The following quotes were released from a conference call in promotion of EliteXC’s debut on CBS:
Popular, unbeaten women’s superstar Gina Carano of Las Vegas will face hard-hitting, confident Hook ‘n Shoot champion Kaitlin Young of Circle Pines, Minn., in one of five fights on the inaugural “CBS ELITEXC SATURDAY NIGHT FIGHTS” on Saturday, May 31 (9-11 p.m. ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The first mixed martial event in primetime on network television will be presented by Los Angeles-based Pro Elite, Inc.’s live fight division, EliteXC, led by Gary Shaw, and originate from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Kimbo Slice, of Perrine, Fla., will face England’s James “Colossus” Thompson in the main event on CBS. Other televised fights: EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler of St. Louis defends against Scott Smith of Sacramento, Calif., Phil Baroni of Long Island, N.Y., meets Joey Villasenor of Albuquerque, N.M. in a 185-pound scrap and Brett Rogers of Minneapolis takes on Jon Murphy of Philadelphia in a heavyweight match.
Tickets for the live event start at $25 and are available at Ticketmaster locations, by phone (201) 507-8900, online at www.ticketmaster.com and at the Prudential Center box office (973) 757-6625.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. ET. The first live fight is at 6:30.
Shaw: Thank you, everyone, for joining this call for this inaugural event. We’re all very excited. On Saturday, May 31, in primetime at 9 p.m. ET from the Prudential Center in New Jersey is a historic card. It doesn’t only mean a lot to EliteXC, but it should mean a lot to all the fighters. More importantly, it’s a huge step for mixed martial arts. It brings the sport to the forefront so that people no longer think of it as a barbaric sport but as a real sport with fighters with real disciplines that train hard, that are professional athletes. We at EliteXC are honored to be putting on a women’s fight. And those that have watched our SHOWTIME fights know about Gina Carano and what we have meant to Gina here at EliteXC and what Gina has meant to EliteXC. More importantly, fans know that Gina has become the face of women’s mixed martial arts. So today we’re honored to have Gina with us on this call and Kaitlin Young. I’d like to turn it over first to Gina to say opening remarks.
Carano: I am extremely honored to be fighting on the CBS card. I think it speaks leagues for how far women have come in the sport. I’m extremely honored to be fighting Kaitlin Young. I think it’s one of the best match-ups I’ve ever had. I’m looking forward to the fight. I am a little depressed because “American Gladiators” ratings kind of plummeted a little bit (laughing). I’m excited to get back in the ring and focus on what my passion has been in my life and that’s been fighting. I’m super stoked for this fight and I’m anticipating a tough one. My training has been pumped up for the last two weeks. I had a little side shot with “American Gladiators” so we’re going to see how I perform with this crunch-time training. I’m expecting a good fight. This is going to be awesome. I’m really honored to be on this inaugural event.
Shaw: Thank you very much, Gina. Before I introduce Kaitlin, I just want to say that we always had confidence in women fighting. Gina led the way for us, but we have other fine women that fight for our organization. It’s been my feeling all along that women should be treated as equals. If they can go to war, they sure can fight in mixed martial arts. We’re proud to have Gina on this card. We’re proud to have Kaitlin. It’s going to be a very good, very tough match. But more than anything else, the world will be able to see two professional athletes that can really fight. So without further adieu, Kaitlin, would you make some opening remarks?
Young: I’m honored to be fighting on the CBS card and fighting her as well. I think it’s going to be a great match-up, a great stylistic match-up. The beauty of our sport is that styles make fights. I really think this will be a great one. Training’s been going very well. I had a lot of notice for this fight so I’ve been lucky to be able to put in more time for this one than ever before. So I’m really excited about that and really excited to be representing women’s MMA for the first time. It’s going to be seen by such a large (audience). I think a lot of people don’t realize there are so many women fighters. Fortunately, EliteXC is there to showcase women’s fighting. It’s a great honor to be part of it.
Shaw: Thank you very much. I also want to say thank you as always to Ken Hershman from SHOWTIME, who had the real foresight with Matt Blanc to be able to put mixed martial arts on a premium cable network. He allowed us to put Gina on. And I’m sure Gina remembers the day when Ken gave us the OK. And, obviously, to all the powers that be at CBS for allowing us to bring our product to the airwaves of CBS. We’re very, very respectful for that opportunity. It is a wonderful opportunity for all our fighters and for mixed martial arts. So thank you to CBS. And also a special thank you to Rockstar and to Burger King, two of our sponsors. Anybody that knows me knows I eat a lot of Burger Kings.
Question: What weight are you fighting at?
Young: This fight’s at 140.
Question: Gina, why do you say this will be your best fight yet?
Carano: I just think it’s an awesome match-up. I think it’s a great opponent. I think that I’m definitely somebody who fights better with somebody better in front of me.
Question: Are you referring that you are both stand-up fighters?
Carano: I think she is a good fighter in general. I’m sure she has been practicing a lot on the ground, so I am not going to count her as a stand-up fighter; I am going to count her as a complete fighter, an MMA fighter. I think she is an aggressive fighter. I just think it’s going to be a really good match-up for me, and I think it’s going to make for an awesome fight.
Question: Kaitlin, how much notice did you have for the fight?
Young: I don’t think I necessarily had more notice than Gina did. I want to say I had probably a good nine weeks where I suspected that I would be taking this fight. So I’ve been training very hard since then.
Question: Gina, is there anything that concerns you heading into this one that maybe you haven’t covered in preparation?
Carano: I wish I would have had nine weeks completely to focus on it like Kaitlin. But there’s not going to be any excuses. I just chose to do “American Gladiators” and take my time away from it. So am I concerned? No. I feel more mentally clear than I’ve probably ever felt in my life. I think I’m good. I think I’m confident. I’ve got the next two weeks to kind of sharpen everything up and I’m ready to fight.
Question: Gina, are you surprised by the level of attention you’re getting?
