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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Women's MMA readies for reality TV with "Ultimate Women Challenge" Fight Biz: Women's MMA readies for reality TV with "Ultimate Women Challenge"

by Steve Sievert on Aug 03, 2009 at 8:01 am ET
Television producer Lyle Howry is quick to dismiss attempts to compare his new women's MMA reality show to "The Ultimate Fighter," but "TUF"-like success is very much his goal.

"Ultimate Women Challenge" recently began production and will bring together 16 MMA fighters in September to compete for contracts with a yet-to-determined promotion. The show will put the women through three weeks of intense training and, Howry hopes, deliver the same jolt for women's MMA that "TUF" produced for the sport as a whole.

"That's the only reason I'm doing it," Howry, who's been producing traditional martial-arts programming for a decade, told ( "This has been a passion of mine for numerous years. I just love watching women fight. They seem to just give a great fight. It's a great live fight to watch. I would love to have these girls have the recognition that the UFC has, and I think the way that I've got it structured, they will."

In spite of the success of "TUF," Howry believes it would be a mistake to produce a women's knockoff of the show's format. To be sure, there will be similarities. The women will share a house during taping, and each episode will end with an elimination bout. However, in a departure from "TUF," Howry intends to take viewers into the lives of the competitors beyond the ring and weight room.

"The show is different than 'The Ultimate Fighter.' If anything, it's more targeted toward 'The Contender'-type but even more developed, and (it's) deeper into the women's lives," Howry said. "They will be training daily, but they will be doing other things than just fighting in the show. They will be getting involved in community efforts and things of that nature. It makes the show more interesting. There's a whole storyline behind the show, which makes it unlike most of the shows that have been done."

The concept was originally hatched as "Ultimate Women's Combat," but that working title was dialed down to be more television-friendly. Howry has signed a distribution deal with the Momentum Entertainment and Sports Network that has the show airing for two 13-episode seasons in syndication on NBC affiliates, reaching more than 60 million households in the U.S.

"We'll show more than women who are going to go out there and try to beat each other up," said Howry. "People will see that there's depth to these women. They're everyday women. They are very educated. They have kids. They are single moms. There's much more to these women than people realize."

"Challenge" is scheduled to begin airing in January 2010 with two half-hour shows each weekend during afternoon programming.

Assembling the fighter roster has proved to be Howry's biggest challenge thus far. Half of the initial group of 16 fighters has dropped out for various reasons, including pending nuptials and business obligations. The current line-up includes Lisa Higo, Alexis Davis, Patricia Hall, Angela Magana, Felice Herrig, Angela Hayes, Melissa Steele, Heather Clark, Christy Tada, Lacy Shuckman, Jessica Aguilar, Martha Benavides, Julie Kedzie, Casey Noland and Michelle Vera.

The most recognizable names on the list are Kedzie and Herrig. Kedzie (10-8) is already well-established in the sport. The 26-year-old is a five-year veteran of the sport and has fought the likes of Tara LaRosa, Shayna Baszler and Gina Carano. Herrig (0-2) was one of the cast members of "Fight Girls," a Muay Thai-themed reality show that aired on the Oxygen channel in 2007. Vera is the sister of UFC light heavyweight, Brandon Vera.

Those 15 fighters will compete in 125- and 135-pound weight classes and train under the tutelage of LaRosa, Cesar Gracie, Rosi Sexton and Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos at an undisclosed location in Florida.

Howry is holding the last roster spot in hopes of including a fighter from the organization he signs to promote the winners of the two tournaments. He is in negotiations with "a few promotions" regarding a partnership with the show. Strikeforce would seem to be the obvious choice. It's the highest-profile organization that's embraced women's MMA, but Howry indicates that he's had only cursory discussions with Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker and no deal is imminent.

The omnipresent Bas Rutten and supermodel Joanna Krupa will host the show, and other celebrity-types will serve as fight judges.

