Paul “The Mauler” Lazenby is one of the most well-known and respected personalities in Canadian MMA. He recently has found himself in the thick of controversy in the MMA world after breaking a story on an illegal “charity” fight that recently took place in Surrey, BC. The week before, his interview with Bas Rutten where Rutten gave a then-unheard point of view on the Alistair Overeem/Golden Glory situation grabbed headlines on MMA websites throughout cyberspace. Never one to shy away from an opinion, Lazenby recently gave some of his time to MMASucka’s Carlin Bardsley for an in-depth interview to discuss these topics, his friend Chael Sonnen’s walkout on TSN’s Off the Record, UFC’s future in Vancouver and more.
MMASucka: The recent situation with the illegal “charity” fight in Surrey that you broke on your website is getting a lot of attention. What initially drew your attention to the situation there?
Lazenby: It was initially personal interest. Shortly after promoter Indy Bisla had promoted a kickboxing and MMA show in Surrey’s Bombay Banquet Hall, I decided to run my own show there. Wanting to do the right thing, I approached Surrey City Hall and spoke with representatives of their Special Events committee and the RCMP to let them know of my intentions to run a safe, MMABC-overseen event. I was denied permission to do so, and told that the building was not zoned for combat sports even though the Bisla event had already happened there. When I found out that Bisla Fight Night 2 was taking place in the same building, I contacted Surrey City Hall again, only to have them tell me that the zoning had not been changed so I still wasn’t allowed to run there, but that they would not do anything to stop the Bisla show from happening.
MMASucka: How much do you know about the promoter, Inderjit Bisla, and what is your opinion of him?
Lazenby: To be honest, I would barely recognize him if I passed him on the street, but with what I’ve learned about him over the past couple of days I’d be lying if I said that my impression of him was a positive one.
MMASucka: Why do you think the Surrey authorities refused to act when they knew in advance that something illegal would be taking place? Their official excuse of not wanting a fight to break out doesn’t seem to hold water.
Lazenby: It holds about as much water as a sieve with a hole kicked in it. I gave Surrey City Hall a week’s notice about the event, and I called the RCMP over 24 hours before showtime. All they needed to do was inform Indy and and the manager of the banquet hall that the event was prohibited. I don’t know what to think at this point. Does Indy have friends in City Hall who are looking the other way for him? I don’t have an answer to that, but I can’t discount the possibility. I recently received a message from the office of Surrey mayor Diane Watts saying that they are going to bring this matter to the attention of “appropriate city staff” for investigation. I hope that means more coming from the mayor’s office than similar comments did coming from the Parks and Special Events departments.
MMASucka: Would a proper sanctioning body have been able to stop an event like this from occurring?
Lazenby: A proper sanctioning body with the support of the municipal government would have done so, yes. Bisla has been saying that he was sanctioned by the WKL. Well, you can visit PaulLazenby.com to find out what I and the Vancouver Sun’s Chris Parry discovered about that “august” organization.
MMASucka: Has there been any evidence that the supposed “charity” Bisla was raising money for is more real than George Costanza’s “Human Fund” from Seinfeld?
Lazenby: I’ve asked Indy several times to reveal the name of the charity that he was supposedly raising funds for, as well as the amount that he raised and the name and contact info of the person he gave the money to. In response, I’ve been told “mind your business” and “information like that…does not concern you.” Maybe he really did raise money for a legitimate charity, but this would be the first time I ever saw a promoter do that and then conceal the details in a fashion that makes him look shady. Bisla needs to come clean and he needs to do it quick, because I’m not gonna stop bringing attention to the underhanded things that he appears to have been doing until this whole messed-up situation is properly resolved.
MMASucka: Your interview with Bas Rutten and his take on the Overeem situation has created quite a stir in the MMA world. Were you surprised that Bas decided to vent the way he did and what is your view on the Overeem/Golden Glory situation?
