Monday Blog: Sengoku Enters the Reality TV Business

May 3, 2009

Emelianenko/Barnett Still a Vaporware Premise for August
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 11:25 p.m. ET: Contrary to reports online that pound-for-chunky-pound great Fedor Emelianenko is set to face Josh Barnett in an August Affliction showdown, Barnett’s camp informed that Barnett has yet to be officially offered an opponent or a date as of 5 p.m. ET Monday.

Barnett remains one of a very limited number of top-tier heavyweights not aligned with the UFC that would be a worthwhile opponent for Emelianenko, who really doesn’t need to waste his remaining bouts on oddball opposition. (See: Zulu Jr., middleweight Matt Lindland and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man -- although I might’ve dreamt that last one. Or possibly confused him with Zulu.)

How Alistair Overeem would fare holds some curiosity, but Barnett/Emelianenko is the fight that means something. I suspect both men know it and want to be compensated accordingly.

Andre Ward Considers MMA, Comes to His Senses Almost Immediately
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 8:45 p.m. ET: Fanhouse has a quote from respected pugilist Andre Ward that details his transient interest in competing in MMA.

“I thought about it,” he said. “… I probably would not be too excited about the whole ground game …”

What, getting dropped on your head and suffering vertebrae damage isn’t exciting? The boxer also mentioned he might be in attendance for Urijah Faber’s rematch with Mike Brown at WEC 41 in Sacramento on June 7.

Ward joins a list of boxers -- Floyd Mayweather Jr., Tommy Morrison, Hasim Rahman -- who have all floated the idea of going down a few glove sizes but wisely decided against it. Francois Botha and Ray Mercer might be the highest profile boxers stateside to make good on their word. Yoshihiro Akiyama -- who debuts at UFC 100 on July 11 -- submitted Botha with an armbar in 2004; Kimbo Slice choked Mercer out in 2007.

No math genius here, but if elite prizefighters make millions of dollars doing something they’re prepared for, it stands to reason they’d want tens of millions for a sport they have no aptitude in: Mayweather would probably ask for $75 million to get hip-tossed and pounded out.

If you’ve ever heard Mayweather talk, you’d probably want to take up a collection.

MMA Discography: The Best Bonus Features 1 (of 5)
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 6:00 p.m. ET: You can count the differences between mixed martial arts and boxing all day -- and if you do, that’s one empty schedule you’ve got going on -- but one thing that really impresses is the inexplicably high replay value of the former.

UFC DVDs regularly occupy multiple slots in the highest-selling sports discs of any given week, a trait rarely assigned to any of the big boxing bouts. (I’m hard-pressed to recall the last time a stand-up contest was even offered on home video.) There’s more variety in the action, more bombast, and as a result people don’t want a transient pay-per-view experience -- they want to own it.

Today through Friday, a look at some of the more intriguing bonus footage packed into DVD releases:

10. Anderson Silva: Ninja (UFC 73, 2007)

Even after two undercooked performances, it remains very hard to dislike Anderson Silva. He’s clearly a swell guy, soft-spoken and prone to adolescent behavior. Prior to his fight with Nate Marquardt in Sacramento, Silva is seen using a towel as impromptu numchucks and making high-pitched noises like a spasmodic Bruce Lee.

Not exactly a pressure cooker of nerves, this one.

9. Mike Goldberg: The Home Workout (UFC 90, 2008)

I am a documented critic of Mike Goldberg, who does a difficult job better than most but not as well as others. I would like to think that if he were ever to accost me, I would thump him about his frosted tips and then hope a passerby with a camera phone would grant me YouTube infamy.

As it turns out, Mike Goldberg can credibly work the Thai pads, as seen in this disc footage under the tutelage of Mark DellaGrotte. (And by “credibly,” I mean he’s not a complete arthritic disaster -- there’s a sliding scale at work here.) He also has gigantic calves.

My confidence in a possible altercation has dwindled considerably. If I catch wind that Mauro Ranallo can perform an omaplata while maintaining a 400-pound squat, I’m done.

‘Street Fighter’ to MMA: Part 1
By Tomas Rios (
Daniel Herbertson/

Neal McDonough will play Bison
in the new Street Fighter movie.
Monday, 5:35 p.m. ET: In every arcade, there it stood like some monolithic challenge to greatness: an imposing presence seemingly carved out of the shattered hopes and dreams of every soul to have dumped their hopes and dreams into it, only to walk away uncomfortably certain of their own failings.