"Some are big-name fighters that you guys know from the UFC and some known actors," Howry said. "That's another great hook in the show. We'll also have a different celebrity coach coming in all the time to help out."

And while the look of a TV show is just as important as its substance, Howry wasn't looking to cast "The Bold and Beautiful" when assembling his fighter roster.

"I have pretty much every different look," he said. "But that has nothing to do with the way we cast it. I went on fighters. I went on personality, and I think that's all we need to do. I'm not looking for a beauty-queen show. I'm looking for a great sports show with talented athletes."

Five years ago, this show wouldn't have made cable, let alone syndicated broadcast TV. However, "TUF" and primetime MMA on CBS have paved the way for "Ultimate Women Challenge" to show audiences what it takes to, well, fight like a girl.

"It will be hugely successful, and I think people will totally relate because of the way we're going to do it," Howry said. "If we structure it right, and we make these girls look right and be true to who they are, and put it across to the everyday person, then we'll be successful."

In addition to his current syndication agreement, Howry is negotiating a second distribution deal that has the potential to land the program in primetime for a third airing each week.

Monson enters guilty plea – MMA veteran Jeff Monson could be out of action for a while after pleading guilty last week to malicious mischief stemming from a photo that showed him vandalizing the Washington state capitol building.

Monson, 38, was accused of spray-painting an anarchist symbol on the capitol. He entered an Alford plea in the case. Under an Alford plea, a defendant refrains from admitting guilt but acknowledges that sufficient evidence exists to convict if the case went before a jury.

"The Snowman's" sentencing is set for Oct. 1. He could receive up to 90 days in jail.

(Pictured: Julie Kedzie)

Steve Sievert is the lead staff writer and business columnist for He is also the former MMA beat writer and lead blogger for the Houston Chronicle.


New program presents an insider’s view on the world of MMA, Friday, August 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET

DALLAS (August 4, 2009) HDNet today announced the premiere of “MMA Worldwide,” a new program giving MMA fans unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to all the exciting action of the sport, including the best events, the top fighters’ homes and the business side of mixed martial arts.

“MMA Worldwide” is the brainchild of Executive Producers Robert Pittman, Sr. and Bobby Pittman, publishers of MMA Worldwide Magazine and TapouT Magazine. The cast includes host Bobby Pittman as well as the magazine’s editor-in-chief RJ Clifford, fitness editor Fred George, technique editor Mike “Joker” Guymon and President Robert Pittman, Sr.

"’MMA Worldwide’ is our latest programming addition, making good on HDNet's promise to be THE Home of MMA,” said Andrew Simon, CEO of HDNet Fights. “This program is very unique and provides inside access to some of the world's greatest fighters."

"We are extremely pleased to be working with HDNet, a leader in both high definition as well as MMA programming,” said Robert Pittman, Sr., Executive Producer of “MMA Worldwide.” “From the beginning it has been our goal to bring MMA to the consumer through various media platforms. This show is both entertaining and informative and a must-see for all MMA fans."

The first 10-week season of “MMA Worldwide” includes top MMA fighters and personalities such as Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Forrest Griffin, Big John McCarthy, Cung Le, Junie Browning, Frank Trigg, Tom Atencio and Bruce Buffer. Additionally, there are special episodes including tributes to Charles “Mask” Lewis and Helio Gracie as well as unprecedented access behind top events such as Strikeforce and Bellator.

The program is written and directed by James Hergott and produced by Chris Staab. Sponsors for the show include Silver Star Casting Co, Muscle Pharm and The Burn Machine.

“MMA Worldwide,” premieres on HDNet this Friday, August 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

About HDNet
HDNet (, is the independent network with unique and provocative content that appeals to men of all ages and is delivered in true high definition.

HDNet is the exclusive, high definition home for popular, original programming, including television's only HD news feature programs "HDNet World Report," and the Emmy Award winning "Dan Rather Reports," featuring legendary journalist Dan Rather. Only HDNet goes beyond the headlines to deliver real news that is redefining the way we look at our world. HDNet News is provocative, sometimes controversial and always relevant - telling the important stories of our time in-depth, with attitude and with independence.

