Ryan Bader: I Want Revenge Over Phil Davis

With four top-10 light-heavyweights on the card at UFC Stockholm on January 24, Ryan Bader believes it “will have a tournament feel to it”.
Bader, No 7 on the division, faces No 5 Phil Davis, while No 1 Alex Gustafsson meets No 3 Anthon…

With four top-10 light-heavyweights on the card at UFC Stockholm on January 24, Ryan Bader believes it “will have a tournament feel to it”.
Bader, No 7 on the division, faces No 5 Phil Davis, while No 1 Alex Gustafsson meets No 3 Anthony Johnson in a title eliminator at the 30,000 Tele2 Arena, in Stockholm. It will be only the second time in the UFC’s history that they have taken the mixed martial arts fighting organisation to a stadium.
Bader has competed against Davis once before – when they were wrestlers. Currently it’s 1-0 to Davis. “One year I wrestled him a … Read the Full Article Here

How will the UFC’s Reebok deal change the landscape? Managers weigh in

How will things change with the UFC’s new uniform deal with Reebok? We talked to a number of high-profile, influential MMA managers and opinions are divided.
The UFC announced its groundbreaking apparel contract with Reebok last week and it …

How will things change with the UFC’s new uniform deal with Reebok? We talked to a number of high-profile, influential MMA managers and opinions are divided.

The UFC announced its groundbreaking apparel contract with Reebok last week and it left many in the MMA community with more questions than answers.

UFC president Dana White said during the press conference that the fighters would receive every last penny from the uniform deal. But how much money will each fighter actually get? And will the athletes be compensated enough to make up for the loss of previous in-cage apparel sponsorships?

That is still very much unclear and there still seems to be much to hash out before the official Reebok gear rolls out in July. The use of the UFC’s official rankings, voted on by members of the media, to decide payouts has also come under criticism.

“Until we see the actual dollar amounts and how they’re going to get spread out among the fighters, no one can give you can exact comment on it,” said Malki Kawa, the manager for UFC stars like Jon Jones, Benson Henderson and Carlos Condit.

MMA Fighting reached out to a handful of the top managers in the sport to get their opinion about the Reebok deal this week, since they have more working knowledge of fighter pay than anyone. Almost all of them feel like the Reebok affiliation will be good for MMA as a whole, but whether the fighters will see more money remains to be seen.

“It’s definitely a monumental occasion for the sport,” said Paradigm Sports Management president Audie Attar, who represents the likes of Conor McGregor and Michael Bisping. “It’s definitely a milestone that’s good for the sport, bringing in that validity, particularly for the casual sports enthusiast.”

There are differing opinions about what level of fighters the sponsorship deal will benefit. Longtime MMA manager Monte Cox believes entry-level fighters will be helped most by Reebok, since they have a hard time getting endorsements in the first place. But Cox is not sure the top fighters and champions will make anywhere near what they are getting now.

“If they’re getting anywhere close between $3,000 and $5,000 extra, that’s a home run for them,” Cox said of entry-level competitors. “That’s enough money to keep them going so they don’t have to get a job. If I was a champion, I’d be skeptical it would be better for me.”

MMA Incorporated’s Jeff Meyer made the point that logo placement on fight shorts is one of the few things entry-level fighters have to sell and now they will lose some of that potential income. Kawa thinks champions like Jones will be fine, especially since fighters will get 20-percent profit on merchandise sold with their name or likeness. Champions will also make more on the tiered scale. It’s the ranked contenders — the middle class — that Kawa is most worried about. He said some of his fighters can make upwards of $100,000 on in-cage clothing sponsors.

“Telling me that a guy who is ranked No. 3 or No. 8 or No. 1 is going to get a check for $25,000 because he’s No. 1 contender or whatever, he loses money,” Kawa said. “He also loses income from the sponsors that go on the shorts. On the flip side, as a manager you have to go out and get deals done outside the Octagon.”

That will be where the jobs of managers will be altered the most. They will have to think outside the box and get more creative with potential endorsement deals. Meyer and partner Mike Roberts represent fighters like Urijah Faber and Anthony Pettis. Faber has been sponsored by Pepsi’s Amp energy drink for seven years and has never worn its logo inside the cage. White also used Georges St-Pierre’s Under Armour sponsorship as an example of this. The former UFC welterweight champion never wore the brand in the Octagon.

“We will continue to propose creative methods to our sponsors that leverage the popularity of the fighters and deliver a return on objective to the sponsor,” Meyer said. “In-cage logo placements are simply one less deliverable that we can offer to our sponsors.”

