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Unfazed by added pressure, Bellator 197's Logan Storley wants to be world champ by 27

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – From the face-kneeing and liver-kicking, to stage size and attention, there is obviously a lot that goes into from a transition from wrestling to MMA.

But at the end of the day, both are competition. And as someone who spent a lifetime excelling at one of them, Logan Storley isn’t fazed by the pressure around his beginnings in the other.

Storley (7-0 MM, 2-0 BMMA) returns to the cage on Friday at Bellator 197, where he meets Joaquin Buckley (8-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) in a welterweight bout. He is joined by fellow prospects A.J.McKee and Kevin Ferguson Jr. on the Paramount-televised main card at The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., near St. Louis., making the night a triple-whammy when it comes to Bellator’s roster of promising youngsters.

RelatedAspiring 'Floyd Mayweather of MMA' A.J. McKee aims to stay unbeaten at Bellator 197

This is only Storley’s eighth pro bout, but it’s not hard to see why he’s getting prime placement. Not only has the 25-year-old beaten all his previous competition, all but one via knockout, he was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler before his MMA debut in 2015.

A highly victorious past is bound to carry along the added weight of expectations, but it’s nothing Storley said he can’t handle.

“A lot of people say pressure is a privilege,” Storley told MMAjunkie. “I guess if you don’t want the pressure, you can always go do something else. I’ve competed in a high level in the sport of wrestling, and I was ranked No. 1 in the country multiple times during my career.

“If you don’t want the pressure, then MMA or just one-on-one sport is not for you. It’s really been nothing different. It’s a bigger stage and more eyes, but nothing changes in the way you compete and the way you train and things like that.”

Related5 reasons to watch Bellator 197, where Brandon Girtz could spoil Michael Chandler's plans

It seems Storley isn’t fazed by much that comes from the outside. Being on his first Bellator main card, for instance. Sure, there are more eyeballs, but it doesn’t change how he prepares or performs. Neither does venturing into enemy territory, against Missouri’s own Buckley.

There’s ultimately one thing Storley is worried about: winning. And, unlike fellow MMA prospects such as Mackenzie Dern, who took it upon herself to show improved striking beyond the grappling game she’s long been known for, the wrestling ace said that’s no concern for him.

“I’m not really worried about what other people think about how my hands are or how good that aspect is,” Storley said. “The biggest thing for me is just to prove what I’m good at. This is what got me here – wrestling. That’s why I’m here. I’m not worried about it. I’m not worried what other people think or what they say.

“For me, it’s just going out there and doing what I’ve done my whole life. That’s just competing at a high level and getting the win. The most important thing is to continue to rack up wins. At that point, if you keep winning, there’s not much to say. Whether it’s all wrestling, all knockouts, or all whatever, it doesn’t matter. You’re winning.”

Interestingly enough, Storley had been knocking out people up until his last bout – a Bellator 186 encounter in which he took the unanimous nod over Matt Secor. But the prospect wasn’t at all upset about needing the scorecards for the first time, which allowed him to show a different set of skill and get some more cage time in.

“It was just more experience, so only good things came from that,” Storley said.

RelatedBellator 197 weigh-in results: Michael Chandler, Brandon Girtz official for main event

In fact, Storley doesn’t have too many complaints about his career, in general. He said Bellator’s “game plan” is the same as his, and he’s perfectly content with the matchups an the pacing of his fights – which, in Bellator, have been four and five months apart this far.

“If you’re going to do it right – a lot of guys are fighting until they’re 33, 34, if you look at it,” Storley said. “And a lot can happen in two years. It’s not so much of a rush, being in a rush all the time.

“It’s about doing things the right way. And listening to your coaches, listening to your managers, listening to everybody who wants what’s good for you.”

Storley believes there’s still a lot to improve when it comes to his developing MMA game. But he also carries the type of confidence that one can very reasonably acquire when their day to day at the gyms involves sparring sessions with the likes of Robbie Lawler, Luke Rockhold, Michael Chandler, Michael Johnson and Kamaru Usman.

Much like he did with wrestling, Storley has come into MMA to be the best in the world. That, he knows, will involve listening, being patient and doing things the right way. But while he’s focused on the next step he has to take in order to make it there, he already has a target date for when he’d like see it happen.

“I want to be world champ by the time I’m 27,” Storley said. “So that gives me about a year and a half to get where I want to be.”

To hear from Storley, check out the video above.

And for more on Bellator 197, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Bellator 197 ceremonial weigh-ins view 38 images

Israel Adesanya on comparisons to Jon Jones, other greats: I'm 'the one and only me'

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – You just never know what you’ll get from UFC middleweight Israel Adesanya.

The 28-year-old “Last Style Bender” is still sort of a mystery to MMA fans. Whatever you think you know about his personality and fighting style, just forget about it.

“Don’t expect anything from me in life,” Adesanya said today during UFC on FOX 29 media day. “Expect the unexpected, because a lot of people might be expecting like, ‘He’s gonna do this, he’s gonna try and do that, he’s gonna be this guy.’ But I’m me, you know?

“I might be feeling different on that day. I might be dark on that day. I might not even talk. I might just chill, or I might be real bubbly. I might give you guys a whole song and dance an everything. But, yeah, just expect the unexpected. Always expect me to bring my best when I’m in that cage.”

RelatedIsrael Adesanya's 'very modern take on masculinity' featured in flowery fashion campaign

Adesanya (12-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) returns for his second octagon appearance Saturday, when he takes on Marvin Vettori (12-3-1 MMA, 2-1-1 UFC) in a FOX-televised main-card fight at Gila River Arena, in Glendale, Ariz.

Adesanya impressed in his UFC debut in February, defeating Rob Wilkinson via second-round TKO with a dazzling display of striking. There already was a significant amount of buzz surrounding Adesanya prior to that fight. After finishing Wilkinson, the hype swelled: Could Adesanya be the the next Jon Jones?

Sure, there is a physical similarity between Adesanya and Jones (22-1-1 MMA, 16-1-1 UFC); they both posses lanky frames. The creative striking of Adesanya might also remind some of Jones and bring back memories of when the former light heavyweight champion burst on the UFC scene nearly a decade ago.

Adesnya, however, doesn’t really appreciate the comparison – to Jones or anyone else, for that matter.

“For me, it’s not about Jon Jones,” Adesanya said. “It’s just, I mean, I feel like it’s disrespectful to compare me or what I’ve done throughout my career to someone else – whether it be Anderson (Silva), Conor (McGregor), Chael (Sonnen), whoever. I just feel I’m not the next blah blah blah. I’m the first me, and the one and only me. So people need to get used to it.

“The comparison’s cool, but it’s not really cool.”

RelatedIsrael Adesanya plans to show Marvin Vettori who the real striker is at UFC on FOX 29

Facing Vettori is another opportunity for Adesanya to show he’s his own fighter. The origin of the matchup is pretty intriguing, too, as an encounter last December in Las Vegas served as the genesis.

“I was in the MGM (after UFC 219), walking through, and I happened to see Marvin and his crew walking through, as well,” Adesanya said. “Out of respect, I was like, ‘Hey, good fight.’ And he just kind of gave me this weird look, and I just didn’t like the energy. I was like, ‘What the f*ck?'”

And so he decided then that he wanted to fight Vettori. When Vettori was presented as an option among others, the choice was easy.

