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UFC-Austin's Diego Ferreira reflects on two years 'completely destroyed' by suspension

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AUSTIN, Texas – Diego Ferreira doesn’t know how he’ll feel Sunday when he makes his first walk to the octagon in 25 months. But, for now, he’s just happy to be back home after a painful detour.

In January 2016, Ferreira took a unanimous decision over Olivier Aubin-Mercier to bounce back from the first skid of his career and earn his third UFC win. He was looking to keep that going May 29 that year, in a scheduled UFC Fight Night 88 meeting with Abel Trujillo, when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency intervened.

Ferreira had failed an out-of-competition test for Ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator with steroid-like properties. The fighter, who’d self-reported the use of also-banned 7-keto-DHEA as well, was ultimately given a 17-month suspension.

As he prepares for his UFC Fight Night 126 return, which takes place at Frank Erwin Center, Ferreira feels “awesome.” But it took getting over some anger and frustration as he tried to prove that contaminated supplements were to blame for the bust.

“At the end of the day I got caught with something I never heard about, never took it in my life,” Ferreira told MMAjunkie. “It just destroyed two years of my life. Completely destroyed, because I had plans on that time. I had plans to bring my kids from Brazil to over here in Texas. Took me a lot. Took two years to sit down and wait, to put food on my table, to put my kids in school, to get all the work I had to get done. It (made me worry) a lot.”

Ferreira had initially been given a 12-month suspension before ultimately accepting USADA’s final penalty. It was still lighter than the two years he could have gotten – a leniency that USADA, in a statement sent out at the time, said was due to “the circumstances” of Ferreira’s situation. They also said Ferreira had several of his supplements tested.

“At USADA’s request, the WADA-accredited laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, independently obtained and analyzed the contents of an unopened container of the supplement in question,” the statement read. “That testing conclusively confirmed that although the supplement only listed one prohibited substance as an ingredient (7-keto-DHEA), it actually contained 7-keto-DHEA and a second undeclared prohibited substance (Ostarine) as well.”

Ferreira said he took supplements given by a friend – “a friend I can’t even call a friend” after it all went down, he added. But he also believes he was ill-advised as to what should follow once he failed the test. And while he’s now in a much better place, he admits he harbored some bitter feelings at first.

“I had plans to do,” Ferreira said. “I had things to supply for my family. And, one day to the next, it’s taken away from me. It got me (angry). It got me super (angry). We could do more, but I don’t have the way to get what I have to do. I couldn’t do anything, because I don’t know anything about it.

“I think the lawyer I got, I think we just like – ‘OK, let’s do this, it’s going to be better for you. And let’s go get away, just get over this.’”

Ferreira was able to bring his three kids to live with him in Texas, but the financial strain put him through some “very difficult” times. He even had to sell the Harley Davidson motorcycle he won for his knockout win over Ramsey Nijem at UFC 177.

“At the end of the day, I survived,” Ferreira said. “I (got) through it. My friends and family helped me a lot. But always I’d wake up and say, ‘Today is a new day. Let’s go. We need to get this over (with).’ And I got through the two-year suspension.”

But even bad things, Ferreira adds, happen for a reason.

While he did allow himself some time off to be upset with the situation after it happened, he ultimately made his way back to the gym. Unable to compete in MMA or Brazilian jiu-jitsu (he says he was also suspended by the IBJJF) he got to hone his muay Thai and wrestling. He got to focus solely on being a better coach and a more well rounded MMA fighter.

So, if UFC Fight Night 126 opponent Jared Gordon (14-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) had been basing his studies on Ferreira’s (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) old tape, the Brazilian lightweight has a piece of advice.

“(He’s) just wasting time,” Ferreira said. “Right now, it’s a completely different fighter. Trust me, you’re going to see on Sunday, on fight night, you’re going to see a good fighter.”

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

And for more on UFC Fight Night 126, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Israel Adesanya entered the octagon last Saturday carrying a lot of hype but also a few questions. The main one arguably: Could the exciting striker hold his own on MMA’s biggest stage?

Adesanya (12-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) answered that quite assertively. First, he turned Rob Wilkinson (11-2 MMA, 0-2 UFC) into the 12th knockout victim of his 12-fight MMA record. And then the 28-year-old, who’d later bag an added $50,000 for his “Performance of the Night” efforts, made sure his post-fight was just as intriguing.

With that answer, though, comes yet another question: What now?

As it often happens when promising fighters make flashy debuts, especially those who excel at specific areas of the game, there’s a balance to be struck there. What kind of competition should the UFC give a fighter who clearly has star potential?

We’ll find out how the promotion feels about that when they announce his next matchup. But Adesanya has an easy answer in regard to the type of fights he wants to pursue.

“I’ll fight anyone, anyone in the world,” Adesanya told MMAjunkie a few days after the middleweight bout, which aired live on FS1 from Perth Arena in Perth, Western Australia. “I’ve never really had my fights cherry-picked. A lot of these guys will get into the UFC or even combat sports, like boxing or kickboxing, they get their fights cherry-picked. Not me. All my fights were fighting the best people from different parts of the planet.

“Now I’m in the UFC, people are like, ‘Feed him some cans first or get him a top 10.’ I don’t really care. Either one is a fight for me. Whomever I fight, my pay check is still the same. And I’m getting bonuses in all the rest of my fights.”

RelatedA flip, a finish, and some pretend public urination add up to a memorable UFC debut for Israel Adesanya

Adesanya’s biggest strength is no secret to anyone. The Nigerian-born fighter, who fights out of New Zealand, holds an extensive kickboxing record, which he estimates sits at 79 fights, and a handful of boxing bouts. The numbers are solid, but it’s the visual evidence that really makes a compelling case for the human highlight reel.

As Wilkinson – and his 16 takedown attempts – showed, a lot of Adesanya’s competition will most likely prefer to test his blue-belt Brazilian jiu-jitsu than his hands and knees. But, as Saturday’s bout also helped illustrate, Adesanya is not too worried about that.

“Everyone just thinks they want to take me down,” Adesanya said. “I welcome it. For me, I wanted to showcase my stand-up in the last fight just to make my debut – put a stamp on it, get those 50 (grand). But I welcome someone to try to take me down and keep me down. Or to see what I’m like on my back, see what I’m like on top. This is not just stand-up fighting.”

