MMA Junkie News

Hot Take: Daniel Cormier sounds off on Jon Jones reportedly passing a polygraph test

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BOSTON – Daniel Cormier has plenty of history with Jon Jones. Their beef will go down as one of the most memorable in MMA history.

So naturally, Cormier has a thought on the recent report that Jones took – and passed – a polygraph test in an attempt to give credence to his assertion he didn’t knowingly take any banned substance surrounding their UFC 214 rematch.

“Jon Jones took a polygraph test to prove his innocence,” Cormier on Wednesday told reporters after a workout at Reebok’s Boston headquarters. “Now, I’m gonna say this: Ted Bundy passed a polygraph test. Ted Bundy passed a polygraph test, and then killed the (expletive) guy that was giving it to him! Bye, guys.”

It was a mic-drop moment for Cormier, who seldom bites his tongue about Jones and their rivalry.

In the wake of UFC 214, which was a third-round TKO win for Jones, he was informed by USADA that he had a potential doping violation, which would be his second and could lead to a potentially lengthy suspension – though nothing has been finalized or announced yet.

Does the polygraph test mean anything? Maybe in the court of public opinion, but not likely to the UFC or USADA. And it certainly doesn’t mean much for Cormier, other than fodder for comedy.

Next up for Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) he’ll defend his light heavyweight title against Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) on Saturday in the UFC 220 co-main event. It’s a title he had restored despite losing to Jones after Jones was stripped of the belt in the wake of yet another steroid scandal.

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

Check out Cormier’s hot take in the video above.

And 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.

Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier hold onto one another during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) enters T-Mobile Arena during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) prepares to fight Anderson Silva during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) reacts after his win against Anderson Silva (blue gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) is interviewed by Joe Rogan after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/nSWP6AjXdehwFnqPirqHH5/297155", customAnalytics: true, title: "Daniel Cormier", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov official as UFC 223 headliner; title stakes still unclear

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/297151", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nurmagomedov def. Barboza", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

This much we know: Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov will headline UFC 223.

Here’s what we don’t know: whether interim lightweight titleholder Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and undefeated Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) are fighting for Ferguson’s belt, or if the undisputed title will be stripped from Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and put up for grabs at the April event.

On Wednesday, UFC President Dana White told Boston’s “Toucher and Rich” show that Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov would fight at UFC 223.

RelatedUFC 223 opening odds: Champ Tony Ferguson a firm underdog vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Today, UFC executives and made it official as UFC 223’s headliner. It takes place April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

As part of today’s confirmation, officials announced they’ll hold a press conference on Friday with Ferguson and Nurmagomedov, as well as the UFC 222 headliners: featherweight champion Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) and opponent Frankie Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC).

Here’s the description of Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov from the release:

Fans will get their first look at their UFC 223 main event, the highly-anticipated bout between interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and the undefeated powerhouse Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson looks to extend his 10-fight win streak while Khabib looks to claim UFC gold for the first time while maintaining his perfect record.

The press conference takes place Friday at TD Garden 5 p.m. ET, and MMAjunkie will be on site with full coverage.

Perhaps we’ll find out then if McGregor, indeed, will be stripped of the belt, as White previously suggested.

Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been booked against each other three prior times without a fight actually materializing. After each pulled out of one scheduled bout due to injury, Ferguson, No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, and No. 3 Nurmagomedov were most recently signed to fight each other at UFC 209 in March 2017. The fight for the then-vacant interim title fell apart on weigh-in day, though, when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized after a failed weight cut.

Ferguson subsequently beat Kevin Lee for the interim belt. Nurmagomedov, meanwhile, made a successful return to the octagon this past month at UFC 219, where he dominated fellow contender Edson Barboza for a decisive decision victory.

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

Charles Byrd vs. John Phillips added to UFC Fight Night 127 in London

The UFC’s upcoming return to London has a new addition with a pair of promotional newcomers.

It features middleweights Charles Byrd (9-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. John Phillips (21-6 MMA, 0-0 UFC), UFC officials announced via bbc.com.

UFC Fight Night 127 takes place March 17 at The O2 in London. The entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

Byrd , a 34-year-old Legacy FC vet, makes his official UFC debut after a pair of wins at Dana White’s Contender Series events. At DWCS 1, he choked out Jamie Pickett, and at DWCS 6, he tapped out Randall Wallace. He’s won three straight and five of his past six overall, and the recent wins put him on UFC President Dana White’s radar.

RelatedDana White's Contender Series 6 results: Charles Byrd wins for 2nd time, lands UFC contract

“I love this kid, Byrd, for coming back twice and finishing both times,” White said after DWCS 6. “I respect it, so I’m going to give him a shot.”

Phillips, a 32-year-old Welshman, gets a long-awaited UFC debut after previous bookings were scrapped due to visa issues. He now fights close to home and enters the UFC on the strength of a four-fight winning streak that includes four knockout. In fact, the man who calls himself “The White Mike Tyson” has 21 stoppages (18 knockouts and three submissions) in 21 career victories.

