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Michigan’s Glen Rice Now Cooking Up MMA Fights

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Former Michigan star Glen Rice certainly knows how to entertain a crowd; he scored over 18,000 career points during 15 NBA seasons.

But you probably didn’t expect Rice to take his experience in pro sports and apply it to the octagon as a mixed martial arts promoter.

“I’ve been a big fan for, wow, this is going back to the (Royce) Gracie days and the Shamrocks,” Rice said. “I’ve got a lot of friends around here that are involved in mixed martial arts and I’ve had an opportunity to watch some of the people handle (the fighters), you know, the different promoters. And I just decided, wow, they need someone to try and give them a fair shake.”

Joking that he was just being “retired and lazy” after hanging it up in 2004, Rice started G-Force promotions in 2006 (think UFC on a much smaller scale).

Now at the age of 44, Rice is throwing events like the “Bad Blood 5” fight he orchestrated last February in Grand Rapids, MI. Dubbed the “Hip Hop & Hard Knocks” weekend, the fight was preceded the night before by a music concert.

“Bad Blood 5 was awesome,” Rice said. “The show was great. (We) had a lot of Michigan fighters on the card. I went to Michigan (and) Michigan is a proud wrestling state. It was a great show. Rick Ross came and did a fabulous job.”

Rice certainly isn’t the first former pro athlete to be drawn to the octagon. Former NFL players such as Herschel Walker, Marcus Jones, Johnnie Morton, Rashaan Salaam, Jarrod Bunch, Michael Westbrook and Matt Mitrione – and of course Major League Baseball’s Jose Canseco – have all gotten involved over the years.

[Related: Former Heat player Tim James now serving in U.S. military]

Rice, however, stays out of the cage and sticks to promoting the events from his home base in Miami with five full-time employees.

Whether G-Force can one day become a rival to the UFC or be acquired by the MMA behemoth like Strikeforce was last March remains to be seen, but right now Rice has his mind focused on setting up the next event, most likely in Chicago, Puerto Rico or Houston.

When asked why he didn’t just soak up the sun on South Beach and enjoy the millions he’d earned in the NBA, Rice explains that he felt the need to stay active and help young athletes achieve their dreams.

“I can’t say it wasn’t a (financial) risk but it wasn’t a big enough risk to make me give up trying to help these guys get to that next level,” Rice said. “I mean, come on. When I was growing up, people took a chance on me. So I said, ‘Why not be able to take a chance on these guys?’ ”

He points to G-Force serving as a launching pad for current UFC fighters Jonathan Brookins and Alex Caceres - better known as “Bruce Leroy” - as proof of its success.

Unfortunately, Rice allegedly acted like he was in the octagon himself in 2008 when he was arrested on a felony battery charge for beating a man he found in his estranged wife’s closet (the charges were dropped).

[Related: Video shows Army CB beaten by Patti LaBelle’s bodyguards]

Said Rice of the incident: “I think one of the things I tried to do mostly was just understand that it was something that happened and something that was going to blow by because (there) was a lot of things that were said that happened that were untruths. When things like that happen, you brush it off and move on. You learn from it. And that’s what I’ve done.”

Despite his love for MMA, Rice hasn’t completely removed himself from basketball. His son, Glen Jr., is a rising junior guard at Georgia Tech who wears his dad’s No. 41 and blossomed last season by scoring over 20 points in six of the team’s contests after Christmas.

[Related: Allen’s cousin, prep star Kuran Iverson, doing name proud]

And of course Rice has been attending NBA Finals games in Miami. After all, he was selected fourth overall by the Heat in 1989 - just their second year of existence. He spent six seasons there before a journeyman career with five other franchises that included three All-Star games with the Charlotte Hornets and an NBA title in 2000 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Listening to him talk now, he sounds like he’s 44 going on 65 - not only for the gravelly sound of his voice, but also for his old-school thoughts on how the NBA has changed over the years.

And nothing gets him going like the recent statement his good friend Scottie Pippen made that LeBron James “may be the greatest player to ever play the game” ahead of Michael Jordan - and subsequent backtrack to say “LeBron could by all means get to (Jordan’s) level someday.”

“I thought Scottie was drinking when he said that,” Rice said with a hearty laugh. “There’s no way. Michael Jordan’s the best player ever, come on. LeBron’s a great player, I’m not trying to take anything from him. But you talk about someone who had the will to not only take over a game, but to bring his teammates up to another level? Michael Jordan, hand’s down. It’s not even close. And if there is someone close, it’s not LeBron, it would be Kobe Bryant.”

Rice said Jordan and James shouldn’t even be compared since they are two different types of players and a more apt comparison for James is Magic Johnson.

Rice also believes people need to understand just how amazing it was for Jordan to average over 30 PPG over the course of his career given the era in which he played.

“Think about it: Jordan became who he was when it took a miracle for people to call a foul,” Rice said. “That was the era of the Bad Boys. And he was still scoring at will. But these guys now, I mean you put a fingernail on them and there’s a foul.”

[Related: Picked over Jordan, Sam Bowie now racing horses]

What about the argument that Jordan was the ultimate recipient of star treatment from the referees?

“Let me tell you, Jordan got a lot of calls,” Rice said. “But at the same time, Jordan took a lot of beating, more so than anybody also.”

Added Rice about the current state of officiating in the league: “I honestly think that if I played in this game today, I could have had a 30-point-average season, probably.”

It’s not that far-fetched.

Rice averaged nearly 27 PPG with the Hornets in 1997 and finished his career 58th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, ahead of Hall of Famers like Chris Mullin, Magic Johnson, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Kevin McHale.

And yet Rice is never mentioned as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, most likely because his biggest team success came after his prime and he was better known for shooting the lights out behind the arc rather than collecting a highlight reel of dunks.

Rice’s accomplishments getting overlooked goes all the way back to college. While he starred on Michigan’s 1989 national title squad, the Fab Five teams that finished as national runner-ups in 1992 and 1993 often overshadow the ’89 team and the school’s all-time leading scorer. Rice says he doesn’t mind and that he was a fan of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and company himself.

But he’s also quick to remind them of something.

“We tell those guys: ‘You guys got all the publicity but you forgot to get one thing: You didn’t get that ring. So I’ll take the ring, you guys can take the publicity.’ “

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