Part Two Of Press Conference Monday: Horodecki & Hieron Preview The IFL WGP Finals

The International Fight League held a conference call today featuring Chris Horodecki (11-0-0) & Jay Hieron (13-4-0). The last time I checked Horodecki was scheduled to face Ryan Schultz for the IFL’s Lightweight title at the 12/29 World Grand Prix Finals. That said, I haven’t checked my e-mail in the last ten minutes so chances are there is a press release waiting for me there stating he will now be facing Danny Abbadi.

You may recall that, Horodecki was originally slated to face Wagnney Fabiano. Fabiano was then sent to the new Featherweight division(?) and was promptly replaced by Shad Lierley. Sure, that came from left field but a Horodecki-Lierley rematch was definitely exciting. Sadly, Lierley sustained an injury while training and was replaced by John Gunderson…until Gunderson injured himself a day later.

Enter Ryan Schultz. Seriously now, how fitting would it be if Schultz knocked out Horodecki and was crowned the promotion’s first-ever Lightweight champ? Given the year the IFL has had the prospect of that happening wouldn’t surprise me.

As for Hieron, he will be facing Delson Heleno. He was scheduled to face him along so no confusion or drama there.

Below is the audio from the press conference.

IFL’s Horodecki & Hieron Press Conference – 12/17/07

Jarry Park Exclusive: 12/29 IFL GP Finals To Air Live On HDNet

In a exclusive, HDNet Fights President/Commissioner, Guy Mezger, announced that the 12/29 IFL World Grand Prix Finals would air live on HDNet. Mezger is still unsure as to whether or not they will also air on MyNetwork TV but he believes his network will be the sole carrier of the event. This is part of a new agreement where HDNet will begin airing IFL events come 2008.

Speaking of Mezger, he has been quite the busy man lately.

First, he only had five weeks to put together his promotion’s first card on October 13. Now, with a little more time on his hands to book HDNet Fights’ next event on December 15, Mezger is certainly flexing his matchmaking muscles. The two big fights on the card were originally Jason “Mayhem” Miller vs. Sean Salmon and Frank Trigg vs. Edwin Dewees.

However, Mezger confirmed a report that Salmon has now been forced to withdraw from the fight due to the injury he suffered at last week’s Strikeforce event and will be replaced by Tim Kennedy (8-1-0).

Last seen fighting for the Red Bears of the International Fight League, Kennedy is undefeated in his previous eight fights with one of those victories coming over his opponent on 12/15 – Jason “Mayhem” Miller. According to Mezger, Miller specifically asked for this rematch. Like Kennedy, some more IFL fighters may also soon appear on future HDNet Fights cards but no firm agreement has been completed.

Click below to listen to my interview with Guy Mezger or download it to your mp3 player or IPod by clicking on the link to the right.

Guy Mezger – 11/21/07

(Update: While the IFL has yet to officially announce the airing of the GP finals on HDNET, the Fight Network is reporting that an IFL source has confirmed it.)

El Guapo Grades Kimbo’s Elite XC Debut

I’m still a little surprised that more people aren’t questioning Bo Cantrell’s performance against Kimbo Slice this weekend.

I hate to ever question a fighter’s heart or ability but, gosh, that certainly looked like a tank job to me. That said, take nothing away from Kimbo. He looked like a beast in the cage and most experts, including myself (although I’m certainly no expert), are starting to take the former street-fighting legend seriously.

The next logical bout appears to be against Tank Abbott. Tank has even entered the Frank Shamrock school of marketing by creating a YouTube video mocking Kimbo (although he desperately needs to up the production value of his clips…that was beyond weak).

I spoke to Kimbo’s trainer, Bas Rutten, about Saturday’s fight, whether he thought Cantrell took a dive, and what is next for Mr. Slice.

Also, El Guapo and I discussed the IFL’s announcement of a new Featherweight Division, the IFL World Grand Prix in general and where he thinks Ben Rothwell will be fighting in ’08 (hint: some guy named Fedor just signed with them).

As always, great to have Rutten back at The Park.

(NOTE: In our interview, I said M-1 holds their fights in a cage when the correct answer is actually a ring. My apologies to Monte Cox, Marc Ecko, Vadim Finklestein and maybe Mark Cuban…still not sure about that one.)

Bas Rutten – 11/13/07

(photo credit: Michael Zamora)

Benji Radach Is A Man On A Mission

What a year its been for IFL Middleweight fighter Benji Radach. After suffering a devastating jaw injury in a loss to Chris Leben in 2004, Radach disappeared from the world of MMA for almost three years. Then, just nine months ago, he reappeared in the International Fight League and proceeded to go on a four fight winning streak.

Radach (16-3-0, 1 NC) enters the IFL Grand Prix as the number one ranked Middleweight and many pundits even have him slotted as one of the ten best Middleweights in the world. I spoke to his opponent in this Saturday’s GP Semifinals, Brent Beauparlant, but I was curious to hear about how Radach is dealing with the pressure of rising up the Middleweight rankings so quickly and if he truly believes his string of success will last through the first-ever IFL Grand Prix. Oh, and for anyone who believes one can’t apply the lessons learned inside a ring or cage to their everyday life listen to Radach’s story on how he foiled a robbery attempt with the help of some ground-and-pound.