“He’s young. He’s tough,” Adesanya said. “He’s got a marble head that could take shots. I want to test that, see how hard that head is. … I welcome him to try and step in the holes in my game and see what happens.”

Adesanya said an encounter similar to the one with Vettori has already taken place with another fighter this week. So, if “The Last Style Bender” win on Saturday, a callout could be in order.

To hear more from Adesanya, check out his media day scrum above and his one-on-one interview with John Morgan below.

For more on UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Alex Oliveira: Carlos Condit fight has Medeiros-like war potential but won't go past Round 2

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – When the offer to step in on short-notice to meet Carlos Condit at Saturday’s UFC on FOX 29 showed up, Alex Oliveira had one main concern.

No, it wasn’t having less than two weeks to prepare for a well trained former WEC and interim UFC champion. It was the fact that Oliveira (18-4-1 MMA, 7-3-1 UFC) was on the heavier side before stepping in for the welterweight appointment with Condit (30-11 MMA, 7-7 UFC) at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

“That was my concern, I was at (approximately 203 pounds)” Oliveira told MMAjunkie ahead of the FOX-televised main-card bout.

But then on Thursday, after a “smooth” cut that left him with less than four-and-a-half pounds to go before weigh-ins the following morning, that worry had been lifted.

RelatedUFC on FOX 29 co-main breakdown: Alex Oliveira could cause Carlos Condit problems

“Now I’m light, thankfully, feeling well,” Oliveira said. “I’m strong, and that’s what matters most.”

It helps that Oliveira wasn’t exactly off-training when an ACL tear forced Matt Brown off the scheduled meeting with Condit. In fact, the Brazilian “Cowboy” had already been requesting a fight but says a lot of his peers were already booked or injured.

It hasn’t been that long since his last fight – in fact, it’s been less than four months since a remarkable UFC 218 slugfest with Yancy Medeiros that ended in a third-round TKO loss for Oliveira. But he was eager to return, despite having had surgery to repair a broken nose and a deviated septum in the meantime.

“It’s ready to be broken again,” Oliveira said with a laugh. “But not now – let’s wait a little.”

Weight aside, agreeing to step in was an opportunity that didn’t require much thinking. After all, not only are these calls exactly the type of “problem” that the Brazilian brawler enjoys, but he also got to answer it against a pretty interesting foe.

Related'Proximity to danger' brings out best in Carlos Condit – and he thinks he's got that in Alex Oliveira

“It’s a very special fight for me,” Oliveira told reporters following open workouts on Wednesday. “I’m a fan of his. Before I was an MMA fighter, back when I was a server, I was already a fan of his. He had the belt. It’s special.”

But, then again, respect between two fighters in the same weight division only goes so far. And, respectfully, Oliveira believes he’s the one who represents a new generation of fighters.

“In the octagon, we can’t let respect get in the way of a great fight,” Oliveira said. “I’m in there to brawl. I respect him a lot, but the fan and the respect come later. Now it’s about the win, and it will certainly be mine.”

Condit remains one of the most highly regarded welterweights in UFC history, but Oliveira carries a lot more momentum going into Saturday’s meeting. While he is coming off the loss to Medeiros, Oliveira had previously been on a solid four-fight streak. Condit, in turn, hasn’t won an MMA bout since May 2015.

RelatedUFC on FOX 29 pre-event facts: Can Carlos Condit snap his skid?

Oliveira is aware of Condit’s dangers as a counter-attacker, so he knows he can’t go out there too hungry for a finish. The two of them will be looking for openings, and patience, he reasons, will play a key role. But he’s also confident this matchup has the makings of yet another war like the one he put on with Medeiros.

Well, perhaps not exactly like that one.

“You can expect punches and slaps going around everywhere,” Oliveira said. “It’s going to be fun. But, this time, it’s not going to the third round. Only to the second. Either him or I will fall – most likely, him.”

To hear more from Oliveira, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Ricardo Lamas vs. Mirsad Bektic teed up for UFC 225 in Chicago

Another pair of Chicago-area residents have found their way to UFC 225 in “The Windy City” in June.

Former featherweight title challenger Ricardo Lamas (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) will meet Mirsad Bektic (12-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) in a 145-pound bout on the card. UFC officials recently announced the new booking.

UFC 225 takes place June 9 at United Center in Chicago. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Related$300 gets you cageside tickets for 'UFC 225: Whittaker vs. Romero 2' in Chicago

Lamas was born in Chicago and attended nearby Elmhurst College in the suburbs, where he was a wrestler. He lives in the area now and splits his training between Chicagoland and Miami. He also recently opened a UFC Gym location in the western suburb of Naperville. And Bektic, born in Bosnia, calls Chicago home, as well.

Lamas will be looking to rebound from a devastating first-round knockout loss to Josh Emmett this past December in Canada. Prior to that, he had back-to-back wins on the heels of a decision loss to current featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 199 in 2016. Lamas has gone 5-3 since a decision loss to then-champion Jose Aldo a little more than four years ago in a title fight at UFC 169.

Bektic in January got back in the win column with a TKO over Godofredo Pepey in Charlotte. He started his career 11-0, including wins in his first four UFC fights, before running in to a big comeback performance from Darren Elkins, who handed him his first loss at UFC 209 13 months ago with a third-round knockout.

With the addition, the latest UFC 225 card includes:

  • Champ Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero – for middleweight title
  • Colby Covington vs. Rafael dos Anjos – for interim welterweight title
  • Curtis Blaydes vs. Alistair Overeem
  • Joseph Benavidez vs. Sergio Pettis
  • Carla Esparza vs. Claudia Gadelha
  • Andrei Arlovski vs. Tai Tuivasa
  • Rashad Evans vs. Anthony Smith
  • Rashad Coulter vs. Allen Crowder
  • Dan Ige vs. Mike Santiago
  • CM Punk vs. Mike Jackson
  • Megan Anderson vs. Holly Holm
  • Mirsad Bektic vs. Ricardo Lamas

For more on UFC 225, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Arjan Bhullar is wearing his turban to UFC on FOX 29 and has simple message: 'Don't fear it. Embrace it'

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Arjan Bhullar made his UFC debut seven months ago and hasn’t fought inside the octagon since.

But don’t get it twisted: He’s been busy.

The UFC has aspirations of breaking into India in the near future, and the man working with the promotion’s brass to make it happen is Bhullar, the UFC’s first Indo-Canadian fighter, who practices the Sikh faith. Bhullar, of course, also has continued maintaining his skills inside the gym. And he also became a father seven weeks ago.

Too much, too soon for a man with just seven professional MMA fights to his credit?

“I know what I signed up for, and I know what I want in my life,” Bhullar told MMAjunkie on Wednesday. “So you make it happen. The UFC has 500 fighters; that’s their priority. I’m my own priority. I have to take care of myself. Every fight, every moment we can maximize, we’re going to do that. Every fight is historic. Every fight is significant.

“It might not be to the UFC brass until you’re at the title. But on the way there, it’s equally significant to the ones who mean the most to me and to me.”

RelatedWWE's Jinder Mahal praises UFC's Arjan Bhullar for raising awareness by wearing turban

Bhullar (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) continues his journey Saturday at UFC on FOX 29, where he meets Adam Wieczorek (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in a UFC Fight Pass-streamed preliminary-card bout prior to the FOX broadcast. This isn’t just another fight, either. This one carries extra special meaning.

