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UFC Gaining More Ground On TV
In Coveted Males 18-34 Demo
UFC 71: A capacity crowd of 13,318 has been announced for Saturday night’s UFC 71 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, with anticipated gate receipts of $4.4M. The event features the Chuck Liddell-Quinton Jackson light heavyweight championship bout (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25). Liddell this week appeared on ESPN’s “Jim Rome Is Burning” and FSN’s “BDSSP,” and he was featured recently on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. In addition, today’s Liddell-Jackson weigh-in will be televised on ESPNews (THE DAILY). White said, “This is the last nail in the coffin for the media that haven’t given the sport credibility. All the talk of not being a sport is over now. We’ve finally arrived” (BOSTON HERALD, 5/25). He added being on the cover of Sports Illustrated “was a dream for us. We used to talk about getting a story in [SI] some day, but we never even thought about getting the cover” (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/24). FSN Exec VP/Programming & Production George Greenberg said, “The sport has become far more watchable, more dramatic and more socially acceptable. Boxing organizations should no longer be looking in a rearview mirror but, in my opinion, should be looking at the car in front of them” (USA TODAY, 5/25).
FIGHTERS: SI’s Wertheim notes UFC’s “top fighters” have contracts that pay them six figures per fight and “can earn seven figures when bonuses and a percentage of the [PPV] haul are factored in.” But “lower-profile fighters” on the same card may earn $2,000-3,000 for a bout (SI, 5/28 issue).
Top-Funded IRL Teams Leave Little
Chance For Other Indy 500 Entries
MONEY TALKS: The AP’s Michael Marot noted nine of the ten drivers under Penske, Green and Andretti qualified in the first three rows of the race. IRL President & COO Brian Barnhart said, “There is no replacement for being well-funded. That’s the case in every form of motorsports. That’s why you have to do everything you can to reduce the amount it takes to compete.” Marot noted the IRL “has tried to level the playing field,” as each team now uses a spec Honda engine, and testing has been reduced (AP, 5/23).
SI.com’s Jonah Freedman cited a source as saying that MLS is “negotiating a deal to allow” A’s Owner Lew Wolff to operate a team in the Bay Area for the ’08 season, “even without a new stadium deal in place.” Wolff’s previous agreement “stipulated that he complete a deal for a soccer-specific stadium before MLS would allow him to exercise his option” for a team. The source indicated that the league “is eager for a 14th team to begin playing as soon as possible to balance the uneven schedule, ... and Wolff’s team is the furthest along of the handful of possible expansion projects nationwide” (SI.com, 5/24).
MIKE CHECK: In Atlanta, Steve Wyche cites a source as saying that NFL security has contacted investigators in Surry County, Virginia, to “offer its services in the investigation of illegal dogfighting” at a property owned by Falcons QB Michael Vick. The source said that NFL security personnel visited Surry County offices Thursday “unannounced [and] also had made calls to local officials.” NFL VP/PR Greg Aiello said that it is “routine for NFL security to get involved in legal matters with players and other league personnel” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/25).
GREEN FLAG: In Charlotte, David Poole reports U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) sent a letter to NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France on Thursday “asking for NASCAR to consider converting to ethanol fuel.” The IRL began using 100% ethanol this year. Thune wrote, “Just as NASCAR represents American ingenuity and freedom, we are asking them to embrace and promote the freedom of consuming American made renewable fuels like ethanol” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/25).
NOTES: In N.Y., T.J. Quinn cites MLB sources as saying that “hawks” in Commissioner Bud Selig’s office are “pushing for Selig to punish [Yankees DH Jason] Giambi for essentially admitting ... he had used steroids in the past.” Several league officials “concede that they would probably lose an arbitration battle with the [MLBPA], but want Selig to force the union to defend a player outed as a longtime steroid user” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/25)....Total attendance for the AFL’s Week 12 was 125,803, the second-highest total for a single weekend in league history (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/24).