Had he wanted to stick to what’s comfortable, Adesanya said, he could have easily just kept on his highly victorious kickboxing and boxing path. Instead, he chose to incorporate a whole new set of skills to his game – and test himself against some people who have been doing it for a long time on the biggest stages.

Why, you ask?

“For me, in the back of my mind, I don’t know if it’s my ego or just me being anxious,” Adesanya said. “I just felt if I ever run up on a guy with a jiu-jitsu black belt or a really good wrestler, he’d be able to (expletive) me up without even throwing a single punch. I can’t, as a man, I can’t live with that. Feeling vulnerable. Like someone might have an advantage in another area, in the ground or against the fence.”

And then, of course, there’s the challenge of learning.

“This is martial arts. You have to evolve and keep learning,” Adesanya said. “And, man, you jump to MMA, there’s so much to learn. There’s what you know, there’s what you don’t know and there’s what you don’t know you don’t know, which is infinite. That’s why you want to keep learning.”

The learning process is the reason Adesanya doesn’t see his UFC debut as an overdue occurrence. While a previous contract with a different organization kept him from getting signed sooner, Adesanya said he’s glad for the extra time he got to compete across the globe and meet fighters of different styles.

We got a preview of how that paid off at UFC 221. But Adesanya is nowhere near done showing what he can do.

“No one’s really calling me out or saying anything yet,” Adesanya said. “I know these boys, they’re just treating me like the Dark Lord – he who shall not be named. They feel like if they say my name, they might get the power. Or maybe they’re scared. I don’t really care.

“All I know is I’m working. If you want to beat me, you better do it yesterday, because every (expletive) day, I’m getting better.”

Adesanya’s exciting style inside the cage would certainly have been enough to capture some attention. But add to it his confident personality – and, of course, now a stylish UFC debut – and you can understand why the MMA community would be abuzz with the idea, however embryonic, of its possible next superstar.

For some fighters coming up, that is a label too heavy to carry. But, probably because he had no doubt it would happen eventually, that’s not the case with Adesanya.

“I’ve been there for a long time, you guys are just late to the party,” Adesanya said.

For complete coverage of UFC 221, visit the UFC events section of the site.

Zabit Magomedsharipov announces UFC 223 fight vs. Kyle Bochniak

Zabit Magomedsharipov is coming to America.

The rising Russian announced today on his Instagram page that he’s set to fight Kyle Bochniak at UFC 223, which takes place April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

No official announcement on the featherweight booking has been made by the UFC.

For the 26-year-old Magomedsharipov (14-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC), the fight will mark his first in the U.S. After his first 12 fights occurred in Russia and Ukraine, his first two UFC appearances took place in China and Netherlands. Magomedsharipov is off to a hot start in the UFC, with both submission victories earning him “Performance of the Night” bonuses.

Bochniak (8-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC in January 2016. He was previously unbeaten in six fights under the CES MMA banner. In his most recent performance, Bochniak, 31, defeated Brandon Davis by unanimous decision at UFC 220.

The latest UFC 223 lineup includes:

  • Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov – for lightweight title
  • Champ Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk – for women’s strawweight title
  • Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
  • Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Joe Lauzon
  • Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno
  • Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis
  • Alex Caceres vs. Artem Lobov
  • Calvin Kattar vs. Renato Moicano
  • Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Bec Rawlings
  • Kyle Bochniak vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov

For more on UFC 223, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) reacts to fights against Mike Santiago (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mike Santiago (red gloves) fights Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) reacts to fights against Mike Santiago (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 2, 2017; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Habit Magomedsharipov (blue gloves) reacts to fights against Mike Santiago (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ahoy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/UbsswjxQJdR9Rf4mDSczL7/303137", customAnalytics: true, title: "Magomedsharipov def. Santiago", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

No longer operating off raw talent, UFC-Austin's Sage Northcutt wants to be best at everything

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AUSTIN, Texas – Is the sky the limit for Sage Northcutt now that he’s completely dedicated to MMA? He seems to think so ahead of UFC Fight Night 126.

Northcutt (9-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC), who meets Thibault Gouti (12-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC) in a lightweight fight on Sunday’s FS1-televised main card at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, has completely immersed himself in the sport in recent months, specifically since he joined Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif.

Prior to committing full-time to Team Alpha Male, Northcutt was a bit of a wandering soul. He trained at numerous gyms while also trying to juggle an intense school curriculum while studying petroleum engineering at Texas A&M. Northcutt ditched school in favor of a full-time MMA career, and he said the results are showing.

“It’s been way more comfortable since I withdrew from school,” Northcutt told MMAjunkie. “Now I’m not studying to be a petroleum engineer. I’m able to focus full-time on the fight. Now the confidence is going up, and I’m feeling way more better because I know I’m improving every single day instead of taking the talent I had from when I was a little kid and going off that. Now I’m able to build that talent and get better.”

RelatedUrijah Faber wants Sage Northcutt ('Santa with abs') to vocalize title aspirations

Following a stretch of two losses in three fights, Northcutt joined Team Alpha Male. His short amount of time at the camp paid dividends in his recent performance, and Northcutt showed off his best work to date in a unanimous-decision win over Michel Quinones at UFC Fight Night 120 in November.

More than three months later, Northcutt said he’s continued to make strides in his game. With the mentorship of Team Alpha Male founder Urijah Faber, “Super” has only positive reviews of his new camp.

“Team Alpha Male’s been amazing,” Northcutt said. “I have my coach, Urijah Faber. He’s watching me do everything pretty much all the time. I’m training or grappling or sparring live. He’s over there making adjustments. He’s really hands on, so that makes a big difference.”

Northcutt said the biggest advancement in his game has been a cleaner offensive flow. He wants to be seamless as he moves from striking to wrestling to jiu-jitsu, and he said the coaches and training partners have brought that out of him.

RelatedAhead of UFC-Austin, peak Sage Northcutt's training – and glee-spreading – at Team Alpha Male

At just 21, though, Northcutt knows everything won’t come together instantly. Fighting is a never-ending journey of evolution, and Northcutt’s goals fit within that reality.

