Atlas’ Passion Goes Beyond the Ring

By Thomas Albano

The passion that boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas has for the sport can be seen every time he commentates on a fight, even if it earns him some backlash and negative comments from a specific portion of the audience.

But if there’s one thing that Atlas has a bigger passion for than boxing, it most certainly has to be his Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, which hosted its annual “Teddy” Dinner last night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island, New York.

Atlas founded the foundation in 1997 in his father’s memory. Atlas’ father was a physician on Staten Island who provided free medical care to those who couldn’t afford it. Up to the age of 80, the elder Atlas, continued to take calls and serve those in need.

According to Atlas, the influences from his father did not come from hands-on, verbal instruction, but rather through “seeing and osmosis.”

“My father was a doer. He wasn’t a talker,” Atlas said in a mid-2017 interview. “He was a strong, very principled tough man.”

Dr. Atlas

Dr. Theodore Atlas’ mother, Teddy’s grandmother, told Dr. Atlas at a young age that he would go into the medical field and to take care of the poor. After graduating from the New York University School of Medicine in 1927, Dr. Atlas practiced on Staten Island for 55 years. During this time, he founded Sunnyside Hospital and Doctor’s Hospital.

Dr. Atlas may be most remembered for his generosity and humility while performing his job, going out of his way to make the lives of those in the community much better. As his son described, Dr. Atlas would take pillows and blankets and make beds to perform tonsillectomies on kids who needed them.

“I learned a lot of things from him,” Atlas said. “I learned about work ethic, I learned about commitment, and then I learned about a word I never understood other than it was a word. I learned what it was to be a professional. It had nothing to do about being paid. It had to about doing what you’re supposed to do.”

Dr. Theodore A. Atlas
Dr. Theodore A. Atlas, seen here with his wife, practiced on Staten Island for 55 years, caring for those who could not afford. (NY Daily News)

Teddy Atlas described his father as being a very sacrificial and giving man from a young age. While interning at Bellevue Hospital, Atlas’ father developed a hernia while trying to help someone having a heart attack. The elder Atlas never corrected the problem, and about 35 years later, he developed a double hernia.

On the same day he was forced to bury a young son, Dr. Atlas received a house call from a woman who needed emergency care for her baby. The woman couldn’t afford to go to the emergency room, nor had the means to do so. Without hesitation, Dr. Atlas got to the woman and performed his job.

One day, a young Atlas traveled with his father and recognized a similar path they had gone down in the same week, Atlas thought his father was taking care of a sick, elderly woman, when in reality it turned out the woman was quite healthy. When Atlas questioned his father, his father responded, “She’s lonely. And loneliness is a sickness, too. I sit, and I listen to her.”

Dr. Atlas died in 1993 at the age of 88. And on the day of the funeral, the influence from Atlas’ father played out when Atlas attended the funeral, and on the same day, he went to the gym to help train future heavyweight champion Michael Moorer. That day, Moorer got into an argument with Atlas over not wanting to spar.

When Atlas got a call from Moorer later, asking why he showed up, Atlas said Moorer shouldn’t be sorry for arguing because Atlas’ father died, but because he tried to get out of something he was supposed to do.

“It was a sorrowful thing that my father died, but it was still my job that day to take care of the responsibilities for my father, and it was my job later that day to train this guy for a fight he had coming up in two weeks,” Atlas said.

Foundation

After his father died, Atlas said he wanted a way for the man, who went through his profession for passion, care and teaching others how to live, to be remembered and celebrated. Thus, the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation was born.

The foundation is based off of the same principles Dr. Atlas showed during his work. It helps others in need in a variety of ways, from tasks such as setting up handicap ramps, to giving Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas toys to those who cannot afford them, and from paying for needed procedures for the sick to providing other resources for those in need.

Teddy Atlas
Legendary boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas says many of his principles were influenced on him by watching his father’s work. (SILive.com)

The foundation has an incentive program for poverty-stricken and troubled students. The program encourages students to grow, improve their behavior and become better people academically, socially and personally. Those who succeed are treated to great rewards, such as trips to MLB and NBA games and Broadway shows.

Atlas, who had a troubled childhood filled with getting in street fights and getting arrested, says the program is successful because it shows the kids there are people who care, and he wants them to be great individuals in life.

“Some of these kids…they don’t need someone to say ‘Stop doing that,’ they need someone to say, ‘I care that you stop doing it,’” Atlas said. “‘Don’t just stop doing it because I say, stop doing it because it matters. I care enough to tell you this.’”

The foundation also funds and supports a youth basketball league with cheerleading squads, all with academic and behavioral performance as qualification for participation. It also gives out four different collegiate scholarships.

Atlas additionally helps with privately funded boxing gyms originally set up by the Police Athletic League (PAL). Atlas trains and mentors young boxers in the hopes that they will be successful in and out of the ring.

Phil Simms Teddy Atlas Foundation Dinner
Legendary New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms is one of many celebrities who has attended the foundation’s annual November dinner. (Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation)

The annual Teddy Dinner, where most of the donations to the Dr. Atlas Foundation are received, is held the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Every year, over 1,000 come out for the event, including many celebrities who show support for the foundation. Some of this year’s guests included New York Yankees radio play-by-play man John Sterling; former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms; MLB Network’s Brian Kenny; and ESPN’s First Take hosts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman.

