UFC 119 Fighters Meet the Press This Afternoon at Murat by wesreynolds
September 23, 2010, 7:50 pm
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by Wes Reynolds

Earlier this afternoon the UFC conducted its pre-fight press conference before Saturday’s event at Conseco Fieldhouse. I’ve seen enough of these pressers online so I knew what to expect; however, I did receive a few eye-openers in a variety of areas.

As you can see there are various highlights (provided by our friends at Heavy, since this reporter needs work at operating a handheld HD video camera. Dammit Jim, I’m a writer NOT a cameraman) from today’s conference. First and foremost, Mirko Cro Cop’s eye is supposedly healed and will fight on Saturday in the main event against Frank Mir. I can’t help but be somewhat cynical though since the future was so bright that he had to wear shades. Big, big shades. Cro Cop’s status was a question mark up until early this week and had to be examined by a local ophthalmologist in order to be cleared by the state commission.

The stars of this press conference were local Indianapolis firefighter Chris Lytle and his opponent, charismatic New Yorker Matt Serra. When asked why he fights for a living, Lytle gave the money quote of the whole 45-minute event. “You know I got four kids at home, I got a lot of pent-up rage. I can never hit them, so I gotta hit somebody.” Lytle further said, “It’s my therapy. It’s either go to a therapist or do this.” Lytle was also asked about his obvious change to a more g0-for-broke style after his loss to Serra in 2006. “I look to finish fights. If it goes the distance, I automatically feel that I didn’t do something right.”

Serra and Lytle have a mini-rivalry based on mutual respect and each man put the other man over huge as a great fighter and even better person. Serra is a very likeable guy, but will be very comfortable wearing the black hat as he was back at UFC 83 in April of 2008.

Serra was then the UFC Welterweight Champion after defeating now-current champion Georges St. Pierre (more commonly known as GSP) one year before at UFC 69 in Houston. The UFC 83 rematch was held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, GSP’s hometown. As you can see, Serra got more than a “Bronx cheer” from the French-Canadian crowd. Needless to say, Serra is more than used to being the away team in the octagon.

Near the end of the presser, UFC President Dana White opened it up to receive a couple of questions from the fans. The final fan question that was asked turned out to be the best question of the press conference. White was asked about what had transpired with the failed drug test of Chael Sonnen, who was in the main event of UFC 117 in August and did everything but win against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Sonnen tested positive for a PED (performance-enhancing drug) and faces a one-year suspension from the CSAC (California State Athletic Commission) pending his appeal. White gave a very brief and p.c. answer regarding the commission, but the answer didn’t interest me as much as the fact that the hardest question was asked by a FAN, not a reporter. Anyone who likes to poke fun at MMA fans, like several of yesterday’s dunderhead callers to JMV’s radio program, should watch this press conference in full. MMA is the first sport to really establish its ascendancy in the internet age and its fans are very internet savvy and consume a ton of news about the sport on a daily basis. You can’t b.s. these fans.

Perhaps many reporters had egg on their respective faces for not asking about the elephant in the room, which was Sonnen’s positive drug test. After the presser, White was peppered with questions about the topic and his answers were not as genial and composed as they were behind the podium.

That’s one of the main things that MMA fans love about Dana White. He’s brutally honest and sometimes that honesty and foul language gets him in trouble. On the other hand, he is the most accessible leader of his sport to his fans by a country mile. You will never see Roger Goodell, Bud Selig, David Stern or Gary Bettman responding to fans’ e-mails or Tweets. In terms of the drug testing topic, he makes a lot of sense. He can’t take away a fighter’s livelihood and UFC does spend a ton of money on paying for drug testing everywhere they go. It is difficult to randomly drug test fighters throughout the year because they live all over the world, unlike in WWE (Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment) where they bring the testing to the various arenas because the entire talent roster is there for their shows. White wants to drive drugs out of the entire sport of MMA and I believe he is sincere about it. However, the UFC has to try new things (random testing from an outside company) and perhaps spend even more money to do so.

Other random musings include seeing how out-of-place Rick Fuson, Pacers Sports & Entertainment Executive Senior Vice President/Executive Director of Conseco Fieldhouse, looked in introducing Dana White at the beginning of the press conference. Fuson stood up there prim and proper in his Brooks Brothers suit and all of a sudden here comes White in a black t-shirt and jeans. I’m sure Fuson knows absolutely nothing about MMA, but all he has to know is that it is likely to fill his building up on Saturday. He probably wishes UFC could do monthly shows and sell out the arena like the great Dick the Bruiser used to do at MSA in the 1970’s when rasslin’ came to town. Perhaps if that happened, PS&E wouldn’t have needed that $33.5 million gift (or as they like to term it, “loan”) from the CIB and Indianapolis taxpayers.

In addition, I have decided to look at career options in sports media (mainly online and perhaps radio because I may have a face a mother could love, but not for TV), but I received a dose of reality when I saw two local TV stations send their sports reporters to cover the event today and they were operating their own cameras. Local newsrooms either must be slashing their budgets and couldn’t afford to send a reporter and a cameraman, or they don’t look at Saturday’s event as a big deal.

One thing is for certain that the likely sell-out crowd on Saturday thinks UFC is a big deal. One can only wonder if the mainstream media will realize that someday.

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