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21 Humans Who Make Being Human Look Really, Really Hard

February, 2008

FIGHT! Magazine Exclusive: ‘Smoker’

DinT

When Din Thomas was arrested for holding unlicensed amateur MMA matches in his gym, the world of the “smoker” was dragged out from the shadows. Though these unsanctioned fights are rarely policed, they’re generally illegal, which highlights a little-discussed challenge of being a mixed martial artist — how can you gain enough experience to turn pro if it’s impossible to compete as an amateur?

FIGHT! Magazine’s March issue hits newsstands today (pick it up at Borders, Barnes and Noble, or Walden Books), and it features an in-depth article on the history and legal status of smokers, and what’s being done to regulate amateur bouts. Check it out below, and let us know how you feel. Are you an amateur fighter struggling to find matches in your home state to build up experience? What special rules (if any) should be in place to protect fighters in amateur bouts? Should amateur fighters just man up, jump into the fire, and stop bitching about gaining experience before putting their records on the line? (Equally valid point-of-view, by the way.)

SMOKER
By Neal Taflinger

Someone broke the first rule of fight club, and Din Thomas wound up in jail. On October 31, 2007, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, police arrested Thomas, a 31-year-old Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran, for holding illegal cage fights in his St. Lucie West training center.

Two weeks earlier, police received an anonymous tip about a so-called fight club being held on October 19 at Thomas’ American Top Team gym. Police attended the event, a smoker featuring eight of Thomas’ students, fighting in front of friends and family. The officers filed a report stating that Thomas charged approximately 150 spectators $10 each for entry to the unsanctioned amateur event, and had no medical staff on hand.

Thomas’ arrest brought widespread attention to smokers – combat sports’ not-so-dirty, not-so-little, not-so-secret dirty little secret. Unfamiliar to many casual fans, smokers are a long-standing tradition in boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and mixed martial arts. These unsanctioned, often illegal fights are organized in gyms or private clubs to give young fighters experience in front of a crowd. Most smokers are held without incident, and often feature police officers as spectators or participants.

Professional prize fighting was illegal in many municipalities in the early to mid 20th century. Loopholes allowed for sparring between members of private clubs for exercise and entertainment, so promoters skirted the law by holding bouts in Eagle and Elk lodges, Knights of Columbus halls, and American Legion posts. Fighters and spectators simply joined the club and bought a ticket; authorities mostly looked the other way. These fights became known for the noxious cloud of tobacco smoke hanging over the crowd.

When Asian martial arts became popular in America after World War II, full-contact karate competitors continued the smoker tradition of their knuckle-bustin’ forebears. Over time, state lawmakers became comfortable with kickboxing, but the brutal elbows and knees of Muay Thai were considered beyond the pale. Until the sport was sanctioned, “guys did gym shows under the radar,” says famed kickboxer and trainer Jeff “Duke” Roufus.

States were hesitant to sanction no-holds-barred bouts in the early to mid-1990s, so cage fighters retreated to gyms, warehouses, pole barns, and discreet nightclubs to compete. Even now that the sport has established rigorous safety guidelines and unified rules, states are slow to legitimize it.

According to UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner, 32 states regulate professional MMA and more are coming on board. But the sport is still illegal in some states and unregulated in others. Amateur matches are illegal in many more states, including some that allow pro bouts like California and Florida. These states host as many or more pro fights each year than Nevada does, but offer no structured opportunities to homegrown fighters looking for experience before taking on pro competition.

While Thomas says smokers are common in Florida, he never competed in them before turning pro, opting instead to compete in Japanese-style shoot fights. He believes that experience is essential and wants his own fighters to be tested in serious competition before jumping on pro cards. Thomas feels that the booming popularity of the sport has resulted in Florida’s professional undercards being filled with amateur quality fighters. “Guys who have no business fighting are ruining themselves early,” says Thomas, “They think they are ready to fight and they ain’t.”

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Greatest MMA Highlight Video of All Time

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President’s Day Special: Jardine/Silva Rumors, Liddell Talks Shogun & Gina’s Next Fight

Someone just mentioned it’s President’s Day – which is cool, I guess. So in honor of the day, here’s some news.

The Dayton Daily News is confirming what we all suspected: That a light heavy fight between Keith Jardine and Wanderlei Silva at UFC 82 will not be happening. The show is set for March 1st in Columbus, Ohio. The rumors for this match were given more fuel when ads for UFC 82 shown on Versus during WEC 32 straight-up promised that Jardine was going to be there. An editing snafu is being blamed, but the fight could happen this year. The DDN is saying a source close to Jardine has confirmed the fight is in the works and could go down this summer – MMA Junkie is saying UFC 84 could be the card for this fight.

