MMA Junkie News

Bellator 192 Countdown, No. 2: 'Rampage' gets serious; Sonnen gets poetic (again)

Bellator MMA’s heavyweight grand prix kicks off later this month, and the promotion is rolling out a special three-part series previewing the opening-round matchup between Quinton Jackson and Chael Sonnen.

“Rampage” (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) and Sonnen (29-15 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) meet at Bellator 192, which takes place on Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The main card airs on the soon-to-be-rebranded Paramount (formerly Spike) following prelims on MMAjunkie.

In the second edition of “Bellator Countdown,” we get a closer look into the different important relationships in both fighters’ lives. We watch as the habitually playful “Rampage” gets serious about training and about the added motivation he has in becoming coach Bobby Rimmer’s first heavyweight champion.

RelatedChael Sonnen won't retire with Bellator tourney win, will exit MMA 'face down and embarrassed'

The vet acknowledges he hasn’t had his best stretch. But, injury-free, he says he feels like a new person. Rimmer attests to the fighter’s hunger and even gets a little emotional.

We also get a glimpse of Sonnen’s life at home, next to his wife, Britanny, and their two kids. We discover Sonnen turns into a food critic after dinner – and that Brittany is not there for it. “Hovercraft mom” Britanny also offers some humorous critique of Sonnen’s parenting skills, particularly when tending to the baby (Sonnen says his biceps are too big to hold him tightly).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sonnen-related video without some verbal acrobatics. After kicking things off with one of his now-traditional poems, he treats us to this little gem.

“People always ask me how training is going,” Sonnen said. “Training? It’s just ‘Rampage.’ Anybody could train for a fight and show up all ready. But a real man just steps in there.”

Check out the video above.

ALSO SEE:

For more on Bellator 192, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Dave Navarro plays national anthem during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Chael Sonnen (red gloves) fights Wanderlei Silva (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) fights Wanderlei Silva (not pictured) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Wanderlei Silva (red gloves) fights Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/BNrCYvnnacR4wenpegWFge/295704", customAnalytics: true, title: "Sonnen def. Silva", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Jimmy Smith signs with UFC as color commentator

Less than one month after parting ways with Bellator, color commentator Jimmy Smith has a job with MMA’s industry leader.

The UFC today announced Smith will join its ranks for a to-be-determined debut. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I am honored to join the world’s premier combat sports brand in 2018,” Smith stated in a press release. “It is a privilege to call fights for a living, and I can’t wait to join the tremendous UFC broadcast team to call the best fights in the world. To the UFC fans, I am thrilled to join you for this wild ride. See you all very soon.”

Bellator announced Smith’s departure late this past month, stating the split was amicable. Smith backed that account and said the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a new contract after an extended negotiation period.

RelatedJimmy Smith explains departure from longtime Bellator commentary role

“They did make an honest effort to keep me,” he said. “They really tried, they just – they didn’t make me an offer that was worth me coming back. That was the deal.”

Bellator subsequently hired veteran referee “Big” John McCarthy as a color commentator. In an interview with MMAjunkie, McCarthy said he was called for the job one day after Smith’s announced departure.

Smith’s hiring by the UFC is no great surprise given the powerful endorsements he received. Longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan said the Viacom-owned Bellator erred when it didn’t come to terms on a new contract, and he said the UFC should come to the table.

“You (expletive) up, Bellator,” Rogan said. “I’ve been telling everybody Jimmy Smith’s the best out there, and you let him go. That’s a huge error on their part. I would be thrilled if somehow or another they were able to work it out where Jimmy Smith was at the UFC. That would be what I would like to see.”

Smith’s role in the UFC includes color commentary for events broadcast on FOX, FS1 and pay-per-view – in addition to pre-fight programming, according to the release. He joins a team that currently includes Rogan, Jon Anik, UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, Dominick Cruz, Paul Felder, Brandon Fitzgerald, Dan Hellie, Dan Hardy and John Gooden.

“We’re very excited to have Jimmy Smith join the UFC production team and look forward to working him into a variety of different on-air talent roles,” UFC Executive VP of Operations and Production Craig Borsari stated. “Jimmy’s extensive experience in mixed martial arts gives him a unique voice and great insight to breakdown the intricacies of our sport. We are excited to welcome him to the family.”

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Invicta FC's Shannon Knapp

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp.

Knapp discusses Saturday’s Invicta FC 27 event, which streams on UFC Fight Pass with a Pannie Kianzad vs. Sara Kaufman headliner.

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.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to www.mandalaybay.com.

Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2598 with Henry Corrales

Stream or download Thursday’s episode of MMAjunkie Radio with Bellator featherweight Henry Corrales.

Corrales, who faces Georgi Karakhanyan on Jan. 20th at Bellator 192, called into the program to talk about his upcoming matchup on the main card. The hosts also unpacked the latest ongoings in MMA.

What kind of person wants to watch a woman fight a man?

There’s hardly a single thing about it that sounds like a good idea, beginning with the name – Gender Wars MMA.

Then you get to the meat and potatoes of the pitch: Tonight (early Saturday morning in Russia) in a venue that event promoters have described as “a warehouse outside of St. Petersburg,” a woman named Tess Barrall will fight a man identified only as “Trent,” in a bout where the winner will supposedly receive $1 million.

Take a minute and let that sink in.

Barrall isn’t a pro fighter. Aside from the occasional martial-arts class and some cardio kickboxing, she never did much serious training before a couple months ago.

As for “Trent,” whose identity the promoters say they are guarding out of concern for his safety, the whole idea is that he won’t train for the bout at all.

“He’s just some punk,” said Brad Kohler, a former fighter turned businessman who’s promoting the online pay-per-view event. “He’s an arrogant little prick. I couldn’t imagine finding someone actually like this.”

Kohler, who fought twice in the UFC in the late ’90s before spending much of the rest of his career in Japan, didn’t find him by accident. He went in search of someone like this, soliciting applications and short audition videos from both men and women for a mixed-gender bout with modified rules (both fighters may strike on the feet; only the woman can strike on the mat) that would anchor a curious three-fight PPV event.

The pairing Kohler got, it seems, is exactly what he wanted. In her video, the fit and upbeat Barrall films an enthusiastic pitch from the gym where she works as a trainer (via Facebook):

In his, the mysterious “Trent” appears in a hoodie and sunglasses, bragging in intensely unlikable fashion about his ability and willingness to beat up any woman put in front of him and “put them back on the stripper pole where they belong” (via Facebook):

Watching this feels as if an Internet comments section has sprung to life. Which, yeah, that’s pretty much the whole idea, and this event isn’t the only one to try to capitalize on the same exact mood.

Explaining why he chose to anchor this event – which also features MMA veterans Wes Sims and Travis Wiuff squaring off, as well as Shannon Ritch vs. “TBA” – Kohler explained that the investors bankrolling the show had initially suggested an MMA fighter against a boxer.

“But that’s been done,” Kohler said. “No one wants to see that anymore.”

A man against a woman, however, still felt novel enough to be interesting, even if it was already done by Rio Heroes back in 2007.

Turns out the idea was still so novel even in 2018 that it was turned down “by a couple different streaming partners,” according to Kohler, before they finally turned to InPlayer, which will host the $9.99 PPV online.

But as soon as you hear the details, some questions spring immediately to mind. Questions like, how could these people, who do not even seem to have their own website and are specifically advertising that there will be “no audience” to witness these “backyard rules” fights in a Russian warehouse, possibly have $1 million to pay out?

Also questions like, there’s no way this thing whole thing is legitimate and on the level, right?

And finally (perhaps even most importantly), what kind of person would want to watch something like this?

Kohler has answers to all these questions, in a way. The whole project, he said, is being funded by unnamed investors and TV networks abroad, but “it’s all confidential.” And whatever people may think of the way it sounds or the people involved, he swears it’s “totally legit.”

As for the question of the intended audience, Kohler doesn’t deny that pitting a man against a woman is a controversial choice.

“If the guy beats the crap out of the woman, my balls will probably be hung from the highest tree,” Kohler said. “I get it. But the guy vs. girl thing is not new. There’s a bunch of documented (fights). We won’t even be the first one of 2018.”

RelatedWoman vs. man in a bare-knuckle, no-rules fight? It happened, and the story is a wild one

When Kohler said this in late December, it looked like he’d be correct. At the time, there was a similar bout scheduled at a gym in Florida. Billed as a sparring match between “Internet troll” Kristopher Zylinski and women’s MMA pioneer Tara LaRosa, the fight was shut down by the local athletic commission shortly before it was scheduled to begin.

The impetus for that bout was more organic than what Gender Wars MMA has planned, but both seem to play to a similar idea: A loudmouth man proudly declares that women are physically inferior to men, and even one trained in martial arts can’t overcome the simple facts of biology. Then you find a woman who, for money or honor (or both), is willing to try to prove him wrong, and you’re off and running.

That’s how it worked for Barrall, a 35-year-old mother of three who said she was motivated by Kohler’s promise of a $1 million payout (she insists she has a contract for the bout and believes she will actually receive the money if she wins), but also by the implication that maleness alone would be enough to beat her in a fight.

