View Full Version : UFC 41 Report

11-03-2003, 11:35 PM
On the Fence 1.33
Post-UFC 41 Rants and Raves : :
Commentary by Jake Rossen (March 5, 2003)

After three months of anticipation, UFC 41 is now one for the books, and the fallout may prove to have more effect on the promotion than any event since the doomed September '01 card.

Their highly expensive acquisition of Tank Abbott was decimated in seconds by a newly revitalized Frank Mir; their lightweight champion remains non-existent; Pedro Rizzo blew yet another chance to impress; a complete stranger to fans is now their heavyweight champion. And oh, yeah: the historic (and excellent) fight between Roy Jones and John Ruiz will likely cut into profits motivated by Abbott's return. It's a special freebie edition of On the Fence. Advice on what to do next inside! Get a Dana White (motivation) Decoder Ring with Proof of Purchase!


Where to start? Mike Goldberg has been a staple of the production broadcast team since 1997. He's obviously comfortable and (usually) well-versed in the action. Familiarity breeds comfort. I like the guy. The fact that he's currently the only trained broadcaster appearing in the telecast is laughable.

Ken Shamrock, when not getting water or dog food thrown in his face, and subsequently boiling with a kind of rage usually only seen in cartoon characters, is an affable personality. He certainly has little to no trace of speech difficulties after a decade in competition, a good sign for all the athletes in MMA. (Listening to Holyfield, Freddie Roach or even Emmanuel Steward talk is an exercise in patience.)

Problem is, he appeared to have little time for learning fighters' names - calling Matt Lindland "Landland" and "Landless" - and seemed under the assumption that the title battle between Caol Uno and BJ Penn already had a title holder in Penn. Considering all the times Penn has gone to the well, that's an easy enough mistake to make. But I'd like to see Shamrock do more homework before settling in behind the mic. The idea is sound: he's a familiar face to longstanding and casual fans, and they're likely to be attentive to what he says.

While Shamrock fills the "I've Been In There" capacity and grants perspective from a fighter, commentating teams are usually three-man setups. You have the trained broadcaster, the fighter/athlete, and the pundit, who can articulate his opinions and share insight while sometimes playing favorites. Larry Merchant fills this seat in HBO boxing productions, and it appears Joe Rogan may do the same for the UFC starting in April. Rogan brings a kind of excitability that appeals to a younger demographic, certainly a far cry from the monotone of Merchant.

This team has possibilities, but I never pass up a chance to mention that Bruce Beck was the best thing to ever happen to a UFC booth. His timing and delivery was impeccable. He injected Super Bowl excitement into every bout. I wish he would adopt me. Etc.

Whatever the case, Zuffa needs to settle on a team and stick with them indefinitely. Playing broadcast musical chairs is an embarrassment. Fans like to see and hear constant hosts, especially when fighters come and go.

In a "Fool Me Once" blunder Zuffa seems to love perpetuating, they brought in yet another mannequin in an effort to up the sex factor of the broadcast. What, guys in tights doesn't do it for you?

It's possible Lisa Dergan may be able to tie her corset and chew gum at the same time, but her vacuous personality is a killer. Why must appearing in Maxim be a prerequisite for interviewing fighters? Is there a single person out there who will order a show based solely on the fact that she'll get four minutes of screen time? At least Carmen Electra had some name value.

Of all the various people installed in this position, Frank Shamrock was the most relaxed and personable, followed by Ryan Bennett. Dergan's sex appeal adds nothing to the production and only serves to take away from it with her Amateur Night interactions. Get someone in there fast on their feet and informed. If being curvaceous is a requirement, I fail to see why someone like Erin Toughill couldn't be considered. She's tough, she's sexy, and she certainly knows a wristlock from a wristwatch.


How many chances does this guy get? Oh, I know: as many as his longstanding contract requires.

Not since Jens Pulver has the UFC seen a fighter as apologetic about his own performances, vowing to do better next time, and then immediately breaking that promise. It used to be that Rizzo would only choke during title shots, and then proceed to bust heads in his road back to a belt. Now, with disappointing showings against Gan McGee and Vlady Matyushenko, his shelf life may finally have expired.