The latest UFC Fight Night 127 lineup includes:

  • Leon Edwards vs. Peter Sobotta
  • Mark Godbeer vs. Dmitry Poberezhets
  • Magomed Ankalaev vs. Paul Craig
  • Nasrat Haqparast vs. Alex Reyes
  • Jan Blachowicz vs. Jimi Manuwa
  • Kajan Johnson vs. Rustam Khabilov
  • Charles Byrd vs. John Phillips

For more on UFC Fight Night 127, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Bad blood? Volkan Oezdemir says UFC champ Daniel Cormier 'actually pretty funny'

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BOSTON – Volkan Oezdemir has gotten himself to a UFC title shot quicker than most, and he admitted he kind of likes the guy standing across from him.

In Saturday’s UFC 220 pay-per-view co-headliner, Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) fights light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) with a shot at the belt.

It’s a rather quick ascent up the division; after all, who fights for a title and takes on one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters in just his fourth UFC bout?

“Only me,” Oezdemir joked with MMAjunkie.

RelatedDaniel Cormier doesn't expect easy win vs. Volkan Oezdemir, but expects to win nonetheless

But when Oezdemir, who’s No. 7 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light-heavyweight rankings, takes on No. 2-ranked Cormier, he won’t necessarily feel rushed into the opportunity.

“I always knew inside of me I would be a champion,” the 28-year-old Swiss fighter said at Wednesday’s open workouts ahead of UFC 220, which takes place at TD Garden in Boston. “Of course, I never thought about fighting for the belt in 2017. …

“But at the end of the year, I was already signing the contract for the world title. So it’s definitely a pretty crazy intense year.”

RelatedMMAjunkie's '2017 Breakout Fighter of the Year': UFC newcomer wasted no time rising up

Ahead of his title shot, Oezdemir’s trash-talking interactions with Cormier have been pretty good-natured. The opponents haven’t gotten too personal and seem thankful to have the bout and the opportunity to move on from stripped-champ Jon Jones’ latest gaffe.

“He’s actually pretty funny,” Oezdemir said of Cormier. “I like the way he talks. I’m a big fan of humor, and I think he’s pretty smart with his way of talking and joking. He’s actually pretty funny.

“But definitely he’s going to see somebody that he’s never seen.”

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

July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) defeats Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts before his both against Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (right) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/HEBcogVsJo8qj8t4c4FpL7/297139", customAnalytics: true, title: "Volkan Oezdemir", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

'Rampage' Jackson appears to be in great shape for Bellator 192

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There’s no denying Quinton Jackson is a legend of MMA, but it’s fair to say that these days a lot of fans question his motivation.

One of the main reasons is that “Rampage,” 39, no longer appears to be in the peak physical condition that we’re used to seeing. Consider how the former UFC light heavyweight champion looked at 253 pounds for his heavyweight bout last March vs. Muhammed Lawal.

“Rampage” Jackson at Bellator 175 weigh-ins in March 2017. (Bellator MMA)

Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) lost a unanimous decision that night to Lawal, and now he returns this Saturday in the Bellator 192 headliner vs. Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) to kick off the heavyweight grand prix. On Wednesday, “Rampage” declined to reveal his current weight when asked by MMAjunkie’s John Morgan, saying he hasn’t weighed himself in weeks.

Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, check out this first glimpse of what shape Jackson appears to be in in this official Bellator portrait:

“Rampage” Jackson’s official portrait for Bellator 192. (Bellator MMA)

It’s amazing what cutting ketchup out of your diet can do, isn’t it? This looks more like the old-school “Rampage” we know and love. And here he is breaking a little sweat during the open workouts (via Twitter):

While Quinton @Rampage4real Jackson declined to reveal his actual weight ahead of #Bellator192, the longtime light heavyweight does look leaner than his last appearance. Check him out on the mitts at today's open workouts.

Full media scrum: https://t.co/hfhzWNUQQd pic.twitter.com/zRWX789pa8

— MMAjunkie (@MMAjunkie) January 18, 2018

Bellator 192 takes place Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and airs on Paramount (formerly Spike) following prelims streamed on MMAjunkie.

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

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

Ovince Saint Preux vs. Ilir Latifi rebooked for UFC on FOX 28 in Orlando

Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Corey Anderson (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-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/jzHH59PtohDwVXecJjmDsi/297136", customAnalytics: true, title: "Saint Preux def. Anderson", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Ovince Saint Preux and Ilir Latifi will fight each other, after all.

Saint Preux (22-10 MMA, 10-5 UFC), who’s No. 9 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light-heavyweight rankings, and honorable mention Latifi (13-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC) were recently pulled from a UFC on FOX 27 matchup and will fight at UFC on FOX 28 instead.

The rebooked fight, which UFC officials announced via orlandosentinel.com, takes place four weeks later than that original booking.

RelatedDavid Branch reacts to losing Yoel Romero as opponent at UFC on FOX 28

UFC on FOX 28 takes place Feb. 28 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. The main card airs on FOX following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

Saint Preux, a 34-year-old from Tennessee, is on a three-fight winning streak that includes two consecutive fight-night bonuses. Most recently, he scored a head-kick knockout win over Corey Anderson at UFC 217. Prior to that, he had back-to-back Von Flue choke finishes of Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Yushin Okami. He had three straight losses (against top contenders) before his recent three-fight winning streak.

