twitter google

Blog within a Blog: Steroid testing, Tiger Schulman’s and MMA, dream match at 160 lbs., and much more

 

I know I caught your attention with the Tiger Schulman’s Karate teaser.

I’ll get to TSK soon. But first, I want to talk about drugs.

Many pundits have written columns on the major sites discussing steroids and offering their ideas about how the issue should be addressed by the major promotions. Thus far, there seems to be a big push for the promotions to do internal testing.

While I respect all the writers who have expressed their thoughts, I think the idea of internal testing doesn’t make much sense.

Let me preface my next statement by saying all of my dealings with the major promotions have been nothing but positive and I have no reason to question their integrity.

However, which would you rather be responsible for the testing of athletes: the promotions themselves or an outside body?

Major League Baseball has its own testing program. Do you trust it? World Wrestling Entertainment has a “wellness program.” Do you trust it?

Look, I’m not an advocate for our government and I certainly don’t always have a lot of trust in our system at times, but I think they are better suited for the task of testing fighters as opposed to the promotions themselves.

Sure, if the IFL decides to do an internal program they’ll use an independent third party. But doesn’t the term “independent third party” become an oxymoron when you take into account that any testing lab brought in by a promotion will be getting their paycheck signed by the promotion they are working for?

Again, I have no reason to doubt the IFL or any promotion that would step up and decide to do internal testing. But is it necessary?

The commissions in states where MMA is regulated do a good job. Improvements still need to be made and testing needs to be expanded. But instead of instituting internal testing, I’d rather see the promotions work directly with the state athletic commissions and let the commissions be in charge of testing.

At the end of the day, the commissions are accountable to the people while independent third parties will be accountable to the fight promotions.

I’d really like to see the promotions stress to the commissions the importance of testing every fighter that’s slated to appear on a fight card.

Another thing I’d love to see — if it’s not being done already — is blood testing.

To my knowledge, only urine is used for drug screening (I could be wrong about this). While you can test urine for a lot of substances, there are some chemicals that don’t show up in urine such as Human Growth Hormone.

HGH is used by a lot of athletes, which is why the MLB drug testing policy is a joke. They test for steroids but not HGH. Blood tests might be costly but at the very least I think any fighter competing in a title fight should be tested for HGH.

Another thing I wanted to comment on is the assertion by some people that drug usage in MMA has reached “epidemic” proportions. The statement may or not be true because I have no idea whether the fighters who have tested positive recently are just isolated offenders or if the usage is widespread. However, from my own personal myopic perspective, steroids in MMA are relatively non-existent.

When I used to lift weights a lot, I primarily trained at home. However, I would go to gyms sometimes. When training at gyms I was amazed at how rampant and wide open steroid usage was. There was no attempt to hide it in most cases. It was incredulous.

I’ve trained at several martial arts schools that had people involved with competitive martial arts. Supplement use is frequent by many fighters that I know but if they’re on the juice, they are keeping it to themselves. I’ve never been offered any kind of chemical enhancer and have never seen a guy doing anything shady in the locker room or making comments about it during my MMA travels.

I’m making a broad statement here but this is a blog entry so cut me some slack, but I just don’t think steroids are a big issue in MMA at the grass roots level. While I find a lot of people who train MMA are educated, I don’t think many are all that affluent. What does affluence have to do with steroid use? Well, that crap isn’t cheap and a guy who is working multiple jobs so that he can pay down school loans, keep up with his rent or mortgage, and trying to pay training fees doesn’t have the investment capital needed to get in the business of performance enhancers.

My theory is that fighters don’t start using until they get to the higher levels then start making real money and then start feeling the pressure. It isn’t until so much is at stake and they feel like they have something to lose that they start to consider a turn to the dark side. Hermes Franca said in his letter he felt pressured because he was injured and needed the pay day. Whether that’s true in his case remains to be seen but it’s certainly a scenario that could be true for some fighters.