“After [the celebrities] come, to see what they see — the cases that they see, the testimonials — they believe in what they see and the importance of it,” Atlas said. “I’m very blessed the foundation has celebrities like that.”

In addition, The Dr. Atlas foundation holds an annual golf outing in the fall and a Golden Gloves boxing event in the spring.

Me with Teddy Atlas
From left, myself, Teddy Atlas, my brother, and my father at a Golden Gloves event in March 2017. The event, held at the Staten Island campus of St. John’s University in New York, was sponsored by the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, set up by Atlas in honor of his father.

Between his foundation and training and broadcasting responsibilities, it may seem like Atlas has a lot on his plate. But for Atlas, it’s all about the passion brought into him through his experiences, and especially his father.

“No matter how you feel, you do your job,” Atlas said.

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Canelo vs. GGG Preview

By Thomas Albano

We are mere hours away from one of the most anticipated boxing matches in recent history — a historic unified middleweight championship bout. Gennady Golovkin defends his WBA (Super), WBC, IBF, and IBO middleweight world titles against The Ring‘s middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez (with the vacant lineal title on the line as well).

This bout has been over a year in the making, as negotiations for this fight were first in early-mid 2016. However, Alvarez ended up surrendering the WBC Middleweight Championship, which would be awarded to Golovkin, and fought at light middleweight in a title bout with Liam Smith and a catchweight bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But following that win over Chavez back in May, Golovkin entered the ring where Alvarez was standing, and the match became official.

Fighter background: Gennady Golovkin (GGG)
GGG (37-0, 33 KOs) made his professional boxing debut back on May 6, 2006, winning his bout in 1:28. Golovkin’s journey of gold started when he defeated Milton Nunez in August 2010 to become the interim WBA Middleweight Champion. He was promoted to sole, full-time champion two months later, after then-WBA champion Daniel Geale signed on to fight Anthony Mundine, which forced the WBA to strip Geale of his title.

Gennady Golovkin

Golovkin followed this up by winning the then-vacant IBO Middleweight Championship in December 2011 with a first-round knockout of Lajuan Simon. After a streak of title defenses over those next two years, Golovkin added to his collection in October 2014, when he defeated Marco Antonio Rubio via second-round KO to win the interim WBC title. And in October 2015, GGG defeated David Lemieux to win the IBF championship. He was then promoted to full-time WBC champ following Alvarez vacating the organization’s world title.

Fallout from GGG vs. Jacobs
In his most recent bout, back in March, Golovkin retained his titles against Daniel Jacobs with a unanimous decision win. It was the fourth time in 37 fights that GGG couldn’t get a KO/TKO, and the first time this happened since 2008. Plenty of people criticized GGG for not finishing Jacobs, and some even speculated GGG may have been holding back. In fact, Jacobs’ may have been Golovkin’s toughest test to date, as the scorecards in the end did read 115-112, 115-112, 114-113.

But there are still some (including this journalist), who feels that people wrote off Jacobs too quickly and underrate his ability. In fact, Golovkin stated in an interview with Yahoo that Jacobs proved to be a great learning experience for him. In addition, GGG, along with his trainer, the legendary Abel Sanchez, admits he may have held back a little in the Jacobs bout, but claims had he finished Jacobs, Alvarez would have backed away from this showdown. Alvarez faced severe criticism last year after turning away from GGG and giving up the WBC title, choosing to drop down to light middleweight.

Fighter background: Saul (Canelo) Alvarez
Speaking of which, let’s look at Alvarez’s resume. Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) made his professional boxing debut on Oct. 29, 2005, at just 15 years old, winning his first bout via fourth-round TKO. He didn’t lose in 43 bouts (though fifth bout, in June 2006, ended in a split draw).

Canelo

After winning several regional and Latino championships, as well as the WBC Silver light middleweight title, Alvarez won the then-vacant WBC Light Middleweight Championship on March 5, 2011, defeating Matthew Hatton via unanimous decision. After five succesful title defenses, Alvarez defeated Austin Trout via unanimous decision to not only retain his title, but to also win the WBA (Unified) and The Ring‘s light middleweight titles.

In Alvarez’s next bout, in September 2013, he tasted defeat for the only time in his professional career thus far. Alvarez lost to the now-retired and undefeated Floyd Mayweather, losing his titles as well as the then-vacant lineal title.

Alvarez then fought two fights at a catchweight of 155 lbs., defeating Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy Lara. Alvarez then fully moved up to middleweight, and on November 21, 2015, he defeated Miguel Cotto to win the lineal, The Ring, and then-vacant WBC middleweight titles. He retained the titles in May 2016 against Amir Khan.

As mentioned earlier, Alvarez then vacated the WBC title and moved down to light middleweight once again, defeating Liam Walsh to win the WBO Light Middleweight Championship. After defeating Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on May 6 by decision, the fight with GGG was announced, and Alvarez moved back up to middleweight and vacated the WBO Light Middleweight Title days later.

Prediction
Both men have pure knockout power, and their punches can rock anybody. Both are capable of finishes and each provides a well-enough case that they can win. But only one can. Golovkin will be coming into this bout as the favorite, though there are plenty of people out there (including a couple I have talked to) who feel that Alvarez will be the one to finally end Golovkin’s undefeated run.

