A Few Precious Minutes With Mark Cuban

The super-owner weighs in on Money May in WWE

You’ll never guess who I bumped into in cyberspace over the weekend. No, it wasn’t “To Catch A Predator”‘s Chris Hansen. It was super-owner Mark Cuban! It’s strange meeting a billionaire in cyberspace and, as you can imagine, he doesn’t have much time for shenanigans. However, I was able to ask him a few interesting questions…

Ariel Helwani: What do you think of Floyd Mayweather’s involvement with World Wrestling Entertainment?

Mark Cuban: Love it. Floyd knows how to build a fan base he can take with him to
anything he does.

Ariel Helwani: Have you seen the clips of his work in the ring thus far? If so, what did you think of it?

Mark Cuban: Hysterical. (Ed. note: I told you he didn’t have much time.)

Ariel Helwani: Are you still talking with Floyd about competing for HDNet Fights? If so, how have the talks been going?

Mark Cuban: Yep. We have ongoing talks. He is talking to a couple of our partners about working on cross-training. He would teach striking/boxing skills and learn more about the sport of MMA.

Ariel Helwani: Has the WWE ever contacted you about doing a wrestling angle? If not, would you ever be interested in that?

Mark Cuban: We have talked about various things.

Ariel Helwani: Can you elaborate on that?

Mark Cuban: Can’t…sorry.

Ariel Helwani: In his blog, WWE announcer Jim Ross mentioned a rumor that there may be “a partnering of resources” between you and the McMahons? Any truth to this and if so can you explain?

Mark Cuban: See above (Ed. note: Damn.)

Ariel Helwani: Are you happy with the progression “Inside MMA” has made as well as the production of the HDNet Fights live events?

Mark Cuban: Yes. Inside MMA is unquestionably the leading show on MMA. And the combination of Inside MMA and our fight cards confirms that HDNet is the leading TV network for MMA. I do want to thank everyone who has been calling their cable and satellite providers to sign up for and ask for HDNet and to ask them to continue. Its definitely being noticed!

And just like that he disappeared…

Seeing Is Believing

(The following post was written by yours truly for the great No Mas Online. It’s good to be back with my old friends over there and I thank Large for the opportunity to share my thoughts with his readership. For Large’s views on this story click here.)

“UFC’s champions can’t handle boxing. That’s why they are in UFC. Put one of our guys in UFC and he’d be the champion. Any good fighter, he’d straight knock them out…Take Chuck Liddell, put him in the ring with a (boxer) who is just 10-0 and Chuck Liddell would get punished.”

-Floyd Mayweather Jr.
April 2007

To those who follow mixed martial arts, Floyd Mayweather’s latest flirtation with the sport is actually old news. Think back to the weeks leading up to De La Hoya-Mayweather. At this point, the boxing vs. MMA debate was the talk of the combat sports world and naturally Money May felt compelled to dress down MMA (while Mayweather mentions the “UFC” in his quote I have to think that he was talking about the sport in general. Contrary to what the UFC says, there are, in fact, other viable MMA organizations out there).

In light of his comments, UFC president Dana White reportedly offered up then-UFC Lightweight Champion (155 lbs), Sean Sherk, to face Mayweather and settle the debate once and for all. I mean, that’s why MMA was created in the first place, right? To see which form of combat sports would reign supreme in a given match or tournament. However, for one reason or another, any talk of an MMA vs. Boxing mega-fight quickly died down following Mayweather-DLH (and, no, Kimbo Slice vs. Ray Mercer doesn’t count).

Now comes news that Mark Cuban is trying to lure Mayweather to compete for his new MMA promotion – HDNet Fights. ESPN and every other sports news outlet under the sun is buzzing over this rumor but let it be known that it was in an interview with JarryPark.com that Cuban first mentioned his intentions of signing Mayweather to an MMA fight.

Truth be told, I have some mixed feelings about all this. I honestly don’t believe that we will ever see Mayweather fight an MMA match anytime soon. Maybe in five years when all his mega boxing fights have been accounted for but, right now, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The biggest issue with these discussions is that both sports are actually really different. Just because an athlete runs in a football match and a basketball game doesn’t make the sports similar. But I suppose that’s a different argument for a different day.

Let’s forget about my cynical ways for one second. Let’s just say he really is interested in settling this debate once and for all. In order for this fight to be presented properly there are several hurdles to conquer: First off, he will probably have to go up against a featherweight MMA fighter (145 lbs). While White offered Sherk as a potential opponent, I can’t see Mayweather fighting at 155 lbs nor could I see Sherk or any other MMA lightweight fighter move down to 145 or 147. Right now, the top 145-pounder in the world is the current World Extreme Cagefighting champion, Urijah Faber. He may also be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world too. The problem with Faber is that his contract is owned by Zuffa (the parent company of the UFC). Cuban has 30 million dollars to spend on a guy like Mayweather. Zuffa doesn’t and it would never lend out one of its fighters to another promotion. Witness the fact that they would rather let Randy Couture sit on the sidelines than co-promote a bout between him and the universally recognized top heavyweight fighter in the world – M-1 Global’s Fedor Emelianenko.

