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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No Holds Barred: Chris Thomas on the Bellator Boom, Renzo-Sakuraba, and Foxcatcher 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with our longtime colleague and correspondent, Chris Thomas.

Chris covered the historic Bellator 131 card on November 15 at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California. Besides taking place in a packed arena, the main event between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar drew 1.8 million viewers in the U.S., peaking at two million, on Spike TV, making it the most-watched and highest-rated MMA fight on cable in 2014, and the sixth-highest rated cable show of all types that night in ages 18-49 in the U.S.

In that fight, the ever-popular Tito Ortiz won by split decision over Stephan Bonnar. Will Brooks, coming in as the interim lightweight champion, scored a fourth-round TKO over a former champion, Michael Chandler, to capture the Bellator lightweight belt. "King" Mo Lawal dominated Joe Vedepo and won by third-round TKO. And in what was, as expected, a slugfest, Joe Schilling survived a first-round knockdown and onslaught from Melvin Manhoef to win by knockout in the second round.

We spoke with Chris Thomas by phone Tuesday.

"It was really interesting seeing this be the first real, in my opinion, Scott Coker show," he said, referring to new Bellator president and former Strikeforce head Scott Coker. "And he put his stamp on it like he is going to make a statement. And you could tell that he is ready to take the next step."

He continued, "Everything was on par. I mean everything. The production, the look, the feel, the fans were there, it was a sold-out show. It was pretty amazing. It was pretty exciting. I felt like MMA is about to take another step in the right direction."

We also discussed the fights themselves, the emergence of Will Brooks as a bona fide star and top-level MMA fighter, Bellator's plans for 2015, and more.

In addition, this coming Saturday, November 22, two legends hit the mat, as Renzo Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba have a grappling match at Metamoris 5 in Long Beach, California. We discussed how this match, unlike their Pride 10 MMA fight in 2000, is being positioned as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. catch wrestling, and what that says about the growth of the prestige of catch wrestling. We also discussed some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Metamoris organization.

This past week saw the release of the highly-acclaimed "Foxcatcher" movie as well as the book of the same name, which inspired the film, by Olympic, world, and national champion wrestler Mark Schultz. We discussed some of the lessons of this tragic tale of the 1996 murder of Mark's brother, fellow Olympic, world, and national champion wrestler Dave Schultz, by the crazed multi-millionaire John du Pont, for the sport of wrestling.

Plus, we discussed some of Chris's business ventures, and a lot more.

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