For starters, it’s happening on Vaisakhi, a holy day for Sikh warriors. Bhullar also will walk to the cage wearing a turban. He was initially denied wearing it for his UFC debut on the grounds that it violated the promotion’s  athlete-outfitting policy with Reebok. The 31-year-old fighter didn’t give up, though, and was recently given the green light to wear the clothing item for his second UFC bout.

“That ask had never been brought forward before, and that’s all it really was,” Bhullar said. “That’s exactly what this opportunity is about. It’s about that education, to let people know – especially in the U.S. – what the turban is. Don’t fear it, baby. Embrace it. It’s all good. We’re a people that’s very open.”

What makes the turban so important to Bhullar and wearing it during his octagon walk is how significant it is to the Sikh belief system.

“We are connected as a people. (The turban) was to embrace your uniqueness, to stand out,” Bhullar said. “When I go talk to kids in schools, that’s what I tell them – is to embrace that uniqueness and ability to stand out. Usually at that age you want to fit in, and you want to be like everybody else. The fact is, I look different. I eat different food. I speak a different language. And that’s OK. …

“A champion stands out because they’re different. There’s only one champion. Same deal.”

RelatedUFC on FOX 29 pre-event facts: Can Carlos Condit snap his skid?

When he makes his way to the cage Saturday at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., Bhullar expects to hear some boos. He also expects a certain level of hate on social media but stressed that “the love and support far outweighs the negative.”

The goal is to break barriers, and that’s what Bhullar aims to do.

“Connecting East and West, man,” he said. “And it hasn’t been done yet. I’m happy to be that bridge. That was a conversation right after the Olympics with both WWE and the UFC. It was that they needed that athlete to be that bridge – the Yao Ming for what he did for the NBA, if you will. Every major sport is wanting that 1 billion-plus fan base. The UFC’s got their guy and has the jump on any other sport now. So I’m excited for that, and it’s a natural fit.

“You can’t go out to India and be smashing buses and expect to connect with fans. It’s about humility. It’s about respect. It’s about honor. That’s the Asian way; that’s the way I was raised.”

To hear more from Bhullar, watch the video above.

And for more on UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arjan Singh Bhullar (blue gloves) fights against Luis Henrique (red gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s0.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/TSGteUX2KbJrybkjEayHpE/314498", customAnalytics: true, title: "Bhullar def. Henrique", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Justin Lawrence: Tune in to Bellator 197 to see A.J. McKee's hype train get derailed

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – Justin Lawrence will have a long-desired request fulfilled on Friday when he steps in the cage with A.J. McKee in the Bellator 197 co-main event.

Over the past several months, Lawrence (11-4 MMA, 4-2 BMMA) has been telling anyone who will listen that he wants a piece of the undefeated featherweight prospect. He’s been asking for the matchup against McKee (10-0 MMA, 10-0 BMMA) “for a long time,” and shortly, he’s going to get his wish.

McKee, 23, is a young fighter who has garnered a lot of promotional attention from Bellator. He’s confident and full of bravado, but Lawrence said he wants to prove the hype isn’t justified with an emphatic win at Bellator 197.

“He’s very talented, but under the lights he’s never had somebody that’s going to be standing there and trading leather like I will be,” Lawrence told MMAjunkie. “I promise. I want him to quit on the stool. I want him to give up. I want him to just not answer the bell.”

Bellator 197 will take place at The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., near St. Louis. The main card, which features the Lawrence vs. McKee co-headliner, will air on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Part of the reason Lawrence was so determined to fight McKee, is because he relates to him. Lawrence appeared on Season 15 of UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series in 2012, and in just his fourth pro fight debuted in the octagon. Expectations for his career were sky-high, but his UFC path didn’t pan out as expected.

Lawrence’s first career loss came to current UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 150 in August 2012. His journey since has been filled with highs and lows, but if there’s one thing Lawrence said he’s certain of, it’s that he’s the best and most experienced opponent McKee has ever fought. And he plans on showing how much that counts for on fight night.

“I’ve fought at the highest level,” Lawrence said. “I was once called the young phenom, too. I was just in his shoes. I’ve been there, done that, felt that. The biggest thing in fighting is you can never believe the hype. It can get derailed right away, and you’re about to see it Friday.”

Although his record is perfect over 10 fights, McKee has received some criticism for his level of competition. Lawrence said “The Mercenary” asked for a bigger contract going forward, though, and that’s why the Bellator brass decided to take the gloves off and give him a real test at Bellator 197.

McKee has said prior to the fight that he plans to use Lawrence’s name to further legitimize himself as a rising star in the sport. Lawrence plans to play spoiler, though, and actually use McKee as his own springboard into the upper tier of the Bellator featherweight division.

“I’m here and this is all positive,” Lawrence said. “I’m going up from here. I beat A.J. McKee and I’m right back in title contention.”

For more on Bellator 197, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Photos: Best of A.J. McKee view 15 images Gallery Bellator 197 ceremonial weigh-ins view 38 images

Ronda Rousey's mother shares advice that helped her leave UFC for WWE

What did Ronda Rousey do when faced with a career crossroads after two straight losses that left her without the women’s bantamweight title for the first time since she entered the UFC? Like a lot of people in a tough spot, she talked to her mother.

And, according to Rousey’s mother, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, the former champ had a lot on her mind.

On one hand, there was the possibility of a new career with the WWE. On the other, there were the women’s divisions in the UFC, the growth and acceptance of which Rousey had played an integral role in.

Could she walk away from that to pursue a new life as a professional wrestler? Or did she owe it to women’s MMA to keep stepping in the octagon?

RelatedRonda Rousey discusses father's suicide on show called 'Hollywood Medium,' and we have questions

As De Mars told Submission Radio, here’s where she offered some motherly advice.

“I’ve told her that, and I tell all my girls that, and I tell graduate students that I teach that you don’t owe anybody else your life, and you don’t live your life by other people’s expectations,” De Mars said. “So, I think it’s really great that she’s doing what she’s happy about doing now. And, yes, I think it’s the right thing in life to try help other people and make the world a little bit better when you can.

“But if you get to the point where you’re not, I just think too many people get out of bed, and they’re not excited to face the day, and it doesn’t have to be like that. And so, if you don’t feel like that, you should change.”

Rousey did change, and her WWE in-ring debut at Wrestlemania 34 last weekend came with rave reviews. Many industry observers now think she’ll have a bright future in pro wrestling, but more importantly, according to De Mars, is that she’s happier in the WWE so far than she was at the end of her UFC run.

RelatedRonda Rousey reacts to her successful WrestleMania 34 in-ring experience

And as a former judo champion herself, De Mars knows a thing or two about how high-level competition is (and isn’t) supposed to make you feel.

“I think everybody needs to know when to go,” De Mars said. “And when you’re in a sport – and I say this for anybody, not just Ronda or UFC or judo or whatever – but when you’re in a sport and when the tournament’s over the biggest thing is relief that you didn’t lose or relief that it’s over – that’s the time to go. You know?

“You should be going into an event and be excited to be there. ‘This is so great, I get to beat people up, and they’re not gonna arrest me.’ You should feel great about being in it and not just it being over and, ‘Oh my god, nothing bad happened.’ So I think she’s really enjoying the journey, and I’m really happy.”

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie’s blog space. We don’t take it overly seriously, and neither should you. If you come complaining to us that something you read here is not hard-hitting news, expect to have the previous sentence repeated in ALL CAPS.