Carano: You know, I kind of live in my own world anyway. I’m very good at keeping a good head about me and really looking at things for what they are. I know who I am and where I am at in my career. I’m not surprised that all the females are starting to get attention in the sport because it’s well deserved. We put on great fights all around the country, all around the world — fights that people walk away from (still) talking about. So I think females getting attention is awesome and it’s well deserved. I don’t buy into the hype. I know I am 5-0 in MMA. I don’t listen to what everybody says about me I just kind of know who I am and keep my head about me. I think that’s one reason why people might like me.
Question: Gina, if the bout goes the distance do you think that favors you or Kaitlin?
Carano: I think this fight could go either way and I’m planning it on favoring me. But we’re pretty equal in our stand-up. I’m expecting a pretty equal match-up. As soon as I get in that cage with her then I’ll be able to kind of gauge where we’re at.
Question: Gina, how are you getting back in fighting shape and honing your technique with the short time you have?
Carano: I’ve been fighting in a different way outside the ring for the last nine months. I think it’s going to be pretty refreshing just to get in there and get physical. I’m not worried about it at all. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m better at being physical. I’m better at using my body. I’m better at fighting than I am at doing any of the entertaining or press conferences. I’m better at using my body and my physical ability and natural instincts. It’s going to be refreshing. Fighting outside the ring is not an easy thing. At least when you are in the cage you know who is throwing the punches (laughing).
Question: Gina, do you want to keep it standing, go to the ground or are you ready for anything?
Carano: You now, I think the game plan is something that I probably like to keep a little bit more private. I’m not going to give it away to her right now. I’m not going to tell her exactly what I’m going to do. So we’re just going to keep that under wraps.
Question: Kaitlin, how is your ground game developing?
Young: I feel that it’s coming on very well. I’ve done a couple of grappling tournaments. I try to hit those up when I can in-between fights to sort of work on the ground game against people of equal size and weight and skill level. And I try to do as many divisions as possible for experience. It doesn’t go on the record, so it’s kind of nice. I’ve had some submission victories at grappling tournaments. I’m feeling pretty confident about the fact that my ground game has improved quite a bit since my last fight.
Question: Gary, tell us why you decided to have a women’s fight on this first show on CBS?
Shaw: The same reason I thought we should have a women’s fight on the first show ever that we did on SHOWTIME. I think there are women out there that train hard, that have the skills and in my mind are professional athletes. If we are willing to put women into war where they can get killed by real bullets and protect us and protect our country, why shouldn’t they have the same right if they’re training hard to be seen by the American public? Just because they’re females? I don’t believe in that. Gina’s fights have all been competitive. Gina said it before, in some ways the fights she’s been in have been some of the most exciting fights that we’ve presented. I am proud to stand behind the women that fight for us at EliteXC. I’m proud that our match- making team has put together the right type of fights. Not only do we have these two young ladies that will be fighting on May 31 but we have others that are waiting in the wings behind them that are equally skilled and ready to go. And I think at the end of the day you will all be writing the next day about the great fight between these two athletes and warriors.
Question: Kaitlin, what does this mean to you?
Young: Like I said, it really is such a great honor. I do feel a tremendous obligation to perform well and represent female fighters well.
Question: Kaitlin, are you more comfortable on the ground now?
Young: Yeah, I’m feeling much better on the ground. Obviously, it’s not as natural as stand-up feels to me. I don’t know if it ever will be. I’m working on trying to become the same level on the ground as I am standing up.
Question: You feel OK going toe-to-toe with Gina?
Young: Yeah. I’m really excited for that. I know she beat Tonya with a submission, which is awesome for her to transition like that, but it’s hard to say. I haven’t seen much of her other than that fight. So I think it will be really interesting if this goes to the ground.
Question: Kaitlin, if it goes the distance, does that favor you or her?
Young: It’s hard to say. I think it’s going to be a really good fight. She’s tough and very athletic. So I think it could go other way. Obviously I’m going to do everything in my power to make it go my way. But I can’t give a sure-fire prediction on that one.
Question: Gina, how do you maintain focus on the task at hand?
Carano: I’m crazy (laughing). No, actually, for the last three weeks I was supposed to go to New York for a promotional tour for “American Gladiators” and I just finally laid it down to them. I was, like. ‘I can’t do it. I’ve got to just stay at home and train and get my mind right.’ I’m not even doing that many fight interviews. I’m kind of just detoxing from the public eye for a second. Then I’m training and just getting my mind straight for the fight. I would have liked to do it sooner. I’ve got a beautiful life and I’m just surprised I’ve gone so far. I’m just going to stay positive and go for it. I’m balancing it out. I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. I’m able to just cut everything off when I need to.
Question: Gina, with this show being on CBS, do you look at this fight any differently from a prestige standpoint? Or are you approaching it the same as every other fight?
Carano: A fight’s a fight and once you get in the cage, everything goes away and it’s just you against that person. We can only do the best we can do. We’ve both had about the same amount of fights and we’ve both (been) brought up in the sport pretty fast. We’re going to put on a good fight. I know that’s what we’re both made out of. So I’m not even worried about that. But as far as pressure, we can only do what we can do. If we just be ourselves, which we both will be, I think the public will really, really love it and be drawn to it and want to see more of it. I just try to appreciate and be honored that I get this opportunity and I’m so happy that EliteXC has put me out there the way they have and taken a chance on me. I’m appreciative of what they’re doing for women in the sport. I’m just going to keep doing my thing because that’s really all I can do.
Question: Gina, if there’s been one prevailing criticism of you it is that you have had trouble making weight. Do you anticipate it being a problem for May 31?
Carano: Oh yes, the weight. A fight has never been canceled because I didn’t make weight. Unless one does, then I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. I do cut weight. I get down. I’m not very good dehydrated, so I walk into the weigh-ins not looking so hot sometimes. But it’s not going to be a problem for May 31. I am in surprisingly good shape where I am at right now. I feel great. I’m strong and ready to go. So, no, it shouldn’t be a problem and we’ll just see how it goes. I’ll just keep on trying to get more professional and trying to get down faster. (And) try to lay off the ravioli a little bit more (laughing).
Question: Kaitlin, what do you think a win over Gina would mean for your career?
Young: I think obviously it would give my career a boost. I think just having this fight regardless of the outcome really does anyway. But obviously a win would do that much more for it.
Question: Kaitlin, what are your thoughts on the state of women’s MMA and its potential to grow?
Young: I think it has great potential to grow. I think some of the women who have been in MMA for awhile aren’t particularly happy with the state of things right now. But I think it’s a very, very good time for women just getting into the sport. It’s growing so fast.
Question: Are you willing to elaborate on what other women fighters might be unhappy about?
Young: You know, I don’t want to put words into anybody’s mouth, but I think the general feeling is there aren’t as many high-profile opportunities for female fighters that have been in the game for a long time.
Question: Gary, do you have plans to add to the women’s roster?
Shaw: We are continually adding to the women’s roster. We do have a women’s division. And we do like women fighting for us. We’re going to continue to put them on CBS. We’re going to continue to put them on SHOWTIME and on our ShoXC(Elite Challenger Series) shows as well. Shayna Baszler is on the roster and we have other women on the roster. I know the fight team and Jeremy Lappen are working hard to make additions to the women’s roster. We have signed a couple in the last few weeks. If nobody else wants to do it, then that’s all the better for us. It’s not better for the women, but it’s certainly better for EliteXC.
Question: Gary, do you have any specific guideline for how many women you would like to have on the roster eventually?
Shaw: As many as can fight, just like the men. If we find the women that we find are exciting fighters and we put them on shows that excite the fans, both on television and in the arena, then we’ll keep continuing to add to them. We don’t have a limit. It’s not like we’re going to have 10 women in two weight classes and that’s it — not at all. If the women can fight, then we’re signing them.
Question: Is there any plan for an EliteXC women’s title (fight), say in the next year?
Shaw: Yes we’re talking about two things. We’re talking about a women’s title and we’re also talking about an all women’s show where we feature one night of just all women’s fights.
Carano: That would be cool.
Shaw: Thank you very much. I hope you’ll back us. That’s something that I’d like to present to the public, a night of women’s fights. And I think that would be a major milestone. I think it would be good for the sport and good for women. I think Kaitlin said there are a lot of women out there that are unhappy. Not with us, because we’re the pioneers. We’re (not just talking), we’re acting on it. With the help of CBS and the help of SHOWTIME, we’ll continue. I would think in ’09 that you should look for an all women’s show.
Question: Gina do you regret at all putting so much on your plate when you didn’t really have to?
Carano: No, (not) at all. Would it have been nice to just focus on the fight? Of course. But that’s not the reality of it. I focus on the fact I’ve got a beautiful life and I’m going to go do something that I really love to do in a couple weeks against Kaitlin Young. I’m living out my dream right now. It would have been nice to focus on it more especially since I think it’s just going to be such a difficult fight. But, no, let’s just do this. Then let’s look back and see how I do and then make improvements from there. Definitely for the next fight – (and) I’m sure I’ll have another one sometime this year — that one’s definitely getting all my attention. I can’t wait for that, you know, lifestyle and that feeling to come back. Really, training for a fight and spending so much time getting in the mental state is the best part about it. So we’ll see how I do and then look at it from there.
Question: Has the taping completed for this season of “American Gladiators”?
Carano: Yeah, we’ve been done for about a week I think.
Question: Now you are 100 percent focused on the fight?
Carano: Yeah, I’ve cut off all the media stuff and everything and pretty much just training.
Question: Tonight, you’ll be featured on ESPN “E:60.” Are you hoping for a positive piece?
Carano: I think it’s going to be a realistic piece. I was completely myself and I spoke my mind. I’m not going to say it’s going to be a negative piece. I think there are a lot of other female MMA martial artists out there that have been in it a longer time than I have and they have bigger records – and so they’re wondering why I’m where I’m at and why they aren’t here. I sympathize with them and I don’t know why either. I think that, you know, EliteXC looked at me and saw something that they could really build and they saw talent. And people sign new talent all the time. I think that they did a couple interviews with a couple other female fighters that might bring up that kind of aspect of it, which they have all the right in the world to. I hope we get to see some of these females fighting and I hope I get to fight them. Now that I’m building up kind of a bigger record, I think it will be more of an equal match-up now.
Shaw: Let me (say one thing. The piece on Kimbo on “E:60″ was not negative.
Comment: I meant EPSN the magazine.
Shaw: The magazine, (yes) that was a negative article. The article started off by saying exactly this: ‘Although I have never met Kimbo or spoken to Kimbo’ … I take those articles; I have three dogs and they’re very happy with those articles. I can’t respect someone who doesn’t speak to an athlete, doesn’t interview an athlete, and then just gives a one-sided slant on the story. That’s not journalism.
o Gary, has anyone from ESPN contacted you?
Shaw: They didn’t understand why the piece came out. Kimbo has been very accessible to ESPN for “E:60″ not only once, but twice. He’s going to be on (the cover of) ESPN The Magazine where they’ll do an entire article on him. I think if you meet Kimbo , if you spoke to Kimbo, it might not be the Kimbo the journalist, that writer, that individual, I don’t know what to call him, really wrote about. The same with Gina. If there’s a woman fighter that doesn’t like her or has negative things to say on the “E:60″ piece — that hasn’t seen it yet — then that’s really unfair because they haven’t spoken to Gina. So they don’t really know Gina. Gina didn’t push anybody out of the way. She is not a bad girl. This wasn’t some contest that she fixed to get on the air. Gina was at the right place at the right time. Someone told me about Gina and (after) they told me, I went after her. I happen to know her father as well. When I met her, I said to her immediately, ‘you’re going to be the women’s face of mixed martial arts.’ On behalf of EliteXC, we delivered. On behalf of Gina, she delivered. So that’s what it’s all about. Like she said, she’s in a tough, tough competition on May 31. It’s real fight with Kaitlin. If she is successful and she wins, then she moves on. If she doesn’t, she’ll still move on. Those girls that have negative things to say, if they’re in the right weight class, they’re going to have an opportunity, if they can fight. But just because someone’s done it longer, doesn’t mean they’re the right person.
o Gary, you now have this new pact agreement with DREAM. Have they expressed any interest in having Gina fight for them on one of their cards in Japan?
