by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
CAGE RAGE 25 – MARCH 1, 2008
Having spent the majority of 2007 building the stock value of Gary Turner to the U.K. fanbase, Cage Rage now pits him against his toughest challenge to date in London Shoot heavyweight Mustapha Al Turk.
Al Turk thoroughly dominated Mark Kerr despite having an injured ankle, and then went on to give reigning Cage Rage heavyweight champion Tengiz Tedoradze all he could take in an epic 15-minute battle at Cage Rage 22.
This match has several implications from a title perspective. Many were calling for a rematch of Tedoradze and Al Turk and, arguably, the winner of this bout should be in line for that shot. Besides, who else is there at the moment? James Thompson faces Tedoradze on Ultimate Force in December, James McSweeney isn’t ready yet, Buzz Berry has been out of the race and is currently ineligible, Mark Buchanan is out of the mix, Rob Broughton is recovering from injury, and Neil Grove? Grove would likely need to fight someone like Broughton before he gets a shot.
This event will also mark the return of Danny Batten to Cage Rage following a four-year absence from the promotion. He is signed, sealed and ready to fight Lee Remedios in what will surely be a war. The interesting thing about this fight is that the return of both Batten and Remedios adds massive weight to a featherweight division already stacked with Robbie Olivier, Masakazu Imanari, Ronnie Mann, Alex Owen, Brad Pickett, Jean Silva and numerous CRC Contenders fighters chomping at the bit.
Batten is arguably the U.K.’s number one featherweight and has been for years. As for Remedios – he is one of the truly tough, well rounded guys of a few years ago who stepped out of the sport in his prime. Fans will likely be glad to see him return in a match that has all the hallmarks of a classic.
ELITEXC AND FIGHTER SHARING
The full picture is starting to come clear on how ProElite plans to integrate fighters across its burgeoning network of shows. Essentially, fighters will be found and matched by individual promotions and be offered contracts specific to that promotion, but not limiting to.
This opens up avenues for fighter sharing between the ProElite brands, but it isn’t a free fighter exchange as each promotion will need to fund the purse of the contracted fighter.
Example in place: Murilo “Ninja” Rua is an EliteXC contracted fighter. Hypothetically, let’s assume he has two of his four contracted fights run already, so he signs to fight Xavier Foupa Pokam at Cage Rage. Cage Rage have to foot the bill for Rua to fight on their show, but my understanding of the situation is that the fight does not count as part of his contracted fights list, meaning EliteXC still has access to his services for the remainder of his contract. But because he is fighting within the network, the fighter sharing ethos works without damaging a fighters perceived value to a specific promotion.
This approach opens up opportunities for fighters to take new challenges and vie for belts in other promotions, as well as maintain an active fight career during times when a card is fully stacked in his ‘native’ promotion.
NEW CONTRACT OFFERINGS
Building on the fighter sharing ethos of above, two fighters we are all familiar with in the U.K. have been offered deals in the U.S., namely Jean Silva and Che Mills. For Silva, this offers a chance to get back into the mix with some recognized U.S. based talent and to start receiving the recognition he deserves as the exciting, ‘balls out’ fighter he is.
For Mills, this represents a major knock of opportunity. He has long been held in high regard as a tough, technical fighter and a contract putting him into the mix against international opposition will really elevate his stock. With Matt Ewin as champion and Mark Weir still putting on exciting fights, things are looking up for Range Fighting Systems.
JAPAN BECKONS FOR HARDY
Dan Hardy has had a fantastic run in 2007, putting in performances that must have caught the attention of the Ultimate Fighting Championship brass by now. He took out Willy Ni in Cage Warriors early in the year, then took Daigo Izshige out in impressive style, following on from that he solidified his place as the Dangerman in GCM Cage Force’s Welterweight Tournament by overpowering Hidetaka Monma to earn his place in the finals.
Hardy has been methodical in his approach to fighting this year, having shipped himself off to the U.S. in order to elevate his training to the next level, and it clearly shows in his performances. He is returning to Japan for his chance at tournament glory, and with it, no doubt, a queue of potential promotions vying for his signature.
THE IFL HITS MAINSTREAM TV
In a major step forward, the International Fight League has secured ITV4 broadcast services on a Saturday night in order to start running their “Battleground” programming. This move further shows the interest and support the IFL has in pushing forwards into new markets and should tie-in nicely with the British Bulldogs team run by Ian “The Machine” Freeman.
The U.K. is a fiercely patriotic market. Our support levels for football, cricket and rugby are unparalleled (even when we do badly). Securing TV coverage will further add to support Freeman’s team receives in the promotion, let alone raise awareness of MMA in general in the U.K.