HDNet presents championship sports coverage featuring the best of Mixed Martial Arts on its Friday night series, “HDNet Fights” (, “HDNet Fights” works with leading MMA promoters including Affliction, DREAM, Sengoku, XFC, M-1, K-1, K-1 Max, MFC, Adrenaline and more. HDNet produces more live Mixed Martial Arts events than any other network and HDNet’s “Inside MMA” is the hottest Mixed Martial Arts program on television, giving MMA fans their weekly fix for everything MMA.

HDNet also delivers the world’s largest and most diverse concert line-up through the HDNet Concert Series. The HDNet Concert Series features leading artists and bands including Coldplay, Gwen Stefani, John Mayer and more. HDNet also features revealing lifestyle programming featuring “Art Mann Presents,” “Vegas Confessions,” “Deadline” and “Get Out!” HDNet is also the exclusive high definition home to critically acclaimed and award winning documentaries as part of the InFocus series. “NASA on HDNet” presents all live shuttle launches through 2010.

Only HDNet Movies (, delivers exclusive Sneak Previews of new movies before they hit theaters. The HDNet Movies Sneak Preview series features top Hollywood stars in critically acclaimed performances including Gwyneth Paltrow, Joaquin Phoenix, Demi Moore, Michael Caine, Tom Hanks, Vera Farmiga, Parker Posey, Brian Cox, Matthew Broderick, Brittany Snow, Eric Bana, John Malkovich, and Emily Blunt.

Upcoming Sneak Previews include “World’s Greatest Dad ” written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite and starring Robin Williams.

In addition to being the exclusive home of Sneak Previews, HDNet Movies presents viewers with over one hundred films and an average of twenty-five “HD Premieres” each month. HDNet Movies viewers enjoy the best films from the classics of the 1950s-1970s, to favorite films from the 1980s and 1990s, to recently released theatrical films.

HDNet Movies offers subscribers a premium movie viewing experience in true HD, and more original movies shot entirely in HD than any other network.

Launched in 2001 by Mark Cuban and General Manager Philip Garvin, the HDNet networks are available on AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast, DIRECTV, DISH Network, Insight, Mediacom, Verizon and more than 40 NCTC cable affiliate companies. To receive HDNet information via email simply go to

About MMA Worldwide/TapouT Magazine/ SMP, Inc.
SMP (Sales and Marketing Professionals) is a sales and marketing group that specializes in multi-million dollar sales. SMP, Inc. owns the following brands and companies: SMP Printing, Tapout Magazine, MMA Worldwide Magazine and MMA Worldwide Industries.

New UFC Action Figure Lines

JAKKS Pacific and Round 5 Sign Licensing Agreement to Share MMA Talent for New UFC Action Figure Lines

Malibu, CA – August 6, 2009 – JAKKS Pacific, Inc. (Nasdaq: JAKK), leading U.S. toymaker and master toy licensee for Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®), announced today a sub-licensing agreement with Mixed Marital Arts (MMA) collectibles company, Round 5 Corp., to share UFC and MMA talent. The agreement will allow both companies access to the biggest MMA fighters in order to manufacture, market and distribute action figures and related products under the UFC umbrella.

As a result, both companies now have access to a significantly larger MMA talent pool, including Randy Couture, Andrei Arlovski, Matt Hughes, Jake Shields, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Brock Lesnar, BJ Penn and other top MMA fighters.

“This is truly a match made in heaven and we are excited to enter into this agreement with Round 5,” said Jeremy Padawer, SVP Boys Entertainment Marketing, JAKKS Pacific. “As the master toy licensee for the UFC, JAKKS can now offer MMA fans an entire world of action figures, accessories and other collectibles encompassing the most notable fighters in the fight world. The synergy between JAKKS® and Round 5® will ensure cohesive and comprehensive merchandise offering at retail that will benefit all parties involved, including JAKKS, Round 5 and the UFC, as well as the MMA fighters themselves, and most importantly, MMA fans.”

