Dany Garcia Among the New Owners of the XFL

It’s game on for Dany Garcia

The 51-year-old Cuban American businesswoman and producer, her former husband Dwayne Johnson and RedBird Capital Partners have bought the XFL, a twice-unsuccessful professional football alternative to the NFL fronted by WWE chief Vince McMahon, for $15 million.

Dany Garcia

Garcia and her business partners were selected as the winning bidder for the assets controlled by Alpha Entertainment, the parent company of the XFL.

The transaction is subject to bankruptcy court approval at a hearing this Friday. Assuming that closing conditions are satisfied, the acquisition is expected to close on or shortly after August 21.

In announcing the deal, Garcia and her fellow projected new owners said they have secured “the ability to option live entertainment intellectual property for further expansion across sports, live events and original entertainment programming.”

The XFL, which had two single-season attempts to go up against the NFL, one in 2000 and the second this year, was fronted by McMahon and the WWE, which owned a 23.5% stake in the league. After starting its season in February, the XFL was forced to shut down due to COVID-19 in March. It filed for bankruptcy in April.

“For Dwayne, Gerry and myself, this property represents an incredible opportunity. It is the confluence of great passion, tradition and possibility” Garcia said. “Sports and entertainment are the foundations of the businesses I have built. Melding our expertise combined with our commitment to deliver exciting and inspiring unique content, has us all focused on developing the XFL brand into a multi-media experience that our athletes, partners and fans will proudly embrace and love.”

Johnson has a connection to the sport, having played college football at Miami.

“The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale, is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things – my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans,” Johnson said. “With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.”

Jeffrey Pollack, president and COO of the XFL, called it a “Hollywood ending” to the process of seeking a sale.

Garcia and Johnson are co-founders of Seven Bucks Companies, a multi-platform enterprise pioneering original content for television, film, emerging technologies and digital networks.

RedBird was founded by former Goldman Sachs partner Cardinale. He has orchestrated a range of major sports deals over the past 20 years involving his clients and teams like the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys as well as leagues like the NFL.

The XFL was the latest in a long line of failed attempts to dislodge the NFL from its perch as the No. 1 sports league in America. Football fans haven’t tuned in en masse for leagues like the Alliance of American Football, the United States Football League or the World Football League.

The first XFL season, in 2000, provided a brief summertime splash in the ratings for NBC, which was a part-owner of the league at the time, before quickly fading.

The latest iteration of the XFL differed from the first attempt in that it didn’t try to amp up the violence or present more scantily clad cheerleaders. Kickoffs, a routine feature of games that experts have linked to high rates of concussions, underwent a dramatic change in the XFL, with teams lining up close to each other so as to eliminate running-start collisions. Other innovations included microphones on the sidelines, enabling fans to follow the game in more detail.

Antonio Gallardo Rides Hopeful Growth to Big Win at the Monmouth Oaks

Antonio Gallardo is celebrating some professional Growth

The Latino jockey took the leade in the stretch and drew off his opponents to ride Hopeful Growth to a four-length victory in the $200,000 Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

Antonio Gallardo & Hopeful Growth

Trained by Anthony Margotta Jr., Hopeful Growth covered the mile and a sixteenth in 1:45.63 for her first stakes victory.

Owned by St. Elias Stable, Hopeful Growth paid $25.60, $12 and $7. The filly has won three times in five career starts.

Delaware Oaks winner Project Whiskey held for second, 2¼ lengths ahead of Eve of War.

Project Whiskey returned $7.60 and $4.20, while Eve of War was $7 to show.

“Her last race was the first time she ran around two turns,” Margotta said. “We were hoping to hit the board there, but typically a horse going two turns for the first time in our program may need a race around two turns the first time. This was our bull’s eye target.”

Gallardo kept Hopeful Growth along the rail as favored Lucrezia and Project Whiskey battled for the lead. She found clearance in mid-stretch and proved to be much the best in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies.