Rizzo is a hard hitter and possesses the tools to leave bodies in the Octagon. Against Matyushenko he planted his feet and did nothing to try and win the fight. I can't profess to know what's going on in his head. I do know we will likely see an interview with Rizzo where he assures us he will come out swinging next time. I also know that it won't happen.


In the wake of a rather bogus judge's decision that saw the plodding fight between BJ Penn and Caol Uno rendered a draw, there are now murmurings that the UFC may do away with the lightweight division. It's a rather bizarre decision without obvious cause.

Is it time constraints? With five classes and only six shows a year, matchmakers scramble to devote equal time to all sizes. But with television pending, one would think that they would utilize all their resources to create content.

Is it money? Lightweights are paid in relation to their box office potential, and the fact is, the masses are simply indifferent to smaller guys in combat sports. I've said this from the beginning, especially when Zuffa made Pulver/Penn a main event. I can't see how it's a budget killer.

Is it interest? While fans don't go crazy over lightweights, they also don't turn their backs to them. Frustration? The division's biggest star, Penn, seems so lackadaisical about fighting that it must grate their nerves somewhat. Others, like Uno, Serra, and Thomas also seem to like playing for points. It appears that the lightweights have a disproportionate amount of fights go to the judges.

I don't know what the answer is. At worst, I see the UFC shelving the class until television hits. It's a credible and necessary segment of the sport, and its absence would be jarring.

As for Penn: I hope the disappointment of the decision might force him into becoming pro-active towards a win in the future. He seems to not even want to be in the ring. Whatever problems are present, I hope he resolves them soon. His talent is undeniable.


Maybe they used up all their energy talking.

Two of the most vocal competitors in the sport were rendered silent on Friday. Baroni suffered a near-repeat of his first encounter with Lindland, just as most predicted. While his strikes are painful just to look at, they weren't utilized to much effect against Olympian Lindland. While I admire Matt and his skill, I admit to being disappointed in the outcome solely because Baroni and Murilo Bustamante would make for compelling television. If that's what Zuffa was building towards, promoting a rematch here was absurd. Lindland is a bad match-up for all except the champ.

While Lindland was unable to finish Baroni, thus retaining interest in Phil, there is no possible way Tank Abbott could have been handled more easily. In less than a minute, he was tied into a pretzel by Frank Mir and felled by the unlikeliest of submissions: the toe hold. Immediately, fans were critical of Zuffa's matchmaking, acknowledging Abbott's limited chances of winning and wishing he had been given a stiff.

Fact is, Mir looked susceptible to Abbott's brand of brawling, and was as good a fight as any. Abbott swears he'll be back, and despite appearances, I don't know that the loss will be as devastating to his drawing power as one might think. Despite hobbling over to the microphone for an interview, fans cheered him and booed the winner. Tankamania appears to be alive and well. Here's hoping Zuffa matches him against someone who will provide some fireworks and a little bit more entertainment value for viewers.


There's no doubt in my mind that Zuffa has little to no conception of what a main event is supposed to represent. In a 500-channel universe, asking someone to pay thirty bucks for a PPV event is like asking if they might be willing to extract some of their own teeth. The incentive needs to be great. Thanks to pre-scripted plans, the WWE can pull off huge main events without much effort. Thanks to huge prize purses, so can boxing.

Despite being in direct competition with these attractions, the think tank at ZLLC somehow figures that Sylvia/Rodriguez and Hughes/Sherk are on a par. It was thought that UFC 40 proved the point that big marquee bouts have a direct and positive impact on business. Yet here we are well into 2003 with no appealing mega-events on the horizon.

Thanks is due in part to the UFC refusing to compromise their undercards. Let's face it: while boxing telecasts have fights people don't even bother watching, the UFC has always been able to produce well-rounded attractions.