Gallery Photos: Best of Ronda Rousey view 75 images

'Proximity to danger' brings out best in Carlos Condit – and he thinks he's got that in Alex Oliveira

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Carlos Condit will be the first to admit his last fight “kind of sucked.” But, with some of that ring rust he’d collected over the 16 months prior out of the way, he has reasons to feel more optimistic about his next one.

Condit meets Alex Oliveira this Saturday at UFC on FOX 29, less than four months after a unanimous-decision loss to Neil Magny at UFC 219. While Condit was already coming off two losses then, a razor-thin war with then-champ Robbie Lawler and a quick submission loss to Demian Maia, the display over Magny stood out for showing a somewhat gun-shy version of “The Natural Born Killer.”

It turns out, we weren’t the only ones put off by it.

“It was odd,” Condit said after an open workout Wednesday. “I felt super lazy and lackadaisical. And I didn’t realize it until I was kind of in the midst of the fight. That I was kind of, ugh, I just didn’t have – I don’t know what it was. I was starting to get traction – obviously, it wasn’t a great fight for me. I don’t feel like I was myself.”

RelatedUFC on FOX 29 co-main breakdown: Alex Oliveira could cause Carlos Condit problems

The good news was that Condit didn’t take any damage and nothing was hurt. So he decided to jump right back in there. It was a relatively quick turnaround, which could have been shorter if it wasn’t for a request from opponent Matt Brown.

As fate would have it, Brown would eventually end up dropping out of the bout due to a torn ACL. But, in light of a solid camp and a good alternative, Condit (30-11 MMA, 7-7 UFC) says that whatever hesitation that may have existed in keeping the date against replacement Oliveira (18-4-1 MMA, 7-3-1 UFC) was certainly brief.

“It’s almost like the slacker part of me says, ‘Now you can just put it off for another month, and you get a little more time to rest,’” Condit said. “But I put together a good camp. I’m ready. I’m ready to go right now. I peaked. I’m peaking this week, and I like the opponent.

“It’s a good opponent. Style-wise, he’s different in some senses, but ultimately he’s a brawler. He brings it. He comes to fight. He comes to finish. So not a whole lot changes as far as tactics and game plan between Alex Oliveira and Matt Brown.”

Carlos Condit at UFC 219. (USA TODAY Sports)

Condit is now looking forward to entering the octagon at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. and finally feeling like himself. But, other than the quicker turnaround, why does he believe the welterweight meeting with Oliveira will be the one to allow that?

“A lot of it was in the preparation – I put in a legit, serious camp,” Condit said. “I feel like I’m all in. I was all in in training camp. I really, really pushed hard. In the past, I’ve had really big fights. I put really, really hard training camps.

“This last one – I trained hard, but I wasn’t all in. In training, in my preparation, in my mindset, I’ve been all in for this fight since the beginning. I think that’s part of it.”

Of course, a lot of this preparation was for Brown, but Condit says that, apart from a few tweaks in tactics and combinations, there wasn’t a whole lot that changed in re-focusing on Oliveira. And, as someone whose displays tend to be boosted by menacing offense, Condit hasn’t lost that with the switch, either.

“Proximity to danger definitely brings out the best in me,” Condit said. “If it’s someone who’s threatening my safety and well being, it definitely, I think, brings the tiger out. Matt was that fight, and I think the fight with ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira will be that, as well.”

RelatedUFC on FOX 29 pre-event facts: Can Carlos Condit snap his skid?

But be careful how you interpret the meaning of “all in” here. Prior to the meeting with Magny, which happened after a period of uncertainty in which we didn’t really know whether Condit would ever be back, the UFC’s former interim welterweight champion would not commit to a long-term octagon future.

“If I get in there and take care of business like I believe I will, I trained hard and I hope to fight easy and get out of there without taking much damage,  then I still got a little bit left,” Condit told MMAjunkie at the time. “We’ll see.”

The layoff  may have been a lot shorter this time around, but Condit still has the same approach toward his future.

“It’s kind of cliche, but I’m focused on this one,” Condit said. “This is what I’ve got in front of me right now. I feel good. I felt good in training camp, my body feels good, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.”

To hear more from Condit, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Bellator 197 ceremonial weigh-in video highlights, photos featuring Chandler vs. Girtz

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – Bellator is ready to get back to action Friday in the St. Louis area, a regular stop for the promotion.

Bellator 197 takes place Friday at The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., near St. Louis. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie. It will be Bellator’s first visit to the arena, which is in a west suburb of the city.

In the main event, former lightweight champion Michael Chandler (17-4 MMA, 14-4 BMMA) meets short-notice replacement Brandon Girtz (15-7 MMA, 7-5 BMMA). Chandler was supposed to fight champ Brent Primus in a rematch in an attempt to reclaim the title he lost last summer, but Primus pulled out with an injury.

In the co-feature, A.J. McKee (10-0 MMA, 10-0 BMMA) puts his unbeaten record on the line in a featherweight fight with Justin Lawrence (11-4 MMA, 4-2 BMMA), a native of the St. Louis area.

All eight fighters on the main card hit their weights for Friday’s event, including Kevin Ferguson Jr. – “Baby Slice” – who is fighting in a 160-pound catchweight bout against Devon Brock.

Check out our exclusive highlights video above and full photo gallery below from today’s Bellator 197 ceremonial weigh-ins from the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel near St. Louis.

For full numbers from the morning scale proceedings, check out our Bellator 197 official weigh-in results.

And for more on Bellator 197, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Bellator 197 ceremonial weigh-ins view 38 images

Twitter Mailbag: Will the UFC do anything at all about the Conor McGregor melee?

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So, is the UFC actually going to do anything about that whole crazy melee on the Barclays Center loading docks, and if not, does that tell us how we got here? Also, can FOX Sports afford to lose the UFC? And what’s to become of all the great lightweights who are still trying to get into the title shot sweepstakes?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

 

@benfowlkesMMA With how the UFC has often looked the other way when it comes to Conor McGregor's antics (and even enabled them), do you think the organization is partially to blame for his recent behavior out of the cage? #TMB #TwitterMailbag

— Jericho Gonzales (@jerichogonzales) April 11, 2018

I don’t know how you can even suggest such a thing. Why, look at this latest incident, where Conor McGregor (allegedly) threw a hand truck through the window of a van as part of a melee that resulted in at least two fighters being injured and three bouts being scrapped from the UFC 223 fight card. The UFC promised consequences. And as of this writing the UFC has responded by doing … [checks notes] … absolutely nothing.

But this is just one incident. What about back in November when he jumped into the cage at a Bellator event and started shoving officials around? The UFC sent a powerful message there by … [checks notes again] … yeah, no meaningful response to that one either, aside from pulling him from a fight card that we all knew he wasn’t going to fight on anyway.

RelatedDaily Debate: Will Conor McGregor return to the UFC octagon in 2018?

Clearly, McGregor can do whatever he wants, up to and including injuring his fellow fighters, and he will face zero repercussions from the UFC. The criminal and civil courts might take an interest when he goes too far, but his employer goes from “that was disgusting” to “hey, a lot worse happens in other sports” in the span of a weekend.

What’s ironic is that, for most of the fighters on the roster, UFC punishments are something to fear. They’ve fined, fired, and even banned fighters for less than what McGregor has already done. But McGregor brings money, and the UFC needs money, so now it almost seems like he could strangle a puppy on Fight Pass and all we’d hear in response is, “Hey, Michael Vick killed way more dogs than that.”