Shaw: I haven’t had long talks with them. We loaned them Nick Diaz this past week. They want to do more with us. They’re starting to realize we have athletes and we have the fighters that can really fight. We’re one of the few organizations willing to go out there and work with other organizations. I’m hoping they allow me to bring them some of our greatest women fighters.
Question: Gina, do you feel any pressure fighting in front of a large audience on such a big stage?
Carano: No, I don’t. It’s kind of a different question actually. (As a person, I’m a bit more shy). I don’t get nervous. Fighting, that’s the fun part and I love that. Being in front of people, I’ve learned to get use to. But, regardless, once you get hit it all goes away any ways. So I’m just planning on my natural instinct to kick in, and it will. So, no, I (feel) good. I’m keeping a level head.
Question: Gina, what do you do to relax before a fight?
Carano: I like to dance a little; dancing kind of shakes out the nerves a little. And I pray. I pray just for a peace and for God’s will to be done. And whatever the outcome of the fight, just to have a peaceful feeling about it, you know.
o When do you do the dancing?
Carano: (Laughing) Just right before I go in the ring. I dance the nerves out of my body.
Question: Your dad was a professional athlete. What are his thoughts on where you’ve progressed?
Carano: He has stood behind me 100 percent and it’s been a really beautiful thing. My whole life he has trying to tell me go to school, become a lawyer, become a doctor, become something of importance. Then I go and become a professional fighter. It just kind of threw him off his seat for a second. But he’s climbed back on and he is 100 percent behind me and it’s the best feeling in the world.
Question: You said you were more mentally clear than before. What’s different now?
Carano: I think what’s different now is I have my confidence about me and I know who I am a little bit more than I ever have. And it’s a really good feeling. Because, you know, at the beginning you just kind of get shoved up there and you’re just trying to do everything to make everybody else happy. Now I’ve kind of realized I need to learn how to make myself happy and by doing that other people around me will be inspired through that. I am just at the cusp of grasping a hold of where I am at 26. I’m sure I’ve got a lot more to learn, but at least I have a handle on it.
Question: Gary, where will you be watching the fight?
Shaw: On May 31, I’ll be in that arena. I’ll be at a table pressed against a cage. I’ll have a monitor and at the start of the show I’ll have a lot of goosebumps. And, as Gina said, my nerves will be rattled. And when the first fight takes place and the action starts, I will shake it out.
Question: You will be nervous prior to the beginning of the show?
Shaw: For sure.
Question: What causes the nerves for you?
Shaw: Well there’s a lot of pressure. First of all, I care about the health, safety and welfare of all the fighters. So the single biggest thing in my mind is that not only do they have great fights but everybody comes out of the cage safe and healthy. That’s on my mind until the final fight is over. The rest is that everything goes right. We have an arena experience to put on, we have a television show to put on, we have a lot of responsibility to all the athletes and we have a lot of responsibility to all the people that support us. So there’s a lot of pressure that nobody sees and nobody knows (about). You think of everything from, God forbid, a problem with the cage, to a problem with the camera, to anything else that can go wrong. So, for me, personally, I’m not at ease all until it’s over. I don’t go to parties. I’ll go to a coffee shop or something like that because it wipes you out. And those that work can understand how much it wipes you out.
o How gratifying is it after the fact though?
Shaw: Spectacular. It’s a feeling that I wish I could transport to everybody around me. It’s like your graduation. You made it. You got through it all. And then when you see all these fighters and the smiles and you see two fighters — and I’m sure it will happen with Gina and Kaitlin — they’ll go at each other as hard as any athletes will fight to knock the other one out or submit them or put them to sleep, and then the final bell rings or the fight’s over, any way it ends, and they’ll just hug one another. I mean, there’s something very special about the fighting game that’s much different. You watch a hard fought tennis match, they walk to the net and they just shake hands. I mean they don’t even do that. Then golf, there’s nothing. But in the fighting game where there’s real physical contact and the winner is the one that does the most damage, it is just unbelievable that they will then go, men and women, and hug one another, embrace one another and show that respect for one another. So, for me, personally watching that is just joyous. I mean, Gina was talking about her father who I said I know. In her last match he jumped up — he is a big guy to start with – and I thought he hit the top of the arena.
o When you are online, how often do you check ProElite.com and what’s that experience like for you?
Young: I usually check it maybe once a day or once every two days. Sometimes I’ll talk to people on there, like about interviews or whatever. If I have time, I like to answer people’s questions. Sometimes, I don’t get around to it but I try to.
Carano: I haven’t been on for a while but I will. I will go on there every once in a while.
o Is exciting for both of you to have that sort of interaction with fans?
Carano: Yeah, it is. I wish I could actually respond to more because I really get some amazingly heart-felt messages on that site. The problem with responding is if I do respond then people, you know, think that we have a relationship and then they start wondering why I don’t write back all the time and they start writing to me all the time and it kind of gets hectic. So I usually don’t respond to messages. But I want people to know I do read and appreciate them.
Question: Kaitlin, what was the feeling after you won a Hook ‘n Shoot tournament by stopping three opponents in one night in a combined 1:52 or 1:53 seconds. Also, what is your personal and schooling background?
