Background: I worked over ten years in the hospitality industry. From the information desk in a casino to bellman at tropical island resort to front desk at a manor house hotel in the English countryside are among my experiences. The Phone Charges – Story #2 So, pull up a chair my young Front Desk Agents, and let ol’ ATM regale you in a story from a long, long time ago, back in ’03. Back then, not everybody had cell phones and cell phone plans were more regional. I was working behind the front desk of a Good Prairie Inn in Duluth. A large hockey tournament was in town, bringing players and parents in from around northern Minnesota. One morning during these tournaments, a woman was going to be checking out later that morning, but had a question about her bill, more specifically, her phone charges. She was wondering why she was being charged for a phone call being made from her room. Now, as we all know, phone charges from hotels are higher than the home variable interest rates in 2009. I explained that the charge was due to a long distance phone call to a number in Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is 83 miles and an hour and a half from Duluth, definitely long distance. She then said that the person who made the phone call was a family member of hers who had checked into the room and then called her on her cell phone. Okay, not a problem, only she says that it shouldn’t be a long distance call. Why, you ask? Because her cell plan area includes Duluth. Meaning, she can call a Duluth number with her cell phone from Grand Rapids without being charged long distance. I try explaining to her that may be the case, but the call originated from her room phone, and that calling the Grand Rapids number was long distance. Needless to say, there was a lot of back and forth and her not understanding the difference between calling a long distance number from a land line and a cell phone calling a land line. Back and forth, back and forth, Karen only got more and more angry and cranked the volume on her shrill voice while riling up her family members that were standing in my lobby. I finally convinced her that I would not be reversing the phone charges and checked them out while she grumbled away about never staying at the Inn again. Good riddance. After she and her family walked out, another guest who was sitting in the lobby commented on what an unhappy woman that was and how he would hate to be her husband. He complimented me on how I kept my composure and asked how I was able to keep so cool. My reply to him was that something like that happens about once a month, but when I worked the resorts in Florida, three times a day.
Brock Lesnar wins the UFC heavyweight championship. WON. 24/11/2008
On November 12, 1993, UFC debuted in Denver as an unsanctioned PPV brawl trying to answer the question of, if you put fighters from all sorts of disciplines in a no rules fight, who would win. At the time, most Americans were conditioned to think a boxer would knock everyone out, or perhaps, some huge muscular guy would overpower everyone. They were shocked when a skinny, 6-1, 175-pounder named Royce Gracie, used ground technique to cut through the competition. They put their family name and business, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, on the map, propagating the myth that in a fight, size doesn’t matter if you have the right technique. 15 years later, UFC was a fully sanctioned sport with worldwide media attention for its 11/15 show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Brock Lesnar, going into the cage at 277 pounds, giving him a 57-pound weight advantage over Randy Couture, knocked the legendary champion down in the second round and nailed him with 40 rapid fire hammer fists to the head before ref Mario Yamasaki stopped the fight and awarded Lesnar the UFC heavyweight championship. It was an interesting dichotomy, as the general public, and gamblers, looked at the size difference and felt there was no way for Couture to win. Oddsmakers across the board started with Couture as the favorite, but consistently, until the last day, almost all the money came in on Lesnar. Those in the know, like the fighters, smiled knowing that there was no way for Lesnar to win, because a guy with three pro fights, even one as physically impressive as Lesnar, isn’t going to walk into a sport and beat a living legend, even if that legend was 45 years old. Of course, there was the argument that Couture’s main strength in fighting in his wrestling, and he was facing a younger, much larger and stronger man, who was also a very good wrestler. Even if Couture was technically a better wrestler, even those close to the situation gave, due to size, the wrestling edge to Lesnar. But Couture would find a way to win, because he’d defend, cause the big man to tire, and take advantage late. As usual, the truth was probably somewhere in the middle. There were many different things that could have happened. What did is, Couture moved his head out of the way of a Lesnar punch, but Lesnar’s ridiculous reach, with what Couture tabbed “Inspector Gadget arms,” still clocked him on the side of the ear with enough force to put the champion down. Lesnar didn’t hesitate for a split second in going all out for the finish. Ref Yamasaki tried to give Couture every opportunity to get up, clearly not wanting to give the champion every chance to escape. But after 40 blows, with Couture not moving, he had no choice. You can always say “What if?” It doesn’t matter and it doesn’t take away what Lesnar accomplished. If that punch missed, how would it have played out? Just as if Lesnar had stepped out of Frank Mir’s submission in February, how would that match have played out? It can be debated forever. Maybe Couture’s strategy would have paid dividends in the late round. Maybe it would have backfired, as Couture, in a battle of