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Pacquiao-Cotto Fight in Las Vegas on Saturday to Be One for the Ages

Boxer Manny Pacquiao’s massive punching power is only matched by his massive drawing power, which has grown to overwhelm the traditional boundaries of the often insular realm of boxing, is driving the appeal of Saturday’s megafight with Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas- the boxing capital of the world.PacquiaoCotto

Arguably the most celebrated persona in his native Philippines, Pacquiao’s visage now graces the cover of the Asia edition of Time magazine. A five-page feature story appears in all editions, global and U.S., of the magazine. It delves into Pacquiao’s humble roots and his political ambitions in his homeland. 

“It is a great honor for me to be the face of my people and to let everyone know we are a small but mighty country,” Pacquiao said. “I have great pride for all of the Filipinos living throughout the world and it is these people that I fight for each and every time I step into the ring.” 

As a point of comparison, the most recent boxing covers of Time’s U.S. edition came in 1988 (Mike Tyson), 1978 (Muhammad Ali) and 1971 (Ali and Joe Frazier). 

Officials with Top Rank, the lead promoter of Saturday’s fight, point to a recent Sunday feature on Pacquiao in The New York Times as a manifestation of the media blitz that has accompanied the buildup to the fight. It was important to the promotion because of the worldwide reach of the newspaper’s Sunday edition.

It was also significant, and telling, because the Times typically affords boxing about as much coverage as it does the lumberjack competition. 

In a separate arena, Pacquiao was recognized this year as a Gusi Peace Prize laureate, an honor based in Manila, for humanitarianism. 

Pacquiao’s training sessions at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., leading up to the fight not only generate mob scenes of fans and media members, but also attract the attention of the fire marshal to ensure the scene remains under some degree of control.

With its widespread appeal — “Beyond boxing, beyond sports,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said — the fight promotion has drawn some unconventional corporate partners. For example, the History Channel’s reality series “Pawn Stars,” about a family of Las Vegas pawnbrokers, is a sponsor. Among other branding efforts, the “Pawn Stars” logo will appear on the mat Saturday night.

It’s all expected to add up to pay-per-view sales — the engine that powers the big-time boxing business — for the fight that could approach or exceed record performances. 

The biggest pay-per-view bonanza to date was the 2007 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand, which generated 2.4 million “buys.” This year, Pacquiao’s fight against Ricky Hatton did about 900,000 buys, and Mayweather’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez generated about 1 million. 

“The closed-circuit locations are doing tremendously” in the lead-up to Pacquiao-Cotto, Arum said. “We had the quickest sellout of tickets in years. We base how the pay-per-view is going to do on those indicators. It should do absolutely great.”

Pacquiao stands to earn $20 million for the fight, with Cotto’s total take expected to reach $10 million — the biggest paydays for both fighters. 

The hook (no pun intended) is that Pacquiao, nearly a 3-1 betting favorite, will be pursuing a world title in a seventh weight division. But that’s just the sports-trivia way of wording it. 

In real terms, Pacquiao has done more than any other boxer to obliterate the very notion of weight classes in boxing, along with the fractured and too-often meaningless so-called championships they spawn. He wants to test himself against the best. 

The “catch weight” for Saturday’s fight is 145 pounds, but Pacquiao said if it was up to him personally, he would have gladly agreed to fight at the 147-pound welterweight limit. 

Wisely — and appropriately — everyone associated with the fight has declined to address the next step for the winner, although a potential showdown with Mayweather awaits. 

And for another, Saturday’s fight is a tough one to predict. It has split journalists, fighters and other boxing figures in their forecasts. Let’s say, for instance, it ends with a close decision. A rematch between Pacquiao and Cotto is a real possibility.

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Chuck Liddell Gets Tough for “Dancing With The Stars”

It won’t be Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva, or Randy Couture ready to bite and/or tear off his head in the steel octagon, but, rather, on Monday, September 21st, UFC Hall of Famer Chuck and frequent Las Vegas visitor Liddell will makes his debut in a new ring–  ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” chuckliddell

“I want to win,” Liddell told UFC.com. “I don’t like losing in anything, so I’ll work as hard as they’ll let me.” “The Iceman” will join 15 other celebrities on the hit series, in the process becoming the first mixed martial artist to compete on DWTS. But Liddell, the sport’s first true crossover star, is comfortable with being an ambassador for MMA, and looking forward to having some fun in the process. 

“I’m gonna go out, be myself, and show what kind of people we do have in this sport,” he said. “I’m sure the reaction will be mixed (among fight fans).”

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Down Goes MMA Fighter Gina Carano from Las Vegas

Gina Carano, the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts fighter lost her first women’s MMA championship bout a week ago Saturday in San Jose.  GinaCarano2  But, judging from her talents, she’s definitely not out for the count.

As previously reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access, her opponent was Christiane “Cyborg” Santos, who scored a mechanical TKO middleweight victory with a second left in the opening round.  

It was Carano’s first defeat in eight fights.

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Ultimate Fighting Championship More Than Human Cockfighting

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was once brashly branded by U.S. Senator John McCain as “human cockfighting” and the sport was scorned by many, even banned from television networks. 

Fast forward, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting is now sanctioned in every state with an athletic commission, except New York. 

What was once a fledging sport trying to survive when it first appeared at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on the Las Vegas Strip in late September 2001, is a booming multibillion dollar industry. 

Las Vegas brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and a street-smart former boxing promoter named Dana White were riding the tide to something big back then– less than eight years later, the UFC staged the biggest, most lucrative event in its history: UFCs 100th contest last night at the Mandalay Bay. 