So, yes, the UFC deserves some of the blame here, both in the general sense and for the actual mechanics of this latest incident. (How did a guy who wasn’t on the fight card get backstage and all the way to the loading docks of the arena?) UFC executives probably realize this. They’re just betting that no one will hold them responsible, the same way they refuse to hold McGregor responsible.

 

If you're Poirier/Alvarez/Gaethje/Lee/Chiesa/Pettis/anyone else at LW, do you accept you are fighting each other for the next few years or do you think anyone but McGregor/ Ferg/ Nurmy / Max will be fighting for the title? Dare I say Inter. . Interi. . Interim? There, I said it.

— MMA fan (@jamiegoneill) April 11, 2018

The first thing I’d do if I were one of those fighters is try not to look too far down the road, lest I grow depressed and despondent. Sadly, if you’re someone like Dustin Poirier or Justin Gaethje right now, no one can conclusively tell you what you need to do to become a UFC champion.

What, win all your fights? First of all, no one does that forever, and even if you did, it still might not be enough. So then, hey, maybe you need to talk a bunch of smack, call out the right guy, get yourself noticed. Of course, that’s the same strategy half the division is trying at any given moment, so it doesn’t exactly make you special.

RelatedDustin Poirier raises questions about Khabib Nurmagomedov's status as UFC lightweight champ

Poirier and Gaethje? That’s a killer headliner for Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 29 event. But the winner has no way of being sure where it gets him, since the title picture in the division is so complicated.

The good news is, Al Iaquinta just fought for the lightweight title last weekend. And he was a replacement for Max Holloway, who was a replacement for Tony Ferguson. Good things (or at least the potential for them) can happen if you stay ready, keep your phone on, and don’t mind huge changes to your plans at the very last minute.

Do you think the ridiculously large Magomedsharipov (nailed it) fights at 145 because it was…umm…”suggested” that his natural fight weight at 155 was currently occupied by another Dagestani and competition wasn’t an option?

— Daniel Hewett (@Daniel_J_Hewett) April 12, 2018

I think Zabit Magomedsharipov (or “Mad Mags,” if you’re on the hype train) does it because he’s slightly over six feet and yet can still make 145 pounds, which means he gets to fight a bunch of guys who will struggle just to figure out how to get close enough to him. If that was an option for you, wouldn’t you be inclined to take it?

 

Chad Mendes looks to be coming back in June, any hopes for him to re-insert himself into title contention at 145?

— Dan Jones (@Djones1236) April 11, 2018

 

If there is really going to be a 165lbs division would they let a champion try for both divisions? Woodley vs. Wonderboy at 2 weight classes? This seems like a horrible idea. #tmb

— Dusty Wallace (@Cosmic_RL) April 11, 2018

For those scratching their heads over this one, my man Dusty is referring to the online rumor that the UFC is considering some big changes to go with a new TV deal.

None of this is even close to confirmed, and there are several reasons to be highly skeptical of the report, but one of the changes it alleges is the creation of a 165-pound class. This isn’t so different from the plan outlined by the California State Athletic Commission, which called for the creation of new weight classes, including 165 pounds.

But if you’re going to create a 165-pound division, it makes no sense to keep welterweight at 170 pounds. That’s why the CSAC plan has 175- and 195-pound classes as well, in addition to keeping the existing 205-pound division.

The difference is, the CSAC wants to add divisions in an effort to address extreme weight cuts. According to this questionable report, the UFC’s goal would be to fill out more TV fight cards.

I’m not saying I’m opposed to this sort of reshaping of the sport (just like I’m not opposed to reducing the number of pay-per-views and doing away with “The Ultimate Fighter,”) but it would be nice to not have to worry that it’s all being done for the sake of a new TV deal.

 

Brock for heavyweight title! Your thoughts?

— TLB (@tfc_tech_170) April 11, 2018

Sure, why not. In his last three outings, Brock Lesnar is 0-2 with one no-contest due to two different failed drug tests. He hasn’t won a fight that stayed on the books since 2010. And he seems to have no real interest in hanging around the UFC as a full-time fighter, since he just signed a new deal with the WWE.

But hey, why not give him a crack at the UFC heavyweight title? As long as we’ve given up on pretending that this is a sport, might as well have some big, stupid fun with it, I guess.

 

Tony Ferguson is 34. If Nurmagomedov and McGregor, both 29, meet late-2018, Ferguson is 35 by the time he gets his turn -entering late-martial times. What are the chances that cord cost him his last, best chance to look great in a big money fight?

— Brian Cummings (@B_inShortsville) April 11, 2018

Well, when you put it like that, it looks pretty bleak. But all hope is not lost for T-Fergu. He’s such an exciting fighter, plus a weirdly compelling personality, that he can’t be overlooked forever.

If anything, the fact that Khabib Nurmagomedov went to a decision with a late replacement who was way out of title contention only bolsters Ferguson’s claim to being the actual best lightweight in the world. Until we see him get his crack at some of these guys, we won’t know for sure.

 

Since WME-IMG purchased the UFC we've had Mayweather-McGregor and instances of almost WWE-type behavior. Is WME-IMG trying to turn the focus of the UFC from traditional MMA to some reality sports/entertainment venture? Is Mixed Martial Arts Entertainment in our future?

— Brandon..not the lead singer of Incubus (@oldcrowMMA) April 11, 2018

Before you lay all the blame on Endeavor (formerly known as WME-IMG), think back to some of the stuff that happened in the late stages of the previous ownership, like the signing of CM Punk. There were a lot of steps the UFC took in the last few years that seem designed to make itself look more attractive to potential buyers (the Reebok deal, for example), so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the new owners would want to stay that course.

Mostly, though, the new owners want to make money – and fast. I don’t think there’s any guiding principle beyond that. They’ll look at what brings viewers and buys and profits, and they’ll try to do more of that. If we prove that we’ll pay to watch a pro wrestler get beat up, then brother, that’s what they’re going to serve us.

 

Hey Ben, I have SlingTV so I scroll past FS1 a ton and old UFC content is ALWAYS on. Not sure if that's true on regular cable but seriously like 40-50% of the time there's like Barnett Vs Roy Nelson on. Do you think that affects negotiations?

— Jon Lee (@TheContentKing7) April 11, 2018

Definitely. FOX Sports 1 does not have a ton of content to choose from, and the UFC library is a good source of anytime content. Like you, I scroll past it all the time and am surprised to see old fights, pay-per-view prelims, even whole events. If you’ve got basic cable, some free time in the afternoon, and you want to see some UFC action from three months ago, FOX Sports 1 usually has you covered.

So what happens if the UFC goes somewhere else? Is there enough college lacrosse and Bundesliga soccer to fill that programming hole? Because even with low ratings for long-running shows like TUF, that kind of UFC content still pulls in comparable numbers to FS1’s studio shows featuring multi-million-dollar pundits.

The UFC isn’t doing the kind of ratings it used to, but losing it would still leave some serious gaps for FOX Sports. It’s just a question of how much the network is willing to spend in order to avoid confronting that problem.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

Gallery Photos: Conor McGregor's perp walk from Brooklyn jail following UFC 223 incident view 8 images

Bellator 197's Derek Anderson became 'smartest guy in school' during 14-month layoff

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – Derek Anderson is admittedly annoyed by his 447-day layoff ahead of Bellator 197. However, he managed to use his career-long break between fights to do something useful.