Then you have a guy like Stephan Bonnar. Endorsements aren’t easy to come by in MMA and sometimes your look dictates whether you get a sponsor just as much as your record. After having fought in the smaller shows and not wanting to go back, perhaps Bonnar also felt insecure about his status in the UFC after a couple of disappointing performances and was looking for a boost.

Unfortunately, we may never know precisely why fighters are taking steroids because for the most part, they aren’t talking.

Okay, enough talk about urine and drugs because now I want to discuss something that is almost a big of a threat to MMA’s reputation as steroids.

Tiger Schulman’s MMA?

For those of you who don’t live in the Northeastern corridor of the country, Tiger Schulman’s is a franchise of Karate schools that are usually strategically located in strip malls. They fit the description of the quintessential “McDojo.”

I’m not sure if it’s a company-wide transition, but on my way from Philly to Princeton, NJ each Saturday to do my show for ESPN 920, I pass three TSK locations and they are now called “Tiger Schulman’s Mixed Martial Arts.”

My first question is: what the hell has Tiger Schulman ever accomplished in MMA?

But I guess the fact that Tiger Schulman doesn’t come from a MMA background is irrelevant because MMA is what’s hot right now and TSK (hey, all the cool kids chant it at MMA shows!) has to keep enrollment up.

If that’s how they want to run their schools, so be it. However, I’m appalled by rumors (i.e. I’ve seen a few message board posts) that Tiger Schulman’s could be trying to secure a franchise in the IFL.

I have no idea if the talk is even accurate. For all I know, people could be getting things confused with previous speculation that Tiger Schulman’s was going to have a team in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League.

But just the thought of Tiger Schulman’s having anything to do with the IFL is enough to make me throw up in my mouth.

Some of you might feel it’s unfair of me to criticize TSK considering I don’t train there. However, I have an embarrassing admission to make and that is that I once trained there about 10-12 years ago. I only trained there for a month because they couldn’t convince me my street brawling style was ineffective. Quite frankly, a lot of the techniques they tried to teach me would have caused me to get my ass kicked (blocking kicks with forearms!?). I couldn’t believe some of the stuff they tried to teach with a straight face. But hey, they can break boards and I can’t.

I’m sure they’ve changed their curriculum over the years but my experience with McDojos (I sent my son to one at one point) has been that they teach a brand of martial arts that’s just challenging enough so that you don’t quit. The goal of these insidious places with their corporate tactics designed solely to separate you from your money is to make sure you advance through their program so that you keep paying them to move up the ladder.

TSK does have an MMA team that competes in a lot of smaller shows in the Northeast. Some of their fighters are actually pretty good, though none are nationally known. I’m sure they’ve assembled a decent camp with some good trainers but how are they able to teach MMA on a widespread basis? I’d really like to know the credentials of the people teaching MMA at all of their many local schools.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been inside of a Tiger Schulman’s (bow to your Sensei!) and I’m half-tempted to take a week of free lessons just to see what it’s all about. I’ve been to a school where MMA was taught the right way so I think I’d have a good comparative frame of reference.

If there’s any shred of truth that TSK is indeed trying to get an IFL team, I pray the IFL turns them away. No amount of money is worth what it could do to their reputation. The IFL allowing Tiger Schulman to have a team would be like Morton’s Steakhouse allowing McDonald’s to supply them with the meat they use.

Underachievers article on Sportsline

I’ve received a lot of good feedback on my latest Sportsline article regarding the “Ten biggest underachievers in MMA.” I received lots of e-mail and a few responses here on the blog in addition to a few message board threads dedicated to the topic.

It’s a fun topic that has sparked some debate and I’ve been asked about some guys that didn’t make my list. I wanted to comment on a few of them, not to put myself on the defensive but because I think it’s interesting and wanted a chance to comment publicly on some of the names.

One thing I focused on as I compiled my list is whether a guy was truly an underachiever or possibly not just as good as everyone had thought.