“I want to be super well-rounded,” Northcutt said. “I want to be eventually be the best wrestler out there, be the best grappler out there, along with being the best striker – be all of them at one time.”

Given the relative infancy of his career, Northcutt said fight preparation is more about himself than his opponents. He has watched footage and done specific training for Gouti, who has lost three of four in the UFC, but said his knowledge of his upcoming opponent is largely limited.

“I know he fought for ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ show and he trains in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Northcutt said. “He’s from France. I know those things. I’ve been studying his tape and so have my coaches, and I’m looking forward to the fight.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 126, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) celebrates beating Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Sage Northcutt (red gloves) fights Michel Quinones (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-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/fTHEXUGswpn6n5W4DMKpr5/303106", customAnalytics: true, title: "Northcutt def. Quinones", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

LFA 33's Kyle Stewart wants KO of Jaleel Willis – who is aware, but not worried

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Kyle Stewart and Jaleel Willis come into their fight tonight carrying the same goal and professional MMA record. The levels of intensity in talking about it, however, differ a bit.

Stewart (8-0) meets Willis (8-0) in the headlining bout of tonight’s LFA 33, which airs on AXS TV from The Bomb Factory in Dallas. Surely, adding a ninth win to his unblemished record wouldn’t be too bad, but Stewart already has his sights on bigger aspirations.

“He’s 8-0, and he’s tough; you can’t fake being 8-0,” Stewart told AXS TV’s Phoenix Carnevale. “But he doesn’t (expletive) want it like I want it. Trust me when I tell you that. I’m not just happy being here. I belong in the UFC. I’ve thought about it every day for the past eight years. And I’m telling you: I’m going in there to knock him unconscious in a way that (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby goes, ‘Kyle Stewart is fighting in the UFC, in Glendale, in April.’ That’s what I’m going in there for.”

The former U.S. Marine has had somewhat of a brush with the UFC before. This past May, coming off a submission win in his LFA debut and into a spot at Dana White’s Contender Series 3, an injury stoppage led Stewart into a TKO win over Jason Jackson.

“What I had to overcome in that fight with my injuries and everything going on, tearing my shoulder – I had no business winning that fight,” he said. “But I found a (expletive) way to win that fight.”

The win didn’t translate to a UFC contract, but he got something out of it.

“I feel like Jaleel is in my position that I was in,” Stewart said. “Because when I was looking at Jason Jackson, I was looking at a guy who was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ He had beat – knocked out Dhiego Lima. He had beat game dudes. And I’m like, ‘Who have I fought compared to this guy?’

“And that’s why I’m not underestimating Jaleel. Because it doesn’t matter. You can’t do MMA math, but I went into that fight, and that fight taught me that I can fight anybody in the world. And I truly believe that I can win.”

Check it out (via YouTube):

Stewart’s commitment to fighting become quite apparent when he talks about how not even being in Afghanistan during a war deterred him from his training. But that doesn’t mean Willis, a former Bellator and WSOF fighter, is lacking in focus.

“Completely, just one fight at a time,” Willis said. “Just focused on my race. I’m like a horse, with the blinders. I ain’t worried about what brother doing over here, what a brother is doing over here. I’m coming out there. I’m focused on my race. Because at the end, I get that tunnel vision. That’s all I see. I know if I’m doing what I’ve got to do, can’t nobody mess with it.”

Willis’ beginnings as an MMA fighter may have been of the unorthodox kind (you can hear the full story for yourself in the video above, but let’s just say he went from T-shirt seller to co-headliner in a matter of hours) – but one unbeaten eight-fight run later, he’s got all the drive and inspiration to keep going.

“As a fighter, I think the same thing (about Stewart) I think about all my opponents: pretty tough and coming to fight,” Willis said. “He’s coming to knock me out. He ready. I’m ready. I ain’t worried about it. I’m just here to put in all the hard work I’ve been working toward. I just want to give my babies the life that I never had.”

To hear more from tonight’s headliners, check out the video above.

And for more on LFA 33, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

LFA 33 is live on AXS TV tonight at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT). Make sure to tweet along using #LFA33. AXS TV airs new, live fights almost every Friday night in 2017. Find AXS TV on your TV right here: www.axs.tv/fights.

'Cowboy' Cerrone passionately describes 'scariest, most intense, fun feeling' of fighting

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AUSTIN, Texas – For someone who “couldn’t even explain” the feelings and emotions that come from professional fighting, Donald Cerrone does a pretty damn good job of capturing the experience.

Cerrone (32-10 MMA, 19-7 UFC), who meets Yancy Medeiros (15-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) in Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 126 headliner, has made the walk to the cage at the highest level a near-record amount of times. The upcoming fight marks the 37th bout of his UFC/WEC career, and the only fighters with more bouts in UFC/WEC/PRIDE/Strikeforce combined history are Wanderlei Silva (40) and Dan Henderson (40).

“Cowboy” has experienced nearly all the highs and lows the sport has to offer. From losing a title fight to winning in highlight-reel fashion, Cerrone has his triumphs and tribulations, but it doesn’t get any easier.

RelatedSkidding into UFC-Austin headliner, 'Cowboy' Cerrone now the fighter he once criticized

Despite all of Cerrone’s experience, he said the journey to the octagon for a UFC fight never gets less nerve-racking.

“This is what I love,” Cerrone told MMAjunkie. “I love fighting. It’s the scariest, most intense, fun feeling. I couldn’t even explain it to you. From right now, (I) can’t sleep at night, eating’s hard, make the weight, half the battle’s over. Fight day, (expletive). All your friends are like, ‘You’re going to kill him!’ Uh, no, (expletive). I’ve got to go in there and fight. It doesn’t just go like that. Scared. Pack your (expletive). We’re in the arena. All your teammates are fighting. Your coach is there.

“It’s crazy. It’s scary. You go throw up in the bathroom – I do anyway. Then you’re standing, and you walk down the hall with (expletive) lights in your face. Now you’re live on TV. You walk down that tunnel, and you’re like, ‘Holy (expletive).’ Six weeks (of training camp), and it’s here, and it’s now.”

