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Pre-UFC 75 conference call recap with White, Henderson, Rampage, Bisping, and Hamill

The UFC held a media conference call today to promote UFC 75 on September 8 in London. The event will be televised on a tape delay basis on Spike TV in the United States.

On the call was UFC president Dana White, Pride middleweight and welterweight champion Dan Henderson,  UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Michael Bisping, and Matt Hamill.

Here are what I consider to be the biggest stories coming out of the press conference:

1. Dana announced that Renato “Babalu” Sobral has been released from his contract. My editor at CBSSports.com, Denny Burkholder, asked Dana if he felt the media was making too much out of the Sobral vs. Heath situation. White said that the fans expressed how they felt after the match and that up until that point Sobral had been a fan favorite. He said if it had been an arm, leg, or an ankle he would have been fired on the spot. He then added that Sobral has been cut from his contract. It was confusing because he made mention that Sobral would have been cut if had done something other than a choke, only to reveal seconds later that it had been cut. Some people are reading it as that Sobral was going to be cut regardless of what he did to David Heath but I did not hear it that way at all. He did term Babalu’s departure several different ways though such as “not renewed” and “cut.” It was a little opened ended.

A reporter later asked if Babalu was finished with the UFC forever and Dana said he doesn’t like to say never.

I asked a followup in regard to Dana’s comments in the Las Vegas Sun where he said he would talk to Babalu and that he was considering disciplinary action. I said it didn’t sound like Dana was going to dismiss him at the time and I asked what changed his mind? Dana didn’t agree with my assessment and said the writer from the Sun asked right after the incident happened. He said he wasn’t going to talk about disciplinary steps before speaking to Sobral and that he never changed his mind.

2. Dana White said “Nobody gives a shit about Josh Barnett.” Dana was asked to respond to Barnett’s questions about Randy Couture being a “paper champion,” to which Dana replied, “Nobody gives a shit about Josh Barnett, especially not me.” Mauro Ranallo contacted Barnett to get his reaction. Those comments from Barnett will be played on Fight Network Radio. I also spoke with Barnett and will be posting his reaction online after I finish my guest spot with Mauro.

3. Dana said that they “aren’t even close” to finalizing a new contract with Spike TV.

4. There were a TON of questions about Pride and a ton of comments from Dana about them. The most notable in my mind being that soon after they signed a deal with Pride, the UFC lost its TV contract in Japan. It sounded as though Dana insinuated it had to do with Pride having a bad name in Japan right now and that they suffered repercussions because of it.

5. I never followed up on reports yesterday about Ryo Chonnan signing with the UFC because they sounded like bunk. A reporter asked Dana if Chonnan had signed. Dana paused after the question (it sounded like he was conferring with someone in the room with him) and then responded “No.”

Other highlights:

– Dana was asked about Fedor and he confirmed he’d be meeting with him on Thursday (today). He was pressed if he thought there might be a press release announcing a signing today and Dana responded, “We’ve been talking with these guys for months. Who knows what will happen.” A followup was asked about a pending announcement and Dana said something to the effect, “Sure, put in a good word for us with them?”

– After the fight on Sept. 8 the Pride middleweight title will be retired. The UFC light heavyweight title will serve as the unified title.

– Rampage said he’s preparing for Dan Henderson the same way he prepared for Matt Lindland when he fought him last year in the WFA.

– Dana congratulated Dan Henderson on the birth of his baby daughter. Henderson’s wife had a planned delivery last night.

– Dana once again said Pride went out of business for a reason. He indicated that fighters can’t sit around and wait until Pride gets back on its feet and that is why guys like Henderson are making their way into the UFC. Dana added that Japan is a tough place to navigate through business-wise and that it was much tougher than they thought.

– Dana said Pride lost its TV deal due to “rumors” and that the Pride name is not good in Japan right now. He said they’re lucky just to be able to rent office space because of the company’s reputation. He would not offer a timetable for a final decision on Pride’s fate (so there is still some small hope) and that it was their every intention to keep it running when they bought it. He cited their activity with the WEC as an example of them keeping a company alive after acquiring it. He said he wouldn’t rule out doing UFC shows in Japan but that the UFC no longer has a TV contract after they announced the acquisition of Pride.

– There were a lot of questions about Dan Henderson and what weight class he’ll be fighting in long-term. He said he’s not thinking past this fight at all. At another point he asked why should he cut to 185 lbs. when he can beat anyone at 205 lbs.? Henderson didn’t sound cocky when he said it. He said it in a matter of fact tone and it sounds as though he’s very confident coming into this bout.