Abel Cedillo Rides Thousand Words to Upset Victory at the Shared Belief Stakes

Abel Cedillo has pulled off a major upset…

The Guatemalan horse rider, last year’s TVG Breakthrough Jockey of the Year, rode Thousand Words to an upset win over favorite Honor A. P. (1-5) by three-quarters of a length in the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar over the weekend, giving trainer Bob Baffert another candidate for next month’s Kentucky Derby.

Abel Cedillo

Thousand Words ran 1 1/16 miles in 1 minute, 43.85 seconds and paid $20.40 and $3.40 at 9-1 odds.

The colt earned 50 qualifying points for the Derby, which was postponed until Labor Day weekend because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Baffert said Thousand Words has perked up since coming from Los Angeles to the seaside track north of San Diego.

“The real Thousand Words showed up today,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “His whole mind changed. His color has changed. He had soured out on me, but we got him going the right way. He earned his way to the Derby.”

Thousand Words has four wins in seven career starts.

Cedillo has 1,284 career wins in 8,435 starts with earning of $27,898,415.

Diego Valeri Helps Lead the Portland Timbers Into the MLS is Back Tournament Semifinals

Diego Valeri is celebrating a major win…

The 34-year-old Argentine footballer and Andy Polo each scored after entering the match as substitutes, helping lead the Portland Timbers to a 3-1 win over New York City FC in the last MLS is Back tournament quarterfinal near Orlando on Saturday night.

Diego Valeri

Sebastian Blanco also scored and had an assist for the Timbers, who haven’t conceded a non-penalty-kick goal in either of their games in the knockout phase.

Portland will face the Philadelphia Union in a semifinal on Wednesday night, after Philadelphia defeated Sporting Kansas City 3-1 on Thursday. The winner will advance to the August 11 final against either Orlando or Minnesota.

Jesus Medina scored a first-half penalty kick to give NYCFC an early lead. New York exits the tournament having lost three of its five matches, after forcing Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark into just two saves.

Valeri entered at halftime and broke a 1-all tie 20 minutes later. He controlled a diagonal pass into the penalty area, played a quick square ball to Jaroslaw Niezgoda, ran onto Niezgoda’s return pass and struck a first-time shot past Sean Johnson.

Polo required only a minute after his 75th-minute entrance to put the game out of reach. With several options to play a pass during an attack, Polo instead opted for a ferocious 25-yard curling shot from the left side that skimmed off a diving Johnson’s fingertips on its way inside the far post.

Before halftime, New York led for 16 minutes until Blanco struck an opportunistic equalizer, when Maxime Chanot deflected Jose Villafana‘s low cross from the left. Blanco collected the half-clearance about 15 yards from goal, then curled a right-footed shot beyond Johnson’s dive and inside the right post.

Medina opened the scoring in the 27th minute after drawing the penalty kick himself, when he went to the ground after tangling with Portland defender Larrys Mabiala.

Robert Sibiga ruled a foul and awarded the kick, and Medina stepped up and drove a left-footed shot to the left of Clark, who had guessed to his right.

Angelo Leo Beats Tramaine Williams to Claim WBO Junior Featherweight World Title

Angelo Leo has a big title to celebrate…

The 26-year-old Mexican American is the new WBO junior featherweight world champion after a unanimous decision win over Tramaine Williams in the main event of Saturday’s Premier Boxing Champions card.

Angelo Leo

Williams, a slick southpaw, gave Leo problems to start the fight, but by the middle rounds it was Leo’s steady pressure and relentless attack to the body that slowly wore down his opponent.

The judges at Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, scored the fight 117-111, 118-110 and 118-110.

Leo (20-0, 9 KOs) is not a power puncher, but instead throws punches in bunches. He crowded and smothered Williams (19-1, 6 KOs) to a point where Williams was just staving off Leo, more than actually fighting him. While Williams was effective in the first few rounds, boxing from the southpaw stance and throwing quick straight left hands, he was soon overwhelmed by Leo, who never stopped coming.

“First few rounds, I was just feeling him out,” Leo said after the fight. “Getting his timing, getting the feel of him. I felt him loosening up, breaking down and that’s when I started putting the pressure on him a little bit more.

“That was the key factor in this fight, the body work and the pressure.”

