At one point not so long ago, the Blackzilians were a team in trouble. Guys were losing (from Alistair Overeem to Michael Johnson to Matt Mitrione). Guys were defecting (Melvin Guillard). People on the outside were gawking.
But since solidifying its coaching staff, things have turned around in Boca Raton, Florida. Suddenly Rashad Evans, who had lost a dispiriting decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in early 2013, is co-headlining UFC 170 against Daniel Cormier in a fight with title implications. Eddie Alvarez has avenged his loss to Michael Chandler in Bellator and is the champion again, and Michael Johnson -- an underdog in his last two fights -- is making Las Vegas oddsmakers pull their hair out.
And none of that even comes into Vitor Belfort's orbit. At 36 years old, Belfort is fighting for a title after starching Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson respectively. The old lion has a more lethal bite now than when he was a "Phenom."
The CEO of Authentic Sports Management, Glenn Robinson, appeared on Monday’s MMA Hour and talked about the rough patch the Blackzilians team went through to once again find success.
"You know, it’s kind of like a car accident," Robinson said. "I was driving back from Disney with my wife and kids a few months ago, and I spent an extra three hours on the road because there was like a fender bender, and everyone had to stop and take a look. People enjoy seeing other people’s demise in my opinion.
"They were taking it as our demise even though it was just a streak of bad luck. The team was getting settled in, we were getting the coaching staff right, and I wasn’t concerned in the slightest. I knew that we would get it right. I knew that Henri Hooft, the striking coach, is the best. I knew that the right people put in place, the fighters would get to where they needed to be, and they did."
Among those coaches are Jorge Santiago, who hung up the gloves to take on a leadership role at Blackzilians and coach full time, and Kenny Monday, who has taken over the wresting reins. Then there’s Hooft, who became one of 2013’s best-kept secrets. His work has been paying dividends from Tyrone Spong on down the line.
And Robinson told Ariel Helwani that the Blackzilians are adding to the stable with Tyrell Fortune, a 23-year old wrestler from Oregon.
"[Tyrell]’s the No. 2 ranked heavyweight wrestler," he said. "He’s on the U.S. National Team, he walks around at 275 pounds, and he looks like a bigger version of Rashad [Evans]. We’re looking to get him ready to go in MMA and get him ready for a big future. But Tyrell is just a beast. His legs are like tree trunks…give Tyrell two years and Tyrell’s going to be unstoppable."
While Fortune is the future, there are many moving pieces with the Blackzilians' present. One of which is what’s going on with free agent light heavyweight Anthony Johnson, who knocked out Mike Kyle on Saturday night in what could be a farewell fight in the WSOF.
"The World Series of Fighting has been good to [Anthony], and we’re going to sit down and talk to them first," Robinson said. "Ray [Sefo] and Ali [Abdel-Aziz] have been really nice to him, so we’re going to sit down and talk to them first and see what the offer is and go from there. What he wants to do right now is relax for a few weeks, and then we’ll meet with WSOF and see what they put on the table and see if we can work something out. Hopefully we can, and if we can’t, we’ll see what else is out there for him."
When asked if he’d been in contact with the UFC in regards to Johnson, Robinson said he didn’t find it "appropriate" to initiate conversations while Johnson was fighting in a promotion that treated him so well.
Meanwhile, on the topic of heavyweight Alistair Overeem -- who had been splitting time with the Blackzilians heading into his fight with Travis Browne last August -- Robinson said the UFC hasn’t informed him that his next fight would be do-or-die. Overeem, who has lost consecutive fights, will face Frank Mir UFC 169 on Feb. 1 in Newark. Should he lose a third fight in a row, UFC president Dana White has made it pretty clear that might be it for Overeem's tenure in the UFC.
Robinson still manages Overeem, though he said the Dutch fighter is no longer a part of the Blackzilians team.
"No, Alistair doesn’t train with us, he trains in Thailand," Robinson said. "He’s welcome back, but he’s decided to do his camp in Thailand. It was a great camp. I talked to him last night, and it was a great camp and he said he feels fantastic. He’s in really good spirits.
"He’s welcome -- he’s always welcome. It’s always his home if he wants it to be, but right now he’s not looking past the fight he has in a couple of weeks, that’s the most important thing. And we’ll see after that what he wants to do."
One fighter who has been around the gym on a regular basis is Vitor Belfort, who is slated to fight for the middleweight belt against Chris Weidman either in May or July. The hot topic when discussing Belfort, who has been on testosterone replacement therapy through his resurgence, is always whether or not his next fight will be in the United States. All three of Belfort’s 2013 fights occurred in Brazil.
Robinson said that Belfort will fight anywhere the UFC asks him to, and that people should temper their presumptions about him and his motives.
"Everyone has a lot of opinions, but Vitor Belfort is the way he is, not because…Vitor has been nominated, ESPN has him up for an award for his kick against Luke Rockhold," he said. "And they said it was the trajectory of the kick, and the angle and all that -- none of that was taught by TRT, so it’s all ridiculous. He trains two or three times a day. He gets up, he’s dedicated, even if he’s having a rough day or tired day, he pushes through it. And he doesn’t let anything change his focus -- he’s extremely focused. One of the most focused people I’ve ever met in my life. And that’s why he wins fights."
When asked if Belfort would apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) if the fight happens in Las Vegas (as the UFC has said it might), Robinson said his gut feeling was no.
"I don’t believe so. It’s something that him and I have not discussed," he said. "He trains with us, but most of his, because he’s been in the game for so long, everything for him is pretty well set. So [his wife] Joana [Prado Belfort] does most of his day-to-day stuff. And it’s nothing that they’ve talked to me about. I don’t think they will [file for a TUE] to be honest with you, but it’s nothing they’ve talked to me about so I really couldn’t answer you straight."