wrestling against a bigger man and boxing with a guy who hit much harder, still may have lost. The finish was a shock to the most vocal hardcore MMA fans, and while Lesnar’s win got a mix of cheers and outright shock, once people recovered and Lesnar did his interview, he was heavily booed by the crowd that during this fight, lived and died with every move Couture made. Every time he would simply thwart a Lesnar move or get up from the bottom, the place would explode. Even with a fight that could have been promoted better and had a strangely low-key and rushed feeling weigh-in, on the night of the show, the atmosphere was top-notch. Couture and Lesnar followed arguably the company’s best undercard of the year, with spectacular finishes and impressive performances. Lesnar was still the outsider in this morality play, the bully coming into the castle against the white night. They’ve seen it in movies, and seen it in pro wrestling. It was really a unique dynamic, because when they did the staredown, it was ridiculous. But they saw Couture staredown with Tim Sylvia and how did that end up? Lesnar was billed at 6-3 and Couture at 6-2, but next to each other, it was clear those numbers were ridiculous. Lesnar had no less than four inches on Couture. Couture got the first psychological edge because Lesnar at first couldn’t take him down. But finally, at the 2:10 mark, Couture fell victim to a double leg and was on his back. Couture quickly reversed and had Lesnar’s back, but Lesnar reversed back into the top position. Lesnar did some offense from the top, but nothing terribly significant, and Couture would always get up. Couture, from his specialty, the Greco-Roman clinch, was even able to turn Lesnar against the cage and came close to a takedown, as Lesnar, instinctively, grabbed the cage to avoid it, an illegal move that caused Yamasaki to warn him. Still, with the takedowns and some damage from the top, all three judges gave it to Lesnar, but it was close. Even though he was down on the cards, the fight was going more the way Couture would have wanted it. Joe Rogan noted between rounds that Lesnar was getting tired. Those at ringside noted to me after the fight that they couldn’t believe the amount Lesnar was sweating by the end of the first round, also indicating they believed he was gassing, but not realizing Lesnar naturally sweats a ton. That’s just his make-up, and actually, going forward in his career, it could be a problem for opponents because it’ll allow him to perhaps slip out of submissions late in fights if he does tire. Also noted (here comes the small calves story) by people after the fight was the nature of Lesnar’s takedowns, that he never went low or used his quickness to shoot, and instead tried to rely on upper body power alone. Perhaps this was in response to rumors that Couture had knocked a major name fighter out in training while practicing timing throwing knees on a low shot that he expected to come from Lesnar. Perhaps there was something to the rumored hamstring injury that his camp denied a couple of months back. Perhaps he just didn’t see the opening. The fight was over before late round conditioning came into play. Before the fight, Lesnar appeared confident the late rounds would favor him because of Couture having to push around a guy so much larger. Rogan didn’t note that it appeared Couture, having to wrestle such a huge man, was also getting tired and breathing heavy between rounds (partially because his corner told him to do so to get as much oxygen in for the next round). It was noted after, that people who go in “knowing” that Couture is going to gas Lesnar and finish him in the championship rounds, are going to see what they know is going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I expected Couture to win because it’s his sport, but also knew that Couture winning depended upon Lesnar either tiring, which I didn’t expect, or making a mental error, which I figured in 25 minutes, was likely to happen due to inexperience. During the second round, they started trading punches. Couture connected more, but Lesnar answered one of his biggest questions. Yes, he can take a punch. He felt it. He wasn’t significantly hurt by it. His punches were doing more damage on Couture. But Couture busted Lesnar’s right eye with a punch. “It made me a little nervous and it pissed me off,” said Lesnar. “I wanted to get first blood. Something in my head said, `We’ve got to pick this up.’” And he did, hitting a strong uppercut. But Lesnar was getting out boxed standing, and was looking worried, yet at that moment, connected with the blow that won him the championship. “I don’t remember the punch (that won the fight),” Lesnar said. “The only thing I remember is I hit him about 40 times (on the ground). I was wondering when the ref would stop it, and wondering if he’d do Superman and get up.” Couture was clearly frustrated. He, from all accounts, had an amazing camp and was looking better than ever. While facially, yes, he looked old, he did not have an old man’s reflexes and quite frankly, it was amazing the job he was doing in the wrestling exchanges. Although the age of 45 and 15 months away would lead people to believe Lesnar beat a rusty, washed up fighter, those who trained with Couture were adamant he was handling big wrestlers well and his striking had never been better. Despite the loss, Couture didn’t fight like a washed up guy and while I wouldn’t favor him in a rematch, I also wouldn’t say he had no chance, although with each month, whatever chance he has diminishes. He fought like a guy who simply got caught, which was his explanation after the fight. What he does next is up in the air. At 220 pounds, he was the real size of most light heavyweights today. But there are aspects of his style that are why he’s been successful as a heavyweight. His wrestling knowledge allowed him to