by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Mixed martial arts is one of the hottest properties in all of sports. And the Ultimate Fighting Championship rules the roost.
Many other promoters have stepped up to challenge the American juggernaut, most opting to sign the biggest name fighters they can lay their hands on and start chipping away at the UFC’s rock-solid pay-per-view dominance.
That is until Mark Cuban entered the fray.
Owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks, chairman of the HDNet high-definition television network, self-made billionaire; it might be expected that Cuban would immediately take aim at the top of the MMA roster.
But that is not the tact that he has chosen at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Instead of throwing millions of dollars at top free agent Fedor Emelianenko to make a big splash, his first fight card features the comeback of Erik Paulson, a talented fighter that hasn’t been in the ring for more than seven years and is relatively unknown to American fans.
The rest of the event is fleshed out primarily with a regional flavor that is sure to draw the Dallas MMA faithful to the American Airlines Center, but is far from the media magnet that usually gravitates towards anything Cuban has a hand in.
That wasn’t an accident, but part of his design for HDNet Fights’ first outing.
“This is our Beta test,” said Cuban. “This is where we are going to learn.
“We didn’t go out and spend half a million on marketing for this. I’m not looking to fill the American Airlines Center (on Saturday night). I want to get 3,000 people there to fill the lower bowl, so I can walk around and talk to people and find out what we did right, what we did wrong, what we can do better.”
In speaking with him, Cuban knows where he wants to go with the promotion, but realizes he doesn’t yet hold all the answers on how to get there.
“The reason I got into this … I see this unique opportunity to start treating MMA fighters as professional athletes,” stated Cuban.
A telling statement considering heavyweight champion Randy Couture’s recent resignation from the UFC, reportedly due to his discontent with the way that he and other fighters have been treated.
“The UFC’s done a great job in what they do, but they kind of stole the (World Wrestling Entertainment) script,” said Cuban about the promotion’s success. “And we just think that we can take a different approach and treat them more like a Mavs game, more like an athletic event than a spectacle.”
Some may say that it’s rather brash of Cuban to imply that he will lead the way to mixed martial arts’ future, but then again, he’s never exactly been known to be the “walk softly and carry a big stick” kind of guy.
“I have a reputation (for) how I’ve treated the Mavericks, how I changed the NBA,” he said. “I plan on taking everything I’ve learned … and apply that to what we’re doing here.
“When I got to the NBA, a lot of people didn’t like the way I do things, that’s their problem. I think now, there are probably a lot of people in the mixed martial arts industry that aren’t going to like the way I do things, once again, that’s their problem.”