Fight week was anything but typical for Leo as he also had to overcome a late change of opponent. He was originally slated to face Stephen Fulton, but Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 and was ruled ineligible to fight.

Williams, who was scheduled to fight in the co-main event against Ra’eese Aleem, stepped in for the title opportunity. So instead of facing a well-schooled right-hander, Leo was tasked with facing a slick southpaw on late notice.

Leo handled this adversity and just simply overwhelmed Williams with a committed effort to win his first world title.

“It feels good,” Leo said. “It still hasn’t sunken in, yet. It feels surreal.”

Eugenio Pizzuto Signs with Ligue 1’s Lille OSC

Eugenio Pizzuto is headed to France…

The 18-year-old Mexican professional footballer joined French Ligue 1 club Lille OSC, the team has confirmed.

Eugenio Pizzuto

Pizzuto captained Mexico at the under-17 World Cup in 2019 and was awarded the Bronze Ball for his performance as El Trireached the final.

“I feel confident in myself,” Pizzuto said at a news conference. “I think I’ll be able play this year without any problem.

“Like in any team, if you are the new guy you have to come in and work really hard so you can win a place in the starting 11 or on the bench, but I’m just going to work and do my best to be on the field.”

Pizzuto joined Lille on a free transfer after coming through thePachuca youth system.

Hector Herrera and Hirving Lozano also came through the youth system and were signed to European clubs.

Pizzuto only made one appearance in Liga MX, fracturing his fibula and dislocating his ankle in a horror injury just nine minutes after coming off the bench against Leon last January.

“About the injury, I’m much better, I’m just finishing the last things to be back on the field, but I’m 100% to play for Lille,” Pizzuto added.

The Ligue 1 season begins on Saturday, August 22 with Lille taking on Rennes at home.

The team was in fourth position when the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season was ended on April 28 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Erick Torres Signs with Atlanta United

Erick Cubo Torres is headed to The Big Peach

The 27-year-old Mexican professional footballer has signed with Atlanta United after placing Josef Martinez on the season-ending injury list.

Erick "Cubo" Torres

Martinez, the 2018 Major League Soccer MVP, tore the ACL in his right knee in Atlanta’s season-opening 2-1 win over Nashville SC on February 29. He underwent surgery on March 18.

By being placed on the season-ending injury list, Martinez won’t be able to play in any MLS competitions for the remainder of the 2020 season. Per MLS roster rules, the Martinez move allowed Atlanta to obtain roster relief in the form of an open roster spot, as well as salary budget relief up to $250,000 to sign a replacement.

Atlanta has struggled in Martinez’s absence, failing to score a single goal while losing all three games at the MLS is Back tournament. That run of results led to the team parting ways with manager Frank de Boer on July 24.

“Josef’s rehab is progressing well and is going to plan; however, it was important for us to make this move as it gives us roster relief and flexibility for the rest of the 2020 season,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “We will miss his ability and leadership on the field this season, but we look forward to having him back at the start of preseason next year.”

In Martinez’s place, the Five Stripes acquired Torres, who was out of contract after spending the last two years with Liga MX side CD Tijuana. Having played previously with two other MLS teams — the now-defunct Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo — Torres is familiar with the league, and has the added benefit of holding a green card, meaning he will count as a domestic player.

“‘Cubo’ is a natural goal-scoring forward who will bolster our frontline and we’re pleased to add a player of his quality to the team,” Bocanegra said. “He has consistently shown his finishing abilities in MLS, Liga MX and on the international stage, and we expect him to immediately contribute to the second half of our season.”

Torres was at one point considered an up-and-coming star in Mexico, breaking in with Guadalajara as a 17-year-old in 2010. He was loaned to Chivas USA in 2013, scoring 23 goals in 51 league and cup appearances over the next two seasons.

Following Chivas USA’s folding after the 2014 season, MLS purchased Torres’ contract, making him a Designated Player. He eventually landed in Houston, though his form was uneven during his tenure there. He went 23 league and cup appearances without scoring and was twice loaned to Guadalajara and Cruz Azul during that time.