Robbie Lawler and Phil Baroni both fell into the category of not being as good as first thought.

While I respect Baroni’s boxing skills and feel his wrestling ability is underrated, I don’t consider him a versatile fighter. He just never developed on a rapid level and I think he got as big as he did because he provided the UFC with some big knockouts and a big personality back when they needed stars in the worst way. Simply put, I think he was overrated when he had his run in the UFC.

As for Lawler, he was like a major league hitter who gets called up from the minors and hits four home runs in his first four games because he’s an excellent fastball hitter. But then that hitter struggles once there’s a book on him and pitchers realize he can’t hit a breaking ball. Lawler brought the hit with his standup and big right crosses but wasn’t as well-rounded as you’d expect an MFS fighter to be. Once fighters started taking him off his feet he was exposed.

The ironic thing is that Lawler has really improved in recent years and is a much better fighter than he was during his first run in the UFC. In my mind, he went from being overrated to being underrated.

The name of Andrei Arlovski was brought up. The Pitbull has definitely been a disappointment and I think he’s capable of more. But I don’t think he’s been underachieving long enough to make the list. If things keep up the way they’ve been going, it won’t be long though until he gets added.

Renato Sobral was also a nomination but I think his current status in MMA is correct. His submission wrestling is world class and his striking has improved. But I see him as being nothing more than a guy worthy of fighting in the UFC just outside of title contention and that just happens to be exactly where he’s at right now.

Vernon White was also suggested. Ugh, don’t get me started. Now, if you know Vernon and think he’s a good guy, that’s fine. Just don’t let your personal bias get in the way of your overall perspective of his place in MMA. He’s right where he belongs and I don’t see any potential in him that’s untapped.

Two choices that people didn’t agree with were Frank Mir and Evan Tanner. There are those who actually feel both are overachievers.

Say what?

In regard to Mir, I will concede that with the improved depth in the UFC’s heavyweight division there’s no way he would be in the title picture even if he was in his prime. However, based on his ground ability, he should at least be a middle of the road guy similar to Heath Herring. But Mir isn’t even Heath Herring! Right now, he’s more like Wes Sims.

Tanner may not be a great pure athlete but he’s an incredible fighter who could easily be the UFC middleweight champ right now if he had his act together. Some people will bristle at that statement but I think Anderson Silva is a vulnerable champion and the UFC simply has an abundance of guys who he matches up well with.

The bottom line is that Tanner would be a bad matchup for Silva. Good luck in trying to convince me otherwise.

I know he can’t stand with Silva, but who can in the 185 lbs. division? But Tanner is a far superior wrestler and if the fight got to the ground then Silva would be in a world of shit.

I’m considering doing an overachievers article next week but have only come up with Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Kenny Florian, and Matt Serra.

Anyone else have any ideas?

A 160 lbs. division sounds good to me!

I like where EliteXC President of Live Events (what an awkward title) Gary Shaw is going with his idea of possibly creating a 160 lbs. division.

The 161 lbs. division in Pride was pretty exciting and it’s a practical weight class for a lot of fighters. It’s also a good idea on Shaw’s part because it would be a way for EliteXC to differentiate their product from the competition.

It would also be a great way to showcase Nick Diaz.

You could definitely build the division around Diaz, assuming he can put the bong down. He can held his own with anyone at 170 lbs., but Cesar Gracie teammate Jake Shields is a big part of EliteXC’s welterweight division and the two of them won’t fight.

Oh, how I could also forget that at 160 lbs., Diaz is a beast!

The 160 lbs. weight class would also be perfect for a fighter not currently on the EliteXC roster. I think former Bodog welterweight champion Eddie Alvarez is made for 160 lbs.

Alvarez is undersized for 170 lbs. in my opinion. He’s thought about dropping to 155 lbs. but feels comfortable at welterweight and wants to stay there. However, he might be more open to the idea of dropping to 160 lbs. as opposed to 155 lbs.