The next problem is that the WEC is home to most of the top featherweight fighters in North America (Jens Pulver and Jeff Curran come to mind) so if Mayweather really wants to prove himself against the best, well, he is barking up the wrong tree by dealing with Cuban.

That said, they don’t call him Money May for nothing. If Cuban is really interested in signing him for 30 million dollars he could challenge a top Japanese fighter like Akitoshi Tamura or Takeshi Inoue. It would be like Inoki-Ali all over again! On second thought, maybe we would rather not see that again.

Anyhow, for the sake of this discussion, let’s just say Mayweather and Faber end up fighting each other. For Mayweather’s debut to truly mean something to MMA fans Faber needs to be the one representing the sport. The California Kid is almost as cocky as Pretty Boy Floyd (almost), holds an impressive record of 20-1 and is currently enjoying a 12-fight winning streak.

But here comes Mayweather’s next hurdle: Faber is a former Division 1 college wrestler, the all-time wins leader for UC Davis (how’s that for a coincidence Mr. Large?) and a two-time NCAA D-1 qualifier. Simply put, the man can wrestle. Mayweather, on the other hand, can’t.

So, the fight begins. Mayweather is dancing around feeling his opponent out and looking to work in his jab and then…BAM! Faber shoots on him and takes him to the ground. Unchartered territory for the boxing champ, indeed. MMA purists love to point out that you can always teach a wrestler how to box but it’s a lot tougher to teach a boxer how to wrestle. They just aren’t used to it. Furthermore, a former wrestling champion like Brock Lesnar will probably make a smooth transition into MMA (his UFC debut is on 2/2/08, by the way) because his wrestling skills will lead to a better understanding of jiu jitsu which is the foundation of MMA. You see, Faber’s wrestling skills will only take him so far in an MMA match. Once he is on the ground he then goes into jiu jitsu mode. He can look for the ground-and-pound or a whole host of different submissions. How in the world is Mayweather going to defend this? Does he know how to fight off his back? Does he know how fight off an arm-bar submission or a rear-naked choke? Of course not, although he could certainly learn.

And that’s where the next and final hurdle comes in. For Mayweather to successfully compete in MMA he needs to learn at least two (maybe three) fighting disciplines. Learn them. From scratch. We’ll give him a pass on kickboxing but there is no way he can enjoy the kind of success he is used to in an MMA cage without mastering the art of wrestling and jiu jitsu. Faber has been at this for several years now. He’s also been honing his boxing skills since making the transition from wrestling to MMA. This could be one of his easier fights ever.

Mayweather has been actively competing in professional boxing for over eleven years. As witnessed in 24/7, his body has experienced its fair share of bumps and bruises. Is he even able (or willing) to learn two new fighting disciplines at this stage of his career? That remains to be seen.

Floyd, you won’t be fooling anyone by taking a fight against another boxer turned MMA fighter where they never go to the ground once yet are competing inside a cage. That’s not MMA. If you really wants to excel in your new-found “interest” go away for 18 months – at least. Learn jiu jitsu, learn how to wrestle and while your at it learn how to throw some kicks. Then we can talk. Until then, shut up and fight Miguel Cotto already.

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #13: Mark Cuban Joins The Party

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ’07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7” from ’07 and the “8” from ’08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#14: Mark Cuban Joins The Party
What: Mark Cuban’s HDNet starts covering and broadcasting whole lot of MMA
When: September 2007
Where: Dallas, TX

I know HDNet Fights has been getting a lot of coverage around these parts lately but it’s with good reason. When it comes to MMA in 2008, we honestly feel as though Cuban’s presence in the sport will be the story to watch. With two shows under their belt, I think they are doing everything right and for anyone who thinks that Cuban alone can not make a promotion successful just look at what he did with the Dallas Mavericks. Before he bought the franchise they were universally regarded as one of the biggest laughing stocks in sports. Now, they are a perennial favorite to win the NBA title every single year.

He currently has the combat sports world buzzing over the news that he is trying to lure Floyd Mayweather to MMA (NOTE: Cuban first told us about this earlier in the week but I guess some people out there chose to ignore it). The best part about Cuban is that he doesn’t come from the world of combat sports. He comes from the media/business world and it’s skills in those departments that many promoters lack nowadays. In addition to starting his own promotion, Cuban’s network, HDNet, broadcasts the only hour-long weekly MMA news show in North America and is showing more live MMA events this month than any network this side of the globe has every done before.

Further Enlightenment:
Cuban Sees Bright Future For MMA [ESPN]
Cuban’s Slow Brew [Yahoo!]
Mark Cuban Looks To The Future [JarryPark]

Mark Cuban Looks To The Future

I didn’t hear any noise from Mark Cuban following this weekend’s HDNet Fights event and was very curious as to what he thought about the second show and the future of the promotion. So, I decided to email the man himself. His thoughts are below.

