September 12, 2007

by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
As the build-up continues around billionaire businessman Mark Cuban’s latest moves into the mixed martial arts world, Cuban today officially announced HDNet FiGHTS, which is his own promotional brand. Fight operations will be headed up by mixed martial arts veteran Guy Mezger.

The focus of the announcement was on HDNet FiGHTS’ first event, which will take place in Dallas on Oct. 13 at the American Airlines Center, home of Cuban’s National Basketball Association team the Dallas Mavericks.

HDNet is Cuban’s cable television network.

Headlined by a returning Erik Paulson in a light heavyweight match-up with Jeff Ford, a K-1 and Bodog veteran, Cuban indicated that the Oct. 13 event is somewhat of a test run as HDNet FiGHTS starts up operations.

Speaking on MMAWeekly Radio last night, Cuban said, “… you’ve got to walk before you run and the card on Oct. 13 is more of a beta test if you will, where we’re trying to get all of our systems in place.”

That’s not to say that Cuban is entering into MMA promotion half-heartedly. He believes that this is an emerging business opportunity.

“MMA has just exploded over the last several years and there’s no doubt that the UFC and [its president] Dana [White] deserve a ton of credit for making that happen. But they’ve grown the sport to such an extent … [they’ve] opened up the door to other opportunities.

“I decided to take a look at the business side of it to see where the opportunities were, not just as a participant in MMA or a potential investor in MMA, but also as an opportunity for content for HDNet.”

And although HDNet FiGHTS is HDNet’s own promotion, it is also intending to continue working with other organizations like Steele Cage Promotions to round out the content that HDNet FiGHTS provides to the network.

According to Mezger, “We really want to have fresh content, that’s the reason we’re doing this and getting these guys. We’re actually becoming less competitive and more cooperative because we want to be able to have maybe 24 events. Obviously we can’t do that many [on our own], that’s two a month, so we need some strong partners in this business so we can have fresh content.”

And Cuban doesn’t stop there with HDNet FiGHTS, which he believes has several advantages over traditional MMA promoters that strengthen its entrance into the market.

“We’re fortunate in that where other promoters are looking for TV outlets, we are also the TV outlet,” stated Cuban. “Where other promoters look to find a DVD outlet, we have Magnolia Home Entertainment that already is a DVD outlet.

“The other advantage that we have is we also own a chain of theaters, Landmark Theaters. So, we’re looking at broadcasting live into theaters and we’re also experimenting with doing them in 3D.

“Now that’s an experiment and we’re not ready to pull it off yet, the point being that we’re vertically integrated as a corporation, so where other promoters need to find access to make a promotion work … that’s not the same with us.”

Mezger announced the following fights for the inaugural HDNet FiGHTS event on Oct. 13 in Dallas:

-Erik Paulson vs. Jeff Ford
-Jason House vs. Freddy Espiricueta
-Justin Eilers vs. Justin Howard
-Anthony Lapsley vs. TJ Walberger
-Pete Spratt vs. Sammy Morgan
-Sean Salmon vs. Leopoldo Serao
-Liam McCarty vs. Ivan Jorge
-Sunia Filikitonga vs. Joel Traves