Mark Cuban conducted both a press conference locally in Dallas this morning and also a conference call for the national media soon after. The press conference and the conference call was to announce the formation of HDNet Fights that will be televised every Friday on Cuban’s high-definition subscription cable channel, HDNet.
HDNet already televises MMA content but today’s announcement confirmed recent reports of an extension of MMA coverage on the network with fights being offered every Friday night. The plan is to offer 24 MMA event telecasts in the upcoming year. Additionally, a new magazine-style program called “Inside MMA” that will also air every Friday and be hosted by Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten. The show debuts this week.
HDNet Fights will be working with other promotions such as the IFO and Art of War, however, Cuban’s new group will promote cards of its own. The first Cuban-promoted card is scheduled for October 13 from the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX.
Guy Mezger, who is essentially Cuban’s day-to-day MMA operations manager, was on the call and announced several matches.
They are as follows:
- Main event: Erik Paulson from Shooto fame will be taking a break from his training duties and coming out of retirement to fight 5-time kickboxing champ Jeff Ford. This will be a light heavyweight matchup.
- Former UFC heavyweight title contender Justin Eilers will be taking on Justin Howard.
- Freddie “Speedy” Espiricueta will fight Jason House
- Former UFC fighters Pete Spratt (of Houston) will be taking on Sammy Morgan
- Sean Salmon will be fighting Leopoldo Serao
- T.J. Walberger will go against Anthony Lapsley
- Justin McDowell will fight Ivan Jorge
- In a battle of super heavyweights, Joel Traves will do battle with Sunia Filikitonga
Other fighters are listed on the promotions web site (HDNetFights.com) so I’m assuming there will be more matches.
Highlights of the press conference include:
- There was talk of Fedor but nothing new to report. Cuban confirmed they’ve offered some things that interest Fedor’s camp and that the UFC has offered Fedor’s camp some things that interest them.
- I asked Mezger about other big name free agents. He wouldn’t get into specifics but I asked him if they’d be interested in Josh Barnett. He not only said that they’re interested but that discussions have taken place. He mentioned that if they were to sign Fedor, they’d need someone to fight him and that a lot of people aren’t willing too. We all know that Barnett would be willing too.
- A lot of fighters signed for the first card are on one-fight deals. Mezger is exploring possibilities with certain fighters who could fit into a situation where they’d be signed to multi-fight contracts.
- There was a lot of talk about the IFL. Ring of Fire, Art of War, and Richard Steele’s IFO will all be promotions that HDNet Fights will be working with but with 24 shows planned, they will need to work with more companies. The IFL’s HD rights for 2008 are not secured so there’s nothing to stop them from working with Cuban at this point in addition to their deals with Fox Sports Net and MyNetwork. Also, don’t rule out HDNet as a possible solution to the whole IFL live telecast issue.
- Josh Gross from Sherdog.com mentioned in an article today that Cuban has been talking to the WWE and Vince, Shane, and Linda McMahon. Gross didn’t offer much detail so I asked Cuban if he could elaborate. Basically, the McMahons aren’t looking to start an MMA promotion. However, they have existing PPV distribution and Cuban expressed an interest in talking to them about production since they are already doing so much of it.
- Justin Eilers dropped a nice little nugget of info. He’s training in Vegas now at the Vegas Fight Club where Tony Fryklund trains. Eilers actually trained in a boxing gym for a while in Iowa after leaving MFS. Apparently his decision to leave MFS wasn’t one that came on good terms. He reluctantly revealed that he had a beef with Tim Sylvia. Basically, when Eilers got the title shot against Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia didn’t feel like he deserved it and felt that the title shot should have been his. Instead of being a good teammate and sucking it up, he just refused to work with Eilers in helping him get ready for the match. You know, I’ve defended Sylvia in the past but that’s a bullshit move on his part.
- Right now HDNet has 6 million subscribers. It’s available to most people who have satellite. Technically, you don’t even need an HD set. You just need the HD box and you can hook it into the S-video connection of your TV and subscribe. It’s not available on Comcast but Cuban said they are working on that.