Evans and Jon Jones can finally settle their score. But Evans hasn’t impressed lately; and if Davis can take this to the ground, he has a real shot. I’ll go upset here. Davis by decision.

    Michael Bisping vs. Chael Sonnen

    FOWLKES: Bisping is a better fighter than he gets credit for, but Sonnen is strong in the exact places where the Brit is weak. Get ready for a carnival of takedowns, America. Sonnen by decision.

    HUNT: Though Bisping looked polished and well prepared in his last fight against a gassing “Mayhem” Miller, wrestlers are a bad matchup for the U.K. striker. The story of this fight will be takedowns, takedowns, takedowns. Sonnen by decision.

    WAGENHEIM: Did you see the whupping Sonnen put on Brian Stann? And that guy’s a Marine with thunder in his fists, someone you might be wary of closing the distance against. Chael isn’t going to hesitate for a millisecond before moving in for the kill against the pitter-patter punching of Bisping. The Brit says he can win this fight from his back, but if he has the ground game to expose Chael’s jiu-jitsu vulnerability, we’ve yet to see it. Sonnen by TKO.

    WERTHEIM: Bisping will do his best to get in Sonnen’s head (PED! PED!) but if he’s Sonnen equal in the talking department, there’s nothing else he does better. Like most Brits, Bisping’s not adept at defending the takedown. Sonnen’s superior wrestling will win out. Sonnen by decision.

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  • Published On Jan 27, 2012
  • Chris Weidman set to fight Saturday at UFC on Fox 2 on 11 days’ notice

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    Chris Weidman (above) fights Damian Maia on Saturday's UFC on Fox 2 undercard. He accepted the fight on 11 days' notice. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

    Chris Weidman has always been a risk taker.

    As a kid he wasn’t very good at tag because he would run too close to people while taunting, “You can’t get me.” As an adult he takes the biggest professional fight of his life on the shortest notice of his career.

    “I’m young, you only live once, and if the opportunity arises I’m jumping at it,” said the 27-year-old middleweight, who will take on Demian Maia on Saturday at UFC on Fox 2.

    Weidman owns a 7-0 record, but Saturday will only be his fourth fight in Dana White’s organization. His biggest UFC win came in November, when he defeated Tom Lawlor by submission. A win over Maia would propel Weidman from a top UFC prospect to a bona fide contender. He took the fight on 11 days notice.

    “They give him a day’s notice and he’d be ready to fight as long as he could get his weight there,” Strikeforce heavyweight Gian Villante said. Villante defeated Trevor Smith by TKO on Jan. 7 and Weidman was a part of his camp. Villante said Weidman is always in shape and in the gym, but that the short notice will make the weight cut more difficult. Weidman isn’t worried about it.

    “It’s probably the most weight I’ve cut in this amount of time, but my body knows the deal,” said Weidman, who weighed 217 pounds the day he took the fight. “I’m prepared and I’ll be good with the weight cut. I’m excited for the struggle too. It’s a good experience.”

    Instead of making excuses, Weidman is looking forward to the additional challenges that come with being a late injury replacement. He said he’ll be able to look back on this week’s fight preparation and learn more about what his body can handle during a tough weight cut.

    Weidman’s confident attitude has even translated over to his training partners. Villante said that training with someone of Weidman’s caliber gives him confidence for his own professional fights. The Strikeforce veteran was asked to imitate Maia’s unique, Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu-based fighting style during Weidman’s ridiculously short training camp.

    “If I was Demian Maia I’d feel bad because Chris beat me up pretty bad when I was acting like him,” Villante said.

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  • Published On Jan 27, 2012
  • Arum: Pacquiao’s next fight will not be against Mayweather

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    Manny Pacquiao

    Manny Pacquiao, 33, is 54-3-2 in his career, winning his last 15 fights. (Robert Beck/SI)

    LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao has chosen his next opponent, and it’s not Floyd Mayweather. In an interview at his office Wednesday, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said Pacquiao has chosen his next opponent — whom Arum would only divulge was one of the four previously reported candidates, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley, Miguel Cotto or Lamont Peterson — and plans to make his return to the ring on June 9 at a new outdoor facility off the Strip.

    Arum reiterated that the problem with making a May fight with Mayweather was the timing. Mayweather has insisted that the fight take place May 5, tweeting Tuesday that “the date can’t change.” Arum says construction on a 38,000-seat temporary facility cannot be completed until later in the month. On Wednesday, Arum said he met with construction officials as well as officials from the Wynn and Sands Hotel. Arum also visited the construction site, a 40-acre plot jointly owned by the two hotels.

