MMA Junkie News

Watch the official video trailer for UFC 220, then pray tomorrow is Jan. 20


Filed under: Blue Corner, News, UFC, Videos

No offense, January, but as far as we can tell, there’s about 19 useless days to start you.

You see, we love welcoming in a New Year just as much as anyone, but this year is a little different because we know UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) is fighting the incredibly dangerous Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) on Jan. 20 at UFC 220 in Boston.

And yeah, we’ve known that for a while now, but then the UFC released the official video trailer for the event over the weekend, and it just took things to a whole new level.

So, we’re just going to go to sleep tonight, and if you can work your magic and make it Jan. 20 when we wake up in the morning, that would be greatly appreciated. I know we’re supposed to look at every day as a gift, but I’m willing to bypass a few tie clips and ugly sweaters in order to get to this fight.

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

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

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/294150", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stipe Miocic", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Blue Corner, News, UFC, Videos

Report: Unbeaten prospect Mackenzie Dern meets Ashley Yoder at UFC 222

One of the top prospects in the sport officially will join the UFC roster in 2018.

UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby confirmed this past week on a MetroPCS chat with UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin that unbeaten strawweight Mackenzie Dern (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) make her octagon debut in the early portion of the year.

“Mackenzie Dern will be making her debut in the UFC,” Shelby told Griffin. “I think (in) early 2018.”

Today, MMAFighting.com reported Dern’s opponent will be Ashley Yoder (5-3 MMA, 0-2 UFC) at UFC 222, which takes place March 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass. UFC officials have not yet made a formal announcement of the booking.

Dern, a multi-time jiu-jitsu world champion, has made her transition to MMA over the past few years. The 24-year-old is coming off a third-round submission of Kaline Medeiros at Invicta FC 26 in December. Prior to that, Dern racked up the first four wins of her pro career under the Legacy FC (later LFA) banner.

Ashley Yoder

Yoder started her career 5-1, including a win for Invicta FC, and got a shot in the UFC through Season 23 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” She made her official promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 102 in December 2016, but dropped a decision to Justine Kish. And this past July, in her follow-up, she dropped a decision to former Invicta FC champion Angela Hill.

With the addition, the UFC 222 card includes:

  • C.B. Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard
  • Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath
  • Andrei Arlovski vs. Stefan Struve
  • Mackenzie Dern vs. Ashley Yoder

For more on UFC 222, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.


Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

MMAjunkie's '2017 Gym of the Year': New entrant makes immediate impact

Typically, “Gym of the Year” is awarded to the fighting team that collectively puts together the best results over the course of a 12-month period.

Massive camps like American Top Team and Jackson-Wink MMA are always logical candidates just based on the sheer number of athletes who are racking up victories for the crew. In 2017, Team Alpha Male had a number of memorable moments, even if a few late stumbles offered a bit of a setback.

But for this year, MMAjunkie’s “Gym of the Year” award goes to a facility that was opened in late May, but already has served more than 40 percent of the UFC’s roster: the UFC Performance Institute.

“Going into this thing, we didn’t know how it would be received, but we’ve been hugely excited by the response,” UFC Performance Institute Vice President Dr. Duncan French told MMAjunkie. “We’ve only been open six months now, and so far the feedback and the experience of the fighters has been outstanding, so we’re really excited.”

Part of the UFC’s new multi-million dollar corporate campus in Las Vegas, the UFC Performance Institute – often referred to as “the P.I.” by staff members and UFC fighters alike – is visually stunning and boasts the most high-tech training and recovery equipment available to any MMA fighter. And best of all, it’s free to use for any athlete on the UFC roster. Just make your way to Las Vegas, and the facility is at your disposal.

“Every fighter comes with a different set of experiences and skills, and obviously the teams around them are all different,” French said. “Some of the big gyms have got lots of expertise – their own strength coaches, their own nutrition staff, their own physical therapists, etc. But there’s a majority of the roster that they’ve got an MMA coach, a striking coach and themselves, and that’s it. So, look, we try to plug the gaps and plug the holes in the portfolio of services that an athlete needs.

“It’s a very individualized and customized approach, but in working with their MMA coach, their head coach and the athlete, themselves, to try and really figure out how we can support the process, we feel we can really contribute, No. 1, in terms of objectivity and diagnostics but also just conversations, philosophical ideas on how we’re going to support this athlete to continue to develop and improve.”

The facility served as base camp for UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor as he prepared for his historic boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. Upcoming UFC heavyweight title challenger Francis Ngannou relocated from France to Las Vegas to take advantage of the P.I. And perennial flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez has been utilizing the building’s state-of-the-art recovery tools while rehabbing from surgery.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Tours of the Performance Institute will yield sightings of any number of current UFC fighters, not to mention UFC Hall of Famer and current UFC Vice President of Athlete Development Forrest Griffin, who’s always on hand to lend some advice.

The UFC Performance Institute is receiving rave reviews among UFC fighters and potentially could assist not only the betterment of every fighter on the company’s roster, but of the sport itself.

“You walk through the front door of the Performance Institute, and our mission statement is right there on the first wall, and it starts with the evolution of the sport of MMA,” French said. “That is absolutely our mantra here. We all buy in to that, and we all feel that the Performance Institute connecting with the global community of MMA is going to advance the sport for the greater good of everyone.”

A non-traditional winner for a revolutionary facility: MMAjunkie’s 2017 “Gym of the Year.”


Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

How a friend's wedding and a few beers brought Myles Jury back to Alliance MMA

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

LAS VEGAS – Two years ago, Myles Jury was among a small group of athletes who left California’s Alliance MMA to train at Arizona’s Power MMA. Ultimately, the move didn’t necessarily prove as beneficial as “Fury” had hoped.

Jury readily admits there were many factors involved in his recent career struggles. After opening up his professional run undefeated through 15 fights, back-to-back losses to Donald Cerrone and Charles Oliveira brought incredible frustration. Becoming a father for the first time was incredibly life-changing, as well.

In fact, the 29-year-old Jury just admits he had some growing up to do.

But after pushing his way through those challenges, a chance encounter this past September changed everything. After two years away from San Diego’s Alliance MMA, Jury was reunited with the team’s head coach, Eric Del Fierro, at Jeremy Stephens’ wedding. With the frosty beverages flowing, Jury said a conversation began.

Del Fierro said Jury (17-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) was welcome to come back to the team whenever he wanted, and the UFC featherweight accepted the invitation, heading there almost immediately after to start his training camp for Rick Glenn (20-5-1 MMA, 2-2 UFC) at this past Saturday’s UFC 219 event in Las Vegas.

“I flew out there the next week, and we just started training and getting it,” Jury told reporters following his UFC 219 win.

Jury looked calm and composed throughout the contest, outstriking Glenn on the feet and preventing the matchup from hitting the floor en route to a clearcut decision win. Following a two-fight losing streak and a 16-month layoff, Jury is now riding a two-fight winning streak and seems ready to resume the form he held in winning his first six UFC appearances.

“I was happy going into this fight because I worked my butt off in this camp and had a good time,” Jury said. “Whenever you come away with a victory in this game at this level, I mean, I’m happy. All good.