Canelo GGG Weigh In

There are some who feel Golovkin is slowly starting to crumble; some who are hesitant to believe in GGG after his performance against Jacobs. Again, I believe some people just underrate Jacobs. But even then, if what Golovkin is saying is true in that he held back against Jacobs, then will it come back to haunt him?

But on the other end, it will be Alvarez’s first fight at middleweight in a couple of fights. His last two fights have been against the likes of Liam Smith and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. That’s not to knock those two, but is that well-enough preparation for someone like GGG?

In the end, don’t be surprised if this one goes the distance — it’s a distinct possibility. And Alvarez winning is a distinct possibility. But unless there are freak circumstances, don’t knock GGG if one of those two things happen. GGG, regardless, is one of the best boxers (not just middleweights) in history, let alone the world today.

That being said, however, I still feel Alvarez needs to prove himself a little, and GGG still has something he wants to live up to. I can see a late finish from the G-Man, on his journey to unify the middleweight division in boxing.

My prediction: GGG by 10th-round KO/TKO

My Take: Why Sasha Banks’ Loss is Not Her Being Buried

By Thomas Albano

(Cheap plug before I begin: I’ll be starting up a new podcast for professional wrestling, MMA and boxing soon, called “Combat Mania.” Please check it out!)

Eight nights after losing her championship at SummerSlam, Alexa Bliss regained the WWE Raw Women’s Championship last Monday night on Raw by defeating the woman she lost to at the pay-per-view, Sasha Banks. And the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) exploded.

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 11.32.03 PMScreen Shot 2017-08-30 at 11.32.46 PM

While I can understand some fans’ frustrations, to say that WWE is intentionally burying Banks, in my opinion, is untrue.

Hot Potato Belts
Plenty of fans know that this isn’t Banks’ first short title reign, as all four of her title reigns now have been less than 30 days in length. And as pointed out in the storyline heading into Monday, Banks had not (and still has not) made a successful title defense — she has been a constant transitional champion.

And, of course, this isn’t the first feud where Banks has experienced short title reigns. Her feud with Charlotte from the start of the brand extension until the end of last year was filled with short title reigns among two — with Banks winning the title on three different episodes of Raw before Charlotte won the title back at whatever the next pay-per-view was.

While one may point out that was when Charlotte had her pay-per-view winning streak, it’s far from the first time WWE has had “hot potato syndrome” with one of its titles. In fact, until Jinder Mahal’s reign started at Backlash in May, the WWE Championship was sort of in a “hot potato” status this year. After AJ Styles’ title run was ended at the Royal Rumble, the title went from John Cena to Bray Wyatt to Randy Orton to Mahal within a span of about four months — and the only one to have one title defense was Wyatt, and it was just that one.

And the Intercontinental Championship? Oh boy, talk to anybody in the IWC and they can tell you about the WWE’s treatment of that title, especially prior to 2016. Between From 2008 through 2015, very few got past the 100-day mark in an Intercontinental Championship title reign. And even with those that did, it gets slimmer in terms of those who had a good, effective title reign.

Heck, even though we may praise the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era, the title bounced around there, too. After Ken Shamrock lost the title at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 1999 (his 125th day of his reign), no one held the title for 100+ days again until Randy Orton in 2003.

So, the history of WWE and playing “hot potato” with its titles is pretty clear. As to how we can chalk up Banks’ title reigns? Well…

Playing Up to Moments
If there’s one thing we should have taken away from these past few years watching WWE, it’s that WWE doesn’t care as much for story as they do for having big, trending, talked about moments.

Let’s analyze Banks’ title wins a little further. One came on the first episode of Raw in the new “Brand Split” era. Another came when she and Charlotte faced off in the first Raw to have a women’s match main event since 2005 (and only the third in history). One was another Raw main event, and the first women’s falls count anywhere match in WWE in many years, too. Finally, as for the win at SummerSlam, well, SummerSlam is one of the big four. And both brands’ women’s titles changing hands this year (as well as both tag titles and the cruiserweight title) was certainly a talking point.

Let’s even go back, again, to the WWE title earlier this year. Cena’s win at the Royal Rumble marked his 16th world championship in his career, tying Ric Flair for most career world title wins — quite the historical feat. Then, just two weeks later, he loses the title to Bray Wyatt inside the elimination chamber. Hell, Cena wasn’t even in the final two — he was eliminated before the final fall!

New Day’s record-setting title run? It ended not long after passing Demolition’s record. The Dean Ambrose U.S. title reign where he rarely defend the title? It ended after he passed MVP’s record run from 2007-2008.

WWE has even played the “lose in your hometown” card three times within the past year when it comes to the Raw Women’s Title! When Banks and Charlotte faced off at Hell in a Cell 2016, it was the first time a women’s title match (or a women’s match at all) main evented a pay-per-view, and it was the first time a women’s match took place inside Hell in a Cell.

Charlotte-Sasha-HIAC

That event took place in Banks’ hometown of Boston, and she lost. Just weeks later, when the Falls Count Anywhere Match happened, it was in Charlotte’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina…and she lost. Then, when Bliss had her first Raw Women’s Title run this year, what was the whole thing behind it? Oh, right, she beat Bayley in Bayley’s hometown.