His boxing is good enough that he can hold his own with anyone at 170 lbs., however, put him at 160 lbs. and like Diaz, he becomes a beast.

Alvarez has two fights left on his contract to Bodog and when I had him on my show on ESPN 920 several weeks back, he expressed nothing but happiness with Bodog.

However, money talks and if Elite makes a strong offer once Alvarez becomes a free agent, then you never know.

Bringing in Alvarez would be a great move for Elite because he’s significant name that could be added for an affordable price. While he wouldn’t come cheap, he wouldn’t require Sokoudjou money ($150,000 per match).

If built up properly, a match between Alvarez and Diaz could headline a pay-per-view.

It would also be one hell of a fight.

IFL vs. EliteXC?

One thing I left out in my conference call notes for the IFL yesterday is that IFL commissioner Kurt Otto once again commented on the possibility of having all the winners from the upcoming IFL World Grand Prix eventually take on another promotion’s top five in a best-of format.

Otto said he’s willing to work with just about any promotion but wouldn’t talk specific names. However, EliteXC seems like a logical partner because thus far, Gary Shaw is the only other executive of a major fight promotion that I know of willing to work with promotions other than his own.

I’d love to see it. Right now EliteXC needs to work on building their heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions but Chris Horodecki vs. Nick Diaz at lightweight, Delson Heleno vs. Jake Shields at welterweight, and Murilo “Ninja” Rua vs. Benji Radach at middleweight are intriguing matchups on paper.

But in the end, I think an EliteXC vs. IFL team challenge is unlikely to happen because Shaw has not been extremely keen on the IFL’s team concept when the topic has been brought up during conference calls.

Free agent market ripe in MMA

It’s July 26 as I write this and Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett, Thierry Sokoudjou, Brock Lesnar, Denis Kang, and Gilbert Melendez are all still free agents.

I don’t think the MMA market in North America could handle another new promotion, but there’s enough talent out there that if there was a multi-millionaire who wanted to get involved with MMA and didn’t care about making money right away, they could throw some cash around and become an immediate player.

Tito Ortiz could also become available in the coming months and if you threw in guys like Matt Lindland and Robbie Lawler (who don’t have exclusive contracts), a newcomer to the business could make Dana White’s worst nightmare become reality.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Rosholt wins MMA debut

Remember the name Jake Rosholt.

The Team Takedown member, who also trains with Randy Couture at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, won his MMA debut this past weekend in Oklahoma. Rosholt tapped Dusty Miller at 3:40 in round one during Masters of the Cage 15 in Oklahoma.

A former top college wrestler, Rosholt is one of four members of Team Takedown, a group started with the intent of recruiting top collegiate wrestlers and assisting them in making the transition to MMA.

Rosholt, Johny Hendricks, Shane Roller, and Eric Bradley all have big futures in this sport.

Where in the world is Chris Wilson?

Does anyone know what happened to former Portland Wolfpack welterweight Chris Wilson? I thought the Team Quest member was a legitimate prospect at 170 lbs. but he left the IFL and I haven’t heard about him since besides some rumors that he might be signing with Bodog.

If you know anything about Wilson’s current status, please drop me a line.

21 COMMENTS
  • says:

    Damn Sam, too much to comment on. But I will say that 160-1 is much better than 155. At the lower weights 15 lbs is too much of a difference, wrestlers will always have an advantage down low from years of weight cutting experience ( Sherk was 186 at fight time ), and 160 can accept many more guys who due to height cant get to 155 but are too thin for 170.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    [...] Caplan on MMA promoters instituting their own drug testing. He’s not a [...]

