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UFC 74 Conference Call Notes: Vera signs new deal and could fight Sylvia; GSP talks sports psychologist; HBO information; and more!August 16, 2007
The UFC conducted a conference call for the media today to help promote UFC 74 next Saturday in Las Vegas. UFC president Dana White, Randy Couture, Gabriel Gonzaga, Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck all participated in the call.
Here’s a recap of some of the more newsworthy items that were discussed:
- Georges St. Pierre came off very well during the initial portion of the call. He said all the right things by giving Matt Serra his just due (just like he did immediately after UFC 69) and saying that we wouldn’t be seeing the old GSP vs. Koscheck next Saturday, but a brand new one. He even revealed that he’s been seeing a sports psychologist and that one thing he’s learned is that the best fighter doesn’t win a fight, the fighter who fights the best fight wins. I’ve been very critical of GSP in recent weeks but I have to give him a lot of credit for going to a sports psychologist. It shows he takes winning seriously and wants to fight to his full athletic potential. My only complaint is that towards the latter portion of the call the excuses (mental preparation, physical issues, and illnesses in his family) came out again. In defense of GSP, he was being asked followup questions and he was probably just trying to provide some detail. But he was a true sportsman at the start of the call and sounds determined. While I’m sticking to my prediction that Koscheck will beat him, I am preparing for a lot of “I told you so” e-mails and messages.
- Dana stated on the record that Brandon Vera has a new deal with the UFC. During a followup question he was asked about a possible first opponent and he said it would “probably” be Tim Sylvia. Nothing is official though and Sylvia has to deal with staph infection in addition to his recovery from back surgery. Stay tuned.
- White said that the UFC and Vera never had contract issues and that it was Vera and his old management that had the contract issues. He took a shot at EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw for making comments about Vera last year when there were reports that terms between UFC and Vera were icy.
- When asked about Andrei Arlovski’s status, Dana said “The Pitbull” would be fighting soon and that he didn’t know exactly when or against whom because there are so many matches that are being worked on right now. My thoughts are that if Vera is fighting Sylvia then why not Nogueira vs. Arlovski?
- What would a UFC conference call be without some talk about the HBO deal? Someone jokingly referenced Dana’s comments in the past that a deal with HBO would have been done in time to show a summer event. Dana laughed it off and said something to the effect of, “Well, now it will be signed in time for a winter event.” He still believes it will get done and even so far as went to guarantee it will get done before the year is out. When Dana was asked about why it’s taking so long he said that he’s probably the reason it’s taking so long. A question about what kind of events would be telecast on HBO was brought up. Dana backed off from previous stories that the UK broadcasts would be televised by HBO. While Dana said cards from Europe could possibly be televised on HBO, shows from the States will be telecast as well. He said the HBO cards will pretty much be just like the PPVs.
- Dana said he screwed up by having UFC 70 televised live. He said that UFC fans are used to watching UFC events on Saturday nights and showing the card in the afternoon wasn’t the way to go. As such, don’t expect the cards from Europe to be televised live.
- In regard to Wanderlei Silva, Dana would not confirm that he has signed with the UFC. He did say that he wants to sign Silva but it’s not a done deal and that he doesn’t want to talk about deals that aren’t done yet.
- Fedor was brought up but there wasn’t any new news. Dana once again said that if Fedor was signed he would be able to compete for the UFC heavyweight title right away.
- Dana was asked about if he had any big announcements for the call or for UFC 74 planned. He said there are no big announcements planned unless something crazy happens.
- The dead horse that is known as the steroid issue was brought up (and I’m not blaming anyone for asking about it) and Dana got very animated repeating a lot of the same comments that appeared in Steve Sievert’s recent Houston Chronicle blog. Dana really believes that government testing is pretty stringent and that if the government tested NFL players on gameday the same way fighters are rested before a fight that there would be no more football. He said the existing penalties are harsh and that fighters who use steroids when they already know that there will be consequences are “morons.”
