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Looking at the XFL TV deal

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Earlier today, I was very surprised to hear Trey Wingo from ESPN’s Golic and Wingo mention that the network along with Fox reached a deal to broadcast XFL games for the league’s relaunch in February of next year. Oliver Luck, former quarterback drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1982 and adviser in a variety of sports roles over the years, signed as the commissioner of the XFL last year. Oliver Luck appeared on the program to discuss the TV announcement, but was very vague when asked about the possibilities of the spring league, especially after the abrupt collapse of the Alliance of American Football organization just last month.

As accomplished as Oliver Luck is as an executive in sports, his lack of any specific answers doesn’t exactly create a sense of optimism around the XFL revival. On the surface, a TV deal under the ABC umbrella and its bundle of networks that is complimented by the Fox stations as well, sounds like a very good indication for the league. However, the reality is, that distribution is only one piece of a very complex puzzle, something that puts the success of another McMahon football project in doubt.

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I penned an article last year prior to the announcement of the XFL return, and explained the various aspects of why there wasn’t any reason to expect a different result for this league in 2020 than the season of 2001. If anything, the AAF disaster is more proof that any secondary football product won’t get off the group in the United States. Most importantly, the brand identity is possibly the biggest key to success in terms of national sports. Football is generally considered the most popular sport in America and the NFL is the top league of that sport so if fans want to watch football, the NFL is regarded as the elite product in that genre. On the flip side, the XFL is only known for being one of the biggest flops in sports history. How exactly will Oliver Luck or Vince McMahon change that image before the start of the 2020 season? Keep in mind, there are still very few details about the actual league, the game play, or the players. Speaking of which, similar to any other business, much of the NFL’s success is built upon star players so who will bring star power to the XFL?

Just a few months ago, Vince McMahon sold nearly $300 million in WWE stock to set up a way to fund the football project, and while that is a major amount of money, is it realistically enough to fund an entire league? Unless McMahon gets a decent amount of cash from the previously mentioned networks for the rights to broadcast the games, which doesn’t seem possible given the only track record the brand has is as a ratings disaster, he might have to invest even more money to fund at least the initial season. Remember, Vince has to pay the players, coaches, production costs, stadium costs, and advertisement just to launch the league.

These newly announced TV contracts give the XFL main stream distribution, but again, this scenario is a complex situation and the TV side is just a part of the presentation. With Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington DC listed as host cities, management will have to find a way to draw live attendance. All things considered, will those markets be a draw for spring football?

The Dallas and Houston teams will use smaller stadiums than the NFL with 25,000 and 40,000 seats in those venues respectively. However, both cities have well-established NFL and college football fan bases so what’s the market for an XFL franchise? The Los Angeles group will use the LA Galaxay’s soccer stadium to host games with a 27,000 seat venue. Again, LA has two NFL teams, so where’s the demand for another football organization in a non-traditional football city? New York was one of the original XFL locations and might be able to generate some buzz, simply because the population makes it easier to draw more fans, but Met life Stadium has over 80,000 seats so even decent live attendance could look empty on TV.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9d6DmKs7bd0&w=560&h=315]

St. Louis might be the best host city for the league because the Rams moved to the previously mentioned LA, and the XFL franchise could be branded as the city’s team. Similar to that, Tampa By might be a surprising market for the league since the Buccaneers finished with a dismal 5-11 record last year so perhaps, the XFL Tampa Bay group could draw if it’s a winning team. Washington DC might also be a draw in a similar fashion. Seattle is a city loyal to the Seahawks so it’s doubtful another football team will generate attendance there. That said, at best, the XFL might garner live attendance in half of its city, but what about the rest of the schedule? The optics of potentially empty stadiums isn’t a good indication for the league.

All things considered, even a year into the process, there’s still not any reason to expect the XFL in 2020 to get off the ground. In many respects, the XFL is still a tarnished brand known more for its infamous decline than anything else. Aside from the vague statements from Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck, is there any indication that this will be anything more than a secondary league with secondary players? What’s the draw to watch the XFL? The bottom line is the XFL could air on several channels, but there has to be a reason for fans to watch the product.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

MMA

UFC 251’s Shevchenko expected to be massive favorite once again

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Fresh off another decisive finish at UFC 247, Flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko (19-3) already knows whom her next title defense will come against.

