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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

No Holds Barred: Wallid Ismail on Rizin and Jungle Fight 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Wallid Ismail, who is the founder of the Brazilian MMA promotion Jungle Fight Championship.

Jungle Fight 82 takes place Saturday, October 24, 2015, in Clube Sírio in São Paulo, Brazil. The main event is Ciro "Bad Boy" Rodrigues vs. Eric "Parrudo" Barbosa. Jungle Fight shows are televised on the Band broadcast network in Brazil and ESPN Deportes in the U.S.

Beyond Brazil, Jungle Fight is gaining more international recognition. Wallid has just returned from Japan, where he was part of the inaugural press conference held October 8 introducing the newest Japanese MMA promotion, the Rizin Fighting Federation.

This new organization was founded by former executives of the Pride Fighting Championships, which from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s had been the largest and most important MMA promotion in the world. Unlike other organizations, Rizin will work with many other companies around the world, without requiring fighters to sign exclusive contracts with them and leave their promotions. Jungle Fight is one of those companies.

We spoke with Wallid Ismail by Skype this past Tuesday.

Speaking of Rizin and its head, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, he said, "I think it's going to be great for the sport. It's going to be great for Japan, because no matter what, to doing good in Japan needed to be a Japanese. Because he understands the market, he understands everything about the TV deals, the sponsorship deals in Japan, is very different [from] the United States."

Unlike many others, however, he does not see Rizin as competing with UFC.

"UFC do a great job all over the world. And I think Rizin's coming to help the sport," he said. Rizin is "going to be another organization can help the sport, especially in Asia and Japan." He thus described UFC as sort of a "World Cup" of MMA, while Rizin will be a "World Cup of Clubs." And he said he and Jungle Fight plan to continue working with UFC as well as now also working with Rizin.

Much of the fight card for Rizin's debut show, the Rizin Fighting World Grand-Prix 2015, a three-day extravaganza scheduled for the week of New Year's Eve from December 29 to December 31, remains to be finalized. But he plans to have fighting on that show the Jungle Fight bantamweight champion, Maike Linhares, as well as also possibly a heavyweight.

We also discussed how Jungle Fight's ratings dramatically increased when its shows moved to broadcast TV on the Band network in Brazil from cable, plans for an English-language telecast aimed at the U.S., how many fights on Jungle Fight's cards end in knockouts or submissions and have lots of action, and much, much more.

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