What were the top stories last week?
Fact is, the biggest drawing events in combat sports are almost always more often the grudge matches with two guys who dislike each other than a random match for a random title.
PRIDE.19 is a prime example of the beauty that was PRIDE. PRIDE took two Americans, who didn’t like each other and perhaps don’t exchange Christmas gifts even to this day, Don “The Predator” Frye and Ken Shamrock. Neither guy was really an uber-popular face on Japan on the level of a Sakuraba or Takada, but a combination of brilliant marketing, great promos, and educated fans, make this a true highlight of the PRIDE era.
Both made their names in the embryotic era of the UFC and had their names etched in stone as legends of the time. Both disliked each other due to comments made by each other, many of which very personal. Frye accused Ken of cheating on his then-girlfriend Alicia Webb, known to WWF fans as Ryan Shamrock, his on screen sister (yeah, kinda creepy). Frye also said that Frank Shamrock, who has legitimate family heat with brother Ken, would be cornering him. Both were considered “American Heroes” by the Japanese due to the fighting spirit that they showed in the UFC, as well as PRIDE.
Frye had a couple of notable fights in PRIDE. He faced Gilbert Yvel in a fight that had more fowls than anything. Yvel personified the term “rule breaker”. It was quite the spectacle. More yellow cards were given out here than green cards in Little Havana (Trust me, I would know – I used to have one!).
Shamrock had some memorable encounters too. He faced Alexander Otsuka in a match that I swore up and down was a work until Dave Meltzer told me directly that it wasn’t on an edition of Wrestling Observer Radio last year. Then he faced Fujita in another controversial match. By the way, Otsuka and Fujita were both pro wrestlers in Japan, like Ken in the WWF, so ughh… I’m still a tiny bit skeptical.
So while they were known stars, neither were true veterans of the PRIDE ring.
News and notes from around the MMA world …
– Brandon Vera is back with the UFC.
– Kendall Grove talks about his upcoming fight with Patrick Cote.
– Dana White talks about HBO and syndication.
– Randy Couture trains with Wanderlei Silva.
– Todd Martin compares MMA fighters to their sports counterparts.
– Zach Arnold talks about Dana White’s stance on steroids from a fighter’s perspective.
Brandon Vera comes back to a much different UFC Heavyweight division. When Vera beat Frank Mir to put himself in line for a title shot, there was no Randy Couture, Mirko Cro Cop, or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Unfortunately for Vera, when it came time for him to challenge Tim Sylvia for the title, he only had one fight left on his contract. If he were to beat Sylvia and not resign with the UFC, he could leave as champion, making the UFC look bad. When it didn’t look like he and the UFC were going to be able to work out a contract extension, his title shot went to Randy Couture. And like they say, the rest is history.
Vera improves an already solid division. And he’s a young and exciting fighter who puts on highly energetic fights and has a style that is fun to watch. Though he’s a little on the light side, other than Sylvia, the top heavyweights aren’t behemoths. They are athletic heavyweights without a ton of bulk. So Vera fits right in.
News and notes from around the MMA world …
Steroids, steroids, and more steroids.
– Jake Rossen from Sherdog.com has an interesting take on steroids.
– Zach Arnold talks about steroids and the drug culture in his CBS Sportsline column.
– Sean Sherk is using Howard Jacobs to appeal his case to the California State Athletic Commision, according to Loretta Hunt of The Fight Network.
– Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline wants steroids out of the sport completely.
In non-steroid news …
– Sam Caplan talks to Tito Ortiz in his Five Ounces of Pain Q&A.
– Heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga’s coach, Marco Alvan talks to the Boston Herald about Gonzaga’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The steroid talk is going to continue until the end of time. We are only at the beginning. As UFC becomes more and more popular, the new media attention will also bring negative or more intrusive attention. Dana White and company are in favor of steroid testing and working with the state athletic commissions. That’s definitely a good thing. And I’m sure there will be a far bigger star than Sean Sherk who will fail a steroid test. How the UFC follows that up will be even more important than what they are currently doing to try and prevent the problem.
I am going to do show recaps of The Ultimate Fighter Season 6 when it starts up in September. Rather than do them in column format, I’ll probably just write them here. The show features Matt Hughes and Matt Serra as coaches to build up their fight for Serra’s welterweight title which will take place more than likely in November.