Jay Larkin has been the President and COO of the International Fight League for only a month but he certainly is no rookie when it comes to the fight game. Larkin spent over 20 years at Showtime starting off as a junior publicist and ending as an executive producer. While at Showtime, he helped negotiate some of the biggest fights of the last quarter-century. His foray into the televised boxing world began in 1986 with Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s Middleweight title defense against John Mugabi and ended with Jeff Lacy’s Super Middleweight title defense against Scott Pemberton two years ago. Somewhere in between, he helped broker deals that would see legends such as Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Julio Cesar Chavez fight on Showtime. One of his greatest challenges (and one he succesfully overcame) was figuring out how Mike Tyson, a Showtime-exclusive fighter, would challenge Lennox Lewis, an HBO-exclusive fighter, for his Heavyweight title while satisfying both networks equally. Obviously, many people were responsible for putting that fight together but without Larkin the deal would have never materialized.
Five years later, he is faced with an even greater challenger. His task is to teach America that there is more to MMA than the UFC. For all intents and purposes, his mission begins this Saturday night in Chicago at the semifinals of the IFL Grand Prix. Saturday’s card marks the first-ever live IFL telecast on MyNetwork TV and with no deal in place for 2008 (yet) the league will hope enough viewers tune in to justify a new deal between the two parties. Strangely enough, though, Larkin won’t be at the Sears Centre in Chicago come Saturday. Instead, he will be in Cardiff, Wales overseeing HBO’s telecast of the Calzaghe-Kessler fight.
Confused? So, was I. Below you’ll find some answers in a fascinating interview with the man in charge of taking the IFL to the proverbial next level. Some of the topics Larkin will discuss are:
Why he will be in Wales instead of Chicago on Saturday?
Is he fully commited to the IFL or will he still work on boxing telecasts?
The future of the IFL on MNTV
Will the IFL try to take the spot the UFC was thought to have secured on HBO?
Is the IFL looking to hold their fights in a cage instead of a ring?
The future of Kurt Angle, Ben Rothwell and Mike Whitehead in the IFL
At the start of every week we’ll let you know what we’re working on and which interviews you can expect to hear on jarrypark.com. Below is a list of interviewees we have already confirmed. Something tells me this is going to be a great week.
IFL fighter, member of the Toronto Dragons and fellow Montrealer, Middleweight Brent Beauparlant (6-4-0) will be stopping by to talk about his final week of training before his IFL Grand Prix showdown against the very dangerous Benji Radach.
Two-time TNA Heavyweight champion, nine-time WWE tag-team champion and three-time WWE Intercontinental champion, Christian Cage, will discuss his current run in TNA and his new movie “Dark Rising.”
Fightopinion.com’s Zach Arnold will help break down all things MMA. Some of the topics we will be covering are: the Dana White vs. Randy Couture feud, the IFL Grand Prix, the upcoming Elite XC:Renegade card and any other MMA news that is sure to break in the next few days.
Bryan Alvarez, the editor of Figure Four Weekly, one of the best wrestling/MMA newsletters in all the land, will wax poetic on the state of WWE and TNA and where both promotions are headed.
TNA Heavyweight Champion, Kurt Angle, will add a new entry to the “Angle Diaries,” when he announces the top ten best matches of his illustrious career. It might be impossible to choose only ten but we’ll give it a shot.
And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, we have tons more interviews lined up but since they are not 100% confirmed we don’t want to announce them just yet. If you want to hear us discuss a specific topic or talk to a certain fighter drop us a line and we’ll make it happen. Have a great week…
Next Saturday (11/3) is without a doubt the biggest night in the short two-year history of the International Fight League. The league will be holding its first-ever Grand Prix event with the semifinals emanating from the Sears Centre outside of Chicago, IL and the finals on 12/29 from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. When everything is said and done, the IFL will finally crown a champion in each of its five weight classes. The IFL’s team concept is a novel one and I can potentially see casual sports fans gravitate towards it but this event is long overdue. Surely it will help elevate some new stars and give fans a reason to root for specific fighters and not just teams. (Jarry Park will be previewing the GP all week long with tons of interviews so keep it locked here for the latest)
Sadly, though, this event has a few black clouds hovering above it. First, two of the IFL’s top stars – Heavyweight Ben Rothwell, Light Heavyweight Mike Whiteheadwill not be competing in the event after the league first announced they would be a part of the GP. The reason behind their absence is because the IFL wanted all the fighters competing in the GP to sign a contract for the 2008 season. Makes sense. The league would be foolish to crown an unsigned champion and then have them jump ship to another organization (see: Hart, Bret). Interestingly enough, both men are represented by MMA super-agent Monte Cox and apparently Cox was willing to have Whitehead and Jay Hieron (whose participation in the GP was in doubt for some time but not anymore) sign their extensions but not Rothwell. You see, Rothwell is in the midst of a 13 fight winning streak and is by far the top Heavyweight in the IFL. Cox believes Rothwell will command a lot of money from other organizations once he enters the free agent market at the end of 2007. Clearly, the IFL is aware of this because they have decided to treat this situation as a package deal and if Rothwell didn’t sign they didn’t want to sign Whitehead. Fiveouncesofpain.com’s Sam Caplan spoke to Cox and he had this to say regarding the situation:
“…I called back and I said ‘Whitehead’s in and Hieron’s in’ and they said, ‘What about Ben?’ I told them we’re not going to do anything with Ben (and) that I’m going to wait until the season ends. And they said that ‘If Ben doesn’t sign then these other two guys are out.’ I go ‘What do you mean?’ They said ‘If Ben doesn’t sign then the other two guys can’t fight in the Grand Prix.’…We 100% absolutely said we would sign with (the IFL) and Hieron and they wouldn’t let either guy sign and then they backdoored to get Hieron in and decided not to get Mike.”