Torres bounced back in 2017, scoring 14 goals in 31 league and playoff appearances, five of which came from the penalty spot. Torres returned to Mexico in 2018 with Pumas and later Tijuana, but has struggled to find success since. Over the last two years, he has scored nine goals in 45 league and cup appearances. At the international level, Torres scored one goal in seven appearances for Mexico.

Rafael Nadal Slated to Compete at the Western & Southern Open

It looks like Rafael Nadal is returning to the court…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star and defending US Open champion appears on the acceptance list for the Western & Southern Open, which was released Wednesday, alongside world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal

While Nadal and Djokovic’s appearance on the list doesn’t guarantee that they’ll end up competing in the top-tier Masters 1000 event starting August 20, the list does suggest that 16 of the ATP‘s top 20 players are prepared to participate in the reboot of the tour.

The Western & Southern, moved from its longtime home in Cincinnati, and the US Open comprise a two-tournament event that the USTA is planning to stage in a “safety bubble” being created around the National Tennis Center.

Players who choose not to play after they’ve appeared on the acceptance list are subject to the penalty of having a “zero-pointer” added to their rankings record, meaning that they are treated as if they had taken a first-round loss. The sting of that punitive measure has been greatly decreased by the ATP’s pandemic-driven move to a ranking based on a 22-month cycle rather than 12 months.

The rankings, frozen since the tour was suspended in mid-March, will resume with the Western & Southern. Since two editions of the event will be played during the new rankings cycle, only a player’s best result will count toward his ranking. A player who pulls out of Cincinnati can wipe out the zero-pointer at the 2021 tournament. The same goes for the US Open.

Djokovic, who tested positive for the coronavirus following the collapse of his own Adria Tour exhibition series in June, raised a number of objections when the USTA announced plans to forge ahead with a US Open played under the strict health protocols demanded by the COVID-19 outbreak. His stance has softened considerably since, and he has been observed practicing on hard courts for more than a week now.

“We are very glad that [the US Open] is happening,” Djokovic recently told Eurosport‘s Tennis Legends podcast. “It is very important that we provide opportunities, we provide jobs, for players to compete.”

Nadal is a greater question mark. He has said he is “not OK” with the USTA’s insistence that the American Grand Slam take place without fans in attendance. 

The 12-time French Open champion has been practicing, but only on red clay. This year’s French Open will limit attendance when it starts Sept. 27.

Marcus Almeida Signs with Asia’s Mixed Martial Arts Association ONE Championship

Marcus BuchechaAlmeida is switching sports…

The 30-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend has signed a multiyear contract with Asia’s ONE Championship, according to his manager Ali Abdelaziz

Marcus "Buchecha"Almeida

Almeida, a 13-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, who stands at 6-foot-3, will compete in the heavyweight division.

Per Abdelaziz, Almeida will debut in ONE either near the end of this year or early in 2021. He’ll do his training camps at Evolve MMA in Singapore, which has a relationship with ONE, also based in Singapore.

Almeida is considered one of the top pound-for-pound Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitors of all time. 

He announced just last week his intention to retire from BJJ gi competition and focus on mixed martial arts, which drew buzz in the MMA community due to his potential in the sport.

“Buchecha” has won a record six Brazilian jiu-jitsu world titles in the openweight category, a mark previously held by Roger Gracie (3). 

Almeida has also won two titles in the prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) tournament.

Manchester City Nearing Deal for Valencia’s Ferran Torres

Ferran Torres is thisclose to heading to England.

Manchester City is close to agreeing a fee with Valencia for the 20-year-old Spanish professional footballer, according to ESPN.

Ferran Torres

Man City is set to pay €23 million plus add-ons for the right winger, a SpainUnder-21 international. Negotiations are ongoing but Manchester City is hopeful a deal will be concluded.

Torres was made a prime target for manager Pep Guardiola and director of football Txiki Begiristain following the sale of Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich.

Valencia has been resigned to losing Torres, who had just one year left on his contract. He has made 97 appearances for the La Liga side, scoring nine times. He has won six caps for Spain’s U21s.

Man City has moved quickly for Torres, who has also attracted interest from a host of Europe’s top clubs. Personal terms should not be a problem with Torres keen to link up with Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.