Saturday’s HDNet Fights card from Dallas, Texas will feature two main events comprised of some of the world’s top middleweights.
In one bout, Jason “Mayhem” Miller will be taking on up and coming star Tim Kennedy. In the night’s co-main event, Frank Trigg will return to action for the first time since March.
The fight will mark Trigg’s debut for Mark Cuban’s HDNet Fights and it comes just weeks after signing a contract with the promotion. For diehard Trigg fans, the announcement was heralded with a tremendous sense of relief as rumors began to circulate that Trigg was considering retirement due to growing frustrations from his uncertain status.
Trigg recently took time out of his schedule to speak with FiveOuncesOfPain.com to address those rumors as well as why he chose HDNet Fights over other offers; whether Zuffa has a bias towards him; if a rematch with Miller in 2008 is possible; if reports that he received an offer to fight Paulo Filho in the WEC were true; and much more.
Sam Caplan: You were one of the most highly regarded free agents on the open market for so long. What made you decide to go with HDNet Fights as opposed to some other offers you may have received?
Frank Trigg: It came down to contractual issues of most other organizations (that) want to pay you to fight; they want to pay you a pretty decent salary to fight but not a great salary. But then they don’t want you doing anything else for any other organizations. They don’t want you doing any broadcast work, or any cornering work, or anything else.
When it came down to HDNet Fights, they only hired me to be a fighter. They don’t care about my broadcast career. I am the only fighter besides Frank Mir that’s active and broadcasts on a regular basis. And every other organization was trying to hamstring me so all I could do was fight for them and only be paid to fight; I wasn’t allowed to earn income doing anything else in relation to any other organization.
Guy Mezger, Kevin Smith, and Mark Cuban didn’t care about that. They want me actually to broadcast for other companies. They want me to do other work outside of HDNet Fights and that’s why it became easy for me to sign with them. The numbers were about the same with every organization; the contract length was pretty much the same, it just came down to a contract structure issue of being able to work in other fields.
Sam Caplan: Is your fighter contract with HDNet Fights non-exclusive? Can you fight for other organizations?
Frank Trigg: It’s non-exclusive. It’s a three fight, one year contract but it’s not exclusive. However, Guy Mezger gets right of first refusal. Meaning, “Hey, I have a fight coming up, I want to fight for XYZ organization sometime in June, is this possible?” And he’ll say “Yes, it is possible because I’m not going to use you,” or “No, it’s not possible because we are going to use you within a certain time frame.”
I’m not allowed to compete within 60 days before an event that I have for HDNet Fights or within 30 days after an event I have for HDNet Fights. There’s a three month window that he can lock me out of, which is fine, because that’s the way it should be.
Sam Caplan: You touched on your broadcast career and you did a lot of work for PRIDE and a few one-off shows around the country. You’re also doing TAGG Radio every Monday through Friday. What’s going on with your broadcast situation right now?
Frank Trigg: Nothing. Right now it’s just TAGG Radio. I still have my contract with Fox Sports Net but we haven’t done any work since July because Zuffa purchased PRIDE (and) that pretty much shut down my Fox Sports Net show. So that was finished in July and I haven’t really done any broadcast work since then. I’m actually trying to get work as we speak. That’s the next game I’m doing right now.
Sam Caplan: Is doing broadcast work with HDNet Fights a possibility? You double-dipped, so to speak, while working for PRIDE. It was just last February in which you fought and provided analysis on the same show. Might we see that again?
Frank Trigg: No, you’ll never see that happen again.
Sam Caplan: Can you elaborate on that a little bit? What was your experience like?
Frank Trigg: It’s just hard to go from getting punched in the head to talk about people getting punched in the head. If you win the fight decisively you still come out with a little bit of damage and trying to maintain and be able to compunction that whole rest of the night is just very difficult. Plus, I have a bad taste in my mouth because PRIDE didn’t pay me for my broadcast work that night. All they paid me for was my fight work that night. To date, I still haven’t received my broadcast payment for that night so it’s kind of put me in a weird position where I don’t feel comfortable doing it.