“There were some people that you guys wouldn’t guess unless I straight up just told you that I needed to get away from me. Look, I’m a fighter. In my mind, if I have to, I’ll train by myself and fight. As a fighter, that’s just what you do. But sometimes I’m so stubborn that I try doing (expletive) on my own, and I cut myself short. So I do really believe this is where I need to be, training with Eric and Alliance and guys like Jeremy Stephens and stuff like that.”

Jury admits he’s not terribly concerned with who he fights next. Focusing too much on what’s ahead only proved problematic in the past, Fury explains. Instead, now content again with his old team, Jury said his focus is only on preparation and performance, and he believes that will provide him all the success he desires.

“We’ll see what the UFC wants to do,” Jury said. “I’m 29 – just have some patience. I’m getting better. I’m getting stronger, and if a top-ranked opponent comes, if a title shot comes, whatever, I’m not going to chase it.

“Of course I want gold. I want the belt. I want the money. I want all that stuff. But everybody wants that, and I can’t focus on that. That (expletive) is going to come as a byproduct of me training, taking fights, me serving the UFC, me serving the fans. When I serve the people in my company, that’s wen money and everything comes back to me.”

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

And for complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury lands a kick against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury lands a kick against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury lands a hit against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Rick Glenn defends against Myles Jury during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury lands a hit against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury brings down Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury pins Rick Glenn to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury pins Rick Glenn to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury lands a hit against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury defends against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury lands a hit against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury defends against Rick Glenn during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Myles Jury pins Rick Glenn to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/Wcqd9wxMMHx9NHYg3phjfL/294095", customAnalytics: true, title: "Jury def. Glenn", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

Dan Hooker can't be picky if he wants on UFC 221: 'It's kind of first in, first served'

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

LAS VEGAS – Dan Hooker joined the UFC in 2014, but is only now riding his first winning streak.

After a brutal knee that finished Ross Pearson and earned Hooker a “Performance of the Night” bonus in June, Hooker (15-7 MMA, 5-3 UFC) added a second straight finish to his record with a third-round submission of Marc Diakiese (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) at Saturday’s 219.

Hooker’s UFC record wasn’t exactly tragic before – as a featherweight, he scored three wins. They were all, however, followed by losses.

The fact that his newfound consistency matches the timeline of his move up to the 155-pound division is no coincidence.

“145 kind of took my venom,” Hooker told reporters backstage at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena after the pay-per-view main card lightweight bout. “(It) kind of took that killer instinct – took my ability to think and be technical. Now, at ’55, I’m me. This is (the) me I expected to go to all these other fights. But I had to learn the hard way.”

Now that he’s got some momentum, New Zealand’s Hooker is hoping to keep it going as quickly as possible – more specifically on Feb. 11, the date of the promotion’s return to Australia for UFC 221.

With the weight cut to 155 not being a big issue, all Hooker needs is a willing dance partner. And he’s not even picky about that, either.

“Up, down, left, right, it’s all the same thing,” Hooker said. “Six weeks is a quick turnaround, so I’m not waiting for any man. It’s kind of first in, first served. If you want the fight, message (UFC matchmaker) Sean (Shelby) and we’ll put it together. I’ll sign it tomorrow.”

If Hooker’s career is now on a upswing, the opposite can be said for his opponent. The 24-year-old Brit, who entered the UFC as a touted undefeated prospect, has now followed his first pro loss – a split decision to Drakkar Klose in July – with yet another setback.

The lead-up between Hooker and Diakiese wasn’t always warm-and-fuzzy, as evidenced by their heated face-off at the UFC 219 ceremonial weigh-ins. But, when it’s all said and done, Hooker respects his opponent and his exciting skill set.

So, as someone who’s been through his own share of ups and downs in the sport, “The Hangman” has no problem sharing a few words of advice for the up-and-coming Diakiese.

“I started my pro career and I dedicated my life to this sport when I was 3-3,” Hooker said. “I went, I said, ‘I’m done.’ I was three wins, three losses, I said, ‘I’m done with this sport. I hate it, I’m over it.’

“I went and got a sales job. I was there one day. I knocked on one door. The guy was rude to me, I wanted to punch him and I said, ‘I’m going to back to the gym. I said, I’m done. I’m going back to training.’ That’s the moment I dedicated my life to the sport.

“I’ve learned my hard lessons outside of the UFC. He’s learning them inside the UFC. He’s a talented kid. He’ll come back from this if he wants to. You pick yourself up. He’s a very dangerous guy, very talented. The world is his oyster, he can get back in there.”

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

And for complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Dan Hooker before fighting Marc Diakiese during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Marc Diakiese fights against Dan Hooker during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Marc Diakiese moves in with a kick against Dan Hooker during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Dan Hooker lands a kick against Marc Diakiese during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Marc Diakiese moves in with a hit as Dan Hooker defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Dan Hooker lands a low kick against Marc Diakiese during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Marc Diakiese pins Dan Hooker to the cage during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Marc Diakiese moves in with a hit as Dan Hooker defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Marc Diakiese moves in with a hit as Dan Hooker defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Dan Hooker reacts following his victory by submission against Marc Diakiese during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Dan Hooker is declared the winner following his victory by submission against Marc Diakiese during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/Y9VYrmEqA32nDQGHa99DZS/294022", customAnalytics: true, title: "Hooker def. Diakiese", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

UFC 219 winner Matheus Nicolau 'grew up a lot' during USADA suspension, wants flyweight contender fight

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

LAS VEGAS – Matheus Nicolau successfully returned to the octagon from a 16-month layoff due to a doping violation Saturday with a dominant victory over Louis Smolka.

Nicolau (13-1-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) had not competed since July 2016, when he was flagged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for having a banned substance in his system during an out-of-competition test. He beat Smolka (11-5 MMA, 5-5 UFC) by unanimous decision at UFC 219, and said the turbulent times changed him as a person.

“It was a really, really tough moment of my career, of course,” Nicolau said after his win. “I don’t know if you know the case, about how it was, but the amount (of substance) was really no amount. There were other guys, as soon as they saw my case, they said to me, ‘Hey, this is something tainted.’ But it is what it is. The process has to keep going the way it is.

“It was really tough for my career, but the tough moments is what makes us harder. I grew up a lot in the 16 months away from the octagon – not just as a man, but as a martial artist. Now I’m back, and I think I’m back a better martial artist and a better man and ready for a big challenge.”

UFC 219 took place at place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Nicolau beat Smolka in a flyweight contest on the FS1-televised prelims prior to the pay-per-view main card.

With the controversy behind him, Nicolau shifted some thoughts away from his doping case and onto his performance in the octagon. He dropped Smolka multiple times, nearly finished the fight by submission, then ultimately got the lopsided nod from the judges on the scorecards.

After spending most of his career at bantamweight, Nicolau outpointed John Moraga in his 125-pound debut at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale. He piggybacked off that win against Smolka, and arguably turned it up a few notches.

“I know Louis Smolka is a really, really tough opponent,” Nicolau said. “I caught him with really clean shots and he kept fighting. Even when he got knocked down, he was not even trying to survive, but he was trying to submit me. I think it was a good challenge for me and I could show why I’m here to fight with the top guys in the world.”