Young: Well, I started Olympic style Taekwondo a long time ago when I was 14. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s full contact but it’s basically above the waist. It’s like boxing with your feet, is the best way I can describe it. I did that for a long time. Then I got started in amateur kickboxing and made the switch to MMA this last year. I’m a student at the University of Minnesota studying kinesiology, which is exercise science if you are not familiar with that. I am going to be dropping down to part-time after this semester because it’s too much with fight training. I don’t concentrate enough on school.
Question What’s your GPA?
Young: I want to say around 3.0.
Question: Gary, do you have any idea when you may launch women’s titles and would there be two of them in two different weight classes?
Shaw: There might be more depending on how many more women. I would think we would love to fight the winner of this fight for a title in the fall. So we would give the first women’s title out sometime in the fall. The other titles will depend on how many different weight classes we wind up with. We’ll wait until we have legitimate weight classes, legitimate amount of fighters that we’re proud of, then we’ll introduce a belt at that time. Not before.
Question: So 140 would probably be your first one?
Question: So the winner between Gina and Kaitlin wouldn’t be fighting on the second CBS card in July, but some other time?
Shaw: Correct. I think that we’re looking to bring these girls back probably around September.
o You mentioned Rockstar and Burger King as sponsors. Are there going to be additional ones or are those the two main ones?
Shaw: There are additional ones but the main sponsors right now are Burger King and Rockstar. But there are other sponsors on board already.
Question: You were listed at 155 on “American Gladiators.” So is it a fair assumption you are working within a 15-pound range to cut this weight in the next couple weeks?
Carano: I’m thinking by the time I get to New Jersey it will probably be a five- or six pound weight cut.
Question: Gina, do you actually enjoy the weight cutting process?
Carano: Well, you hit a point of complete exhaustion and of complete emptiness. And you just don’t care and you kind of enter this like euphoric state I guess. It can kind of be a dangerously addicting thing.
Question: Gary, what are your expectations for this first show and for the company, in general, for its future.
Shaw: I thank you for the question. We’re not embarrassed about our numbers. We’re losing money. We’ll probably lose more money. But that’s what start-ups do. There are very few companies that start from day one and make money. It’s about staying power. The UFC lost over $35 million before they (got a) push. We know we have the product. We know we have the fighters. Gina can speak for herself, but all the fighters that have come with us are happy they came with us. They didn’t jump ship. They don’t read the reports. They know at the end of the fight they get paid what we promise them. We’ve never breached a contract. And we’ve taken people like Gina Carano, who no one knew and we made her a huge star. And we’re doing that with Kimbo and Robbie Lawler and Jake Shields and Nick Diaz and other fighters that have fought for us. So are we losing money? Yes, we’re losing money. Are we going to be here long term? Yes, we’re going to be here long term. We’re the only company out there that has a SHOWTIME type deal and a CBS deal. Nobody else has that to offer to any athlete. And for the fighters that fight on May 31, the following day when they walk through an airport everybody will know them. Just like those reality shows, “Survivor” — shows like that, they’re going to be instantaneous stars. So we’re going be here for a long time. We’re number two behind the UFC, there’s no question. We’re Pepsi to Coke. We’re Avis to Hertz. But it’s not always a bad place to be. As I said, we’re far, far away from 16 months ago when we started. I don’t think anybody would have ever believed that we would have been on SHOWTIME, we would have been going on CBS, and we’d have the rosters that we have, the product that we have in 16 short months. So where we were a lap behind the UFC. I tell everybody that knows NASCAR, they better look out of their rearview mirror because we’re right on their bumper. And it’s not a bad place to be. I don’t know if that answers your question. I’m speaking to it. I’m not being protective of it because I think the future is so bright for our company and so bright for the fighters that fight for us. We treat all of our fighters like champions. And Gina can tell you how she is treated and the guys can tell you how they’re treated. I think, you know, we treat them like they’re all champions, belt or no belt.
Question: Gary, when do you think you will move to the pay-per-view realm? How close do you think your company is to that?
Shaw: My company is the same as my boxing career has been. I do pay-per-views when they’re worthy of pay-per-views and I’m not embarrassed to ask people for their money and the fans for their money. I don’t think you should be asking fans for their money every single month. Pay me to see my fighters — I don’t believe in that. I believe we have a great model with SHOWTIME. We put on great fights. It’s people television. And this is free television on CBS. You just need a plug, a screen and rabbit ears and you are in business. So we’ll do a pay-per-view when we have a fight that we believe is worthy of pay-per-view, but not until then. Look, we gave you (Frank) Shamrock and Cung Lee. That was a spectacular card, a great fight. We gave it free. I think asking fans to pay every single month, you are just ripping them off. And that’s wrong and I’m not going to be a party to that. And our company won’t be a party to that.
Question: Gary, (in terms of) social networking, this (ProElite.com) seems to open the door for people to talk about all MMA.
Shaw: Yes. We wanted to do a site that helped MMA. I am a believer that the stronger we make mixed martial arts, the better it will be for EliteXC and the better it will be for the fighters. I’ve always used this expression and I hope this answers your question: If you have one restaurant on the street, good or bad, it’s only a restaurant. If you have many restaurants on the street, then it becomes restaurant row. And the fans grow and people go to eat there because they says ‘let’s go to restaurant row, there’s this, this and that.’ So I’m not a believer, like the UFC and Dana White, of crushing everyone around you. I’m more of a believer of working with everybody around us, build the sport of mixed martial arts and educate the people that aren’t fans out there. Hopefully it will become an Olympic sport. The fighters know the discipline that’s required. They’re highly disciplined fighters. So we work with others. We loan Nick Diaz. So there are things out there that we believe in that will make the sport stronger. We’re all about mixed martial arts. It’s not just about EliteXC.
Question: The IFL is very interested in the notion of having unified champions, wherever it’s possible or practical. Would that be something you would want to get involved with?