Heck, even Bliss’ title win wasn’t the main talking point coming out of Monday (at least it shouldn’t have been). It was Nia Jax’s betrayal of Bliss, ending their alliance and setting up a feud between the two.

(And as a side note: WWE booking a lot of title matches on TV shows recently, in my opinion, is just their usual, yearly, last-ditch effort to keep fans from tuning out once Monday Night Football starts back up).

WWE lives for the moment. They just want the publicity and to be talked about, throwing away logic and history if it meant that as the end result.

Booking of Women
Now, WWE has, of course, come a long way in treating their female active roster members from how they have in years past, even as little as early 2015. They’re no longer called “Divas”. They get spotlight time (and as mentioned, some main event spots). Their matches are usually not less than five minutes anymore (minus the occasional squash match). The women are seen as competitors rather than just eye candy. Basically, the women have a much better rep.

But, not everything is perfect.

On this same most recent edition of Raw, the one that featured Bliss vs. Banks in the main event, as well as an outstanding promo with John Cena and Roman Reigns, we got…the hashtag match.

Seriously, why this absolutely ridiculous stipulation of a match? I know they’ve had the Emma/Women’s Revolution/hashtag storyline going for a couple of weeks now, but why this so suddenly? And, honestly, I’m not finding this storyline interesting. So why have it at all?

But, I mean, it’s one bad storyline. After all, we’ve got the first-ever Mae Young Classic women’s tournament ongoing. In recent times, The women have competed in matches like Ironwoman matches, Falls Count Anywhere, Hell in a Cell, etc. There’s some speculation we could eventually see a Women’s Royal Rumble or Women’s wrestleMania main event someday.

Hell, this year, the Smackdown women even participated in the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match.

Oh, right, you pissed people off then, too, WWE. (Though I think Carmella has become a great heel since, because of these events).

So, maybe there are things that still need to be done, and this rant has gone on for quite a bit. So, I’ll end it with one last thought.

To those of you who claim WWE is trying to purposely bury Banks, do you remember that she wasn’t originally scheduled to challenge Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title at SummerSlam? It was Bayley. And if Bayley wasn’t injured and competed at SummerSlam, don’t you think the same results would have happened to her?

UFC 214 Predictions

We’re less than a day away from the start of the biggest MMA event of the year thus far, let alone the summer — UFC 214. The card is stacked with notable names in the undercard, and two exciting main card bouts with three title fights. It will all culminate with the long-awaited re-match between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones.

With that in mind, let’s get into my predictions for the event.

Quick Predictions:
– UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: (c.) Daniel Cormier def. Jon Jones via fourth-round TKO to retian.
– UFC Welterweight Championship: Demian Maia def. (c.) Tyron Woodley via split decision to win the title.
– For the vacant UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship: Cris Cyborg def. Tonya Evinger via second-round TKO to win the title.
– Donald Cerrone def. Robbie Lawler via third-round KO
– Jimi Mauwa def. Volkan Oezdemir via second-round TKO
– Jason Knight def. Ricardo Lamas via split decision
– Renan Barao def. Aljamain Sterling via unanimous decision
– Brian Ortega def. Renato Moicano via split decision
– Andre Fili def. Calvin Kattar via second-round TKO
– Alexandra Albu def. Kailin Curran via first-round submission
– Jarred Brooks def. Eric Shelton via unanimous decision
– Drew Dober def. Josh Burkman via second-round submission

Thoughts:

cormier-vs-jones.jpg

Cormier vs. Jones: This is the re-match fight fans have been waiting about two-and-a-half years for. Ever since Jones’ troubles caused him much time away from the Octagon since early 2015, Cormier has made his way to the top of the UFC’s light heavyweight division and defended his crown twice (along with a third, non-title win over Anderson Silva). Now, some will say that Jones is a much better fighter than Cormier, and it’s reasonable considering he unanimously decisioned Cormier in their January 2015 encounter. But, keep in mind, Jones has fought just once since that first fight with Cormier — an interim light heavyweight title fight against Ovince Saint Preux in Spring 2016, and it was a unanimous decision win where many thought Jones was not the Jones we’re used to seeing in the cage.

I will call this one of my old classic cases of “prove me wrong.” Yes, Jones is a great fighter, but he’s had a lot of personal struggle over the past couple of years. At least Cormier has been the active fighter. Jones will have to prove me wrong and show me he has no true ring rust.

(Also, on a side note, even if Cormier wins, I think he’ll get his in the next title defense — maybe against Manuwa if he wins? As for Jones, well, if Brock Lesnar does somehow find a way back to the UFC, I can see Jones living up to his word and stepping up to face Lesnar, even if he surrenders the light heavyweight title to do so).

