World Fighting Alliance MMA Rampage Jackson win over Matt Lindland. The Los Angeles Forum hosted about 8,000 people, I saw Jason “Mayhem” Miller choke his opponent into submission, then show love to his followers (he dubs them “Mayhem Monkeys”) by shouting: “Woo-WOO!” I saw a Dutch man with a Spanish nickname — Bas “El Guapo” Rutten. “El Guapo” means handsome, and when the bald-headed Rutten was asked where he ranks among the fighters, he said: “The best-looking one, that’s for sure.”
Finally, in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s split decision victory over Matt Lindland in Saturday night’s main event, I saw one of the most amazing feats of strength I’ve seen in sports. With Lindland trying to choke him into submission, Jackson was somehow able to get to his feet and toss Lindland off. When asked in the ring if he’d be down for a rematch, Jackson said: “As long as I get paid. Cha-ching!”
As Jackson explained, “A lot of people in my sport are crazy. You’ve got to be crazy to get locked in a cage.”
Among the faces in the crowd: Shaquille O’Neal and Bruce Willis. O’Neal, in town to fulfill his duties as a reserve member of the Los Angeles Port Police, said he was in his hotel room when he heard about the World Fighting Alliance event and decided to come over. O’Neal likes to consider himself a martial arts expert, well versed in his own discipline of Shaq Fu, but he said you won’t find him in the ring.
If you’ve heard of mixed martial arts — in which everything short of eye-gouging, rabbit punches and kicks to the groin are legal — you’re probably familiar with UFC Ultimate Fighting Championship, which pulled an almost $3-million gate and $24-million pay-per-view haul for an event at Staples Center in May and is selling out the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. One sign that mixed martial arts is gaining legitimacy is that one of the most familiar faces in boxing, Marc Ratner, whom you might remember from the Mike Tyson hearings, left his job as executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission to become Ultimate Fighting Challenge vice president of government and regulatory affairs.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Lappen, who used to represent Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters, joined another organization, the World Fighting Alliance, as its chief executive. I did a double-take when the PR guy told me Lappen’s name. “From Santa Monica?” I asked.
It turned out it was the same Lappen who played on my first organized basketball team 28 years ago. His playing days ended at Trinity College in Connecticut, before he transferred to UC Santa Barbara and then went to USC law school. Lappen had worked in the movie business — he co-produced “The Watcher” with James Spader and Keanu Reeves in 2000 — and then turned to his law background six years ago to start managing Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters, including Ken Shamrock and Randy Couture.
Now, to boil it down to as few letters as possible, the WFA World Fighting Alliance CEO hopes his organization can play AFL to UFC’s NFL.
“For them to get bigger and the sport to get better, they need a competitor,” Lappen said. “The goal is for it to become huge. I think there’s a huge potential in this sport. What you’re seeing right now is the tip of the iceberg.”
The WFA felt like a big-time sport in one respect last week: It had a steroids scandal. Kimo Leopoldo, who was scheduled to fight Bas Rutten in one of the main events this past Saturday night, tested positive for steroids. He was replaced by Ruben “Warpath” Villareal only two days before the fight.
Top earners of the field where the top earners can make close to $1 million per fight. Lappen envisions crossover promotions, movie deals, you name it.
“Tough guys are always liked in films,” he said.
First they have to be known and liked in sports. Are you ready for Mayhem and Rampage?
Source: Los Angeles Times
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World Fighting Alliance Rampage Jackson win over Matt Lindland at the Staples Center.
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