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.