As MMA continues to grow, it also continues to change. Few people find themselves as immersed in the recent changes as HDNet commentator Michael “The Voice” Schiavello.
Schiavello’s time in Japan over the past year has seen that country’s biggest overhaul of talent since the fall of Pride. He has also been ringside for the rise of North American promotions to the national stage with their inclusion on HDNet.
MMAWeekly.com recently caught up with Schiavello to discuss the ever-changing world of MMA and what he has in store for fans in 2011.
MMAWeekly: Let’s start off with your marathon back-to-back evenings covering Sengoku’s “Soul of Fight” and Dream’s “Dynamite” New Years Eve events. What was it like doing those shows in consecutive days?
Michael Schiavello: That was a crazy experience. Two days, two events, over 45 fights; it was tiring, but a lot of fun! New Year’s Eve in Japan is a magical experience and to commentate two shows in two days featuring an array of stars plus the trademark pomp and pageantry associated with Dynamite, well, I felt extremely privileged.
MMAWeekly: Last year saw major changes for both Sengoku and Dream, especially when it came to their rosters. What are your thoughts on the changes and what may be coming for them in the near future?
Michael Schiavello: I think Japanese MMA is at a major crossroads. The scene has never looked so glib. Either the promotions like Dream and Sengoku do an inventory, a clean out or a re-model or they risk sinking into oblivion and irrelevance in today’s very competitive MMA industry.
I hear Sengoku may be almost over, which is a shame, because I thought they put on a lot of very good, very competitive, well-matched fights. They lacked the glitz and glamour and production values of Dream, but the fights were almost always top notch and they helped develop a lot of new talent we’d never really heard of like Maximo Blanco, Michihiro Omigawa, Marlon Sandro, Masanori Kanehara, Ronnie Mann, and Dave Herman.
As for Dream, well, their product is beautiful production-wise and they have had some fantastic fighters and brilliant shows. But something has still been lacking and not managed to capture the public’s imagination the way it should. It would be a shame for either promotion to fold, it really would.
MMAWeekly: We most recently saw you at the first round of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix. What do you think of the show and who do you feel will ultimately win?
Michael Schiavello: It was a great night. Every fight ended within the distance, there was plenty of violence, some good technique, lots of drama, twists and turns – it had everything!
I thought (Andrei) Arlovski would get clocked, (because) there was no way his glass chin could stand toe-to-toe with (Sergei) Kharitonov. I didn’t pick Bigfoot (Antonio Silva) to beat Fedor (Emelianenko) like he did. I thought it would be a tough fight for Fedor and that Bigfoot would not be a pushover, but to pummel Fedor like he did, to take him down, close him down and mess him up. Wow. That was awesome. He will be tough to beat that’s fort sure.
Ultimately I still have (Alistair) Overeem as the man to beat, but Bigfoot will be a tough adversary should they clash. On the other side of the draw, the thought of (Josh) Barnett vs. Kharitonov is mouth watering!
MMAWeekly: Let’s talk about what you have upcoming this year. What can fans expect from “The Voice” in 2011?
Michael Schiavello: I’ll be in the States a lot this year as we are signing more and more shows. We recently added Titan FC to our broadcast roster, which is very exciting. Joe Kelly does great shows with full houses and is signing tremendous talent left, right, and center, including Phil Baroni and Bobby Lashley on the next show on March 25.
We’re also doing more MFC (on Friday, Feb. 25) and they have big plans and are boosting their roster. There will be more XFC, hopefully more Strikeforce, and I know that the powers that be are close to signing other shows to the network.
In addition to all the commentary work, you will see more of my “The Voice Versus” series this year. I just shot the next two episodes in Las Vegas, the first of which will premiere on HDNet on March 25 at 8 p.m. ET and will feature Wanderlei Silva. Let me tell you now, this is the best episode yet!
MMAWeekly: Sounds great. Thanks for your time, as always, Michael. Is there anything you want to say in conclusion?
Michael Schiavello: Thank you Mick and MMAWeekly.com for your support of HDNet Fights. I’m looking forward to a banner year this year. Fans, make sure you check out our new website, www.HD.net, with a full program guide and feature blogs by myself and the rest of the HDNet team.
Also follow me on twitter @SchiavelloVoice and look out for “The Voice Versus” because I’m going to blow your minds with the shows this year!