Sam Caplan: You were a guest on the Scott Ferrall Show on Sirius Satellite Radio before you signed with HDNet Fights. You sounded a bit frustrated with your contract situation. During any point while you were unsigned did you consider retirement?
Frank Trigg: Uhhh… Yeah. Especially because, broadcast wise, I make as much, if not more money broadcasting. Say you fight three times a year, you’re looking at eight weeks per training camp. That’s six months that you’re locked down. That’s essentially 24 weekends that you’re kind of out of the loop where you’re not allowed to do anything. Where, if you broadcast, that’s 52 weekends that you’re allowed to work. So I’m able to work as a professional broadcaster — just talking fight weekends — I have 52 weekends available for me on my calendar to work whereas with fighting I might only be able to work three or four weekends a year. I can do that exact same amount and almost make as much money per weekend broadcasting as opposed to fighting so why wouldn’t I think about just doing broadcasting on a full-time basis?
That’s why (with) a lot of the contracts people were amazed that I was able to say no to. The companies were coming in and what they wanted to do with me marketing wise and what have you, I was able to say “No I’m not interested” because you’re looking at tying me up for two weekends — maybe three weekends — a year and not allowing me to do other things broadcasting wise when I can cover those other 48 or 49 weekends with broadcasting. So why would I say yes when I have another career to fall back on?
Sam Caplan: I heard from a source that one of the promotions you said “no” to was the WEC. The source told me that you were offered a contract by them and that you declined. Is that correct?
Frank Trigg: Yes, your source is correct. They offered me a contract. We tried to make it happen. I wanted to fight Paulo Filho but it just couldn’t happen in the sense of that we just had too many things going on. We tried to save the deal. The deal in my mind was actually dead three or four different times and I was just frustrated and over it and then Reed (Harris) came back to the table and basically saved it three of the times to kind of get us back in gear with each other.
Then we got into a business position where I had to say no on some wording within and the contract and he had to say no because I needed some wording removed from the contract. In my mind at least, Reed and Scott Adams, who were the original owners of the WEC and have been friends of mine for a very long time, and these are guys I respect highly because they took a very small organization and built it up to something now where you see it on Versus every weekend. And they did a great job, especially Reed, trying to save the deal but it just couldn’t happen from a business standpoint. We had to agree to disagree and just go our separate ways.
Sam Caplan: Can you talk about some of the hurdles that were encountered during negotiations?
Frank Trigg: It came down to broadcast work.
Sam Caplan: You indicated that while HDNet Fights holds a right of first refusal, it’s still possible for you to compete for other promotions. Is fighting for M-1 Global something that might be possible?
Frank Trigg: Yes. You have to remember, Monte Cox and I have had a long-standing relationship and we respect each other very much even though a couple of his actual fighters at the time beat me. Most people say Monte Cox is kind of a scumbag manager but he’s really not.
Sam Caplan: Yeah, I don’t understand people who say that. He’s actually one of the better managers in the game right now.
Frank Trigg: He’s absolutely one of the better guys in the game and most managers should take a lesson from him in the sense of he has so many fighters that eventually he’s going to get a Matt Hughes, a Tim Sylvia, a Rich Franklin, or a Robbie Lawler underneath your tutelage where you’re going to be able to have your guys winning a multitude of championships being great competitors.
Monte is one of those guys you got to look at and go “How the hell did he do all that?” Why has he been able to maintain these fighters for so long; even though Matt has since left him from a management standpoint. But Monte runs M-1 Global; I was at the Mark Ecko building in New York during the announcement for Fedor. HDNet is covering the Fedor fight on New Year’s Eve.
So for me it’s a big deal; I would love to fight for M-1 if he can get it worked out. Unfortunately, their first fight, I believe is going to be in February, the rumor is Chicago. I’m going to be unable to compete in that because I just have so many things going on with my clothing line and what we have to do with Triggonomics during February and March and of course, my kids’ spring breaks are during those times so I have to be able to see the kids during those times as well.