Benji Radach – 11/01/07

Gideon Ray Is The Replacement Fighter

The IFL’s Gideon Ray is no stranger to fighting on short notice. As a member of the UFC, he accepted to fight David Loiseau when Joe Riggs backed out just days prior to their fight and also fought Mike Swick on four days notice.

Fast forward to the present…Welterweight fighter Brad Blackburn pulls out of the IFL GP and who gets the call to step in on eight days notice in the biggest event in IFL history? Our old friend Gideon Ray (14-6-1), of course.

Not surprisingly, Ray doesn’t seem concerned with the fact that he has had little time to prepare for his fight. That might have something to do with the fact that he will be facing Delson Heleno (12-3-0) in the Semifinals of the IFL GP. You see, Ray just lost via submission to Heleno in June so the loss is still very fresh in his mind.

Come this Saturday, Ray is one of many fighters with a lot to prove. Not only does he have the chance to avenge his first loss in an IFL ring but he needs to show that accepting to fight on such short notice is only half the battle. Winning is just as important too.

Our conversation with MMA veteran Gideon Ray can be found below.

Gideon Ray – 11/01/07

The IFL’s Brent Beauparlant Is No One’s Stepping Stone

A look at HDNet’s Inside MMA rankings shows the IFL’s Benji Radach (16-3-0, 1 NC) slotted as the tenth best Middleweight in the world. No surprises there as 2007 has been very kind to the Washington state native. Radach has won all four of his IFL fights this year and come Saturday he will look to continue his winning ways at the IFL Grand Prix semifinals en route to becoming the first-ever IFL Middleweight champion.

Sounds like a good story, right? Not if your Brent Beauparlant (6-4-0). To say Beauparlant has gone unnoticed in all the hype leading up to the IFL GP is a major understatement. But after talking with the Maxville, Ontario native I got the sense that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beauparlant, who prior to entering the world of MMA spent over a decade as a member of the Canadian National Wrestling team, appears to relish the fact that Radach has received all the attention prior to the GP. His last name, which means well-spoken in French, is the perfect way to describe the 35-year-old Beauparlant (along with extremely humble). And given the fact that he has spent many of his days refining his MMA game in the home of Jarry Park, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, we wanted to give him a forum to let MMA fans know that they should hold off on the Benji Radach title coronation.

Our interview with Brent Beauparlant can be found below.

Brent Beauparlant – 10/31/07

Will Jay Larkin help land the IFL on HBO?

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
  • Dana White’s not-so-flattering comments on his foray into the MMA world

Jay Larkin – 10/30/07

The IFL’s Judgement Day

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 Whitehead will 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.’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:

Lightweight Division:
Wagnney Fabiano
(7-1-0, 155 lbs) vs. John Gunderson (15-4-0, 155 lbs)
Chris Horodecki (10-0-0, 155 lbs) vs. Bart Palaszewski (27-8-0, 155 lbs)***

Welterweight Division:
Jay Hieron (12-4-0, 170 lbs) vs. Patrick Healy (18-12-0, 170 lbs)
Delson Heleno (11-2-0, 170 lbs) vs. Gideon Ray (14-6-1, 170 lbs)

Middleweight Division:
Benji Radach (15-3-0, 185 lbs) vs. Brent Beauparlant (6-4-0, 185 lbs)***
Matt Horwich (19-9-1, 185 lbs) vs. Brian Foster (9-11-0, 185 lbs)

Light Heavyweight Division:
Vladdy Matyushenko (18-3-0, 205 lbs) vs. Alex Schoenauer (12-7-0, 205 lbs)***

Heavyweight Division:
Bryan Vetell (3-2-0, 265 lbs) vs. Roy Nelson (8-2-0, 265 lbs)
Antoine Jaoude (7-2-0, 265 lbs) vs. Shane Ott (3-0-0, 265 lbs)

***Denotes fights airing live on MyNetworkTV

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.

Kurt Angle discusses his DUI, his future in MMA, Lesnar signing and more

Kurt AngleWhat 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…

…But his year didn’t end there. Angle recently appeared at an International Fight League event fueling more rumors that he is interested in trying his hand at MMA, he’s charged with a DUI and UFC president Dana White continues to call him out. Then the UFC announced that they had signed Angle’s long-time friend and opponent, Brock Lesnar, to a two-year deal.

And while announcing the Lesnar signing, White didn’t forget to (sort of) take a shot at Angle:

“I don’t think there are any other pro wrestlers who can make the transition to MMA except for Brock Lesnar.”

It was time to reach out to Angle and ask him about his future in MMA, his recent arrest, Lesnar’s signing, Couture resigning and more. All in a year he will surely never forget.

(Sorry for the echo in our voice. It will never happen again. Enjoy.)

Kurt Angle – 10/22/07

Inside The Steroid Sting [Sports Illustrated]
Angle Gets Fired Up Ringside At IFL Finals [IFL]
Dana White: Kurt Angle Is “Full of Sh-“ [MMA Junkie]
Brock Lesnar Is The Latest Heavy Hitter in the UFC [UFC]
UFC Signs Lesnar [Yahoo! Sports]