Anderson (14-3 MMA, 5-3 BMMA), who returns to action at Bellator 197 when he faces Zak Bucia (18-9 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) in a 165-pound catchweight, has been itching to fight. He’s had multiple bouts fall apart for various reasons over the past several months, and because of that finding sources of motivation has been a challenge.

Fortunately, Anderson found something to fill the void. Born partly out of financial need, “The Barbaric” chose to return to the classroom and add to his education.

RelatedBellator 197 pre-event facts: Michael Chandler can take sole possession of Bellator wins record

“I went back to school,” Anderson told MMAjunkie. “I’m like, ‘I need a job or something if I’m going to be taking so much time off. Maybe I can get a financial aid check or something.’ So I figured I’d (go back to school), and it would be good for my career anyway. Take some other stuff I’m interested in. It’s nice to earn respect through my physical skills, but no one gives me credit for my mental capacity. It’s cool to go be the smartest guy in school.”

Bellator 197 will take place Friday at The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo. The preliminary-card bout between Anderson vs. Bucia streams on MMAjunkie prior to the main card on Paramount.

Anderson, 28, hasn’t won a fight since August 2016. Between the long layoff and a unanimous-decision loss to Derek Campos at Bellator 170 in January 2017, it’s been a long time since he got his hand raised.

It’s been a rough stretch, but the goal is to return to top form. Anderson has shown flashes of brilliance in the Bellator cage, scoring wins over the likes of Saad Awad, Brandon Girtz and Patricky Freire twice. There’s a burning desire to return to the win column, not only for the glory, but for the money, too.

“I’m going to get a win, I know that,” Anderson said. “It’s not a lightweight fight, so I don’t know what that will do with my ranking or anything. They know I would take out all those guys. I’ve got to get the win regardless. It’s my job. I’ve been waiting for that paycheck, and I’m going to go ahead and take care of business.”

Anderson said he sees Bucia as a winnable fight. He thinks his style matches up well against his fellow American, and he’s targeting a stoppage win inside the distance.

“He’s a grappler mostly, but he looks like he likes to do some muay Thai from the videos I’ve seen and stuff,” Anderson said. “He’s southpaw, and I like to kickbox from southpaw anyway. I know my hands are going to be way better than his anyway. I’m just going to put a hurting on him on the feet, maybe we’ll mess around on the ground, then I’ll finish him off.”

For more on Bellator 197, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Bellator 197 ceremonial weigh-ins view 38 images

Bellator 197 staff picks: Is anyone picking against Michael Chandler in his homecoming?

 

Chandler
vs.
Girtz Lawrence
vs.
McKee Brock
vs.
Ferguson Jr. Buckley
vs.
Storley MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2018: 33-23
Chandler
(93%)
McKee
(77%)
Ferguson Jr.
(74%)
Storley
(75%) Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2018: 35-21
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Dan Tom
@DanTomMMA
2018: 34-22
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Mike Bohn
@MikeBohnMMA
2018: 33-23
2014 Champion
Chandler
McKee
Brock
Storley Matt Erickson
@MMAjunkieMatt
2018: 33-23
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Steven Marrocco
@MMAjunkieSteven
2018: 32-24
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Fernanda Prates
@nandaprates_
2018: 31-25
Chandler
Lawrence
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Ben Fowlkes
@BenFowlkesMMA
2018: 31-25
2016 Champion
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2018: 31-25
2015 Champion
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Trent Reinsmith
@TrentReinsmith
2018: 31-25
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Ken Hathaway
@kenshathaway
2018: 29-27
Chandler
McKee
Brock
Storley John Morgan
@MMAjunkieJohn
2018: 29-27
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley George Garcia
@MMAjunkieGeorge
2018: 27-29
Chandler
McKee
Brock
Storley Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2018: 26-30
2017 Champion
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley Abbey Subhan
@kammakaze
2018: 25-31
Chandler
McKee
Ferguson Jr.
Storley

The card lost a title fight not long ago, but Bellator still has a solid offering for its return to the St. Louis area this week.

Bellator 197 takes place Friday at The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., near St. Louis. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

(Click here to open a PDF of the staff picks grid in a separate window.)

In the main event, former lightweight champion Michael Chandler (17-4 MMA, 14-4 BMMA) was supposed to take on champ Brent Primus for a chance to win the title back. But Primus pulled out with an injury, and that left Brandon Girtz (15-7 MMA, 7-5 BMMA) as a relatively short-notice replacement. Chandler, fighting in front of his home-area fans, is a heavy favorite, one of two unanimous picks on the card from our 14 MMAjunkie editors, writers, radio hosts and videographers.

In the co-feature, A.J. McKee (10-0 MMA, 10-0 BMMA) takes on St. Louis-area native Justin Lawrence (11-4 MMA, 4-2 BMMA) at featherweight. And McKee is a near-unanimous pick to stay unbeaten. Only one of our pickers is taking Lawrence in the fight.

Also on the main card, Kevin Ferguson Jr. (2-1 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) is an 11-3 pick over Devon Brock (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) in their 160-pound catchweight fight. And to open the card, our other unanimous pick is Logan Storley (7-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) at 14-0 over Joaquin Buckley (8-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) in their welterweight bout.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Chandler, McKee, Ferguson Jr. and Storley are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on Bellator 197, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Manny Bermudez vs. Davey Grant set for UFC Fight Night 130 in Liverpool

The UFC’s return to the U.K. has a new bantamweight bout.

It features Manny Bermudez (12-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Davey Grant (10-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC), UFC officials today formally announced (via Twitter):

Bantamweights heading to #UFCLiverpool!@DaveyGrantMMA vs. @_MannyBermudez is official pic.twitter.com/ZNeAs4yoNz

— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) April 12, 2018

UFC Fight Night 130 takes place May 27 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, and airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. However, the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

Undefeated prospect Bermudez recently made his UFC debut and choked out Albert Morales via second-round guillotine. It was the 23-year-old CES MMA and Cage Titans FC vet’s 10th stoppage (and ninth submission) in 11 career wins.

RelatedDon't let his submission win fool you: Manny Bermudez was one nervous UFC newcomer

He now meets Grant, a 32-year-old English fighter who joined the UFC after a runner-up finish on “The Ultimate Fighter 18” in 2013. After a two-plus-year layoff due to an array of injuries, her returned in 2016 and defeated Marlon Vera via decision and suffered a painful submission loss to Damian Stasiak. He now returns from another long layoff – of 18 months.

The latest UFC Fight Night 130 card now includes:

  • Stephen Thompson vs. Darren Till
  • Neil Magny vs. Gunnar Nelson
  • Tom Breese vs. Daniel Kelly
  • Trevor Smith vs. Elias Theodorou
  • Brad Scott vs. Salim Touahri
  • Claudio Henrique da Silva vs. Nordine Taleb
  • Arnold Allen vs. Mads Burnell
  • Makwan Amirkhani vs. Jason Knight
  • Eric Spicely vs. Darren Stewart
  • Lina Lansberg vs. Gina Mazany
  • Molly McCann vs. Gillian Robertson
  • Manny Bermudez vs. Davey Grant

For more on UFC Fight Night 130, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Ray Borg, Chase Sherman and David Feldman

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Ray Borg, Chase Sherman and David Feldman.