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Tanner is a great fighter and a great wrestler and I’m a fan of his overachieverness. Face it, Tanner caught a break against Terrell and took advantage of it to ‘win’ the vacant middle weight belt a couple years ago and then he lost it immediately to Franklin. He had his chance again against Franklin and lost and he loses again to Loiseau. Tanner is more like a gatekeeper to the title challenger level of 185. He can beat just about everyone in the division with the exception of the top of the weightclass. Saying Silva would be in a world of shit if Tanner got him to the ground is like saying a pitcher is in a world of shit after he walks the bases loaded and goes 0-3 to the number 4 hitter. Sure, who wouldn’t be a world of shit if they make mistakes and put themselves in bad situations? I just don’t think Silva would have any problems with Tanner, although I’d pay to see it.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Tiger Schulman is the equivalent of Globo Gym.

    http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie.aspx?m=548282

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    The TSK schools are mostly little kids, soccer moms, and fat ninjas working their way up the paid belt schedule.

    My understanding is their fight teams are totally separate and run by actual MT and BJJ trainers who know karate is BS.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Brent:

    But the schools I pass are called “Tiger Schulman’s Mixed Martial Arts.” That’s could that they have a respectable fight team, but are they really claiming you can go to one of their local schools and learn authentic MMA?

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    I don’t understand the hate for these McDojos related to them creating teams for pro MMA orgs like the IFL. They don’t exist where I live but if their teams sucked all it would do is hurt the company so it would be likely they would put together a decent team to save face. I don’t understand why you’re so against a company like the IFL picking up a team sponsored by Tiger Schulman, you didn’t go into a lot of detail on why you think it would be bad. Results in the ring speak volumes, if they really do suck they won’t last long in that sport.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    pr0cs: its more that there wouldn’t be a connection between what the team trains and what they train people who walk into their McDojos. Say they get a great camp together and put kickass fighters into various promotions, then use that to draw people into the malls where they train them…lame karate and elbows on the ground, and when they pay enough hand ‘em a belt. that’s how i read it anyways. for me personally it’s caveat emptor.
    Sam, next time, i think a longer post would be better, perhaps 90,000 words….!
    i think Sobral is underachieving right now. i think he’ll be back at the top, perhaps even take that belt. He has, as you say, some of the best grappling at any weight in the world, and his striking is getting better. Lambert did about as good a job as anyone’s ever done against him, and the performance against chuck was weird to say the least. but look for Babalu to make some serious noise (unless you know somethin I don’t) in the future. and yes, i’m a serious fan of anyone who beats Rua, Horn and Prangley in one night.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Sam,
    Just a thought…next time you write about steroid use/testing in MMA, it would probably be a good idea to have your facts straight. I’m referencing the part about HGH and you calling for the commissions to require blood testing for HGH. I hate to call you out, but you do know that there is NO way of testing for HGH through Blood or Urine testing…Now you could require that athletes give Blood samples to be stored and when someone develops a reliable test the samples could be tested for HGH at a later date, but legally you would be dealing with a whole other host of issues. Just thought I’d chime in as far as the HGH issue with respect to the commission testing for it. You are spot on, when saying HGH is by far the biggest issue in all of sports!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Bruce:

    Actually, I think in the future you might want to have your facts straight before you jump on someone to correct them…

    1) Please refer me to where I said there’s a urine test for HGH? I know you can’t test for HGH via urine, hence the reason why I am saying there should be blood testing in MLB and MMA.

    2) No blood test for HGH? I’m pretty sure the Olympic committee has a test for HGH. While testing for HGH is rare and expensive, I am almost positive the Olympics tests for it. I’ve read various articles calling for MLB to adopt the same testing policy used by the Olympics just so they can crack down on HGH.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Sam – I see what you are saying with the 160 weight class, but I worry that it may open the floodgates for dividing all the weight classes further. Matt Hughes himself said how much he loved fighting at 175 against Royce, so what would stop people from having a 178ish class. I bet Mike Swick and Joe Riggs would both love that. The next thing you know, we have a dozen plus weight classes and we’re moving toward the crazy weight class situation that IMO has really hurt boxing.

