Mike KKKogan – MMA’s Worst Manager

MMA manager Mike Kogan, who represents a fair number of UFC fighters, is at it again. Earlier today, he lambasted UFC Featherweight champ Jose Aldo for Aldo’s remarks regarding fighter’s pay.  Only, he decided to take things up a notch, by referring to the champ as “n***a”.

After all, Mike Kogan keeps it real.

And apparently, the black fighters he represents give him a pass since he’s “coo”. They, of course, speak on behalf of everyone who is and is not black, so it must be okay.

Mookie Alexander has a nice piece to sum up why Mike Kogan is a moron which you can read here.

In the past, I’ve written about the ridiculousness that is Mike Kogan and how his mismanagement in representing Nate Diaz led to Diaz trying to negotiate a new UFC contract through Twitter.

However, it’s better if Mike Kogan takes the last word regarding his own talents and abilities as a manager.

…I suck as a manager. Lol Thank you, Mike

Most of the MMA world already knew him to be an inept manager, but now the world knows him to be a bonafide idiot.  I certainly hope the fighters under his tutelage are as aware.

WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 7

“I’m right here in this octagon fighting for the freedom of mixed martial arts.” – Tito Ortiz

You just knew Tito had to make an appearance on this list.  The question is which of Ortiz’s many notable quotables would find its way onto the list. I thought about including the gem he uttered during his stint on Donald Trump’s on The Apprentice when he said of his Punishment Athletics clothing line, “I run a multi-billion dollar company.” Of course, any of his quotes from his work as a commentator for Affliction could also be memorable, like when he interviewed Renato Babalu Sobral in a post-fight interview, saying:

Here we are with Seraldo Babalu, you did an awesome job, saw why you’re a black belt in jiu-jitsu, getting an awesome submission there, I want to tell me what you see, let’s go ahead and see by the fight, what you saw, in the ring.

Honestly, I could likely fill up a top-ten list of ridiculous Tito Ortiz quotes and a list of top-twenty if I included the many excuses for losses. One, however, sticks out among most of Tito’s words of wisdom. In a UFC 51 post fight speech that included call-outs to both Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock, Tito started out by thanking the troops… and then comparing their fight to his own, saying, “…I was like fighting for one reason: I was fighting for our United States troops…they are fighting for our freedom… I’m right here in this octagon fighting for the freedom of mixed martial arts.” To prove it, Tito’s camp all wore camouflage Punishment Athletic shirts, and Tito ran into the audience waving a two-sided flag with Mexico on one side and the United States on the other. ‘Merica!

In retrospect, it’s easy to poke fun at Tito for not being the most articulate person on a microphone, and to compare a sports fight to that of a service person in active combat is a real stretch. However, Tito was a part of that original silver-aged MMA vanguard, and he was, to use his own metaphor, on the front-lines for a great deal of it. I respect him for that, but that’s what also makes it difficult to watch Tito the Showman cast a shadow over Tito the Fighter.

However, I think no one can sum up Tito Ortiz better than Tito Ortiz. Just this past Saturday in Bellator’s inaugural PPV event, and after a rare win, Tito added another infamous quote to the gospel of Tito Ortiz when he said in the post-fight press conference, “God put me on this earth to be a tool.”

We should all allow Tito Ortiz the last word regarding himself.

WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 6

“I spent the night at the bar; he spent the night at the hospital.”—BJ Penn

BJ Penn

MMA legend BJ Penn; photo via Adam S

Back in 2006 before “superfight” was a buzzword, BJ Penn was in the middle of carving out his fighting legacy as a pioneer and legend of the sport, and Georges St-Pierre was still in the infancy of his legacy. At the time, Penn was the first fighter in the UFC to have won two different belts in two different weight divisions—lightweight and welterweight. He was considered one of the pound-for-pound best, given his proclivity for taking on any opponent at any weight class. GSP was still working his way up, but fans knew there was something special about him, and the thought of GSP and BJ Penn fighting each other had most fight fans eager with antici… pation.

At UFC 58, Penn and GSP were set to face off in a number one-contender matchup, with the winner receiving the opportunity to face off against then welterweight champion Matt Hughes. Penn had already beaten Hughes once as a lightweight moving up a weight class and taking the title from Hughes.  The three-round welterweight fight saw GSP apply what would become his signature style—keeping opponents at the end of his jab and kicks, racking up points with takedowns and ground attacks, and clinching against the cage to tire his opponents. Penn, however, was able to counter and do some damage on the inside and, early on, broke GSP’s face, bloodying up his nose, and swelling his eye.