“This is all about training a woman and seeing what she can do against a man who thinks that he can beat up a woman,” Barrall said. “That right there gets your blood pumping as a woman.”

It’s a different story for LaRosa, who said she was roped into fighting a man after commenting on what a bad idea the whole thing was when she saw it being discussed on Facebook. Then, when the scheduled female fighter withdrew due to injury, LaRosa agreed to step in for a fee.

“I’m definitely not with the whole women’s lib thing, all the snowflakes on the Internet,” LaRosa said. “I’m a conservative registered Republican, and you’re not going to talk me out of it. There are biological differences between men and women, and I am totally against a male fighter fighting a female fighter.”

Still, she was quick to point out, she’s a trained professional with more than 15 years in this sport. If some man thinks he’s going to beat her just on gender alone – more or less the exact sentiment Zylinski expressed on numerous occasions – she’s happy to prove him wrong.

“Plus there’s a pretty good paycheck in it for me,” LaRosa said.

One person who wasn’t happy to hear about LaRosa’s plans was Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp, who didn’t learn of the scheduled “sparring match” until after it was halted by commission authorities.

Her first response, Knapp said, was to question what was wrong with people who would want to watch an event like that. But then, maybe she already knows the answer.

“I think you’ve got a lot of people out there on the male side who are bitter right now,” Knapp said. “It’s that thing like, ‘Oh, you want equality? I’m going to show you equality.’ You’ve got these misogynistic egomaniacs out there who think they want to teach us a lesson or something.”

That does seem to be at least part of the cultural anxiety fueling interest in these kinds of matches. At a time of rapidly changing gender dynamics, maybe some men are more inclined to console themselves with the hope of physical strength as a last bastion for dominance over women.

Or maybe some people – men and women – just want to see a misogynistic jerk get beat up by a woman.

It’ a dynamic that many women say is a familiar one, both at work and in their social lives. It’s also reminiscent of a recent “New Yorker” cartoon – even when women are the trained experts, as LaRosa is, there’s always a man who thinks he knows better. Maybe there are also people who would like to see him learn otherwise in a violent and humiliating fashion.

“Maybe that’s true and this is a response to all that,” LaRosa said. “But for me, it was just a response to this one guy. My plan was not even to punch him, just take him down and submit him.”

Despite being shut down by the athletic commission, LaRosa insists her fight will still take place “in an undisclosed country, city, state, whatever.” Furthermore, she wonders at the wider ramifications of a commission stepping in to stop what was officially a sparring session between men and women, something that happens regularly in MMA gyms all around the world.

“That’s the thing, is where does it end?” LaRosa said. “You’re going to tell me I can’t do this thing I’ve been doing for years? Are you going to shut down all the gyms where women train with men? That’s what worries me.”

Meanwhile, in Russia, there’s seemingly no local authority interested in interfering with Gender Wars MMA. Whether or not that’s a good thing – and whether or not people will actually watch – Barrall is eager to find out.

“I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail over this, and it’s all from men asking me who do I think I am and telling me that a woman can never beat up a man and I’ll regret this,” Barrall said. “Then I’ve gotten other messages saying, ‘Yeah, go get him, girl.’ Whether people watch because they like it or because they think it will be a circus, I don’t care. All I know is, I’m going through this guy.”

10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 124, where 'Korean Superboy' gets fellow slugger Stephens

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The UFC makes its 2018 debut on Sunday with UFC Fight Night 124, which also marks the organization’s long-overdue debut in St. Louis. The headlining bout between Jeremy Stephens and Dooho Choi is a spectacularly fan-friendly featherweight matchup.

Stephens enters the bout on the strength of what might have been the best performance of his career. In September he systematically dismantled former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. Stephens earned a unanimous-decision win in his “Fight of the Night” bonus-winning performance. Choi lost his most recent bout, but that “Fight of the Night” contest against Cub Swanson – one that also earned “Fight of the Year” accolades – earned him a lot of respect and didn’t hurt his standing one bit with fight fans.

In the co-main event, former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort faces Uriah Hall in what Belfort said is the final fight of his 21-year career.

Also on the main card is rising welterweight star Kamaru Usman. The “Nigerian Nightmare” faces Emil Meek in the first bout of the main card.

UFC Fight Night 124 takes place at Scottrade Center, and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. Different career stages, same goal

Choi’s most recent trip to the octagon was in December 2016. He dropped the decision to Swanson that night in a “Fight of the Year” contender. After the loss, the South Korean told UFC commentator Joe Rogan, via an interpreter, “I’m going to train even more, and I’m not going to lose again.” We’ll find out if Choi (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) is true to his word when he faces Stephens (26-14 MMA, 13-13 UFC).

Choi has surged in popularity since his debut in 2009. Before his loss to Swanson, he had won 12 straight fights. Ten of those wins came by knockout, which included three first-round stoppages with the UFC. In addition to his powerful and precise striking, Choi has displayed an iron chin.

Stephens, whose game has always been about power, will test that chin. The American enters this contest as the underdog. Stephens, who has been with the UFC since 2007, will be anxious to prove he’s no one’s stepping stone.

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Hall has been an enigma during his UFC tenure. At times he’s looked like he would rather be anywhere but inside the octagon. He’s also ended fights with spectacular displays of violence. Sometimes both of those things have occurred in the same fight. Hall’s recent knockout of Krzysztof Jotko, which halted his three-fight losing skid, was one of those nights.

Hall told MMAjunkie Radio he was ready to quit during that fight until he had a brief – and profane – conversation with himself.

“I literally said, ‘(Expletive) this (expletive), (expletive) you, (expletive) this, (expletive) everybody,’ and I knocked him out.”

Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC) might want to have that talk with himself before he enters the octagon against Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-10 UFC). The former UFC champ might not be the fighter he once was, but if given the opportunity early, he can still recapture some of his past glory and finish things in a hurry.

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Belfort, an honorable mention in the most recent USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, ended a three-fight losing skid in June with a decision win over Nate Marquardt.

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Paige VanZant made headlines in November when she tweeted that her next fight would be against the then-uncrowned women’s flyweight champion. That was just wishful thinking. Instead, VanZant makes her 125-pound debut against Jessica-Rose Clark.

Paige VanZant

VanZant, who the UFC has been pushing as a potential star since she was signed, has not fought since Michelle Waterson choked her out in December 2016.

Clark earned a split-decision win over Bec Rawlings in her UFC debut. She missed weight ahead of that short-notice fight.

Like VanZant (7-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has title aspirations in the growing flyweight division. The odds of the winner of this fight getting an immediate title shot are slim, but an impressive win could give the victor a healthy promotional push from the UFC.

4. Still climbing

Usman has been steadily climbing the welterweight rankings since he won Season 21 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Now 6-0 in the UFC, he looks like he could part of the next generation of stars at 170 pounds. With a knockout win over Sergio Moraes in his most recent fight, Usman (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) hopes to cement his position as a threat in the division when he meets Meek (9-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC).

After the Moraes fight, Usman climbed from rankings honorable mention to the No. 9 spot. He also decried the rankings and called out the rest of the division in the hopes of landing a top-10 opponent.

Meek is unranked and has just one UFC fight under his belt, a December 2016 decision win over Jordan Mein.

Meek has the opportunity to pull off the biggest upset on the card. If he does so, he could find his name mentioned as an up-and-comer in the division.

If Usman wins, there’s a good chance he’ll call out No. 4-ranked Colby Covington.

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Michael Johnson was born in St. Louis. As such, he hoped he would get a main-card spot when the UFC visited his hometown. It turns out his bout against Darren Elkins is the final fight on the prelims. That did not please him.

Johnson is 1-4 in his past five outings, but he’s won fight-night bonus awards in three of those contests. One of those bonuses came in Johnson’s most recent fight, a second-round knockout loss to Justin Gaethje. That bout won MMAjunkie’s “2017 Fight of the Year.”

Elkins, who is ranked No. 10 at featherweight, is on one of the best runs of his long career. He’s won five straight, including his March “Comeback of the Year” knockout of Mirsad Bektic.

Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) will be motivated to not only show the UFC they messed up with the placement of this fight, but also that he can be a contender at featherweight. Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC), seven years into his UFC career, will look to continue his climb up the rankings.

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The lightweight bout between Matt Frevola and Marco Polo Reyes has the potential to be a good one. Reyes (7-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has gone the distance just once in his career while the unbeaten Frevola (6-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has two decision wins on his record.

Marco Polo Reyes

Reyes was on a four-fight winning streak before James Vick knocked him out in May. The Mexican fighter opened his UFC career with two fight-night-bonus-winning knockouts. He has a good muay Thai base, and he isn’t afraid to get into a slugfest.

Frevola earned his UFC roster spot with a second-round submission win on the Dana White’s Contender Series 8 card. Frevola, like Reyes, is an aggressive and exciting striker, but he’s not as technically sound. The American fought with his hands low and chin high on the DWCS card, which could be a recipe for trouble against Reyes.

Despite his apparent technical shortcomings, Frevola is a more than 2-1 favorite.

7. Long-awaited return

Jessica Eye has not fought since she dropped a split decision to Bethe Correia in September 2016. It was her fourth straight defeat.