UFC Fight Night 126 takes place at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. The welterweight headliner between Cerrone and Medeiros airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 126 pre-event facts: Despite skid, 'Cowboy' has legendary resume

Cerrone said his addiction to the rush that comes with fighting is what keeps him going. Fans know he seeks an adrenaline rush anywhere he can get one. However, he said nothing compares to stepping in the octagon (via Twitter):

Just an average day in the life of @CowboyCerrone. #UFCAustin pic.twitter.com/okA0VfCVFq

— UFC (@ufc) February 15, 2018

“I’ve been on the edge of plane about to jump out, I’ve been on top of mountains, and nothing puts that (expletive) hair on the back of my neck feeling like walking to that (expletive) octagon and they shut that door,” Cerrone said. “And you’re like, ‘Well, there’s only two ways this can go: in or out.'”

For more on UFC Fight Night 126, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights against Darren Till (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone lands a kick against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone and Robbie Lawler react following their match during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone moves in with a hit against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts to fight with Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts after his welterweight bout against Patrick Cote (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-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/PVhrMETcnLxfjDpbGMSqL5/303089", customAnalytics: true, title: "Donald Cerrone", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC Fight Night 126 staff picks: Who's picking 'Cowboy' Cerrone to snap his skid?

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Cerrone
vs.
Medeiros Lewis
vs.
Tybura Trinaldo
vs.
Vick Alves
vs.
Millender Davis
vs.
Peterson Gouti
vs.
Northcutt MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2018: 15-12
Cerrone
(59%)
Lewis
(75%)
Vick
(81%)
Alves
(70%)
Davis
(65%)
Northcutt
(83%) Matt Erickson
@MMAjunkieMatt
2018: 17-10
Cerrone
Lewis
Vick
Alves
Davis
Northcutt Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2018: 17-10
Medeiros
Tybura
Vick
Millender
Peterson
Northcutt Dan Tom
@DanTomMMA
2018: 17-10
Cerrone
Tybura
Vick
Alves
Davis
Northcutt Mike Bohn
@MikeBohnMMA
2018: 16-11
2014 Champion
Cerrone
Lewis
Trinaldo
Alves
Peterson
Northcutt Steven Marrocco
@MMAjunkieSteven
2018: 15-12
Medeiros
Lewis
Vick
Millender
Davis
Northcutt Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2018: 15-12
2015 Champion
Cerrone
Lewis
Vick
Alves
Davis
Northcutt Trent Reinsmith
@TrentReinsmith
2018: 15-12
Cerrone
Lewis
Vick
Alves
Davis
Northcutt John Morgan
@MMAjunkieJohn
2018: 14-13
Cerrone
Lewis
Vick
Alves
Peterson
Northcutt George Garcia
@MMAjunkieGeorge
2018: 14-13
Medeiros
Lewis
Vick
Millender
Davis
Northcutt Ben Fowlkes
@BenFowlkesMMA
2018: 14-13
2016 Champion
Cerrone
Lewis
Vick
Alves
Davis
Northcutt Ken Hathaway
@kenshathaway
2018: 14-13
Medeiros
Lewis
Vick
Alves
Davis
Northcutt Fernanda Prates
@nandaprates_
2018: 13-14
Medeiros
Lewis
Vick
Millender
Davis
Northcutt Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2018: 13-14
2017 Champion
Medeiros
Lewis
Vick
Millender
Davis
Northcutt Abbey Subhan
@kammakaze
2018: 12-15
Cerrone
Lewis
Vick
Alves
Davis
Northcutt

The UFC is back this weekend with a rare Sunday show in the “Lone Star State.”

UFC Fight Night 126 takes place Sunday at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

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

In the main event, Donald Cerrone (32-10 MMA, 19-7 UFC) stays at welterweight, despite giving consideration for a move back to lightweight on the heels of a three-fight skid. He meets Yancy Medeiros (15-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) in the headliner. He’s a mild betting favorite, and has just a small edge among our 14 MMAjunkie editors, writers, radio hosts and videographers. “Cowboy” is an 8-6 pick to snap his skid against Medeiros.

In the co-feature, Texas’ own Derrick Lewis (18-5-1 MMA, 9-3 UFC) meets Marcin Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) at heavyweight. Tybura is the favorite with the oddsmakers, but Lewis has a massive 12-2 run of support from our staff pickers.

Two other Texans on the main card are getting overwhelming support in our predictions. Lightweight James Vick (12-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) is a near-unanimous pick at 13-1 against Francisco Trinaldo (22-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC). And welterweight Sage Northcutt (9-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) is the only unanimous pick in his fight against Thibault Gouti (12-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC).

Also on the main card, veteran welterweight Thiago Alves (22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC) is a 9-5 pick over promotional newcomer Curtis Millender (14-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC). And Brandon Davis (8-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) is an 11-3 choice over Steven Peterson (16-6 MMA, 0-0 UFC), also from Texas, in their featherweight bout.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Cerrone, Lewis, Vick, Alves, Davis and Northcutt are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on UFC Fight Night 126, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights against Darren Till (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone lands a kick against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone and Robbie Lawler react following their match during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone moves in with a hit against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts to fight with Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts after his welterweight bout against Patrick Cote (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-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/PVhrMETcnLxfjDpbGMSqL5/303028", customAnalytics: true, title: "Donald Cerrone", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Michael Chiesa and Angel Garcia in studio

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Michael Chiesa and Angel Garcia in studio.

Chiesa fights former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 223 on April 7. Angela Garcia is the trainer and father of Danny Garcia, who boxes Brandon Rios on Saturday in Las Vegas.

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

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

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

'Bellator 194 Countdown,' No. 2: Headliners Mitrone and Nelson meet Baba Booey

Bellator MMA’s heavyweight grand prix continues tonight, and the promotion is rolling out a special two-part series previewing the matchup between Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione.

Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) and Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) meet in Bellator 194’s main event, which takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

RelatedBellator 194 main-event breakdown: Can Roy Nelson upset tourney favorite Matt Mitrione?