Shaw: I’m all for it. I know Jay Larkin very well. I’d love to fight for an IFL belt. If they want to do women’s, we’ll fight for a women’s IFL belt. We’ll put our belt at risk as well. I believe in it. Women like jewelry. The more belts the better for them. They like accessories. So why not fight for an IFL belt or a DREAM belt. I’ve always said all along, we’ll put anybody on SHOWTIME or CBS. If they’re legitimate fighters, I don’t care if they fight for the UFC. What’s good for the sport is good for my athletes is good for our brand.
Question: Kaitlin, how have the finals (in school) been going?
Young: You know, I have two tomorrow morning, then two Friday morning. So studying is fine. But I haven’t actually taken them or gotten the results yet, so we’ll see.
Question: What’s it like working at the gym you are, especially (from a) grappling (standpoint) when you consider Sean Shirk and Brock Lesnar both train at the same gym. Do you feel that you’re getting a lot more wrestling training and lot more grappling training?
Young: Yeah. Obviously, Lesnar working with me would be hilarious just thinking of the physics of that. So I don’t ever do anything with him. But Sean has helped me a lot with takedown offense and that kind of thing. He’s been super helpful.
o Gary, what are your thoughts on live TV versus pay-per-view?
Shaw: We’ll do a pay-per-view when a fight warrants itself for pay-per-view. There’s a misnomer out there about pay-per-view; that if you become a pay-per-view fighter you have really arrived. Well, a good pay-per-view today does 200,000 or 300,000 buys. This fight on May 31 live on CBS has the ability to bring 100 million eyeballs. I mean the numbers are staggering. You could be on pay-per-view once a month and nobody will know who you are when you get to the train station. I am telling you live TV is the real place to be. That’s where the notoriety comes from. Not from pay-per-view. I can name you fighters that have fought pay-per-view and most of you won’t even know their names — both in boxing and mixed martial arts. You can prove it because you can bring them to 42nd street and Broadway in New York City and everybody will be walking past them all the time. But if you have the eyeballs as Kimbo has proved with YouTube, as we’ve proved with SHOWTIME, as we’re about to prove with CBS, there is absolutely nothing bigger in the world.
Question: Gary, will being open in the free TV market help with websites recognizing you more when it comes to rankings?
Shaw: Well I hope so. I think those that know me personally know how I feel about rankings and how I feel about websites’ rankings. When I look at most websites — and I have to be candid — I don’t read the blogs, I don’t go there, they don’t rule my world, both in boxing or mixed martial arts. But when I read them, they’re mostly all UFC fighters. That’s because that’s all these writers know or feel because everything’s the UFC. But I can tell you I would put our women fighters against any women in the world. I’d put Jake Shields against anybody in the world. I think he is one of the finest fighters in the world. Robbie Lawler. I’m willing to fight Kimbo against anybody from the UFC, so you know we have fighters that are tremendous fighters. But they’re not ranked because they’re all UFC rankings. So I don’t think my fighters take it seriously. I’ve never had a fighter coming to me and ask ‘why aren’t I ranked third? Why am I not in the ranks?’ It doesn’t cut any mustard.
o Gina, did the “American Gladiators” thing help with your endurance?
Carano: What it does help with is putting me out in front of people and getting me used to being in front of crowds and performing. That’s something I definitely need help with. I’m a little bit more to myself. So that’s what it did help with. Being around a bunch of healthy body builders and positive people, and a great production team also helped.
o Did anybody from “American Gladiators” say they wanted to be an MMA fighter?
Carano: You know, a lot of them have actually trained here and there in boxing or whatever they trained in. I don’t know how many of them have actually fought. I think they’re all probably pretty much sticking to the entertainment business. I think they found their niche and they want to kind of ride it out.
Question: Gary, did you have any resistance on the CBS side to putting a women’s fight in the first MMA show?
Shaw: There was absolutely no resistance. Zero. As a matter of fact, they were thrilled to have Gina in the fight on CBS. I put the fight where I thought it should be for entertainment value and what I’m looking to do on the card.
o What is the challenge with mixed martial arts with getting people like ESPN to cover it as a sport rather than cover it as entertainment?
Shaw: I think we need to do a better job. There was only one player in the space for a long time. Now, there is us and a lot more. I think we owe it to the fans to educate the fan base and others out there to become fans about the discipline and this truly is a real sport — because it didn’t have its start as a real sport in the eyes at least of the American public. I can’t complain about ESPN, they’ve done a spectacular job. We have two athletes that have now appeared on “E:60″ — when Gina appears tonight (Tuesday), we’re getting coverage of their web sites. We’re getting coverage on the magazine. That’s huge. And we’re being covered in a broad way like never before. We’re backed up right now with over 85 requests for interviews from our athletes. And they’re important stuff. And it’s important to MMA, the sport, because it’s not just a sport now. We’re crossing over to those like “People” magazine and that direction, let’s call it lifestyle, rather than plain sport. So I think we’re in a very, very good place. I’m very excited about what CBS has brought to the table for us. Obviously, I always thank SHOWTIME because they were the ones who took a real gamble on us. But I think that you are going to see the coverage and it’s going to be wide, a lot wider than any of you that are on this call has ever seen before. I think it’s going to be good for the sport of mixed martial arts.
Question: What do you think about doing more than four shows for CBS?
Shaw: I think it would be spectacular. Obviously, May 31, I don’t want to say it’s make or break, but it’s sure make or — maybe its rather than make and shatter, maybe make and break. If we do the rating that I think we can do, and the fighters fight like I think they’re going fight, and the match-ups by the fight team are the correct match-ups, then I think CBS is going to be all over us to do more than four fights as year. And they have that right in our contract to ask us to do more than four a year.
o Gary, what do you think of Affliction now having its own promotion?