Borg, who was injured in Conor McGregor’s apparent bus attack and forced off the UFC 223 lineup, is now rebooked to fight Brandon Moreno on May 19 at UFC Fight Night 129 in Chile. Sherman meets Justin Willis on April 21 at UFC Fight Night 128 in New Jersey. Feldman is president of Bare Knuckle FC.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
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Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2658 with Cub Swanson and Jim Ross

Stream or download Wednesday’s episode of MMAjunkie Radio with guests Cub Swanson and Jim Ross.

UFC featherweight Swanson, who fights Frankie Edgar on April 21 in UFC Fight Night 128’s headliner, talked about that fight, as well as his recent experience as a free agent. WWE Hall of Famer Ross also joined the program, sharing his thoughts on Ronda Rousey’s pro-wrestling debut.

You can listen below or stream the entire episode on AudioBoom.com. You can watch a replay of the episode below, as well.

Daily Debate: Who's next for UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov? Is Dustin Poirier a dark horse?

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The UFC lightweight division is wide open for new champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, so who gets the first crack at his title?

It’s the question we posed in our Daily Debate feature for MMAjunkie Radio, and the results were pretty lopsided. But a dark-horse candidate emerged.

In this past weekend’s UFC 223 pay-per-view headliner, Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 10-0 UFC) dominated late replacement Al Iaquinta (13-4-1 MMA, 8-3 UFC) to become undisputed lightweight champion.

So, what’s next? We posed that question to MMAjunkie readers and MMAjunkie Radio listeners, and there was a clear leader: recently stripped titleholder Conor McGregor (via Twitter):

Today’s #DailyDebate poll question for @MMAjunkieRadio: After Khabib Nurmagomedov’s title win at #UFC223, who should be his next opponent?

— MMAjunkie (@MMAjunkie) April 11, 2018

Of course, that could be easier said than done.

This past week as UFC 223 media day concluded in Brooklyn, N.Y., McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and members of his team appeared to attack a bus containing fighters and their teams. Various video appear to show McGregor throwing a dolly through a window of the bus. He faces two felony charges for criminal mischief and 10 misdemeanors, and civil lawsuits are a real possibility.

RelatedOpening odds: Khabib Nurmagomedov favored over Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson

McGregor’s fighting future may be in flux, but Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor is clearly the fight fans want to see.

Sure, Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC), who pulled out of UFC 223 with an injury, garnered a portion of the vote, but UFC President Dana White seems unwilling to try booking an ill-fated Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson bout again. Former UFC champ and MMA legend Georges St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) also got some votes.

But an intriguing option could come from that “Other” option. In the video above, MMAjunkie Radio host George Garcia explains why Dustin Poirier(22-5 MMA, 14-4 UFC), who meets Justin Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC on FOX 29 headliner, could be an option.

Check it out above.

For complete coverage of UFC 223, check out the UFC Events section of the site. And for more on UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

Gallery Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Al Iaquinta at UFC 223: Best photos view 17 images

5 reasons to watch Bellator 197, where Brandon Girtz could spoil Michael Chandler's plans

Friday’s Bellator 197 fight card features some familiar names along with some names fans could get more accustomed to hearing in the future.

In the main event, two of the more recognizable names on the Bellator roster meet in a bout that could determine who gets the next shot at lightweight champion Brent Primus. In that matchup, former two-time Bellator champion Michael Chandler faces Brandon Girtz, a man Chandler recently described to MMAjunkie as “probably one of the toughest guys in the lightweight division.”

In the co-headliner, unbeaten A.J. McKee puts his perfect record on the line against the more experienced Justin Lawrence.

Also on the main card, Kevin Ferguson Jr. (“Baby Slice”) faces Devon Brock while undefeated Logan Storley matches up against Joaquin Buckley.

Bellator 197 takes place at The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., near St. Louis. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

1. Set the sights

In June, Chandler lost his lightweight title to Primus when a freak injury to Chandler’s left leg prevented him from putting any weight on the limb. Chandler, who is an honorable mention in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, was supposed to get his shot at regaining the title at Bellator 197, but an injury knocked Primus from the bout. Instead, Chandler (17-4 MMA, 14-4 BMMA) now faces Girtz (15-7 MMA, 7-5 BMMA).

Chandler recently said that his goal is to put Girtz away and then turn his focus back to Primus.

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“As soon as I get my hand raised, and I beat Brandon Girtz, and it sets in that Primus ran again, I’m going to set my sights on him again and see when I might be able to fight him, but I’m not going to chase him,” Chandler told MMAjunkie Radio. “If anything, he needs me more than I need him, and I think he’ll be stripped of the title or relinquish the title before I end up fighting him.”

This matchup is an enormous opportunity for Girtz, who ended a three-fight losing skid with a first-round TKO win over Luka Jelcic in December. It was his first victory since November 2015. Girtz has a history of struggling when he faces tougher opponents, but he has the opportunity to change that conversation with a win over Chandler.

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Fans have been waiting for a matchup like this for some time. No offense to the previous 10 fighters whom McKee (10-0 MMA, 10-0 BMMA) defeated, but none of them had top-level fighting experience. Lawrence (11-4 MMA, 4-2 BMMA), though, has that type of experience. A competitor on Season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Lawrence captured the RFA featherweight crown after his three-fight UFC run concluded. The 27-year-old signed with Bellator in 2015 and has gone 4-2 with the promotion. He, without a doubt, represents the toughest test of McKee’s career.

With his submission win at Bellator 187, McKee broke the Bellator record for the longest winning streak in promotional history. He’ll try to extend that streak to 11 against Lawrence.

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This matchup could be McKee’s opportunity to break into the upper echelon of the division. If he scores an impressive victory, it should be his ticket to a fight a top-tier featherweight talent. McKee has been itching for his chance to get into the mix, and if he gets a win over Lawrence, it’ll be hard to deny him that opportunity.

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Bellator continues its plan of bringing Ferguson (2-1 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) along slowly. Like his previous two matchups, Ferguson again faces a 1-0 fighter. The difference with this opponent, Brock (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA), is that his one win came against a member of the famed Gracie family. Brock (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) defeated Royce Gracie’s son Khonry at Bellator 192.

Brock might have only one pro fight to his name, but he ran up a 5-0 amateur record before he defeated Gracie in January. Those six fights all took place in a brief amount of time. In fact, Brock is still in his first year of competition.

Ferguson lost his pro debut, but he has since gone 2-0 with two stoppage victories. His most recent win was a submission victory over Fred Freeman at Bellator 187. This welterweight fight got the nod for a main-card slot over established lightweight competitor Derek Anderson, so it’s a safe bet that Bellator wants its investment in Ferguson to pay off. The pressure is on him to deliver.

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When Storley signed with Bellator in June 2017 the news got some play, but his deal didn’t receive nearly the amount of press the signings of the “Fab Five” of Aaron Pico, Ed Ruth, Tyrell Fortune, Jarod Trice and Joey Davis received.

A four-time Division I All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota, Storley had four top-six finishes in the NCAA wrestling tournament. His best finish was third in 2014. In 2012 he placed sixth after Ruth defeated him by technical fall in the semifinal round (Ruth finished first that year).

Storley (7-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) faces Buckley (8-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) in this welterweight matchup. Storley has been working out in Florida with the likes of Henri Hooft, Robbie Lawler and Luke Rockhold, and he is developing into a well-rounded fighter. His Bellator 186 win over Matt Secor was the first time in his career that he went the distance.