Sam Caplan: You touched on HDNet broadcasting Fedor’s return on Dec. 31. Is there a possibility you could do the English-version telecast of that show for HDNet?
Frank Trigg: Steve Tartabini, who actually worked for the UFC — that’s how I met Steve, through the UFC — and when he lived there before they made the transfer to Craig (Pilligian) and the rest of the guys that are there now production-wise. Steve is actually maintaining that and is trying to put together the broadcast team right now at the moment (When) I got the report that that was actually going to happen, my first phone call was to Steve to try and make that happen.
You’ve got to remember that even though Fedor is very easy to talk to and a lot of people have access to him, I believe in my mind that Fedor doesn’t talk to anyone else like he talks to me when it comes to broadcasting. You’re not going to get him speaking to another color analyst or a play-by-play guy the way he talks to me. We talk like two guys that have been in the trenches and most guys have to talk to Fedor through a translator. Well, Fedor and I don’t have to talk through a translator; we actually can communicate without the translator around.
I would love to be the guy on that card but of course that’s ultimately up to Mark Cuban; what does he want to do? And it’s up to Steve Tartabini because he already has a broadcast team and how’s he going to work it?
Sam Caplan: Jake Shields has gone on the record publicly and asked for a match against you. There was some talk on the Underground forum at MMA.tv at one point of the two of you fighting on the ill-fated “Brawl for it All” show in October in San Francisco. I know you have said you will not fight at 170 lbs. again, but if EliteXC made a strong offer for a catch weight of 180 lbs., is that something you’d be open to?
Frank Trigg: No. I fight at 185 — that’s my weight. Why would I fight Jake at any other weight than my weight? You know, you don’t go to Russia and challenge them to a fight and make Russia come to America to fight you. You don’t go to (Oscar) De La Hoya and challenge him to a fight and make him come up to heavyweight to fight you. If you’re going to challenge somebody (then) go to where they’re at and I’m at 185, that’s where I fight. If he wants to fight me then he has to come up to 185.
He fights at 170 (and) he needs to maintain the 170 guys. There’s more than enough guys that will beat the crap out of him at 170. Why does he need to come to 185 and worry about me when he can go out and do his own thing down there.
Sam Caplan: Was EliteXC one of the promotions pursuing you before you signed with HDNet Fights?
Frank Trigg: Not until the very end when we were very close to finalizing things with HDNet. We had a couple more things that had to get worked out and that was the only time Showtime actually said anything. Gary Shaw came out said at a press conference months and months ago that he wanted to get more on board with his team but we never heard anything from him at all until the very last minute. And really, that was because of Ricco Chiapparelli’s relationship with T. Jay Thompson, who owns the ICON promotion out in Hawaii. ICON was acquired by ProElite and that’s how EliteXC came about, trying to call us about that with T. Jay trying to push them to get a hold of Trigg. They (EliteXC) did call but they called at the wrong moment.
Sam Caplan: During the interview with Scott Ferrall on Sirius you sounded very discouraged and it seemed like you felt there was a bias against you expressed from Zuffa? Do you feel that’s an accurate assessment?
Frank Trigg: Well, you know, I was a top two guy at 170 and I’m a top ten guy at 185. They’re having a hard time right now with the 185 lbs. division with Anderson Silva being the champ and him basically running his way through the gamut. They need bigger names and more names at 185 to kind of come through there and run their mouth and sell a fight, which obviously I do very well. And Zuffa for some reason doesn’t seem to be interested, which is very strange. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be interested. Maybe I’m missing something? I don’t know?
I think Gary Shaw tried to say one time before that I had priced myself out of the market but every offer — and this is what Gary said five or six months ago. And obviously the numbers they came at me with before HDNet Fights were the exact same numbers that HDNet Fights was going after me with too, so it wasn’t a dollar amount by any means with ProElite.
But when it came to Zuffa, maybe they think I priced myself out of the market, which like I said, isn’t true because I’ve been getting what I require as far as a salary amount. I think it’s just got to be a broadcasting problem that they know if they’re going to hire me and restrict me from being a broadcaster for other people then they need to pay me that dollar amount not to broadcast for somebody else. And to do that it’s very expensive and that will price me out of the market because of the dollar amount that I make every time I broadcast.
