Elite XC/Showtime Conference
“NINJA’’ RUA & ROBBIE LAWLER, GINA CARANO & JAKE SHIELDS, PROMOTERS GARY SHAW & TJ THOMPSON, SHOWTIME’S CHRIS DEBLASIO In the biggest Mixed Martial Arts event in the history of Hawaii, talented EliteXC middleweight champion Murilo “Ninja” Rua, will defend against exciting ICON Sport titlist, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler in the main event of “Uprising’’ on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
Elite XC/Showtime Conference
The below excerpt is taken from Elite XC’s Media Teleconference:
CONFERENCE CALL QUOTES
“NINJA’’ RUA & ROBBIE LAWLER,
GINA CARANO & JAKE SHIELDS,
PROMOTERS GARY SHAW & TJ THOMPSON,
SHOWTIME’S CHRIS DEBLASIO
Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007
In the biggest Mixed Martial Arts event in the history of Hawaii, talented EliteXC middleweight champion Murilo “Ninja” Rua, will defend against exciting ICON Sport titlist, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler in the main event of “Uprising’’ on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
Well-regarded Nick Diaz will make his anxiously awaited EliteXC debut and first start in six months against Mike Aina, streaking top-10 welterweight Jake Shields faces Renato “Charuto” Verissimo, The Golden Girl of MMA, sexy Gina Carano, will face Tonya Evinger and two fighters tough as nails, Joey Villasenor and Riki Fukuda, collide in the other televised bouts.
With the exception of “Ninja”-Lawler, he televised bouts are slated for three, 5-minute rounds.
Shaw: I’d like to thank everyone for joining us for publicizing this great card Sept. 15 on SHOWTIME where Ninja Rua is defending his EliteXC belt against Robbie Lawler. This has been a great promotion and this is going to be a tremendous, tremendous show. We’re glad to have Gina and Jake back and Nick Diaz. I’m very, very excited.
Question: Gary, what other organizations are ProElite looking to acquire?
Shaw: ProElite has formed a partnership, which has been announced, with SpiritMC. I’m here in England now finalizing our Cage Rage deal.
Question: There’s been a lot of talk that ProElite is in talks to acquire ICON and King of the Cage and a couple of other organizations. Is there any truth to those rumors?
Shaw: Yes, there’s a letter of intent out on both properties.
Question: This is about the heavyweight division in EliteXC. You have Rico Rodriguez and a bunch of other guys. When can we expect to see more of these from the past?
Shaw: I think you’ll see more in November. Right now (we’re concentrating on the Hawaii show). We want to give Ninja a shot to defend the title he just won and keep his face out there. He’s an exciting fighter and who better than Robbie Lawler to put his belt up against?
Comment: Definitely. That’s a great compliment to your brand and a testament to sticking to your word about wanting to have one single unified champion instead of a bunch of club champions.
Shaw: I promise you my word is my bond and we’ll continue to do that.
Question: Will you continue with this trend and have the winner of the Lawler-Rua fight possibly go up against the Strike Force champion and Frank Shamrock?
Shaw: Sure. There’s nothing stopping us from fighting anyone. We’ll fight any fighter in the UFC. We’ll let our fighters go into the UFC to bring back their belt or we’ll do it on SHOWTIME on an EliteXC card or ICON or Cage Rage. Doesn’t make a difference. That’s what makes this exciting, so it becomes global and everybody has a chance. Look, Randy Couture right now is training Gina Carano. How good is that?
Question: ProElite seems to be adding a lot of different organizations to Mixed Martial Arts under one banner and that seems like that’s the exact opposite approach taken by the UFC, who tends to lock out other organizations. Can you explain EliteXC’s unique approach and what we can expect in the future?
Shaw: Thank you for your question. EliteXC is inclusive and not exclusive, as Nick Diaz, if he was on the call, would tell you. We believe by acquiring all these brands worldwide we become a global brand and we can help build Mixed Martial Arts and the dream can come true for the directors of this company that it becomes an Olympic sport — hopefully as early as 2012. I have always said that when someone holds up a belt and says I’m a world champion, that it truly should mean world champion and not a club champion from someone’s own organization. So we will continue to acquire brands. We’ll continue to let our fighters fight all over the world and we will continue to offer everyone from every organization, wherever they are, an opportunity to fight for our belts.