It’s been confirmed that Glasgow’s Joanne Calderwood (14-4) will be up next for the dominant world title holder. The bout will take place at the UFC 251 pay-per-view event on June 6th. A location for the event has yet to be announced.

Calderwood, a 10-fight UFC vet, has emerged victorious in 3 of her last 4 bouts, with her lone loss in said stretch coming to Shevchenko’s latest victim, Katlyn Chookagian via unanimous decision last summer in Chicago. The soft spoken TUF 20 fan favorite has a stellar record of 6-4 since joining the UFC ranks with two finishes.

Shevchenko has been a huge favorite for each of her three title defenses since defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk on a late 2018 December night in Toronto. Each of those defenses have seen “Bullet” close in the -800 to -1000 plus range making her the most feared champion in the sport today. Opening odds have yet to be revealed for this contest as it was just announced late last night.

While there are certainly levels to this game — we can fully expect Shevchenko to be a massive favorite ahead of this contest once again — Calderwood’s kickboxing pedigree and penchant for violence gives her a slightly better chance than Valentina’s last three opponents. And that, well, isn’t really saying a whole lot.

It goes without saying that Shevchenko is a handful of steps ahead of every single fighter at 125 lbs right now in the striking game. And she’s in her prime. We give Calderwood a punchers (watch out for those knees and elbows as well) chance in this one.

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UFC 244 is much deeper than the ‘Bad MF’er’ title

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Who’s the “Baddest MF’er” in mixed martial arts today? On the night of November 2nd, inside of Madison Square Garden, that question will be answered.

Since MMA became legalized in New York, the UFC has found a home for their annual MSG show every November, making it one of the most must see PPV’s of the calendar year. In previous years, we’ve witnessed cards headlined by the likes of Conor McGregor, Georges St. Pierre and Daniel Cormier in championship bouts. And while there may not be a traditional championship fight headlining UFC 244, the hype is just as big and the belt is just as real. So with the amount of action we’ll see, surely many of the fans will place a bet on their favorite fighter. Many enjoy using the Royal Panda operator, who’s sponsoring many of the Sports events worldwide and has a great long time reputation. That is why there are more and more users looking for a Royal Panda review, to understand better what are their benefits over the competitors. 

So, just how deep is UFC 244? A lightweight contest between former interim title challenger Kevin Lee and the undefeated Gregor Gillespie will kick off the PPV portion of the card. A win for Lee, who has dropped three of his last four inside of the shark tank that is the 155 lbs division, keeps his head above water. For Gillespie, a sixth consecutive finish would make him undeniable in terms of getting a future title shot should he keep the proverbial pain train rolling. 

Heavyweight fan favorite Derrick Lewis (who headlined MSG last year opposite Cormier) will look to get off the schneid when he takes on Bulgarian bruiser, Blagoy Ivanov, the former WSOF Champion who could very well make some waves with a third straight win in a division where event the smallest of win streaks are hard to come by. 

Follow that up with a welterweight bout between 2-time title challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and “Silent Assassin” Vicente Luque that screams fight of the night sleeper a co-main event that will feature Darren Till, making his middleweight debut, against the always dangerous Kelvin Gastelum. Both Gastelum and Till are coming off losses but are being put into a position where a big performance on this particular night puts them in a great position moving forward.

It all leads up to the main event, the inaugural and potentially once in a lifetime BMF championship match between the red-hot Jorge Masvidal and always entertaining Nathan Diaz. 

With ultra-violent KO’s of Till and Ben Askren in 2019, a victory over Diaz would put Masvidall in the conversation for fighter of the year. And for the returning Diaz, another big win on a night where the whole world will be watching only adds to his unique legacy. 