In the second edition of “Bellator Countdown,” Nelson and Mitrione, who meet an opening-round matchup in the eight-man tourney, head to New York City for interviews (and even meet “Howard Stern Show” producer Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate), take their official portrait shots, undergo interviews, celebrate Valentine’s Day, officially weigh in, and more.

Check out the full episode above.

Also see:

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) fights Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) reacts to fight against Matt Mitrione (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/WZHF6K7DJurzpQRHaLaVP3/303084", customAnalytics: true, title: "Mitrione def. Emelianenko", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 126, where Donald Cerrone needs to 'pony up'

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Donald Cerrone is approaching his UFC Fight Night 126 headliner against Yancy Medeiros as a must-win fight. That’s not because he’s afraid of losing his job, but because he’s just tired of losing.

“It has nothing to do with setting some record or getting back on track or proving anybody wrong,” Cerrone, who is mired in a three-fight losing skid, told MMAjunkie. “Just, it’s (expletive) time. Let’s go. I don’t give a (expletive) about keeping my job or making a statement to the guys in the upper weight class. Let’s just (expletive) go ‘Cowboy,’ just (expletive) pony up (expletive). That’s what this is about. It’s about me.”

Medeiros is on a three-fight winning streak entering this welterweight scrap, and he’s won each of those bouts by stoppage.

In the co-main event, heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Marcin Tybura, who are both coming off losses, look to avoid the first losing skids of their careers.

UFC Fight Night 126 takes place Sunday at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. What will 2018 bring?

The year 2016 was a good one for Cerrone. He moved to welterweight and went a perfect 4-0 with four stoppage wins. Three of those victories earned him fight-night bonuses. He then fought three times in 2017, and he lost each of those bouts and is currently on the first losing skid of his lengthy career. Despite that rocky run, Cerrone (32-10 MMA, 19-7 UFC) is No. 13 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings.

Medeiros (15-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) opened his MMA career at 9-0. When he joined the UFC, he went 3-4 as a lightweight. After he moved to welterweight, he’s since won three straight.

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While this bout won’t have a massive impact on the rankings, it is very significant for the futures of the two fighters involved.

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The last time Lewis stepped into the octagon, he was riding a six-fight winning streak and close to breaking into the top five of the heavyweight division. He lost that fight to Mark Hunt via fourth-round TKO.

Lewis (18-5-1 MMA, 9-3 UFC) subsequently slipped to No. 13 in the rankings. He makes his return against rankings honorable mention Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC), who is coming off a decision loss to former champion Fabricio Werdum.

With his self-promotional skills and one-punch knockout power, Lewis is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC. The problem he faces is that he’s largely a one-dimensional fighter. He’s a brawler who is always on the lookout for the knockout. That style could pose problems against the more well-rounded Tybura.

RelatedDerrick Lewis on Francis Ngannou's pay: Give me $500K to gas out

Another concern with Lewis is his wonky back, which had him contemplating retirement after the loss to Hunt and did force him out of a scheduled bout with Werdum on the day of the fight.

If Lewis wants to rise back up the rankings, he has to unequivocally answer the questions surrounding him at UFC Fight Night 126.

3. Not a happy man

James Vick is unhappy. The 30-year-old has won his past three fights via stoppage, and he hoped that run would secure him a highly ranked opponent or the headlining spot on this card.

James Vick

Vick told MMAjunkie Radio that his wish list of opponents included Kevin Lee, Michael Chiesa and Paul Felder. According to Vick, who is ranked No. 14 at lightweight, none of those fighters was interested in the matchup.

“I’m not a 2-2 guy asking to fight a top contender,” Vick said. “I’m a (expletive) 8-1 guy asking to fight a top contender. But the UFC can’t put a gun to these people’s heads and make them fight me, so I was going for the next best option. And I just wanted to be the main event in my home state.”

Instead, Vick (12-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) faces No. 15-ranked Francis Trinaldo (22-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC). The 39-year-old is 9-1 in his past 10 fights.

4. Wish granted

In January Curtis Millender told MMAjunkie Radio he deserved to be in the UFC. He was 13-3 at the time and coming off a knockout win over Matthew Frincu at LFA 24.

Curtis Millender

After he scored a highlight reel head-kick KO over Nick Barnes at LFA 30, the UFC finally came calling. Millender (14-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who is on a six-fight winning streak, makes his UFC debut against UFC vet Thiago Alves(22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC), who ended a two-fight skid in April with a decision win over Patrick Cote.

Millender has an eight-inch reach edge and 5-inch height advantage in this matchup. His opponent has a massive 12-year advantage in experience.

Alves, who has faced some of the absolute best in the UFC’s welterweight division, will be a substantial test for Millender.

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During the early part of his career, Sage Northcutt faced criticism for not training with a top MMA team, but he worked with Team Alpha Male ahead of his most recent fight. The results were excellent. Northcutt put together a well-rounded and confident performance in earning a unanimous-decision win over Michel Quinones.

Northcutt stayed with Alpha Male after that victory, and by all accounts, the soon to be 22-year-old has fit in nicely with the fight team.

RelatedAhead of UFC-Austin, peak Sage Northcutt's training – and glee-spreading – at Team Alpha Male

Northcutt (9-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and his coaches get their next test at UFC Fight Night 126, where the Texas-born fighter faces Thibault Gouti. The soon to be 31-year-old Gouti (12-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC) ended a three-fight skid in September with a first-round TKO win over Andrew Holbrook.

Northcutt has a great deal of potential. The move to a quality fight team might be what he needs to unleash that potential.

6. Making up for lost time

Diego Ferreira returns to the octagon for the first time in more than two years. His absence was a result of a 17-month suspension due to an anti-doping policy violation. His most recent fight was a January 2016 decision win over Olivier Aubin-Mercier. After that contest, Ferreira said he hoped to land a matchup against a ranked opponent as soon as he could.

Ferreira (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) meets Jared Gordon, who is unbeaten in his two UFC outings, in this lightweight tilt. Expect Gordon (14-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) to approach this fight like he did his recent scrap against Hacran Dias. In that bout, Gordon used a high-pressure attack and attempted 285 strikes on his way to a decision win.

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This bout is at the top of the prelims for a reason. It promises to be an exciting scrap that could leave the victor in the position to face a top-15 opponent.

