MMA 101 (cont.)
Posted: Friday July 6, 2007 12:25PM; Updated: Friday July 6, 2007 4:53PM
K1 is a Japanese kickboxing powerhouse. The promotion has been very popular in Japan dating back to the '90s, and provided a start for MMA stars such as Bob Sapp, Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt. The promotion now runs its own MMA organization, K1 Heroes, which has an opportunity to make headway in Japan with Pride in turmoil. The promotion also has plans to run in the United States, and ran a show earlier this year at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
K1 badly needs an influx of star power. Top draw Kid Yamamoto left the promotion to pursue his dream of wrestling in the Olympics. Yamamoto may return, which would be a major boon. Sapp, who became embroiled in a contract dispute with the company, reached an agreement to return, but has not yet signed a long term pact with the company. Kazushi Sakuraba was brought in from Pride, but he is on his last legs as a fighter. Yoshihiro Akiyama was going to be the next big star, but he disgraced himself by cheating in a fight with Sakuraba.
EXC is a new MMA outfit founded by boxing promoter Gary Shaw. The company is affiliated with the Showtime Network, and ran its first Showtime event in February. That event featured a controversial main event when Frank Shamrock was disqualified against Renzo Gracie. Since then, EXC has collaborated with the K1 and Strikeforce promotions.
EXC has signed a number of prominent fighters, including women's star Gina Carano, superheavyweight Antonio Silva, Chute Boxe star Murilo "Ninja" Rua and top welterweights Nick Diaz and Jake Shields.
WEC was a small MMA group that ran shows for a number of years in California. UFC ownership purchased the group in 2006, and now runs the organization as a showcase for lighter weight fighters. Many of the top lighter-weight fighters in the world fight for WEC, which runs shows on the Versus network.
The promotion's top star is featherweight Urijah Faber, who may be headed for a showdown with former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver. Rob McCullough, Carlos Condit and Brock Larson are among the promotion's other top stars. WEC also recently signed elite middleweight Paulo Filho.
The biggest wildcard in MMA's future is Calvin Ayre's Bodog Fight. Ayre built a financial empire around online gambling and has put some of his extensive resources into starting an MMA company. What makes Bodog Fight intriguing is its willingness to bid against UFC for top stars, which could open up opportunities for success.
Bodog's biggest signing thus far was Fedor Emelianenko, widely regarded as the best fighter in the world. He signed a one fight contract to fight at home in Russia. He defeated former Olympic silver medallist Matt Lindland in the main event of that show, which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bodog Fight is currently losing lots of money, but has the backing to be patient and hope for a breakthrough.