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Tag: Brian D’Souza

Is Rousey vs. Carano a Circus Fight or a Money Fight?


(It’s the “Betty and Veronica” matchup that fight-fans have wanted for centuries.)

By Brian J. D’Souza

What Henry Ford did for the automobile, Ronda Rousey has done for women’s MMA (WMMA), popularizing the sport for mass audiences. Furthermore, Rousey was ranked #29 on the Maxim Hot 100—something Henry Ford never achieved. And Rousey’s stock may be on the upswing with a superfight on the horizon against Gina Carano.

UFC president Dana White continues to affirm that the UFC is negotiating for the services of the original “face of women’s MMA,” Strikeforce and EliteXC veteran Gina Carano:

“[Carano’s] lawyers and our lawyers are talking. It’s moving along. It should [happen],” White said at a UFC 174 pre-fight media scrum.

Between 2006 to 2009, Carano racked up a 7-1 record in MMA, losing only to Cristiane Justino (formerly known as Cris Cyborg). Former Strikeforce featherweight champion Justino poses a much more credible threat to Rousey than Carano ever will. However, it’s Carano’s appeal as a pin-up girl rather than her acumen as a fighter that has the UFC scrambling to reach a deal with Gina Carano’s lawyers.

As Dana White tells it, Carano’s representation is playing hardball. “This guy is a Hollywood lawyer and these guys are always a pain in the ass to deal with,” White said. “The shit that he calls back and says everyday is literally comical.”

Even though Carano is coming off a loss and has been inactive for five years, if a deal with the UFC is reached, she’ll be expected to challenge for the bantamweight strap in her very first UFC fight. That might seem counterintuitive, but Carano is perishable goods likely to have her value spoiled by a loss to a lesser-known fighter.

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Monday Memento: “Hitman” Dan Diaz Lawsuit Against Tapout Going to Trial


(Diaz hanging with the Tapout crew, before it all fell apart. Photo via Dan Diaz/OC Weekly)

By Brian J. D’Souza

Tapout is one of the most prominent apparel brands in MMA, worn mainly by the sport’s in-crowd consisting of loyal, uber-cool and educated fans, many of whom who have either trained or competed in martial arts themselves.

In 2012, news broke of a major scandal involving the Tapout brand and Hitman Gear founder Dan Diaz. Diaz had sold Hitman to Tapout in 2007 in exchange for 1.25 million shares in the new company, a five-year employment contract and the promise of radical expansion of the Hitman brand.

What Diaz ended up getting was a raw deal, with Hitman being sold for zero dollars when Tapout was sold to Authentic Brands Group (ABG) in September 2010, thus making his shares worthless. His employment contract was also terminated with the sale to ABG, leaving him high and dry.

Rather than settling for chump change, Diaz opted to take his case to the courts. He’s not just suing for damages—Diaz wants the moral victory of exposing the corruption that robbed him of the personal pride he put into his company.

The trial between Dan Diaz and Tapout/Authentic Brands Group has been set for July 7 of this year. Beyond the damages Diaz is seeking, there are allegations that many MMA fighters who licensed their names for Tapout signature shirts like Chuck Liddell, Kenny Florian and Keith Jardine, have been defrauded of royalties.

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Searching for the “Real” Ronda Rousey


(TUF has made the public hate Ronda Rousey. But she is who she is. / Photo via Getty)

By Brian J. D’Souza

Being a woman in combat sports presents unique challenges when it comes to audience perception. For Ronda Rousey, the fairy tale-esque origin story of her being an American Olympian with tragedy in her childhood catapulted her into the spotlight as a mainstream media darling. But as quickly as she was built up as the newest UFC star, her coaching position on The Ultimate Fighter has torn her down from the pedestal of adulation.

This all raises the question — who is the real Ronda Rousey? Is she a spoiled brat who overruns boundaries because she feels entitled to preferential treatment? Or was she manipulated into losing her cool on the Ultimate Fighter set, with the results being slickly edited to paint her in the worst light possible?

CagePotato’s Elias Cepeda attributed Ronda’s athletic success to her crazy attitude, writing “Ronda Rousey hasn’t met anyone meaner or madder and that’s a big reason why she’s the champ.” However, the truth can’t be so simple when nice guys like Lennox Lewis and Georges St-Pierre have utterly dominated their competition throughout their respective eras.

Doing media in the lead-up to her rematch with Miesha Tate at UFC 168, Rousey was in fine form recently, riffing lines to FightHubTV that could be penned by whoever writes Chael Sonnen’s politically incorrect jokes.

How long ago was it that Kim Kardashian had dicks in her mouth and now she’s selling my little sister shoes?” she said at one point, trotting out some old material to the delight of the reporters in the room.