neutralize the power guys, and he’s faster than most heavyweights. As a light heavyweight, he’s not as quick in comparison, nor as good a striker as most, although he probably could out wrestle most of them. For Lesnar, his next move is to face the winner of the Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira fight, which he hopes, for retribution, will be Mir. But most would favor Nogueira in that fight. The timetable, provided the winner of the fight doesn’t get injured, would be March or April. In many ways, Nogueira would be Lesnar’s current ultimate challenge unless somehow a match with Fedor Emelianenko transpires. Nogueira has quicker hands than Couture, although doesn’t have a lot of knockouts to his credit. He can be knocked down, but unlike Couture, who when he’s been hit hard, that usually ends the fight, Nogueira has never been finished in a fight. But Nogueira has taken so many beatings, that his once incredible reflexes did seem slower in his last fight with Tim Sylvia. But the key is, he’s far more dangerous than Couture on the ground. Lesnar is a powerful guy who drills like crazy and has a big camp with submission aware people like BJJ champ Comprido and first generation submission fighter Erik Paulsen all geared at making him the best he can be. Whether that’s enough to avoid Nogueira’s submissions on the ground for 25 minutes by next spring is a question. The advantage Lesnar has is that there is no way Nogueira will get him to the ground if he doesn’t want to be there. Nogueira best strategic move may even be the old-time possum playing, of taking a punch and going down, figuring Lesnar will follow him down and then be waiting when he gets there. Lesnar’s win gives the company something it has never had in the past, a champion who is truly hated. He’s been the company’s top draw of 2008 while climbing the ladder, and now, the idea of the great BJJ hope chasing him and taking the title back from him should make him as big a draw as UFC can have given the times we live in. Plus, the best part of this is everyone has “the hope” because they’ve seen that Lesnar is vulnerable. They saw what Mir did, so they know it’s possible. There is a natural inclination to hate Lesnar because, if Couture and Lesnar are the same size, even with the age difference, Couture wins. Despite being heavyweight champion, I don’t expect Lesnar to show up in the top ten in the mythical pound-for-pound rankings. But whatever you think of him, he trained his ass off, and the reason he has gotten so far so fast is that is fame open the doors for him, but if he couldn’t fight, those doors would have been closed. And while he did lose to Mir and only had a 1-1 record before getting a title shot, his marketability opened that door, but going in, the people who made this match, while nobody bets against Couture because of history, knew full well as a style match-up, this was going to be tough on him. He was bigger and stronger, making him better in this match, at what Couture’s major strength is. But there are plenty of 280- pound guys in the sport who haven’t gotten as far because they weren’t the athlete he is, but also, because they didn’t train as hard as he did. That training discipline, a throwback to his college wrestling days, was a huge part of his success. Lesnar passed a few tests. He can take a punch. He doesn’t fold under adversity and when he’s not successful at “bullying” smaller guys around, because Couture did some things to him and he calmly regained control. He was worried, but it worked out in his favor. We don’t know if he can go the distance, but he probably can, and with Nogueira, there is a good chance we’ll find out for sure. Nogueira will also test any weaknesses he may have as a stand-up fighter, and if he does, will test his submission defense like nobody else if he goes to the ground. And Nogueira is hardly the only test. Waiting in the wings is Shane Carwin, who is just as big, almost as strong (Carwin is stronger lifting wise but that’s because he has shorter arms, I’d guess Lesnar is physically stronger but even that’s not a lock), almost as quick and more experienced with every bit of the same mean strike, and Carwin is at this point a better striker with just as hard a punch. Also in the wings is the guy most inside the business feel is the future of the heavyweight division in Cain Velasquez, who just underwent knee surgery and isn’t expected back until around April. Velasquez is only slightly behind Lesnar as a credentialed wrestler, but being 25, may be just as good at this point. Velasquez is far better at strikes and submissions, and no matter how good Lesnar’s conditioning is, Velasquez’s is better. Bobby Lashley, who trained with Velasquez recently, just shook his head when asked noting that the guy never gets tired. Velasquez, locally, is a myth all onto himself, as Javier Mendez, who has trained B.J. Penn, Frank Shamrock, Cung Le, Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Koscheck at various times, said Velasquez is the single greatest athlete who ever walked through his doors. Lesnar’s one edge is that he’d go into a fight with a 35- 40 pound weight edge, as Velasquez has to pig out to keep his weight at 240, because he trains so much the weight naturally comes off. The odds are greatly against him beating all three because all pose different types of threats. For UFC, the key now is to get Carwin and Velasquez in prominent positions on upcoming shows, because nobody outside the hardcores has a clue who they are, and whether they can beat Lesnar or not, if nobody cares about them, there won’t be as much interest in the fights. As far as this show went, it drew 14,272 fans, which was a few hundred shy of capacity, and a $4.8 million gate. It was the fourth biggest MMA gate in North American history, trailing Liddell vs. Ortiz, Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra and Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva. We don’t have a paid number, but it was probably around 11,000 to 11,500, and a lot of the paid were late casino package buys. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to see it, as there were more people logged in when tickets went on sale than for any show in history, but the prices and the economy scared people off. If it was scaled lower, it would have sold out immediately. We don’t even have a preliminary indication of the PPV numbers, although are likely to have something by the end of the week. Our response level was lower than I’d have expected for this show. While Dana White was throwing out a 1.2 million number as his prediction to the media all week, my thought was 750,000 to 800,000 buys based on hype level, and with the economy in the shape it is, people may double up, as in more people going to sports bars or more people per household watching, lowering the total number of buys. White even recognized that and on ESPN, pushed the idea of getting nine or ten of your friends together, split up the cost, buy some pizza and beer and have a great night. We got a lot of reports from sports bars saying it was more packed for this fight than any UFC in history, and normally that would correlate to a record PPV. Both men’s payday depend on the numbers. Couture’s contract was $250,000 guarantee plus a $250,000 winning bonus that he didn’t collect. He also has a sliding scale PPV cut, which at 750,000 buys would be an additional $1,582,500, or $1.83 million total. At 1 million buys, he’d get$2.58 million total and at 1.2 million buys, would be $3.18 million. Lesnar got a $250,000 guarantee, and $200,000 bonus, and a PPV cut. His cut is undisclosed other than those close to the situation saying it’s “close to” but lower than what Couture got. Considering he got $200,000 more than Couture for winning, his numbers won’t be that far off from Couture’s numbers. With the exception of John Cena because of his merchandise, Lesnar would have had a bigger year than any of the pro wrestlers. If you saw the ESPN piece, you can see he’s got a small inexpensive car, no Internet, a TV only to watch hunting, fishing and sports and doesn’t live anything like he did as a free spender in his WWE days, living in the woods in Alexandria, a city of 11,000 people in Northern Minnesota. As for the rest of the show, it had everything you’d want from a show, with great finishes, only one match going to a decision, and it was the best match on the show, and history was made in the main event. Many considered it Zuffa’s show of the year, and from top-to-bottom, it would be hard to argue. The main events wouldn’t match up to the 6/1 show in Sacramento (Miguel Torres vs. Yoshiro Maeda and Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver were both match of the year candidates, and nothing on this show was in that category), but the prelims here blew that show away. Both TNA and WWE acknowledged Lesnar’s win on their web sites, but neither did on their television shows. He’s no longer under contract to WWE, and that’s how they are. They acknowledged Dwayne Johnson’s movie openings when he was under contract, but not after, although the studios always heavily advertise his movies on WWE programming. WWE dropped plugging Stacey Keibler midway through “Dancing with the Stars” (after being criticized for it, they did briefly make later mentions) and she was still under contract, just because they realized she wouldn’t be renewing. Certainly, in the old days, every wrestling company would have pointed to it, as an affirmation if not of the legitimacy of pro wrestling itself, but of the legitimacy of wrestlers as tough guys. You could make the argument either way, but I wouldn’t expect they would. Still, I was surprised WWE ripped the show itself. On their web site in an article noting Lesnar was the first man to capture both the WWE and UFC heavyweight championship (Ken Shamrock stopped at the IC title level; Dan Severn was recognized as NWA champion within WWE), they wrote: “Critics have noted that many of the fights on the UFC PPV ended in the first round, leaving UFC producers scrambling to fill the three-hour window with content. The dearth of hearty competition left many viewers to watch less prestigious undercard fights and only served to bolster claims that UFC PPV events can often be a `crap shoot’ in regards to filling the full three hours. For his part, Lesnar took the encouragement o the WWE Universe and the hard lessons forged during his fiery time at WWE and showed UFC and the world why he is not only a man of mettle, but also a former three-time WWE champion.” Clearly, someone recognized by the next day that the company came off poorly with that review. It probably would never come off well, but doing so after what many considered the best show of the year made the timing even worse. The entire article was not only taken off the main page the next day, but completely erased from the site. Interestingly, Shane McMahon was at the show live, but kept a low-key presence as I never saw him, nor was he shown either on television or to the live crowd. No other pro wrestling people were there, unlike Lesnar’s first fight in Las Vegas. Most of the WWE crew was in Europe, although Undertaker was home by the time of the fight. Steve Austin, who was at his first match, was in Vancouver shooting a movie. Dwayne Johnson, who had planned to attend, was also unable to attend as he was needed to shoot scenes that day. In the heyday of Mike Tyson, when his PPV numbers were killing WWF’s, they did at times rip Tyson PPVs, after a string of early knockouts, with the line that WWF guarantees you three hours of entertainment instead of spending so much money for something that could be over in one round.
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