One of the biggest reasons managers are open to the Reebok deal is the current state of fighter sponsorship. It’s not nearly what it was just a few years ago. Meyer attributes it to a number of reasons, including competing brands consolidating, the economic downturn, the UFC sponsor tax and the sheer volume of fights the UFC is putting on.

“I can remember the days when it was possible to sometimes even equal a fighter’s fight purse with sponsorships, depending on the different variables,” said Alex Davis, the manager for fighters like Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Edson Barboza. “But it has been a while since then. I believe that the glut we have been experiencing is due to the simple fact that marketing dollars used on fighters have not been translating into revenue to the company’s spending those dollars.”

Sponsors have to pay the UFC a fee in order to be approved to endorse fighters in the Octagon. The rate goes along a sliding scale with regards to how much money the company is spending. There’s little doubt the sponsor tax has discouraged brands from budgeting money toward UFC fighters, but some managers don’t have a huge problem with it since it has effectively wiped out bad sponsors who end up stiffing the athletes.

“At the end of the day, there’s two ways to look at it,” Attar said. “Did it really disrupt the free market from a sponsorship standpoint? Or did it weed out the problems? There are fighters out there who still have six figures owed to them from bad sponsors.”

Another criticism of the Reebok deal has been the fact that fighters could lose their individuality if everyone is wearing similar gear in the cage. Chuck Liddell became famous in part because his “Iceman” brand was supported by his fight shorts. Attar doesn’t necessarily agree with that.

“Everybody looks the same right now in the endemic apparel, don’t they?” Attar said. “A fighter’s brand is going to be his brand. If a guy is just getting thrown per-fight deals, if he’s rocking a new brand all the time, I don’t see any difference. If you have a strong enough brand, a strong enough personality, I don’t think that they’re going to prevent you from doing that. If anything, aligning with major brands like Reebok only brings other major deals. It validates you.”

There are still plenty of unknowns when it comes to the tiered structure of payouts, but the UFC rankings will be the base. Champions will get paid the most, followed by fighters in the top five. Then will come fighters ranked No. 6 to No. 10 and No 11 through No. 15.

White said there will be improvements made to the much-maligned current system and he will seek more legitimate, credible media members to vote. Managers are divided on how effective and fair this method will be. Most of the high-profile MMA journalists decline to vote on the UFC’s rankings due to a conflict of interest and this presents an even bigger one. There has also been an issue with the UFC removing fighters from eligibility for frivolous reasons, which, if continued, would directly affect their income.

“I don’t like the rankings system at all,” Kawa said. “I thought it was BS from day one. At first they say it matters, then they say it’s just for the fans. The rankings, you never really know what’s going on with them.”

Cox, a former journalist who has voted on such prestigious awards as the Heisman Trophy, doesn’t mind using the media rankings to sort things out.

“I would rather them use that as a measuring stick than if it would go by whoever they like the most or whoever they say is the most popular,” he said. “Those types of things are ambiguous. Who’s to say who is the most popular? Why should someone who’s a good fighter but not necessarily popular get less money? This is one way to tie it to something. There are a lot of worse ways to do it.”

Could media members be swayed by managers trying to get more money for their fighters? Cox doesn’t think so. On the other hand, Dan Lambert, the owner of American Top team and longtime manager of many ATT athletes, believes it’s a manager’s job to pull for their fighters in any way they can. He doesn’t think anything sinister like bribes will occur, though.

“[Journalists are] going to get a lot more Christmas gifts this year, I think, or they’re going to become managers on the side,” Attar joked. “In all honesty, that’s one of the areas that has yet to be seen.”

There are plenty of those areas with the new Reebok deal. Kawa believes it’ll take years to know the affects on fighters and their incomes. But it’s almost unanimous among managers that the UFC branding itself with a company like Reebok has more than a few positives even if there is way more gray area than black and white facts at the moment.

“Twenty years ago, we were putting on shows with 50 people in the crowd and we were coming up with the rules in the Octagon,” Lambert said. “To see where this sport has come, every little thing like this helps. It’s just a pleasure to see it get to this point. A worldwide brand like Reebok stamped right there with the UFC? It’s a great thing.”

Additional reporting by Guilherme Cruz

CM Punk Will Bring More Professional Wrestling Fans to UFC

CM Punk has been in the media more since his departure from WWE than he ever was while still with the company, and his newest venture is breaking the Internet more than Kim Kardashian’s greased-up backside.
At UFC 181, CM Punk announced that he had sig…

CM Punk has been in the media more since his departure from WWE than he ever was while still with the company, and his newest venture is breaking the Internet more than Kim Kardashian’s greased-up backside.