Question: You mentioned Nick Diaz and the Takanori Gomi fight. Is there any possibility we could see Gomi versus Diaz in a rematch for EliteXC?
Shaw: Sure. I have no problem with that. The question is will those organizations let Gomi come and fight on SHOWTIME and fight Nick. We would never hold Nick back. We gave him that opportunity. That’s what we’re all about, and I think that’s what the fans want to see.
Question: Have you or anyone with EliteXC had negotiations with Gomi?
Shaw: I have not nor has anyone else. We wanted to bring Nick back. As you know, he was on suspension. I wanted to be with Nick, take him through this fight and hopefully after this fight go right back and show it wasn’t a fluke and that Nick is the superior fighter.
Question: In acquiring these other promotions, does ProElite want to get a controlling interest in these other promotions, or is it more a case where you want to go in and get those promotions’ resources to expand their brands?
Shaw: First of all, we haven’t finished acquiring the brands other than Rumble and that’s a different deal than our SpiritMC deal. Each one of our deals stands on it’s own. We don’t hide anything. We’re a public company. So as soon as we’re done with the acquisitions, we’ll be doing a filing. So your question is premature at this point.
Question: Gary, you’re talking about letting your fighters fight in other organizations, but if you go out and purchase all these other organizations they’re really your organizations, right?
Shaw: Not really because what we want (is for) SpiritMC (to operate) as SpiritMC and keep the Korean flavor. (Like Cage Rage) is going to keep the flavor truly of an English brand. But it gives the English fighter an opportunity to possibly go to Hawaii and bring back an ICON belt or Rumble belt or in the United States a UFC belt or a Rage in a Cage belt or King of the Cage belt or whomever we’re dealing with. It’s giving the fighter the opportunity to be seen on a global stage. So if Rua wants to fight someone from Cage Rage or not, if they have the best fighter out there in the eyes of the public, well, he’s going to have to fight him to defend that title or get stripped.
DeBlasio: Gary, it sounds like what you’re saying is that it’s not about ProElite, it’s not about any one organization, it is about MMA as a sport, right?
Shaw: That’s absolutely correct. Remember, ProElite is out there and they’ve been fighting EliteXC, but it’s building MMA. We’re not just trying to build a brand. I’ve said this over and over again. The fighter and the organizations that we are putting together is king. They will be bigger than me and bigger than the brand, unlike the UFC or the WWE where no one will be bigger than Dana (White), no one will be bigger than Vince (McMahon). That’s not how we operate.
Question: Gary, how would you describe how things are going from the ProElite/EliteXC side of things and are you happy and are things on schedule as far as what you mapped out at the beginning and the progress you’ve made?
Shaw: Yes. It’s close to beyond our expectations. We knew we were real. We knew we had the funding. We knew we had to get fighters that could represent us and we’d be proud for them to represent us like Gina Carano, Jake Shields, “Ninja,’ even “Krazy Horse.’’ These are people that have gone out there and started to talk and believe in us and we believe in them. When I get off this call, Gina Carano will tell you I told her I was going to make her the face of women’s Mixed Martial Arts. She can tell you all the great things that have happened to her as a fighter. We’re not trying to bury her, we’re trying to keep building Gina and building Jake. And when fighters lose, we bring them back and we still talk about them. We want to build Mixed Martial Arts. That’s what this is all about. We’re very happy. We’re on track. We have a wonderful, wonderful partnership with SHOWTIME and Ken Hershman and I think we bring exciting fights. We brought three to premium television and we will continue to do that. And on ProElite.com we have streamed numerous fights both from England, Hawaii and within the United States. So on our ProElite.com site, we are doing things that have not been done before to help Mixed Martial Arts.
Question: EliteXC has been very supportive of Charles “Krazy Horse’’ Bennett over the past few months. What is your impression of his performance last month?