Sam Caplan: There was some speculation that maybe Zuffa was holding a grudge against you because of comments you made toward the UFC while you were a PRIDE broadcaster. Is that something you feel is true?
Frank Trigg: I know it was true. I know that for sure. I happened to see Lorenzo Fertitta, which was funny. We actually have mutual acquaintances and we had to go to a wedding this last summer and I talked to Lorenzo. Lorenzo actually came straight up to me and the man that he is came right up to me point blank and said “Here’s the problem I’m having with you…” And he didn’t pull any punches and didn’t hold anything back and I was very grateful for it and I got to explain myself.
This is what happens, you know when you have Mike Goldberg? When he’s with the UFC he has certain things that he has to say, like “Joe Rogan, let’s look at the Mickey’s replay,” or “… brought to you by Burger King,” or “… brought to you by Toyo Tires,” or whatever their sponsors are. Well, you get a sheet; it’s like a one sheet that’s put in front of you. Well, for me, I worked with three of four different play-by-play guys. I was the only guy that was there every time because once Mauro (Ranallo) quit then we had a different guy every time and I was basically on my own trying to do this stuff. Jerry Millen at the time was the producer (and) had to give to the guy that was the constant behavior; I’m the constant guy.
Well, over in Japan, because of the American broadcasting, there’s not a sponsorship list we have to go through, we have to go through this (and it) is what it is. And what they put in front of me was — at the time we were told by Mr. Sakakibara in Japan, the owner of DSE and PRIDE, that we’re not being sold to Zuffa, we’re not being sold to the Fertittas or Dana White, we’re not being sold to them but we want to attack them severely and that I’m the voice so I’m the one that gets to do all the attacking. So I get the one sheet in front of me (and) this is what you have to say and this is what I have to do.
Well, Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta, and Joe Silva were upset with me for those comments, which is completely understandable, because someone bashing your company, of course you’re going to be mad at them and I completely understand why they were mad at me. But I had to do it as a one sheet because they were paying my bills. I mean, this is how I pay for my mortgage payment, my car payment, my insurance payment, and the stuff that goes on the table is through this relationship I have with PRIDE. If they give me that list I have to say it.
So I talked with Lorenzo about it and he understood and he was like “Oh, okay, now I get it” and that was the end of it. (And) I talked to Joe Silva and that was the end of it. Lorenzo fortunately got a hold of Frank Fertitta and told him. And I actually texted Dana White and left a very lengthy message on his cell phone with things to the same measure.
I’ve never gotten a response from Dana but he’s so busy so I can’t see why he would call me back but I would hope that still wouldn’t be the reason why he’s angry at me or upset with me, or whatever. I would think that at this stage of the game he would have realized that by now because like I said, even Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan have to do it but they’re in a better position because they just talk about sponsors and they don’t have to bash other companies where PRIDE at the time was not in that position in the United States, they actually had to bash the UFC and try to maintain it and that’s where we’re at.
Sam Caplan: So as far as Lorenzo Fertitta is concerned you feel you’ve buried the hatchet with him?
Frank Trigg: Yeah, I’ve seen Lorenzo three or four times since then, maybe five or six or even more times. And I will absolutely positively go out of my way and bash my way through a whole crowd of people to go over there and say hi to him. And of course you have to remember the way he does business. He’s a multi-millionaire for a reason. He maintains this thing that his father built not because he’s a stupid man or not because he doesn’t know how to treat people; he’s in the business of customer service and that’s what casinos are.
