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Volume 21 No. 47

People and Pop Culture

Denver played host to the first UFC card 25 years ago, which put mixed martial arts on the radar for fight fans but also drew the attention of state regulators.
Photo: ufc

The fight poster promoting the UFC’s first event does a capable job of laying out the product for a Denver audience that probably hadn’t heard of mixed martial arts heading into that seminal night 25 years ago, but certainly could recognize a good toughman contest when it saw one.

Down the sides are brief résumés of each of eight combatants, with height and weight, hometown and, most importantly, the fight discipline from which they came.

Make your way down the poster and you’ll find four words that became the calling card of the embryonic UFC, four words that would help the promotion, and the sport, build a cultlike following, and then hang around its neck like a restraining collar as it tried to fight its way into the mainstream.


If you were up for bloodsport, the Ultimate Fighting Championship would deliver.

In the first televised match of the event —- which aired on pay-per-view, as have all of UFC’s more than 200 signature shows since — Teila Tuli, a 6-foot-2, 410-pound sumo wrestler from Honolulu, met Gerard Gordeau, a 6-foot-5, 216-pound Dutch champion in the discipline of savate, which is akin to kickboxing.

At the opening bell, Tuli circled Gordeau for a bit, and then charged like a bull. Gordeau retreated and stepped to one side, allowing the hulking Samoan to stumble into the chain-link cage. As Tuli tried to get to his feet, Gordeau delivered a brutal right kick to the mouth. One of Tuli’s front teeth flew clear of the octagon. Another embedded itself in Gordeau’s right foot. Gordeau quickly followed with a punch to the eye, which opened a cut that led Tuli’s corner to throw in the towel. Time of the bout: 26 seconds.

Because it was a tournament, Gordeau had another fight ahead of him. Doctors were hesitant to remove the tooth from his foot for fear of infection, so they simply taped over it. Unfortunately, one of the few rules of the night with “No Rules” did not allow them to tape Gordeau’s hand, which he had broken on Tuli’s face.

While that sort of brutality generated an underground buzz, it did not play well with state legislators. By 1995, MMA was banned in 36 states.

When brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the UFC in 2001, they realized that they would have to tame the beast before they could ride it. The promotion with no rules adopted 31 of them, then went to work on gaining sanction, state by state.

“We run towards regulation,” Lorenzo Fertitta often said as he stumped for UFC acceptance.

Today, MMA has been legalized in all 50 states.

Photo: Getty Images



The NFL enjoyed its third straight Sunday with a sold-out game in London on Oct. 28, and two days later the league announced plans to hold four games in the city next year for the first time.


Photo: Getty Images



The University of Maryland fired head coach D.J. Durkin amid a backlash from its initial decision a day earlier to keep him. Durkin had been suspended during an investigation into the team’s culture after the death of lineman Jordan McNair.


Photo: Getty Images



FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the 2022 World Cup, scheduled in Qatar, should expand from 32 to 48 teams, but that might prove impossible for organizers to pull off.

Institute for Sport and Social Justice

From the Institute for Sport and Social Justice Giant Steps Awards Banquet and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Oct. 25, at the Orlando World Center Marriott: Richard Lapchick, founder and president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice; Hall of Fame inductee Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; former NBA player Grant Hill; and Charlie Rosenzweig, SVP of NBA Entertainment.
Photo: robert weathers photography
Olympic champion and Champion Women CEO Nancy Hogshead-Makar; Olympic gold-medal gymnast Jordyn Wieber, a Giant Steps Award honoree; and Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz.
Photo: robert weathers photography


Sports Equinox Experience

Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard (right) and L.A. sports fan and Marine Corps veteran Orlando “Big O” Henderson pose at Goodyear Airship Operations in Carson, Calif., before embarking on the ultimate sports fan experience by riding in the Goodyear Blimp and attending all five Los Angeles pro league games — Kings, Galaxy, Rams, Dodgers and Clippers — in the historic Super Sports Equinox on Oct. 28.
Photo: jordan strauss / ap images


Gateway to gold

Two-time Paralympic gold-medalist Saul Mendoza (center, in white) of Mexico coaches participants in the Harris County Houston Sports Authority’s Gateway To Gold event last month at Turner Stadium in Houston. The event introduces people with disabilities to sports with Paralympians helping to coach them.
Photo: harry brand


Athlete Activism + Social Justice

ESPN anchor Cari Champion interviews Pro Football Hall of Fame member Eric Dickerson during the 7th annual LA84 Foundation Summit, “Athlete Activism + Social Justice: Taking Action for Our Youth,” on Oct. 18 at the JW Marriott at LA Live.
Photo: la84 foundation


Wish granted

Sacramento Republic FC last month granted cancer patient Matthew Harding’s wish to become a pro soccer player. Matthew holds his jersey at a news conference with Republic GM Todd Dunivant; Jennifer Stolo, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada; and Republic President/COO Ben Gumpert. Matthew started for the Republic and scored a goal during a game on Oct. 13.
Photo: sacramento republic fc