Lazenby: To use the British vernacular, I was gobsmacked! Beforehand I knew that Bas and Alistair knew each other well, which is why I asked Bas for the inside scoop on the whole Golden Glory vs. Alistair situation, but it caught me completely flat-footed when Bas opened up the way he did. I had no idea that he was so displeased with Alistair, or that he’d reveal so much of what was going on behind the scenes. Definitely the most shocking and eye-opening interview I’ve ever done. When it was over, I actually asked Bas if he was absolutely sure that he was okay with me putting it on my website! And then when Marloes Coenen started referring people to my site, it was the final confirmation that we’d really opened Pandora’s Box.
MMASucka: Another friend of yours, Chael Sonnen, caused some controversy when he walked out during his appearance on Off the Record. Do you feel he was justified in his actions or was it an overreaction by Sonnen?
Lazenby: I believe [he was]. Michael Landsberg has a long history of playing “tough guy” with combat athletes and pro wrestlers on his show. He likes to think he’s “working” the way a wrestler would, but he often takes inappropriate liberties and shows blatant disrespect. What Chael did on his show was a long time coming, and it was great to see Landsberg floundering on the air, making desperate attempts to regain control of the interview. For God’s sake, he even reduced himself to calling Chael fat! How desperate is that? He’s lucky that Chael didn’t decide to counter by commenting on Landsberg’s plastic face.
MMASucka: Sonnen is one of the sport’s more polarizing figures. Some find him entertaining and others feel his “pro wrestling” type of antics such as his comments about Brazilians will harm the sport in the long run. Do you feel he goes too far in his interviews?
Lazenby: Yes and no. He has made the odd comment that made even me go “What the hell?!”, but there’s a definite method to his madness. The more outrageous his rhetoric, the more people will talk about him, especially if they can never figure out how much of what he’s saying is stuff he really means (and even I can’t be sure about that sometimes!). It always makes me laugh when newbie fans look down their noses at any commonality between pro wrestling and MMA. If they knew their MMA history they’d realize that both MMA and wrestling come from a common origin, and that they’re both effectively promoted in identical ways. The same people who snort derisively at “pro wrestling bullshit” in MMA are the same ones who can’t wait to watch Brock Lesnar or Chael Sonnen fight in the hopes that they get their asses kicked (not realizing that they’re playing right into Sonnen and Lesnar’s hands).
MMASucka: Canada seems to be producing some of the top prospects in the sport lately, with Rory MacDonald and Jordan Mein among the fighters receiving a lot of hype. Who are some of “The Mauler’s” Canadian fighters to watch in 2012?
Lazenby: Keep an eye on Ragin’ Kajan Johnson, a lightweight who just left Vancouver to become a full-time member of Team Tristar in Montreal. Kajan’s really coming into his own. In his last fight he destroyed Richie “Hellboy” Whitson, who was 11-1 and dominating in MFC prior to being overwhelmed by Kajan. With the level of training that Kajan’s now getting and the quality of training partners he has (including Rory Macdonald and GSP), I expect that we’ll be seeing him in UFC before the end of 2012.
Another promising fighter is Eric “Odalay” Perez, a scary bantamweight out of Winnipeg who fights with a frightening aggression reminiscent of Wanderlei Silva or Cristiane Cyborg.
And at my home club of FKP MMA we’ve got Dan “The Samurai” Lin, another bantamweight who’s been looking better with every fight. His only loss out of 5 pro fights was from a stoppage that was so obviously early that even Bas Rutten was calling for an immediate rematch. Dan just signed an exclusive Western Canadian deal with Battlefield Fight League and he’s slated to fight Gary “St. Lion” Mangat in February, which we’re really excited about. Gary’s a fantastic fighter and the styles of both men are gonna make for one hell of a fight.
MMASucka: With UFC getting the Fox deal and the Velasquez-dos Santos fight doing great numbers, do you think this is the tipping point of MMA going mainstream?
Lazenby: I believe that it is. With the widespread exposure and credibility that UFC will get from being solidly affiliated with a major network, it’s only a matter of a short time before it’s firmly established as a major professional sport. It practically is already, as many of its big stars are already household names. Not to mention that a one-minute title fight drew over 8 million North American viewers! If it had gone five rounds, it probably would have topped 15 or even 20 million. The sport of MMA (and more specifically, the UFC) has finally arrived.
