One of those "Thanks but no thanks" moments has arrived for MMA:http://www.usatoday.com/sports/boxing/2009-10-29-don-king_N.htm
"This is a new look for Don King.
While the 78-year-old still has the same electric hairstyle, he's making a return to Las Vegas after a four-year absence with bantamweights when Joseph Agbeko faces Yonnhy Perez on Saturday in an IBF title match (Showtime, 9 ET/PT).
The world's most recognized and bombastic boxing promoter — who made his name by controlling what used to be the sport's most recognizable division since the 1970s by promoting all-time great heavyweights Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and a litany of others in between — is focused on the lower weights.
"The public has the smarts to know that this isn't a Tyson or Holyfield, but it's electric here," says King of the atmosphere at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino. "That is what makes me so phenomenal. I have taken a 118-pound bantamweight fight and it's bigger than anything in this town. I aint got to pay them that $20 million or 30 million I would for a Tyson or Holyfield, but I'm using the same magic."
In between King's elaborate sales pitch, quoting the likes of British author Rudyard Kipling and French literary giant Victor Hugo and longing for the days of handshake deals and the wise guy charm of a Bugsy Siegel, he vows a different approach to testing the global market through Donkingtv.com, where non-televised undercard bouts such as DaVarryl Williamson vs. Ray Austin and Venezuelan Nelson Linares vs. Carlos Santana of Cuba can be seen for $5.99.
King contends his absence as a major player — working in the shadows while Top Rank and Golden Boy secure a bulk of the HBO dates and stage pay-per-view superfights such as Antonio-Margarito-Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather, De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao, Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao-Cotto on Nov. 14 — is self-imposed. He also professes admiration of mixed martial arts, including UFC president Dana White, and would like to explore that market.
"It's not because I'm tired or hiding out. We have no stars," King says. "We don't have ABC Wild World of Sports anymore, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, where you can be introduce to the fighter, his family, his community.
"UFC is a great contribution. It's a return to glory for people who like sophisticated barbarism. Dana White and (co-founder) Lorenzo Fertitta have done a phenomenal job."
The final press conference for Perez (19-0, 14 KOs) and Agbeko (27-1, 22 KOs) took place on a pirate ship at Treasure Island.
This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of the Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire. A native of Ghana based in New York, Agbeko is coming off an upset of Vic Darchinyan three months ago. Agbeko, nicknamed "King Kong," stands a shade under 5-6.
"Ain't nothing going to stop us. We're on the high seas. There's no moratorium on inclement weather," King says, his voice now booming. "No cage can hold him. The lights are up on the Vegas strip. King Kong is on his way."How serious is your desire to be involved with MMA?
I'm the people's promoter. Whatever the people want, I'm going to promote. Whatever the public wants, that's what I want to give them. I want to give it to them with candor so they can quantify, qualify and identify with whoever the athlete is.Why this fight for your return to Vegas, and why Treasure Island, which has never hosted a boxing match?
CEO of Treasure Island Phil Ruffin and I shook hands on the idea after discussing what it would take to make this happen. We work without a contract. This is a throwback. I started shaking hands with Muhammad Ali for the Rumble in the Jungle. George Foreman pre-signed on several blank sheets of player (for the contract).
This is the good old days when the boys were here, when the unions were here. That's the glory of Las Vegas. I'm thrilled beyond description. You put your honor at stake, your code. Or do you want an agreement where you can come back and sue?So you yearn for the old days in Las Vegas. What was so good about then vs. now?
Las Vegas of today is more corporate. You've lost the common touch. The Las Vegas of then was illustrated by Rudyard Kipling: "Or walk with kings nor lose the common touch." It's so cold and isolated. Yes, people come but you don't feel it. Everybody's aloof. You don't have the Bugsy Siegels. You don't have the colorful characters of the underworld where they could shine and be there without being intimidated or fearful of the law locking them up.
That touch of class that Rudyard Kipling talked about needs revitalization. People are not numbers. I understand numbers. I understand business. Those are not Las Vegas. Las Vegas is where you come to solve the problem. Las Vegas has lost the ability to become a catharsis. There's no love. Give me some love. Tender loving care. That's the spirit.You made your name with the heavyweights. That division is in steep decline. Did that have any impact on your lower profile? And since you've been on the outside looking in for a while, what do you see?
I just don't want to be a participant in the schemes. My enemies, even those who despise me and criticize me, they will say I put on the best shows — which I do. You give the people what they want. They (rival promoters) are putting out mismatches. They're using the name recognition. I've given the people a decent return for their money. Then they would only put on that one match (the main event), and the rest of the card would be utterly ridiculous. When you see a card like my card, you've got championship matches, undefeated fighters … any one of them could be a main event. Would-be-champion vs. former champion.
This is the difference. It's not about me returning. It's about me not participating in something that I feel (is wrong). I talk the talk. I walk the walk. My word is my bond.Your rival Bob Arum has made condescending remarks about MMA, referring to their fan base as too unrefined. Your thoughts?
They are Americans. They are people. Who am I to say that something is wrong with them when I'm always crying about, "Why you're treating me this way?" They bring competition. They bring people. Let's enrich it and monetize it. Let's bring the people something.
When you bring a new store to town, you can choose between the prices and the fabrics. When I bring my guys in we'll be getting prepared to take on Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta in their league vs. our league. The same thing I want to do with the sport of boxing I want to do with MMA. Make it competitive, man. Make it a comparison. Even though they've put on good fights, let's see what they do with someone totally independent.So does this mean you're adding an MMA arm to Don King Productions?
Well, I can't do this all by myself. I'm 78 but I'm not slowing down. I've got all the time in the world to rest when I get to heaven."