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Geoff Neal stepped up on 11 days’ notice to take a fight on the Dana White’s Contender Series 3 fight card. Like the LFA fight he ended in the first round on July 14, Neal wrapped up his July 25 fight inside the TUF Gym in the opening frame. The stoppage win over Chase Waldon earned him a UFC contract.

Geoff Neal

In the first fight of that deal, Neal (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) faces Brian Camozzi in a welterweight contest. Camozzi (7-4 MMA, 0-2 UFC) is 0-2 since joining the UFC off the strength of winning the RFA welterweight title. Both of Camozzi’s losses have come via knockout.

We saw what Neal could do on short notice. Now we’ll get the chance to see what he can do with seven months between fights.

8. Living the dream

Joby Sanchez had a short run with the UFC from 2014-2015, when he went 1-2. He hit the local circuit for two fights after his UFC release and scored victories in both contests. Over the summer Sanchez got the chance to fight on the first DWCS card. He won that fight, but he didn’t earn a UFC deal. However, Sanchez (11-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) did get the chance to return on the seventh DWCS card, and his second-round TKO win over J.P. Buys earned him a second crack at the big time.

Sanchez now faces Roberto Sanchez (7-1 MMA, 0-1) in Austin. The former LFA flyweight lost to Joseph Morales via first-round submission in his UFC debut, which was the first loss of his career.

As impressive as Joby was in the cage during his second DWCS fight, what really stood out was his attitude in his post-fight interview.

“If it isn’t enough, I don’t care,” Sanchez said when asked if he thought he did enough to earn a UFC contract, “I’m going to keep winning and keep moving forward. It’s my dream.”

9. Momentum

Ashlee Evans-Smith was a 3-1 favorite over Sarah Moras at UFC 215. She submitted Evans-Smith in the first-round with an armbar so nasty that light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, who was commentating the fight, said he couldn’t watch the replay. It was Moras’ first fight in more than two years.

Sarah Moras

At UFC Fight Night 126, Moras (5-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) faces Lucie Pudilova (7-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC), who is coming off a decision win over Ji Yeon Kim.

Injuries have hampered Moras’ run in the UFC. She’s remained healthy since the Evans-Smith bout, and now the strawweight rankings honorable mention has the opportunity to ride the momentum from that victory into a fight against a ranked opponent if she can get past Pudilova.

10. Two finishers

Oskar Piechota made his UFC debut in his native Poland in October. He kept his unbeaten record intact that night with a dominant decision win over Jonathan Wilson, and he now enters UFC Fight Night 126 as one of the biggest favorites on the card.

Oskar Piechota

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Robert Drysdale, the former Cage Warriors middleweight champ came close to adding a 10th finish to his record against Wilson.

Piechota (10-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) meets Tim Williams (15-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC), a two-time competitor on “The Ultimate Fighter” who has spent most of his career with Cage Fury Fight Championship. His most recent fight came a year ago, when he earned a decision win over former UFC fighter Jay Silva.

Williams does have a solid ground game of his own with nine submission victories, but he’ll have his work cut out for him against Piechota, who looks like he could make some noise in the middleweight division.

For more on UFC Fight Night 126, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights against Darren Till (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone lands a kick against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone and Robbie Lawler react following their match during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone moves in with a hit against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts to fight with Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts after his welterweight bout against Patrick Cote (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-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/PVhrMETcnLxfjDpbGMSqL5/303054", customAnalytics: true, title: "Donald Cerrone", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

'King Mo' to corner potential future tourney opponent Roy Nelson tonight at Bellator 194

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Roy Nelson and Muhammed Lawal are friends who are just one win each away from having to face a high-stakes fight against each other.

Still, the possibility of squaring off in the future won’t hinder their friendship, nor will it prevent Nelson and “King Mo” from helping each other when needed. For proof, look no further than tonight’s Bellator 194 event.

Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) headlines Bellator 194, which takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie. He meets Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) in the opening round of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix.

RelatedWho ya got?! Fighters predict Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson at Bellator 194

In his corner for tonight’s showdown will be none other than Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA). MMAjunkie confirmed with a Bellator official he’s been approved as one of the official cornermen for “Big Country” at the event (via Instagram):

Nelson and Lawal routinely train together in Las Vegas. However, things could get complicated if Nelson beats Mitrione; “King Mo” is in the same tournament bracket as his good friend and training partner.

Lawal meets Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) in his opening-round tournament bout at Bellator 199 on May 12, and if he also wins, a semifinal-round clash with Nelson will determine a tourney finalist.

RelatedBellator 194 weigh-in highlights video, photos: Heather Hardy, Ana Julaton turn up the heat

It’s one step at a time, though, according to Nelson. He said he’s not going to allow something that’s not yet a reality to strain his relationship with Lawal, but if worst comes to worst, he apparently has a plan in place.

“That’s not even a focus; I’ve got to get through Matt, and then after that I’ll worry about it,” Nelson told MMAjunkie at Wednesday’s Bellator 194 media day. “That’s my boy, and I want Mo to win and then (have) Mo to go back down to light heavyweight. Right now (I have no issue) – because I’m not fighting him.”

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-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/ZfXvZvE4iXYD3vAXhjnrXa/303065", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nelson def. Ayala", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Thiago Alves OK with half-pay from canceled UFC bout, would like to see consistency

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The UFC has long gone above and beyond its contractual obligations to pay fighters when their bout is canceled through no fault of their own. But as we’ve already seen a handful of times in 2018, the amount the promotion pays in such situations can very dramatically.

Onetime welterweight title challenger Thiago Alves on Thursday told MMAjunkie that like many fighters, he assumed that making weight for a fight was reason enough to claim the full contracted show money and was a bit surprised to only get half that amount when he recently found himself in such a predicament.

“They changed the company policy in 2018, and it was unfortunate that I was in the first show of the year,” Alves (22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC) said in advance of his FS1-televised fight against Curtis Millender (14-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 126, which takes place at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

MMAjunkie was unable to immediately reach UFC officials for comment.

RelatedCurtis Millender 'cried like a baby,' scared his kids to death when UFC finally called

Alves sought to recover as much of his potential fight purse as possible this past month when his scheduled opponent, Zak Cummings, injured himself and was forced out of UFC Fight Night 124.

