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Sunday February 3, 2008 1:10 PM PST


UFC 81 News & Notes

By Gary Herman

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir were both heavyweight winners at UFC 81. However, that was certainly not all of the big the news from the weekend’s show. Many of the participants had a lot of interesting things to say about what is going on in the world of mixed martial arts.

White’s challenge to Couture

With the submission victory over Tim Sylvia, Nogueira won the UFC interim heavyweight championship. The reason for the interim tag is due to the true champion, Randy Couture, walking out on the UFC.

UFC President Dana White clearly stated that he wants Nogueira to have the same opportunity Couture did.

“I expect Captain America (Couture) to step up to the plate and give Nogueira the chance to win the title,” White said, “Couture was knocked out twice by (Chuck) Liddell. Then, he called me and asked for the heavyweight title shot. I gave it to him. Now, it’s his turn to return the favor.”

Nogueira also thinks the fight should take place.

“Today I got the belt. I deserve a chance to fight Couture,” said Nogueira.

Liddell vs. Shogun is official

Coming off an exciting slugfest victory over Wanderlei Silva in December, Chuck Liddell will get an opportunity against another former Pride and Brazilian Chute Box star.

Liddell’s next fight will be against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

“Liddell vs Shogun is confirmed,” said White.

The date and location of the fight has not been completely determined yet, but White said that he believes the fight will be in June at the O2 Arena in London.

Mir’s honest assessment

Frank Mir was very candid when talking about the past few years of his career – not all of which were successful.

“I am such a question mark,” Mir said, “I was losing before because I was injured and not performing well. Psychologically, I was screwed up from the injuries, but now that I’m back to 100% and winning convincingly – no one really knows what to expect.”

Mir’s opponent at UFC 81, Brock Lesnar, openly stated that Mir was the guy he wanted to fight. Surprisingly, Mir agreed that Lesnar made a good choice.

“I had the most to offer him with the least amount of danger of all the guys that had a heavyweight title,” said Mir, “Between Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Randy Couture, I posed the least threat of a former champion.”

Hermes Franca comments on Sean Sherk

At UFC 73, Sean Sherk won a unanimous decision over Hermes Franca. However, the most intriguing result of the fight was not Sherk’s victory over Franca– it was the result the steroid test taken that weekend. Both Sherk and Franca tested positive for steroids.

During their appeals to California State Athletic Commission, Sherk and Franca took different paths. Sherk vehemently protested his innocence while Franca admitted to using steroids.

“My opinion is this is weird,” said Franca, “The fighting commission, for no reason, dropped his suspension to six months.”

Franca believes the ruling could set a dangerous precedent.

“A lot of guys are going to lie in the future. I hope everyone is going to fight clean, but now, it looks like they will lie and get their suspension reduced,” said Franca.

Franca also stated that he does not know if Sherk used steroids.

“I am not sure if Sherk is guilty or not,” said Franca, “but he has to prove (his innocence) and he has not proved it.”

White talks about Kimbo

Internet sensation Kimbo Slice currently competes in rival organization EliteXC. Slice was made famous through street fights televised on Youtube.com.

White does not think that Slice is ready for the UFC.

“Sean Gannon beat him in a street fight. Everyone saw happened to Sean Gannon when he fought a guy that no one ever heard of (a decisive TKO loss to Branden Lee Hinkle in the UFC),” said White, “Gannon was in the hospital for three weeks.”

“That’s what would happen to Kimbo Slice if he fought in the UFC. He would get hurt bad – real bad,” White said.

Vera’s return

Heavyweight Brandon Vera is finally scheduled to get back into the octagon. He will be returning in just a few months.

“I will be fighting in June, but I do not know exactly who I will be fighting,” Vera said, “There are a couple of names being thrown around, but nothing is official.”

Vera did go on to say that there is one guy he hopes to have opportunity to square off against.

“I would love to fight Andrei Arlovski. He is someone I really look up to,” said Vera.

UFC to negotiate network deal?

The long awaited debut for the Ultimate Fighting Championship on a major network may not be very far off. Ongoing conversations are heating up. UFC President Dana White expects major progress in the next few days.

“I am going out of town tomorrow for a week. Hopefully, I’ll come back with good news,” White said.

What’s next for Cro Cop?

Mirko Cro Cop has been out of action since his decision loss to Cheick Congo at UFC 75 in September 2007. The UFC is ready for Cro Cop to make a decision on whether or not he will be returning.

“We’re waiting to hear from him,” said White, “We told him we’d wait for him to make a decision, but he’s not making a decision.”

The UFC does not want to hold off any longer.

“The deadline is pretty much up, and I need decision from him by Monday (February 4),” White said.

Lindland not headed to the UFC

Top middleweight Matt Lindland had been rumored to be coming back to the UFC. Lindland dispelled any chances of that occurring.

“Dana has made it clear they are not going to make me an offer to return to the UFC,” Lindland said.

While Lindland respects the fighters in the UFC, he feels he matches up very well against most of them.

“I feel there are a lot of good fighters in the UFC, and I feel like I could beat most of them,” Lindland said.

Is Frank Mir back?

One of the underlying stories coming into UFC 81 was whether or not Frank Mir is fully recovered from a broken leg. He suffered the injury in a motorcycle accident a few years ago.

If the submission victory over Lesnar did not quiet all the questions about his health, Mir has another way to show he is fully well again.

“My leg is healed,” said Mir, “I’m tired of all the questions. I wish I could walk around wearing a t-shirt that says, ‘I’m ok’.”

UFC 81 awards

Following the show, the UFC handed out awards for the best fight, the best knockout and the best submission. With the award comes a $60,000 bonus.

Best fight: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia. Nogueira came back from being down on the scorecards to win the UFC interim heavyweight championship. Sylvia battered Nogueira for the first two and a half rounds before Nogueira quickly reversed one mistake by Sylvia into a guillotine submission.

Best knockout: Chris Lytle. Lytle scored a very impressive knockout victory over UFC newcomer Kyle Bradley. With the award, Lytle records his second straight UFC bonus. He took home an extra 55k for the fight of the night with Thiago Alves at UFC 78. Lytle lost that fight between the second and third rounds due to referee stoppage for a cut over his left eye.

Best submission: Frank Mir. Mir spoiled the UFC debut of former professional wrestler Lesnar by locking in a kneebar for the submission win. Lesnar looked great early in the fight before Mir went for an armbar. Lesnar pulled out of the armbar by standing up. When Lesnar stood up, Mir grabbed Lesnar’s leg and rolled into the finishing leglock.



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