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Jaime Munguia Steps into the Spotlight

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It was widely hoped that this weekend, Mexican Independence Day weekend, generally the second biggest boxing weekend of the year, would host the highly anticipated third clash between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. When it became clear that Canelo didn’t want to take that fight anytime soon, it was still assumed that Canelo would be fighting somebody…

Anybody…

But problems with Canelo and his long time promoters at Golden Boy, or more accurately, his television partners at DAZN, who last year handed him the biggest contract in the History of Sports to fight on their network resulted in the Mexican Cash Cow’s next fight being pushed back to later in the year. But that coveted Mexican Independence Day slot needed to be filled…

Enter Jaime Munguia

The twenty-two year old Mexican phenom will enter the biggest spotlight of his career so far when he defends his WBO junior middleweight championship for the fifth time against unknown Ghanaian Patrick Allotey at the Dignity Health Sports Park(previously known as the StubHub Center) in Carson, California. The fight will air this Saturday exclusively on DAZN, and while it does not come against a top opponent, it does represent a significant jump in spotlight for the young Mexican champion.

Less than eighteen months ago, Munguia emerged from obscurity in Mexico to destroy an undersized but much more experienced Sadam Ali and take away the WBO 154 pound title that Ali won when he retired future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto six months previously. Coming in on about three weeks’ notice and fighting in the United States for only the second time, Munguia dropped Ali four times in route to a devastating fourth round knockout. All of the sudden, Munguia was being bandied about as a serious opponent for the likes of Canelo, Golovkin, and Daniel Jacobs, and the rumor and innuendo was that these guys wanted no part of him! Given that Munguia is huge for 154 pounds at nearly 6’1, and had knocked out twenty-five of his first twenty-nine opponents, including Ali, it was hard to blame them.

Munguia’s rise towards superstardom continued well enough from then, as a mere eight weeks later he defeated solid Brit Liam Smith over twelve rounds in his first title defense and then seven weeks after that, destroyed overmatched Canadian Brandon Cook in just three rounds on the undercard of Canelo-GGG 2.

But then Munguia started to hit some speed bumps. First, even though he dominated all twelve rounds in a title defense against Takeshi Inoue in Houston in January, he didn’t seem to know how to get rid of the ultra-tough Japanese fighter, whom Munguia hit with everything short of the kitchen sink, only for the under-experienced Japanese fighter to just keep coming. Then disaster almost struck when Munguia was at times soundly outboxed by unknown Irishman Dennis Hogan last April in Monterrey.

Some people thought Hogan clearly won, but the young Mexican escaped with a close, hard fought majority decision victory. The Hogan fight clearly exposed that Munguia is still a work in progress as a fighter and seemed to point to the idea that he learned all he could under trainer Roberto Alcazar, who was the trainer of Munguia’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya in the 90s.

For the Allotey fight, Munguia has made an interesting choice for a new trainer, choosing the five time, four division Erik Morales, who while a slam dunk Hall of Famer as a fighter doesn’t necessarily have a lot of experience as a trainer. Morales has trained a number of young fighters in Mexico since his retirement in 2012, with his most notable experience trainer former WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas for his 2015 title fight against Timothy Bradley, where Vargas knocked Bradley down in the final minute in the 12th but walked away with an unanimous decision loss.

What makes the choice of Morales as trainer unique is that both men come from Tijuana, the Mexican border time where Morales is the most celebrated fighter ever in that city. They both come from the roughest and poorest neighborhoods, and they understand each other in a way that fighter and trainer seldom could. It stands to reason that Morales be able to understand and get to Munguia in a way that few trainers could. The other unique thing is that like Munguia, Morales was a tall, long armed boxer who came forward and functioned well at a certain distance. Munguia would do well to fight more from the outside and use his long arms better, which he was not able to do against Hogan.

As for Allotey, who is coming off six straight wins, he employs a typical Ghanian style-hands high, elbows tight, and working behind a jab. He is not the kind of fighter he should offer much in the way of surprises but will always give a solid effort. This will only be his second fight in the United States, but in that fight, he was knocked out by solid Brazilian Patrick Teixeira in just two rounds. Many expect a similar outcome this Saturday against Munguia.

So for Munguia, it will be not as much if he wins, but how he wins. Will he be impressive? Can he get rid of Allotey early, and will he show improvement after two mediocre performances? Will he show the kind of style that he did against Ali and Smith? Most importantly, how we will handle the spotlight of Mexican Independence weekend, at the place known lovingly by boxing fans as “The War Grounds?”

For Mexican and Mexican-American fans, the expectations will be sky high.

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