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Exclusive Interview: UFC and YAMMA Founder Bob Meyrowitz

(Artist’s rendering of what the YAMMA pit will look like.)

Bob Meyrowitz is the former CEO of and Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG), the company that launched and ran the UFC until 2001. Many blame Meyrowitz for the near-demise of the UFC before Dana White and the Fertittas took over and built the organization to its current level of success. It was recently announced that Meyrowitz has started up a new MMA organization, YAMMA Pit Fighting. When we got word that Meyrowitz was once again throwing his hat into the MMA ring, we had to know more and gave him a call. Although there’s a lot he’s still not leaking to anyone, we got him to open up about what YAMMA’s mysterious new surface is not, and some of his plans for the new fight club.

CagePotato: What made you want to jump back into the MMA business after your troubles with the UFC?
Bob Meyrowitz: I’d been out of the business for about five or six years, but I had this thought for a new surface — which I don’t want to overplay — but it was about getting people excited and talking about it. Really the surface is what started everything.

What can you tell us about this mysterious surface?
(laughs) Trust me on this, it’s not that mysterious. I’ve read some of the blogs. There are no hydraulics or sharks involved.

Do you feel your PPV and publicity contacts give you a head start in getting YAMMA off the ground?
Well, I think my pay-per-view knowledge is certainly going to be helpful. But I really look at my [MMA] knowledge…my overall knowledge of how you promote, how you entertain, how you make a star.

Given the choice, would you sign a fighter with a lot of hype behind them, like Brock Lesnar or Kimbo Slice, or a proven fighter who may not have much of a TV personality?
What I have always looked for is the best possible athlete. They take care of themselves. Is Brock Lesnar the best possible athlete? I really don’t know.

How many pay-per-view events do you currently have set up?
We have two right now.

Was the tournament model something you had in mind from the beginning?
Yes. We’ll also have open-weight bouts.

Will you be holding events all over the country?
We’ll be holding them all over the world. One of the great parts is that it has become so international…like it always was.

The “Masters Superfights” intrigued us, but you’d need some marquee fighters in order to qualify as a “Superfight”. Can you hint at any fighters you’re trying to get or who you’d like to go after?
We are really staying away from naming the names. We’re going to wait maybe a week or two before giving those out. What we’re trying to do, is try to make them fight on an equal playing field, rather than have a great star of the past come back to fight a contemporary champion — which really isn’t fair to either fighter, in my own opinion — to have two people from the same era fighting each other, you get to really see their skills. And you’re really setting up — what I think — is a fair fight.

Any new wrinkles planned for the broadcasts, such as the commentators or camera placement?
We are working on one thing with camera placement, and that really has to do with the new fighting area. And we’re trying to see if we can get that to work. I think the new fighting surface will make it a little better, and I think once everyone sees it, everyone will get the idea.

You’ve ben accused in the past of being gimmicky with the UFC. Are you taking measures to make sure these new wrinkles won’t be perceived as just more gimmicks?
I’m happy to let anyone judge for themselves, but they are not gimmicks.

Do you still see the sport as “pit fighting,” even though the rules have changed over the years to the point where MMA is repectably safe for the fighters?
I see it kind of like boxing. It is a sport. This is what some people call it. And I think when you see our fighting surface, it’ll all make sense.

Do you have any interaction with Dana White or the guys from the UFC these days?

Will another organization in the sport hurt the business of another outfit, like EliteXC or the UFC?
I think the sport is in it’s infancy. I think there is tremendous opportunity for growth and there are a tremendous amount of athletes.

What fighter would you least like to step into the cage with?
(laughs) Start with A and end with Z! I would tend to think a striker. I don’t think there is a nice way you can lose to Tank Abbott.

Cagepotato Comments

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Mike Johnson- February 18, 2008 at 1:33 am
It will all make sense????
PaperJam- February 4, 2008 at 2:29 pm
So what are we dismissing the YAMMA before it even starts?!
whitey- February 4, 2008 at 7:28 am
Okay, here's the obvious question. Does anybody remember the game Pit Fighter that paved the way for mortal kombat?
Black03Marauder- February 4, 2008 at 1:57 am
I think James is onto something. Bob Meyrowitz's constant mentioning of the term "pit fighting" maybe a reference to the pit in Mortal Kombat. YAMMA might be pretty good then if they book a four-armed Tim Sylvia, a Chiek Congo with metal arms, Chuck Liddell with a Kano-esque metal eye, and an announcer that yells EXCELLENT and FINISH HIM at appropriate times.
James- February 3, 2008 at 6:46 pm
They should have multiple fighting surfaces, as well as multiple ring styles....just like in Mortal Kombat...