No, I’m not talking about the hot girl who hangs out by the “Dance Dance Revolution” machine. We’re talking about “Street Fighter,” and if you’re an MMA fan, odds are you’d rather not remember how many socks full of quarters you dumped into that infernal machine.

So instead of spending our days simulating fights that feature Mike Tyson knockoffs and hyper-violent yogi, we watch live humans play those roles for about 50 bucks a month. That sock full of quarters sounds pretty reasonable right now.

Economic issues aside, the similarities between the pastime of yesterday and the entertainment of today are eerily similar. OK, there aren’t any Spanish dudes rocking pseudo-Jason Voorhees Masks, but the idea of two guys battling it out for money and pride endures. So join me for a stroll down memory lane this week as we find the MMA stars of today that best match our pixelized avatars of old.

Fedor Emelianenko-M. Bison

An image from my youth of the final boss, M. Bison, tossing me aside regardless of how many coins I dumped into that machine reminds me why I still go into seizures whenever I see someone in a crimson red military uniform. Kind of the same feeling most fighters get when they see Fedor Emelianenko staring across the ring from them.

Equal parts intimidation and detached coldness, Emelianenko and Bison are the unreachable zeniths of their respective realms. Clinical in their approach and precise in every movement, it is an almost unnatural sight to witness heavyweights move like they do -- to the point that the countless lines of computer code that form M. Bison seem equally as likely an explanation for the aberration that is Emelianenko.

Sometimes, you just have to let yourself be impressed, and that is what Emelianenko does better than anyone. Of course, Bison does run a shadowy criminal network with an eye toward world domination while we can only assume that Emelianenko doesn’t plan on making us his underlings. Not that he couldn’t if he wanted to.

MacDonald Cut from UFC
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 4:50 p.m. ET: Following his loss to Nate Quarry in Montreal April 18, Jason MacDonald has gotten his walking papers, according to Canadian news outlet Sportsnet.

MacDonald had posted a kiss-of-death 1-3 mark in his last four bouts and a 5-5 tally in the Octagon total.

Masvidal’s Bermuda Triangle
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 4:45 p.m. ET: Reason 1,562 you can’t figure out fights on paper: Bellator lightweight tournament co-favorite Jorge Masvidal was knocked out of contention Friday when he acquiesced to an inverted triangle choke courtesy of underdog Toby Imada.

After knocking Imada around little-brother style for two rounds, Masvidal found himself in a position you can’t possibly train for: a guy wrapped around your back upside-down and cutting off your carotid with a shin. Masvidal passed out, his central nervous system’s way of tapping, and Imada was left with one of the great fight finishes of the year: submission via Backpack of Doom.

If this kind of thing happened in baseball, I’d probably start watching it.

Weekend Rundown
By Brian Knapp (
Todd Hester/

Frye knows how to finish.
Monday, 3:30 p.m. ET: Even at 43, Don Frye can still close out a fight.

The ageless Frye needed a little more than two minutes to submit Rich Moss at Shark Fight 4 on Saturday at the Citibank Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas. The end came 2:12 into round one when Frye (20-7-1, 1 NC) cinched a rear-naked choke and coaxed the tapout.

Though he won two UFC tournaments and reached the final in another, Frye remains one of the more underappreciated competitors of his time. Known for his trademark mustache and quick wit, he posted a stellar 8-1 record inside the Octagon and remains tied for the quickest knockout in UFC history; he smashed Thomas Ramirez in eight seconds at UFC 8.

Frye has alternated between wins and losses in his last four fights. A Rage in the Cage veteran, Moss (7-3, 1 NC) had won back-to-back bouts by first-round knockout before he ran into the UFC, Pride Fighting Championships and K-1 veteran.

In the Shark Fight 4 main event, former professional football player Rex Richards succumbed to fourth-round strikes against Darrill Schoonover in a heavyweight title bout. Schoonover has finished all 10 of his opponents, five by submission and five by knockout or technical knockout. Richards (6-2) had not lost since he tapped out to a Shane Carwin guillotine choke in 2007.