MMASucka: UFC Canada President Tom Wright has confirmed that Vancouver is not in the plans for UFC in 2012. Are you surprised by that development and what do you envision happening once Vancouver’s much-maligned “MMA trial period” comes to a close at the end of the year?
Lazenby: Not surprised at all. Certain individuals in City Hall have had it in for MMA since the early days. When city council repealed their MMA ban due to public pressure and brought in the 2-year “trial period”, they had no intention of actually approving any events. It was just a way of making the issue go away without actually giving a solid answer that might cost them votes. But when UFC caught them flat-footed by announcing plans to come here, councilors first tried to sabotage the event behind the scenes (I actually broke that story on PaulLazenby.com), and then when that didn’t work they imposed more fees, taxes and Draconian regulations than any city in UFC history. So now after two completely successful events, the UFC is tired of being treated like it’s unwanted. I’m sad to see them go but I don’t blame them, and with the re-election of mayor Gregor Robertson I’m not optimistic that we’ll see a return any time soon. I think that once the sham they call a trial period is over, we’ll be back to having only amateur MMA in Vancouver.
MMASucka: What, if anything, do you think Vancouver can do to regain the confidence of the UFC and will they take those steps?
Lazenby: We need to actually treat them like the massive financial boon that they are, as opposed to city councilors sulking like children because a wildly-popular sport that’s not to their personal taste is taking place in their city. One measure that I hope will bear eventual fruit is the work being done by the Mixed Martial Arts Association of British Columbia (MMABC), of which I am a founding director. One of the criticisms used against MMA in the past was that it did not have an established amateur structure so it couldn’t be recognized as an official sport. MMABC has established that structure and set of safety and promotional regulations for amateur MMA, and has developed a good relationship with the current incarnation of the Vancouver Athletic Commission that I hope will result in an arrangement by which all amateur MMA in the city must be MMABC-sanctioned. That would take a major weapon away from the people who want to keep the sport from being enjoyed in our city.
MMASucka: While Vancouver looks to be out in the cold, Toronto will be hosting its second UFC event this year when UFC 140 happens on December 10th. What fights are you most looking forward to and what are your predictions?
Lazenby: HA–seriously, I am the worst guy to ask for predictions! Lately I’ve been batting .500 at best! Mark Hominick vs. Chan Sung Jung promises to be entertaining, and I’ll be curious to see if Big Nog can vindicate himself against Frank Mir. Plus, the main event of Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida will be a very interesting clash of unique styles.
MMASucka: As many know, in addition to an MMA personality, you’re also an accomplished actor and stunt performer. We recently saw you chewing the scenery and stealing scenes from Rick Schroeder in the TV movie “To the Mat”. Did you make any “Silver Spoons” jokes to Schroeder and when can we see you on-screen again?
Lazenby: No, I didn’t hassle Rick about Silver Spoons–I figure that he’s gotten enough of that already! He’s a great guy, a lot of fun to work with, as was everybody else on that show. Laura Bell Bundy is freaking hilarious, and I had fun taking a few bumps with my good buddy Dan Cudmore, who played “Colossus” in the X-Men movies and “Felix” in Twilight. I recently played another pro-wrestler type called “Heckfire Tiger” on the kids’ show “Level Up”, and I’m currently doubling WWE legend Steve Austin for the fifth time on “Maximum Conviction”, which also stars Steven Seagal.
MMASucka: The new hotness in reality TV seems to be seeing bad guys get their comeuppance. Mayhem Miller has “Bully Beatdown”, Bas Rutten now has “Punk Payback”. Any chance we’ll see something set in Vancouver such as “Mauling Morons with Paul Lazenby”? If you had a show like that, who would you like to “straighten out” first?
Lazenby: Man, that sounds like fun. I’d love to do a show like that. First on the list would be any of the Stanley Cup rioters!
You can find more on the illegal Surrey fight situation and Paul’s interview with Bas Rutten as well as all other things Lazenby at www.paullazenby.com