— Chuck Liddell believes he’ll smoke Mauricio “Shogun” Rua during their fight on June 7th. And “The Iceman” also believes he should be fighting Rampage for the title…like NOW. Chuck had this to say to Brawl Sports:

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Lesnar Earns His Keep: 600,000 Buys Estimated for UFC 81

BL

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported today that the preliminary estimate of pay-per-view buys for UFC 81 was a big, girthy 600,000. As Meltzer wrote:

That show was not going to do more than 325,000 buys with the Tim Sylvia vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira match and a semifinal of Nathan Marquardt v. Jeremy Horn. In fact, that would be an optimistic expectation. So if this holds up, Lesnar was worth $12.36 million in overall revenue.

Adam Swift of MMAPayout explains that the figure may put UFC 81 among the all-time top-five UFC shows in terms of gross buys, and thanks to the $45 price tag, #3 in revenue after Ortiz/Liddell and Ortiz/Shamrock III. As Swift points out, the final number is usually significantly higher than the early estimates.

Swift also calls into question the sustainability of Lesnar’s drawing power, and the show’s success in taking wrestling fans who were first-time UFC buyers and converting them into regular fans. We’re of the opinion that Lesnar’s wrestling fans will keep paying for UFC events whenever he’s on the card — and only those events — meaning that Lesnar’s appearances will continue to translate to a spike in UFC PPV buys, but not an overall bump of the average buyrate. But hey, we don’t need those yokels anyway.

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‘Iceman’ Caption Contest: Final Conflict Absolute

So far, we’ve given away nine autographed copies of Chuck Liddell’s Iceman: My Fighting Life, and we’re going to put this thing to bed with one last caption contest. And here’s a curveball — Chuck’s not even in the pic this time. But I just came across this breathtaking photo of Josh Koscheck and GSP dressed to the nines and walking their dog, and the CagePotato reader who can provide the best caption in the comments section gets the last book. There will be no multiple winners this time, so bring your A-game, and feel free to enter more than once. The winner will be announced Friday, as is the custom.

KosGSP
(Photo props: Maxim)

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Kimbo Slice *Is* the ‘Cloverfield’ Monster!

Kimbo vs. Tank referee-cam video, courtesy of Sho.com

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Xyience: The Crime Series


(The Fertittas: “Convicted criminals are people, too.”)

Props to BloodyElbow for spotting this Xyience piece recently posted by MMA Memories. We’ve been detailing the shitstorm created by UFC mega-sponsor Xyience when they filed for Chapter 11 a while back, including the Fertittas lawsuit against blogger/reporter Rich Bergeron for his “findings” and allegations against them – which basically means they’re worried. The aforementioned article throws some more light on the background of Xyience and founder Russell Pike – who you’ll recall was recently accused of death threats against the company’s managers and board members – thickening the Fertittas shady pot of shit.

Some of the backstory:

Russell Pike, who founded Xyience and oversaw its involvement with the UFC for some time, is a convicted felon, having pleaded guilty to grand theft and forgery in California in 1987 and of money laundering in 1999. Not only that, according to a “Desist and Refrain Order” filed by the California Department of Corporations in September of last year, pursuant to the sale of Xyience stock, Pike suffered a default judgment in a civil action filed against him by The Mirage, a hotel-casino licensed by the Nevada State Gaming Commission, when he allegedly wrote them $300,000 in bad checks over a two-day period in 1995.

And that is very interesting indeed, especially in light of the Fertittas’ recent lawsuit filing against Dream Stage Entertainment, the former owners of PRIDE, which the UFC purchased last year. In the complaint, the Fertittas allege that the rumored involvement of some of Dream Stage’s people with elements of the Japanese Yakuza “could have a detrimental effect upon the Purchasing Parties’ (the Fertittas’) affiliates’ gaming licenses (for the uninitiated, the Fertitta family controls Station Casinos Inc, which has about 17 properties in the United States).”

The obvious contradictions follow the pattern of stupidity exhibited now on an almost daily basis by the UFC’s execs. It’s been laced with “cloak-n-dagger” elements from the beginning, but this information makes it almost laughable. Bringing Pike and his prison-stripped ass into direct involvement with promotions is just asking for shit to rain down on you. The MMA Memories post suggests the gaming commission probe the many findings and ask the questions that must be answered by the Fertittas surrounding this whole mess. We tend to agree – but as much as we want the UFC bullshit to stop, this is also some serious illegal activity that could damage MMA promotions – which then filters down to the fans. I blame “The Man” and his stop-at-nothing greed.

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Fights of the Day: Edwards/Berto, Rogers/Thompson @ ‘Street Certified’

Yves Edwards knocks out Edson Berto via one-legged hopping-knee with four seconds left in round one:

James Thompson adds to another fighter’s highlight reel with his predictable knockout loss to Brett Rogers:

Bonus: Kimbo Slice and Bas Rutten give their thoughts on the Tank fight and what might be next:

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‘Charles’ Calls It Closest; Kimbo’s Next Opponent?

KT
(Shocking.)

Four wild knockouts to one dull decision — not a bad ratio for Saturday’s EliteXC card. About 80 of you threw in predictions for how the “Street Certified” main event would turn out, and we’re pleased to announce a winner. On 2/15, at 2:37 pm, commenter “charles” said:

kimbo TKO in 42 sec

Sure, it was actually a KO, but the fight was called at 43 seconds, and that’s pretty damn close. So Charles, if you’re reading this, e-mail feedback@cagepotato.com with your address and we’ll send you a copy of Iceman: My Fighting Life, signed by Chuck Liddell himself. We’d also like to give special recognition to commenter “skeet,” who said “kimbo :37 tko kimbo will have him on the ground face down.” Psychic much?!?

Next order of business: Can we all agree that it’s time for Kimbo to face someone as good as he is? Not an old boxer, not a food-poisoned pussy, not a one-dimensional brawler 12 years past his prime, but a legitimate heavyweight with some talent? If there’s one thing that EliteXC proved on Saturday, it’s that its heavyweight division is at least as deep as the UFC’s — I know, not saying much — especially when you factor in Pro Elite sub-promotions like Cage Rage. I’m willing to accept that Antonio Silva had an off night (due to a possible pre-fight injury) and that he’s still a couple steps ahead of Kimbo as far as ability, but I would love to see how Kimbo would do against Ricco “Bacon Double-Cheeseburger” Rodriguez. Undefeated Brett Rogers, who knocked out James Thompson on Saturday, seems like he’d be the perfect guy for Kimbo to face if he wants to demand a little more respect. And at the end of the “Street Certified” broadcast, Mauro Ranallo and Stephen Quadros suggested that Kimbo could take on the winner of the Ken Shamrock/Robert “Buzz” Berry match at Cage Rage next month. Berry would be a great option — especially since he’s already called out Kimbo — but putting Kimbo against Shamrock’s legendary submission expertise (and willingness to take a beating) in just his fourth MMA bout might be asking too much.

Here’s what I’m afraid EliteXC might actually do: 1) Put Kimbo up against James Thompson so their franchise star can rack up at least one more guaranteed knockout before they start challenging him, or 2) Track down Sean Gannon so they can settle their grudge. As much as Kimbo might want to avenge his only loss as an “amateur,” the match-up just wouldn’t be competitive anymore, and wouldn’t do anything to prove that Kimbo should be taken seriously now.

One more thing: We went a perfect five-for-five in predicting the winners of “Street Certified”‘s main card, and called three of them perfectly (winner/round/method). Damn it feels good to be right once in a while…

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Weekend Bits: Anderson Silva, Ortiz/Machida, Liddell/Rua, & More


(Would he also dominate at light heavyweight?)

MMA News posted some quotes from Ed Suarez, the handler of superstar middleweight Anderson Silva and the UFC’s Interim Heavyweight Champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The statements were made on “The Lights Out Show”, broadcast by TAGG Radio. Suarez had this to say about Anderson Silva:

“We would consider going up in weight…I don’t think there’s a middleweight in the world that could beat him…You’d have a hard time having a light heavyweight in the world that could beat him.”

And about his heavyweight, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria, possibly fighting Fedor again:

“He (Fedor) hasn’t fought any top opponents over the past couple years…we would love to fight Fedor.”

[Note to Suarez: See Randy Couture's attempts to fight Fedor while contracted by the UFC.]

—Even more quotes were dropped recently, and if Renato “Babalu” Sobral is to be believed Tito Ortiz and Lyoto Machida won’t be battling afterall. The controversial fighter had this to say to Punch Drunk Gamer:

“I heard that Tito is not going to fight him anymore, so they are going to have to find another opponent for Machida. I got the news a couple of days ago that he was fighting someone else. I don’t know about Tito man……he is a celebrity. He makes a lot of money outside of fighting so I don’t know if he really wants to fight.”

—Chuck Liddell has confirmed he is officially signed to fight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on June 7th. Although the event details have not been officially announced by Dana & Co., the Iceman has pinpointed the date. The fight is expected to be the main event.

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