We’ll never really know who is truly in the wrong here but the bottom line is the IFL is suffering the biggest consequences because a portion of next week’s GP semifinals will air live on MyNetworkTV at 8 p.m. EST/PST (7 p.m. CT/MT). IFL events have been airing on MNTV and Fox Sports Net for over a year but this will mark the first ever live telecast in the promotion’s history. While the telecast will only run for an hour (hardly enough time to make an impact), its imperative that it draws a solid audience. A good television rating could lead to the 12/29 finals airing live on MNTV but, more importantly, a new TV deal. You see, MNTV and the IFL have yet to agree on a new deal for 2008. You have to believe the MNTV executives will wait to see what next week’s ratings look like before committing to another deal.
Ok, now that we got all that business out of the way let’s look at who will be fighting in the first-ever IFL Grand Prix. Keep in mind that injuries to Brad Blackburn, Andy Reese and Andre Gusmao have changed the card a little bit. There will be two fights in the Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight divisions. The winners in each bout will then move onto the 12/29 finals. However, due to injuries, the Light Heavyweight division will only hold one fight. Thus, a new Light Heavyweight champion will be crowned next week. Onto the card:
The fight I’m most looking forward to is Horodecki vs. Palaszewski II. Their first fight on February 2 2007, won by Horodecki via split decision, is definitely a candidate for fight of the year. Hopefully the rematch won’t be decided by the judges (highlights of their first fight can be found below). I’m really excited to see the IFL live on television for the first time in this new format. Again, keep checking back here for tons of fighter interviews leading up to the event.
Somewhere Vince McMahon must be smiling. First, Randy Couture announces he’ll be holding a press conference to discuss his resignation from the UFC. A couple of days later, coincidentally or not, the UFC decides to hold a press conference to announce their new TV deal with Spike beginning 30 minutes prior to Couture’s. Never a boring day in the world of MMA. Some of the main points discussed were:
The UFC has signed a new deal with Spike TV that runs through 2011. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Their current deal expires in 2008 meaning this new one will run for three-year. There will be at least four more seasons of The Ultimate Fighter and twelve Ultimate Fights Nights (four per year from ’09-’11). Also, a brand new “fight series” will be launching in 2010. No more details of this new fight series were made available.
UFC president Dana White said he did not schedule this press conference at the same time as Couture’s press conference. He claims it was simply a coincidence.
White said he has yet to speak to Couture and is waiting for Couture to call him back. However, in his press conference, Couture said he spoke to White and Lorenzo Fertita yesterday. Hmmm.
When asked about Fedor Emelianenko signing with M-1, White said that he was disappointed they couldn’t agree on a deal but that in all his dealings with Fedor’s management not once did they ever talk about Fedor. “It was always about his managers.” He also said “Fedor sucks. He’s not even in the top 5.” He also called Fedor’s agent, Vadim Finklestein, “a fucking liar.”
The deal with HBO is dead. The UFC is looking elsewhere. The reason they love Spike TV so much is because they have never tied them down. Spike allows them to look for partners, as well. HBO wasn’t as flexible.
Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva and Brock Lesnar were also on the call.
Liddell never really thought about retiring after the Jardine loss and is not concerned with his last two losses. He thinks that a win over Silva will propel him back into the title picture.
White said that the winner of Silva-Liddell will definitely be considered a number one contender.
White said that the UFC is dying to come to Canada. A Montrealer can only hope…
Take a listen to the UFC press conference. White is asked to address the Couture situation right off the bat.
Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights from Couture’s presser that was shown live HDNet and proelite.com were:
“I’ve had issues with Zuffa and the company since they bought it in 2001…It’s the little things that make athletes feel appreciated that weren’t done…weren’t being done from my perspective that were done for a lot of other athletes.