    “To be safe, they said they needed until the end of May to get it done,” Arum said. “Economically, it’s a problem that Floyd created. The amount that would be lost by moving it up to May 5th is enormous. The fight is not going to happen on May 5th. We’ll do the fight in November. There is no real magic in doing it in May.”

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  • Published On Jan 18, 2012
  • Santos appealing steroid suspension, Strikeforce future uncertain

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    Cyborg Santos

    Cristiane 'Cyborg' Santos' is eligible to apply for license reinstatement on Dec. 16.

    Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos has begun the process to appeal a one-year suspension handed down by the California State Athletic Commission on Jan. 6 for alleged steroid use, her personal manager confirmed to

    Santos’ manager, who asked not to be identified by name, said a response letter was mailed to the CSAC on Monday requesting a hearing in front of the seven-member commission.

    The CSAC suspended the Strikeforce 145-pound women’s champion after a pre-fight urinalysis came back positive for Stanzolol metabolites following Santos’ dominant 16-second victory over Hiroko Yamanaka on Dec. 17. As it stands, Santos will be eligible to appear before the CSAC for license reinstatement on Dec. 16. Santos was also ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and the fight’s result was changed to a “No Decision” by the CSAC.

    CSAC Executive Officer George Dodd said Santos’ appeal would likely be heard at an April 9 meeting with the venue to be determined.

    Santos, 26, issued an apology and explanation for the positive drug test on Jan. 9, stating she’d taken a dietary supplement to assist her during a difficult weight cut and was assured the supplement was “safe and not prohibited from use in sports competition.”

    Santos’ manager said its believed that the supplement in question was given to the fighter by a “trusted individual” in her camp to take orally, but that all the supplements she took are currently being reviewed.

    In California, a handful of the 20-plus MMA fighters previously flagged have explained positive steroid tests through supplements they’ve taken, though none have received reduced suspensions. Overall, only two fighters, Sean Sherk and Phil Baroni in 2007, have had their suspensions reduced based on chain-of-custody issues the CSAC had with their urine samples. The CSAC has since refined its drug-testing protocol.

    Santos (12-1, 1 NC) re-signed with Strikeforce for multiple fights over the summer after Zuffa, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s parent company, acquired the rival promotion last March.

    She has come under great public scrutiny since the performance-enhancing drug allegations were announced, as her Strikeforce reign has been the most dominant of any champion in the organization since she earned the inaugural title in 2009.

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  • Published On Jan 16, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for UFC 142

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    Jose Aldo is the prohibitive favorite Saturday to defend his featherweight championship against Chad Mendes at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro. (AP) analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 142 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.

    José Aldo vs. Chad Mendes

    FOWLKES: If Mendes actually manages to go on the attack early, he could be the toughest test the champ has had in the UFC. In the end though, Aldo’s speed and ability to adjust mid-fight will make the difference. Aldo by decision.

    HUNT: Aldo has more tools in his arsenal to thwart the grinding wrestler. Aldo by decision. 

    WAGENHEIM: Mendes might have what it takes to put the champ in an uncomfortable position, but fighting in Brazil will provide an adrenaline rush that’ll keep Aldo in his comfort zone no matter what. Aldo by decision.

    WERTHEIM: If Aldo, a WEC refugee, can defend the takedown and avoid Mendes superior wrestling, he should win by decision. Simply the more skilled all-around fighter. Aldo by decision.

    Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Johnson

    FOWLKES: As long as Johnson can stay conscious past the three-minute mark of round one, I like his chances to outwrestle and outwork Belfort, who’s been known to fade when he doesn’t finish fast. Johnson by decision.

    HUNT: In my book, Belfort will forever have one of the fastest, most accurate set of hands in the sport. Johnson’s debut at middleweight will show promise, but I like Belfort’s experience and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) centeredness going into this one. Belfort by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: A bulked-up Johnson is not to be taken lightly — nyuk, nyuk — but the heaviest things we’re going to see in the octagon during this bout will be Belfort’s punches. Belfort by KO.

    WERTHEIM: Belfort will be the crowd favorite but there’s a lot of mileage on that odometer. A likely fight of extremes: Either Belfort by electrifying TKO or Johnson by pedestrian sprawl-and-stall decision. We’ll take the latter. Johnson by decision.

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  • Published On Jan 13, 2012
  • Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather get Taiwanese animation treatment

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    The impasse between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather is international news, a fact underscored Friday when the fighters got the Taiwanese animation treatment via

    Highlights include: Pacquiao knocking Juan Manuel Marquez clear across the U.S.-Mexico border; the highly suggestive image of Mayweather limping out of jail with a sore rear end; Pacquiao micturating on himself while standing across Mayweather in the ring.

    There’s also an English-language version for the subtitle-averse.

    – Bryan Armen Graham

  • Published On Jan 13, 2012