Talking to AnnMaria De Mars, Ronda’s mother, I thought I’d uncover some hidden clues to unlocking or understanding Ronda’s personality. The idiom of the apple not falling far from the tree has been used to compare the 1984 world judo champion to her daughter who placed second at the 2007 world championships and earned a bronze at the 2008 Olympic games.

“People are sometimes offended by Ronda because she does not fit how they think she should act,” wrote AnnMaria on her blog about Ronda’s stint on TUF. “At Ronda’s age, given the same degree of provocation, I would have punched out a few people, hit someone with a chair, told everyone to fuck off and walked out.”

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With GSP’s Future in Question, Jon Jones Has Inherited the UFC Throne


(Highlights from Jon Jones’s Q&A at the Gentlemen’s Expo in Toronto. Subscribe to CagePotato’s YouTube channel right here.)

By Brian J. D’Souza

“Will he?” “Won’t he?” The talk since UFC 167 has been centered around the potential retirement of UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. GSP’s face showed superficial damage following his split-decision win against Johny Hendricks, but more seriously, he absorbed the kind of blows that rattle the brain around the skull with life-altering consequences.

Even if St-Pierre returns to the octagon, the twin realities of declining motivation and the onset of age could see his legacy tarnished the same way Roy Jones Jr. forever damaged his reputation by continuing to box after appearing diminished in beating Antonio Tarver by majority decision in 2003.

Major pay-per-view draws like GSP and Anderson Silva simply cannot fight forever. When they try to continue past their prime, as BJ Penn insists on doing, it can hurt their drawing power. The UFC relies on stars who can captivate audience interest and raise the stakes, and right now the safe money for a dominant champ to rejuvenate the UFC’s fortunes is on light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones.

Jones was recently in Toronto last weekend to speak at The Gentleman’s Expo, where he was interviewed by Sportsnet’s Joe Ferraro. Jones made headlines by continuing to insist he wanted to face UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, saying “I think that’s going to happen in the next two years, I’ll go up to heavyweight permanently…I’ve been really thinking about me and Cain Velasquez going at it, and I think it’d be huge for the sport.”

In terms of public relations, Jones has been walking a tightrope, dealing with hyper-critical fans and the venomous Zuffa brass over various incidents ranging from speaking gaffes to the cancellation of UFC 151 to incurring a DUI while wrapping his Bentley around a telephone pole. The bottom line for Zuffa is simple — Jones is an asset for consistently bringing in solid pay-per-view numbers, but he needs to play the game and allow Zuffa to dictate the strategy.

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Confusing the Enemy: What MMA Needs to Learn From the Precedent of Boxing


(“So if you win, your salary doubles from $22,000 to $44,000? And if it’s the best fight on the card, they give you a $50,000 bonus? Wow. That’s adorable, man.”)

By Brian J. D’Souza

Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s record $41.5 million guarantee for facing Canelo Alvarez in September elicited a series of reactions from the MMA community. Some fighters like Tito Ortiz made ridiculous comparisons (“What am I doing different from [Floyd Mayweather Jr.]?”). Others, like current UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones knew it was more politically expedient to downplay any direct comparison between revenues in boxing and MMA (“Boxing has been around over 100 years…The foundation is set and the money is there. MMA is so new.”). But the question looms large — why is it that boxing can boast stratospheric paydays whereas MMA’s purses are deliberately obscured from public knowledge?

We could talk about the structure of modern boxing where there is competition between promoters (Bob Arum, Golden Boy, etc.) and TV networks (HBO, Showtime, etc.), which drives boxing purses up. Or we could focus on the formula for self-promoting fights that Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. derived tremendous benefit from. The fact remains that with its limited 20-year history, MMA has much more in common with the monopolistic and mafia-controlled boxing of the 1950s and ‘60s than it does with modern boxing.

What the industry tends to ignore is that the passage of time is not what leads to progress. It was five years ago in 2008 that Jon Fitch was tossed overboard by the UFC for refusing to sign away his likeness rights away in perpetuity. While managers and fighters could have drawn a line in the sand, squared up with Zuffa and said “You’ve taken enough from us,” their response to the likeness rights situation was completely muted.

“That wasn’t a battle we chose to fight. All of our guys agreed,” said American Top Team president Dan Lambert.

Thus, the precedent was set. MMA managers acting out of fear negotiated with the UFC by giving up something in exchange for nothing.

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Shill ‘Em All, Part 2: The MMA Media’s Race to the Bottom


(The Baldfather advertises yet another media outlet that won’t be lobbing any critical coverage his way. / Photo via Getty)

By Brian J. D’Souza

Ideally, the relationship between professional sports organizations like the UFC and media members should be about interdependence, where both parties rely equally upon each other. In practice, many MMA media members and outlets often exist as the clingy, powerless co-dependent partners that put the needs of the UFC before the need for factual and accurate sports journalism.