“Everyone’s trying to make a big deal out of the money. This was never a money issue. It’s been a prevailing feeling of respect that wasn’t being given for eleven years of my life I have tried to represent this sports with integrity…Represent this sport in a particular way for the owner before and the owners now and I’ve never felt that that was appreciated.”
“I think that the Fertitas and Dana White did a marvelous job in saving our sport. I think our sport was gonna die. Does that mean I agree with all the decisions they’ve made and how they’ve treated a lot of people…no, I don’t agree with a lot of that.”
“I’ve been taken care of, I’m the last guy to complain. People are gonna ask questions ‘oh you’ve signed a contract eight months ago you seemed perfectly happy with that contract then.’ Nah, I wasn’t happy with that contract then.”
“I asked for a signing bonus and wasn’t given one. I don’t really know why but I wanted to fight.”
The general theme, as expected, was that Couture was pissed they were offering huge contracts to the Pride fighters and he wasn’t making close to their contracts.
He said he heard Liddell made close to $17 million last year while his base salary for the Sylvia and Gonzaga fights was $250,000 per fight. He also made one dollar for 100,000 ppv buy and up to three dollars for 330,00 PPV buys. Not exactly the $3.25-3.75 million that had been reported.
He kept saying that it wasn’t about the money yet he kept talking about money.
Once the Fedor match was off the table, he felt as though he had nothing left to gain by staying in the UFC.
Couture claims that his “hollywood agent” (as White has called him) had nothing to do with this because his agent has been with him for a while and he is his sports agent.
“I’m tired of swimming up stream…something needs to change.”
“They were given every opportunity…I expressed face-to-face how I felt…I’m not going to get into a pissing match with Dana.”
Couture says that prior to returning to the UFC he was offered $3 million dollars to fight Fedor in Bodog and took that offer to the UFC. That is when White proposed the Sylvia match.
“I’m saying that I simply left the UFC at this stage. It would be silly for me to sit here and say I’m retiring again… nobody is going to buy that crap, anyway.”
Couture said that he received a bonus after the Liddell fights and the Sylvia fight yet he didn’t receive any kind of bonus after the Gonzaga fight. He was extremely bothered by that.
Couture acknowledged that he has nine more months left on his contract so he seems to be willing to wait it out and then look elsewhere.
Courtesy of RawVegas.tv here are two videos of Randy Couture’s press conference.
I wasn’t able to record Floyd Mayweather’s latest conference call for his upcoming bout against Ricky Hatton (12/8, HBO PPV) but below are some of the highlights:
On whether he (Mayweather) was happy to get booted off Dancing With The Stars early so he could focus on his training:
“Well, I would rather go home early then go home, you know, a week before the fight. I’d rather go home early. I mean it’s just like when you’re fighting a guy, you say to yourself, like – it’s hard to explain. It’s more like – I mean I was happy that – just to get the experience, just to go on dancing with the stars, just do so something different, because I was the only athlete that was active. You have other athletes, they weren’t active. They were like – I was doing two things at one time. I had to wake up, go to the dance studio. After the dance studio, go to the boxing gym. After the boxing gym, go run. After the run, I had to go back to the dance studio. After the dance studio, then I had to go to physical training, you know, at the fitness gym. So, I mean it was grueling, but was it worth it? Absolutely.”
Oscar De La Hoya (Golden Boy is promoting this fight) was also on the call and had this to say regarding Mayweather’s involvement on the show:
“Well, I – being a fighter myself, you know, and the fighting world, you know, it’s a small world. And we all know that Mayweather is a professional when it comes to his boxing. We all know that he’s always in great shape. We all know that he goes to the gym every day and he doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t – you know, he has not bad habits. You know, so it really didn’t worry anybody much, you know, because even though if he did stay until the last week, you know, we felt it wasn’t going to effect him because he’s always in great shape. And so, you know, obviously, in my case, I think it was a little bit different, you know. You know, I wouldn’t stay in shape, like Mayweather in between fights, and so, you know, it was a different case for me. You know, when I was fighting and younger, but with Mayweather, I think there no doubt that he can pull this off with no problem.”
Mayweather on his amazing stamina:
“Well I don’t train like no other fighter. We don’t train like no other fighter. And, you know, I mean of course, Oscar is – you know, he’s one of the guys that’s going down in history as one of the best guys of my era. And if I’m fighting one of the best guys of my era, I’ve got to push myself to the limit, you know. And what I was doing for that fight is – actually I’m training harder this fight than I did for that fight because for that fight, you know, I just started boxing nine rounds probably into the third week. But, you know, I think it’s my second day back boxing – it’s my second day back boxing in the gym I started boxing nine and 10 rounds.