Despite the obvious damage, GSP did enough to control the fight’s pace, control the location of the fight, and control BJ and was awarded the split decision.  Later, Penn, who was disappointed with the judges’ verdict, alluded to the fact that the damage he had done to GSP’s face was more than enough to earn him the win. Penn was quoted as saying, “I spent the night at the bar; he spent the night at the hospital.”

It’s a common misconception among MMA fans (and quite a few fighters and MMA writers) that somehow physical damage counts or is evidence of a win.  It’s not hard to see why that perception exists. The physical proof is hard to argue against. It’s hard to look at a fighter that appears as if he/she has come out of a wood chipper, let a lone imagine he/she was the victor in a fight.  The natural assumption is that the opponent who inflicted said damage (especially if the opponent appears unscathed) must have won.  If you were to look at both Penn and GSP after their fight, you’d think that the damage would speak to the real winner.  You’d also be dead wrong. Damage is not a criterion by which a fight is judged in the UFC.  When BJ Penn let his feelings about the damage he inflicted on GSP known, it inadvertently helped to perpetuate the assumption that somehow damage counts.

While this was the thought in 2006—that damage wins fights—things haven’t really changed over the last eight years. Recently, welterweight champion Johny Hendricks used damage as a measuring stick to argue that he deserved a win over—you guessed it—Georges St-Pierre. At UFC 167, Hendricks battered GSP and turned his face into a broken and bumpy mess, yet GSP did enough in the judges eyes to squeak out a controversial decision win.

GSP at the UFC 167 post-fight presser.

In a post-fight interview with UFC.com’s Megan Olivi, Hendricks was adamant that the damage he inflicted on GSP, and the fact that he himself had nary a scratch, was proof enough he won the fight. “Do I look like I got into a fight?” Hendricks said. It also didn’t help matters that the UFC’s president also used damage as the benchmark for what he believed was a Hendricks win. “It’s about damage; this is a fight; it’s whoever inflicts the most damage,” said Dana White in the UFC 167 post-fight press conference, demonstrating his own lack of knowledge about the sport he promotes.

Of course damage cuts both ways, and at UFC 171 when Hendricks fought Robbie Lawler in another controversial win, this time for the vacant welterweight championship, Hendricks came out of the fight doing his own GSP-damaged impression.

Hendricks at the UFC 171 post-fight presser; photo via Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

That night, the cries of damage as a standard for winning were being hurled back at Hendricks, who looked every bit the part of a man who had been molly-wopped (even if he wasn’t feeling that way), by the same fans who believed the damage he wreaked against GSP should have been used against him. The worm had turned.  Even GSP, talking to Arel Helwani on the MMA Hour, weighed in with his own thoughts about damage as it related to the Hendricks and Lawler fight:

I believe Lawler, the rounds that he won, it was more decisively, and he did more damage on the face, but sometimes that doesn’t mean anything. Lawler had a lot of damage too, but you couldn’t see the damage on the legs. Damage on the face sometimes is superficial, so that’s one of the reasons I think Hendricks won the fight. 

In 2006, BJ vocalized what many fight fans (and some fighters) still believe—damage counts or at least, it should count. It’s not surprising this rallying cry came from BJ Penn considering the amount of damage he inflicted on his opponents through the years (hello Diego Sanchez and Joe Stevenson); however, it simply doesn’t matter insofar as the judging of a fight goes. Damage can be an ugly thing in the cage, but like all blemishes, it’s subjective.  Some fighters simply wear damage better than others.

WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 5

“Sometimes these things happen in MMA.”—Gus Johnson

Being an MMA commentator is an utterly thankless job.  For every fight fan who praises Michael Schiavello’s enthusiasm during a fight or Joe Rogan’s rapport with fighters in post-fight interviews, there are droves of critics who decry Mike Goldberg’s responsibility to plug the next UFC event mid-fight or Mauro Ranallo’s attempts to give a live fight more context and illustration.

And fighters-turned commentators don’t get any latitude either. Guys like Pat Militech, Brian Stann, Kenny Florian, and Bas Rutten offer a unique perspective but get lambasted by fight fans who perceive their insights as attacks on and personal biases against the viewer’s favorite fighter. Even the fighters sometimes fail to give the commentators the credit they deserve.  From Josh Barnett taking offense at Kenny Florian or Rampage Jackson coming down on Rich Franklin for stating the obvious, MMA commentators seem to bear the brunt of criticism from all directions. and this is likely before they even get production notes from producers.  It’s a lose-lose situation, but it does speak volumes that the number of commentators, especially in the UFC, is so few.  It’s a challenging job that not just anyone can fill.