The solution is clear: have three balanced cards a year, with no clear superfight. For the other three events, dumb down your undercard and reduce it to exciting up and comers, freeing up the budget for a marquee fight that gets the mainstream press and fans buzzing. When confronted with this idea before, UFC reps insisted that contracts prevented them from glossing over its regulars to make room for this kind of strategy. With their recent announcement of concentrating on single-fight commitments, this should no longer be at issue. To survive in a highly competitive pay-as-you-go environment, this move isn't voluntary. It's necessary.

As for the Sylvia/Rodriguez main event: a mauling. Sylvia seems to be hinting at MMA turning the same corner that boxing did a couple of years ago, with heavyweight fighters hovering over 6'5" and inching towards 260 lbs.


Zuffa's new attitude towards Tito Ortiz can be summed up in one word: Rowwrrrrr.

Thanks to his shy approach to signing a fight with #1 contender Chuck Liddell, Ortiz has been subject to a subversive smear campaign on Zuffa's time. First Tank Abbott referenced the matter on Fox's "Best Damn" sports show, though the audience had no clue what he was talking about. Then time-conserving producers managed to squeeze in a sit-down with Liddell himself during Friday's PPV, expressing disappointment over the situation. Was Ortiz given a chance to go before cameras and explain himself? Did he refuse?

I dunno. What I do know is that Zuffa is again paying the price for promoting one fighter out of the dozen they have that are equally marketable. Ortiz is the proverbial monster with a mind of his own. They made him, and now they appear to want to break him. Expect the situation to get uglier.


How Springer-esque.

With four decisions in eight fights, UFC 41's fighters flirted with disaster. Tank's return was as anticlimactic as was possible. Numerous UFC belts remain in flux. As does the commentating team. All of this may be rendered a moot point once the numbers come in: I expect the Roy Jones fight to have done very well, and most curious buyers probably picked the sport they were more familiar with.

The Zuffa regime has opened doors never thought possible for the sport of MMA. It wasn't long ago where things like PPV and Vegas venues were considered pipe dreams at best. Now it's all taken for granted.

But opening doors is one thing. Capitalizing on the resulting exposure is another. Despite great strides taken, this promotion still cries out for some creative direction. And until that happens, the sport will forever remain on the fringe of success.

Who would've thought Vin Diesel would have the wisest words on the matter? "Give us the big fights. That's what we come to see."

Indeed, Triple-X. Indeed.

For Comments, E-Mail jrossen@maxfighting.com

Taken from http://www.maxfighting.com/rossen/rossen_030503.php

11-03-2003, 11:51 PM
That's a pretty damnning report...fair but damnning nevertherless. And as Rossen implied without a TV/Cable deal how can the UFC grow?

Other thoughts :-

I think doing away with the 155 divison is a bad move, especally if you are looking for legimacy in MMA

The remarks on the merry-go-round of announcers is also correct. get a team and stick to get, dont hire someone just cos they have a pretty face. If you wanna use a female inteviewer, make sure she actually knows something about the sport

But saying that, is it time the UFC had some rule changes after all, becuase Rossen hinted that the UFC tries to make a balanced show, unlike boxing which just has a big main event and thats it. Well maybe Zuffa should think about that and have big fights go 7 round of 5. At least then it will match boxing time limit and might prevent draws. And how about lobbyign the State atheltic commissions, so that more aggressive ruiles can be put in place, as thre was far to much negative fightign in UFC 41.

And to Zuffa, dont be complacent, just becuase UFC 40 was a sucess doesnt mean further events will, you are only judged on your last event. As it seems to mean that Zyuffa are slacking more and more, and no longer seem to care about pushing mMA further i.e tv dela in USA and the UK, they seem to blame everyone else for thinks they cant seem to do. And that wont get them or MMA anywhere.

Hywel Teague
12-03-2003, 12:13 AM
very good report- but bad to see UFC in such a quandry and prides future in doubt.

rocky road indeed for the big boys- lets make sure we've got our back yard sorted and let them get on with it eh?

12-03-2003, 12:24 AM
Good reply Kainer

It was a bit harsh. Its clear though that they need to give it a serious rethink.

Lets hope they get it sorted, cause if they dont Dougie will be over there with his cage and leave us stranded?