Latifi, a 34-year-old Swedish fighter who hoped to maintain the OSP matchup despite his injury, recently picked up a unanimous-decision win over Tyson Pedro at UFC 215 to rebound from a knockout loss to Ryan Bader. He’s on a 4-1 run in his past five fights.

The latest UFC on FOX 28 card includes:

  • Ilir Latifi vs. Ovince Saint Preux
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns
  • Alan Jouban vs. Ben Saunders
  • Jessica Andrade vs. Tecia Torres
  • Max Griffin vs. Mike Perry
  • Renan Barao vs. Brian Kelleher
  • Sam Alvey vs. Marcin Prachnio
  • Sara McMann vs. Marion Reneau
  • Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Aleksandar Rakic
  • David Branch vs. TBA
  • Yana Kunitskaya vs. TBA

For more on UFC on FOX 28, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Underdog Stipe Miocic feels disrespected ahead of UFC 220, but still planning 'and still'

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BOSTON – It’s a bit of a no-brainer to Stipe Miocic if you ask him if he feels disrespected to be the underdog in a title fight as the UFC’s heavyweight champion.

“How would you feel?” Miocic asked after a Wednesday workout in Boston.

Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) is the underdog – as champion – to challenger Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in the UFC 220 main event, which takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Ngannou checks in as a -175 favorite, no doubt in large part thanks to his December “Knockout of the Year” starching of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 in Detroit.

“I’m so used to it by now,” Miocic said. “I love being the underdog because I shut everyone up. That’s what this sport’s all about – it’s like ‘The Jerry Springer Show.’ … I’m walking out ‘and still.’ No one (else) is going to be champion until I leave.

“I’m going to go out there and do my job. That’s what I do every time. I know he’s a big, tough guy, and he hits hard, but so do I. I pack a little punch. I might be smaller than him, but it’s all good.”

The champ has seen Ngannou’s KO power, but to presume he can’t bring the same power would be faulty, he thinks.

“A lot of people don’t think (I have power), and they wake up looking at the lights,” Miocic said. “I can stand with anyone, but I’m going to do what I do. I have the best coaches in the world, a great game plan, I’m going to go out and execute and walk out ‘and still.'”

For more from Miocic, check out the video above.

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

May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves)celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) greets Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) after their fight in UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (red) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) exits the ring after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/GvaJQaMVwy6DqVjCrq5HfK/297126", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stipe Miocic", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC 220's Francis Ngannou planning quick win, and pretty sure Stipe Miocic rematch won't happen right away

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BOSTON – Francis Ngannou wants to be sure Stipe Miocic doesn’t make UFC history Saturday night.

And if he’s successful, Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) is pretty sure he won’t need to give Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) an immediate rematch, either.

Ngannou challenges Miocic for the heavyweight title in the UFC 220 main event, which takes place at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

RelatedRise of the Predator: Francis Ngannou, from pro debut to 'KO of the Year'

“How many contenders are in the division right now waiting?” Ngannou posited Wednesday after a workout in Boston. “So I don’t think right away they would just give the rematch to someone who lost. But if he’s there, I’m going to fight everyone. I don’t have a choice in it – I’m open to fight everyone. It doesn’t matter. But I don’t think he’ll be the first one to be a contender again (if I beat him).”

Ngannou didn’t say who he thought that next contender might be. First, he has to go through the champion, who will attempt to become the first heavyweight champion in UFC history with three straight title defenses.

That could be considered an historical indictment on the turnover of the heavyweight division’s elite, but also of just how competitive the weight class is at the highest level.

Ngannou, who less than two months ago brutally knocked out Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 to earn the title shot, believes he’s the next big thing at heavyweight – and that his scary power will continue against Miocic.

“If I was Stipe, I should be afraid of what’s coming Saturday night,” Ngannou said. “It’s a huge challenge – one he’s never faced. I don’t want to go five rounds, but if I have to go, I will go. I trained for five rounds. But I’m not looking to go five rounds. That’s not in my game plan. (My game plan) is to finish the fight quickly and go back home – maybe have a party.”

For more from Ngannou, check out the video above.

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

Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Alistair Overeem (red gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Alistair Overeem (red gloves) fights Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Alistair Overeem (red gloves) fights Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Alistair Overeem (red gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Alistair Overeem (red gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Dec 9, 2016; Albany, NY, USA; Anthony Hamilton (blue gloves) fights Francis Ngannou (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Times Union Center. Mandatory Credit: Michael Adamucci-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) pins Bojan Mihajlovic (blue gloves) to the mat and wins by TKO during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Bojan Mihajlovic (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Bojan Mihajlovic (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports April 10, 2016; Zagreb, Croatia; Francis Ngannou throws a punch against Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at Zagreb Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports April 10, 2016; Zagreb, Croatia; Francis Ngannou fights against Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at Zagreb Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports April 10, 2016; Zagreb, Croatia; Francis Ngannou reacts after he is declared the winner by TKO against Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at Zagreb Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Francis Ngannou celebrates his knockout victory against Luis Henrique during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/o8xUqxTD73PHU8df7LQMhk/297124", customAnalytics: true, title: "Francis Ngannou", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Daniel Cormier doesn't expect easy win vs. Volkan Oezdemir, but expects to win nonetheless

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BOSTON – Daniel Cormier has no problem giving Volkan Oezdemir some props. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to give him much of a chance against him on Saturday.

Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) puts his light heavyweight title on the line against Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the UFC 220 co-main event Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Oezdemir has his title shot as one of the fastest-rising contenders in UFC history. He came to the promotion less than a year ago and it took him just three quick finishes to earn his shot at Cormier and the belt. But Cormier believes he has a major edge.

RelatedUFC 220 co-main-event breakdown: Oddsmakers correct with Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir?

“It’s not going to be easy for either one of us,” Cormier said Wednesday after a workout in Boston. “It’s not going to be easy for me – this guy can fight. But I’ve been here, right? These lights, (the media), the crowd – I’ve done this on a number of occasions. I’ve headlined five UFCs, not even counting UFC 200, I’ve sold 3 million pay-per-views for the company. So I’ve been in these big spots before. I know what to expect.

“This is all brand new to this kid. He’s got to learn to do this in the biggest situation possible. He’s only been on a main card once, so he’s got to make sure the emotion of the moment doesn’t take him and make him do something crazy. But I feel like I’m going to win because I feel like I’m better.”

Cormier is more than a 3-1 favorite in the fight. He’s actually coming off a second loss to Jon Jones this past July, but because Jones tested positive for a banned steroid, that loss was flipped to a no-contest, and Cormier had his title restored by the UFC.

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

There’s an expiration date for him as a champion, though – even if he doesn’t think it will happen Saturday against Oezdemir. Cormier insists he won’t fight past 40. He’ll turn the magic number in March 2019, but he doesn’t necessarily think that means he’s down to just a fight or two left.

“This isn’t my last fight,” he said. “I’m going to fight through this year – just because I say I won’t fight (after) I’m 40 doesn’t mean I won’t fight five times this year because I love to compete. I may just hustle through fights so I can fight as many times as I can before I’m 40 years old.”

For more from Cormier, check out the video above.

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

Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier hold onto one another during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) enters T-Mobile Arena during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) prepares to fight Anderson Silva during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) reacts after his win against Anderson Silva (blue gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) is interviewed by Joe Rogan after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/nSWP6AjXdehwFnqPirqHH5/297105", customAnalytics: true, title: "Daniel Cormier", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC's Cynthia Calvillo informed of potential USADA violation for marijuana

On the heels of her first loss, UFC strawweight Cynthia Calvillo has been dealt another blow.

Calvillo (6-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has been informed of a potential violation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stemming from a positive drug test for marijuana, the UFC announced late Wednesday night.

The positive test stems from an in-competition sample collected in conjunction with UFC 219, which took place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Calvillo that night lost via unanimous decision to former champion Carla Esparza.

The 30-year-old Calvillo, who’s only fought professionally since 2016, was named MMAjunkie’s “Newcomer of the Year” for 2017. She fought her first four fights in the UFC last year, going 3-1.

Below is the full statement from the UFC:

The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) informed Cynthia Calvillo of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation involving Carboxy-Tetrahydrocannabinol (“Carboxy-THC”) which is a metabolite of marijuana and/or hashish, above the decision limit of 180 ng/mL, stemming from an in-competition sample collected in conjunction with her recent bout in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 30, 2017, UFC 219: Cyborg vs. Holm.

USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case involving Calvillo, as it relates to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and future UFC participation. Because the Nevada Athletic Commission was the regulatory body overseeing the fight in Las Vegas and has licensing jurisdiction over Calvillo, USADA will work to ensure that the Nevada Athletic Commission has the necessary information to determine its proper judgment of Calvillo’s potential anti-doping violation. Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.

For more on UFC 219, visit the UFC events section of the site.

Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Cynthia Calvillo (second from left) poses with her corner crew after defeating Joanne Calderwood (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports 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 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; 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 pins Cynthia Calvillo to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) reacts before her bout against Joanne Calderwood (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Joanne Calderwood (red gloves) fights Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Joanne Calderwood (red gloves) fights Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Joanne Calderwood (red gloves) fights Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Joanne Calderwood (red gloves) fights Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Joanne Calderwood (red gloves) fights Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; (EDITORS NOTE: Graphic Content) Joanne Calderwood (red gloves) fights Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Joanne Calderwood (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Joanne Calderwood (left) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Jul 16, 2017; Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom; Cynthia Calvillo (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Joanne Calderwood (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at SSE Hydro. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Cynthia Calvillo (red gloves) competes against Pearl Gonzalez (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Cynthia Calvillo (red gloves) competes against Pearl Gonzalez (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Cynthia Calvillo (red gloves) competes against Pearl Gonzalez (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Cynthia Calvillo (red gloves) celebrates her victory over Pearl Gonzalez (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Cynthia Calvillo (red gloves) celebrates her victory over Pearl Gonzalez (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-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/Ssxj8krjxcAidooW5PJ8Mn/297101", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cynthia Calvillo", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Despite skid, UFC 220's Gian Villante has title aspirations once he gets it going again

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BOSTON – After a rough 2017, Gian Villante almost certainly was happy to see the calendar turn this month.

But he’s not one to make New Year’s resolutions, at least when it comes to his fighting career. Instead, the light heavyweight believes getting over his two-fight skid is a matter of just wrapping up things once he has an opponent hurt.

That’s something he said he didn’t do when he was stopped in the third round by former champ Mauricio Rua 10 months ago, and when he dropped a split decision to Patrick Cummins in July.