JAKKS’ new UFC line of toys and collectibles is expected to be available at retailers nationwide starting this Fall, with plans to roll out the newly acquired talent beginning as early as Spring 2010. Along with the full line of deluxe articulated action figures, JAKKS also expects to offer Octagon playsets, accessories and role play toys based on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), PRIDE® Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting® (WEC®).

“We want to provide fans with the most complete and authentic line of UFC products,” said UFC President Dana White. “This agreement with JAKKS Pacific and Round 5 brings the biggest players in the MMA action figure world together - now our fans will have access to the best and most diverse line of action figures.”

Damon Lau, President, Round 5, stated, “We are thrilled to partner with JAKKS and UFC, and we are confident that our teamwork will produce a more comprehensive product offering for MMA fans. In addition, JAKKS and R5 will facilitate marketing and distribution efficiencies at retail to increase exposure of our core product offerings. We are very excited to expand our line of 6” display collectible figurines and 10” display collectible statues with more of the biggest names in MMA.”

About The Ultimate Fighting Championship®
UFC is the largest live pay-per-view provider in the world and the fastest growing main stream sports organization in history. Owned and operated by Zuffa™, LLC, and headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev., UFC® produces over twelve live pay-per-view events annually that are distributed residentially through North American cable and satellite providers including iNDEMAND Networks, DIRECTV, DISH Network, TVN Entertainment, BellTV, SaskTel Max™, Shaw Pay-Per-View, Viewers Choice, and WOWOW in Japan, and Premiere Combate and SporTV in Brazil, and via the Internet worldwide on Yahoo! Sports, and commercially through Joe Hand Promotions in the U.S. and Canadastar in Canada. In addition to its North American distribution, UFC programming is distributed in over 100 countries and territories throughout the world.
Ultimate Fighting Championship®, Ultimate Fighting®, UFC®, The Ultimate Fighter®, Submission®, As Real As It Gets®, Zuffa® , The Octagon™ and the eight-sided competition mat and cage design are registered trademarks, registered service marks, trademarks, trade dress and/or service marks owned exclusively by Zuffa, LLC and licensed to its affiliated entities and other licensees in the United States and other jurisdictions. All other marks referenced herein may be the property of Zuffa, LLC, its affiliates or other respective owners.

About Round 5
Round 5 (, headquartered in Markham, Ontario, Canada, is the MMA industry’s fastest growing worldwide collectible figure company. Committed to developing intricately detailed figures, Round 5 strives to remain true to the sport of MMA and its personalities.

About JAKKS Pacific, Inc.
JAKKS Pacific, Inc. (NASDAQ: JAKK) is a leading designer and marketer of toys and consumer products, with a wide range of products that feature some of the most popular children's toy licenses in the world. JAKKS’ diverse portfolio includes Action Figures, Art Activity Kits, Stationery, Writing Instruments, Performance Kites, Water Toys, Sports Activity Toys, Vehicles, Infant/Pre-School, Plush, Construction Toys, Electronics, Dolls, Dress-Up, Role Play, and Pet Toys and Accessories, sold under various proprietary brands including JAKKS Pacific®, Child Guidance®, Color Workshop®, Creative Designs International™, Disguise™, EyeClops®, Flying Colors®, Funnoodle®, Girl Gourmet™, Go Fly a Kite®, JAKKS Pets™, Kids Only®, Pentech®, Play Along®, Plug It In & Play TV Games™, Road Champs® and Tollytots®. JAKKS is an award-winning licensee of several hundred nationally and internationally known trademarks including Cabbage Patch Kids, Disney, Graco®, Nickelodeon, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Warner Bros., World Wrestling Entertainment. JAKKS and THQ Inc. participate in a joint venture that has worldwide rights to publish and market World Wrestling Entertainment video games. For further information, visit