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Tim Sylvia complains about the UFC's pro wrestling blueprint

Tim Sylvia complained to the Las Vegas Review journal about the UFC’s penchant for pro wrestling style promotion:

Ortiz dominated Shamrock in a highly hyped 2002 grudge match at the MGM Grand, a bout that drew 13,055 fans, a state record for a mixed martial arts bout. Though Shamrock has had only one victory since — a stoppage of the faded Kimo Leopoldo — he’s back in another pay-per-view bout.

And that irritates Sylvia, who said Shamrock’s wrestling persona is hurting the UFC’s attempts to go mainstream. Shamrock, who in 1993 competed in the first UFC event, spent several years wrestling for the WWE.

“Shamrock doesn’t deserve to be fighting,” Sylvia said. “He’s a has-been. The only reason he’s fighting is because he’s got a mouth and he likes to do that wrestling (talk), that WWE stuff. He talks a lot of (trash) and pretends to fight. Tito beat (him) so badly the first time, I can’t even fathom why he’d want to fight him again. It’s a joke.”

Sylvia, at 6 feet 8 inches and 255 pounds, can’t understand why his fight with Arlovski isn’t getting more attention.

Heavyweights typically are the most popular fighters in combat sports, but Sylvia said the UFC isn’t marketing the heavyweights as hard as it is other divisions.

The result, he said, is a perception that the heavyweights in the UFC are weak and that all the best men in the division are in the competing Pride Fighting Championships.

. . .

“I don’t like Ken for the sport anymore (because) I think he misrepresents us,” Sylvia said. “We don’t need that. We are world-class athletes, and we need to let our talents make the case for us. People who really know the sport know that, but we’re still growing, and we need to represent ourselves a certain way.”

Sylvia raises a good point, but the reason Shamrock is headlining tonight’s UFC is easy to explain. The UFC likes Ken Shamrock because it promotes itself more like a professional wrestling promotion than a sport – promoting its brand first, its president second and actual athletes last. Manufactured hype is more important to Zuffa than the quality of athletes or fights.

Of course, Sylvia is off the mark with his other complaint. The perception that Pride has the top heavyweights is more than a perception, it is a fact that no amount of P.R. can change. But, this interview is evidence that even the athletes are getting tired of the UFC’s pro-wrestling style promotion.

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7 Responses

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  1. I bring this up for good reason:

    Cappetta also shares an eye opening story about an interaction he had with a very young Shane McMahon. After seeing Shane at several shows, Cappetta asked Shane what the most important thing he learned about the wrestling business. Shane’s reply? “Don’t let your workers know how important they are, so you can get the most out of them for the least amount of money.”

  2. Luke said

    Sounds like sour grapes. I think Tim Sylvia is a smart guy, but if he doesn’t realize that its Shamrock-Ortiz that moved tickets and PPV buys for this show, then he needs to give his head a shake.

    I can see where he’s coming from, but if this PPV had been marketed around Sylvia-Arlovski, it wouldn’t do the business its about to do on Saturday.

  3. jalapeño said

    Sylvia is jealous. Sylvia talks at least as much pro-wrestling-style trash as Shamrock. The big man is annoyed that his last two title fights only got second or co-main event billing even though they were fights for the belt. Picking on Shamrock (who, yes, is washed up) is just a convenient way for Sylvia to vent his anger about being overshadowed and/or underpromoted.

    But, look, Sylvia finds himself in this situation because he, like the other UFC heavys, is good but just not top-flight (both in terms of skills and in terms of ability to draw an audience). The UFC heavys are just not big enough to carry an entire card.

  4. I will simply post a comment by Dave Meltzer regaring Tim’s comments:
    He doesn’t believe in the promos and believes they should be marketed strictly based on talent. The comedy portion, even though there is truth to at least some of his complaints, is that the show is sold out and they’ve opened up three closed circuit locations in Las Vegas because of the overflow of demand. The fight will be broadcast to the MGM Grand Garden Hotel, The Luxor and the Primm Valley Resort. And Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovsky has exactly zero to do with that.

  5. Jeff said

    I agree that there is no way this show would as popular if Tim Sylvia headlined it. He cannot match Shamrock’s following and a season of TUF designed to build up the fight.

    But, Tim’s also right that the UFC is not putting enough resources behind promoting its established fighters.

    Jeff aka whaledog

  6. Of course, Sylvia-Arlovski wasn’t the draw, but why is that? The Zuffa dumb-down machine tricked enough fans into thinking that Ortiz-Shamrock would somehow be a competitive fight. How many seconds did it last?

    Now, I didn’t watch it and instead saw a wonderful comeback fight for Cory Spinks on Showtime, who won a majority decision over Roman Karmazin (I also had Spinks winning, 115-113, from TV). And WFA’s preview show was overall excellent, putting over the fighters as athletes and positioning it as a sport. Also, Bill Goldberg did none of his WCW shtick but gave solid analysis.

    With all due respect to my old eYada colleague Dave Meltzer, he has argued for years that mma should be promoted similar to the fake pro “wrestling”. Others like myself, Whaledog, and more see it necessary to promote it like any other legit sport. I think that distinction is behind Sylvia’s complaints.

    And now Frankie and Blinky Fertitta and Dana Gray respond to the Pride Yakuza scandal by working together with them. Where’s Elliot Ness when you need him?

  7. If you saw the Sherdog interview with Tim ( http://www.sherdog.com/videos/videos.asp?v_id=793 ) but he said that he told Dana White, “If I’m not fighting last, then I feel an injury coming on”. It sound like Tim is just as concerned with becoming a star as staying a champion. It’s no secret how much he like being the champ. His motivation for loving the belt so much is something I’d like to know more about.