So, you know, I’m all ready in tremendous shape all ready. I’m running eight miles. And it’s just that we don’t – we’re not like no other fighter. We don’t use a bell when we go to the gym. We don’t use a bell at all. We don’t even have a bell in our gym. So, sometimes when we box, we box, you know, six to eight straight minutes, because if a guy gets tired, we put another guy in to keep boxing. So, I guess I’m a throwback fighter. I’m a fighter than can fight 15 rounds, you know, if needed. But, I mean I have nothing but the utmost respect for all of these – you know, all fighters who dedicate themselves to his craft. And I just come with tremendous shape. I mean a lot of it is God-given talent. Most of it is God-given talent, you know. And the rest is just hard work.”
Apologies for the lame title but that really is the best way to describe my conversation with Dave Larzelere aka Larz aka Large from No Mas. If you are a boxing enthusiast and haven’t checked his site out you’re truly missing out. For my money, he’s the best boxing writer on the world-wide-web (he’s also a tremendous musician, too). His sparring mate and the head of the No Mas empire, Chris Isenberg, designs the greatest sports t-shirts I have ever seen. Be sure to check those out as well (ahem, hopefully all that love will grant me some free shirts).
The last few months have produced some tremendous fights inside the squared circle and here’s hoping some more fireworks are produced in the next few weeks with Calzaghe-Kessler, Cotto-Mosley and Mayweather-Hatton on the horizon. Rest assured, Larz will be stepping into the Park to break down the sweet science every week but for his first appearance around these parts we wanted to briefly look at it, well, the state of boxing.
Oh, and when I say “briefly” I mean 45 minutes long so sit back and enjoy.
What a year its been for Olympic Gold medalist Kurt Angle. First, he leaves World Wrestling Entertainment after a legendary seven-year run. WWE claimed they fired him for repeated drug suspensions; Angle claimed he pulled a fast one on Vince and tricked him into releasing him. Rumors then begin to circulate that Angle is talking with the UFC about fighting for their promotion. Then, all of a sudden, he signs with TNA wrestling and it appears as though his wrestling career is back on track…That is until his name comes up in a Florida steroid investigation, BodogFight begins negotiating an MMA contract with him and he wins the TNA heavyweight title…
That date will forever signify the end of my innocent obsession with sports. Once the Montreal Expos, my Expos (and yes they actually did had fans), played their final out things started to change. Simply put, I began to loathe sports. The one thing I could count on had finally betrayed my trust. You see, it’s one thing for your team to lose a heartbreaking playoff series. Those hurt but there’s always next year. It’s another for them to simply disappear and never play another game again. The latter is a pretty terrible feeling.
Shockingly, time (as it usually does) began to heal my wounds. I needed to find a silver lining in this mess. So, I decided to get to know some of my other favorite teams a little better. Surely I could find happiness through their exploits, right? Wrong. Growing up the teams I passionately followed were the New York Knicks, the Buffalo Bills and the Montreal Canadiens. Now, let’s see: The Knicks are generally viewed as the biggest laughing stock in sports. The Bills haven’t made the playoffs in the 21st Century and the Canadiens, once the gold standard on the ice, haven’t made it passed the second round of the playoffs since 1993.
As I began to grow tired of the traditional team sports I found myself paying more attention to a trifecta of combat sports: mixed-martial-arts, boxing, and pro wrestling. Maybe it’s because they represent everything team sports are not. Or maybe it’s because I draw some kind of enlightenment from watching two guys beat the crap out of each other. Who knows?
At this point it only made sense to become “the free agent fan.” I never formally made this announcement to the world. I never offered my services up on eBay. Nor did I ever appear via satellite from my basement on Cold Pizza. It just kind of happened. I even thought about naming this site freeagentfan.com but I never want to be viewed as some disgruntled ex-sports fan. We all hate those guys. Then I remembered where it all began. The one stadium I would have loved to visit but will never have the chance: Jarry Park – the first home of my first love (the Expos). When I think about those lucky enough to attend a game at Jarry Park I am filled with envy. It seemed like the most joyous and serene place to enjoy a sporting event.
I know most, if not all, of you couldn’t care less about the Expos or Jarry Park. Trust me, this site will not be a shrine to either institutions. It’s not even a baseball site. It’s just that whenever I think of Jarry Park and what it stood for (in my mind, at least) I am reminded of why I love covering sports so much. Until this day, Jarry Park no longer existed. Well, I’m bringing it back and instead of hosting baseball games it will be the new home to all things combat.
Rest assured you’ll never just be hearing my voice on the site. Every day we’ll feature several special guests. I have worked in the television and radio business for several years now and have met some amazing people. They’ll drop in from time-to-time and hopefully hook me up with some great guests too.
Welcome to Jarry Park: The Coliseum of Combat Sports. Touch ’em up.