Sunday, 16 September 2007

Wanderlai, Chuck & Bob

The past few days in the mixed martial arts world have certainly been interesting to say the least, especially in the lives of three of the sport’s biggest stars.

Nobody could believe it at last weekend’s UFC show in Las Vegas when president Dana White announced that Pride superstar Wanderlai Silva could be facing light-heavyweight champion Chuck Lidell in November. To say that this is a huge announcement would not be an understatement.

I’ve been following the UFC off and on since UFC38 in London a few years back, and in the past year, thanks to Gary Graham over at Wrestle-Zone UK sending me a few DVDs to review, I’ve had the chance to catch up on some of Pride’s past shows. During this time, both Lidell and Silva stood out as the top stars of their respective promotions, and MMA fans around the world speculated about what would happen if these two ever faced each other in the ring or the octagon.

Now Dana White has made that dream come true, as two of the world’s top light-heavyweights look forward to their clash in November, injury and other circumstances permitting, of course.

Lidell has to defend his title against Renato Sobral at UFC 62 next month, while Silva is competing in Pride’s open weight tournament in Japan in September, facing Mirko Cro Cop in the semi-finals, and another possible match in the final should he defeat the Croatian.

Hopefully, both me will stay injury free, so the UFC can give us this dream match. But if you want to know how big this really is, this could be the MMA world’s equivalent of Hogan v Flair or Ali v Frazier. It’s that big.

Over in K-1, Bob Sapp announced his retirement earlier this week, but not due to injury.

Sapp, a superstar in Japan, had signed an exclusivity deal with K-1, which obviously meant that he couldn’t compete for any other promotion, be they pro wrestling or MMA.

Sapp was due to face perennial for Ernesto Hoost in their rubber match at K-1’s Amsterdam show a few weeks ago. Having taken part in the opening parade of fighters, backstage Sapp was not a happy man. An argument broke out with the K-1 officials as Sapp expressed a desire to compete in Pride’s open weight tournament, something which his K-1 contract wouldn’t allow him to do. When K-1 officials turned down his request, Sapp packed his bags and stormed out of the arena, mere minutes before his fight with Hoost was scheduled to begin.

Now it seems that the relationship between Sapp and K-1 has broken down completely. Unable to reach any sort of agreement, Sapp has decided to retire rather than compete for K-1 again.

Sapp is more or less a money making machine in Japan, and this chain of event will cost a lot of people, including Sapp himself, millions in lost sponsorship and advertising revenue, and although some will mourn this loss to the fight world, this writer won’t.

I really can’t see what all the fuss is about Sapp. I’ve seen him in numerous matches in wrestling, K-1 and MMA, and he’s never really impressed me. He’s slow, lumbering, awkward, and his skill in all of these disciplines is neither elegant or pleasant on the eye.

So thankfully the terms of Sapp’s contract mean that we probably won’t be seeing Sapp in an MMA or pro wrestling environment, and while his loyal army of fans will be up in arms over this, I for one won’t be shedding any tears.