Ariel Helwani: After the first HDNet Fights show you were somewhat critical of the overall production of the event – what were your thoughts on this weekend?

Mark Cuban: I thought it was far far better. The pacing was better, the integration with all the technology in the arena was better. I think we have some areas to improve on but now we are into optimizing rather than inventing – which is a good thing

AH: What, if anything, are you looking to improve for the next show in February?

MC: I think we need to do a better job of mic’ing the ring so the people away from the cage can hear what is going on better. It adds a lot of energy to the experience. I think we can improve the entrances of the fighters starting at the locker rooms rather than where they appear on stage and a couple other little things.

AH: What did you think of Mayhem Miller’s entrance?

MC: I love everything Mayhem does for entertainment. He is a pro at it. I put him up there with Paris Hilton.

AH: How long have you been interested in MMA?

MC: About 5 years.

AH: The Internet has been buzzing over all the MMA celebrities that attended the event – some of which are soon-to-be free agents. Will your company look to break the bank in order to sign a guy like Randy Couture or Andrei Arlovski or is it important to be cautious with your spending at this point?

MC: We aren’t break the bank types. That doesn’t work in MMA. You have to build a business and introduce the right fighters and treat them well and make sure the fans get a great show. Where the opportunity is right, we will certainly match the best fighters available and try to make sure they want to always come back and fight on our cards or the cards of our partners. I’m the say way I am in the NBA – opportunistic. If there is an opportunity that makes sense, I will make whatever investment is necessary to be successful

AH: At some point, will you look to sign your fighters to exclusive contracts?

MC:
We may sign exclusives but there will always be mutual outs. The problem with exclusives is that if a fighter loses it can kill his career. There have been many great fighters who have been upset or lost two in a row. In an exclusive contract arrangement, its hard to fight them because of the pressure to put together the best possible card. Thats a problem UFC fighters have. If you win, life is good. If you lose, you never quite know how you are going to work your way back to the top (unless you are a huge PPV draw name). With non-exclusives, we can partner with other promoters and let someone who lost on HDNet Fights work their way back up, build some momentum and if they have truly gotten better, compete again at the top. It goes the other way as well. Someone who lost in the IFL, Pro Elite etc. can fight on our cards. Particularly if they are local and work their way back up to being part of a marquee match-up.

AH: What’s up with the UFC not allowing you to show footage of their events on “Inside MMA?” Are you surprised at how guarded they are?

MC: Ask them. The only thing I have seen from the UFC is that they have a lot of lawyers that they pay more than many of their fighters

AH: Finally, did you enjoy walking out to the ring with Pretty Boy Floyd last weekend?

MC: It was a blast. I was thrilled to see Floyd win. He is truly a great guy and we are talking about how to get him involved in MMA. But, honestly, watching Mayhem vs. Kennedy was better. I just like MMA a lot more than boxing.

Eat Your Heart Out Wayne Rooney

I just received this press release and while I usually don’t post these this one was just too good to ignore. I didn’t think Mayweather could top the Cinco De Mayo outfit he wore to the ring before the De La Hoya fight but come Saturday night he most certainly will. Love him or hate him, the man knows how to put on a show (if you consider Wayne Newton carrying a boxing belt to the ring a show. I definitely do). This makes Wayne Rooney coming out with Hatton before the Castillo fight look completely normal.

HELIO, MARK AND WAYNE SET TO CARRY BELTS AND WALK WITH FLOYD FOR WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT

LAS VEGAS (December 6) Dancing With the Stars winner and two-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Helio Castroneves, along with fellow competitors Texas billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and renowned entertainer and “Mr. Las Vegas” himself Wayne Newton, will accompany six-time world champion “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, also a participant on this year’s showinto the ring Saturday night when he fights undefeated British icon Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton for the WBC and Ring Magazine welterweight championship at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and live on HBO Pay-Per-view. The trio will carry Mayweather’s decorated title belts during the Champion’s celebratory ring walk and join him in the ring for the official announcement moments before the start of the fight.
In addition Castroneves and Newton will join Mayweather Friday for the fight’s official weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. More than 5,000 fans are expected to attend and the event will be distributed live via satellite to national and local television stations across the country.
“Dancing With the Stars was such a great experience for me this year and now to have Helio, Mark and Wayne be a part of my real world makes it that much more meaningful,” said Mayweather.
“We all knew Floyd could dance but now we have a chance to watch him really do his thing in the ring,” said Castroneves, who will be attending his first live boxing match. “I will leave my trophy at home so I can carry Floyd’s belt and show him my support for one of the biggest fights of his career.”
“Floyd is a great guy and a hell of a competitor,” said Cuban. “I can’t wait to watch him fight and I’m honored that he has become a good friend and has asked me to carry his belt for the fight.”
Floyd’s the best in boxing and I am looking forward to see him work his magic this Saturday,” said Newton. “He dazzled them on Dancing With the Stars but this is where he truly shines bright and it will be an honor for me to bring him into the ring, carrying one of his belts. Us Vegas guys have to stick together.”