Shaw: What a question. I think they’re going to find out that they’re better off in the clothing business. Stick with what you know. Stick with what you do best and don’t try to be somewhere that maybe you shouldn’t be. I mean, look, we’re not allowing any of our fighters to wear anything with the affliction name. UFC has done the same thing. So wouldn’t they have been better off being in the clothing business where they have a spectacular line of clothing and lifestyle brands and being branded in our show on CBS in front of potentially 100 million eyeballs than try to do fights that may not be competitive or may be boring. The names don’t make the fights. The fighters make the fights, not the names of the fighters. And, you know, we’re proving it every day with new people that we’re bringing aboard. I can’t wait for Eddie Alvarez to be a fighter on CBS or SHOWTIME. I mean we’ve got some great fighters in the wings, exciting fighters. But as far as directly to your point, I think that maybe they’ll do one or two fights. My prediction: they’ll be back in the clothing business.
o At that point do you think you would allow your fighters to wear Affliction again?
Shaw: When the day comes and they can e-mail me or call me and say we’re back strictly in had the clothing business, yes, that ban will coming off that second. I always say this, and I’m stealing it from a boxing promoter so I can’t claim the credit for this statement, but I sure know it’s true: The desert of Nevada is littered with the bones and skeletons of would-be promoters.
Question: Coming from the world of boxing, what are the most significant differences you see in the athletes and the promotion of the sport?
Shaw: The fan base and the lifestyle. Boxing is not a lifestyle. Boxing’s a sport that people go to that could be an event or they’re just a boxing fan. Mixed martial arts is a lifestyle. They wear the gear. They wear the lifestyle clothing to the fights, to press conferences, to weigh-ins. It’s a much more rabid fan base. The true fans are a lot more educated about the sport than a boxing fan. And when you are there — when you go to a boxing match you can sit in the front row and wave to your friends until the main event comes on because nobody gets there until the main event. In mixed martial arts, everybody is there when the doors open. It just shows you the fan base. The other part is the demographic in mixed martial arts skews much younger. The other part that still shocks me — and maybe Kaitlin or Gina can speak to it because I am really not sure why — but in boxing there are very few women in the audience unless on occasion someone brings a wife or a girlfriend. Very rarely will you see just girls there; in mixed martial arts you see a group of eight girls coming to the fight. The place is it littered with women, fans, both with men and just girls night out. And I don’t know why but I do know that’s a huge difference between mixed martial arts and boxing.
Comment: (For everyone in the Southern California area, CBS Media Day is this Monday, May 19, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. It will take place at the CBS Studio Center, 4024 Radford Ave., in Studio City. It will be on Stage 4. Gina will be part of the proceedings along with Kimbo, Phil Baroni, Nick Diaz and Jake Shields. Also, this Monday night, May 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the Best Buy on 1015 North La Brea Ave., in West Hollywood, Gina, Frank Shamrock, Baroni, Diaz and Shields will participate in an autograph session put together by EliteXC.)
Shaw: Just to go along with that (theme), CBS will send out a release Monday morning announcing the announcing team on the first CBS card. We will have the announcers at media day. We are bringing in a cage. We are going to allow the people that have never been in the cage to go in the cage with Nick Diaz and Jake Shields. There will also be demonstrations inside the cage, so it’s going to be a terrific media day.
o Kaitlin, what are your thoughts about fighting your first high-profile opponent, the highest, the most publicized fighter that you will be facing in your career?
Young: It’s really exciting actually. This is the first time I have fought somebody that I’ve been able to see footage of beforehand. I think my preparation has been more complete so that part of it is really great. I think there’s that much more exposure available because she is such a big star right now, so that works out very well for me. I’m really excited for this fight.
Question: If this becomes a fight of striking are you confident you are going to win? Is that how you’d like this fight to play out?
Young: Not necessarily. You know, it is MMA. I think this fight has the potential to turn into a fight-boxing match. But it is MMA. It’s mixed martial arts. And it will be a mixed martial arts fight. It wouldn’t surprise me if this fight goes the ground.
o Gina, you mentioned you ‘re not buying into your own publicity or own hype. Have you noticed that your profile has gone up as you walk around your hometown or wherever?
Carano: Yeah. It’s definitely way up. It’s not only my hype; I’m not buying into hype in general. I know who I am and I know how far I’ve come probably more than anyone. And I see where I am at in the sport. I just don’t buy into it. A lot more people recognize me and that’s a great feeling, but, you know, most people that are coming up to me are very genuine. It’s cool.
Question: Gina, can you give a brief idea of what your training normally consisted of, how many weeks out you started seriously training for a fight and what you have been able to do for this fight?
Carano: Normally, I would like to train seriously for a fight for eight weeks. For this, I’ve been probably anywhere between three to four weeks. Again, no excuses. Whatever happens happens and that’s just what’s going to happen. I’m not feeling confident in what I can do. Then, you know, it’s pretty much two days, three days sometimes, of just hardcore preparation for the fight and that’s what it usually is eight weeks out. So, I’m just having to crunch it into three weeks out. And the difference between what I am doing now is, I’m kind of just keeping my mind clear and just relaxing. And we’ll see how I do.
Question: Gary, why is the show in New Jersey?
Shaw: First of all, I live in New Jersey. I’m a former regulator (for the athletic commission) in New Jersey. For years, it is just something that if I thought I would get the opportunity to do, I wanted to jump at it. The Prudential Center is part of the AEG family, who I do business with. I think the Prudential Center’s a spectacular place for the fight. When our fighters get there I know they’re going to be impressed. It’s close to New York City, major media including all of you. When you think of the demographics from Philly to Connecticut, I mean we’re loaded with people, loaded with MMA fans. So to me it’s a natural fit. But personally, going to the campus of the University of Miami for our last big show where, you know, I’m proud to say I’m a graduate, then coming home to New Jersey, to me that’s like I hit the sweepstakes.
Question Gary, how are tickets selling?
Shaw: Very well. We’re all out of all the $25 tickets, and I made plenty available. I think there are six $1,000 seats still left available. So we’re doing very well. We have no complaints. We’re going to have a full house when that CBS TV camera rolls at 9 o’clock..