At 24, Nicolau appears to have a bright future in the UFC. The Brazilian is a welcome addition to a thin flyweight division, which he thinks is light on excitement. Given the landscape, he believes he can make a mark.

“I’m here to put some fun in the division,” Nicolau said. “They need new blood and I am the new blood. I’m pretty sure I have all the skills I need to go all the way up. Of course, I take it step-by-step. I have a big road until the top of the division, but I’m pretty sure I can put a lot of fun in this division.

“What I know is I want to fight with the best. I think that I am top 10 again. I don’t know who is going to be my next step in my career. Right now I just know that I’m going to enjoy the victory and sit with my team and see what’s going to be the next step. But I’m pretty sure that I wanted a ranked guy. I’m all the way. I’m thinking high, of course.”

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau defends against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau applies a hold against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau moves in with a hit against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau moves in with a hit against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau moves in with a hit against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau applies a hold against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau lands a hit against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau moves in with a hit against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau defends against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau defends against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau defends against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau applies a hold against Louis Smolka during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Matheus Nicolau hugs Louis Smolka following their match during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/yogtaznLbSJ3TNcgJPibrd/293738", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nicolau def. Smolka", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

Trading Shots: Oh really, it's an 'exaggeration' to say Conor McGregor has never defended a UFC title?

UFC President Dana White offered some questionable arguments when making the case against stripping Conor McGregor of his UFC lightweight title. But after yet another contender solidified his case at UFC 219, has the 155-pound division finally reached a crucial crossroads? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss.

Downes: Ben, Khabib Nurmagomedov had a dominant win over Edson Barboza at UFC 219 this weekend. You know what that means? Time to talk about Conor McGregor!

Earlier this week Dana White was asked about McGregor’s lack of title defenses (he hasn’t defended the lightweight title since winning it from Eddie Alvarez in November 2016) and if the UFC should strip McGregor of the 155-pound championship. You can read more of his comments to ESPN here, but the main takeaway is that if you think McGregor should lose his belt, you’re just a “hater.”

We all know you drink haterade like it’s fancy single malt whiskey, but I feel the need to ask you anyway. Should the UFC have stripped McGregor of his lightweight title by now? And how do you rebut White’s defense that it’s “some (expletive) exaggeration in saying the guy’s never defended a title.” Go ahead. Commence with your exaggerations.

Fowlkes: It’s not so much an exaggeration as it is just a statement of fact. McGregor has won two UFC titles and thus far defended neither of them. Full stop. The end. I’m not saying we can’t consider the context of that information, but what I’m not going to do is stand around and argue over easily verifiable facts.

The best argument in favor of the UFC stripping McGregor of the lightweight title is one of consistency, which has never been very important to the UFC. Still, you know if this were anyone else refusing to defend a UFC belt for this long, he’d be stripped already.

Remember Germaine de Randamie? She made it about four months with the UFC women’s featherweight title before the UFC took it away upon the first sign that she wasn’t willing to fight Cris Cyborg.

The difference there was that de Randamie didn’t feel like the champ, even with the belt. You could strip her of the title, give it to Cyborg with the very next fight, and people would accept that the person with the belt was really the division’s best. You can’t really do that so easily at lightweight.

Of course, the legitimacy of the belt is clearly not the UFC’s primary concern. The reason it won’t strip McGregor is because no one else brings in anywhere near as much money as he does.

This is purely a financial decision. But White can’t bring himself to admit that, so instead he sits there and lies to us, either because he’s too old a dog to learn any new tricks or because he thinks he can say anything he wants without consequence, which may or may not be true.

But does anyone really want to see McGregor stripped of the title? What they want is to see him defend the damn belt, and soon. They want to see him fight either Tony Ferguson or Nurmagomedov, since, in his absence, both have staked solid claims to the throne. It’s probably the most interesting division in the UFC – in all of MMA – and the champ is an absentee landlord.

That’s the problem that I think everyone, including the UFC, would like to solve in one way or another. So how do we do it?

Downes: How do we do it? You convince a man with over $100 million in the bank that it’s worth fighting in a cage again. While Floyd Mayweather has shown that even that amount of money can’t support certain lifestyles, the UFC doesn’t have enough cash to interest McGregor. If things really get rough, he could sell his naming rights to pool noodles or alligator shoes and eke out a living.

The other tried-and-true UFC method to convince fighters to compete when they don’t want to is public shaming. I think we all know that’s unlikely to work. The only thing McGregor has in excess other than money is a sense of self-worth. Some fighters like to test themselves and beat people up. While I’m sure McGregor enjoys competing, he doesn’t exactly embody bushido. Fighting was a means to an end for him.

I suppose I agree that the UFC’s thinking is financial (because every decision is financial), but I don’t understand it. McGregor boxed Mayweather and it was the biggest pay-per-view event in years. He feuded with Nate Diaz over nothing, and fans loved it. You’re telling me he needs a belt to be relevant? Any time McGregor fights, it’s an event. He doesn’t need a title.

I think we need to read between the lines. In that ESPN interview, White mentions how McGregor didn’t want to even drop the featherweight title when he moved up. I think this is a ploy to keep McGregor (relatively) happy. We talk about how the UFC doesn’t have a lot of bankable stars, so it has to stay on good terms with the big guy.

Other than White lying/doing his own bit of exaggeration, what’s the harm? We’ve talked a number of times this year about how UFC titles just don’t mean much anymore. So what if McGregor holds on to a belt he hasn’t defended? The division continues to move on and nobody except McGregor fanboys thinks any differently about Ferguson. Aren’t you exaggerating a little extra outrage for no reason?

Fowlkes: Of course the UFC is concerned with keeping McGregor happy. There’s no guarantee that he’ll ever fight in MMA again, but stripping his title would definitely alienate him, and you know he’s not just going to sit there and take it without some kind of response. White figures that if he plays nice and covers for McGregor, at least there’s a chance of a return. Here’s a fighter he can’t bully, so instead he tries to bully the facts in an effort to convince us that down is up and no is yes.

Still, I’m not as willing as you are to go full nihilist here. Maybe UFC titles don’t mean what they used to, but the core idea in this sport is still the same. It’s a bunch of people trying to determine who the best is via a series of cage fights. That’s a big part of what’s fun about it. It’s one of the main things we still love to argue about.

You take that concept away, it’s just violence for the sake of violence. Which, hey, I’m not saying that’s without some appeal, but it’s not the same.

For instance, what makes lightweight so fun right now? One thing: the number of really good fighters who, if given the chance, might prove to be the best. And, sure, Ferguson and Nurmagomedov could fight each other and that would be awesome and fun. But when that’s over, you know we’ll just go back to the same old McGregor callouts. Defend or vacate. So on and so forth.

It’s an untenable situation, is my point. Eventually, a decision must be made. Either McGregor gets an offer he can’t refuse, or he doesn’t and we all have to move on. But pretending like all this is totally fine is just kidding yourself. And even the most experienced liar has to be careful not to start believing his own crap.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.


Filed under: News, UFC

Khabib Nurmagomedov camped out at Dana White's car after dominant UFC 219 win

Khabib Nurmagomedov surprised UFC President Dana White in the parking lot of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas following his dominant performance against Edson Barboza on Saturday at UFC 219.

Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC), who overwhelmed Barboza (19-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) for three rounds en route to a unanimous decision in the lightweight contender bout, wasn’t going to allow White to leave the final UFC event of the year without speaking to him first.

RelatedUFC 219 post-event facts: Khabib Nurmagomedov hits incredible 25-0 mark

White shared a photo of the scene he witness upon arriving at his car following UFC 219 (via Instagram):

The victory over Barboza kept Nurmagomedov’s perfect record intact and set him up for a potential title shot at 155 pounds. “The Eagle” had choice words for lightweight champ Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and interim titleholder Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) at the night’s post-event press conference, and it remains to be seen if his conversation with the UFC boss will help him get one of those fights.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov before fighting Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov fights Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edson Barboza lands a kick as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edson Barboza moves in with a hit as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in with a hit against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in with a hit against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov pins Edson Barboza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov pins Edson Barboza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov applies a chokehold against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/78MBnsBgMaD7THB69QSSuf/294098", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nurmagomedov def. Barboza", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Blue Corner, News, UFC

Holly Holm left UFC 219 wearing the damage of 'Fight of the Night' vs. Cris Cyborg

Holly Holm didn’t capture the UFC women’s featherweight title from Cris Cyborg at UFC 219, nor did she leave the octagon unscathed.

Holm (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) in Saturday’s pay-per-view headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. She absorbed 118 significant strikes in the five-round bout, which will understandable result in some damage.

By the championship rounds, “The Preacher’s Daughter” had serious swelling around her left eye due to Cyborg’s hard punches. By the time she got backstage, her eye was essentially shut.

RelatedSean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Holly Holm and UFC 219's other losing fighters?

Holm’s manager, Lenny Fresquez, told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that his client was checked out at the hospital post-fight and did not sustain any serious injuries. The superficial damage is almost certainly unpleasant, but that didn’t stop the former UFC women’s bantamweight champ from smiling for a photo with ring announcer Bruce Buffer (via Instagram):

With her defeat at UFC 219, Holm fell to 1-4 since her legendary knockout of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in November 2015. She did not speak to the media post-fight.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/294092", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Blue Corner, News, UFC

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Cris Cyborg and UFC 219's other winning fighters?

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 219’s losing fighters?)

The UFC women’s featherweight title was defended for the first time in its existence on Saturday when Cris Cyborg successfully retained her belt against Holly Holm in the UFC 219 headliner.

Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) defeated Holm (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) by unanimous decision to close out the five-fight pay-per-view main card at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Four of those five bouts went to the scorecards.

Dan Hooker (15-7 MMA, 5-3 UFC) was the lone fighter to get a stoppage, while Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC), Carla Esparza (13-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and Neil Magny (20-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) got the nod from the judges, with Magny and Nurmagomedov’s wins coming convincingly.

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 219’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Neil Magny

Jorge Masvidal

Should fight: Jorge Masvidal
Why they should fight: Magny scored one of the biggest wins of his career when he spoiled the octagon return of former WEC and interim UFC welterweight champion Carlos Condit.

Magny thwarted Condit by unanimous decision, marking his 13th UFC win since 2013, tied for the most in the organization. Magny is always an overlooked player at 170 pounds, but time after time he proves the naysayers wrong with signature performances.

Given his achievements, there’s always a chance Magny could slide into a title fight under the right circumstances. It’s not going to happen immediately, though, and in the meantime a matchup with Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC), who called out Magny post-fight for a showdown that’s been brewing for quite some time, would be good for the division.

Carla Esparza

Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Should fight: Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Why they should fight: Former UFC strawweight champ Esparza surprised some when she outworked heavily hyped Cynthia Calvillo in one of her better showings in recent years.

Esparza surprised Calvillo with her striking for the unanimous decision win, and for the first time since losing UFC gold to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in March 2015, “The Cookie Monster” is a true part of the title conversation. It’s hard to gauge what her win really means because Calvillo is so unproven, but nevertheless it’s a solid name for her resume.

If Esparza can get a fight with another top 115-pound contender, she would be a real candidate to fight current champ Rose Namajunas, who she submitted in the division’s inaugural title bout in December 2014. A fellow title challenger like Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) would help her do that, and given the Polish fighter is currently not booked, a matchup is logical.

Dan Hooker

Joseph Duffy

Should fight: Joseph Duffy
Why they should fight: Hooker kept his 100 percent finish rate in the octagon in tact when he choked out Marc Diakiese with a slick submission in the third round of their lightweight matchup.

Hooker called for a fight on February’s UFC 221 card in Australia, but given the fact it’s only six weeks away, there may not be a spot for him on the card. If the UFC can add him, though, and find a respectable opponent, then Duffy (17-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) would be the ideal matchup.

Like Hooker, the Irishman has finished a high percentage of his career wins. Duffy is coming off a UFC 217 loss to James Vick, but a matchup with Hooker could be a good chance to rebound against an opponent with complimentary skills.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Tony Ferguson

Should fight: Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson
Why they should fight: Nurmagomedov once again showed what he’s capable of with a complete dismantling of Edson Barboza to post a 25th consecutive victory on his flawless MMA record.

“The Eagle” completely overwhelmed Barboza en route to a lopsided unanimous decision and made it look easy in the process. That should be terrifying for every other lightweight, and at this point, Nurmagomedov’s claim to the UFC belt is undeniable.

There’s a serious problem going on at the top of the 155-pound division, though, and Nurmagomedov is left in arguably the most difficult position. No one knows if champ McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) is coming back, and interim titleholder Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) is waiting to find out. Nurmagomedov getting a chance to fight either man before a unification match would be absurd, and that means either waiting for the situation to play out or taking another fight.

Nurmagomedov said he wants to keep active and fight again in April, but if there’s a chance of McGregor vacating the title or being stripped, it seems in his best interest to find out if that will happen. Any other situation seems senseless after his showing against Barboza.

Cris Cyborg

Should fight: Megan Anderson
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Cyborg should fight Anderson (9-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/293986", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Holly Holm and UFC 219's other losing fighters?

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 219’s winning fighters?)

Holly Holm fell short of history again Saturday when she failed to capture a second UFC title in the UFC 219 headliner.

Holm (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) came out on the wrong end of a unanimous decision against women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) in the pay-per-view main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Other main-card fighters who fell short included Edson Barboza (19-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC), Marc Diakiese (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC), Cynthia Calvillo (6-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and former interim UFC champ Carlos Condit (30-11 MMA, 7-7 UFC).

After every event, fans wonder whom the losing fighters will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 219’s losing fighters.

* * * *

Carlos Condit

Tim Means

Should fight: Tim Means
Why they should fight: Condit’s return to the octagon ended in disappointment when he lost a unanimous decision to Neil Magny, resulting in his third consecutive defeat.

“The Natural Born Killer” took a 16-month layoff following an August 2016 loss to Demian Maia, but didn’t seem quite himself in his comeback. Magny was able to outpace him for three rounds, and now Condit is left in a difficult spot.

If the former interim UFC welterweight champion wants to continue fighting, the UFC will almost certainly give him the platform. It remains to be seen if he has the fire to do it, though, and given his long and prestigious career, no one would blame him for hanging up the gloves.