Shaw: I was very, very disappointed. I thought that he could maybe have been trained better or certainly have fought better, but many people don’t know he had a hand injury in the first round. We’re not making excuses. I saw it. It was all swollen. After the fight he was taken to the hospital. However, you know, we have been building him. We believe in him. We think he’s exciting and we will continue to bring him to the eyes of the public in the MMA, but he’s going to have to make the commitment in order for us to follow through on our commitment to the fighter.
Question: The fight between Nick Diaz and Mike Aina is going to be at 160 pounds. Will EliteXC have both a 160-pound division in addition to a 155-pound division?
Shaw: We are talking about that right now within the company and we may go from 155 to 160. I don’t know that we’ll keep both, but it’s a good question, and come back at me and maybe by Sept. 15th I’ll have a more definitive answer for you.
Question: What role will Andy Geer and David O’Donnell continue to have with Cage Rage?
Shaw: I just came out of a press conference here in England. They’re going to be active. They’re going to be running Cage Rage, the English brand and we’re going to step it up to the next level. Hopefully, we won’t do all the fights at Wembley, but we’ll be able to go to Manchester and other great towns that deserve to get great fights.
Question: Gary, are you prepared to say whether those two and their other partners still remain in a minority ownership sense?
Shaw: The acquisition is not completed so I want to repeat, we haven’t done all our FCC filings. We’re just finishing the acquisition, but I can tell you that Andy and Dave will both be an intricate part of the company.
Question: Gary, I know that you’ve been really working on developing Gina Carano as a fighter. What other female fighters are you looking to develop?
Shaw: I have my eyes on three females right now, none of which are signed, but I promise you by Sept. 15 I will make that announcement. But Gina took women’s MMA on her back with her first fight with Julie Kedzie on SHOWTIME, proved to everybody she’s a real fighter, proved that women can be exciting fighters and she’s now given the impetus to go out and sign more exciting women fighters like Gina that are coming into that cage to fight.
Question: Now that you have recently added the ShoXC portion to your brand, how often do you plan staging ShoXC cards?
Shaw: That’s a good question. I’m just getting in talks with Ken Hershman from SHOWTIME. I believe we have two more scheduled for this year, one in October and one in December. I think its Oct. 26 and Dec. 7. And hopefully we’re going to bring you eight-10 of those shows next year on SHOWTIME. Again, I have not sat down with Ken Hershman and put that in stone. But right now, that is the plan. And I hope you’re enjoying them. I hope you see the value in them.
Comment: Great shows.
Shaw: Look, we’re trying to bring new stars to the division, to the eyeballs. We’re trying to show how many great fighters are out there and then move them and get them the opportunity to go from ShoXC to big time EliteXC on SHOWTIME. Make sure Gina and Jake only say nice things about me. I’ll see you all in Hawaii next week. Thank you, very much.
Carano: Hi, everyone. My life has been a little chaotic in the last six months. I’ve been super busy filming different things and meeting different people, but I just want to say thank you to ProElite and SHOWTIME for putting me on this card. It’s an honor once again and I’m really planning on putting on a good fight and I’m looking forward to it..
Question: Gina, what do you know about your opponent? She is sure a tough talker.
Carano: Yeah. I don’t know if tough talking is a cover up for insecurities or if she’s scared or anything, but every fighter can be beat and so I’m planning on beating her.
Question: Robbie, what are your thoughts about fighting Ninja in the main event on Sept. 15? .
Lawler: I’m exciting about the fight. I’m in good shape, ready to put on a good show and knocking Ninja out.
Question: What do you think about Ninja, who is going to try and take you to the ground while you’re going to try to keep everything at standup?
Lawler: It’s definitely going to start on the feet and I think we’re going to exchange. He’s not scared to exchange, but he’ll be quick to take it to the ground if he thinks there’s an opportunity and I’ll be ready to defend him and keep it on our feet.
Question: Jake, what are your thoughts about fighting Charuto and do you think this could be your toughest fight?
Shields: I’m excited. Charuto is somebody I was supposed to fight twice before and it fell through. I’ve been watching him fight for years. He’s a great Jiu-Jitsu guy and I’ve been training my butt off. I’m ready to go out and fight. I’m hoping to do a little standup and bang with him. I’m going to try to knock him out.
Question: Is it a factor that you are fighting Charuto on his home turf?