    You brought up Jake Rosholt. Rosholt was a dynamite as a college wrestler, as were Hendricks, Bradley, and Roller. But here’s a more impressive prospect. Ben Askren has stated numerous times, including during an interview on ESPNews that he has his eyes on the UFC/MMA in the future. Askren is a two time NCAA champ at 174, 4x finalist, 4x All American, and 2x Hodge Winner, basically the Heisman of college wrestling. He is a funky scrambler who is very physical and flexible. Remember that name as well.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Gygax:

    Thanks for reading the column.

    In regard to Askren, I’m definitely well aware of him. I watched the NCAAs on ESPN II just so I could see him. While he has said he’s interested in MMA, he has yet to make a commitment to it, whereas Rosholt, Bradley, Hendricks, and Roller are all training MMA. I think Roller just started training recently with Guy Mezger in Dallas but plans to move to Vegas and Xtreme Couture and join Rosholt, Bradley, and Hendricks pretty soon.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Sam,

    I never meant to imply that you stated there was a Urine test for HGH. So if that’s how it read then i apologize. I am confused about your opinion on reliable blood testing for HGH though? So are you implying that the World Anti Doping Agency’s so-called HGH test is a reliable one? The WADA test has yet to catch anyone using HGH through blood testing. I was simply stating that the commissions do not have a reliable way of testing for HGH at this time. I agree that they need to implement blood testing, but at this time nobody has proven to be able to catch them with the HGH test available at this exact moment in time. I respect your vast knowledge an opinions on MMA and in no way was trying to disrespect you…

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Bruce:

    No disrespect taken. When I’m wrong, I’m the first to admit it. However, if someone tries to correct something I write or report and I don’t feel their assertion of a mistake is entirely accurate, I do feel a need to speak out.

    To be honest, I have no opinion as to whether the World Anti Doping Agency’s HGH test is accurate or not. Admittedly, I don’t know enough about it. Will you agree though that the Olympics at least are trying to test for HGH? I just don’t feel that saying there’s no way to test for HGH is entirely accurate.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Garth:

    I’d love to see Sobral become a major factor in the UFC but until he starts fighting better from a tactical standpoint, I don’t know if he’s going to be anything more than a gatekeeper.

    And if he doesn’t beat Lambert, then there’s a real chance he might be done in the UFC.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Sam, thanks for the level-headed response to the steroids issue. What’s lost in the semi-hysteria is that two high-profile fighters got caught and got punished! On some level, the system is working and let’s praise that.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Internal testing, yeah, isn’t that like self regulation with hmm petroleum, tobacco, and yes baseball.
    160 lb weight class sounds nice, + I don’t think it’s the multitude of weight classes that is/has? killed boxing.
    As far as over achievers Sam… how about K.J. Noons or Jason MacDonald?

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Great article Sam.

    It appears that Randy is very quickly going to have a gigantic stable of fighters with outstanding amateur wrestling pedigrees training at his facility. I wonder if his reported meetings with Wanderlei Silva materialized into any sort of partnership or training relationship? If so (and that is where Silva will start training when he moves to the US), it will be interesting to see how Silva’s wrestling improves (not to mention how Silva’s Muay Thai instruction will help all of the collegiate wrestlers flocking to this camp).

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Bubba:

    I’m not sure about MacDonald. It’s hard to label a guy who has been nicknamed “The Athlete” an underachiever. Based on his nickname, I would assume he brought some pretty good raw skills when he got involved with martial arts.

    As for Noons, man, why is my opinion of him the polar opposite of everyone else’s? I’ve watched just about all his fights and think he’ll be a star once he gives up on boxing and also improves his ground game. If anything, I think he should be doing better than he already is. The kid is a prodigy. He’s been training MMA for quite some time and has natural boxing skills.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    wait a minute. you just wrote in 2007 about the virtues of Evan tanner. Yet you expect to be given credibility?

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • says:

    Wait a minute, do I detect sarcasm?

    Out of curiosity, did you sign up for the one year or two year plan at TSK?

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

LEAVE A COMMENT!

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Follow 5OZ