Jessica Eye

Eye was set to return in July, but her opponent, Aspen Ladd, was pulled from the fight on the day of the event. Eye was then set to make her UFC flyweight debut against Paige VanZant at UFC 216, but a back injury forced VanZant from the fight. Eye (11-6 MMA, 1-5 UFC) was subsequently removed from the card. Her UFC Fight Night 124 flyweight booking against Kalindra Faria (18-6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) has been locked in since November.

Eye is under a lot of pressure to get a win in St. Louis. Her goal will be to remain focused despite that pressure and the adrenaline rush she’ll get when she returns to the octagon.

Faria dropped her UFC debut when Mara Romero Borella submitted her in the first round.

8. Make up the difference

The stylistic matchup between strawweights J.J. Aldrich and Danielle Taylor should make for an intriguing fight.

J.J. Aldrich

Aldrich (5-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) is a technical striker who uses her length well. She also gets her opponents to bite on her feints. She has a 5-inch height advantage over Taylor (9-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC), as well as a seven-inch reach advantage.

Taylor, who is 5 feet tall, is not unaccustomed to being on the wrong end of the tale of the tape. To overcome those disadvantages, she relies on heavy-handed counter strikes. The downside of Taylor’s style is that she is not a very active striker. That could work against her when it comes to her more aggressive opponent.

9. ‘Show me’ fight in the ‘Show Me State’

Mike Santiago and Mads Burnell both lost their short-notice UFC debuts by submission. Santiago fell to Zabit Magomedsharipov while Burnell tapped to Michel Prazeres.

With both fighters getting a full camp ahead of UFC Fight Night 124, this contest should help determine where the two stand in the 145-pound division.

Mike Santiago

Santiago (19-10 MMA, 0-1 UFC), the former Ring of Combat featherweight champion, has a wrestling background. He also has boxing and kickboxing fights on his resume. The loss to Magomedsharipov ended his nine-fight winning streak.

Burnell (8-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC), a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, was signed to the UFC after two first-round Japanese necktie submissions wins.

10. It’s been a minute

No, the bantamweights opening the card are not making their UFC debuts. But the names Kyung Ho Kang and Guido Cannetti might not ring a bell.

Kyung Ho Kang

Kang (13-7 MMA, 2-1 UFC) hasn’t fought since September 2014 while Cannetti’s (7-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) most recent UFC bout was in August 2015.

Ten months of Cannetti’s absence were due to a USADA suspension after a long list of banned substances showed up in an out-of-competition drug test. A dietary supplement Cannetti was taking was found to contain all five substances he tested positive for.

Kang returns to the octagon after serving two years of mandatory military service.

Between them, they have 17 stoppage victories. Don’t be surprised if these two look to make up for lost time by getting after it early.

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Dooho Choi (blue gloves) reacts to fight with Cub Swanson (red gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 9, 2016; Toronto, ON, Canada; Dooho Choi during weigh ins for UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Nov 28, 2015; Seoul, South Korea; Doo Ho Choi (red gloves) competes against Sam Sicilia (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Olympic Gymnastics Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lili Troncale-USA TODAY Sports Nov 28, 2015; Seoul, South Korea; Doo Ho Choi (red gloves) competes against Sam Sicilia (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Olympic Gymnastics Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lili Troncale-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/3RT4pvEusjLsZmqHT7T3QD/295701", customAnalytics: true, title: "Dooho Choi", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC's Michael Johnson has made 'life-changing adjustments' for drop to featherweight

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ST. LOUIS – Michael Johnson admits his first weight-cut to featherweight has been a “little rough,” but the former longtime lightweight said he’s yet to second-guess his decision to change divisions for UFC Fight Night 124.

Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) will join a new weight-class Sunday when he meets Darren Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) at the FS1-televised event following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. “The Menace” fought many of the elite at 155 pounds over the years but said he was ready for a fresh start. It’s not that he’s abandoning his former weight class. Johnson simply just feels he’s moving to a place where the path to UFC gold is less muddy.

“People are like, ‘Oh my god, you lost to Justin (Gaethje), and you’re running to featherweight,'” Johnson told MMAjunkie. “You guys sound like some clowns. It’s the quickest way to a title shot for me. There’s so much going on at the top of the lightweight division. Conor (McGregor) is holding it up; Tony (Ferguson) and Khabib (Nurmagomedov) are going back and forth; so you never know. Even if I knock out a couple wins, I still could not be next in line for a title shot. Nate (Diaz) could come back in. It’s a popularity contest rather than somebody who actually deserves it. Me going down to featherweight, I get two solid wins, and I’m next in line, especially with my resume at 155.”

RelatedSt. Louis native Michael Johnson: 'No logical answer' for UFC Fight Night 124 prelim placement

At 31, a shift in division isn’t something Johnson could do overnight. He said the process has been a challenge but also admitted the required discipline has been advantageous overall.

“It’s extremely life-changing,” Johnson said. “I haven’t had a piece of bread in like two months. I’m dreading this cut. But it’s re-motivated me. It’s given me a new spark of life. I’m definitely rededicated to the sport, my training is going a lot harder, a lot tougher, and I don’t have that little time to slack off. I can’t afford a cheat meal here and there, I can’t afford to sneak a cookie or something or some candy. I’ve got a strict diet, with everything timed and eating right. It’s going good. I’m happy.”

The final pounds are always the most challenging to lose, and it remains to be seen how Johnson will react when he approaches the 146-pound limit for the official weigh-in. Johnson has absolutely no doubt he’s going to make the mark without major issues, and he believes beating Elkins will put everyone on notice. That said, Johnson still left the door open for a future return to lightweight.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 124 pre-event facts: Vitor Belfort can take sole possession of UFC stoppage record

“This is my future,” Johnson said. “I definitely think I’m going to go down here and get this title. That’s what I’m here to do. But I’m definitely not completely done with the lightweight division. I have a plan of going back up there. There’s still a few guys I’ve got some unfinished business with that I want some fights back. Who knows, I get that title around my waist at 145, then I get to call some shots at 155.”

For Johnson’s official foray into featherweight, the UFC did not provide an easy task. Elkins is No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings and in the midst of a five-fight winning streak against solid competition. “The Damage” is no pushover, but that’s exactly what Johnson wants.

“I want the best guy possible; I want the toughest guy available,” Johnson said. “Who are they? Sign them up. Sure enough, Darren Elkins said yes, and I’m blessed. He’s a great fighter, tough and durable, and I’m excited to go in there and have another ‘Fight of the Year’ performance.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Michael Johnson (blue gloves) defeats Dustin Poirier during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Michael Johnson (red gloves) fights against Beneil Dariush (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Nate Diaz moves in with a punch against Michael Johnson during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Nate Diaz defends against a kick by Michael Johnson during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports Aug 9, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Michael Johnson speaks during a press conference after UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Beneil Dariush (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Michael Johnson (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Michael Johnson (red gloves) fights against Beneil Dariush (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Michael Johnson (red gloves) fights against Beneil Dariush (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Michael Johnson (red gloves) fights against Beneil Dariush (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 7, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Michael Johnson during weigh ins for UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Feb 22, 2015; Porto Alegre, Brazil; Michael Johnson (blue gloves) celebrates after his fight against Edson Barboza (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ginasio do Gigantinho. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Michael Johnson (blue gloves) defeats Dustin Poirier during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) competes against Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) competes against Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) competes against Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) competes against Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) gets knocked down by Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) gets knocked down by Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) gets knocked down by Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) gets knocked down by Michael Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Michael Johnson (blue gloves) defeats Dustin Poirier during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports Sep 17, 2016; Hidalgo, TX, USA; Michael Johnson (blue gloves) defeats Dustin Poirier during UFC Fight Night at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Porkorny-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/BmPeLHi26f6C5PxADa7iAb/295650", customAnalytics: true, title: "Michael Johnson", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Vitor Belfort says he really is retiring after UFC Fight Night 124, ready for 'second journey'

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ST. LOUIS – As he prepares to make his final walk to the cage, Vitor Belfort is both happy with what he’s accomplished and excited for what’s to come.

Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-9 UFC) meets Uriah Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC) on Sunday at UFC Fight Night 124. And, after telling the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast that the 185-pound co-headliner will be the last fight of his more than two-decade-long career, “The Phenom” sat down with MMAjunkie to discuss his decision.

First off, he confirmed that, win or lose, the decision is final.

“That’s the last one,” Belfort said with a smile. “People didn’t expect that, no? People are like, ‘Oh my God.’”

Well, it wasn’t that unexpected either. While Belfort had talked about fighting five more times after a home soil win over Nate Marquardt in July, the idea of retirement had been tossed around before. It was also a known fact that Sunday’s FS1-televised fight at Scottstrade Centre in St. Louis was the last in Belfort’s current UFC contract.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 124 co-main-event breakdown: Speed could determine Vitor Belfort vs. Uriah Hall

Now, though, it’s final: “The Phenom” is hanging up his gloves, and Belfort is doing it on his own terms, too: With three months to go before Belfort’s 41st birthday, his original plan was to fight until he was 40.

