Lieberberg Fights His Corner

Marek Lieberberg is putting up his dukes against those protesting his promotion of Germany’s first Ultimate Fighting Championship event, accusing many of the sport’s critics as being hypocrites with double standards.

“The critics have never even seen a UFC event,” he said in an interview with the U.K. Daily Telegraph June 11, claiming the issue draws a lot of attention because it’s a “soft target.”

The UFC has come under fire from German politicians railing against the “barbarity” of the sport, and one sportswriter said Lieberberg shouldn’t be allowed to continue as a promoter.

“I have been very outspoken at times in my life,” said Lieberberg, a son of Polish Jews who was raised in a United Nations refugee camp straight after World War II. “I have been also the promoter of numerous charity events including Live Aid and the Al Gore climate event in Germany; I was a front figure of many anti-xenophobic and anti-Rightist demonstrations in Germany.

“And, as a son of people who, to put it mildly, suffered under previous regimes and was born and raised in a United Nations refugee camp, I think there is no doubt about my record professionally, ethically and morally,” the promoter told the U.K. paper.

Brushing aside remarks from cabaret artist-turned-sportswriter Werner Schnyder in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung who said Lieberberg wasn’t fit to promote shows,” Lieberberg responded, “He must have received one punch too many when he was standing by the ring.”

Lieberberg, who runs Germany’s biggest and best-known concert promotion company, was also dismissive of an open letter written by Berg-Mörlbach-based concert promoter Franz Abraham, who said Lieberberg and Cologne Arena – where the June 13 bouts were staged – had crossed “the Rubicon of human decency.”

“Nobody in the business or the media has taken the slightest bit of notice of it. I’m not commenting because it’s not worth a comment,” Lieberberg told Pollstar when invited to respond to Abraham’s views.

Abraham, who is head of Art Concerts, which produces and promotes classical music shows including “Carmina Burana” and others based on Verdi’s “Aida” and “the legend of Ben Hur,” hasn’t said how many copies of his open letter were sent out or reported on the response.

He began the text of the letter by saying the fact the Ultimate Fighting Championship event is taking place “appalls” him, and signed himself off as “Disgusted and disappointed.”

“The brutal form of single combat whose aim is to physically destroy the opponent, is a perversion that every promoter should decline, especially when, like you Mr. Lieberberg, they can look back on successful cooperations with great artists from the world of rock,” he wrote.

Some local councilors have sought to limit admission to the event to those older than 18.

The arena hasn’t said if it had to refuse entry to any who bought tickets and were under that age.

“With regard to the sport, of course I understand someone can say I am ‘anti-martial arts, or anti-boxing.’ But what I oppose is an unbelievable hypocrisy and double standard that has been exposed, where politicians in Cologne have had the opportunities to deflect from Cologne problems and the media has built these up,” Lieberberg told The Telegraph.

He said the Cologne politicians were deflecting from the fact that the city already has no-go areas due to violence and their criticism of UFC is “a cheap shot.”

“They have also tended to criticise an event that has never happened here. They have said that violence comes from UFC or the glorification of violence. For an event that has never happened here – how it could have influenced violence in Germany is unclear to me,” he said.

UFC UK and Europe president Marshall Zelaznik said, “I don’t want to trivialise it, but there was a time in the ’50s when a guitar-playing rock and roller shook his hips and his knees and they would not show it on TV. Now everyone is doing it. Aspects of the sport are not as damaging as they are being portrayed.”