The money was much needed after Alves was caught in Hurricane Irma this past fall, forcing him to withdraw from a highly anticipated bout against Mike Perry at UFC Fight Night 116.

“(The UFC) gave me half of (my show purse for UFC Fight Night 124), which is not bad,” Alves said. “At least it helped me pay for the training camp. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it is what it is.”

Although several state athletic commissions that regulate promotions like the UFC include protections for canceled events, there’s no requirement to reimburse one fighter if his opponent fails or is unable to meet the obligations of a bout agreement.

Several fighters recently have taken issue with the UFC’s policy on paying fighters for canceled bouts. Interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson vented after being paid less than half his contracted pay for an ill-fated bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209. Vitor Belfort recently took the promotion to task after his UFC Fight Night 124 co-headliner was scrapped at the last minute.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 126 main-event breakdown: Ready for a 'Cowboy' vs. Yancy Medeiros gunfight?

Asked whether a policy on cancellation pay should be added to UFC fighters’ standard contract, Alves agreed.

“It needs to be a rule,” Alves said. “If you’re going to change the policy, you’ve got to send a massive email to everybody in the company and say, ‘Listen, this is what’s going to happen from now on.’ Not just, ‘Oh yeah, our company just got bought by these new people, and this is what we’re going to do from now on, and we’re not going to tell you, but when it happens, you’ll know.’

“Especially being in this company for 12 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. And this was a little hard to swallow. But what can you do, right? We’re under contract, so we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to make sure we’re still fighting and competing.”

Alves most recently fought last April, when he outpointed Patrick Cote at UFC 210. The rebound helped put him on the right track after ill-fated trip to lightweight against Jim Miller at UFC 205.

A 13-year veteran of the UFC, Alves once fought for the welterweight title, taking now-former champ Georges St-Pierre the distance before losing a decision.

For more on UFC Fight Night 126, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Jim Miller (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Jim Miller (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Thiago Alves reacts before his fight against Carlos Condit during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. 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/jTmsZX5wvus7SPwnTjWfFE/302937", customAnalytics: true, title: "Thiago Alves", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Daily debate: CM Punk is favored over Floyd Mayweather, but should he be?

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Phil “CM Punk” Brooks is listed as the favorite over Floyd Mayweather if the two were to ever compete in an MMA bout. But should he be?

That was the question for MMAjunkie Radio’s new daily debate feature.

We polled MMAjunkie readers and MMAjunkie Radio listeners to see what they thought of former WWE superstar Punk (0-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) being listed as the -300 favorite over the +230 underdog Mayweather (50-0 boxing).

They’re both inexperienced in MMA, with Punk having just one UFC fight on his resume to Mayweather’s zero, but “Money” is the best at boxing. That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Why isn’t that enough for Mayweather to be the favorite?

The voters weighed in, and it was a close call (via Twitter):

Today's @MMAjunkieRadio poll question: According to the current odds, CM Punk is the favorite over Floyd Mayweather in a potential MMA bout. Should he be?

— MMAjunkie (@MMAjunkie) February 15, 2018

Check out the video above as MMAjunkie Radio hosts “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom discuss the topic.

And for more on the upcoming UFC schedule, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during their boxing match at the at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. reacts before his bout against Conor McGregor at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts with the audience before his bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor before fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during their boxing match at the at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. 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Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor lands a hit on Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit on Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during the sixth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. reacts following his TKO victory against Conor McGregor in the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Referee Robert Byrd stops the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor in the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boxing referee Robert Byrd holds Conor McGregor after stopping the right in the tenth round against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the tenth round during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) reacts after knocking out Conor McGregor (not pictured) in their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via tenth round TKO. 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Matt Mitrione: Stipe Miocic still No. 1 heavyweight, no matter who wins Bellator tournament

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Don’t expect Matt Mitrione to get a swelled head about his position in the sport if he wins the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix.

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) competes in the second tournament quarterfinal bout tonight at Bellator 194 when he rematches Roy Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) in the Paramount-televised headliner at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., following prelims on MMAjunkie.

If Mitrione ends up winning the eight-man tournament, he would have gone through a group of names which could potentially include Nelson, Muhammad Lawal, Ryan Bader, Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, and Chael Sonnen. Those are strong additions to an already solid career resume, but Mitrione isn’t getting overzealous about what it would all mean.

RelatedBellator 194 main-event breakdown: Can Roy Nelson upset tourney favorite Matt Mitrione?

Even if he goes through the strongest crop of opponents possible, Mitrione, No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, doesn’t believe he should be elevated to the top spot. He said that honor would still rightfully belong to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (18-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC).

“No, I do not (think winning the tournament makes me the top heavyweight),” Mitrione told MMAjunkie. “Stipe is the No. 1 guy in the world. I don’t think anybody can argue that at all.”

Mitrione was more than willing to heap praise on Miocic, who is the most successful heavyweight champion in UFC history. However, he said he would love the opportunity to fight against him one day, even if he knows it’s not realistic given the current MMA landscape.

“I think it would be really dope to have the chance to compete against him,” Mitrione said. “If the Ali Act ever got passed, I think that would be really dope. And I think it would be great for the fans. Then I find out, ‘Are you really that good or not?’

“I think it would be great to have – to get rid of individual promotions. You can’t compete against each other, and I think that’s kind of silly. The American League and the National League (in baseball) compete against each other. It happens all the time in every other sport, so why not this one? It doesn’t make sense.”

RelatedMatt Mitrione: Bellator grand prix pairing vs. Roy Nelson made no sense at first, but now it does

Cross promotional matchups seem off the table for the likes of Bellator and UFC, but by the time the tournament is complete, it’s entirely possible the heavyweight division looks different. Mitrione knows that, and it’s the primary reason he’s not trying to look too far ahead.

Mitrione suffered a first-round knockout loss to Nelson in a December 2012 bout under the UFC banner. He said “Big Country” is his largest threat among tournament participants, and while he won’t claim to be the top heavyweight in the world with a win at Bellator 194, Mitrione is willing to take the label as the best in Bellator.