Shields: Not really. I’ve fought in Japan a bunch. Hawaii is not that far. Obviously he’s going to be the favorite, but it’s not that big of a deal. I’m used to it.
Question: Can you talk about the Team Gracie versus Team Penn factor on this fight card?
Shields: I think it makes it exciting. You’ve got Nick from Cesar’s and you’ve got those two from Team Penn and they are the two best Jiu-Jitsu schools in the country, so it’s kind of a rivalry. We get along with those guys. It’s a friendly rivalry to go out and show them that we’re better.
Question: Will bragging rights be on the line for the camps or do you even think about that?
Shields: A little bit. You always want to make your camp proud. Nick and I want to go out and win and show that our team is the best out there.
Question: Jake, you are both good on the ground. How do you expect it to go if you end up on the ground?
Shields: I think I’ve gone against so many, you know, and it’s a competition. I’m fine on the ground. I think I hold an advantage on top, (to) open him up with elbows and ground it down. I hope to keep the fight on my feet, but there’s always a chance it will be on the ground. If he’s on top and I don’t want to be there, I’ll just try to get back on my feet.
Question: For all the fights, what do you love most about Mixed Martial Arts?
Lawler: I just like competing. If it wasn’t for Mixed Martial Arts, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. I love competing and pushing myself to the limits, and going out there and performing.
Shields: For me, it’s kind of the same. It’s competing with wrestling and then I found MMA. It’s the best sport out there. I like competing, but what better than a full fight. Boxing is cool, kickboxing is cool and wrestling is cool, but MMA, it’s everything. There are no excuses and you can do whatever.
Carano: I just like the mentality of fighting and I like to be physical and it’s just — I think it’s one of the most honest sports out there. In basketball and other sports, you can fall down and over-exaggerate it, but in fighting it’s so honest.
Question: Jake, I wanted to know if you’re still training with the American Kickboxing Academy on occasion?
Shields: Every now and again I do some sparring. Every couple weeks, I’ll go down there to train.
Question: Jake, there are a lot of guys in your weight class. Is there any concern that you might have to face guys you train with in the future?
Shields: That’s a concern. (But I know) I’m not going to fight them in the near future, so I kind of keep training (with them) occasionally.
Question: Has the UFC given you any expectation they plan to institute a welterweight title?
Shields: They have actually. We talked about it; hopefully after this fight, I can fight for it.
Question: TJ, as the local promoter what are your thoughts on a card that’s being billed as the biggest MMA event in the history of Hawaii?
Thompson: I’ll tell you what. I think clearly this is the biggest MMA event in the history of Hawaii, but I also believe that it’s not the biggest MMA event that Hawaii is ever going to have. I really think that as the world sees this little island out here, (they/fans see) we’ve been so far ahead of the game (in MMA). We started promoting MMA events here in 1995 when ICON was the second longest Mixed Martial Arts show in America. We’re very excited to have this event. We’ll have a full house at the Blaisdell Arena. I’m very excited about the main event – with the ICON champ Robbie Lawler going up against the EliteXC champ. It’s a great opportunity. Gary Shaw had that vision of bringing all these groups together and having true world champions and I think that’s the direction that this sport needs to go to continue to grow. For Robbie Lawler, this is a great opportunity. (With the styles of both fighters), it would be hard not to see that (Lawler-Rua) is the fight of the night and you will have a (decisive) winner when it’s over.
Question: Gina, are you still training with Scott Barry at Randy Couture’s gym?
Carano: I’m still training with Scott; he came over before I went over there, along with my boxing coach and the two over there. So I’m definitely still training with Scott.
Question: What is your game plan for Tonya.
Carano: I guess my game plan is really to fight the fight. People come from wrestling and other places, but the beauty of MMA is that anything goes. And so I just need to remember that if I get stuck on the ground to get on my feet.
Question: Do you expect her take it to the ground or do you expect her to remain standing?
Carano: I expect her to remain standing for a little bit and she’ll probably want to take me down, but I don’t know. I really don’t want to expect anything, I want to stick to my game plan.
Question: Ninja, what are your thoughts about fighting Lawler?
Rua: I am very well prepared and very excited to be (fighting a fellow champion).
Question: Do you think this is going to be your most important fight?
Rua: For sure. I am at the best point of my career and (looking forward to fighting again in the) United States and (for) EliteXC. I believe (this fight will be) the best one of my career.
Question: Ninja, there was a rumor you were leaving the Academy of Chute Box. Is it true?
Rua: Just rumors. I am very happy with (their) support and right now I have no plans. I want to stay and fight.
Question: TJ, which rules will be used for this card? The ones similar to the ones ICON and Pride use or the unified rules used by EliteXC?
Thompson: (For this card), the unified rules will be used. (This show will take place in a cage). ICON uses a ring and will continue to use a ring in the future.
Question: Gina, do you feel pressure being called the face of women’s MMA and fighting again on Showtime?
Carano: Well, there’s been a little bit of pressure. But I started fighting when nobody was watching and I’ll continue fighting whether people are watching or not. I just love the positive energy. People want to (can) put me wherever they want to put me, that’s fine.
Question: Is the SHOWTIME fight card on Sept. 15 going to be available on the Fight Network in Canada.
DeBlasio: I cannot answer that for you. I can find out. I don’t know what the status of any agreement with Canada is, but I can find out.
Question: Gina, are you surprised at how much your life has changed since the big win over Julie Kedzie in the great, memorable fight earlier this year? How has your life changed and how have you handled it?
Carano: Well, my life — my real life hasn’t really changed, but the exposure has. It has been awesome. I have to just keep organized and keep myself together because if not I’m not going to fight well. So it’s nice. It’s beautiful. And I love all the fans and I love all the people that give me positive energy back. I’m trying to keep a level head about it.
Question: Gina, did you have any idea you’d be getting this kind of exposure going into the fight with Kedzie? Did you have any idea that so many doors would open up for you?
Carano: No, actually I didn’t, but I knew that there was something special about the performance and so I just take one day at a time. I didn’t know it was going be like this and I’m thankful to God for it.
Question: How has it been since you started training at Randy Couture’s gym?
Carano: Before, I didn’t have anybody to put it together for me. I would just do my boxing all different places. So when I went over to Randy’s, that all got put together for me. I haven’t had a chance to work with Randy that much because he’d been training for his fight But I did work with everybody there. Team Couture is amazing.
Question: Robbie, have you ever fought anybody with a similar style to Ninja?
Lawler: I fought a lot of different guys. I don’t know, I just look at Ninja as a pretty good fighter. He’s well rounded. Basically he’s ready to stand, ready to go to the ground, so I have to be ready for everything and I am.
Question: Robbie, what do you think Ninja’s greatest strength is?
Lawler: I think his greatest strength is he comes from a great team and when you come from a great team you instill hard work and you know what it takes to win.
Question: What weakness do you think you can try to expose?
Lawler: I just think if I catch him a few times with my hands I’m going to knock him out.
Question: Ninja, what do you think Robbie’s greatest strength is?
Rua: Robbie is a very aggressive fighter, well prepared. He’s ready to go.
Question: Ninja, do you think you can knock Robbie out?
Rua: I am going to win on standup or on the ground; no matter, I’m going to be victorious.
Question: What’s the biggest problem in the sport right now?
Lawler: I don’t know. The biggest thing, I think are fans are starting to support it, the media is starting to get behind us, but I think a lot of people aren’t well prepared when they come to fight and I think that will be bad in the end. You have to make sure that fighters that are fighting in the smaller shows are prepared and well trained so they can basically defend themselves.
Question: Chris, can you give us a quick rundown on the countdown show that’s running on Showtime?
DeBlasio: We have nine more showings including tonight on SHOWTIME and some of the other multiplexes. It’s a 30-minute documentary show. It profiles in-depth Robbie Lawler’s background, Ninja Rua’s background, the explosive main event that is to come that’s really a pick ‘em fight. The Countdown runs until fight night on Sept. 15. We thank you for watching and (for your) interest in alerting your readers and viewers that the show is on. (We appreciate your reviews). The more eyeballs we can get watching that show just builds the excitement. It’s really well done by an Emmy-award winning production house.