(I also just had a thought of a December or January card that looks like this, should I be wrong and Jones wins but steps up and faces Lesnar:
(c.) Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, or Nate Diaz
(c.) Michael Bisping vs. (ic) Robert Whittaker
For the vacant LHW Title: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa
Jon Jones vs. Brock Lesnar
Heavyweight Main Card Opener
Bantamweight Prelim Main Event

Woodley vs. Maia

Woodley vs. Maia: With Tyron Woodley, there’s one of two things that will happen — he can finish a guy off quickly or cause a massive brawl (i.e. his title win vs. Robbie Lawler), or the bout can drag (i.e. his last title defense vs. Stephen Thompson). Woodley’s looking for the big money fight with the likes of someone such as Georges St-Pierre, but he shouldn’t be overlooking Demian Maia. Maia has been one of the hottest welterweight contenders for a while now, and he’s on a seven-fight win streak. With UFC President Dana White recently proclaiming the winner of this bout gets GSP, I think Woodley’s head is getting a little too big. If Woodley can’t finish Maia off quickly and Maia can get Woodley to the ground, and I think he can, Maia may sneak away with this one.

Cyborg vs. Evinger

Cyborg vs. Evinger: It’s Tonya Evinger’s UFC debut, and what a debut it is — facing off with Cris Cyborg for the vacant women’s featherweight title. Evinger is great, but Yana Kunitskaya has shown she can be beat (despite the result being overturned to a No Contest). Evinger also has losses on her record to current UFC stars Alexis Davis and Sara McMann. Cyborg, on the other hand, has been unstoppable for a while now, and she finally has her division in the UFC and a chance at the title. I don’t think it’d be right to say it’s now or never for Cyborg, but she is certainly hungry, so now is the perfect time.

Lawler vs. Cerrone

Lawler vs. Cerrone: Other than the main event, this is the bout on the card I’m most looking forward to. Both men can start out slow, but both have tremendous power that can end a fight rather suddenly. It might just be my status as a Cerrone fan, but I can see this fight being like Cerrone’s UFC 206 bout with Matt Brown — Lawler wins the first two rounds, but one sudden shot in the third from Cerrone ends it.

Manuwa vs. Oezdemir

Manuwa vs. Oezdemir: Manuwa is currently ranked sixth on ESPN’s light heavyweight rankings, and he’s ranked third in the UFC’s rankings of the division; meanwhile, Oezdemir is fifth in the UFC rankings. Oezdemir has an impressive track record; I wouldn’t write off Oezdemir completely, he does own a win against Saint Preux. But I can see this being Manuwa’s fight to lose. And because of that, as well as what could be riding for him, I don’t see Manuwa losing. Don’t be surprised if he calls out the Jones-Cormier winner, too.

Lesnar Back to the UFC?

By Thomas Albano

A report came out today that current WWE Universal Champion and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar is reportedly back in the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) Testing Pool, and rumors have begun to circulate that Lesnar may attempt a full-on UFC comeback.

In addition, to fuel that rumor, there is heavy speculation that Lesnar may be dropping the Universal Championship at SummerSlam in August.

The speculation and reports first began when an MMA insider with the Twitter account @TalkMMA claimed that he had been told about Lesnar’s return to the USADA pool by two sources.

However,Jeff Novitzky, UFC vice president of athlete health and performance has refuted this report.

“If he ever re-entered the program, he’d have to serve [the duration of the suspension] before he’d be able to compete,” Novitzky told MMA Fighting.

Lesnar made a one-time return appearance at UFC 200 in July 2016, when he took on Mark Hunt. Originally winning via unanimous decision, Lesnar tested positive for a banned substance. His win would be overturned to a No Contest, and USADA would suspended Lesnar until July 15, 2017.

Brock Lesnar Universal Champion

Lesnar previously teased a return to the UFC in early 2015, when he was reportedly in negotiations with both the UFC and WWE (this was right before WrestleMania 31, which Lesnar headlined as the defending WWE World Heavyweight Champion). Despite the UFC offering him a contract worth “ten times more” than his previous deal, he took a three-year deal with the WWE, which supposedly extends to WrestleMania 34 on April 8, 2018.

Supposedly, Lesnar was allowed to perform the UFC 200 bout with WWE’s approval, or there may be a clause in his contract that allows him to do functions such as UFC bouts when he wants to.

Since his suspension from the MMA cage, Lesnar has been involved in several high-profile bouts within the past year in WWE. From SummerSlam 2016 to the most-recent event (Great Balls of Fire 2017), Lesnar has feuded with the likes of Randy Orton, Goldberg and Samoa Joe. At WrestleMania 33, Lesnar defeated Goldberg in the co-main event to win the WWE Universal Championship, the main championship of WWE’s Raw brand.

Brock Lesnar UFC champion

While the UFC executive’s quote deals a blow, many still hope with this new rumor of a return, Lesnar could be able to perform at the next UFC event in Madison Square Garden, which is currently scheduled to be UFC 217 on Nov. 4. However, as Novtizky noted, Lesnar officially retired from MMA back in February; when a retirement happens, the USADA suspension clock essentially freezes.

As reported by Fightful.com’s Sean Ross Sapp on Twitter, Lesnar would need to complete the suspension and re-enter the testing pool before being allowed to fight again.

Now, as this Forbes article states: “Lesnar has yet to undergo any USADA drug tests in 2017, but there is also speculation that he could receive yet another exemption in order to bypass the fourth-month notification requirement (for retired fighters to notify UFC of their intent to come out of retirment) and make his way onto the MSG card, much like he did for his UFC 200 fight against Hunt. While that would be unprecedented, the thought is that Lesnar is such a draw (he helped UFC 200 generate an estimated 1.2 million pay-per-view buys) that anything is possible because, well, money talks.”

So, let’s hypothetically say Lesnar does come back for a UFC bout. If he re-enters the testing pool ASAP, his suspension could be up right before Christmas. While that would be too late for the tentative UFC 217 at MSG in November, there would still be one more pay-per-view event to go for the UFC in the calendar year. Currently scheduled for Dec. 30, 2017, is UFC 219 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The UFC has been having a supercard event around New Year’s time every year since 2011 (with the exception of 2014). In fact, Lesnar headlined the 2011 card right before heading back to WWE. With that in mind, if Lesnar does come back for at least one more fight, maybe Lesnar is a headliner for the final UFC card of 2017.

Maybe what the UFC can do is something like they’re doing with UFC 213 and 214 this month. That would be UFC 217 in November (regardless of if it’s in NY or Vegas) and UFC 218 in early December can be treated like 213 this month — pretty good cards but not too stacked.

Then, UFC 219 — the final card of 2017 — they go all out with a massive card akin to UFC 200 or UFC 205. I’m talking Lesnar’s return, three title bouts, and a massive undercard. Now, what could main event this bout? Maybe not Lesnar considering he didn’t main event his first return bout at UFC 200.

BUT, Conor McGregor supposedly wants to return and have one UFC bout in 2017, defending his Lightweight Championship. And I could see it happening at this event — it could be against Khabib Nurmagomedov, against Tony Ferguson, or even a trilogy bout with Nick Diaz (yes, this time at lightweight and with the title on the line).

Either way, the sound of it looks sick. So, maybe patience needs to win out here. And maybe, if Lesnar comes back, it should be for the end of this year, not November.

Shane McMahon Involved in Helicopter Emergency

By Thomas Albano

WWE Smackdown Live Commissioner and son of Vince and Linda McMahon, Shane McMahon, is known for taking extreme risks and dives in the ring. But not even he could expect what happened to him earlier today.

“Shane O’Mac” was in a helicopter that needed to make an emergency landing off the coast of Gilgo Beach — in Long Island, New York. Neither McMahon nor the pilot of the aircraft were injured in the landing.

The Robinson R44 helicopter came down into the Atlantic Ocean at about 10:30 this morning, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“We heard some noise, and it became very clear to me that I could no longer continue flying the helicopter,” pilot Mario Regtien told ABC. “So I decided to do an auto-rotation landing in the water.”

Retigen sent out an emergency call before the plane came down, and it was picked up by a flight going towards John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. That plane then relayed the message to the FAA, while two lifeguards went out in kayaks to assist McMahon and Retigen.

According to the FAA, the plane took off from Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, and made a stop in Manhattan. McMahon had chartered the flight to go from Manhattan to Westhampton to visit family.

“It’s very unsettling when all the sudden you have something happen,” McMahon said. “You hear a bang, and then you start saying, ‘We’re going to do an emergency landing in the water.’ So yes, it was very unnerving. But again, Mario was super calm, which made me super calm. And we landed perfectly.

“First of all, I’d like to thank the pilot, Mario. He did an amazing job. He was cool under pressure. I couldn’t have been in better hands. He explained everything as it was happening. I’d also like to thank the Coast Guard, who was there instantaneously, Suffolk County Marine, a bureau that was there, the lifeguards that came to the beach. Just thankful that everything worked out well and that we’re here.”

McGregor vs. Mayweather costs HOW MUCH?

By Thomas Albano

So, if you want to watch that big Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor superfight on pay-per-view, you’re going to have to cough up quite a bit of dough. Lance Pugmire of the LA Times has revealed the price of the event will be $89.95 ($99.95 for HD broadcasts).

To compare, a normal UFC PPV is about $50 ($60 for HD broadcasts). A pay-per-view boxing card can vary in price depending upon things like star power, title bouts, etc. And so, with one of the best in boxing against arguably the face of the UFC today, there’s no surprise this pay-per-view is more expensive than normal.

But…THIS much of an increase? I get it’s two big names, but this one fighter being taken out of his discipline and put into the other’s.

And then, the Mayweather tax situation happened.

For those of you who want a simplified summary, a Law360 report recently revealed that Mayweather still owes the IRS taxes from 2015, not to mention he has had run ins with the government agency plenty of times over the decade. ESPN just recently reported (a little while ago as of this article’s posting) the IRS’ claim that Mayweather still owes them $22.2 million from 2015.

Mayweather has asked the IRS to hold off payments until after the fight with McGregor, when he’ll have enough cash on hand to pay everything off. The government, meanwhile, argues that Mayweather has the ability to pay via selling off or liquidating assets; Mayweather just doesn’t want to, they say (which is believable when you consider how much money Mayweather has earned over his career).

So, this guy wants to avoid his tax paying and then use fight fans’ and loyal taxpayers’ money to pay off his own debts? As a member of the MMA community and an MMA journalist, I’d like to take a stance in that I don’t want to purchase this bout to help someone pay off Uncle Sam when he has the means to do so already and just doesn’t want to.

Plus, the last time a boxing pay-per-view cost $100, it was Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, billed as the “Match of the Century” and then as one of the worst bouts of the century. So, that’s the same price as Mayweather vs. an MMA fighter who has never had a boxing bout before…brilliant.

So, to recap, here’s what this is like…

“Oh I wonder what the price of McGregor vs. Mayweather is going to be”
*Price revealed*
“What?!? For a boxer coming out of retirement vs. someone who has never had a pro boxing bout before. I mean, OK I gu-”
*Mayweather tax situation revealed*
“Oh no! He’s not getting away with this on my dollar! I’ll find a way to stream this PPV”
*That’s illegal*
“So…what Mayweather is doing isn’t right, but I can’t do that?”
*Yes*
“So, I’m supposed to not buy this pay-per-view?”
*But this is a Once in a Lifetime kind of fight*

So, there’s really no win here for fight fans, is there? It’s like when someone is trying to decide who to vote for and everyone in their life clutters together and rants no matter who they pick.

This situation just wants me to hope McGregor proves me and everyone else wrong and KO Mayweather.

Impact/GFW, WWA and Mae Young Classic

By Thomas Albano

You may not have noticed, but the second half of last week was somewhat newsworthy in pro wrestling.

For starters, the biggest news piece is that Impact Wrestling (previously known as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) is officially done after exactly 15 years and two weeks — at least as a brand. Last night’s Slammiversary XV was the final event in the history books of Impact/TNA as we know it.

Impact:GFW

The company has merged with and acquired Global Force Wrestling (GFW), founded in 2014 and headed by Jeff and Karen Jarrett, the former of whom, ironically, co-founded Impact. And while the original reports were that Impact would absorb GFW, it now is officially going to be the other way around. Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA Impact), which airs on Thursday nights on Pop, will now be rebranded as GFW Impact Wrestling.

As much of the internet wrestling fan base has stated, Jeff Jarrett must be the smartest wrestling promoter alive. As he has taken back the company he originally founded with a three-year plan. And the irony that it all started with Jeff Jarrett and everything ends and changes with Jeff Jarrett.

When asked about the merger last week, Jeff Jarrett told The Tennessean: “We’re a global brand. We have partnerships in Mexico, Japan, other places. Collectively coming together, we’ve combined forces and basically the rebrand final touches happen at Slammiversary.”

Slammiversary XV

Slammiversary saw positive to mixed ratings across the board, a good sign considering Impact’s troubling times in recent years. In the main event, GFW Global Champion Alberto El Patron defeated Impact World Champion Bobby Lashley to become unified champion. Sienna unified both companies’ women’s belts, the Latin American Xchange (LAX) — entering as the tag team champions of both promotions — retained their titles, and Sonjay Dutt retained the Impact X-Division title.

It is unknown what the fate is for the X-Division and Impact Grand Championship, the two titles to not be unified at Slammiversary.

In other news:

World Wrestling All-Stars reborn?

WWA

The World Wrestling All-Stars (WWA), a touring wrestling organization that has been inactive and defunct since May 2003, has new ownership. Andrew McManus, an Australian concert promoter who founded the company, has sold WWA to a man named Wade Brewer.

The WWA was founded in 2001, following the closure of WCW and ECW, bringing the biggest names from said companies, and other noted independent workers and future stars, together for several tours in different continents. For a more in-depth look at the organization, check out this video from Brian Zane (Wrestling with Wregret):

“At the moment, the focus needs to be placed on brand awareness,” Brewer told 411Mania.com. “We’ve re-released our first two pay-per-view events for online streaming on our pivotshare account, and formed a partnership that also makes them available on the Highspots Wrestling Network. As for future events and tours, get connected with our social networks and when the time is right, you’ll be the first to receive the big announcements.”

Title Awarded in the Mae Young Classic?

Mae Young Classic

A profile on Stephanie McMahon in a recent AdWeek may have spoiled that the winner of WWE’s upcoming Mae Young Classic women’s wrestling tournament may win a championship. This would be similar to last year’s Cruiserweight Classic tournament, where TJ Perkins ended up walking away the first-ever Cruiserweight Champion (not counting the cruiserweight title quietly retired in 2008).

There is also some speculation that with this leak, current NXT Women’s Champion Asuka may be called up to the main roster, with the winner of this tournament becoming new NXT Women’s Champion.

The finale of the Mae Young Classic airs live on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 10 p.m. — the current time slot of the cruiserweight-exclusive show, 205 Live. There’s no word on if this will result in 205 Live’s cancellation and replacing, or 205 Live being moved to before Smackdown Live — whether for the one night or on a permanent basis.

That Time the Ball Family Got ‘Raw’

By Thomas Albano

Well, this was quite the interesting week in WWE now wasn’t it? From multiple segments on Raw to help build up to WWE Great Balls of Fire, to a Smackdown Live that featured a second women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match (because the first was god damn awful and had an ending that produced more backlash than the pay-per-view named as such), WWE programming was filled with memorable moments this week.

But none may be more memorable, or infamous for that matter, than when the Ball family showed up for a MizTV segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

I didn’t know what to expect with this segment, and I did not expect for LaVar and his sons to side with Ambrose and for LaVar to take off his shirt and nearly clash with Miz.

