Posts from — April 2011
UFC 129, the biggest event in UFC history, is just hours away. But for fans in Toronto it’s already started. Fighters, dozens of them, started arriving days ago, making appearances, giving seminars, hanging out. The UFC Fan Expo, the Comic Con of MMA, has further stoked the fire even if the hall it’s being held in looks like a truckload of Affliction shirts exploded in there and the douche-metre is off the scale. A bit of a circus to be sure – long lineups to meet fighters, trashy booty-shorted ring girl wannabes handing out promo cards for protein powders and ladies lube wrestling, Diego “The Dream” Sanchez putting his rep on the line in the Grapplers Quest tournament, and I’m pretty sure I saw BJ Penn’s mom working the BJPenn.com booth selling T-shirts and hoodies.
It’s like the Super Bowl and World Cup and circus have come to town, with Dana White as the PT Barnum ringmaster making it all happen.
Fifty-five thousand. That’s how many fans will pack the Rogers Centre, likely raising its retractable roof an inch or two in the process, especially when Ontario fighters like Mark Hominick, Claude Patrick, Mark Bocek and Sean Pierson enter the octagon. And expect the roof to damn near collapse when Georges St. Pierre shows up. Eight 747 airplanes or 516 African elephants can fit on the field at Rogers Centre and even all of that couldn’t make as much noise as I’m expecting tonight.
Fifty-five thousand. It’s a crazy number, more than double the previous UFC attendance record of 23,152 set at UFC 124 in Montreal. Fifty-five thousand on hand for the biggest card (in terms of fight match-ups) since UFC 100. The co-main events, with welterweight champ GSP facing Jake Shields and featherweight champ Jose Aldo defending against Hominick, comprise the biggest one-two punch in the promotion’s history. And with GSP warning fans not to blink or they might miss the finish of the fight, I expect GSP to demonstrate a killer instinct we haven’t seen from him in a long time. Shields represents his last true challenge at 170 pounds, a multiple title-holder in other promotions with a 15-fight winning streak and GSP wants to end any and all doubt about his supremacy in the division once and for all so he can move onto bigger, ahem Anderson ahem Silva, challenges. Add to that the historic nature of Randy Couture’s last bout (for real this time), and against a Steven Seagal-trained Lyoto Machida no less, and you’ll be gogoplataing yourself for not being there live.
April 30, 2011 No Comments
At yesterday’s UFC 129 open workouts, welterweight charmer Georges St. Pierre decided to have a little fun. He wore a gi, performed a karate kata and then demonstrated some basic self-defense techniques on his disguised trainer, Firas Zahabi. It might’ve worked for some people but it came off a bit goofy, if you ask me.
I understand and respect the traditions of classical martial arts – I trained for years in aikido and a couple other classics before arriving at Muay Thai, Boxing and jiu-jitsu – and I know GSP is a true mixed martial artiste. But katas just come across as silly, especially when performed by one of the best adjust-on-the-fly MMA fighters in the world. The routine makes him seem like such a stiff.
April 29, 2011 No Comments
It’s no joke that a huge part of the UFC’s success is due to Dana White. I’m not talking about his business acumen or his matchmaking skills. I’m talking about his people skills. Not “smooth charmer” skills, but the sense that he’s just like the fans who have turned the UFC into the biggest MMA promotion on the planet and White into a celebrity to rival the most-popular fighter’s. He’s a rock star.
Just look at him giving out free tickets to UFC 129 in Toronto and getting swarmed. Check him out, snapping a 100-dollar-bill off a wad in his pocket so one of his fans can pay the parking ticket she just got while she ran to try and get free tickets. Can you name another head of a major sports organization who’s so down with the people? Is there any corporate head who’s so, well, liked by those who stuff his pockets with rolls of hundreds?
April 29, 2011 1 Comment
I commented on Tim Credeur possessing a funny, insightful all-around-good-guy quality in the interview I posted about him yesterday. Well, last night I had a chance to meet Credeur in person at the Hot Docs premiere of Fightville, the amazing documentary by Mike Tucker that goes inside Credeur’s Louisiana gym, Gladiators Academy. And he was everything he was on the phone and more.
Quite a charmer, that Mr. Credeur, and in the nicest, most-down-to-earth way possible. Just check out the post-screening Q&A for a sense of Credeur’s personality. He’s funny, charming, disarming, and beneath that easy laid back style there’s a grown up edge that says he’s not to be messed with, that fun is fun but sometimes you need to be serious, that he’s lived a little and been through some things and that he works for a living.
If UFC boss Dana White was smart he’d tap into that to help promote the sport. Maybe get Credeur to do some video blogging for the UFC, make some appearances, get out to the media and the public in a less-contained and controlled way than during the promotional requirements prior to a fight.
As for Fightville, it played just as well if not better than the first time I saw it. The story’s just as honest and real and powerfully directed, and it’s just as exciting even if I know how all the fights and ups and downs are going to play out. I’m already looking forward to owning the DVD so I can watch it a few more times. Of course, I’ll be happy to own it after Fightville has a nice theatrical run. It’s playing Hot Docs at least once more, so once the UFC 129 mayhem is over you should definitely check it out.
April 29, 2011 1 Comment
Attended a UFC 129 media shmoozer at Real Sports Bar last night. Ryan Bader, Chuck Liddell, bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz (whom many didn’t appear to recognize), octagon girl Chandella Powell and a few others wandered about, eating oysters and drinking the free booze and chatting with folks, although many seemed more interested in watching the Boston Bruins end the Montreal Canadiens’ season on the wall-sized TV than really carrying on a conversation.
That is to say, it was a low-key evening, a calm before the storm of what has turned into UFC Week. More than 100 UFC fighters are in town for Saturday’s historic UFC 129 and the UFC Fan Expo and countless other meet-and-greets, autograph signings, Q&As, parties and general MMA madness. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like the Toronto International Film Festival in Affliction shirts.
Among the swag handed out at the door on the way out was a copy of the Ultimate Royce Gracie DVD, which I’m looking forward to digging into post-UFC 129. Gracie was also at the event, albeit briefly (like a rock star he was hit-and-run).
And while he says he’s in town to promote the DVD, obviously his desire to compete at August’s UFC in Rio has to play into it, doesn’t it? This is a chance to grab some spotlight, show the UFC brass how big a draw he still is (at age 44). And sure, it would be a promotional boon to have Gracie on the Rio card, but I really don’t want to see him fight, and I definitely don’t want to see him rematch Matt Hughes in a super-fight, as has been hinted (at least by Gracie). There’s no value in watching him get beat and he would get beat.
Then again, what if it was a super-fight between Gracie and say, Renzo Gracie? Or perhaps a no gi grappling exhibition? Not as a main event, obviously, or even as a co-main event, but as some sort of Super Bowl halftime show. I’d tune in for that. Wouldn’t you?
April 28, 2011 No Comments
April 28, 2011 No Comments
For a brief time a couple of years ago I was a fan of Forrest Griffin. A very brief time. It began after I read his first book, Got Fight?: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat. It ended a couple of months later when he Usain Bolted from the octagon after being punched in his pride by Anderson Silva’s fade-away right at UFC 101.
Until Griffin embarrassed himself – not by losing to the best fighter on the planet but by sprinting for the locker room like he’d pissed himself and refusing to comment for months afterward – I thought he had something to say about what it takes to be a fighter, a mixed martial artist and to a lesser degree, what it takes to be a man. Something to say and something worth listening to.
It was redneck Neanderthal wisdom, to be certain, delivered tongue-in-cheek but with the tangible understanding that this guy knows what he’s talking about, at least when it comes to getting in a cage and trying to tear somebody’s head off. He was the original Ultimate Fighter and a former champ, after all, and his opinions were worth noting, and respecting.
Now, I’m getting a similar good sense about Tim Credeur. While he hasn’t fought the battles Griffin has, and he has no plans to write a book (at least not that I’m aware of), this Ultimate Fighter alumnus has something to say about what it means to be a mixed martial artist, a folksy I-can-talk-the-talk-precisely-because-I-walk-the-walk insight that’s grounded in a hardscrabble for-the-love-of-the-gameness and an underlying respect for the martial arts.
Credeur, who makes his return to the octagon at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 13 in June after nearly two years away from the cage due to a brain abnormality, is the subject of the documentary Fightville, which I effused about a couple of weeks ago. Fightville has its Hot Docs premiere in Toronto on Thursday and it’s a must-see for MMA fans.
April 28, 2011 1 Comment
You can’t swing a proverbial dead cat without smacking a UFC fighter in Toronto this week. Dozens of them – including all seven current division champs – are in town for the MMApalooza leading up to UFC 129 on Saturday.
Of course, most of them will be hanging out at the UFC Fan Expo on Friday and Saturday, but they’ll also be making countless public appearances at pubs, pizza joints and health food stores in and around the GTA. Just look for the small swarms of Affliction-clad fight fans. They’ll be everywhere.
For example, Frank Mir will be signing autographs at a Mac’s convenience store (which is the equivalent of a 7/11) on Thursday while Phil Davis, who replaces the injured light heavyweight champ Jon Jones against Rashad Evans at UFC 133, will be at a Game Stop video game store on Saturday. I’m pretty sure you can nab a UFC undercarder for a birthday party or bar mitzvah or maybe even get a couple of them to help you move as long as you throw in the pizza and beer.
April 26, 2011 No Comments
Mark Hominick is the biggest underdog on Saturday’s UFC 129 card. Even Jake Shields has a better chance against welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre than Hominick has against the 145-pound monster that is Jose Aldo. Still, it would be amazing to see him pull a Matt Serra and upset Aldo for the featherweight crown.
Hominick’s a good guy and – something I don’t get into in this UFC preview piece for Toro Magazine – his wife is expecting their first child, a girl, a few days after the big fight. How insane it must be to try and focus on the biggest fight of your career when you’re constantly on high alert, checking texts and voicemails and waiting, waiting, waiting, fucking waiting for the call that sends you to the hospital. Just crazy.
April 26, 2011 No Comments
If this is all Chuck Liddell does in his new role as a UFC executive – and really, what else is he qualified to do? – then I will be mildly amused. It’s good to see that Liddell has a sense of humour about himself.
April 26, 2011 No Comments