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Wednesday, May 02, 2001

First New Jersey, Then The Worldzuffa’s Plans For Ufc Biggest Storyat Pre-fight Press Conference

First New Jersey, Then the World
Zuffa’s Plans for UFC Biggest Story
at Pre-Fight Press Conference

By Aaron Crecy

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ–Today’s UFC 31 Locked and Loaded press conference could be described as groundbreaking. But not because of anything the fighters said. No, this press event was important because it injected an air of optimism into the once-dismal future of mixed martial arts fighting.

First, Lorenzo Fertitta, managing partner for Zuffa and the UFC, addressed the audience and thanked New Jersey Athletic Control Board Commissioner Larry Hazzard for helping "put MMA on the map." For the second consecutive time, the UFC has sold out the Trump Taj Mahal’s 5,200 seat Mark Etess Arena, prompting Zuffa to add 650 seats in a hotel conference room with a closed circuit feed to compensate for the extraordinarily high demand for tickets.

Lorenzo Fertitta
"When me and my brother Frank bought the Ultimate Fighting Championships in January, we sat down with Dana [White] and we said, ‘In every one of our shows we want every fight to be a significant fight,’" said Fertitta. "We want only the best fighters in the world-no one else. And we want even our preliminary matches to be of the level that they would be main events in other shows…I think you would agree that we have accomplished that with this show."

While many in the industry will likely maintain a wait-and-see attitude, Fertitta’s positive outlook is supported by what is surely the UFC’s best fight card in recent memory.

"We will deliver an unbelievable show," he asserted. "You can expect tons of entertainment. Hold on to your seats-there’s going to be a lot of pyro, there’s going to be a lot of lasers, a lot of smoke. But the most important thing I think you’re going to see is the best mixed martial artists in the world competing in the Octagon in action-packed fights."

Even Hazzard took a tone of optimism at the press conference, predicting that MMA would be sanctioned in Las Vegas, Nevada and other states in the none too distant future.

"We have not been disappointed with what we’ve seen," said Hazzard. "We have been working very diligently to come up with a set of rules and regulations, and we did. We hope that all the states around the nation and even other countries will adopt these rules and regulations. We are very hopeful also that the state of Nevada takes a serious look at mixed martial arts. I’m very confident that they will and I’m very confident that in a very short period of time we will be extending the level of exposure to another major venue in the combative sports industry, and that is the state of Nevada."

White, the UFC president, seemed particularly pleased with the organization’s present state of affairs. "We are very proud and very excited for this show," he said. "This is really our first show. We put on the other one, but this is really our baby. We knew what fighters we wanted to go after and we knew what we wanted to accomplish. Now, we’re headed in the right direction. You’re going to see some great action in these fights."

But rather than rest upon the laurels of a successful virgin effort, White affirmed that UFC 32 will move to the Meadowlands on June 29, 2001. Home to the NBA New Jersey Nets, Continental Airlines Arena presents a considerable promotional venture for Zuffa-even with a main event that features middleweight champion Tito Ortiz facing gritty Australian Elvis Sinosic. Regardless of the daunting challenge, Fertitta and White expect a full house of approximately 13,000, more than double the capacity at the Trump Taj Mahal.

"Our marketing plan is to promote-we’re promoters, and the UFC hasn’t been promoted in the last four or five years," says Fertitta. "Nobody even knew that these fight were going on. What you’re going to see and what you’ve already seen is that we’ve had ads in the New York Post, in the paper in North Jersey, we’ve got a number of billboards, we’re on TV with the Devils games all this week, we’re on Howard Stern. We think that there is enough demand for this show, we’re going to promote it the right way, we’re going to deliver incredible entertainment for a live show. One thing we kind of live by from a business standpoint is that you have to take calculated risk and you have to have big dreams. We want to go to the big arenas, we want to compete for the big time. There’s no reason these guys, the world class athletes that they are, shouldn’t be on center stage-and we’re going to put them on center stage."

In addition, White expressed confidence that the UFC will eventually be back on cable, a source of considerable income and exposure. Meanwhile, Fertitta addressed rumors of an allegiance with the rival Pride organization that has achieved so much success in Japan. Just as Fertitta and other UFC officials visited Tokyo for Pride 13, Pride officials are traveling to Atlantic City for UFC 31.

"I think what you see there is just one of the major changes that we bring to the table," he explained. "We believe that there is certainly enough room for everybody to be successful in this sport, and for this sport to grow and evolve, you need to have organizations work with each other as opposed to trying to break each other down."

"Essentially all it is, is a friendly conversation," Fertitta continued. "We went there and we watched some great fights. Really, the reason that I went there is because I’m a fan. I always wanted to see a Pride show, I wanted to see how they do it and I wanted to see Sakuraba fight. Pride will be coming to this fight for the same reason-I think they wanted to see a UFC event, but there’s really nothing deeper than that at this time."

Pedro Rizzo and Randy Couture
But let us not forget the task at hand. The fighters in the co-main events shared the podium with Fertitta, Hazzard, White and Trump Taj Mahal’s Rick Santoro. After speaking very briefly, reigning UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture and top-ranked challenger Pedro Rizzo squared off with for a photo opportunity. Similarly, middleweight champion Pat Miletich joined ever-smiling challenger Carlos Newton for a few pictures. Meanwhile, the other competitors were introduced and then remained for individual interviews.

However the cards unfold on Friday night, one thing is abundantly clear-the Zuffa era has rendered the UFC bright with promise. Only time will tell if MMA’s popularity will match the aspirations of the new UFC ownership group, but the mere fact that they are attempting to take the organization in a new, upward direction is cause for hope.

Fight Order

Preliminary Welterweight Bout
Tony DeSouza vs. Steve Berger

Preliminary Lightweight Bout
B.J. Penn vs. Joey Gilbert

Light Heavyweight Bout
Matt Lindland vs. Ricardo Almeida

Heavyweight Bout
Pete Williams vs. Semmy Schilt

Pat Miletich and Carlos Newton
Welterweight Bout
Matt Serra vs. Shonie Carter

Light Heavyweight Bout
Chuck Liddell vs. Kevin Randleman

World Welterweight Title Bout
Pat Miletich vs. Carlos Newton

World Heavyweight Title Bout
Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo

The Latest From
UFC XXXI: Locked and Loaded

By Aaron Crecy

Taj Mahal
Wednesday, May 2, 2001–The tension is mounting at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City as UFC XXXI approaches. Because most fighters arrived late Tuesday afternoon, the open workout room was loaded with fighters last night. On one side of the room, Kevin Randleman, under the guidance of Mark Coleman, was very vocal, at times exuding confidence and at other times exhibiting frustration. On the other side of the room, Chuck Liddell spent much of his workout with an eye on Randleman, who was rolling with Matt Hughes. Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland were also in the room working out, as were Joey Gilbert, Pete Williams, Pat Miletich, Shonie Carter, Jeremy Horn, Jerry Bohlander, Tony Galindo and Scott Adams. The air was definitely thick with sweat and testosterone! Couture looks extremely fit, as does Miletich–both guys are ripped and working hard.

On Wednesday, the majority of the fighters spent the day undergoing medical checks. Pedro Rizzo got a workout in during the late afternoon with training partner Marco Ruas. Once he exited the room, Couture, Lindland and Henderson took over. UFC middleweight champion Tito Ortiz soon joined them, rolling with both Henderson and Lindland. Coleman showed up to roll with Henderson and Phil Baroni, who also worked out with both Lindland and Couture. UFC commentator and Olympic gold medallist Jeff Blatnick even showed up to talk wrestling with Couture and Lindland before rolling with Ortiz. As soon as they were finished, Ortiz ran to a nearby trash can and threw up–the victim of a below average Atlantic City buffet–which evoked some good-natured ribbing from Coleman. Williams showed up later with Bohlander and Galindo. Couture and Coleman were both impressed with Baroni’s strength and attitude. After the workout, Baroni posed for photos with Couture, Coleman, Lindland and Henderson, his proud father manning the camera. The UFC arranged individual workout times for Thursday, so it was probably the last time this week that so much talent will converge in one room.

Rumor has it that Pride officials will be attending Friday’s event, much like UFC representatives attended Pride 13. One can only surmise that a partnership between the two organizations looms near.

Mark Coleman has put on about 20-25 pounds since Pride 13, where he fought at 225. "Pure indulgence," he explained. Coleman is feeling extremely confident about his progress and says that his stand-up has improved considerably since working with a professional boxing coach for a month.

Randleman claims to have put to rest some personal problems that affected his training prior to the Couture fight and promises to put on a show Friday night. He is definitely looking rocked, if that means anything.

Couture and Coleman both expressed disappointment that plans to train together prior to UFC XXXI fell through. Apparently, Coleman had already purchased airplane tickets to Oregon for himself and Randleman. However, Randleman was feeling very good about his training environment in Columbus and wanted maintain his flow. Coleman and Couture are still very interested in training together for future fights.

posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm
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