– Dana did not rule out the possibility of Randy Couture’s next fight being on Super Bowl weekend (damn, that’s an entire football season away!). They aren’t sure about an opponent. Dana said if Fedor signed he might get an immediate title shot. He also said that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will likely fight before the end of the year and if he wins, he could be next in line for a title shot.

– White said it will be awhile before they can gauge their success overseas.

– A question about Shogun came up and Dana said Shogun is a contender right now.

– Rampage was asked about Henderson having not fought in the cage for about 10 years. Jackson didn’t think it was an issue and said fighting in the Octagon is “like riding a bike.”

– Dana was asked about bringing in all the Pride stars and basically said that outside of Fedor that they have all of them under contract. Denis Kang’s name was brought up and Dana said Kang is talented, that they are interested, and that they’ve talked but that he doesn’t consider Kang one of the bigger names from Pride. Can I just say that I’d like to beg to differ?

6 COMMENTS
  • dice says:

    I agree with Barnett, dana has a tendency to try and look like he could care less but if its a situation that could make him a lot of money; he will change his mind in a heartbeat. Josh is a solid top 5 heavyweight who can sell himself as well as anyone. The UFC should be making a very large push for him.

    This leads into my next topic: the firing of babalu. My guess is that Dana is not firing him for what he did (although it makes it more convenient); he is letting him go because he and joe silva probably don’t see the point of keeping him on. Meaning where does he fit into in the light heavyweight scene (they would have kept him on if they figured he could provide some big money fights). He is too good to keep on as a gatekeeper and is only an underdog to very few fighters. I personally think they should have keep him on to use his last fight as a chance for shogun to avenge a loss. But like I said before, there is no guarantee that babalu would lose that fight. Bottom line: if it would have made financial sense to keep him on, they would have. Dana and the Fertittas are not moral agents, their allegiance is to the almighty dollar.

    From what I understand it is a bit of longshot that the UFC will sign fedor. Because the way I see it the UFC is not going to meet all of his demands. Yes they may let some more red devil fighters in, thats not that big of an issue but I highly doubt that they would let him fight for another promotion, even if its in russia and I don’t think they are crazy about letting him continue his sambo career. The only way I could see them signing him is if they promise to hold an event or two in his homeland and if they allow him to compete in sambo, as long if it isn’t 2-3 months before an upcoming UFC bout.

    And yes dana, denis kang is top tier talent and a big name (arguably the biggest name pride had in that division once hendo moved to 205). And if this is something you unable to see then I worry about your scouting abilities.

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  • Zurich says:

    Uh, Canada is a huge market for the UFC and MMA in general. GSP’s success has proven to be a vehicle for growth for MMA in Canada (dear god, just step foot into a sports bar in Toronto when GSP is fighting… its insane). Dennis Kang is Canadian, and he’s a huge talent at 185. Based on the foregoing, I don’t understand Dana’s reasoning. Is it because of the rumours about Kang’s sexuality? His asian heritage? It’s certainly not about his skill or fighting style…

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  • Mobb Deep says:

    Please, Dennis Kang is not a big name in North America. Dana’s reasoning is quite simple. No one other than hardcore fans have even heard of him. Its not worth it for him to try to break his balls to try and sign him. In the case of Wanderlei, Nog, Shogun, Cro Cop and Fedor its diffrent. Even though they didn’t fight in the US(exept on a 2 occasions), thier exploits are legendary and tales of them managed to make thier way across the Pacific. Its not the same with Kang and its not worth it for the UFC to break thier backs in order to wrestle him away from K-1.

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  • dice says:

    Oh I guess I misunderstood Dana when he said he wanted to get the best fighters in the world to come to the UFC. I guess he meant to say “we are going to get the biggest names in the world”. No one is saying they need to “break their backs” to sign him and who said anything about being well known in america (I am assuming you meant America and not North America, because he is well known in Canada).

    Not sure if you have noticed but the UFC has little interest in appealing JUST to the masses in America . They are trying to take their business global, and yes in the global mma community denis kang is very well known (huge in korea). The guy is a top 5 middleweight who is an extremely explosive fighter; someone that any promoter would like to have on their card. I don’t think you want to get in the habit of rating fighters on how big their name is or saying that an organization shouldn’t push for him because their exploits aren’t legendary (in the US that is). I rate them on how their performance in the ring/cage. So I am going to have to disagree and say that he is definitely worth signing.

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  • Kang may not be a big name to Americans but he is a bona fide top tier guy

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  • jt says:

    With Kang I think the issue for me is more about talent than recognition. Granted the UFC middleweight division is in an OK (not wonderful)place right now, but Kang has crazy talent. Why would you not want someone who is an exciting, talented, marketable fighter in your organization?

    Weird.

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