Will he miss any of it? Well, “we miss a lot of stuff” in life. But, all in all, Belfort says he’s prepared to move on.

“My body needs that,” Belfort said. “I’m going to that second journey. Retirement, for me, is different than how people see it. I’m happy. I’m content. I’m content with my life. I don’t depend on the lights. I don’t live out of that. I don’t live out of, ‘Man, I need that to feed my ego.’ That’s not what feeds my ego.

“What feeds my ego is when I see someone changing their life, someone become a better person. This is what feeds my ego, to tell the truth. I’m going to miss a lot of stuff. But it’s part of life. You’ve got to know the time to start and have the time to end. So, here it is.”

What was somewhat surprising, though, was the choice of stage for Belfort’s final foray. Considering a former UFC champion who’s headlined big pay-per-view cards and walked out to the crazed chants of packed Brazilian arenas, an FS1-televised bout in St-Louis might not seem like the most obvious choice.

But Belfort? He thinks that’s just wonderful.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 124 pre-event facts: Vitor Belfort can take sole possession of UFC stoppage record

“When the octagon door closes, it’s the same size,” Belfort told Brazilian reporters during an online scrum Thursday. “For me, it’s a joy. I don’t like goodbyes, throwing parties. A goodbye fight, this isn’t soccer, to have goodbye games. Party, barbecue, music. This is a fight. You can’t be relaxed, enjoy it, have a party. It’s very serious.

“For me, it’s very nice to be here. It’s a very welcoming card, a great card. Full of champions. Full of great guys, the future of the sport. I’m satisfied. I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished and to be able to finish it like this. I’m feeling special.”

After achieving his goals in the cage, Belfort is now geared toward helping create positive impact in the lives of others, starting with the a gym business that he’s been expanding next to his wife and partner. That is the current focus of the “second journey” Belfort had already talked to MMAjunkie about.

But he’s not planning on wandering too far off the octagon. Belfort can’t control how people are going to look back on him as a fighter, but he does want to be remembered as someone who wasn’t afraid to take risks. And he’s hoping his mentality can inspire others – including the sport of MMA.

RelatedVitor Belfort posts heartbreaking open letter to missing sister on her 43rd birthday

“We can go to a place – imagine MMA in the Olympics,” Belfort said. “Just imagine. It’s impossible for you to imagine, because MMA can take every sport. It can be the biggest sport in the Olympics.

“But how are we going to get there? What do we need to do? What do we need to sacrifice? And sometimes people are afraid to sacrifice, to change some stuff, create some stuff. Who knows, the Legend League. So many things out there that are going to take guts.”

That, Belfort says, starts with investing in safety. Even the protective gear used in training, Belfort says, is borrowed from other martial arts. Even the rules, the ex-champ believes, can be reviewed in order to make the sport less bloody and more like high-end entertainment.

“I say the most important thing of the sport, people don’t realize, it’s the safety,” Belfort said. “The safety is not there yet. People are like, ‘I love wars.’ War is great, but you don’t want your son to go to war. You want other people to fight the war. We need the sport. MMA is already a sport, with skills. We need more skills. Less damage.”

When it comes to his own immediate future vs. Hall, Belfort takes a pass on predictions.

“I want to fight my best fight,” Belfort said. “I want to have my best night. Of course I want to win, but I don’t have control over that. I wish I had an undefeated career. I wish I never fell. I wish every day was perfect.

RelatedVitor Belfort – fighter liaison? 'The Phenom' wants to help UFC be more valuable than Uber

“I wish today wasn’t raining, but it’s raining. So, things you cannot control, it’s a waste of time thinking about. What I can control, I want to go out there and do my best on Sunday night.”

Belfort is more adamant when it comes to his distant future. While he will “stay prepared” because that’s part of his lifestyle and what he loves to do, Belfort says it would take a particularly appealing opportunity to make him walk back on retirement.

“A lot of money,” Belfort said. “A lot of money. Millions.”

How many millions, you ask?

“I’ll say 10 million, up,” Belfort said with a smirk. “We’ll start the conversation there. That’s the amount, and we can start talking.”

Ultimately, though, Belfort says it’s not about the money.

“What I have in my hands, I see a big, big opportunity to make other people wealthy,” Belfort said. “And healthy. That, for me, is what (fulfills me) more than money.”

Do you want more revelations from Belfort’s career? You’ll have to buy the book he’s going to print in the future. But the retrospective he shared with MMAjunkie in the video above is certainly a good start.

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) reacts after defeating Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports September 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Vitor Belfort steps into the ring prior to his fight against Jon Jones (not pictured) in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Vitor Belfort (right) against fighter Jon Jones during a light heavyweight bout at UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports September 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Jon Jones (left) fights Vitor Belfort in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports September 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Jon Jones (left) fights Vitor Belfort in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Luke Rockhold (blue shorts) fights against Vitor Belfort (red shorts) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Luke Rockhold (blue shorts) fights against Vitor Belfort (red shorts) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Vitor Belfort (red shorts) celebrates after defeating Luke Rockhold (not pictured) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 22, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort weighs in for his middleweight championship bout against Chris Weidman (not pictured) at MGM GrandBallroom. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 22, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (right) and Chris Weidman face off after weighing in for their middleweight championship bout at MGM GrandBallroom. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) enters the arena for his bout against Chris Wiedman (not pictured) for the middleweight championship during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort enters the arena against Chris Wiedman (not pictured) for their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chris Wiedman (red gloves) and Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) fight during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chris Wiedman (red gloves) and Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) fight during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chris Wiedman (red gloves) and Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) fight during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) is tended to after being knocked out by Chris Wiedman (not pictured) during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) after being knocked out by Chris Wiedman (not pictured) during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) before his fight against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) competes against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) competes against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) competes against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) reacts after defeating Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) reacts after defeating Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Ronaldo Souza (red, top) throws punches down on Vitor Belfort (blue) during UFC Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (blue) reacts after losing to Ronaldo Souza (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) fights against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) fights against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) fights against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) gets assistance in the octagon after his fight against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) before his fight against Kelvin Gastelum during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) before his fight against Kelvin Gastelum during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) reacts to fight against Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Victor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. 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Drew Dober heads to welterweight, meets Frank Camacho at UFC on FOX 27

July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Drew Dober knocks out Joshua Burkman for the victory during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Joshua Burkman moves in with a kick as Drew Dober blocks during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Joshua Burkman fights against Drew Dober during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Drew Dober moves in with a hit as Joshua Burkman blocks during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Joshua Burkman moves in with a kick as Drew Dober blocks during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Drew Dober pins Joshua Burkman against the cage during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Drew Dober moves in with a hit as Joshua Burkman counters during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Drew Dober reacts following his victory against Joshua Burkman during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Joshua Burkman move in with a kick as Drew Dober defends during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Joshua Burkman meets with Drew Dober following their match during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/zaccXv37EUammEKPiX7pga/295697", customAnalytics: true, title: "Dober def. Burkman", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Drew Dober will head to welterweight for a UFC on FOX 27 bout with Frank Camacho.

Camacho (21-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) today posted news of the bout with Dober (18-8 MMA, 4-4 UFC), following an earlier report from charlotteobserver.com (via Instagram):

UFC on FOX 27 takes place Jan. 27 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. The card airs on FOX following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, though the bout order hasn’t been finalized.

Dober, who’s coming off a brutal first-round knockout win over Josh Burkman in July, cut a massive amount of weight for the fight, and the California State Athletic Commission subsequently said he would need to move up in weight for his next bout or getting medical clearance.

RelatedVideo: Drew Dober just kicked off UFC 214 with a massive KO

The 29-year-old now heads to 170 pounds on the strength of a 3-1 run that also includes a knockout win over Jason Gonzalez and a decision victory over Scott Holtzman.

He meets Camacho, a 28-year-old from the Saipan Northern Mariana Islands who frequently fought for the Guam-based Pacific Xtreme Combat before signing with the UFC. After a decision loss to Li Jingliang in his promotional debut, he rebounded in November with a split-decision victory over Damien Brown, though major media outlets unanimously scored it for Camacho, via MMADecisions.com. Camacho came in heavy for the lightweight bout and also now heads to welterweight.

The latest UFC on FOX 27 card includes:

  • Ronaldo Souza vs. Derek Brunson
  • Ilir Latifi vs. Ovince Saint Preux
  • Dennis Bermudez vs. Andre Fili
  • Gregor Gillespie vs. Jordan Rinaldi
  • Bobby Green vs. Erik Koch
  • Mirsad Bektic vs. Godofredo Pepey
  • Mara Romero Borella vs. Katlyn Chookagian
  • Juliana Lima vs. Randa Markos
  • Vinc Pichel vs. Joaquim Silva
  • Justine Kish vs. Ji Yeon Kim
  • Niko Price vs. George Sullivan
  • Frank Camacho vs. Drew Dober

For more on UFC on FOX 27, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Enrique Barzola vs. newcomer Matt Bessette is UFC 220's final addition

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Filed under: News, UFC

Next week’s UFC 220 fight card has its 12th and final fight.

