While many hardcore MMA fans have their eyes fixated on tonight’s card, many well-respected MMA journalists are paying close attention as well. PRO MMA caught up with Sherdog.com’s Loretta Hunt early in the week at the final ‘Day of Reckoning’ press conference. Today, former Sherdog editor and current SI.com columnist, Josh Gross sat down with PRO MMA.
Gross gave his thoughts on the Affliction fight card, Fedor Emelianenko, Strikeforce, the UFC, and he also informed fans that he may be making his way back to the air waves some time in 2009.
PRO MMA: A lot has been made about the ticket sales for this event. Some say they wont get past this show. What steps does Affliction need to take in order to be successful?
GROSS: I think it is important to recognize what they are doing, actually. Affliction is not the promoter for this card. Golden Boy is the promoter of this card in conjunction with M-1 Global because they have Fedor. People think Affliction is the promoter and that they are exactly like the UFC. They’re not. They are running a different business model. Look, it remains to be seen whether they are going to be successful or not. Clearly the jury is still out in terms of those sorts of things. But, they have good partners in the fight business. De La Hoya knows how to promote a successful event. They are event promoters more than anything really. To them this is just another event. It’s their first one. I think it is obviously a great card. Whether they have done enough to promote it, I am not sure. I do think that there is a possibility that these fights will continue. I think they will last through 2009 at a minimum, if it doesn’t work and if people do not tune in to the pay per views because they are not a UFC production, then that is the direction the sport is headed and I think people need to accept it and get used to it. Then we have all fighters under one league but there are a lot of other things to be associated with that as well. A lot of things to be determined in 2009.
PRO MMA: The UFC counter-programmed Affliction back in July, now, they are going to do it again by re-airing UFC 91 on Spike. Why do they feel the need to do that in your opinion? If they are the top dog there should be no reason for them to acknowledge the competition, right?
GROSS: Well, I think you could say that and I think sometimes their acknowledgment of competition is giving them increased exposure. Especially with that running of Silva vs Irvin against the first Affliction card, I think drew attention to that card. If what Tom Atencio said is right and they did over 100,000 pay per views, I would be willing to be that the attention the UFC gave them had something to do with that. Why they choose to do that? That comes from the top. That is Lorenzo Frettita and Dana White. They are very competitive, emotional businessmen. They are very good at what they do and I think that is their directive. It comes directly from them and you’re probably better off asking them that than me.
PRO MMA: Strikeforce has have been very successful. They have not lost money and continue to put out shows. Why have they been successful when Elite XC and the IFL have failed?
GROSS: Scott Coker is a great promoter. He has been promoting fights for over fifteen years with the Stirkeforce kickboxing fights up in San Jose. He knows the market; he’s a regional promoter vying to become a national promoter. I think what Elite XC and the IFL did was expand too big, too quickly. They ran a terrible business model and they weren’t good business people. If you look at how EliteXC fell apart, it wasn’t necessarily the fights that they were promoting at the gate. They were doing alright. They had some interesting match-ups and some good divisions. It was other people in those offices that made it difficult for that promotion to carry through. They lost a lot of money away from the fight business. I think you need to understand the mixed martial arts space. I think you need to know what it takes to be a fight promoter. Sometimes, even if you understand those things, you need everything to fall in line too. Clearly with Elite XC and the IFL, it didn’t happen that way.
PRO MMA: I know you don’t like to speculate, (Gross grins) after listening to ‘Beatdown”….(interrupts)
GROSS: It’s different now. With the ‘Beatdown’ I was the Editor with Sherdog.com and I felt that I had to remain impartial. The more I did the radio the more I felt that I was a columnist in a way. My opinion was something that people wanted to hear. I have become comfortable with giving my opinion. Basically, as a columnist for SI.com, that is what I do now.
PRO MMA: Are we going to see a podcast from you? A lot of fans miss you on the air.
GROSS:I’m working on something. If you want to hear me now, I do a pretty regular segment on Sirius Satellite Radio with ‘The Fight Club.’ It’s the only MMA radio program on Sirius Sports. Hopefully, I’m going to do something with them. I love doing the radio and any time that I get the chance to do it, I do it. So some time in 2009, definitely.
PRO MMA: Getting back to my original question. If Fedor loses, would his mystique fade depending on if it is a decision loss or a stoppage?
GROSS: If (Fedor) and Arlovski go to war for five rounds and it’s an incredible fight and he loses a decision, I don’t think that does anything to hurt his legacy. All fighters lose. If he goes out there and is overwhelmed and doesn’t look good, yeah, that crushes everything that he has built over the last ten years. That’s not necessarily fair, but that is just the reality of the ways things are. He can come back and they could rematch and have a great fight…but clearly the mystique he possess right now…people are comparing him to Mike Tyson. I think those comparisons are fair, but in order for them to continue he has to keep winning and winning decisively. Any kind of loss hurts that. A decisive loss crushes it.
PRO MMA: With a win, would Andrei slide into the number one spot at heavyweight? Some people still have Fedor as the pound-for-pound number one. Would Andrei slide into that spot with a win or does he have to win a few more fights before he gets there?
GROSS: Well…I think you would have to make him number one at heavyweight. On most lists now he is number two, sort of by default after Nogueira lost to Mir. You look at the wins and losses he has had, he is on a pretty good streak. You’d have to make him number one if he beats Fedor. Pound for pound, no, he is not a part of the discussion. Does it vault him up to Fedor status? No. It makes a real serious mess of the heavyweight division. You look at what the UFC is doing, the heavyweight division is up and coming again. There was a lot of critique of their division but they are creating contenders. Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez and some of the younger guys coming in now…there’s a new generation of fighters. Plus, they have the biggest heavyweight pay-per-view draw in Brock Lesnar. There are a lot of things in terms of what the UFC is doing. Who’s Andrei going to fight if he wins? Josh Barnett, right? Assuming Barnett beats Gilbert Yvel. I don’t know that Arlovski vs. Barnett is the kind of fight that is going to be all that sell-able. It’s difficult for Affliction and M-1 and all of these people, if Fedor loses. They are banking on Fedor’s success. It has been a bankable success: Death, Taxes, and Fedor. So if he loses it will be a great blow to them but it would be a great night for Arlovski.
PRO MMA: Josh thanks so much for joining us.
GROSS: Yeah, no problem