They are basically customer service. A big-time whale gambler is not going to come back to his casino if he’s treated like crap. And they know how to make people feel welcomed. You know, my local casino for me is the Red Rock Hotel & Casino; it’s the newest casino and it’s amazing to me. And they make me feel like a hero every time I’m in there and I’m a $5 gambler, at most. So when Lorenzo talks to me he talks to me like I’m a human being and not like I’m beneath him. He talks to me like we’re on a equal playing field like we’re on an equal playing ground, like I’m a millionaire, even though I’m not. He talks to me like that and we have a civil conversation and part of me wants to say he does that because I’m Frank Trigg and that’s why he does it to me but part of me also realizes how Lorenzo does that and that he does that because that’s how he became very successful is by treating everybody as an equal. He doesn’t treat anybody beneath him or not worthy of his conversation. Everyone that he comes into contact with is worthy of his conversation and that’s why I at least feel we’ve buried that hatchet. But there’s no way to tell unless you ask Lorenzo directly.
Sam Caplan: Is there anything you are concerned about specifically for Edwin Dewees more so than you normally would be in a general sense?
Frank Trigg: I’m concerned with his blood test. He’s a bleeder. He bleeds a lot. I want to make sure I don’t get any blood on me and that if I do get any on me that he’s HIV negative and that he’s Hepatitis B and C negative.
Sam Caplan: Jason Miller, a guy you know a little bit about is slated to fight Tim Kennedy during the show’s co-main event. Has Guy Mezger or anyone at HDNet Fights given you an indication that if both you and Mayhem win on Dec. 15 that you could face each other in a rematch sometime in 2008?
Frank Trigg: I can guarantee you that will probably be the next fight if we both win. You can just see it. You can just look at the card and look at the names and see what’s going on. I can almost guarantee that will be the next fight, for sure.
Sam Caplan: You’ve been involved with the fighting game for a long time and know the ins and outs very well. It just seems like there are so many promotions around right now. Can they all survive? And if not, are there any promotions that you feel certain about that won’t make it?
Frank Trigg: They all can survive, yes. Will they all survive? No. I see the IFL is actually on their last legs, which is unfortunate because I’m a big fan of Kurt Otto and Gareb Shamus. I’ve never agreed with their team concept. I’ve never agreed with that concept but I like what they’re trying to do for the fighters. I don’t think they’re going to make it but I think they’ll be done here very soon. I (actually) do believe it will be around for another five years, I just don’t think it’s going to be on TV as much unless HDNet comes to a contractual agreement with them.
I think M-1 has the potential to maintain, because I think they’re doing it a little differently. But M-1 has only got Fedor, so what are they going to do? And I do see HDNet Fights and I’m not being biased because I’m on the card and because I fight for them but I do see the way Mark Cuban (operates). Mark Cuban didn’t invent the Internet, just with Broadcast.com he made it better. He didn’t invent NBA basketball teams, he just made it better for the players to work with an owner. He didn’t invent fighting, he’s just going to make it better because that’s what Mark Cuban does. I think his ability in what he’s doing with HDNet is going to be a long-term thing.
Sam Caplan: I know sponsorships play such a huge role in the career of a fighter. Can you talk about what your sponsors mean to you?
Frank Trigg: I finally got back on board with Rockstar Energy Drink. Jason May over there at Rockstar has been hounding me for months and I really don’t have anything to give to him. From a sponsorship standpoint you have to be able to give your sponsor something in return. You can’t just say “Hey, I’ll take all of your money and free product” and not be able to get them commercialization in return for it and Rockstar has come on board real heavily with Jason May helping at.
Don Foreman over at the United Auto Group here in Las Vegas which is like United Nissan, United Suzuki, United Geep Chrysler, they’ve got everything at the United Auto Group. Don Foreman, the owner, is a friend of my wife’s and then became a friend of mine. Don really came on board and helped out quite a bit with my car problems. I don’t drive the best car and with making sure that I can kind of see where my dollars can be spent better when I do get a new car as opposed to where I think it would be spent.
And of course, Triggonomics, my clothing company, it’s a weird dynamic where I actually work for the company. I’m able to draw a salary from the company. So it’s not like I just get to go do stuff and Triggonomics has really helped out over this last training cycle. We just expanded the line and expanded how we’re doing stuff. In February and March there’s going to be a lot of big things coming up for Triggonomics and so it’s going to be a pretty exciting year.