UFC officials recently announced a fight between “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2” winner Enrique Barzola (13-3-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and UFC newcomer/reigning CES MMA featherweight champion Matt Bessette (22-7 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

UFC 220 takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass. Although officials say the lineup is now complete, the bout order hasn’t been finalized on UFC.com.

RelatedDaniel Cormier perplexed how anyone could think he'll lose title to Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220

With the current order, though, Barzola vs. Bessette would be part of the UFC Fight Pass prelims.

Barzola, who won “TUF: Latin America 2” is a lightweight in 2015, then returned to featherweight. With back-to-back decision wins over Chris Avila and Gabriel Benitez in his two most recent bouts, the 28-year-old Peruvian fighter is now 3-1 in the UFC.

He meets Bessette, a 33-year-old Bellator and CES MMA vet who’s won seven straight fights – all via stoppage. The childhood cancer survivor appeared he was close to finally getting a shot in the UFC, but he then suffered a knockout loss to Kurt Holobaugh at the first Dana White’s Contender Series event in July. The loss was subsequently overturned, though, after it was determined Holobaugh didn’t properly disclose IV use.

The full UFC 220 lineup includes:

  • Champ Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou – for heavyweight title
  • Champ Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir – for light heavyweight title
  • Shane Burgos vs. Calvin Kattar
  • Francimar Barroso vs. Gian Villante
  • Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font
  • Kyle Bochniak vs. Brandon Davis
  • Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Sabah Homasi
  • Dustin Ortiz vs. Alexandre Pantoja
  • Julio Arce vs. Dan Ige
  • Matt Bessette vs. Enrique Barzola
  • Maryna Moroz vs. Jamie Moyle
  • Islam Makhachev vs. Gleison Tibau

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) defeats Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA;Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) fights Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) defeats Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Enrique Barzola (blue gloves) defeats Gabriel Benitez (red gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/s2YfC5ywvG9MxwDbSZHMCm/295693", customAnalytics: true, title: "Barzola def. Benitez", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC

Joe Rogan predicts Conor McGregor will be stripped of UFC lightweight title

Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) celebrates with his two championship belts after defeating Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Aug 16, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Conor McGregor poses during the weigh-in for his UFC fight at TD Garden tomorrow night. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Conor McGregor (black shorts) and Max Holloway (white shorts) fight during a UFC featherweight match at the TD Garden. McGregor won after three rounds by judges decision. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 27, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor enters the octagon ready for a featherweight fight against Dustin Poirier during UFC 178 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Sep 27, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) fights Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during a featherweight fight during UFC 178 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Sep 27, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; The referee calls off the fight after Conor McGregor (blue gloves) knocks out Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during a featherweight fight during UFC 178 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Oct 24, 2014; Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL; Conor McGregor interacts with fans during a Q&A session before weigh-ins for UFC 179 at Ginasio do Maracanazinho. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jan 18, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Conor McGregor during his introduction in a featherweight bout against Dennis Siver (not pictured) at UFC Fight Night at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Jan 18, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Conor McGregor (red) and Dennis Siver (blue) compete during a featherweight bout at UFC Fight Night at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Jul 10, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor steps on the scale for his bout against Chad Mendes (not pictured) during weigh-ins for UFC 189 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Jul 10, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC president Dana White (center) separates Conor McGregor (right) and Chad Mendes (left) during weigh-ins for UFC 189 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Jul 11, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chad Mendes (red gloves) and Conor McGregor (blue gloves) fight during their interim featherweight title bout during UFC 189 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. McGregor won via second round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Jul 11, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chad Mendes (red gloves) is wobbled and ultimately knocked out by Conor McGregor (blue gloves) during their interim featherweight title bout during UFC 189 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. McGregor won via second round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Jul 11, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) celebrates after defeating Chad Mendes (not pictured) during their interim featherweight title bout during UFC 189 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. McGregor won via second round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports December 11, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor pose for photos as they are separated by UFC president Dana White during weigh-ins for UFC 194 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports December 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor before fighting against Jose Aldo during UFC 194 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports December 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor lands punches to win via technical knockout against Jose Aldo during UFC 194 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports December 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor exits the octagon following his championship victory against Jose Aldo during UFC 194 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC president Dana White (center) attempts to separate Conor McGregor (left) from Nate Diaz during weigh-ins for UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (left) is held back by UFC president Dana White during weigh-ins for UFC 196 fight against Nate Diaz (not pictured) at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz moves in with a punch against Conor McGregor during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in for a punch against Nate Diaz during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (left) punches Nate Diaz in the face during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz pins Conor McGregor against the cage during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz lands punches against Conor McGregor during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 5: Nate Diaz applies a choke hold to win by submission against Conor McGregor during UFC 196 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor is tended to by a doctor during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts following his loss against Nate Diaz during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz (red gloves) competes against Conor McGregor (blue gloves ) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz (red gloves) competes against Conor McGregor (blue gloves ) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz competes against Conor McGregor during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz (red gloves) competes against Conor McGregor (blue gloves) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz (red gloves) competes against Conor McGregor (blue gloves) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Conor McGregor, right, and Nate Diaz embrace following their welterweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 202 on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Las Vegas. McGregor won by split decision. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) reacts to fight with Nate Diaz (red gloves) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nate Diaz (red gloves) competes against Conor McGregor (blue gloves) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez face-off as UFC president Dana White breaks them up at the UFC 205 press conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on September 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Conor McGregor addresses the media at the UFC 205 press conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on September 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) before fighting Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) fights Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) fights Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) fights Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) celebrates with his two championship belts after defeating Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 19, 2016; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Conor Mcgregor reacts to fight between Artem Lobov (red gloves) and Teruto Ishihara (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 11, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Conor McGregor arrives on stage before the world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 11, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor stare down one another during a world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 11, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor meet face to face following the world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Jul 12, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor stare each other down as UFC president Dana White intervenes during a world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at Budweiser Stage. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Jul 12, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Conor McGregor reacts as he takes cash from a money bag brought onto the stage by Floyd Mayweather during a world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at Budweiser Stage. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Jul 13, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Floyd Mayweather takes a picture on stage with Conor McGregor during a world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Jul 13, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor during a world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Jul 14, 2017; London, United Kingdom; Dana White steps in as Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather face off during a world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at SSE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports Jul 14, 2017; London, United Kingdom; Conor McGregor reacts during a world tour press conference to promote the upcoming Mayweather vs McGregor boxing fight at SSE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports Aug 11, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor speaks to reporters while getting his hands wrapped during a media workout in preparation for his fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. at UFC Performance Institute. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 11, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor warms up in the ring during a media workout in preparation for his fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. at UFC Performance Institute. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 11, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor hits an uppercut bag during a media workout in preparation for his fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. at UFC Performance Institute. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 11, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor hits a heavy bag during a media workout in preparation for his fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. at UFC Performance Institute. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 25, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor holds the Irish flag of Ireland during weigh ins for the upcoming boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 25, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor flexes as he stands on the scale during weigh ins for the upcoming boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 25, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (right) reacts alongside Floyd Mayweather during weigh ins for the upcoming boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor walks out into the arena prior to his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. (not pictured) during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts with the audience before his bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor prior to the fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. (not pictured) during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boxing referee Robert Byrd (left) with Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during their boxing match at the at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit on Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (right) is punched by Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (left) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. punch each other in the face during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (left) is punched in the face by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the tenth round during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Referee Robert Byrd stops the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor in the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (left) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (right) shake hands after their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via tenth round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor following the fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. (not pictured) during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; Conor McGregor arrives as Salim Touahri (red gloves, not pictured) fights Warlley Alves (blue gloves, not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; Conor McGregor reacts as Artem Lobov (red gloves, not pictured) fights Andre Fili (blue gloves, not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; Conor McGregor leaves after Artem Lobov (red gloves, not pictured) fought Andre Fili (blue gloves, not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/dNYi5DMc6SEbpr3y2pP9Ag/295660", customAnalytics: true, title: "Conor McGregor", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Nothing is definitive about the UFC lightweight title picture. Despite that, UFC commentator Joe Rogan has offered a bold prediction on how things will unfold.

Currently the 155-pound belt is held by Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC), and the interim championship belongs to Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC), while unbeaten contender Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) is waiting in the wings, eager for a matchup with either belt holder.

McGregor has not competed in MMA since winning his title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016. UFC President Dana White recently declared the promotion can only wait so long for McGregor to get back in the octagon, and if a plan isn’t put in place for the coming months, the division will have to move on.

RelatedJohn Kavanagh: Conor McGregor making decision on what makes sense for next move

Rogan believes “The Notorious” won’t be getting back in the cage anytime soon, and therefore the UFC brass will opt to take his belt away.

“Here’s my prediction: My prediction (is) Conor doesn’t fight for a while. They strip Conor,” Rogan told guest Tyron Woodley on Thursday’s edition of the “JRE MMA Show” podcast. “Tony and Khabib fight for the world title.”

McGregor already has been stripped of a UFC belt once before. After becoming the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history, McGregor had the featherweight championship taken away.

If not for an August boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, it’s very likely McGregor would have been back in the octagon by now. He received a gigantic payday for the bout, which he lost by 10th-round TKO, delaying his comeback to MMA – if he ever fights again.