Should Condit push on, though, a matchup with another tough 170-pound foe in Means (27-9-1 MMA, 9-6 UFC) would be a suitable fight that could hopefully bring out the best in his skillset.

Cynthia Calvillo

Cortney Casey

Should fight: Cortney Casey
Why they should fight: Although it was a competitive fight, Calvillo was unable to do enough to get past former UFC champ Carla Esparza and experienced the first loss of her career in the form of a unanimous decision.

The matchup with Esparza may have been a tad too much too soon, but nevertheless it will like serve as a good learning experience for the Team Alpha Male product. Calvillo had a very active year, and perhaps some time off is warranted so she can add to her game.

Whenever Calvillo is ready to fight again, a matchup with Casey (7-5 MMA, 3-4), who is always game to take tough opponents, would work well for both sides.

Marc Diakiese

Daniel Teymur

Should fight: Daniel Teymur
Why they should fight: After a strong start to his career Diakiese gathered much conversation about being a big-time prospect in the lightweight division. Now he’s sitting on back-to-back losses after being submitted against Dan Hooker.

The Brit clearly has skill and lots of upside at just 24 years old. He’s hit a rough patch, and the way in which he handles adversity will be telling of his character and resiliency.

Chances are Diakiese lands on the UFC’s March fight card in London, and a favorable matchup is likely in order to give “Bonecrusher” a chance of getting back in the win column. Chances are Teymur (6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) would oblige Diakiese in the type of fight he wants.e

Edson Barboza

Justin Gaethje

Should fight: Justin Gaethje
Why they should fight: Barboza’s latest opportunity to solidify himself as a true threat to the UFC lightweight title once again saw him fall short. This time, the Brazilian suffered a lopsided unanimous decision loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Barboza was unable to land one of his devastating fight-ending knockouts, and instead was manhandled and battered by “The Eagle” for 15 minutes. There’s no shame in losing to the undefeated Nurmagomedov, and Barboza still very much belongs in the conversation of the top 155-pound fighters out there.

Another name in that conversation is Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC). The former WSOF champ is coming off a memorable battle with Eddie Alvarez at UFC 218, which he lost by third-round knockout. A fight with Barboza is a mouth-watering proposition and has all the potential to be not just a “Fight of the Night,” but a “Fight of the Year” candidate.

Holly Holm

Should fight: Sara McMann
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Holm should return to bantamweight and fight McMann (11-4 MMA, 5-4 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/294085", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

After dominant UFC 219 win, Khabib Nurmagomedov even less likely to fight Conor McGregor

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

(This story was first published at usatoday.com.)

LAS VEGAS – Conor McGregor has a lot of options right now, as tends to be the case for people with around $100 million sitting snugly in the bank.

The noisy Irishman can lay on yachts and collect sports cars, splurge on mink coats and sip champagne in private jets – all things he likes to do – for a good while yet before the fund supply dries up.

He can also procrastinate and tease the MMA audience about an impending return while tweaking UFC president Dana White over various financial stipulations, another popular pastime he has acquired while rising to prominence over the past couple years.

He could fight Manny Pacquiao, to follow his boxing adventure against Floyd Mayweather in August. He fared better than most expected, possibly through his own skill or perhaps because Mayweather carried him somewhat in order to produce a better show.

And the final option, which would undoubtedly be the best for supporters of mixed martial arts, just got a whole lot less appealing for him after UFC 219 on Saturday night.

If McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) opted to go into battle against Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC), it would be a combat sports bonanza of epic proportions. Nurmagomedov was superb in mauling Edson Barboza in Saturday’s main undercard fight, winning each of the three rounds by a distance and further establishing himself as a ferocious lightweight who, whisper it now, might be the best the division has to offer.

A few months back, White revealed McGregor had spoken to him about the prospect of taking on Nurmagomedov in Moscow, in what would be a much-anticipated first foray into Russia for the company. In all probability, it was bluster.

The McGregor situation is a sore point for Nurmagomedov and his team. At a recent media engagement in Los Angeles, the fighter’s manager Ali Abdelaziz erupted angrily when USA TODAY Sports posed a question to his man on the topic.

“(Expletive) Conor McGregor,” Abdelaziz interrupted before later apologizing.

The feeling in their group is that McGregor is not a true champion at lightweight, having only fought in the division one time, the night in November last year when he defeated Eddie Alvarez to take the belt.

“Tony Ferguson has the real belt,” Nurmagomedov said. “Conor is a good fighter, but he is not the real champ. I think a lot of people can beat him at 155 pounds. He has good boxing, good timing, but doesn’t have wrestling, grappling.

“The UFC wanted this, that he came to lightweight and fought one time and is champion. This is a little bit crazy, I think.”

Nurmagomedov is a master of his craft and he is dedicated to it. Hours before his cruise past Barboza, his second child, a boy, was born in Dagestan. For the past several months, he has been away from home, training in San Jose, Calif. For now, at least, he says he is focused on things other than McGregor, but don’t be so sure.

“When Conor was going to become a father, everyone knows about it,” he added. “I like to keep things private. It is my way.”

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/294049", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Carla Esparza thinks she belongs in title conversation, but game for whatever UFC wants

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

LAS VEGAS – Carla Esparza walked into her UFC 219 bout carrying an almost eight-year long, 17-fight pro record – not to mention the distinction of having been the UFC’s inaugural 115-pound champion.

Still, she was the underdog against Cynthia Calvillo – then a 6-0 fighter who, after an amateur stint, had only started her pro run in 2016 before joining the UFC in 2017.

Granted, Calvillo had looked impressive in her perfect three-fight year in the octagon. However, considering her own accolades, Esparza wouldn’t have exactly been crazy in carrying a chip on her shoulder as she looked to de-reail of a hype train on Saturday.

But as “The Cookie Monster” made clear after taking a unanimous nod over Calvillo at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, that wasn’t the case.

“People kind of say that,” Esparza told reporters during a post-fight press conference. “But for me, I kind of don’t even look at it that way. For me, even being an underdog is just motivation. I don’t really take it as a negative. It just gives me more reason to prove people wrong.”

The pay-per-view main card bout wasn’t exactly a breeze for Esparza (6-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who actually came out on the losing end of all the judges’ scorecards in the first round. But, despite Calvillo’s (13-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) own protests against the 29-28 scorecards, Esparza was quite sure she’d taken the last two frames.

Ultimately, Esparza is quite happy with her performance on Saturday and believes that being able to re-route after a rough start just serves as a testament to her experience.

Esparza is now two wins removed from her most recent loss, a narrow split decision to Randa Markos in February. Add to it the fact the woman who took her UFC belt, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, has recently been dethroned by the very fighter Esparza had to beat to earn it and you might have a solid case for another stab at the title.

Esparza agrees being considered for a meeting with champ Rose Namajunas isn’t far-fetched. But, as she’d said in her post-fight interview, she’s not putting her foot down for it, either.

“I feel I belong in the discussion, definitely,” Esparza said. “Holding a win over the current champ and having a good performance tonight, I definitely feel I should be part of the conversation. But whatever the UFC wants for me next, I’m game.”