- Randy was asked about why he’s been able to stay successful when other legends like Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock are no longer as efficient as they once were. Randy was uncomfortable with the comparisons but did say that one big difference is that he’s remained active and hasn’t subjected himself to prolonged periods where he was away from fighting.
- Koscheck was complementary towards St. Pierre but also confident. He didn’t really want to get too much into strategy so we’ll have to wait and see what he has planned for UFC 74. He was asked if he believes he can put GSP on his back and Koscheck basically said yes.
- It sounds like no decisions about the lightweight title will be made until after Sean Sherk has his hearing before the California State Athletic Commission in October.
- Dana did not rip the IFL. That’s big news. But I guess he didn’t rip them only because he was never asked.
We will be undergoing some maintenance today so there is a chance we might experience an outage that could last from anywhere between 24-36 hours. I apologize for the potential inconvenience but that’s the price of progress.
If you need to reach me you can do so at: SCaplan8@comcast.net
This was the week I was supposed to finish my column of the “Ten Biggest Overachievers in MMA” as a followup to my “Ten Biggest Underachievers in MMA.” However, I had an urge to speak out about the current status of Fedor Emelianenko and weigh-in with my two cents about where he should fight next and why.
You can read my Op/Ed piece on Fedor by clicking here.
The nightmare is over; Brandon Vera is returning to the UFC and everything is right with the MMA world once again. Well, maybe not completely right until Fedor signs with a major fight promotion and we finally get to see Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva, but Vera’s return to the active fighting scene is a great thing nonetheless.
In case you missed it, the UFC officially announced yesterday that Vera could be fighting again as soon as October. The announcement did not contain any definitive information about what date Vera will be fighting on and who it will be against.
With no mention of an opponent, the wheels began spinning in my head with thoughts of who I’d like Vera to fight in his first match back and also who I think is the most logical opponent for him based on logistics.
I wanted to share my comments with everyone but I want to first state that the analysis listed below is PURE CONJECTURE and is based on no factual evidence or inside information. I’m simply trying to have some fun by speculation so please don’t claim FiveOuncesOfPain.com is reporting anything.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me break down the list of potential candidates for Vera to possibly fight:
- Tim Sylvia - A match between Sylvia and Vera at UFC 77 has been rumored by several sites the past few weeks. I think a match with Sylvia makes a lot of sense because it presents a great storyline considering the two were in line to face each other at UFC 68 this past March. We all know what happened and Randy Couture is now the UFC heavyweight champ and Vera and Sylvia aren’t. If Vera comes out and drops the hammer on Big Tim, then you have the whole plot line that “The Truth” would be the heavyweight champ right now if it weren’t for problems with his manager. Stylistically, I’m lukewarm on the match but from a marketing perspective Sylvia is the best opponent for Vera. However, chances are we won’t see it as Vera’s first fight back because Sylvia is recovering from back surgery and a staph infection. I don’t see how he could be ready in time to fight in October.
- The winner of the Mirko Cro Cop vs. Cheick Kongo match at UFC 75 – Normally I would just bypass any mention of Kongo and just reference Cro Cop but after his loss to Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70, I’m not taking anything for granted. Cro Cop vs. Vera would be a strong co-main event on any UFC card and a match between the two before year’s end is not out of the realm of possibilities. However, I don’t see it happening as Vera’s first fight. UFC 75 isn’t until September 8 and UFC 77 is in October. Cro Cop has made quick turnarounds before while in Pride but I just don’t see him coming back so soon to fight an opponent the caliber of Vera. If Cro Cop defeats Kongo and Vera wins his first match back then perhaps we’d get to see the two face each other on the UFC’s card scheduled for December 29 with the winner becoming the number one contender for the heavyweight title?
- Tito Ortiz or Chuck Liddell - We can’t overlook the possibility of Vera dropping down to light heavyweight. While the UFC’s press release talked about Vera returning to the scene as a heavyweight and made no mention of a possible move to light heavyweight we have to take into consideration that the UFC’s heavyweight division is not only better but bigger than it was when Vera last fought this past November. I think we’ll see Vera drop down in weight at some point but I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. While Ortiz has not officially signed to fight Rashad Evans, it’s expected to happen meaning that all the top light heavyweights in the UFC are booked. That is, unless Wanderlei Silva has officially signed. Hmmm… Nah.
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – I’d love to see it and Nogueira currently is not scheduled for another fight so Big ‘Nog vs. Vera has a legitimate chance of happening in October. From a future planning perspective, I’m not so sure it makes sense. Both fighters haven’t reached their full marketing potential and a loss by either fighter would be a major setback. A match with a lose/win proposition is really a lose/lose for the UFC when there are win/win possibilities out there. Doesn’t that make perfect sense?
- Winner or loser of Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Randy Couture match at UFC 74 – Stylistically a matchup between either Gonzaga or Couture would be great but I don’t think we’ll see Vera vs. either guy for the same reasons why I don’t think we’ll see him face Nogueira in October. Matches with Vera against either of the three are all possible in the future but the timing just isn’t right. Vera needs a win before fighting for the title and coming back in October to fight Vera might be too ambitious for the loser.
- Fabricio Werdum - A lot of people are bitching about Karo Parisyan and Andrei Arlovski (and rightfully so) not having matches lined up but why isn’t anyone championing Werdum’s cause? Is it just me or does it feel like the UFC is punishing both Arlvoski and Werdum for having a crappy match at UFC 70? If the UFC views Werdum as nothing more than a gate keeper at this point and they want to give Vera a layup then maybe this matchup might work? Then again, Werdum is a very dangerous opponent and if he upset Vera then I don’t think the UFC would feel like they could make something good out of a bad situation. If they are going to put Vera in with a dangerous opponent then they should do so against someone who carries more marketing potential.
- Wes Sims - I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. How Joe Lauzon of me?
- Andrei Arlovski – The old Pitbull vs. Vera would be one helluva match that could result in a double knockout. But the old Arlovski has been replaced by some new guy who is trying to be some fancy fighter who fights not to lose as opposed to fighting to win. If there’s anything that can bring back the old Arlovski then perhaps it’s Vera, a man who fights like he was shot out of a cannon. If Arlovski tried to fight a defensive fight against Vera then he’d have to run in circles because Vera would likely push the pace for the entire duration of the fight. If Arlovski doesn’t want to engage then Vera would likely be more than happy to bring the fight to him. Stylistically, this match has a lot of potential and the marketing potential in the short-term and long-term is also strong. Vera vs. Arlovski could sell some tickets and pay-per-views and the winner of the fight would be in a strong position to challenge for the heavyweight title in their next bout.
After a thorough review of the contenders, when you look at all the angles (potential match quality, box office appeal, and future planning) I don’t think there’s a better matchup for Vera than a bout against Arlovski at UFC 77 in October with the winner being granted a shot at the heavyweight title.
According to GracieFighter.com, an announced fight between Jake Shields and Antonio McKee scheduled for October 19 is off:
Despite having resigned from the IFL and having signed with a new organization, Antonio McKee found himself in somewhat of a jam when IFL representatives pointed out that his contract was an exclusive one and that they had no intention of allowing him to fight elsewhere. After legal issues were brought up and the threat of an injunction loomed over McKee’s fight with Shields, it became clear to all parties that this fight would not happen.
There’s a bunch of news pertaining to the radio projects that I’m attached to so I decided to merge all of the info into one post:
- Phone calls to be taken on Inside the Cage - Some of you asked for it and starting a week from this Saturday, you’ll get it! Matt Cava and I have set it up so that you’ll be able to call into “Inside the Cage Radio” starting with our 8/25 show. Because of the configuration of the production studio, we won’t be able to screen the calls. When you call in, your call will be picked up live on the air ala Larry King (“Caller, you’re on the air!”). I will have more information next week.
- Luke Thomas of BloodyElbow.com to be guest contributor on Inside the Cage this week - This week’s edition of “Inside the Cage Radio” will be available Sunday morning as opposed to Saturday evening. Don’t worry, it’ll be worth the wait because Luke Thomas from BloodyElbow.com will be joining Matt Cava and I for our special UFC 74 preview show. Be sure to check out Luke’s recent article as to why he believes my prediction that Josh Koscheck will beat Georges St. Pierre will be proven incorrect by clicking here.
- Fantasy Football Radio is back on ESPN 920 - For those of you in the Philly area, “Fantasy Football Radio” hosted by me and John Floyd will return to the airwaves this Saturday on ESPN 920 at its new time, 9 a.m. ET. If you have any questions about your upcoming draft, feel free to call the show at 866-459-ESPN. We’ll be previewing wide receivers this week going over our top tens, sleepers, and busts. Please help spread the word that Fantasy Football Radio is back!The station hasn’t set up the template so that the show can be streamed online as of yet but when the stream is available, I’ll let everyone know so that people not in the Philly area can listen if they’re interested in. For those of you who can’t listen, I can post my notes up here after the show. The fantasy site I co-owned, XpertSports.com, was sold several months back so as of now, I won’t be writing fantasy football for anyone. If there’s any interest in having some fantasy football content posted here, let me know. And of course, John and I will continue to host “The Saturday Morning Sports Hangover” right after the fantasy football show.
Normally I try to avoid covering pro wrestling on this blog, but when it comes to Brock Lesnar, I’m willing to make an exception.
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, Lesnar could resume wrestling on an active basis.
Kurt Angle is trying to broker a deal for Brock Lesnar to come to TNA. Dixie Carter and Lesnar have already begun talks.
In the months after his successful pro MMA debut at the K-1 USA Dynamite!! show in June, Lesnar has wrestled for Antonio Inoki’s promotion in Japan (the same promotion Josh Barnett has wrestled for), losing some sort of variation of the IWGP title to Angle.
I’m not sure what to make of the report that Lesnar is talking to TNA because it’s kind of surprising considering how much he’s denounced wrestling in the past. There’s also the fact that if K-1 was willing to pay him the same rate that he made fighting for them in June that if would be really hard for TNA to match that.
Hearing the news is kind of disappointing as I’m really excited about Lesnar’s prospects in MMA. My hope is that if he were to sign with TNA that he’d appear for them 4-6 days a month but still make MMA is primary focus.
It would be a dream come true though if Angle was trying to broker the deal to fight Lesnar in an MMA match that would be promoted by TNA. That’s the kind of aggressive business moves they need to make to grow their product, not doing business with a low-life such as Adam “Pacman” Jones.
In an article on MMAWeekly.com, Joey Villasenor is quoted as saying he’s preparing to fight Riki Fukuda on EliteXC’s next card on Sept. 15 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“He’s gonna be tough. We’re just gonna prepare and go at it,” commented Villasenor. “I’ve got five weeks to get ready for the fight. But I’ve been working out [since the Ninja fight in June]. I’ve been training, so the timing isn’t too bad.”
“Bring the Pain” is a new feature on Five Ounces of Pain that will be a regular series featuring profiles and interviews with top fight prospects that are flying under the radar that I believe will be major players on the MMA scene in short order.
Remember back in the day when MTV used to spotlight new bands that they believed were about to break out? Well, my vision for “Bring the Pain” is similar.
My hope is that when you start hearing from these guys on a mainstream level that FiveOuncesOfPain.com and “Bring the Pain” will either be the first place you heard about the fighter or at least a place where you got to learn a lot more.
The first fighter I selected for this new feature is 30-year old heavyweight prospect Jon Murphy. Murphy is a bruiser from Minersville, PA that I initially became familiar with because of his ties to the local fight scene in the New Jersey area. I became aware of Jon while I trained at the MFS-affiliate in Philly when several guys from the school that were fighting on the same cards would come back raving about him.
Jon is unique for the heavyweight division in that he brings more athleticism than your typical heavyweight fighter. But you have to be a good athlete in order to go to Syracuse on a football scholarship as a middle linebacker.
Murphy utilized his outstanding strength, speed, quickness and agility to build a 3-0 record in his first three fights. His third win was especially impressive, as he defeated former UFC fighter Sherman Pendergarst and claimed the Extreme Challenge Northeast Heavyweight Title by recording a TKO at 2:16 of round one during EC 75 in Trenton, NJ this past March.
Soon after the win over Pendergarst, Murphy agreed to participate in a heavyweight tournament at Extreme Challenge 76. It was an eight day turnaround after the Pendergarst win but the promise of a Pride contract for the winner was too much to pass up. He ended up facing current UFC fighter Houston Alexander in the opening round and suffered the first loss of his amateur and pro MMA career following a knockout at 0:56 of round one.
Murphy then suffered his second loss on a King of the Cage card , losing a two round unanimous decision to Chase Gormley in April.
Coming off two consecutive losses, Murphy is poised for a comeback. Bouncing back successfully is nothing he hasn’t done before, as Murphy is ten months clean and sober after seeking treatment for alcoholism late last year.
He’ll look to get back to his winning ways on August 25 against undefeated heavyweight prospect Tony Bonello in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It will mark the first time Murphy has fought on live national television, as the card will be televised on Showtime as EliteXC’s second-ever ShoXC: Elite Challenger Series event.
Following a recent training session in Philadelphia in preparation for Bonello, Murphy took time out to do an interview with me…
Sam Caplan: You went to the University of Syracuse on a football scholarship. Were you there at the same time as Donovan McNabb?
Jon Murphy: Yes I was.
Q: Did you have a chance to get to know McNabb as a person?
JM: I got to know him reasonably well for the short period of time that I was at Syracuse. He’s a real personable guy and was very open, no matter who you were. Right away he was cool. He’s a prankster; he was always smiling. During the time I was there I didn’t notice a time when he wasn’t smiling. He’s a hard worker, a true gentleman, and a class act.
He was Mr. Syracuse when I was up there. Everybody was talking about Donovan McNabb, and not necessarily because of his athletic ability — which was a huge part of it — but just the fact that he’s a good person. He’s a fun person to be around and a very likable guy. From the moment I met him I knew he was a good person to be around.
Q: I know you’re from PA, are you an Eagles fan?
JM: I’m an Eagles fan. The fact that Donovan went there made me more of an Eagles fan. I was a fan during the days of Andre Waters, Randall Cunningham and Reggie White. I’m actually a Chicago Bears fan by heart but Donovan made me more of a fan of the Eagles. So I do follow the Eagles now more than I ever have.
Q: Have you kept in touch with him at all? Does he know what you’re up to these days?
JM: No, I haven’t. I would love to get to meet up again with him some time and just say “what’s up.” Once I left Syracuse that was the last contact I had with him. Would he know me if we met up again? I would venture to say that yeah, he would probably remember me and we’d probably be able to kick it off again and greet each other with a handshake and a smile.
Q: Is it true that you took a break from MMA to do some pro boxing?
JM: Yes, I did. I took a break from MMA and I had an injury a week out before my fight — actually nine days before my first professional fight was supposed to happen. I injured my back and it put me out. I was almost crippled as my back was all contorted and all out of place. I could barely stand up let alone throw a punch. That was back in 2005, my first fight was going to be in September of that year. So I took a little bit of a break and I had fought Golden Gloves prior to that and was 10-1 as an amateur.
I’m a licensed professional boxer in the state of Pennsylvania but I’ve never had a pro fight. I’d still like to box professionally and I’ll probably do so later this year if contractual obligations will allow it.
Q: Your next fight will be for Showtime on Aug. 25 against Tony Bonello in Vicksburg, Miss. Have you signed a contract with Pro Elite?