Question: Ninja, have you had the opportunity to watch Robbie’s most recent fight, his victory over Frank Trigg, and what are your thoughts on that fight?
Rua: I have a lot of respect for Robbie. I watched the fight and he’s a very aggressive guy and finished the fight very quick. But on Sept. 15, it will be a little different.
Question: Jake, you’ve had a war of words with Frank Trigg the past few months and reportedly was supposed to fight him in San Francisco. What’s the status of that potential matchup?
Lawler: Well, Trigg never signed the contracts so it’s off. I don’t think he wants to fight me. At this point it’s kind of like … whatever. Hopefully sometime down the road someone will set it up. He’s had several opportunities and he’s turned it down with different excuses. I’m up for fighting him.
Question: Robbie, you know there’s been a lot of talk about how you and Matt Hughes are leaving the Miletich camp to start a new training center. Has that affected your training for this fight?
Lawler: It hasn’t affected my training. I put all that aside for this. I knew I couldn’t concentrate on opening a new gym and doing all that stuff. I said I’m going to concentrate on my fighting and then open this fighting center and I’m in good shape.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about what that involves as far as you and Matt starting a new gym? What’s your role going to be?
Lawler: Basically I’m part owner and a training partner for that and we’re going to start bringing in good fighters from around the area and hopefully build up a great team.
Question: Is this an amicable split from camp Miletich or is that an extension for you to expand on your abilities to go out and do that natural progression?
Lawler: Well, he’s a brother to me, he’s family and he always will be. I’ve been with him for eight years and I’m going to still keep in touch with him and we’re great friends and this isn’t going to stop this.
Question: Robbie, for the last three-four years, you’ve been fighting in ICON in a ring. Now you’re going over to EliteXC to be fighting in a cage. Have you been training in a cage more for this fight?
Lawler: Well, I’ve never really trained in a cage and I never really trained in a ring, so it doesn’t matter. I just know how to fight and know how to get the job done.
Question: Jake, Trigg said one of the main barriers between you two is that you’re 170 pounds, and that he now fights at 185 pounds. Would you be willing to go up to 185 pounds?
Shields: For the right offer I would be. The offer they were making me in the October show was good enough, but then he kind of backed out. I’m not sure his exact reasoning, but we had a verbal agreement. We were ready to sign the contract and all the sudden his promoter stopped returning the phone calls. I’m not sure exactly what happened there.
Question: Jake, what are your thoughts about what is good and bad in MMA?
Shields: I think the good is the public is finally getting behind it. They’re starting to love the sport and making it popular. The bad is all these shows working against each other, but EliteXC seems to be trying to put us out there working with each other. If everybody starts working together it will save the sport and get true world champions, like they say.
Question: Gina, what are your thoughts on that?
Carano: I would say the best thing is the sport is getting more popular and getting more fans and attracting new fighters from other places. The worst thing about it is probably is it still is so young. It’s got a long ways to go and it’s still making baby steps compared to the other sports.
Question: Jake, any chance that you might go over to WEC?
Shields: I haven’t given that serious consideration. If it was the right situation I would go over there, but I don’t have any serious plans of going over there.
Question: Ninja, can we have some closing comments?
Rua: I’m looking forward to putting on a great fight and a good show for the audience, for the American and Hawaiian fans. I’m in good shape and ready to go.
Question: Robbie, any closing comments?
Lawler: Just about the same. I’m in good shape, I’ve been training hard and I’m ready to take it to Ninja.
Question: Gina, can we have some closing comments from you, please?
Carano: Sure. I just want to thank everybody for accepting me and for the fans and the press. Thank you so much for covering and for watching because it really does a lot for the country. I’ve had so many people come up to me and are so inspired about what we’re doing. I plan on having a good fight.
Question: Jake, closing comments?
Shields: I’m excited to fight after all the hard training. I can’t wait to get it over with. Now I want to go out there and fight the best fight I can.
Question: TJ, any closing comments?
Thompson: From top to bottom you look at this card, if you don’t have SHOWTIME this is the time to order it. I’m excited to be part of an organization to have the first event on premium cable channel. I think that excitement from top to bottom on that card is going to be unsurpassed. The main event is a true candidate for fight of the year.
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