And it was during Ambrose’s entrance, when LaMelo Ball was heard over the microphone, where the figurative s*** hit the fan.

“Beat that n***a a**!” LaMelo shouted twice, picked up over the microphone and going through to and heard by the live TV audience. The video above with the segment was edited, but you can hear the audio in the following clip towards the end:

This, of course, prompted WWE to issue an apology for the incident, stating “The inappropriate language used by a guest during the ‘Miz TV’ segment was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.” Of course then the next night, Big E of The New Day makes reference an old Booker-T promo from WCW in which he accidentally used the slur against Hulk Hogan (think about it and you’ll understand the irony there).

Now, there is a good thing and a bad thing here. The bad thing? WWE may have gotten a bit of heat with LaMelo’s uncensored comments. And, well, some WWE personnel (namely Corey Graves and Braun Strowman for this piece) shared some fans’ thoughts in that they wanted the Ball Brand trio nowhere near the ring.

Am I the only one who drew this comparison last night? #lavarball #mamajune #raw @wwe @espn @bigballerbrand

A post shared by Corey Graves (@wwegraves) on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:58pm PDT

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 11.28.03 PM

The good thing? Well, I guess you can say this is one of those times controversy creates cash and that any publicity is good publicity. People are talking about it. Hell, you’re reading this piece!

But, honestly, as I’ve mentioned on previous editions of The Unspoken Podcast, I just want to see Lonzo play an NBA game. His dad’s the hype man, I get it, but I’ve gotten sick of him.

Let’s see if Lonzo can actually walk the walk in the bigs.

Bellator NYC Predictions

Tomorrow night marks the date of Bellator NYC, Bellator MMA’s first pay-per-view attempt since the disastrous Bellator 120 event in 2014. It also marks the promotion’s debut event in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Will it be any good? Well, it’s Bellator, so who knows.

But let’s get into my predictions.

Quick Predictions:
– Chael Sonnen def. Wanderlei Silva via bored-crowd-displeasing split decision
– Matt Mitrione def. Fedor Emelianenko via second-round KO/TKO
– Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler def. Brent Primus via second-round KO/TKO to retain.
– Lorenz Larkin def. Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima via unanimous decision to win the title.
– Aaron Pico def. Zach Freeman via first-round KO/TKO
– Ryan Bader def. Light Heavyweight Champion Phil Davis via third-round KO to win the title.
– James Gallagher def. Chinzo Machida via unanimous decision
– Neiman Gracie def. Dave Marfone via second-round submission
– Heather Hardy def. Alice Yauger via first-round KO/TKO
– Ryan Couture def. Haim Gozali via first-round KO/TKO

Thoughts:
Silva vs. Sonnen: I’m going to echo the words of Bloody Elbow‘s Mookie Alexander here: “There is utterly no way to properly analyze this fight.” You have one guy who is famous for running his mouth and failing to get the job done, who has lost four of five and just had his first bout in about four years earlier this year. And then you have another guy who will be having his official MMA bout in four years, and even then has lost eight of his last 12 bouts. But, it’s a grudge bout.

I’m just going to say here that if Sonnen doesn’t get the win here, the bout he’s requested for a long time, maybe it’s time to hang ’em up for good. But, my OFFICIAL prediction is that either it will be a boring fight ending in decision or a quick KO/TKO, and the crowd will boo either way. This three-round bout is main eventing over title fights, because…Bellator.

Fedor vs. Mitrione: My mind wants to say Fedor, because Fedor is the legend of MMA. And it’d suck for me to place my vote against a former New York Giant and Minnesota Viking. But, quite a bit of the MMA community fears for Fedor in that Father Time is right on his heels. And while he and Mitrione haven’t fought in about the same amount of time, Mitrione still has the speed that Fedor doesn’t have. If Mitrione can keep it standing, he can certainly overwhelm the Russian phenom. But if gets to the ground, good night Irene (or, Matt, in this case).

Chandler vs. Primus: Primus is definitely on a roll, but I’m not sure if he’s ready for the title just yet. That said, however, Chandler has struggled against someone similar to Primus — Will Brooks. I’ll go with Chandler for now, but if these two meet for the strap again, don’t be surprised if Primus learns from mistakes and takes the title.

Lima vs. Larkin: This is expected to be the Fight of the Night. Two equally good combatants. Larkin coming over from the UFC, who did not re-sign Larkin despite winning ways, and Douglas Lima, a two-time Bellator welterweight tournament winner and champion. Now, I’m not a fan of guys getting title shots their first night in an MMA promotion. But at the same time, Larkin, even with just five welterweights bouts under his belt, has competed against some of the best. Meanwhile, Lima’s track record shows some struggle when the lights go up and the game is on with the title on the line. #AndNew

Pico vs. Freeman: This is like an exhibition of sorts. Pico is very talented. Prodigy? We’ll have to wait and see. But, he better impress. If he can’t in his first bout, or worse, he loses, then all that hype goes to nothing for Bellator.

Davis vs. Bader: Bader needs to keep the fight standing and go for the KO. Otherwise, it’ll end up being a boring fight that’s completely on the ground with Davis retaining. I’m praying it’s the former. Even then, Bader beat Davis the first time, back in the UFC. I’m feeling same old song and dance here. #AndNew