It turns out that basketball isn't the only sport that gets Stacey King riled up. The Bulls TV broadcaster is a huge mixed martial arts fan, and he traded a few punches—figuratively, that is—with RedEye ahead of UFC 148 (9 p.m. Saturday, pay-per-view). Oh, and he still can't stand those Bad Boy Detroit Pistons.
What first interested you about MMA?
I have been a big fan since going back to UFC 1. The format that was you had to fight four people in a night with no weight classes is what drew me to the sport. It was like a tough man contest compared to what the UFC is now. [Royce] Graciewas one of those guys that weren't the tallest or strongest, but he knew what he had to do to beat his opponents.
With Dana White, he has turned this sport into the fastest growing one in the world. He has pushed the right buttons and gives the fans what they want to see. I have no problem buying a pay-per-view every month for the UFC and watching the fights that I want to watch. Boxing has fallen to that, because they are in it for just the money.
With the UFC growing so fast, do you think the company is oversaturating the market?
I can't speak for Dana White, but I think he's trying to sell his product to the mainstream to people that think the UFC is a "bloody sport." What he's doing is that it is a technical sport and it's just not a toe-to-toe bloody fight. These UFC fighters are great athletes and I have so much respect for them. You have to be well-rounded to be in this sport to succeed and there is no shortage of upcoming stars.
Shaq is one of the notable NBA players who have trained in MMA. Do any of the Bulls players try their hand at the sport?
I know a lot of NBA players do it, from what I hear. It's a great workout and it gets you in shape quick. I haven't seen anybody better than these athletes, because it's a true sport. Take Rich Franklin, for example. He was called from the "bullpen" a few weeks ago to face Wanderlei Silva. When I met Forrest Griffin, I was in awe but at the same time these guys are the same way. It's mutual respect from both sides, but these fighters put a lot of time into their workouts to achieve their goals.
If you have to choose one Bulls player for an MMA fight, whom would it be?
That's a tough one. I would probably say John Lucas III. He's like one of the Yorkshire terrier dogs. I don't think he realizes how small he is, but he has the mindset of a Rottweiler. He's fearless and to get into that cage, you have to be fearless. He'd probably get tapped out, but he sure would come to fight. You get your money's worth because he would battle, but he probably wouldn't last long.
Do you ever find yourself throwing out catchphrases while watching a UFC event?
No way, I'd be going crazy over there. I'd probably be banned from TV for cursing. When Jon Jones threw those elbows at Rashad Evans, it was like a "hot sauce" elbow jab. Then when he won the fight I would be screaming out "too big, too strong, too fast, too good!"
If you had to step into the cage, whom would you fight?
Man, if I had to my chances, I would take on one of the Detroit Pistons. Probably Bill Laimbeer or somebody from that team; we never liked them anyway. Those rivalries were probably one of the best in NBA history. If I knew MMA then, I would be tapping somebody out with a rear-naked choke. Back in the day when fights broke out, there was a whole lot of slapping going on. If I knew even a little bit about the training back then, if a guy came after me it would be over like that.
Chael Sonnen takes on Anderson Silva for the championship Saturday. Who is taking home the belt?
Silva is going to destroy him. I think he has been sitting back and it's going to be like a volcano. Sonnen has promoted the fight, don't get me wrong, but he has talked so much trash. I think Silva is fighting more than just for himself but for the country of Brazil. Silva has had his time off, but I really think he will take out his frustrations out on Chael. I don't see it going the distance because he will be focused this weekend and show the world why he is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.
Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor.