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A quickie before I run off for the day: Gareb Shamus was named one of Brandweek’s 10 Marketers of the Next Generation. Am I the only one who finds it funny that this guy wins a marketing award? His company is hemorrhaging money specifically because they can’t figure out how to market their live shows properly. Sure, he’s done some interesting things. But so far none of it has worked, and in business it’s not what’s cool and fresh, it’s what succeeds that counts.

This is a fun little rumour floating around at the moment. It makes sense for several reasons. First, the UFC brought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira into the ring at UFC69 … basically that tells me they’re skipping the introductory ‘can’ fights. I don’t know if this is because the UFC feels they can promote him properly with Pride’s video archive, or just because he’s not coming in with several month’s ring rust like Rampage or Crocop did. So this means the UFC is going to be lining him up against one of their top fighters.

Following this logic, there’s not a lot of fighters who are legitimate threats to Nogueira. Arlovski, Werdum, Couture, Crocop, Gonzaga, Kongo, and Silva are all booked. I think the UFC is still giving Heath Herring time to get into top form. Jeff Monson would be an interesting match but his status as a UFC fighter is kinda blurry at the moment. That basically leaves Tim Sylvia, Frank Mir, and Brandon Vera.

The heavyweight division has gone from being a total shambles in 2006 to bursting at the seams with talent. The Light Heavyweight division … not so much. With the sudden shift, Vera becomes a more valuable commodity to the UFC as a light heavyweight. So pitting Vera against one of the largest heavyweights is a good way to force the issue and see if he can really hang at heavyweight.

As well, we still haven’t heard much about Vera’s contractual situation since he signed an ‘extension’ with the UFC. This extension basically said that Vera’s contract wouldn’t expire in May like it should, giving Vera time to work out the legal situation with his former manager. However, no one knows if the UFC has already come to terms with Vera on the details of his next contract. If they haven’t, then handing Vera an extremely difficult match is a good way to see how he performs before sitting down at the negotiating table. Vera’s wins are impressive but it’s too soon to say if he’s worth the hype. Win or lose, a match with Nogueira would answer a lot of questions.

Anyways, this is just speculating on a rumour. But fun none the less.

Reading over my post regarding the Dana White – Tito Ortiz situation, I realized that I was coming off a little pro-Tito. While I’m definately not anti-Tito like some people seem to be, I would like to say that from many angles this whole debacle can be seen as Tito’s fault. He’s the one that asked for the match in the first place. He’s the one that just didn’t show up at the weigh-ins. He’s the one that made a statement basically saying “My girlfriend didn’t think it was a good idea to do it”. There were 1001 ways to handle this situation differently that probably would have resulted in no bad blood, a ‘Bad Blood’ with an actual match at the end, and all parties with more moneys in the bank.

Anyways, because Tito got an easy ride, I thought I’d put in my two cents on what Tito needs to do right now. I’m gonna try and keep it light and fluffy because God knows I hate it when Jake Rossen writes his shitty op-ed pieces telling fighters they’re all washed up.

1. Get a manager
It’s actually pretty surprising how many fighters don’t have a manager. The UFC has gotten to a point with many of it’s top guys that they are the closest thing they have to a manager. They set up the fights, the promotional appearances, the sponsorship deals, and the fighter just says yes or no and maybe runs a few things on the side or haggles a little over money. Tito has done a decent job considering everything, but considering the number of balls he’s juggling, it’s about time he gets a manager to deal directly with UFC brass. The root of the whole ‘Bad Blood’ cockup was a lack of communication, and there’s no way this would have happened if there was a manager in Tito’s corner concerned about getting his cut of the proceeds.

2. Jenna Jameson is your girlfriend, not your manager
An extension of point number 1. First off let me say this: Jenna Jameson is a smart chick, and she’s managed to build a very impressive porn empire. I’m not saying she should stop meddling in Tito’s affairs because she’s a girl, or because she’s a porn mogul. But the fact of the matter is that she’s got her own company to run and her own things to attend to. She also doesn’t have the experience or the connections in the fight industry in order to get the job done effectively. Last but not least, mixing business and pleasure is always dangerous … things go sour and it’s a huge mess that could very easily kill a relationship.

3. Train outside of Team Punishment

Team Punishment is a great team, and Tito Ortiz is a good coach. A lot of Ortiz’ fighters are doing very well in the UFC, but past his fights with Ken Shamrock, Ortiz hasn’t been looking very dominating in the ring. While his fight against Liddell wasn’t a bad performance, Liddell neutralized a lot of Ortiz’ abilities with ease. It’s time for this dog to learn some new tricks that will compliment his ground and pound style. Some judo or sambo to help him take opponents down would pay dividends against opponents who’s sprawl has neutralized the wrestling shoot. Honestly, if Tito doesn’t mix things up he’s in danger of suffering the same fate as his rival Ken Shamrock.

4. Make some friends
This goes hand and hand with point 3. Who are you going to train with if nobody likes you? Yeah, I know the badboy image is mostly for show but you’ll find that a lot of the big names in MMA don’t really like Tito Ortiz. That closes a lot of doors as far as who he can work and train with. At this point in his career Tito can’t afford to keep up his Huntington Beach Bad Boy persona. He’s already shed it for the most part during his stint on The Ultimate Fighter, so why not go the rest of the way. Watching the show you can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t like Tito Ortiz, but he’s the kind of guy who’s great if he’s in your corner but an insufferable bitch if he’s not. A personality change is in order.