With Ruth looking to drop to welterweight, Bellator has a grudge match in the making between the two high-level wrestlers with a history. If Storley can get by Buckley, who is coming off a split-decision win over Vinicius de Jesus at Bellator 185, the opportunity might be there for Storley to call his shot.

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Team Nogueira’s Juliana Velasquez looked excellent in her Bellator debut. In December the flyweight extended her unbeaten streak to six with a submission victory over Na Liang at Bellator 189. The win was her first via submission.

Her time with Team Nogueira has paid off. Velasquez (6-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) has looked good in all facets of her game and looks like she could be a threat in the 125-pound division. The 31-year-old Brazilian faces Rebecca Ruth at Bellator 197. If you recall, it was Ruth (6-2 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) who slowed the hype train of Lena Ovchynnikova at Bellator 150. Ruth won that fight in her home state of Missouri by unanimous decision. In her first fight in nearly two years, the 39-year-old gets another chance to play spoiler in front of a local crowd.

If Velasquez gets by Ruth, don’t be surprised to see her in a high-profile bout in the still-developing flyweight division.

For more on Bellator 197, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Photos: Best of Michael Chandler view 27 images

Brandon Davis says he's fighting Enrique Barzola in UFC Chile's 14th bout

Next month’s UFC Fight Night 129 lineup appears to have its 14th matchup.

Brandon Davis (9-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) has signed a bout agreement to fight fellow featherweight Enrique Barzola (14-3-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), he announced (via Twitter):

Another Bout Agreement signed. Looks like I will be fighting Enrique Barzola May 19th in Chile on FS1. Hope everyone is ready for some fireworks! #KillerB #UFC #Santiago #Chile #SouthAmerica #UFConFS185 #FOTN pic.twitter.com/2wRCgnv7jQ

— Brandon Davis (@BrandonDavisUFC) April 12, 2018

UFC Fight Night 129 takes place May 19 at Movistar Arena in Santiago, and it marks the UFC’s debut in Chile. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, though the official bout order hasn’t been finalized.

Davis defeated Austin Arnett at a 2017 Dana White’s Contender Series event and then earned a UFC contract. The 27-year-old, who works with Alan Belcher and Roufusport, suffered unanimous-decision loss to Kyle Bochniak in his promotional debut but rebounded in February with a unanimous-decision victory over Steven Peterson and earned a “Fight of the Night” bonus. It was his eighth victory in nine fights.

RelatedRay Borg vs. Brandon Moreno rebooked for UFC Fight Night 129 in Chile

Barzola, who won “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2” in 2015, has excelled since joining the UFC roster. The 28-year-old Peruvian defeated Horacio Gutierrez in his official UFC debut (to win “TUF”) but then dropped a split decision to Bochniak, though every media outlet on MMADecisions.com scored it for Barzola. He’s since rebounded with three straight decision victories, which included a January win over Matt Bessette.

The latest UFC Fight Night 129 card now includes:

  • Kamaru Usman vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
  • Volkan Oezdemir vs. Mauricio Rua
  • Andrea Lee vs. Veronica Macedo
  • Chad Laprise vs. Vicente Luque
  • Alexa Grasso vs. Tatiana Suarez
  • Guido Cannetti vs. Diego Rivas
  • Poliana Botelho vs. Syuri Kondo
  • Humberto Bandenay vs. Gabriel Benitez
  • Zak Cummings vs. Michel Prazeres
  • Henry Briones vs. Frankie Saenz
  • Jared Cannonier vs. Dominick Reyes
  • Claudio Puelles vs. Felipe Silva
  • Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno
  • Enrique Barzola vs. Brandon Davis

For more on UFC Fight Night 129, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Justin Gaethje interrupts this UFC on FOX 29 interview to blast 'turd' James Vick

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Justin Gaethje’s pre-fight interview for UFC on FOX 29 was trucking along for roughly five minutes before suddenly it veered away from his headlining bout with Dustin Poirier and turned into a tirade on James Vick.

Asked about the chance to fight Poirier while coming off a loss, Gaethje told MMAjunkie, “I’m very thankful for this opportunity. I could be fighting some turd like James Vick – f-cking crybaby that never shuts up.”

Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), who faces Poirier (22-5 MMA, 14-4 UFC) in the FOX-televised main event of Saturday’s fight card at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., said his problem with Vick stems from a callout on social media.

RelatedUFC on FOX 29 main-event breakdown: Dustin Poirier or. Justin Gaethje in high-speed chase?

Vick, who’s won nine of his past 10 UFC fights, has been vocal about getting bigger opportunities and claimed several potential opponents have avoided fights with him.

“That dude needs to get slapped,” Gaethje said. “He called me a b-tch on the Internet, so when I do see him, I’m going to slap the f-ck out of him. I am not happy with him.

“It’s like seeing a little kid that just won’t shut up because their parents won’t spank him. It gets old.”

Vick didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by MMAjunkie.

RelatedDustin Poirier raises questions about Khabib Nurmagomedov's status as UFC lightweight champ

Asked whether he’d like to fight Vick, Gaethje brushed off the idea and indicated the whole issue was part of his hatred for social media.

“I wish it was not invented so that we could not hear anything from anybody,” he said.

To hear more from Gaethje, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Photos: Best of Justin Gaethje view 23 images

Israel Adesanya plans to show Marvin Vettori who the real striker is at UFC on FOX 29

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – UFC middleweight Israel Adesanya laughs out loud when hearing his next opponent described as a striker. And not just a brief titter, either.

It’s a long belly laugh that resounds for several seconds before he composes himself.

So it goes without saying that the undefeated Adesanya (12-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) isn’t worried about taking the punch he never saw coming when he meets Marvin Vettori (12-3-1 MMA, 2-1-1 UFC) at UFC on FOX 29. Instead, he’s getting ready to put on another signature beatdown.

“I know his ego. He’ll want to try and bang with me,” Adesanya told MMAjunkie in advance of Saturday’s FOX-televised fight against Vettori at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. “But then, I’ll give it one minute. Within one minute, he’ll start shooting – guaranteed.”

RelatedIsrael Adesanya's 'very modern take on masculinity' featured in flowery fashion campaign

Adesanya, a former kickboxing champion who almost became a professional dancer before finding martial arts, wowed the UFC audience in his first octagon appearance, stopping Rob Wilkinson in the first round in February with a flurry of devastating strikes.

Despite the emphatic start, Adesanya scoffs at critics who claim he’ll fold under the pressure of an opponent with strong wrestling skills. He won’t be pressured into proving he can hang with anyone on the canvas.

“I’ll keep the same energy,” Adesanya said. “I’m still finding someone to keep me on the ground, and they can see what it’s about. The last guy that tried to take me down, and he couldn’t even keep me down.”

RelatedUFC newcomer Israel Adesanya warns everyone: 'If you want to beat me, better do it yesterday'

Adesanya will be doing his thing on his feet when he clashes with Vettori, and then the world can judge who the striker is.

“My timing is everything,” Adesanya said. “And just the accuracy, and the way I hit. People say, ‘Look at him.’ I’m all right. I’ve packed some muscle on me. But you don’t need power. My baby sister, she has power.

“Anyone has power. But it’s about timing and accuracy. That’s how you starch a guy. That’s how you make a guy question his whole life and then start shooting for the hills.”

For more on UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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