Female leadership and the CFP

The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of WISE (Women in Sports and Events) presented a panel discussion with the female leadership from the College Football Playoff on Oct. 16 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. Top row, from left: San Jose Earthquakes’ Jessica Smith; CFP’s Andrea Williams and Nikki Epley; moderator Hannah Gordon of the San Francisco 49ers; CFP’s Gina Lehe and Laila Brock; and Bay Area Host Committee’s Patricia Ernstrom. Bottom row, from left: Jenfranklin Digital’s Jen Franklin; Kingman & Co.’s Rina Katchur; Sutter Health’s Ariel Feigenbaum; Moxie Travel’s Megan Herrity; and Playworks’ Fayne Cohen.
Photo: liana louie


On-site education

AEG and Pepperdine University unveiled the first branded classroom inside Staples Center on Oct. 18 as part of a multiyear partnership. From left: AEG COO Kelly Cheeseman; Pepperdine Provost Rick Marrs; Staples Center President Lee Zeidman, AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman; Pepperdine President and CEO Andrew Benton; Pepperdine CMO Rick Gibson; Pepperdine AVP Matthew Midura; AEG Global Partnerships VP Jon Werbeck; and LA Kings President Luc Robitaille.
Photo: pepperdine university


Historic event

WWE Superstars; Stephanie McMahon, WWE chief brand officer; and Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE EVP, talent, live events and creative, celebrate Evolution, WWE’s first all-women’s event on Oct. 28 in front of a sold-out crowd at NYCB Live in New York.
Photo: wwe


Please submit photos for review of industry conferences, parties, product launches and openings showcasing the people and personalities at the event. Include the event date, location, names/titles of those featured along with credit information. The photo specifications are as follows: 300dpi, tiff, jpeg or eps color images. Submit digital photos for review at: or send color prints to: Faces & Places, c/o Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202.


JASON DAMBACH, Frisco RoughRiders executive vice president and State College Spikes president, stepped down from his positions at Greenberg Sports Group to pursue opportunities outside of Minor League Baseball.


The National Basketball Association hired RALPH RIVERA as managing director for NBA Europe and Middle East. Rivera was managing director for Discovery Communications’ Eurosport Digital.

The Sacramento Kings and Golden 1 Center named ALEX RODRIGO senior vice president and general manager.


Fordham University hired SHANNON HAVILAND as director of athletic compliance. Haviland was NCAA compliance and student services coordinator at Bucknell University.

The University of Mississippi hired PAUL MCCARTHY as athletics compliance officer and senior associate general counsel and BOB BAKER as senior associate athletic director for student-athlete development. McCarthy was general counsel at the University of Connecticut, and Baker was associate athletic director for academic services at the University of Memphis.

Prairie View A&M University named ALICIA PETE assistant vice president for operations and ANITRA ADDISON assistant vice president for business operations.

Southern Methodist University hired LAUREN ADEE as senior associate athletic director for executive affairs. Adee was associate athletic director for major gifts at Temple University.

The University of Wisconsin hired STUART SUTTON as a director of development for premium seating and major gifts. Sutton was associate director of development at the University of Mississippi.


International Speedway Corp. promoted JULIE GIESE to president for ISM Raceway.

The Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District hired CHRISTY CASTILLO BUTCHER as senior vice president of programming, KAMERON DURHAM as vice president of guest experience, SKARPI HEDINSSON as chief technology officer and JOE SESIN as vice president of finance and accounting

Speedway Motorsports promoted GREG WALTER to executive vice president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway.


The Minnesota Vikings hired LARA JURAS as vice president of people and culture. Juras was senior vice president of human resources for the Atlanta Braves.


Esports organization Immortals hired BRIAN MILLMAN as vice president of corporate partnerships for its Overwatch League team, Los Angeles Valiant. Millman was an account director for GroupM’s Mindshare.


The Los Angeles Kings hired JOON YI as database administrator and analytics; KARINA BATEK as coordinator of ticket operations and CRM; SARAH FLORES as assistant, human resources; CHRISTINE MILLER as membership account executive; ASHLEY LANE as director of creative; LEXI MOSSLER as coordinator of marketing; NICK OEFFLING as graphic designer and KELSEY RIZZO as digital assistant for NHL LSC.

The Vegas Golden Knights promoted ROBERT FOLEY to chief business officer.


The Aspire Group promoted TODD SHELL to senior manager of sales and development at Purdue University and MALAKI ROY to senior service consultant at the University of Maryland; and hired GRACE IAQUINTO as new business consultant at the University of Maryland, JASON MATTESON as sales consultant at the University of Kansas and NICK MAVROSAKIS and JUSTIN KANG as sales consultants for the company.


Bleachr hired RANDY MASTER as chief business development officer. Master was director of national sales for GF Sports.

iHeartMedia hired GREG MILLARD as executive vice president of event and experiential partnerships. Millard was vice president of partnerships and branded programming for Turner Broadcasting.

Multiteam Companies

Monumental Sports and Entertainment promoted KELLY SKOLODA to chief people officer; QUENTIN ADDISON to vice president of technical and broadcast operations; KETSIA COLIMON to vice president of communications for the Washington Mystics, AFL Baltimore Brigade and AFL Washington Valor; GRANT HASTINGS to vice president of network operations; and AMANDA TISCHLER to vice president of marketing for the Washington Capitals; MONICA DIXON to executive vice president of marketing, in addition to her previous role as chief of staff. CASSIDY LIEN was hired as vice president of game entertainment.

To have your personnel announcements included in the People section, please send information and photos to Brandon McClung at 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202, or email them to Electronic photos must be a jpg or tiff file for Macintosh, 2.25 inches wide at 300 dpi. Color only, please.