Last week, a Twitter war-of-words erupted between Yahoo! Sports reporter Kevin Iole and UFC president Dana White over whether the UFC was hiding TRT-user Vitor Belfort in Brazil to avoid the scrutiny of an American athletic commission.


(Screencap via Reddit_MMA)

It’s understandable why White feels threatened by media scrutiny; Iole certainly hasn’t pulled any punches regarding the lack of consequences for using performance enhancers in boxing and MMA. While the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball could survive for 211 games without Alex Rodriguez (or the other disgraced players) in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal, the already watered-down cards promoted by the UFC would lose even more star power if known TRT-users (Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir — and counting) were culled from the promotion.

MMA fans on MixedMartialArts.com’s UG forum observed that Kevin Iole could be denied media credentials for his failure to toe the UFC’s company line. This is not an empty threat, as many different outlets and individuals including ESPN.com’s Josh Gross, SI.com’s Loretta Hunt, CagePotato.com and Deadspin.com are all barred from press row at UFC events.

(click screen-caps to enlarge)


The public needs to grasp the reality that being an MMA reporter isn’t just about having a nice buffet and a comped ticket at a fight card. It’s about access to prominent fighters, coaches, managers and promoters to get the inside scoop and flesh out stories not reported elsewhere. When newly-crowned UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, Josh Gross was denied an opportunity to interview Weidman. Banned media members may also miss out on a PR mailing list where media outlets learn about breaking UFC news, conference calls that allow media to ask questions to the headliners of major pay-per-view shows, and other events that media can be invited to.

The fear of losing those perks remains a potent sanction by the UFC in ensuring media compliance. I reference Exhibit A: an e-mail written by Bleacher Report staffer Jeremy Botter (leaked by Deadspin.com) that outlined several ways for MMA writers to avoid conflict with the UFC, including the following points:

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CagePotato Interview: Cris Cyborg Discusses Invicta FC 6 Title Fight Against Marloes Coenen, Her Relationship With Tito Ortiz, And Why She Isn’t in the UFC


(Video via YouTube.com/CagePotato)

Fresh off her one-round devastation of Fiona Muxlow at Invicta FC 5 in April, former Strikeforce champion Cristiane “Cris Cyborg” Justino Venancio will return to the cage against Marloes Coenen at Invicta FC 6 on July 13th, in a bout that will determine the first Invicta featherweight champion.

CagePotato.com reporter Brian J. D’Souza caught up to Cyborg at The Gym @ 99 Sudbury in Toronto, where they discussed her journey from handball player to dominant mixed martial artist, the contract terms that kept her from signing with the UFC, and her upcoming rematch with Coenen. Plus, Cyborg spoke out about her current relationships with her manager Tito Ortiz and her ex-husband Evangelista Santos, and the differences between sparring with men and women.

Subscribe to CagePotato on YouTube, and please visit BrianDSouza.com for more of Brian’s hard-hitting MMA reporting.

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Interview: Chris Weidman Discusses How He’ll Beat Anderson Silva at UFC 162, His MMA Origins, And His Contract Status


(via YouTube.com/CagePotato)

On July 6th, top-ranked UFC middleweight contender Chris Weidman will return from a year-long layoff to challenge Anderson Silva, considered by many to be the greatest mixed martial artist who’s ever lived. It goes without saying that the UFC 162 main event is the greatest test of Weidman’s career — and one that would make most middleweights more than a little nervous — but the Long Island-bred “All-American” isn’t the least bit intimidated. And he knows exactly how he’s going to steal the belt that Anderson’s held for six-and-a-half years.

CagePotato reporter Brian J. D’Souza caught up with Weidman recently at Grants MMA Gym in Toronto, and got his take on a number of interesting subjects, including his gameplan for the Spider, the rib injury that spurred his foray into MMA, his surprising contract status with the UFC, and more. Some highlights:

Why he hasn’t signed a new contract with the UFC yet: “I’m not looking to negotiate an extra couple grand right before a title fight. My goal is to be champion, and I know that’s where you get the real money. That’s where you get the ‘Anderson Silva money,’ so that’s what I’m looking to get.”

How he’ll beat Silva: “I think the biggest thing is once you get him down, to stay relaxed and not to be so tense. I think I have a pretty smooth, aggressive game, and I’m pretty relentless with my cardio, and that’s one of my things that I have most pride in. So, I feel like I’m going to have the cardio to where he’s going to break before I break. I’m going to be all over him.”

Anderson’s mind games: “One of Anderson’s Silva’s best traits in MMA is that he gets inside people’s heads. Before they even step in the cage, he has a certain mystique about him that intimidates people. He earned that over the years. But even when they get in the cage with him, he makes sure to make them feel as if he’s on a whole ‘nother level. And then he waits for them to believe him in that, and he freakin’ mentally and physically breaks them…I’m just going to be confident. I’m not going to be worried about what he’s doing, I’m worried about what I’m doing.”