JM: Yes I have. I’ve signed a contract with Pro Elite/EliteXC.
Q: Is it a multi-fight deal?
JM: Yes, it’s a three fight deal.
Q: Do you have other fights already lined up for after ShoXC?
JM: I’ve had two opponents pull out on me so I don’t know who my opponent is but I’ll be fighting September 14 in Mexico City for Extreme Combat in the Cage, a promotion run by Ed Hsu and another group. First and foremost though I’m looking forward to the fight with Bonello.
Q: My understanding is that you’ve spent some time recently at the Fight Factory in Philly where Eddie Alvarez trains and at the MFS Philly affiliate where guys like Aaron Miesner and Matt Makowski train. Are you looking at changing camps?JM: I’m just looking for extra training right now. I have a great camp with the Anthracite Combat Club. I have a camp where more than just the physical side of training is stressed. I have a lot of friends at Anthracite and guys that I’m close enough to that I consider them brothers. I don’t plan on leaving them but it’s also understood that we’re in an area where heavyweights aren’t that prevalent. We’re a rare breed up there (Minersville, PA) and my trainer understands that I need to go other places.
Q: For the benefit of novice fans out there who might not be familiar with you, can you name a fighter whose style you feel is similar to yours?
JM: I think my style is unique but there are some fighters out there I might be comparable to. Andrei Arlovski comes to mind but I’m not going to play the dance and boxing game. I mean, I do like to box but I’m not going to go in there and dance for three rounds. If I see an opportunity to take the fight to the ground then I’ll try to go to the ground and finish my opponent there. So I feel that there are some similarities as far as the athletic ability and the speed and quickness but I like to think I’m going to push — and I’m not saying that he doesn’t — Andrei is a great fighter but it seems like he’s changed his gameplan the last few fights and his aggressiveness is not there. I would like to say that I’m like Andrei Arlovski with a lot more aggression.
Q: You hold a win over UFC veteran Sherman Pendergarst. Is that your most satisfying win to date?
JM: Actually my most satisfying win — and that was a great win — but my most satisfying win to date is my fight December 9 of last year against Carlos Cline. Carlos basically beat the snot out of me for three rounds on the ground. I had spurts on the feet where I opened up and laid into him. At the time of the fight I had been away at rehab from October 18 to November 20 and I wasn’t going to take the fight because I had gone away to take care of that and the main objective up there was to get myself well. I came out of there (rehab) on a new spiritual level and when I came out of there I felt that the next thing I needed to do was get in the cage and take that fight.
I took that fight maybe on two weeks training and I pulled off a rolling kneebar about mid way through the third round and tapped Carlos out. So that was really a satisfying win because I felt like a changed person and the win was evidence of that. I had changed, and not that I couldn’t have beaten him before but I did it on two weeks training.
Q: During this interview you’ve alluded to some of the substance abuse problems in the past, which you’ve been open about in other interviews. Was there anything instrumental in helping you overcome those hurdles?
JM: First and foremost would be god. I think god works through people and I really believe that the people put around me, my mother and my father, they saw the degradation that was going on in front them. Their son was struggling and chopping himself down, and for what? They saw all this potential with intelligence and athletic ability and I was just wasting it. They pretty much steered me in the right direction.
Making that decision (to get help) is something that you have to do but god surrounded me with good people. They loved me and love can move mountains and I saw that love. But to see the hurt and pain in their eyes that was pretty much all the steering I needed.
Q: Where would you like to be a year from now in MMA?
JM: A year from now in MMA? I’d like to be the EliteXC heavyweight champion. From what I’ve seen this is a top organization and this is an organization I want to fight for. They run a show from what I’ve seen to be very professional and they treat fighters well. I trained with Frank Shamrock at one point and I know him well and I saw him fight Baroni and it seemed like a great organization to fight for.
If you’re interested in sponsoring Jon for his next fight, you can request more information by sending an e-mail to: email@example.com