RelatedIt's a new year, and the next phase of the Conor McGregor saga is just beginning

No one would blame McGregor if he opted not to, and according to him, the UFC will have to beg. Regardless, the frustration stems from how McGregor’s actions impact the rest of the lightweight division. Ferguson has put together a 10-fight winning streak just to win interim gold, while Nurmagomedov has won nine-straight in the UFC.

Rogan feels the UFC will soon make a definitive move, and he sees the final result being a Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov undisputed title matchup –possibly in Russia.

“I think they’re going to strip him, because Conor’s got $100 million in the bank, and he’s having fun and talking (expletive), and he’s going to keep training,” Rogan said. “And he’s going to make a big fight in the future, but I think Khabib and Tony is the big fight and (expletive), they might even do that one in Russia. They’re talking about doing a big fight in Russia.”

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

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

The MMA Road Show with John Morgan No. 146 – St. Louis: Belfort, Hall, Usman, Alves, Silveira, Ludwig

Episode No. 146 of “The MMA Road Show with John Morgan” podcast is now available for streaming and download.

MMAjunkie lead staff reporter John Morgan hosts the show while traveling the world to cover the sport.

John Morgan is in St. Louis for UFC Fight Night 124, and he brings you his interviews with Vitor Belfort, Uriah Hall, Thiago Alves, Conan Silveira and Duane Ludwig.

Listen below, or check it out on iTunes or at themmaroadshow.com. You can also subscribe via RSS.


Filed under: News, UFC

How fear turns UFC Fight Night 124 headliner Jeremy Stephens into a 'ferocious tiger'

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ST. LOUIS – Jeremy Stephens will enter the octagon for the 27th time in his career on Sunday when he meets Dooho Choi in the UFC Fight Night 124 headliner. Even this deep into his UFC career, Stephens is still learning how to cope with the emotions of a professional fight.

Stephens (26-14 MMA, 13-13 UFC), who meets Choi (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in the FS1-televised featherweight main event at Scottrade Center in St. Louis following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, considers himself a fighter in the truest definition of the word. He’s been doing it at a competitive level since he was 16 and has been part of the UFC roster since his debut as a 21-year-old in May 2007.

Even with all that experience, though, Stephens admits stepping in the octagon still strikes fear in his heart. He thinks what’s made him a promotional mainstay for so long, though, is how he channels that fear and attempts to use it in the most violent way possible.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 124 main-event breakdown: A reluctant pick with Dooho Choi vs. Jeremy Stephens

“I want to beat your ass, I want to bust your head open, I want to brutally knock you out, I want to hit you again when you’re down,” Stephens told MMAjunkie. “Why? Because I know what you signed up for. Since I was 16, I knew when I signed that dotted line, ‘Yeah, you could get knocked out. You could break your arm.’ I live for that (expletive). That (expletive) scares the (expletive) out of me, but that makes me go out there and perform like a scared tiger. I’m a very ferocious tiger and when you back me into a corner I’m going to strike. I’m going to launch out at you. I’m going to try to take you the (expletive) out. You know what you’re getting with me. You can look at all the tapes, but the one thing you don’t see is my mindset.”

In a world where fighters picking and choosing matchups is becoming more common, Stephens is still a traditionalist. He said he accepts every fight offer presented to him so long as he can safely make weight, and the bout with highly touted South Korean prospect Choi was no different.

Choi, like Stephens, goes after his opponents on the feet and carries significant power in his hands. Stephens has by no means taken his opponent lightly, but he said he’s highly confident in his approach and doesn’t foresee himself slipping up.

“They know what they’re getting with me: They’re getting action-packed, people going to sleep – it’s too-hot for TV type (expletive),” Stephens said. “I don’t take people lightly in this division or in this sport. I’ve seen the craziest things happen. I’ve seen turds come up off the couch and knock a top-10 guy out. That happens in this sport. I respect my martial arts background. I respect anybody who gets in there. That’s why I’m well prepared. With that said, I’m going to go in there and beat that ass, though. It’s me or him. It’s kill or be killed. I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old. This isn’t a (expletive) game. I’m for real.”

RelatedDooho Choi wants UFC title shot before upcoming mandatory military service

Although Stephens considers himself superior to “The Korean Superboy,” he knows the reality of the situation. Stephens is the veteran of the sport who has been in the UFC longer than Choi has been fighting, and “Lil’ Heathen” is aware of what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation. He, however, doesn’t plan on allowing Choi to gain fame at his expense.

“This kid, he basically has nothing to lose,” Stephens said. “He can go in there and have a performance. He’s in the situation that I was, and I’ll never forget that. I still enjoy this process. Every time I come to the UFC, it’s still like my first time. These first-time vibes I’m getting. I trust the process now. I’m a lot more experienced. I have a great fight IQ. But all that can go out the window when you’re getting punched in the face.”

Stephens has experienced many highs and lows in his storied UFC career. He still has a lot left that he wants to accomplish, though, and a win at UFC Fight Night 124 would benefit those aspirations. Stephens is not thinking about what beating Choi would do for his career but instead only placing his focus on what will happen in the octagon Sunday night.

“I want to make a ton of money and invest in houses and get all that cash flow and all that money working for me,” Stephens said. “Later on, be a commentator. But all those go out the window. I definitely want to be world champion. Those are all the main goals. But right now, my only focus is very small right now, and that’s on Choi. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/BpgK5twjyCQoxBxDLo9WEZ/295562", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stephens def. Melendez", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
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Kamaru Usman: Colby Covington dodged UFC-St. Louis headliner, but he 'can't hide forever'

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ST. LOUIS – UFC welterweight Kamaru Usman believes a fight with Colby Covington is inevitable.

Apparently, he just needs to convince Covington.

On Sunday at UFC Fight Night 124, Usman (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) faces Emil Meek (9-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in a re-booking of a scheduled meeting at UFC 219. But he said Meek wasn’t his originally scheduled opponent.

“A lot of people don’t know, but (Covington and I) were supposed to be the main event for this card, which is why it took so long for (the UFC) to get a main event scheduled,” Usman told MMAjunkie in advance of the FS1-televised event at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. “But, once again, he declined the fight, so here we are. You can run, but you can’t hide forever.”

Usman maintains Covington (13-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) has repeatedly turned him down, expecting an imminent title shot. Covington, meanwhile, has accused him of declining three separate offers.

Bitch @USMAN84kg ducked my fight contract 3 times and now he is stuck fighting bums and gatekeeping my division. #UFCPittsburgh https://t.co/yGpJpKP7rz

— Colby Covington (@ColbyCovMMA) September 17, 2017

Covington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Usman’s claim. The back-and-forth is a standard game of he said-he said in the fight business. But Usman said there are reasons beyond the obvious competitive ones to pair him with Covington.

“I believe this fight is fate. It has been written,” Usman said. “How much of a small world do we live in, where I’m a little boy born in Nigeria, a country of over 200 million people, in this small farm town, to get to the point where I immigrate here to America, to where I get to college and I cross paths with (Covington)?

“Me and Jon Jones crossed paths our senior year in high school. We met at senior nationals in a big wrestling tournament. After that, we became friends. He said he was going to go to school in Iowa – that’s great. We stayed in touch. In fall break, I went up to his school and spent time with him all fall break. We hung out all week. I stayed in his dorm, which happened to be the room that Colby Covington stayed in the following year when he moved there. How small of a world is that?

RelatedUFC Fight Night 124 main-card breakdown: Paige VanZant or Jessica-Rose Clark?

“To take things further, we both live in South Florida, probably 20 or 30 miles away from each other. We train at rival gyms. We have mutual friends, and I mean mutual friends that we talk to daily. So this is something that’s been set in stone. It’s been written.”

For now, the writing that binds Usman to his future is the bout agreement he’s signed to face Meek. It’s a fight he’s taking, because he is in the sport to prove he’s the best, to prove he will fight anyone at any time.

Usman hopes that whatever happens next in Covington’s career, he has the same mentality.

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Alexander Yakovlev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) competes against Alexander Yakovlev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) competes against Alexander Yakovlev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) competes against Alexander Yakovlev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) competes against Alexander Yakovlev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) competes against Alexander Yakovlev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) competes against Alexander Yakovlev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Jul 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Kamaru Usman during weigh ins for UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Kamaru Usman pins Leon Edwards against the cage during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Kamaru Usman lands a punch against Leon Edwards during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Kamaru Usman pins Leon Edwards against the mat during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Kamaru Usman before fighting against Leon Edwards during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/vdvNpNkiWWyFxDsshH4RVG/295572", customAnalytics: true, title: "Kamaru Usman", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
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Daniel Cormier perplexed how anyone could think he'll lose title to Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220

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Daniel Cormier repeats a similar quote time and time again when it comes to MMA competition: “There are levels to this game.”

Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC), the UFC light heavyweight champion, strongly believes there’s truth behind that adage, and he intends on proving it once again when he puts his belt up for grabs against Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC 220, which takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Given his history and accomplishments, Cormier said he doesn’t understand how anyone can doubt him. He’s beaten every opponent in front of him with the exception of Jon Jones (22-1 MMA, 16-1 UFC), but Cormier feels that every time there’s a new challenger, doubt about his ability begins to surface. He said he plans to show once again that he’s on a level few can rival.