At UFC 181, CM Punk announced that he had signed a multifight deal with the top MMA promotion in the world that would see him enter the Octagon with a 0-0 record.

Some may criticize Dana White for signing a fighter with virtually no experience, but White is a businessman. He knows CM Punk will draw eyes to the product, and he would be stupid to pass up the opportunity to work with someone who is so passionate about everything he does.

Punk is a polarizing individual. You either love him or you hate him, and that is exactly why he is going to bring many WWE fans with him to UFC.

The constant CM Punk chants during his wife’s matches show that the crowd still misses him, and those people will likely be interested in his MMA career.

The fans who think CM Punk is a cocky jerk who whines too much will want to see him fail, so they will probably watch his fights, too. It’s a win-win for White.

Wrestling and MMA have always shared a cross section of fans, but they both also have their devoted followers who only like one or the other.

Getting those wrestling fans who do not watch UFC to convert has always been one of White’s goals, and bringing in guys like Brock Lesnar and CM Punk is a great way to do that.

Punk is not the first person to transition from one sport to the other. Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn famously made the switch to pro wrestling after dominating the early years of UFC, and plenty of wrestlers like Bobby Lashley (who is currently fighting for Bellator) and Alberto Del Rio have competed in MMA.

Athletes of either sport will automatically have some of the skills needed to succeed in the other, but nobody can just walk out of the ring and into an Octagon. It takes a lot of training and determination to make the switch.

It also takes exposure. Lashley has a professional record of 12-2, but he isn’t signed to a UFC deal yet because he is not going to generate the kind of buzz Punk can.

Punk’s move to MMA may have surprised a lot of people, but anyone who follows him on Twitter knows he has been a fan of the sport for a long time and has spent time training with the famed Rener Gracie.

You can say or think what you want about CM Punk, but one thing you have to admit is that the guy usually accomplishes what he sets his mind to.

Nobody thought this skinny kid with tattoos all over his body would ever make it to a WWE ring, but he busted his butt in Ring of Honor and got himself noticed.

Once he got there, nobody thought he would ever make it past developmental, but Paul Heyman saw something in him and brought him into the new ECW.

Punk was on the main roster, but there was still people who doubted that he could ever be a main event star, let alone the top champion in the company for over a year.

Punk has been proving people wrong every step of the way. Perhaps he works even harder when there is someone doubting him, which is why he probably loves the fact that some people think he won’t accomplish anything in MMA.

However, there are more people who wish for Punk to succeed, and many of them might not have thought about purchasing a UFC PPV before Punk signed with them.

He might not be dropping pipe bombs in MMA, but he will definitely be entertaining because he’s not afraid to say what he’s thinking. His pre-fight press conferences will not be promos, but they will be fun to watch.

One thing is for sure: He won’t be short on challengers. He already has a Power Ranger trying to fight him, and there are several names in UFC who would love to hand Punk a loss in his first fight. If anything, he will be a hot commodity.

His recent appearance on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast definitely shows that he is not going to hold back his opinions, so when he finally gets his first fight, you can expect some trash talk from both sides.

UFC is supposed to be about the best fighters in the world competing to see who is the top dog, but it’s also an entertainment company that has to worry about ratings and sponsors.

Bringing in CM Punk is going to bring a whole new set of fans to the sport, and some of them might even like it enough to watch the fights Punk isn’t involved in.

WWE even posted a message on its website wishing him luck, although the wording of the message could indicate some sarcasm behind those wishes. They phrased it the same way they do when someone is released from their contract: “WWE wishes Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk) the best of luck in his newest endeavor.”

Punk may never return to WWE. We have to accept that, but at least his fans and detractors have some place to go watch him try to climb a new mountain (or in the case of the haters, take a fatal tumble down the cliff).

What do you think? Will CM Punk thrive in the UFC or will he fall flat on his face? Will you be watching his fights?

 

Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

Brad Pickett: I’m Moving To Bantamweight

UFC fighter Brad Pickett has given up the ghost battling flyweights and is moving back to bantamweight forthwith, reckoning that contests with the likes of Takeya Mizugaki are what could give the fans the entertainment the seek.
Pickett also…

UFC fighter Brad Pickett has given up the ghost battling flyweights and is moving back to bantamweight forthwith, reckoning that contests with the likes of Takeya Mizugaki are what could give the fans the entertainment the seek.
Pickett also wants clarification from judges in what they are looking for after the controversial judging in the welterweight title fight between Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks last weekend in Las Vegas. Pickett was mystified by the scoring, he told Telegraph Sport.
“I’m going to go back up a weight class [back to bantamweight],” Pickett revealed, havi … Read the Full Article Here

Ben Saunders and the 5 Biggest Cult Favorites in MMA Right Now

Becoming a star and gaining a following isn’t easy in mixed martial arts, and it isn’t always based on pure skill.  If skill was the only requirement to get fans to love you, people would be running into arenas during Demetrious Johnson’s fights i…

Becoming a star and gaining a following isn’t easy in mixed martial arts, and it isn’t always based on pure skill.  If skill was the only requirement to get fans to love you, people would be running into arenas during Demetrious Johnson’s fights instead of out.  

Certain fighters, though, have the ability to earn the hearts and minds of the MMA masses and attract a cult-like following.  The phrase “Don’t be scared, homie” is almost a cliche at this point, ever since Nick Diaz uttered the famous words in the EliteXC cage/Strikeforce cage.  

Impromptu nicknames, catchphrases and other famous moments in time set a fighter apart in the minds of MMA fans, and once a guy has earned the fandom of the diehards, it’s hard to lose it.  

Chris Weidman emphatically put away Anderson Silva twice, and people still thought they were both flukes. Sometimes, fighters can establish themselves as so over with fans that nothing can stop their momentum.  

Conor McGregor has had the fastest rise in UFC history next to Brock Lesnar, and a lot of it is due to his rabid Irish fanbase.  He has proven himself to be a legitimate contender, but his fans preceded him.

Let us take a look at the five fighters with the biggest cult followings in mixed martial arts.  

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Daron Cruickshank vs. K.J. Noons Has Violence Written All over It

Before the UFC crowns its inaugural women’s strawweight champion on Friday night, two exciting lightweights will square off on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale. Season 15 veteran Daron Cruickshank takes on Strikeforce and DREAM vet…

Before the UFC crowns its inaugural women’s strawweight champion on Friday night, two exciting lightweights will square off on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale. Season 15 veteran Daron Cruickshank takes on Strikeforce and DREAM veteran K.J. Noons. The two are both known for their knockout power, and this fight should bring the violence.  

Cruickshank is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and is comfortable rushing forward with barrages of punches and kicks. He started off his professional mixed martial career in 2009 with a bang, winning by KO with a first-round spinning back fist, and hasn’t let off the gas since then. “The Detroit Superstar” has gone 3-1 inside the Octagon in 2014 and will undoubtedly be looking to close out the year with another highlight-reel performance.

Karl James Noons has been competing in martial arts since he was a teenager. He was an amateur Sanshou champion at age 17 and also has a professional boxing record of 11-2. He competed in both MMA and boxing until 2009, when he signed with Strikeforce as an MMA fighter. He went 3-4 in the Strikeforce cage but became a fan favorite for his fighting style and his part in the infamous “Don’t be scared homiescene with Nick Diaz.

Noons is coming off a thunderous first-round knockout over Sam Stout back in April and will be looking for his third straight UFC win against Cruikshank. Before even making his UFC debut, he’s shared the cage with some very formidable foes in Nick Diaz, Yves Edwards, Jorge Masvidal and Josh Thomson, so he’s no stranger to tough competition.

Noons proved to any remaining skeptics in his UFC debut against Donald Cerrone that he certainly can take punishment. Against Cruikshank, we’re sure to find out just how much. Because if the fight goes all three rounds, he’s sure to eat some of Cruikshank’s best shots.

Nearly every strike Cruikshank throws is meant to finish the fight. He knocked Henry Martinez out with a superbly placed walk-off head kick in his second UFC fight back in 2012. He mauled Erik Koch with ground-and-pound back in May, and prior to that he wheel-kicked Mike Rio right off the UFC’s roster.

Cruikshank’s kicking game is some of the best in the division, and his offense is extremely high-volume. Plainly put: He fires off kicks like it’s going out of style. This is a matchup tailor-made for striking fans. A kickboxer with a black belt in kempo vs. a taekwondo black belt with several highlight-reel knockouts already on his resume. What more could UFC fans ask for?

In a crowded lightweight landscape, which currently houses the largest amount of fighters of any division in the UFC, it’s tough for unranked fighters to gain traction among fans. This fight is sure to provide the requisite amount of fireworks to keep both men in the consciousness of MMA fans and could be a breakout performance for one of them.

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com