A good commentator is one that complements the action so the audience barely notices the contribution as being a part of the broadcast. So when a commentator draws attention to himself or herself in spite of the action, it makes the commentating task that much harder. It’s also a trap that every commentator falls into, at one time or another, directly or indirectly.  But when veteran sports commentator Gus Johnson jumped into the bear trap during the CBS broadcast of Strikeforce: Nashville, MMA fan reactions were vitriolic.

In the main event, Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields dominated Dan Henderson with a gutty performance after Shields was rocked early.  Looking back, Johnson teed-up Shields perfectly. Johnson set the scene, talking about how the perception was that Strikeforce had expected Shields to lose by bringing in Henderson, and Shields was more than ready to respond with his thoughts.

Then, the wheels came off.

Self-promotion machine Jason Mayhem Miller had just interrupted Jake Shields’s victory interview with Johnson when the extras from Shields’s camp, including Gilbert Melendez and Nate and Nick Diaz, took umbrage and began to throw punches at Miller. The production cut to a shot of an empty arena from the prelims, briefly, to distract the audience. However, when the live broadcast returned, the melee intensified, and Johnson, wisely, exited the swarm like a thief in the night.  The disgust from the crowd and Mauro Renallo was audible. And then Johnson added to the ridiculousness in the cage saying, “Sometimes these things happen in MMA.”

Fight pundits and critics took aim at Gus Johnson for his response.  These things happen in MMA? Thanks a lot Gus! We’re trying to get on national TV here!

The dirty little secret that no one likes to mention is that yes, these things do happen. Maybe not as frequently in MMA as the connotation suggests  (though even recently Johnny Bedford and Rani Yaha engaged in a post-fight kerfuffle). They happen in MMA (and they seem to happen with frequency when the Diaz brothers are in the cage). They happen in the NBA. Hell, they happen in the NFL after practically every play where there’s a holding penalty. Johnson just happened to acknowledge this on a live mic instead of trying to spin out of it.  But the connotation was out there, and fight fans to this day still cry foul.

The criticisms about Johnson’s calls that night and his knowledge of the sport aside, the simple fact is there was really no way for Gus Johnson to steer the brawl in Memphis into an acceptable landing. It wasn’t Johnson’s fault the fight took place to begin with. And to his credit, he attempted to right the ship and interview Jake Shields once the cage had cleared. Still, Johnson’s quote lives on in infamy partly because of the time and place and the infancy of the sport.  In a piece by SI’s Loretta Hunt, Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker says of the brawl in Nashville, “It’s was a national event and letting that situation happen was an embarrassment.” At the end of the day, the brawl was embarrassing. Gus Johnson’s call simply ended up complementing that embarrassment.

WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 4

“All I guarantee is violence.” Wanderlei Silva

"I once caught a fish this big."

“I once caught a fish this big.” Photo via TeamRKS

Wanderlei Silva is/was one of the most beloved fighters in MMA with one of the most dedicated fan bases.  And then he fell victim to the bad guy.  After years of waiting for a showdown with Chael Sonnen (and vice versa), Silva decided he couldn’t wait any longer and jumped the gun… and Chael Sonnen.

It’s not too shocking to imagine that this would happen given Silva’s roots in luta livre and bare-knuckled fighting in Brazil. The guy is a vet who has been fighting before there were rules.  So, when a fighter with the nickname the Axe Murderer says the only thing fans and opponents can count on is violence, it comes off like Jules Winfield quoting the gospel.  It should be no shock then that Wanderlei Silva threw down in an on-set brawl with Chael Sonnen during the taping of Ultimate fighter: Brazil. What ended up surprising everyone was the reaction to the brawl. Fans, Brazilian fans in particular, began to disavow Wanderlei.

Silva blames the reaction on the editing of the TV show for the public’s negative perception of him; however, Silva’s actions, much like his words, speak for themselves. Despite the events of the last few months and the goings-on in the Ultimate Fighter set, Wandy is still a fan favorite among die-hard MMA fans.

What the impromptu fight showed fans more than anything is that the dichotomy between Silva and Sonnen is so tiny, if you squint hard enough, something comes into clear focus: Silva and Sonnen may as well be brothers from another mother.  For Silva, there may be honor in defending his country’s reputation against the “mean words” used by Sonnen, but his valor is doing double duty and helping to sell their fight.  As for Sonnen, he’s never been shy about the fact that what he does is take advantage of opportunities, and in the case of the on-set tussle, he gets the chance to re-brand himself as the fan-favorite and sell the fight and himself.  It’s no different a tactic than when Wanderlei says things like “All I guarantee is violence.” It sounds “like some coldblooded sh*t to say” to an opponent that sells one’s self and the fight.

Wanderlei may be offended to hear it, and Sonnen will never admit it, but Wanderlei Silva is the original Chael Sonnen.