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puhalu
10-10-2007, 01:30 AM
Mixing it up
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has MMA in his sights
Posted: Tuesday October 9, 2007 12:58PM; Updated: Tuesday October 9, 2007 1:35PM



Mark Cuban's new plan to get into the world of MMA could net fighters higher pay and even health insurance.
AP



Mark Cuban has always enjoyed a good scrap. Now the volatile Dallas Mavs owner wants to mix it up as a martial arts businessman. A MMA fan for years, Cuban recently unveiled his latest brainchild, HDNet Fights, a new MMA organization poised to make an impact on one of America's fastest-growing sports.

Through HDNet Fights, Cuban will sign pro fighters, broadcast bouts on his high-def cable channel and promote live events. His first card is set for this Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

I recently talked to him via e-mail to find out more about his latest venture.

Luke O'Brien: First, how's Dancing with the Stars going?

Mark Cuban: I'm having a blast. Hard work, but worth it.

LO: Does training to tango compare in any way to training for an MMA fight?

MC: I wouldn't know. My partner is a hell of a lot prettier than any fighter I have seen.

LO: Let's talk about your new business venture, HDNet Fights. You've been airing MMA on HDNet for some time, but with HDNet Fights you're donning the promoter's hat. Why?

MC: I think there is a lot of opportunity in MMA. The UFC has grown the sport considerably, but there is still plenty of room for another player. Add the fact that it's great content for HDNet and it's a great reason to get in the game.

LO: How long have you been a fan? Was there a particular fight that got you hooked?

MC: I've been watching since we started showing it on HDNet. It wasn't a particular fight. I love the strategy and action when fighters with different disciplines match up and of course watching two strikers go toe-to-toe is always amazing.

LO: Why didn't you pick a better name? "HDNet Fights" is about as exciting as a lamppost.

MC: I own HDNet. Calling it anything else would make me as dumb as a lamppost.

LO: I'm sure you scrutinized the business of MMA before getting into it. What's the outlook for the sport?

MC: I think the sport can have a bright future if the athletes evolve into professional, full-time pros. Until then, there will be a lot of disparity between the top and bottom levels. Our hope is that I can bring a lot of what I have learned with the Mavs to the sport and the training, care and development of athletes.

LO: You've talked about turning MMA into a more professional sport? What do you mean?

MC: There is a huge difference between making good TV for the sake of good TV, and the competition being the center attraction. No disrespect to the Tapout guys -- they are great entertainment -- but I'm guessing the marquee MMA fighters don't think having the Tapout guys at their fights is the message they want to send to fans about the professionalism of MMA athletes. Having fighters chosen based on whether they make good TV contestants, even if they do have to eventually earn it, sends the wrong message. It's like having a streetball tour mixed into an NBA game.

LO: You say you'd like to give your fighters health insurance. You want to sign them to non-exclusive contracts so they can fight in other shows. You're even encouraging them to form a labor union and think about collective bargaining. All that sounds great, but aren't these the things that create headaches for front offices in other sports?

MC: Yep. But if the fighters can't focus on their profession full-time, then the quality of fights won't be there and the fans will know it. The quality of athletes will grow significantly if they know they can make this a full-time job at an early age.

LO: MMA guys get hurt all the time. Are you really serious about picking up their medical bills?

MC: Getting hurt in a sanctioned fight isn't the issue. The issue is getting hurt while training. If you work for me and you get hurt training, I will make sure you are not stressing about how your kids will eat. That's not happening right now, and that's a problem.

LO: What about these non-exclusive contracts? We've all heard about Michael Jordan's love-of-the-game clause. But you're talking about letting fighters compete in other, possibly rival, events, where they could get banged up. Aren't you taking a big risk?

MC: Sure, it's a risk. But it makes the sport better

LO: Would you ever make fighters available to the UFC? What about EliteXC?

MC: Yes. If we want to give fans the best fights, it has to happen.

LO: You've already got an arena, a production company and a cable channel. All you need now are top-level fighters. Are you going to get some?

MC: Yep. There is no shortage of marquee fighters that want to work with us when their contracts end.

LO: Are you going after the UFC? They've locked up so many good fighters in the last year. Is there a chink in their armor?

MC: I don't need to go after anyone. I just need to do a good job.

NOTE: Cuban did not reply to questions on steroids in MMA and discussions he's had with Vince McMahon and the WWE about co-promotions (a curious overture if he's trying to get people to take MMA seriously as a sport).


Cuban could be a good thing for MMA, I just hope he doesn't hook up with McMahon and turn his promotion into a freakshow.

eazye76
10-10-2007, 03:49 AM
Cuban could be a good thing for MMA, I just hope he doesn't hook up with McMahon and turn his promotion into a freakshow.
If he stays the hell away from McMahon, he'll be doing something right.

Clint
10-10-2007, 02:35 PM
Good interview, thanks.

All of Cubans ideas come off as gimmicky to me, so I think he is gonna end up the freakshow route with shit like possibly working with McMahon, planning to show MMA in 3D, etc.