Meanwhile, “The Ultimate Fighter 7” alum Jesse Taylor pushed his winning streak to six fights with a first-round submission victory against Eric DaVila. Taylor (11-3) -- who stopped DaVila (13-8) with a rear-naked choke -- has not tasted defeat since being finished by CB Dollaway’s Peruvian Necktie at UFC Fight Night 14 in July.

Continue Reading » Weekend Rundown

Filho Turns Down Chute Boxe
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 2:00 p.m. ET: Driftwood middleweight Paulo Filho -- in career cryostasis since a bizarre performance against Chael Sonnen last November -- told Fighter’s Only that he’s turned down an offer to join the Chute Boxe fight academy.

“I represent pure jiu-jitsu,” he said. “… I will represent Carlson Gracie school until the day I die.”

At least he’s got an open mind about it.

To be fair, Filho’s approach to fighting has worked out just fine for him: He amassed a 16-0 record before dropping a decision to Sonnen after prolonged struggles with substance abuse. Per Tatame, he’s now slated to fight on Dream’s May 26 card -- the same evening that Jose Canseco will attempt to achieve greater infamy than he had ever dared dream of by fighting 7-foot-2 Hong Man Choi.

Filho’s opponent is TBA. ”Goose” Gossage is still in negotiations.

Riggs Strangely Respectful of Baroni
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 1:55 p.m. ET: Stir the pot? Joe Riggs will knock that thing right over. (The guy Nick Diaz got into that infamous emergency room brawl with after a fight? Uh-huh -- Riggs.) When Strikeforce assigned him Phil Baroni for a June 6 welterweight bout, they probably anticipated an expletive-filled Internet hype show.

Speaking with MMAJunkie Radio, though, Riggs was curiously muted in his evaluation, complimenting Baroni’s power and wrestling.

“Phil can still knock anybody out on any given day,” Riggs said. “He's a f---ing tough guy.”

F---ing kind words there. Any built-up venom was directed at Jake Shields, whom Riggs was initially supposed to face before Shields chose to fight Robbie Lawler one weight division up.

“F--- that mother---er,” Riggs offered.

For Riggs, this might be considered playing it cool.

Sengoku Enters the Reality TV Business
By Tony Loiseleur (
Daniel Herbertson/

World Victory Road PR
Director Takahiro Kokuho.
Monday, 12:30 a.m. ET: At the post-fight presser for Sengoku’s Eighth Battle, World Victory Road PR Director Takahiro Kokuho unveiled his plans for Japan’s first stab at MMA reality TV. Superficial similarities aside, “The Ultimate Fighter” it is not.

Dubbed “Project: Gold Rush,” Sengoku initially aims to cultivate up-and-coming fighters within three weight classes: 60, 65 and 70 kg (132, 143, 154 pounds). In the vein of Sengoku’s open tryouts and a natural extension of its fighter development program (of which Shigeki Osawa and Maximo Blanco are current products), the show is intended to foster the development of young fighters.

Featuring four to five handpicked fighters per weight class from various Japanese gyms, the young talents will fight each other over the course of four to five episodes. The finals in each weight class will be slotted as preliminary bouts on the Aug. 2 Sengoku Ninth Battle.

“We are trying to develop younger fighters, training them especially for Sengoku. Our primary plan … toward fostering these newcomers is called ‘Project: Gold Rush,’ and these bouts will be broadcast on our weekly ‘Sengoku Gold’ programs, every Sunday at 11:35 p.m.,” Kokuho said.

The “Sengoku G” shows have until recently been weekly recap and digest programs, catching fans up on the in-ring happenings of previous events. However, with “Gold Rush,” the show takes on another dimension of actually fostering talent that fans will have to tune in to TV Tokyo see.

While Kokuho doesn’t plan to copy the TUF formula completely by locking all the fighters in one house to film the ensuing shenanigans, the fights will be taped without a live audience. Kokuho also plans to explore some of the human drama with “behind the scenes footage” of fighters in daily life and training, while also implementing the time-honored but ever-entertaining “gym-versus-gym” angle.

Kokuho was mum on the participants, but we (or Japanese fans, at least) can certainly look forward to seeing fighters from Grabaka and Yoshida Dojo making an appearance in the program by mid-June. Taping begins later this month.

Check the blog all day for more entries.

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