As for the future of Calvillo, who now has to digest her first pro loss after a 2017 that had been nothing short of stellar to that point? Esparza has some nice words of encouragement – even if Calvillo didn’t really agree with how the judges ultimately saw the fight.

“I guess it’s hard to give her advice, because she’s been fighting a relatively short time professionally,” Esparza said. “And I’ve seen a. big improvement in her game. She had a lot oh hype behind her, but I think it’s deserved. Because she’s come out and had these really good victories. So I guess, just keep improving. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.”

To hear from Esparza, check out the video above.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cynthia Calvillo brings down Carla Esparza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza moves in with a hit against Cynthia Calvillo during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cynthia Calvillo pins Carla Esparza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza applies a hold against Cynthia Calvillo during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza lands hits against Cynthia Calvillo during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza lands hits against Cynthia Calvillo during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza pins Cynthia Calvillo to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza lands a hit against Cynthia Calvillo during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cynthia Calvillo moves in with a hit as Carla Esparza defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cynthia Calvillo defends against Carla Esparza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza moves in with a hit as Cynthia Calvillo defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cynthia Calvillo moves in with a hit as Carla Esparza defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza lands a hit against Cynthia Calvillo during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carla Esparza lands a hit against Cynthia Calvillo during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/xgkkqf9RYXeSR8QCKAbjGP/293994", customAnalytics: true, title: "Esparza def. Calvillo", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Neil Magny curious what's next after biggest win of career vs. Carlos Condit at UFC 219

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

LAS VEGAS – Neil Magny scored the biggest win of his career Saturday night, when he defeated Carlos Condit at UFC 219, and it was as tough as he expected it to be.

“I definitely thought it would be a close fight,” Magny said backstage at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “I knew we’d go strike for strike, submission for submission. So I definitely expected a super-close fight.”

Magny (20-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) earned a unanimous decision from the judges to defeat Condit (30-11 MMA, 7-7 UFC) and said he figured out the right approach to beat Condit during the opening round.

“That first round let me see that wrestling was the only way to break away in this fight and give me an advantage, so I ran with it,” Magny said.

It was Condit’s first fight in 16 months, and while he was competitive, “The Natural Born” killer seemed to fight with hesitation during the 15 minutes. He wasn’t his usual aggressive self.

Perhaps that was because of the long layoff.

RelatedTwitter reacts to Neil Magny's win over returning Carlos Condit at UFC 219

“You just never know,” Magny said. “It’s been a while since he’s fought last. He had plenty of things he was working on. I thought his work was more grappling-related based on just how he fought.”

“He went out there, and he put on a great fight,” Magny continued. “I don’t think the fight was as clear, decisive as it was. I think some of the takedowns is what separated the fight. He seemed like normal Carlos Condit to me.”

The win marked a nice rebound for Magny, who was coming off a first-round submission loss to presumed No. 1 welterweight contender Rafael dos Anjos in September at UFC 215.

Condit certainly is the biggest name Magny has defeated. But even so, he’s unsure where that leaves him after he’s alternated wins and losses in his last four fights since August 2016.

“I have no idea where this takes me now,” Magny said. “I’m waiting for the phone calls to come in Monday morning to see what’s next. … To close this year out with a big win feels amazing.”

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

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny brings down Carlos Condit during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Carlos Condit moves in with a hit against Neil Magny during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny moves in with a hit as Carlos Condit defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny pins Carlos Condit to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny defends against a kick by Carlos Condit during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny defends against a kick by Carlos Condit during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny lands a hit against Carlos Condit during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny moves in with a hit against Carlos Condit during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny lands punches against Carlos Condit during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny pins Carlos Condit to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny moves in with a kick against Carlos Condit during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Neil Magny pins Carlos Condit to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/TN6s7ZcieLGCsWJcaDaSUa/293802", customAnalytics: true, title: "Magny def. Condit", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

UFC 219 post-event facts: Khabib Nurmagomedov hits incredible 25-0 mark

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

The UFC’s 39th and final event of the year took place on Saturday with UFC 219, which went down at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Cris Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) defended her UFC women’s featherweight title for the first time in the event headliner, earning a unanimous decision against ex-UFC champ Holly Holm (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) after five rounds of competitive action.

Cyborg’s victory closed a card that featured eight decisions out of 10 fights. For more on the numbers behind the promotion’s 2017 calendar-closer, check below for NUMBER post-event facts from UFC 219.

* * * *

General

T-Mobile Arena

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $112,500.

Cyborg, Holm, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tim Elliott earned $50,000 UFC 219 fight-night bonuses.

Debuting fighters went 1-1 on the card.

UFC 219 drew an announced attendance of 13,561 for a live gate of $1,760,628.74.

Betting favorites went 5-4 on the card. One fight ended in a draw.

Total fight time for the 10-bout card was 2:27:23.

Main card

Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm

Cyborg extended her unbeaten streak (19-0 with one no-contest) to 20 fights. She hasn’t suffered a defeat since her MMA debut in May 2005.

Cyborg earned her first decision victory since Oct. 4, 2008 – a span of 3,374 days (more than nine years) and 14 fights.

Cyborg has outlanded her three UFC opponents 302-92 in significant strikes.

Holm was unsuccessful in her return to the UFC women’s featherweight division.

Holm fell to 0-2 in UFC women’s featherweight competition.

Holm fell to 1-4 in her past five UFC appearances.

Holm has suffered three of her four career losses by decision.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Nurmagomedov’s (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) 25-fight MMA winning streak is the longest among active UFC fighters.

Nurmagomedov’s eight-fight UFC winning streak in lightweight competition is the second longest active streak in the division behind Tony Ferguson (10).

Nurmagomedov’s nine-fight UFC winning streak is the fifth longest active streak in the company behind Georges St-Pierre (13), Demetrious Johnson (13), Max Holloway (12) and Ferguson (10).

Dan Hooker (15-7 MMA, 5-3 UFC) has earned 14 of his 15 career victories by stoppage. That includes all five of his UFC wins.

Marc Diakiese (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) has suffered back-to-back losses after starting his career on a 12-fight winning streak.

Diakiese suffered the first submission loss of his career.

Carla Esparza

Carla Esparza (13-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) improved to 3-1 since losing the UFC strawweight title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in March 2015.

Esparza has earned three of her four UFC victories by decision.

Esparza has completed at least one takedown against all six of her UFC opponents.

Cynthia Calvillo (6-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) had her six-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of her career.

Neil Magny’s (20-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) 13 UFC victories since 2013 are tied with Donald Cerrone for most in the company.

Carlos Condit and Neil Magny

Magny has earned eight of his 13 UFC victories by decision.

Carlos Condit (30-11 MMA, 7-7 UFC) suffered his third consecutive loss, the longest skid of his career.

Condit fell to 2-6 in his past eight UFC appearances.

Condit has been taken down at least once in 16 of his 19 UFC/WEC appearances. He’s given up a total of 58 takedowns in that stretch.

Preliminary card

Michal Oleksiejczuk (13-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) extended his winning streak to 10 fights. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since November 2014.

Myles Jury

Myles Jury (17-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) improved to 2-1 since he dropped to the UFC featherweight division in December 2016.