Tickets for Saturday night’s championship were snapped up in minutes, and some ringside seats sold on StubHub this week for $45,000 each. The UFC’s pay-per-view audience surpassed boxing and World Wrestling Entertainment for the first time in 2006. 

The pugilistic contest saw heavyweight champion Brock Lesna unmercifully pummel Las Vegas Frank Mir with staccato right hands in the second round and emerge victorious in the octagon, avenging his only prior professional loss, which came against Mir last year. UFC2

The sport has worldwide appeal and is experiencing unprecedented growth. The UFC organization has expanded to England and Germany, and is poised to take on France and Australia next. There is even an unquestionable fever for it in Canada, and a palpable sense of momentum for a company that just five years ago was more than $40 million in debt. 

“All the things going on right now, whether it’s UFC 100 or going to Germany for the first time, it’s really the way it’s been for us the last nine years,” White told The Associated Press recently. “The great thing about this sport, it transcends all cultural barriers, language barriers, because I don’t care what language you speak, what color you are, what country you’re from, at the end of the day we’re all human beings. Fighting is in our DNA.” 

The UFC began in 1993 as a tournament to crown the world’s best fighting style, featuring everything from boxers to a sumo wrestler. There were no weight classes, gloves or rounds. There was no judging and virtually no rules. The only way to win was by knocking out your opponent or making them quit, which is precisely what a scrawny jujitsu expert named Royce Gracie did. 

Dozens of states quickly enacted laws banning “no-holds-barred” fighting, abhorred by the thought of humans fighting inside an eight-sided cage. Even though limited rules and gloves were introduced, the organization stood on the brink of bankruptcy. 

That’s when White brought the concept to the Fertittas, a pair of casino executives he’d known since high school. They purchased the UFC for $2 million in 2001 and immediately went to work getting the sport sanctioned. Universal rules were put in place, allowing shows to be held for the first time in casinos in Nevada and New Jersey. 

“When we bought this company, especially my partners, they had a lot of people working for them and they thought this was probably the dumbest business investment ever,” says White, the UFC president. “We believed in it. We were passionate about the sport.” 

But passion only goes so far. By 2004, parent company Zuffa LLC still couldn’t climb out of the red. The Fertittas nearly gave up, and White frantically tried to secure funding to press on. 

Everything changed when the trio came up with “The Ultimate Fighter,” couching the sport in a reality TV format. The cable show was an instant hit, and the sport quickly began to slice into boxing’s fan base, which had long grown stagnant.

Stars like Las Vegans Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture were born, and an entire industry sprouted nearly over night. Nearly ever major event is now sold out, and a sport that corporate American once refused to touch has credibility with mainstream sponsors like Harley-Davidson and Budweiser. 

The new “UFC: Undisputed” video game sold a 1 million copies its first week.

“Having ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ was the thing that did it for us, live fighting on TV,” says Liddell, who was recently inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame. “That’s what we had to do, was get a live fight on TV. It couldn’t have worked out better.” 

Each of the Fertittas now own 45 percent of Zuffa LLC, while White owns 10 percent. Before the recession hit, the company was estimated to be worth close to $1 billion. 

Business advisory firm Applied Analysis in Las Vegas recently completed an economic impact study of the UFC on Las Vegas, which has been severely affected by the crumbling economy, and found it generated $86.2 million in nongaming revenue for six events held last year and early this year. 

White believes it’s his responsibility to safeguard a sport that he has grown and nurtured almost from the beginning, and has given him so much in return: financial security, a 7,500-square-foot home, worldwide attention. 

“Is it going to become stale, are people going to become tired of it? Hell no,” he says. “Is there too much football on TV? Is there too much baseball on TV? People want to see great fights, and if we put together the best fights with the best fighters in the world, this is going to continue to grow and grow and grow.”

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UFC 105 Likely To Be Held In Las Vegas

MMA Weekly is reporting that Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer confirmed that the UFC has requested the pre-Thanksgiving weekend date, November 21, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas for UFC 105.

The UFC had thoughts of having UFC 105 outside of Las Vegas with Boston, Toronto and New York being cities brought up to potentially host the event; however, adverse legislation of MMA in those cities has put those plans on the backburner.

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Las Vegan Lady Cage Fighter Gina Carano Ready to Rumble

Las Vegas fighter Gina “Conviction” Carano is a 27-year old role model for female mixed martial arts fighters.  She’s a superstar with a perfect fighting record and a penchant for marketing herself, being named to Yahoo’s “Top 10 Most Influential Women” and Maxim’s Hot 100 list. GinaCarano

“One day, I’m going to look on back on it and be so proud because I know that women’s MMA is going to do nothing but get bigger from here on out,” says Carano. 

On August 15 she is having a title fight with Brazilian Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, headlining the Strikeforce tournament. Carano is undefeated (7-0), trying to make history by being Strikeforce’s first-ever 145-pound women’s title holder. 

“Cyborg” is no pushover– her record is 7-1, her first loss coming from her debut fight.  

As beautiful as she is dangerous, Carano, who is also famous for starring in the remake of the American Gladiators as “Crush,” will be in for the biggest test of her fighting life, carrying women’s MMA future on her back.

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UFC Fighter Randy Couture Scurries Back in the Cage

Las Vegan Randy “The Natural” Couture will meet Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102 at the Rose Garden inRandyCouture Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29, the UFC confirmed. 

The 45-year-old Couture (16-7) has not fought since losing his heavyweight title to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 last November. 

The 33-year-old Nogueira (31-5-1) is coming off a loss to Frank Mir at UFC 92 in December.

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