RelatedGian Villante on 'weird' UFC on FOX 25 scrap with Patrick Cummins: 'I don't know where I lost'

“I’ve had some rough ones, man – ones where I had the guys hurt and don’t finish the guys,” Villante today told MMAjunkie. “It’s something I think I’ve got to fix a little bit. I said it after the ‘Shogun’ fight, where I hurt him and didn’t finish him. The same thing happened with Cummins – I hurt him three or four times that fight and didn’t finish it.

“It’s a matter of when I do hurt the guy, I’ve got to finish the fight. It’s not a matter of if I hurt the guy, it’s when I hurt the guy. I’ve got to get that done this time around.”

This time around, Villante (15-9 MMA, 5-6 UFC) fights Francimar Barroso (19-6 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at UFC 220. The event takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights and Villante vs. Barroso, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Villante had been on an up-and-down run in the UFC before his two-fight slide, and he’s dropped three of his past four. But the flip side of that equation is that in his past four wins, he’s earned three “Fight of the Night” bonuses.

“I do think I have the talent,” Villante said. “People, I’m sure, have seen it – that I do have the talent and the skill set to go pretty far in this division. … I’m a bad matchup for anyone, and I can knock anybody out at any moment. They ain’t gonna get me down to the ground and wrestle me out. I could do a lot of damage in this division, but I have to string together some wins first and see how it goes.

“I can see myself being a champ some day, but it’s a matter of putting the right fights together and getting it going.”

Villante hopes that string starts with Brazil’s Barroso, an opponent who fell into that “right fight” category, on Saturday night.

Barroso is coming off a loss of his own this past September in the Netherlands, where he dropped a decision to Aleksandar Rakic. He has setbacks in two of his past three fights, and Villante believes he knows what he’ll be trying to do once the bell rings.

“He’s a guy who’s going to try to slow it down, get me against the fence and try to take me down,” Villante said. “He’s got a good right hand – powerful dude, just like anyone else. You get to this size, these big dudes, anyone’s powerful or a decent wrestler. In the UFC, everyone’s good. There are no easy fights. But this is a fight that’s a very winnable fight for me, and I like the matchup stylistically.”

From Villante’s end of things, he needs a win, to be certain, to snap the first losing skid he’s had in the UFC. But that’s not going to stop him from wanting to make a statement with how he gets it done.

And regardless of whether or not Barroso might know just what kind of power Villante has, Villante said that power is coming no matter what.

“He can try to harp on, ‘Oh, man, this guy hits hard,’ or he can overlook it,” Villante said. “Either way, I still hit hard. It’s a matter of just doing it. No matter what he’s thinking, it’s still going to happen. (I need to) just get the knockout. I’d like to do it quick, but I’d like the knockout whenever it happens.”

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

Nov 15, 2015; Melbourne, Australia; Anthony Perosh (red gloves) competes against Gian Villante (blue gloves) during UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports Nov 15, 2015; Melbourne, Australia; Anthony Perosh (red gloves) competes against Gian Villante (blue gloves) during UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports Nov 15, 2015; Melbourne, Australia; Anthony Perosh (red gloves) competes against Gian Villante (blue gloves) during UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports Jul 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Tom Lawlor (blue gloves) fights against Gian Villante (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports Jul 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Tom Lawlor (blue gloves) fights against Gian Villante (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports Jul 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Tom Lawlor (blue gloves) fights against Gian Villante (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports Jul 24, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Gian Villante during weigh ins for UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Gian Villante (blue) reacts after knocking out Corey Anderson (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Corey Anderson (red) and Gian Villante (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. Villante won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Nov 16, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cody Donovan (red gloves) fights against Gian Villante (blue gloves) in their light heavyweight bout during UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Nov 16, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cody Donovan (red gloves) fights against Gian Villante (blue gloves) in their light heavyweight bout during UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Nov 16, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cody Donovan (red gloves) fights against Gian Villante (blue gloves) in their light heavyweight bout during UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Nov 15, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Gian Villante participates in the official weigh-in of UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-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/7LJfw73nNMENG8KQCEbeB8/296938", customAnalytics: true, title: "Gian Villante", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

'Rampage' Jackson promises big improvements after big sacrifice (he went cold turkey on ketchup)

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LOS ANGELES – It’s not exactly surprising to hear a fighter tell you how phenomenal he or she feels before a contest. Yet Quinton Jackson finds a way to make even that mundane proclamation unique.

“The No. 1 thing that I improved on is I cut out ketchup,” Jackson told reporters at today’s open workouts in Los Angeles. “You guys are laughing, but ketchup has probably been my worst enemy. I drown all my food in ketchup every meal I have, and I’ve finally cut it out.”

Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) faces fellow veteran Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) in the main event of Saturday’s Bellator 192 event at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The night’s main card airs on the newly rebranded Paramount, while prelims stream on MMAjunkie.

The matchup kicks off Bellator’s year-long heavyweight grand prix, which will crown the promotion’s next heavyweight champion.

Jackson has spent the vast majority of his career at light heavyweight, while Sonnen has largely competed as a middleweight, so the contest has a bit of an old-school, openweight feel. But even fighting up a division, Jackson insists diet has been at the center of his focus.

“Fighting at 205 pretty much my whole career, then not having to worry about weight, it’s a big stress relief,” Jackson said. “The whole weight thing has been my downfall for a long time. I didn’t know I had a thyroid problem.

“Even though I’m fighting at heavyweight, I still followed a strict diet. My coaches were like (expletive) about it.”

Jackson also competed at heavyweight this past March, tipping the scales at 253 pounds, though his frame didn’t exactly impress at the Bellator 175 contest. This time around, he appears to be in better physical condition, though he declined to reveal his exact weight.

“Me being a heavyweight, I know I’m under 265, so I haven’t weighed myself in a while,” he told MMAjunkie.

Since that last outing, Jackson has sought treatment for an under-active thyroid, a condition he said not only fatigued him but also made it nearly impossible to lose weight. Now, with medication, he says his body feels better than it has in years.

Oh, and the ketchup.

“I know I’m disciplined,” Jackson said. “I know I’m really motivated to win this tournament. I gave up ketchup, and that’s something that I’ve really loved since I was a kid.

“When I cut out the ketchup, that’s when (the weight) came off. As soon as I cut out the ketchup, you could see it in my face. It took like three or four days.”

Oddsmakers currently view Jackson as the favorite, though it will certainly come down to whether or not he can keep Sonnen’s wrestling attacks at bay. If successful, Jackson’s size and power advantages should see him through to a victory.

But Jackson believes with great sacrifices will come great reward, and potentially great violence, as well.

“Chael might decide, like, ‘Wow, what the hell am I doing in here?'” Jackson said. “You’ll see it. You guys can read his eyes.

“After the first minute or so, he’s going to be like, ‘Why did I step in this cage with ‘Rampage’?’ Because he won’t see Quinton. He’s going to see ‘Rampage.'”

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

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

May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Quinton Jackson after the fight against Muhammed Lawal during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Quinton Jackson walks out before the fight against Muhammed Lawal during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal after the fight against Quinton Jackson during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal after the fight against Quinton Jackson during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal between rounds against Quinton Jackson during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) fights against Quinton Jackson (blue gloves) during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-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/qubEcY54iBjEhPfxX8V7pL/297062", customAnalytics: true, title: "Quinton \'Rampage\' Jackson", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Chael Sonnen describes backstage altercation with Chuck Liddell at 'Rich Eisen Show'

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LOS ANGELES – Either a booker messed up, or someone wanted to see sparks fly.

Either way, Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) found himself in a shouting match with Chuck Liddell (21-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC) at a studio while promoting his upcoming fight with Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) at Bellator 192.

On Tuesday, Sonnen made an appearance on NFL Network’s “The Rich Eisen Show” and was asked to leave a message for Liddell, who would be on the show today. Of course, he didn’t leave the friendliest of messages, making fun of Liddell’s trademark mohawk.

What Sonnen didn’t realize was Liddell actually was scheduled for Tuesday, as well.

“Turns out, old Chuck was in the back, watching it in the back with my mother,” Sonnen told reporters at today’s media day for his heavyweight grand prix bout, which co-headlines the Paramount-televised event Saturday at The Forum. “So my mom and uncle had to get involved, and it was just a big colossal nightmare.”

Sonnen said the two needed to be separated, and things got weird. But he downplayed the fallout.

“I don’t think there’s anything there,” he said. “I don’t think he’s going to fight again. I didn’t ask him point blank, because we were too busy yelling at one other. He looked like he was in shape.”

It’s no wonder, because Liddell literally has been climbing mountains as a cast member on the new YouTube Red reality series “Ultimate Expedition.” The UFC Hall of Famer traveled to Peru to climb a 20,000-foot mountain in the Andes.

Sonnen has made no secret of the fact he’d like Liddell to come out of retirement. Liddell has welcomed the idea. The two have traded barbs in what seemed like the buildup to a fight.

President Scott Coker has thrown some cold water on the idea, noting Liddell would need to undergo a battery of tests before being allowed to fight. After his latest run-in, however, Sonnen is readier than ever to meet Liddell in the cage.

“I’m up for it right now,” Sonnen said today. “I’m ready to fight him yesterday in the green room, would have reached right over my mother.”

The feeling is probably mutual for Liddell, who apparently wasn’t shy about voicing some of his long-held criticisms about Sonnen. Sonnen thinks the retired fighter is just feeling left out of a changing of the guard in the sport.

“Chuck is seemingly a very nice guy,” he said. “But he came through the competition era. And we’re in the entertainment era. Some of those guys, they get offended a little easier. The table they helped set, and he did in fairness, has changed. They feel like it changes their legacy, and they feel left out.

“Let him be pissed. What do I care about Chuck’s feelings?”