“I look forward to proving to myself that I am the best heavyweight in Bellator,” Mitrione said. “Roy Nelson, he’s the next person, and he beat me. It would be foolish to say anybody else (is a tougher fight).”

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-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/ZfXvZvE4iXYD3vAXhjnrXa/302908", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nelson def. Ayala", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

If Patricky Freire can't get another Bellator title shot, he'll just keep winning

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Patricky Freire no doubt would love another lightweight title shot if he beats Derek Campos tonight at Bellator 194.

But absent that – a decision that isn’t likely to be made till well after current champion Brent Primus puts the title on the line against former champ Michael Chandler in an April rematch – “Pitbull” said he’s prepared to just keep racking up wins till he gets his next crack.

“(If I get a title shot), it’s OK,” Freire told MMAjunkie this week. “But I don’t know (what) Bellator (wants). I’m ready for anyone.”

Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) and Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) meet in the Bellator 194 co-main event tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Freire had a shot at the lightweight title against Chandler in June 2016. The then-vacant belt was up for grabs in St. Louis – Chandler’s home turf. And the home favorite impressed with a first-round knockout.

Since then, “Pitbull” has rebounded with a pair of wins in 2017. He knocked out Josh Thomson in the second round at Bellator 172 a year ago this weekend. And in September, he took a split decision from former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in what arguably was the biggest win of his career.

Tonight against Campos, he’ll be facing an opponent he already has a win over. In April 2014, he stopped Campos with a second-round TKO in Bellator’s Season 10 lightweight tournament semifinals.

This time around, he doesn’t think much will be different. He likens Campos to a fighter who loves the standup game, but not much else.

“Derek Campos hasn’t changed his game,” Freire said. “I’ve changed my game plan for takedowns, my jiu-jitsu is great – but I haven’t shown it to everyone. Maybe this fight is a good time to show my jiu-jitsu. I’ve changed my game for different styles – karate, I’ve trained taekwondo, I’ve trained more jiu-jitsu.

“Derek, if you look at his fights, all his fights he just does standup and strikes. I don’t want this. I want to win easy and go home with a clean face for my kids to play with me. That’s it.”

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Video: Before Bellator 194, watch Patricky Freire's 2016 bout with Ryan Couture

Check out the victory that kicked off Bellator vet Patricky Freire’s current 4-1 run.

“Pitbull,” a perennial contender who will soon tie the record for most career Bellator fights, met Ryan Couture at Bellator 148 in January 2016. The fight didn’t last long as Freire emerged with a definitive victory.

Check out the full fight above.

RelatedStuck with undesired rematch, Bellator 194's Patricky Freire wants fans to demand his title shot

And catch Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) back in action on Friday, when he meets Derek Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) in Bellator 194’s co-headliner.

Bellator 194 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The MMA Road Show with John Morgan No. 151 – Austin: Donald Cerrone, Yancy Medeiros, Israel Adesanya

Episode No. 151 of “The MMA Road Show with John Morgan” podcast is now available for streaming and download.

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

John Morgan is in his home state of Texas for UFC Fight Night 126, and he breaks down the card while bringing you his interviews with headliners Donald Cerrone and Yancy Medeiros. Additionally, Morgan gives a few thoughts on the fantastic event that was UFC 221 and shares his interview with budding star Israel Adesanya.

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

Bellator 194 play-by-play, official results and live stream (6:30 p.m. ET)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – MMAjunkie is on scene and reporting live from today’s Bellator 194 event, and you can join us for live play-by-play, official results and a live video stream beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT).

The event takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. You can watch the prelims above beginning at 7 p.m. ET before the main card shifts to Paramount (formerly Spike) at 9 p.m. ET.

In the main event, Roy Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) and Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) fight in the opening round of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix. In the co-main event, Derek Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) takes on former lightweight title challenger Patricky Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA). Plus, boxers Heather Hardy (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) and Ana Julaton (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) meet in an MMA bout before boxing each other later this year.

Follow along with live official results a 6:30 p.m. ET for the prelims and full play-by-play and official results for the main card at 9 p.m. ET.

You can also get behind-the-scenes coverage and other event notes from on-site reporter Matt Erickson (@MMAjunkieMatt) on Twitter.

Enjoy the fights, everyone.

* * * *

Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione

Round 1 –
Result:

Derek Campos vs. Patricky Freire

Round 1 –
Result:

Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton

Round 1 –
Result:

Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov

Round 1 –
Result:

Tywan Claxton vs. Jose Perez

Round 1 –
Result:

* * * *

MAIN CARD (Paramount, 9 p.m. ET)

  • Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione
  • Derek Campos vs. Patricky Freire
  • Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov
  • Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton
  • Tywan Claxton vs. Jose Perez

PRELIMINARY CARD (MMAjunkie, 6:30 p.m. ET)

  • Ronie Arana Leon vs. Ross Richardson
  • Mike Kimbel vs. Geoffrey Then
  • Regivaldo Carvalho vs. Tom English
  • Walter Howard vs. Jarod Trice
  • Dean Hancock vs. Marcus Surin
  • Peter Nascimento vs. Kastriot Xhema
  • Pat Casey vs. Tyler Hamilton

For complete coverage of Bellator 194, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

An Arizona basketball rivalry game was going on ... then a wild Ryan Bader appeared

Chalk this one up as something you didn’t expect to see today.

Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader made a surprising appearance at Thursday’s Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Arizona Wildcats college basketball game, and he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself in the role of troll.

RelatedRyan Bader discusses fate of Bellator light heavyweight belt while he competes in grand prix

Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), who attended Arizona State University and was an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, attempted to help his home team get a win in the matchup of state rivals. “Darth” accompanied a pair of oversized Pikachu character (yes, Pikachu from Pokémon) with nothing more than his Bellator title wrapped around his waist to help rattle the opposing team during free throw attempts.

This was all part of the school’s famous “Curtain of Distraction,” and no further description is needed. Just see it for yourself (via Twitter):

What is happening at Arizona State … pic.twitter.com/RHQriACW4A

— ESPN (@espn) February 16, 2018

Bader’s next bout takes place May 12 at Bellator 199 when he meets Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) in the quarterfinal round of the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix.

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

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