5. Find your anger
Oh the contradictions. Let go of the asshole persona but find your anger? What the hell? Well, Tito Ortiz is a fighter that pulled himself up as much from spunk as skills. The guy was the original UFC hothead and he loved to cause trouble. But the root of this was an anger and a drive that pushed him to win. But now we have a Tito Ortiz who’s rich, successful, and happy. He’s got the girl of his dreams and all the attention he could ever want. Past holding the belt again, what more could he ask for?

And that’s a problem when it comes to fighting. I have no doubt that Tito pushes himself hard and is still motivated. But the anger, the need, the desire of his youth that created the star he is today has most likely faded. He either needs to find an emotional place where he can take himself back up to the level where he was at before, or start training smarter to compensate for the lack of killer instinct.

6. Play the field
Tito’s got two fights left … Rashad Evans and then who knows. I’m sure the final opponent will depend on if he resigns with the UFC. I’ve already mentioned in my other article that it’s foolish to assume Tito Ortiz will blindly re-sign with the UFC after this ‘Bad Blood’ debacle. While likely, I would definately field offers from the K1/ProElite alliance and even Bodog.

Taking offers doesn’t actually mean accepting them, and playing the UFC against it’s competitors is a good way to make more money regardless of where you end up going. It’s a dangerous game though … just look at what the UFC had planned on doing to Brandon Vera when their negotiations went sour. Still, right now Tito has to look at what the UFC plans on doing with him … are they going to groom him for repeat title runs or have they decided he’s on his decline and are now happy throwing him to the young wolves to see how he fares? It’d be a smarter move for him to be top dog in a growing K1 than get railroaded down the ladder in the UFC.

Lets get this out of the way : I really like Mike Swick. How can you not like someone with the nickname ‘Quick’? Yeah, he looks like he belongs in a boyband more than an Octagon, but the dude’s got skills to spare and speed for weeks. Coming into UFC69 I was looking forward to his match because I knew it was a precursor to bigger things – Mike’s been hovering around waiting for his crack at the Middleweight title, and another win or two would cement his shot.

You might have noticed I was pretty severe regarding his loss to Yushin Okami. There’s nothing that drives me crazier than a fighter I like losing a fight they shouldn’t lose. Swick had Okami’s number standing up, and was surviving on the ground. But after a brute force takedown by Okami late in the first round, all the wind went out of Swick’s sails. As he sat at his corner between rounds you could see defeat in his eyes. Even then, Swick threw together a few combinations that had Okami reeling, but he could not turn the match around.

There’s word that Swick is considering dropping down to welterweight. Typically a fighter drops down after getting run out of a division by the belt holders. Sherk couldn’t get past Hughes or St Pierre. Couture couldn’t get past Liddell. Riggs … well, Riggs couldn’t get past anyone. However, I wouldn’t take his loss to Yushin Okami to mean Swick can’t hang with the big boys at middleweight. And I’d go as far to say that the welterweight division is stacked much heavier than the middleweight divison. While size wise Swick might be more even, skill wise I think he’d be out of his league.

Swick’s size at 185 could actually be considered an asset. Most of the top middleweight fighters in the UFC cut hard to make weight. Being a fresh 185 pound fighter has it’s advantages. Swick’s rep as being ‘Quick’ stem from the fact that he’s a smaller, faster opponent than the rest of his divison. And finally, Swick has spent two years working his way up the ladder in the Middleweight division. While his popularity would mean he wouldn’t drop too far down the ladder when switching weightclasses, I can’t imagine he’ll be anywhere even near a title shot in 2007. The Welterweight division is simply too stacked.

The Middleweight division *needs* charismatic fighters like Swick. Past Franklin and Silva he’s the most popular guy they have. Contenders Mardquardt and Kampmann don’t have the personality of Swick and most of the other guys are still developing. If Mike Swick drops himself down to Welterweight he’ll be hard pressed to get any special consideration in the pack.

So there we have it … Mike, for God’s sake, don’t drop down to 170. Especially not because of your loss to Okami. In my opinion, the loss was more mental than physical and if you had gotten past that mental block against Okami and let your hands fly you would have come out on top. The middleweight division has been your home for years and you’ve carved a prominant place up in the top tier of it. Switching now could be the worst mistake of your career.

Tucked in at the bottom of an update on The Fight Network, Loretta Hunt mentions that a 2 round single night tournament was approved by the NCAS. This is an extremely interesting little tidbit, although I wouldn’t expect to see the UFC try something like this any time soon. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Zuffa gives this a test shot through Pride. Sure, Pride has always done this, but now that Zuffa’s in the driver’s seat I imagine they’re a bit leery of it.

Just the fact that it’s now possible for tournaments to be held again is exciting. I’m sure New Jersey and Nevada will be the first two bodies to reinstate knees as well. I’m very happy that (barring California) we seem to be blessed by some very even handed and reasonable regulating bodies.

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