Question: Gary, obviously you’re aware of the comments of Sumner Redstone regarding the deal. Were you surprised by his comments? Despite all the gains that MMA has made in the last couple years, it is clear there is still a stigma attached to it. How do you combat that?
Shaw: Good question. I thought it was a, sort of like just a remark off the cuff. Because, you know, chairman Sumner Redstone has the majority stake in the CBS world, but also has Viacom, which has Spike, which is probably 90 percent UFC. So you can’t be a mixed martial arts hater because he’s got 90 percent of it on one of his channels. I didn’t take offense of that. A little bit of setback? Sure. Any time anybody says anything negative, I think it’s education. I think I’ve tried to say that all through this call. You need to meet these athletes up close and in person. You need to meet Kaitlin, who is telling you that she’s a student. You’ve got to meet Gina or Kimbo or fighters out of other organizations. Not just in our organization, but other organizations, too, to find out that they’re good citizens and that they’re not animals or hoodlums. I think part of it is the dress, part of it is the fighting within a cage and how the sport started. But this is truly a discipline. It’s truly a sport. I mean, go to the gym with any of these fighters and go through a training session. You’ll have newfound respect for all these fighters. So I think we just have to really educate the people that it’s truly a real sport and the two girls that are on this call are proud of what they do and proud of the discipline. And I think a lot of their friends and family admire them for it. So, education, education, education.
Closing: This has been a tremendous conference call. I have a lot of respect for a lot of the questions asked. I’ve been on hundreds of conference calls and it’s always the same questions to the athlete, tell us about your training, etc. So the fact you’re all interested, both in our company, myself and our two fighters that I represent, I thank you all very much.
o Gina, with “Gladiators,” did you have to tone down the kind of aggression you would bring into the ring for your MMA fights?
Carano: That’s a good question. The first season they were kind of freaked out having me – well, it seemed like they were kind of freaked out having me be part of it. Because they’re coming back to go over the rules of each event and they would just be directly talk to me. They’re like no punching, kicking, whatever, don’t check anybody out on the pyramid. I was looking at them like, I’m just here to have fun and that’s exactly the way I look at it. They should have been telling that to everybody else because I’m used to being physical on a regular basis. And I was completely looking at it as fun and games. There were a couple times where I pulled guard or I wanted to go for a submission or something and I had to rethink it because of where I was in spandex in front of people. It’s a good question but I didn’t have any problems holding back because it’s a completely different mentality.
Question: Gina, is that very much a case of having to switch on a different part of your brain for a contest like this?
Carano: Definitely. I have to just get back to Gina being the fighter. I have been in a completely different world for the last nine months. And it’s really fascinating to me because I’m coming back to the fight world. But I like my little refreshing outlook that I have on it and it’s really kind of lightened my load and kind of refreshed me. I am reminded I love doing this. I love fighting. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it any more. If it’s something I love to do, I’m not going to dread it. I’m not going to run from it I’m just going to embrace it and I love the feeling that comes along with it. I used to get so nervous and now I feel those nerves coming back and it’s like a whole different game now because I feel refreshed and I’m loving it.
Question: Is it fair to say that if this hadn’t been such a high profile potential showcase for you, you might have thought twice about taking a fight at this stage?
Carano: You know, that’s a good question, too. I probably would have held off and liked to really have put everything into my training for the fight. But that’s not the case. So we’re just going to do it. We’re just going to go for it. Think I owe it to EliteXC, I owe it to my fans and I owe it to myself to get back in there and not spend so much time in between fights. I’d like to fight a lot more so I’m hoping to get another fight in this year regardless of what happens.
o Have you had a chance to compare notes with Laila Ali or discuss the challenges you’re facing in MMA compared to some of the challenges she’s facing in boxing?
Carano: Yeah, actually I have and it really refreshed me when I walked into “American Gladiators” and she walked into the room. I was kind of having second thoughts. I was taking myself really, really seriously. Too seriously even. And I told her I didn’t know if I was going to do. I want to be taken seriously as a fighter and all this stuff. She looked at me and she’s like ‘you know that people are always going to say what they’re going to say. So what you can do for yourself is just do what you do and have fun. You get just one life to live. So just live it the way you want to. And don’t be worried about what people are going to say about you because they’re always going to have something to say.’ I read through some of the interviews — I guess , the old interviews that were done on her and people just gave her a lot of grief about being Ali’s daughter. It’s just too bad. We’re standout characters right now. We’re doing what we love. People should be inspired by it instead of trying to bring it down. Look at it for what it is. OK, fine, I’ve got a 5-0 record. There are more females out there that have bigger records but right now people like watching me. In a month that could change or in this fight that could change or whatever it is. But it’s not so say we’re not skilled. It hurts. It hurt as little bit that the American public is so focused on building people up and watching them fall. We should just be more into the inspirational story of everybody’s lives. Laila is a tremendous, awesome boxer. I’ve spoke to her trainer and she’s awesome. I mean put anybody in there to spar with her and just watch her go. So, yeah, we do relate on a bunch of different issues. I’m just learning to believe in myself and take it for what it’s worth.
Closing: I want to thank everybody for your support and for all the writers who look at it from a positive perspective. Thank you — because it’s not been easy. I can’t imagine why people are still even asking the question, ‘why is this really considered a sport’ because there’s obviously two professional athletes training and going against each other in competition. So I thank the writers, I thank the fans so much for being positive. If it wasn’t for them I definitely wouldn’t be where I am at in life. So I really owe that to them. And for all my trainers and for all the other female fighters that are in it, you know I appreciate that we’re all doing this together and it’s big event. I’m just happy to be part of it.
Closing: I am also very thankful for everybody that’s covering this fight. We’re going to give you guys a great fight to watch. I’m really excited about it. I’m really glad to see the EliteXC women’s division is growing the way it is. I recently heard they booked a fight for 130 so it sounds as though there might be another weight division coming. This is a very exciting time for women in general and women’s MMA so keep watching.
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts