The UFC held a conference call for reporters today in preparation for next Saturday’s UFC 73 card in Sacramento, Calif. On the call were UFC president Dana White, Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Sean Sherk, and Nathan Marquardt.
The call was entertaining and informative, which is always the case when White is on the call. Each time he does a media conference call it turns into an impromptu “state of the UFC” address.
Here are the highlights:
- Weigh-ins for UFC 73 will take place next Friday and will once again be televised on ESPNews.
- I asked Dana to explain the situation pertaining to the Pride contracts and whether they can be transferred to the UFC. He said the old Pride contracts are valid with Pride Worldwide, the new company that owns Pride. However, the contracts can’t be transferred to the UFC and that with Pride’s status being uncertain, a lot of the guys need to fight so they are also signing them to UFC deals.
White’s comments were interesting because if Josh Gross’ report last week about Sokoudjou signing with EliteXC are true, then the UFC might want to take legal action. Sokoudjou confirmed to me in an interview for CBS Sportsline last week that he has two fights left on his Pride contract. If that’s the case, how can he sign with EliteXC if he’s not a true free agent? The UFC can’t force him to fight for them but I’m not sure he has the freedom to fight for another promotion right now. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
- Dana was asked a lot of questions about his relationship with Tito. The two didn’t interact much together but were rather cordial when expressing their thoughts on one another. In other words, there were no fireworks. Dana even said at one juncture that Tito has matured both as a fighter and as a person.
- A question was raised about Sean Sherk having been out of the UFC for awhile a one point. White attributed the absence to issues with Sherk’s former management.
- White said that as far as he knows that drug testing was conducted at UFC 72 in Belfast, Ireland and he hasn’t heard about anyone testing positive.
- Tito tried to downplay his “nappy headed ho” comment a few months back on the Underground forum. Said it was just a joke and that he was trying to get his fans to laugh. Rashad was asked if he was personally offended by the comments and he sort of gave an answer that I would classify as non-committal. He didn’t say what Tito did was fine but he also didn’t sound like he was too upset about it either. Rashad said at one point though his uncle called him and was very upset and said he needed to make Tito “pay for all the years the black man was enslaved.” Evans told the story in annectdotal fashion as a way to get a laugh (at least that was my take on it).
- I asked Tito if it was true that he turned down a rematch with Forrest Griffin at UFC 72. Tito confirmed that he in fact had and said that he felt it would have been a step back. He said he felt a match with Rashad would be more challenging and made more sense.
- Evans was very lively at times during the conference call. He had some funny lines and came across pretty witty. He was definitely talking smack to Tito and said at one point that “Tito isn’t half the man he used to be.” He also called out Tito’s recent history of wins and said he hasn’t beaten anyone besides Ken Shamrock. Evans came right out and said Tito got beat by Forrest. Tito talked a lot more smack than Rashad but Rashad had the better lines. I’d give the smack talk nod to Rashad.
- Dana said he was shocked when he heard that Royce Gracie had tested positive for steroids and that from what he saw, Royce didn’t look like he was on steroids.
- Pride was brought up several times. Dana said that Pride went out of business for a reason and the reason was because it was a mess. Said it was their intention when they bought Pride to actually run it but that there’s just a lot to sort out right now. He scoffed several times when reports about Pride running shows soon were brought up. I think it’s safe to say at this point that the rumors about Pride doing shows soon are being started by people that don’t actually own Pride.
- Another rumor/report that Dana scoffed at was that the HBO deal is dead. Dana said the deal is far from dead. Later he said that he felt they were actually “right about there with the deal.” Dana said that former HBO president Chris Albrecht was a supporter of the deal but that the UFC was talking to HBO about a deal with people other than Albrecht and that Albrecht only got involved later on.
- Tito said whether he fights Rampage depends on a conversation that the two would need to have. He said that when Rampage originally came to the UFC he told Dana White from the beginning that he wouldn’t fight Tito. Tito said that if the two talked and that it made sense for everyone involved, he’d be open to the fight.
- Dana said he feels he’ll get a new contract done with Tito. White said that he hasn’t lost a meaningful fighter to another promotion in six years. Kevin Iole from Yahoo! Sports asked who the last fighter he lost was and Dana said that it was B.J. Penn and that Penn ended up suing to get back into the UFC. Sean Sherk chimed in at one point and jokingly said it’s hard for anyone else to talk to any other promotions because Dana keeps buying them.
- Dana really backed away from the Wanderlei vs. Liddell talk. Said it was unlikely to happen in Anaheim at UFC 76 in late September and that Chuck’s next match could actually take place in November. Dana said that no opponent for Chuck is known yet. Dana said that people jumped the gun about Silva vs. Liddell. He said that after UFC 71 he was asked about the match and that all he said was that he told the media that “Yeah, Chuck vs. Wanderlei makes more sense now” and that people took the ball and ran with it.
- Dana confirmed that Paulo Filho was considered for the UFC and that he’s certainly worthy of fighting in the UFC. He said that the WEC is going to be a place to be for top talent and that we’d all be surprised who is being talked about for the WEC. I asked Dana if he could name specific names and he said that he couldn’t.
- Ken Shamrock and his recent release was brought up. Dana confirmed that Shamrock was let go with one fight left on his UFC contract. He said he had heard that Ken is taking it personally and is making all these statements about him. Dana said it’s nothing personal against Ken and that the decision was made based on Ken’s recent won/loss record. He said he doesn’t believe Ken is still a UFC-caliber fighter and that Shamrock should think about retiring. He said Ken as an opponent for Bisping was never discussed and labeled the people who reported it as “Internet knuckleheads.” Dana said he felt Matt Hamill will be a much tougher opponent for Bisping. I have to agree with him there.
- I asked Dana about Cro Cop vs. Cheick Kongo at UFC 75 once again and he yet again said the match is scheduled.