Saturday, July 11, 2009 | 4:42 p.m.
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A few hours from the start of perhaps the most important fight card in UFC history, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, Lorenzo Fertitta, took time to address fans at the UFC Fan Expo inside the Mandalay Bay Convention Center Saturday morning.
Fertitta delivered a short keynote address, which can be heard in its entirety here, about the creation of the UFC and its strategy moving into the future.
Before clearing the stage for 40 bikini-clad women for a contest to become the next Maxim/UFC Octagon Girl, Fertitta spent nearly an hour answering questions from a group of about 300 fans.
In that Q&A session, Fertitta announced that he signed Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic to a three-fight deal and has committed to hold a major event in Dublin, Ireland, on St. Patrick's Day next year as well as a Pay-Per-View event in Vancouver in June, 2010.
Here are some highlights from the Q&A session:
Q. If a star fighter loses twice are they done?
Fertitta: "I don't care if you win or lose. I don't care about your record. I want you to come and fight. If you come and fight and you lay it all on the line, then you will have a spot in the UFC. Perfect example. Look at Wanderlei Silva. Does anybody care that he lost his last fight? No, he is a bad dude and I would want to watch him fight every single time."
Q. Do you feel pressure from the fans who are upset that you haven't signed Fedor Emelianenko?
Fertitta: "The pressure's not on me, the pressure is on him. They already know. The facts are the facts. We made him the best offer out there -- more money than anyone else. So he can't say it's about the money. Then they come back and they say, 'Oh, they have one-sided contracts.' Let's break this down from a logical standpoint. We offer Fedor the exact same contract that 300 other guys have signed…Why is that contract not good enough for Fedor? Okay, let's be logical. What Fedor wants is this, he doesn't want to be exclusive. It's like saying, 'Okay, Tom Brady can play for the the New England Patriots one Sunday, but after that he can be a free agent and go play where he wants.' How does that make sense from a business standpoint?"
Q. Were you hesitant to sign Brock Lesnar?
Fertitta: "You know, I have to give props to Dana White on that one, he called me up one day and said, 'You know, I want to get Brock Lesnar.' I had watched Brock fight in that show in the Coliseum. I think it was a K1 show and I was really impressed with his athleticism and I could tell that he was no joke. The other thing we looked at was that this guy was a world-class athlete. The reality is that if the UFC back when Brock got out of college was what it is today, he would have come straight here. But there was no outlet at the time. He's the real deal. He's a real athlete. So we knew we might take some hits here and there because people will say, 'Oh he's a pro wrestler.' But we believed in him."
Q. What's the UFC's opinion about teammate vs. teammate fights?
Fertitta: "At the end of the day, we are here to see fighters and we are here to see fights. If teammates don't want to fight, then they are just going to have to go somewhere else. We don't put up with that stuff. That's just the way it is. You step up. You're a UFC fighter and I don't care who it is, you have to fight."
Q. Are you ever going to bring women's MMA to the UFC?
Fertitta: "Right now, I have to tell you that I really respect women who compete and I think there are some great fighters and great athletes who definitely deserve to be on the big stage. At this time we don't have plans to do that. You never say never. Anything is a possibility down the road. I think one of the things we've been concerned about with female MMA is what is the true depth of talent. You have a couple really really good fighters like Cyborg and Gina Carano, but then the talent pool drops off significantly after that. Can you really run different weight classes and divisions and have competitive matches? I think at some point we will get to that point, I just don't know when that will be."
Q. If a fighter signs with EA Sports, will they be banned from the UFC?
Fertitta: "There is no such thing as banned, but this is something that does get under my skin and Dana's skin because when we had the opportunity to go out and build a video game who do you think the first people we called was? EA Sports… We sat in the room with them and I would have cut a worse deal just to be with EA Sports. I wanted them so bad. They looked at them and they told us they didn't think MMA was a sport. This was three years ago. They said the UFC was irrelevant and that we were wasting their time. So we went down the street and did a deal with THQ and they thought MMA was a sport. So we stick with the guys who stick with us. Now the UFC video game has been a massive success with three million copies sold. And guess what EA wants to do? They want to do an MMA game now… If you are young fighter coming up, it just makes sense to stay under the umbrella of UFC companies, sponsors and marketing to ensure yourself a cut of the action for the rest of your life."
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or email@example.com.