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

Nov 16, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) walks towards the cage before his light heavyweight bout during UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Mar 2, 2014; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson greets UFC fighter Chael Sonnen prior to the The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Nov 15, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen participates in the official weigh-in of UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen celebrates his win over Shogun Rua (not shown) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen (right) celebrates his win over Shogun Rua (left) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen is congratulated after defeating Shogun Rua during a UFC Light Heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen, left, fights Shogun Rua during a UFC Light Heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen (top) fights Shogun Rua (bottom) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen (top) fights Shogun Rua (bottom) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen, bottom, fights Shogun Rua during a UFC Light Heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Chael Sonnen during a press conference after UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Chael Sonnen (right) is interviewed by Joe Rogan after being weighed in for his light heavyweight title bout against Jon Jones (not pictured) at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Jon Jones (left) and Chael Sonnen face off after the weigh-in at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Chael Sonnen weighs in for his light heavyweight title bout against Jon Jones (not pictured) at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen reacts after losing to Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen in the ring prior to his fight against Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen reacts after losing to Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen (left) against Anderson Silva during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen in the ring prior to his fight against Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/GuzbemZTMUQNSCBJTDq7Wk/297054", customAnalytics: true, title: "Chael Sonnen", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Rory MacDonald isn't dwelling on Bellator 192 main-event snub: 'I feel like a champion already'

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LOS ANGELES – When it was announced last week that Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton Jackson would be the Bellator 192 main event, Rory MacDonald admits he was taken aback.

MacDonald  (19-4 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) didn’t get a call from president Scott Coker or anyone else from the promotion to inform him that his welterweight title fight vs. champ Douglas Lima (29-6 MMA, 11-2 BMMA) had been bumped down to co-headliner. He found out through the media like everyone else.

“Out of the blue. Didn’t see it coming,” MacDonald said of Bellator’s decision during today’s open workouts. “… Total shocker. Didn’t really know how to take it. I understand why the decision was made. After hearing why and everything, it’s their business. That’s how they want to run things. My business is in the cage, so I’m focused on that.”

RelatedBellator 192 pre-event facts: Champ Douglas Lima looks to add to knockout record

Does MacDonald plan on having a conversation with Coker this week about the snub? No.

He’s in a zone.

“It’s not something I want to have a discussion with someone and then they tell me something that’s going to affect me negatively,” MacDonald said. “I’m in a positive space right now. I’m focused on going out there and doing my thing. I’m just staying in that mind frame. I’m not going to get distracted with all these political things. My business is the fighting, so I’m just going to focus on that.”

Bellator 192 takes place Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and airs on the new Paramount Network (formerly Spike). In front of MacDonald is a huge opportunity to stake his claim as the best 170-pounder in the world.

MacDonald’s been in a similar position before. In 2015, he lost to then-UFC champ Robbie Lawler in a grueling, bloody battle that was named “Fight of the Year.”

RelatedDouglas Lima wants respect if he beats Rory MacDonald at Bellator 192 – but he won't beg for it

The expectation for MacDonald when he signed with Bellator last year was that he would soon compete for the title. After a second-round submission win over Paul Daley last May at Bellator 179 in his debut, the opportunity immediately presented itself.

MacDonald, as you might expect, is relaxed as ever about what’s at stake.

“There’s really no anxiety about losing in my mind,” he said. “I feel like a champion already. I just got to go out there and do exactly what I did through training camp, and it’s going to happen.”

“These are the moments that you dream about as a fighter, to be a world champion,” MacDonald continued. “Lima is a world-class competitor. Even though he’s never fought in the UFC, I could see him competing against champions in the UFC any day. I took this fight very serious, trained very hard for this, and I’m ready to take what’s mine.”

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

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Bellator 192's Michael Chandler is in the Michael Chandler business above all else

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Michael Chandler might be up for title shot, but he cares more about the Michael Chandler business.

It has to be that way now, as the ex-Bellator lightweight champ sees things. He can’t wait for others. He has to forge his own path.

Thus, Chandler (16-4 MMA, 13-4 BMMA) won’t make predictions about how things will unfold in his lightweight division. He stopped trying to predict things after a freak accident left him without the title, and a seemingly guaranteed rematch was scuttled.

“It doesn’t really mean anything right now,” he told MMAjunkie in advance of his main-card fight with Goiti Yamauchi (22-3 MMA, 8-2 BMMA) at Bellator 192, which takes place Saturday at The Forum in Los Angeles and airs live on Paramount. “It needs me, I’ll say that much.

“But you’ve got a champion who refuses to defend the belt, for no other reason than he’s part-time fighter and he’s on maternity leave. You’ve got me, who’s the biggest name in the division by far, head and shoulders above everyone else.

“So it’s a precarious situation, and all I can focus on is Jan. 20. I could care less about the lightweight title.”

Bellator President Scott Coker gave Chandler a very good reason to care when he told “The MMA Hour” that the winner of his fight will receive a title shot against champ Brett Primus, who delayed his first title defense in advance of his child being born.

RelatedBellator 192's Michael Chandler: Goiti Yamauchi tougher than 'so-called fighter' Brent Primus

That would give Chandler a chance to avenge a very painful loss to Primus this past June. Chandler, attempting the second defense of his second go-around as lightweight champ, hadn’t really built any momentum when he injured his ankle and hobbled around the cage until a cageside doctor called off the fight.

Chandler assumed a rematch would be on the table when he healed. Instead, he was left hanging.

Now, he leaves the decision about the future of his career to this promoter. He could continue on at lightweight. Ultimately, though, he’s interested in moving up to welterweight regardless of what happens in his division. He wants big fights.

“It’s not up to me; let’s be honest,” he said. “Bellator are the promoters, and they’re very good at what they do. We’ll do this fight and see what’s next. There’s both opportunities.