RelatedTwitter Mailbag: On UFC vs. Bellator, Cormier vs. Oezdemir, and the sport vs. the business

“Every time I’ve stepped in the octagon I feel like I need to make a statement,” Cormier said on today’s UFC 220 conference call. “There’s a certain thing to me, that for some reason people see these guys as true threats to me and that they can just beat me. It’s always fun to go out and prove people wrong. Both fights against Anthony Johnson I went in as the underdog, because he knocked some guys out. That shouldn’t warrant a person being favored to win a fight because they can knock somebody out.

“You’ve got to look at a guy’s entire body of work,” he continued. “When I look at guys like Anthony Johnson and Volkan Oezdemir, for people to think they’re just going to beat me, to me it’s just crazy. It’s just crazy. I really do feel pressure, because I want pressure, but I like making people say, ‘Well, I guess he wasn’t the guy that was going to knock ‘DC’ out.’ That’s fine to me, to kind of just stick it to people.”

Cormier has a theory as to why he seems to find himself in this situation so often. His style is largely oriented around fighting at a high pace and making his opponent work every moment of the contest, be it on the ground or standing. It’s not the prettiest thing to watch, but it’s certainly effective.

For Oezdemir, though, the majority of his wins come from catching his opponent with heavy strikes and winning with a quick knockout. His past two UFC bouts have lasted just over a minute combined, and Cormier understands that generates excitement.

RelatedDaniel Cormier wants to erase Jon Jones 'stench' by smashing Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220

Oezdemir’s highlight reel might have the flashier finishes, but Cormier doesn’t see any scenario in which he’s added to it.

“I think people fall in love with power punchers,” Cormier said. “I believe it’s just because they’re exciting. They finish fights in no time. The fight gets going and all of a sudden, it’s over. You got guys like ‘Rumble,’ who was knocking everyone out. You got guys like Volkan, and they knock everybody out, so people fall in love with them. But it’s not just about punching hard. This game is about much more.

“It’s about what you have mentally, all around mixed martial arts game, experience. I always say, whether I’m at the commentary booth or on the post-game or just on these calls, there are levels to this game. When a person isn’t on the level, they get exposed very quickly. I think that Volkan’s a fantastic fight. I believe he believes in himself and in his power, but to beat me, just being a powerful guy, ain’t going to be enough.”

Although his focus going into UFC 220 is solely on Oezdemir, “DC” knows there’s bigger meaning attached for his career in general. The fight is Cormier’s first since his encounter with Jones at UFC 214 in July. He suffered a third-round knockout to lose the title at that event, but the result was eventually overturned to a no-contest and the belt returned to Cormier after Jones received a potential anti-doping violation for a failed drug test.

RelatedIf he beats UFC champ Cormier, Volkan Oezdemir expects Gustafsson or Saint Preux next

Jones’ future is currently uncertain, but regardless, Cormier is unable to avoid questions about his rival. Jones’ decision-making has had a great impact on Cormier’s career, and while he may never be able to shake that “stench” away, Cormier knows winning at UFC 220 will create further separation from what’s happened in the past.

“My career is so closely tied to those fights (with Jones) that I do need to win in dominant fashion,” Cormier said. “More so this time because of what happened in the last fight. But my goal is always to go out and dominate, and that’s what I’ve done for the vast majority of my career. Nothing’s really changed. The only pressure comes from what I’m really putting on myself, because of the way the last fight ended.

“That’s my cross to bear,” he continued. “I didn’t get the job done. If I would have won those fights it wouldn’t matter, all his out-of-the octagon issues. But because I lost, I’ve got to carry that burden. I can’t look to escape that, and I’m not trying to. All I can do is make that motivate me to be better today than I was (before).”

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier hold onto one another during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) enters T-Mobile Arena during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) prepares to fight Anderson Silva during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) reacts after his win against Anderson Silva (blue gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) is interviewed by Joe Rogan after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/nSWP6AjXdehwFnqPirqHH5/295617", customAnalytics: true, title: "Daniel Cormier", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
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MMAjunkie's '2017 Story of the Year': Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather crack open vault, change whole game

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Gather ’round, friends, and I’ll tell you a tale. ‘Tis a tale of the olden times, days now lost to the thick fog of history, back when UFC champions would occasionally make some noise about fighting one famous boxer or another, only to have UFC management shoot it down once the idea had served its cheap publicity purpose.

Truly, this cross-sport challenge was just a fantasy. A fine diversion to get your name in the headlines, but then it was back to the dreary work of defending titles, even against the most lackluster of contenders, because the show must go on (and on and on).

That was then. The old days. The BCM (Before Conor McGregor) era. Then somehow a plucky Irishman set his sights on the biggest boxer in the game and, lo and behold, the impossible became possible. At the risk of overstating it, things haven’t quite been the same since.

What makes McGregor’s clash with Floyd Mayweather the biggest story of 2017 is not only the novelty and improbability of it all coming together, but also the sheer magnitude of the event.

RelatedFloyd Mayweather quickly shuts down Dana White's talk of UFC deal: 'I'm not doing it'

The bout became official in June. In July, the fighters and their respective entourages took their promotional tour on the road, throwing expletives and money in the air before large crowds that had gathered just to hear two men talk. In August, they finally fought, and though it had only been a matter of months from conception to completion, it felt more like years.

The fight dominated headlines all summer, and the fighters never let us forget how much money they’d be making to punch each other in the face. The fact that they were essentially bragging about spending our money didn’t seem to bother us. It only made the fight bigger, more important, more of an unmissable spectacle that held millions in the tractor beam of a cultural event.

You can always tell a big fight by its ability to draw the attention and interest of people who don’t watch fights. The same way the Winter Olympics can turn us all into speed skating and ski jumping enthusiasts for a couple weeks every four years, a huge prizefight packs bars and couches with viewers who otherwise wouldn’t know an uppercut from an overbite.

The “Money Fight” between Mayweather and McGregor certainly passed that test. This was partly because both men were the most famous and most wildly outspoken fighters in their respective sports to begin with, but also because of the borderline absurdity of the whole thing. An MMA champion with no professional boxing experience was going to take on the best pound-for-pound boxer of a generation. It was just crazy enough to be worth paying for.

And pay people did. While the principals are still arguing over exactly how many pay-per-views the event sold, it appears to be at least among the best-selling fights of all time, generating over $600 million in worldwide revenue, according to Showtime.

But there’s the flipside of this fight, the part we’ve been dealing with ever since. The flood of riches meant different things for different parties. For Mayweather, it meant the ability to settle a tax debt, allowing him to slink back to his life of unchecked opulence without being hassled by the IRS. For the UFC, it meant a chance to leverage McGregor’s fame for its biggest payday of the year, and without even setting up lights or a cage.

But for McGregor, it meant total and instant financial freedom. He may have lost the fight, but with the money he made for the beating he took, he won the ability to call his own shots, and more or less indefinitely.

Which brings us to the fallout from the biggest story of 2017. McGregor’s pursuit of Mayweather resulted in the UFC lightweight title staying out of circulation for the entire year, and at a time when the division is as overflowing with talent as it’s ever been.

McGregor also set a sort of unwitting example for other UFC fighters and champions, who suddenly came to appreciate the power of a relatively meaningless fight to make them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. This helped establish, if not a brand new dynamic, then at least a new aspiration.

Tired: Defending titles against hungry contenders for relative pocket change.
Wired: Going after whoever will help you get paid, whether it makes a lick of sense of not.

In the final quarter of 2017, you could almost feel the post-MayMac hangover settle over the combat sports world. Like junk food addicts who’d burned out the pleasure centers of our brains with a wild Taco Bell orgy, we wandered listlessly back to business as usual, choking down the contents of another nondescript UFC Fight Night.

And McGregor? He’s still gone, off enjoying his riches with yachts and sports cars, testing the limits to see just how much he can get away with now that he’s bigger than any three little letters, whether they’re MMA or UFC. The cash cow broke through the fence and ran to the nearest bespoke tailor. There’s no telling when or if he’ll ever be coaxed back into the same old pasture. Either way, it’s starting to feel like things will never be quite the same.

Also see:

Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during their boxing match at the at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. reacts before his bout against Conor McGregor at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts with the audience before his bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor before fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during their boxing match at the at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor holds onto Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor lands a hit on Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit on Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during the sixth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. reacts following his TKO victory against Conor McGregor in the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Referee Robert Byrd stops the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor in the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boxing referee Robert Byrd holds Conor McGregor after stopping the right in the tenth round against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the tenth round during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) reacts after knocking out Conor McGregor (not pictured) in their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via tenth round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (left) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (right) shake hands after their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via tenth round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts following his loss in the tenth round by TKO to Floyd Mayweather Jr. at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (left) embraces Conor McGregor following their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/HPw3CvabZ8Rz65P6nkwQP6/295263", customAnalytics: true, title: "Mayweather def. 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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

UFC's Jessica-Rose Clark posts heartbreaking tweets about home robbery, cat attacked

Jessica-Rose Clark already has a lot to deal with this week as she prepares to face Paige VanZant at UFC Fight Night 124, but now she has even more to worry about.

