UFC 66 - Breaks MMA Gate Record!

UFC 66 Breaks MMA Gate Record, Other Notes

The following is from the Canadian Press:

Liddell, UFC big winners after blockbuster mixed martial arts fight in Vegas

Canadian Press: NEIL DAVIDSON

LAS VEGAS (CP) - Another victory for the Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell. Another big-money success for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

And UFC president Dana White promises the hits will keep on coming in 2007 when the mixed martial arts circuit expands into Canada and England while showcasing marquee additions such as Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic and Quinton (Rampage) Jackson.

"Tonight was a big night for us," White told a news conference Saturday after Liddell's third-round technical knockout of Tito Ortiz in a light-heavyweight title defence.

White then listed off the numbers to prove it:

-Record MMA gate receipts of US$5.397 million, up from the previous record of $3.5 million. "We might have beat every gate this year in boxing," White added.

-A bumper pay per view audience. No numbers have been released but White said before the fight that he hoped UFC 66 would reach a record 1.2 million pay per view sales. At some $40 a shot, that translates into $48 million.

-A soldout crowd of 14,607 at the MGM Grand Market Arena that included Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, Kid Rock, Tommy Lee, Jason Giambi and Wayne Newton.

Not bad when you consider that the Zuffa group - Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta III and White - paid just $2 million for the ailing UFC in January 2001.

"We stumbled upon a sport that's incredible," White said. "The athletes that compete and perform in this sport are the most amazing athletes in the world and we looked at it and said: 'Imagine if we presented this to the mainstream in the right way and we packaged it right and got it out there and could show it to everybody.'

"But nights like tonight, I can put on all the bells and whistles and do all the great things, but these guys come out and put on a show like they did, and that is why mixed martial arts is the greatest combat sport in the world and the greatest live event you will ever see."

Saturday night's card offered plenty of thrills:

-The Iceman retained his 205-pound title by crumpling Ortiz to the canvas in the third round and then whaling away until referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in at 3:59. Ortiz came ready to fight, but ultimately was unable to hurt Liddell or withstand his brutal punching power. Liddell stopped Ortiz in the second round when they first met in April 2004. The latest win came despite a Las Vegas Review-Journal report Sunday that Liddell tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his knee in training three weeks before the fight. The UFC could not confirm the injury. "I was impressed with Tito's performance but Chuck Liddell is the man," White said.

-Canadian middleweight Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald ran his record to 2-0 in the UFC with an impressive submission win over Chris (The Crippler) Leben. The prison guard from Red Deer, Alta., had his hands full with the awkward Leben before taking control in the second round, choking him out at 4:03 to raise his MMA record to 18-7.

-Keith Jardine lived up to his nickname The Dean of Mean by upsetting popular light-heavyweight Forrest Griffin. The two fighters traded heavy blows and kicks in the first round before Jardine caught Griffin with a huge right uppercut and followed it up with a flurry of blows that saw Griffin crumple. Jardine thumped the prone Griffin nine more times to the head before referee (Big) John McCarthy stopped the fight at 4:41 of the first round.

-Former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski bounced back from a pair of losses to Tim Sylvia by battering Brazilian Marcio Cruz into dreamland with a string of 13 strikes to the head before the fight was stopped the fight at 3:15 of the first round. Both fighters were entwined on the ground when referee Herb Dean halted the action to warn Arlovski about an illegal kick to the head. When the action resumed, the native of Belarus promptly nailed Cruz with a punch to the chin and it was bye bye Brazil.

-English light-heavyweight Michael Bisping, winner of Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show, ran his record to 13-0 by surviving a few early rocky moments to down Eric (Ravishing Red) Schafer by TKO at 4:24 of the first round. That's good news for the UFC, which hopes Bisping will help open the MMA door to England when the UFC starts holding live events there starting in late April.

The UFC used the showcase card to announce its latest marquee acquisition: Filipovic. The UFC lured the hard-hitting Croatian heavyweight from the Japan-based Pride circuit with a lucrative six-fight, two-year contract, instantly bolstering its own uninspired heavyweight division.

The 32-year-old Filipovic, whose Cro Cop nickname comes from his stint in Croatia's anti-terrorism police unit, is Pride's open weight tournament champion, destroying Wanderlei Silva and submitting Josh Barnett en route to the title. The Croatian star (21-4-2) will make his UFC debut at UFC 67: All or Nothing against Eddie Sanchez in Las Vegas on Feb. 3, when Montreal's Georges St. Pierre defends his welterweight title for the first time against Matt Serra.

The UFC has been swallowing up talent in recent days, purchasing the assets of the World Fighting Alliance to secure the rights of elite fighters like Jackson.

Wearing his trademark giant neck chain - the kind one uses to pull a truck out of a ditch rather than a 24-karat decorative model - Jackson was on hand Saturday night. The 205-pounder, who has a 2003 win over Liddell on his resume, will taken on Marvin Eastman at UFC 67. Expect Liddell and Jackson to renew acquaintances later in 2007.

Liddell came into Saturday's fight a heavy favourite with the bookies and other fighters - a local newspaper Saturday had 17 of 20 fighters backing the Iceman to win.

He didn't disappoint, resisting Ortiz's takedown attempts while waiting for an opening to strike.

"It was a matter of time before I was going to catch him sooner or later and knock him out," said Liddell.

Ortiz, 31, arrived late at the post-fight news conference, wearing sunglasses and a hoodie. When he took the sunglasses off, both eyes showed signs of damage. Ortiz, a former light-heavyweight champion himself, left early for a trip to the hospital and X-rays on his foot.

Liddell, 37, sported a couple of welts on his face and a finger splint due to a broken tendon.

"Because I have a big head, that's why," Ortiz said to laughter.

The champion made no mention of the reported torn ACL, but showed pain in an incident at a training session attended by a lone reporter earlier this month. After a clinch with a sparring partner in an outdoor cage at the home of his trainer in Arroyo Grande, Calif., Liddell landed awkwardly after dropping to the ground with his opponent on top of him.

He finished the workout and trainer John Hackleman made a point of calling a UFC representative after the fact to assure the reporter with him that Liddell was 100 per cent.

The win - Liddell's fourth title defence - was Liddell's seventh straight, raising his record to 20-3. And it confirms his status as the reigning rock star of martial arts.

Ortiz saw a five-fight win streak end in falling to 16-5 but promised he would be back.

"There's no quit in me, at all," said the Huntington Beach Bad Boy, who showed his mettle in surviving a facial cut and nasty first-round barrage.

The sport has been good to Liddell, who is expected to make in excess of $1 million for beating Ortiz thanks to a slice of the pay per view money.

Part of his success is due to the fact he hangs and trains with the same people he did a decade ago. The first thing Liddell did at the post-fight news conference was to thank them.

"My camp's the guys that get me here, keep me here, keep me training and keep me grounded. Nothing's changed."

Liddell said the only difference today is he drives to training in a Ferrari instead of a beatup Ford Ranger.

His comfortable home in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is stocked with a pool, two games rooms, several decks and Ferrarri F430 Spider, limited-edition Hummer and tricked-out F-150 pickup truck. When he wants to see a fight, he and his friends pile into a private jet.

It all makes for a comfortable living for Liddell, his two kids and Chihuahua named Bean.

The Iceman brought Bean to the weigh-in Friday, making for an incongruous duo as the mean-looking six-foot-two fighter with the shaved mohawk, tattooed skull and toenails painted black cradled a dog noly bigger than a peanut.

Liddell stayed busy the week of the fight with reports of visits to two Vegas nightclubs, although one report stressed he only drank water.