Please subscribe to CagePotato’s YouTube channel, and visit BrianDSouza.com for more of Brian’s MMA coverage.

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The Way of Avoiding the Fight: Four Things You Won’t Find in GSP’s New Book

By: Brian J. D’Souza

Georges St-Pierre’s new book The Way of the Fight is a smashing success as a representation of all of St-Pierre’s ideals, both as a fighter and as a human being. Meshing the genres of biography, philosophy, and self-help, the resulting story yields an enjoyable read that is greater than the sum of its parts. Even more remarkable — the book is devoid of any trace of a bitter or vindictive tone that could taint what is essentially a book about one man overcoming adversity at every turn.

Still, this book is not a comprehensive biography of St-Pierre. As Jacob McArthur Mooney of The National Post notes, “The Way of the Fight is an account of the GSP brand…and the book’s occasional head-feints to the ‘real Georges’ are never more than teases.”

There are critical reasons why any UFC fighter should tread carefully when publishing a book. Look no further than the debacle that ensued between BJ Penn and UFC president Dana White when Penn released his own autobiography Why I Fight in 2010. Or Anderson Silva’s autobiography being pulled off the shelves in Brazil after his former manager Chute Boxe founder Rudimar Fedrigo engaged him in legal action.

But what was so controversial that it was left out of The Way of the Fight? Here’s a primer with four aspects of St-Pierre’s life and career that weren’t touched upon.

PAST MANAGERS

The Way of the Fight is divided into five sections, each focusing on a critical figure in GSP’s development. The last section is called “Conscience” and is centered on Rodolphe Beaulieu, St-Pierre’s current manager, with his other co-manager Philippe Lepage being given a brief mention.

Two names that never come up in this book are Stephane Patry, St-Pierre’s first manager and the promoter of the (now defunct) Quebec-based promotion TKO, and Shari Spencer, St-Pierre’s second manager. Why omit the two most critical people to St-Pierre’s business relationships who played a role in bringing him to superstardom?

Said GSP to YA Magazine of the time period when Patry was managing him, “In my entourage and my management, I got screwed. A lot of people were stealing money from me.”

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Enter the McDojo: My Experience With the Bullshit Culture of ‘Traditional’ Martial Arts


(If you’ve never had the pleasure of belonging to a McDojo yourself, this is recommended viewing. Props: EnterTheDojoShow)

By Brian J. D’Souza

A revolution is something that changes the system in a radical way. It’s an advancement that brings new ideas to the forefront. In many ways, this was what UFC 1 was. Organized by Rorian Gracie, Art Davie, and Bob Meyrowitz of Semaphore Entertainment Group, martial artists from a variety of styles were called upon to prove the superiority of their art by entering an eight-man elimination tournament at a November 12, 1993, event hosted in Denver, Colorado.

Many MMA fans know about the legend of Royce Gracie defeating professional boxer Art Jimmerson, Pancrase fighter Ken Shamrock and Savate champion Gerard Gordeau in one night to be crowned the first ever UFC tournament champion. But now, nearly 20 years after that historic event occurred, how much “truth” about how to effectively train and prepare for fights has trickled down to martial artists across the globe?

Sure, there are growing numbers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools and a resurgence of interest in Muay Thai or other stand-up styles suited for MMA across North America. But the same old “McDojo” styles consisting of impractical or untested methods are just as prevalent today as they were decades ago before the inception of the UFC.

I learned this for myself a couple of years ago when I was working part-time at a downtown gym. Because it was free, I checked out the “kickboxing” class that was offered. I knew the basics of boxing, and had done some Muay Thai before, so I figured I’d at least get a good workout. I didn’t bank on discovering that the McDojo mentality was still alive, even well into the heyday of the UFC’s dominance in Canada.

The class itself was basic Taekwondo repackaged as kickboxing. Some unorthodox TKD kicks can be effective, as various MMA fighters have demonstrated over the years. That still doesn’t compensate for a lack of footwork, defensive drills, or other deficiencies inherent in this variation of kickboxing.

The stone in my shoe that started with irritation and eventually became unbearable over time wasn’t the lack of useful techniques taught, but the tall tales that the instructor told. In one of his stories, a disrespectful jiu-jitsu practitioner (identified by his T-shirt) stepped to him at a bar; he responded by thumbing the BJJ guy in the eye, bragging to his students “Sometimes you have to fight dirty.” In another story, one of the instructor’s students — who knew nothing whatsoever about wrestling or grappling — had gone to a BJJ school, and “did well.” The student had also “almost KO’ed” another student.

Right.

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