Rick Glenn (20-5-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has suffered both his UFC losses by decision.

Omari Akhmedov (16-4-1 MMA, 5-3-1 UFC) was unsuccessful in his return to the UFC middleweight division. He hasn’t earned a victory in the weight class since November 2013.

Matheus Nicolau (13-1-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) improved to 2-0 since he dropped to the UFC flyweight division in July 2016.

Nicolau’s two-fight UFC winning streak in UFC flyweight competition is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind Demetrious Johnson (13) and Joseph Benavidez (six).

Nicolau has earned both of his UFC flyweight victories by decision.

Louis Smolka

Louis Smolka (11-5 MMA, 5-5 UFC) suffered his fourth consecutive loss to extend the longest skid of his career. He hans’t earned a victory since July 2016.

Smolka has suffered four of his five career losses by decision.

Elliott (15-8-1 MMA, 4-6 UFC) has alternated wins and losses over his past five fights.

Elliott improved to 2-2 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in December 2016.

Elliott earned the first stoppage victory of his UFC career. His previous three octagon wins came by decision.

Mark De La Rosa (9-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) had his nine-fight winning streak for the first defeat of his career.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/293956", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

UFC champ Cris Cyborg continues to dominate weight class that doesn't exist

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Of all the ways to measure dominance in the fight game, one of the subtlest forms of flattery is the praise for one’s opponents.

If they need to beat you in order to get some respect, you’re just another fighter. If simply accepting the offer and surviving the challenge is enough, then you’re something special.

That helps explain why Holly Holm, standing there with a misshapen face and a nearly closed left eye after five rounds in the cage with UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in the main event of UFC 219, felt almost like a winner even in defeat.

She was the first person since 2008 to see the scorecards against Cyborg, and the only person to do it with five five-minute rounds in play. So that was something, right? She survived, and even managed to make it at least a little bit suspenseful when the scores were read.

RelatedCris Cyborg won't call herself greatest female fighter after UFC 219 title defense vs. Holly Holm

This seemed to be Holm’s whole strategy in the fight. From a distance, she did her best to chip away at the champ without ever truly threatening her. When Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) came forward with a full head of steam, Holm (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) reverted to a not-quite offensive clinch, nabbing double underhooks and using them to pin Cyborg to the fence for as long as she could.

It was the strategy of a fighter who understood that staying upright and conscious would be the greatest challenge here. Holm met that challenge, even though it required her to prove her own durability in ways that were bound to leave a mark. She didn’t win, but she made it surprisingly close. Against Cyborg, who is practically a force of nature at women’s featherweight, that’s not nothing.

So now another bantamweight challenger has come up to be sent back down. Cyborg still wears the belt that was essentially created just for her, which means the one-woman show at 145 pounds can continue as scheduled. It’s just a matter of figuring out who should get the next co-starring role – or who would even accept it.

RelatedMegan Anderson calls for Cris Cyborg to defend title vs. 'legit featherweight' after UFC 219

This is the unintended consequence of having a champion who reigns over a division that functionally doesn’t exist. No rankings or non-title fights means no clearly established contenders. Hand-picking challengers from the division below results in a game of altered stakes, in which they can get points just for surviving while Cyborg has to utterly devastate them in order to impress us.

It’s not exactly fair, but maybe that’s just life as the most dominant fighter in all of women’s MMA. Cyborg’s been at the top for so long that it’s not really news when she stays there.

What the champ needs now is a challenger who can actually push her, someone who can threaten rather than just survive. It’s a tall order, but it might be the only way for her to prove something new about her own greatness.

We already know Cyborg is the best. It’s just hard to always know what that means in a division where second place doesn’t seem to even exist.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/294019", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

How Tim Elliott kept emotions in check for UFC 219 win to honor Robert Follis

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

LAS VEGAS – Tim Elliott has been living in a fragile emotional state for the past two weeks and understandably so.

It started with Elliott feeling like the UFC “spit in my face” after the promotion refused to pay his full purse when his UFC on FOX 26 opponent, Pietro Menga, didn’t weigh in, which caused their fight to be scrapped.

But things got worse two days later when Elliott found out his coach, Robert Follis, committed suicide.

As you can imagine, Follis’ shocking death weighed heavy on Elliott in the build-up to his UFC 219 bout with Mark De La Rosa – so much so that on Saturday morning, Elliott did practice walks to the octagon in an attempt to keep his emotions in check when it came time for the real thing.

“I feel like that really helped me prepare to get out there without getting too emotional,” Elliott said backstage at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “I didn’t want to have a doubt before I got in the cage. I still had a bit of an adrenaline dump when I got in there, but I have good guys in my corner.

“Even though Robert Follis isn’t here yelling at me, everything that he ever said to me is still in my head. It’s still very fresh in my mind.”

That showed as Elliott dominated De Las Rosa on the mat in the first round before submitting him in the second with an anaconda choke in the UFC Fight Pass-streamed opener.

But still, Elliott wishes he’d done more.

“I feel good that I got the win,” Elliott said. “But I don’t feel like it was enough.”

RelatedTim Elliott honored coach Robert Follis with a short and sweet message after UFC 219 win

During his octagon interview, Elliott had a simple message for his late coach: “Robert Follis, I love you. Thank you for everything.”

That sentiment continued as he spoke with reporters backstage.

“He was my MMA coach and one of my best friends,” Elliott said of Follis.

Elliott said he arrived Tuesday in Las Vegas without his team and continued what he called a “self-destructive path” ever since Follis’ death – drinking, staying out late, not “doing the things that a professional athlete should be doing.”

“That was a mistake I made,” Elliott said. “I should’ve never come out here without my coaches. As soon as my coaches got here on Tuesday, they slapped a little sense into me and put me back on the right path.”

“They didn’t have to say anything,” he continued. “I knew what I was doing wasn’t right. The whole reason why I love Robert Follis so much, he holds his guys accountable. He’s on the phone every day: ‘What are you doing? what are you eating? What are you drinking? How much are you sleeping?’ And that’s one of the reasons why I came out here to be around him.”

Even though Follis is gone, Elliott keeps his teachings close to him and always will hold his coach in high regard.

“Everyting he ever said to me is still in my head,” Elliott said. “I’m not the smartest guy. I’m good at taking orders. I just wish that I would’ve listened a little more, and I wish I had a little more time. The time that I did have with him was very special. I never questioned anything that he ever said to me, and I wouldn’t question anything after what he’s done.”

To hear more from Elliott, including what could be next for him, check out the video above.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott pins Mark De La Rosa to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott pins Mark De La Rosa to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott lands a hit against Mark De La Rosa during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott lands a hit against Mark De La Rosa during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott lands an elbow hit against Mark De La Rosa during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott lands a hit against Mark De La Rosa during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott pins Mark De La Rosa to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott applies a hold against Mark De La Rosa during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott applies a chokehold against Mark De La Rosa during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tim Elliott applies a hold against Mark De La Rosa during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/KUbzZBMxX9q5gCdkWk4rKR/293748", customAnalytics: true, title: "Elliott def. De La Rosa", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

UFC 219 salaries: Cris Cyborg gets a cool half-million for getting past Holly Holm

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg cemented her place as the most dominant women’s fighter in history with a five-round win over Holly Holm in the UFC 219 main event.

Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) took home a disclosed flat payout of $500,000 for her unanimous decision over Holm (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC), which proved to be a close fight with the judges that could’ve gone the other way with a bigger Round 5 for Holm. Holm got a flat $300,000 in the loss. Neither fighter was scheduled to receive a win bonus.

MMAjunkie on Saturday received the list of official disclosed paydays from the Nevada State Athletic Commission prior to UFC 219, which took place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

The total disclosed payout for the event was $1,795,000.

The full list of UFC 219 payouts included:

Cris Cyborg: $500,000 (no win bonus)
def. Holly Holm: $300,000

Khabib Nurmagomedov: $160,000 (includes $80,000 win bonus)
def. Edson Barboza: $75,000

Dan Hooker: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Marc Diakiese: $24,000

Carla Esparza: $72,000 (includes $36,000 win bonus)
def. Cynthia Calvillo: $41,000

Neil Magny: $140,000 (includes $70,000 win bonus)
def. Carlos Condit: $115,000

Michal Oleksiejczuk: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Khalil Rountree: $19,000

Myles Jury: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)
def. Rick Glenn: $22,000

Omari Akhmedov: $29,000
vs. Marvin Vettori: $32,000 (fight was a majority draw)

Matheus Nicolau: $28,000 (includes $14,000 win bonus)
def. Louis Smolka: $32,000

Tim Elliott: $56,000 (includes $28,000 win bonus)
def. Mark De La Rosa: $12,000

Now, the usual disclaimer: The figures do not include deductions for items such as insurance, licenses and taxes. Additionally, the figures do not include money paid by sponsors, including the official UFC Athlete Outfitting sponsorship program pay. They also do not include any other “locker room” or special discretionary bonuses the UFC often pays.

For example, as previously reported, UFC officials handed out additional $50,000 UFC 219 fight-night bonuses to Cyborg and Holm for “Fight of the Night” and Nurmagomedov and Elliott for “Performance of the Night.”

In other words, the above figures are simply base salaries reported to the commission and do not reflect entire compensation packages for the event.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/294013", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Tony Ferguson renews callout of Conor McGregor – and adds Khabib Nurmagomedov after UFC 219

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured, News, UFC

Another holiday, another message from Tony Ferguson to Conor McGregor. But this time, he’s got Khabib Nurmagomedov to include in his thoughts.

Ferguson (24-3 MMA, 14-1 UFC), the UFC’s interim lightweight champion, posted on his Instagram account that he’ll take out both champ McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and unbeaten perennial contender Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) … and then move up to welterweight.

And we can only assume Ferguson is very serious about his message since he deemed every word in his post worthy of capitalization. (Side note: Tony, c’mon man – save your shift key; sentence starts and proper nouns only, brah.)

“Don’t Care If The @ufc Approves, I’ll Cut @TheNotoriousMMA … Drop @TeamKhabib & Move Up To Welterweight Either B4 Or After I’m Done w/ This Division & Rid It Of The Trash At The Top. Pollution Has Accumilated Over The Years, Time To Clean House #DefendOrVacate”

Ferguson’s message was a timely one. Nurmagomedov on Saturday returned to the octagon with a display of pure dominance against striker Edson Barboza (19-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) in the UFC 219 co-main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Nurmagomedov’s scores from the judges included a pair of 30-24s, giving him 10-8s in all three rounds.

Nurmagomedov said after the fight he’s ready to take on either Ferguson or McGregor – or even fight both of them in the same night.

McGregor has not fought since he won the lightweight title against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016. After that, he took time off for his longtime girlfriend to have their first child, then boxed Floyd Mayweather in what wound up being the No. 2 pay-per-view fight in history.

While he has been away from MMA, now pushing 14 months with no promise of when he might return other than UFC President Dana White saying he hopes McGregor will be back by Summer 2018, Ferguson won the interim belt against Kevin Lee – but recently underwent surgery, making his return a bit up in the air, as well.

But even without a true timetable for a fight, Ferguson at least seems comfortable enough to continue calling out McGregor, and now Nurmagomedov, who was supposed to fight him earlier this year before a failed weight cut took him out of the fight and made him a short-term persona non grata in the division until Saturday’s dominant return.

And in true “El Cucuy” form, his social media post had to include an emoji of a middle finger.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov before fighting Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov fights Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edson Barboza lands a kick as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edson Barboza moves in with a hit as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in with a hit against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in with a hit against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov pins Edson Barboza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov pins Edson Barboza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov applies a chokehold against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/78MBnsBgMaD7THB69QSSuf/293991", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nurmagomedov def. Barboza", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
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Cris Cyborg won't call herself greatest female fighter after UFC 219 title defense vs. Holly Holm

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LAS VEGAS – UFC featherweight champion Cris Cyborg made another emphatic statement about her greatness with a first title defense at UFC 219.

But she’ll let others sing her praises when it comes to where she fits in the pantheon of female fighters.

“I never think like that,” Cyborg said when asked whether her win over former women’s bantamweight champ Holly Holm solidified her status as the world’s greatest. “I let my fans think about that. I just have to keep training and keep learning, because the girls are going to beat me, and I have to be ready.”

RelatedUFC 219 scorecard: Holly Holm could've claimed title from Cris Cyborg with fifth-round win

Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) doesn’t have a whole lot of opposition on deck after Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), though she called again for a fight with Invicta FC featherweight champ Megan Anderson (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

The UFC champ clarified that she isn’t seeking a spot on UFC 221 in February in Perth. Holm’s face saw to that as Cyborg’s right hand looked badly swollen.

“I think Holly’s tough,” Cyborg said. “I think it’s the first fight I did five rounds.”

Indeed, Cyborg did after years of leaving judges out of the picture. But following the second round of Saturday’s pay-per-view headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the action was less and less competitive.

RelatedUFC 219 video highlights: Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm

“I worked a lot of patience,” Cyborg said. “She is tough and has a lot of experience. I touched her, and I saw she felt the punches, but she was moving around a lot.”

A fight with another historical bantamweight – current 135-pound champion Amanda Nunes – appears to be picking up steam. While Cyborg reiterated her distaste at facing a fellow Brazilian, she said she’ll acquiesce if Nunes pushes for the fight.

“I wouldn’t like to fight somebody Brazilian, but if she wants to fight me, I’ll fight anybody (UFC President) Dana White puts in front of me,” Cyborg said. “I’m saying Megan, because she’s 145 pounds, and I would like my division growing. I think she’s in line to fight for the belt.”

Anderson withdrew from a scheduled fight with Cyborg at UFC 214, citing personal problems. Cyborg said she wasn’t sure whether Anderson would be ready to accept a fight, though Anderson seemed more than game.

RelatedTwitter reacts to Cris Cyborg's brilliant title defense vs. Holly Holm at UFC 219

For now, Cyborg is just happy she’s put some more distance between herself and her competition.

“I’m really happy, because I know to have a great fight, I need a great opponent,” Cyborg said.

For complete coverage of UFC 219, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. 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/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/293916", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
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