Earlier today, Clark (8-4-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) tweeted that her home in Las Vegas had been broken into and robbed (via Twitter):

Someone just broke into my house, stole all my housemates stuff, trashed the whole place, stole clothes and shoes from me
Wtf man.

— Jessy Jess (@missjessyjess) January 11, 2018

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Clark added heartbreaking details about her cat being attacked during the home invasion.

They also kicked our cat and smashed his rib cage and it has pushed his intestines up into his chest cavity.
He has to have surgery and we don’t know what’s going to happen yet https://t.co/lqlY8d4efH

— Jessy Jess (@missjessyjess) January 11, 2018

Clark later delivered the sad news that her cat would have to be put down as a result. She also had a description of the alleged criminals and their vehicles.

VEGAS. MY HOUSE JUST GOT BROKEN INTO

They kicked our cat and he has to be put down.

Tvs, guitars, dvds, POP, video games.

At least 3 people, one small female with her hair in a bun, reddish-blonde and two men. One white sedan and possibly a gray truck with them.

— Jessy Jess (@missjessyjess) January 11, 2018

Such a disgusting, vile thing to happen. We sincerely hope justice is served.

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings pins Jessica-Rose Clark to the cage during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings pins Jessica-Rose Clark to the mat during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings moves in with a hit against Jessica-Rose Clark during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings moves in with a hit against Jessica-Rose Clark during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Jessica-Rose Clark moves in with a hit as Bec Rawlings defends during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings holds Jessica-Rose Clark during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Jessica-Rose Clark moves in with a hit as Bec Rawlings defends during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings moves in with a hit against Jessica-Rose Clark during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Jessica-Rose Clark moves in with a hit as Bec Rawlings defends during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings moves in with a hit as Jessica-Rose Clark defends during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Jessica-Rose Clark moves in with a hit against Bec Rawlings during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings moves in with a hit as Jessica-Rose Clark defends during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Jessica-Rose Clark moves in with a kick against Bec Rawlings during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Bec Rawlings pins Jessica-Rose Clark to the mat during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Jessica-Rose Clark pins Bec Rawlings to the mat during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/XBbyeEXbD2YpDDogKFEeV3/295595", customAnalytics: true, title: "Clark def. Rawlings", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Blue Corner, News, UFC

St. Louis native Michael Johnson: 'No logical answer' for UFC Fight Night 124 prelim placement

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Filed under: News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

Michael Johnson still hasn’t been given a reason for his card placement on Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 124. But that’s OK – he’s got bigger things to worry about.

Earlier this week, Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC)  made his feelings on the finalized lineup for the UFC’s first trip to St-Louis quite clear. As someone who was born in the city and coming off a “Fight of the Night” performance, Johnson wasn’t too happy with the fact his featherweight meeting with Darren Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) was slated for the night’s preliminary card.

A few days later, Johnson still believed that not being up there doesn’t make sense. But he’s ready to move on.

“I don’t even think they care to give me an answer,” Johnson told MMAjunkie Radio. “And, honestly, I’m not looking for an answer. Because there’s no logical answer or reason to that, for me, at least. …

“I’m coming into St-Louis to go to war, and that’s the only thing that’s important to me. I don’t care about the card, because I needed to voice that opinion.”

Although Johnson is certainly no octagon newbie, Saturday’s FS1-televised bout at Scottrade Center is a debut of sorts. Since joining the UFC in 2010, after a “The Ultimate Fighter 12” stint, “The Menace” has had all of his 17 fights at 155 pounds. Now, he’s trying his hand at the featherweight division.

This is the type of move that can go both ways. Dropping divisions can translate to added speed and, of course, a power advantage over smaller opponents. But it can also be depleting and even leave fighters more susceptible to damage in both training and the fight.

So far, though, Johnson only has felt the positive effects of the move. He says he’s pushed harder in this camp than he has in his previous ones. And, feeling sharper than ever, he believes Elkins might find some trouble dealing with the speed that he’s gained.

“It’s been great,” Johnson said. “No complaints. I’ve stayed dedicated and motivated and extremely more focused than my previous fights at 155. A lot has to do with me having to cut that extra weight.

“So I can’t really slack off too much. It’s been great. Everything has being going good.”

Back when the move to featherweight was still just an idea, Johnson made it clear that he wanted top-10 competition. And the request, which was ultimately granted, wasn’t entirely unreasonable.

Johnson is the No. 13 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings. Despite the fact that he’s gone 1-4 in his past five outings, all the results were against top competition. Johnson’s one win of the bunch was over contender Dustin Poirier, who’s ranked No. 11.

Johnson’s most recent losses were to No. 7 Nate Diaz, No. 3 Khabib Nurmagomedov and, more recently, No. 5 Justin Gaethje. The latter was a TUF 25 Finale barnburner that earned MMAjunkie’s Fight of the Year and Round of the Year honors.

Looking back, Johnson’s octagon record shows victories over the likes of Edson Barboza and Joe Lauzon. Johnson was, in fact, the last fighter to beat current interim champion Tony Ferguson, which he did via unanimous decision in a UFC on FOX 3 meeting back in 2012.

He has in Elkins, who’s the No. 10 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, an opponent who hasn’t lost in five bouts and won MMAjunkie’s Comeback of the Year award for one of them.

All things considered, Johnson isn’t too crazy to believe a win on Sunday will make him a player in the UFC’s 145-pound title picture.

“That’s the idea,” Johnson said. “That’s how I’m looking at it exactly. To go in here and get a tough fight against Darren Elkins, that’s incredible. I asked for one of the toughest guys in the division, and I got one.

“But I’m just excited to get in there and put on a show and get a win. And definitely throw my name in the hat for a title contender next year – or this year.”

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

And for more on UFC Fight Night 124, 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.


Filed under: News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

Chael Sonnen lauds 'Rampage' Jackson as 'original guy to bring out charisma' in MMA

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News

When naming masters of the microphone in MMA, the two names that come up most regularly are UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor and Bellator’s Chael Sonnen.

Even before McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) was known, Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) was an expert in fight promotion, using his words outside the cage to build anticipation for when he stepped inside it. Sonnen still does it as well as anyone, but he said neither he nor McGregor should receive praise as those who brought that style to the forefront.

From Sonnen’s perspective, there’s a true “original” in that category, and it’s Bellator 192 opponent Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA), who he meets in the opening round of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix tournament next week.

RelatedChael Sonnen won't retire with Bellator tourney win, will exit MMA 'face down and embarrassed'

“I get asked all the time, ‘Whose the better talker, you or Conor McGregor?'” Sonnen said on Wednesday’s Bellator 192 media call. “I’m happy to answer it, but you’re leaving one guy out: You’re leaving out ‘Rampage.’ That’s the original guy to bring out charisma.

“I can’t tell you how many times I was in my living room with a bunch of friends watching a pay-per-view, we’d all watch the fights and the party would be going on, and as soon as it was done everybody would shush everybody so we could hear what ‘Rampage’ had to say.”

Bellator 192 takes place Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Sonnen vs. Jackson co-headlines the main card, which airs on Paramount following prelims streamed on MMAjunkie.

Sonnen and Jackson are both longstanding participants in the sport. Sonnen made his professional debut in May 1997, while “Rampage” had his first documented contest in November 1999. They have circled each other in the same organization many times before, and even came close to matching up at UFC 130 in May 2011.

Given their personas, there was a chance the build for a fight between Sonnen and Jackson would be heated and unpredictable. It’s been quite the opposite, though, with both men keeping cool heads and showing a great deal of respect toward one another.

RelatedBellator 192 Countdown, No. 1: 'Rampage,' Sonnen and their $10k per takedown side bet

Whether he likes Jackson or not, though, Sonnen said his mission on fight night doesn’t change. His goal is to claim the vacant Bellator heavyweight title by winning the tournament, and Jackson is one of three men he must beat en route to doing that.

Just like the majority of his fights, Sonnen knows his takedown and wrestling game will be a deciding factor when he steps in the cage with Jackson. His plan is to ground the former UFC light heavyweight champion as often as possible over 15 minutes, and he knows if he can’t do that, it could be a rough night.

“I do agree with ‘Rampage.’ I’ve got to take him down; he’s got to stand up,” Sonnen said. “I got one way to win, which is to be on top of him and annoy him for 15 minutes. He’s got one way to win, which is to put me to sleep. I’ve taken a lot of people down, (and) he’s put a lot of people to sleep. This one isn’t rocket science.”

For more on Bellator 192, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News

Listen to today's UFC 220 media call Miocic, Ngannou, Cormier and Oezdemir


Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

You can listen to today’s UFC 220 media call with the headliners and co-headliners here on MMAjunkie at 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT).

Taking part in the call are UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) and fellow headliner Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC), as well as light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) and fellow co-headliner Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC).

UFC 220 takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Listen to the card’s top fighters discuss the event above.

And for more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves)celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) greets Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) after their fight in UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (red) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) exits the ring after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/GvaJQaMVwy6DqVjCrq5HfK/295469", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stipe Miocic", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

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