“The other ‘Pitbull’ brother (Bellator featherweight champ Patricio Freire) has been talking trash, talking about decapitating me for the last couple of years, and he needs to get smacked around. So that’s a guy that’s smaller than me. And then there are guys that are supposedly bigger than me at 170; Paul Daley and some of those guys would be a phenomenal guys for me to go out and smash.”

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

Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) and Michael Chandler (blue gloves) during their Bellator lightweight world championship fight at the Long Beach Arena. Chandler won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Eddie Alvarez (red gloves ) and Michael Chandler (blue gloves) during their Bellator Lightweight World Championship fight at the Long Beach Arena. Alvarez won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Michael Chandler during his Bellator lightweight world championship fight against Eddie Alvarez (not pictured ) at the Long Beach Arena. Alvarez won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) and Michael Chandler (blue gloves) during their Bellator lightweight world championship fight at the Long Beach Arena. Alvarez won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Michael Chandler walks out before the fight against Will Brooks during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Will Brooks fights against Michael Chandler during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Will Brooks fights against Michael Chandler during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Will Brooks fights against Michael Chandler during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Michael Chandler between rounds against Will Brooks during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) ankle looked at buy doctor during fight against Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) ankle durning the fight against Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (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/ubhrtCYNX7jFAUkbyTTKuK/296962", customAnalytics: true, title: "Michael Chandler", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje targeted for spring showdown

Dustin Poirier won’t get his rematch with Eddie Alvarez just yet, but a pretty nice concession is in the works.

A fight between Poirier (22-5 MMA, 14-4 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) is in the works for spring, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who told MMAjunkie the bout could take place as early as UFC 222 or an event in April. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the UFC has yet to make the matchup public.

Bout sheets have yet to be signed, but verbal agreements are in place.

RelatedDustin Poirier: I owe Eddie Alvarez 'an ass-whooping,' but he knows it's a bad matchup

UFC 222 is set for March 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and features a Max Holloway-Frankie Edgar featherweight title fight as the main event. The only known event currently scheduled for April is UFC 223, which takes place at Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and features a headliner between interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Poirier is two months removed from an emphatic win over ex-lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (20-7 MMA, 7-6 UFC), which put him back in the win column after a controversial no-contest against Alvarez.

Alvarez pivoted on a rematch with Poirier after their UFC 211 bout, opting instead to coach Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Gaethje. The two delivered a “Fight of the Year” candidate at UFC 218 with Alvarez (29-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC) gutting it out for a third-round TKO. Poirier resumed his campaign for a rematch, to no avail.

With a logjam at the top of the lightweight division soon to cleared, the winner of Poirier vs. Gaethje could be poised for a title shot.

For more info on UFC 222 and UFC 223, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) reacts after beating Anthony Pettis (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; Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) walks out for the fight against Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) walks out tot he fight against Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) celebrates beating Anthony Pettis (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; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (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; Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) leaves the fight against Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. 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'UFC 220 Embedded,' No. 3: Daniel Cormier is not impressed with what he sees

The UFC kicks off the pay-per-view portion of 2018 this week, and the promotion has rolled out its “Embedded” treatment for a preview of UFC 220.

The event takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In the headliner, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC), who’s No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, takes on No. 2-ranked Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC). And in the co-main event, Daniel Cormier(19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) meets Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in his first title defense of his second go-round as light heavyweight champion.

Here’s the UFC’s description of the second “Embedded” episode:

On Episode 3 of UFC 220 Embedded, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier keeps the mood light in the hotel gym. Opponent Volkan Oezdemir finishes his training camp in Florida and packs a Swiss flag for the trip. Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic makes his way to Bristol, Connecticut, where he and challenger Francis Ngannou do a day of media appearances. UFC 220 Embedded is an all-access, behind-the-scenes video blog leading up to the world heavyweight championship bout at UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou on Saturday, January 20th on Pay-Per-View.

Check out the full episode in the video above.

Also see:

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

July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) defeats Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts before his both against Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (right) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/HEBcogVsJo8qj8t4c4FpL7/297036", customAnalytics: true, title: "Volkan Oezdemir", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

How UFC newcomer Mackenzie Dern is embracing MMA without forgetting her jiu-jitsu roots

When she spoke to MMAjunkie 15 months ago, Mackenzie Dern wasn’t there yet,  but she knew a time would come when jiu-jitsu would have to take a backseat to MMA.

Then two wins into her pro MMA career, the grappling ace said she simply couldn’t yet live off her new sport. Jiu-jitsu remained a passion and something that Dern still excelled at. More pragmatically, it was still what paid the bills.

Now things have changed.

Dern went on to fight three more times, with three wins. The last of them, a submission over Kaline Medeiros at Invicta FC 26, stamped Dern’s ticket to the UFC. She meets fellow strawweight Ashley Yoder on March 3 at UFC 222 in Las Vegas.

And so the time has come for a slight shift in focus.

“It’s very hard, because I really love jiu-jitsu,” Dern told MMAjunkie. “It’s very hard for me to just drop it. But, from the start, I said that when I joined the UFC – which has a much better fight purse than other promotions and is a much higher level – I said I would focus 100 percent in MMA.”

OK, so it’s more like 90 percent.

“I want to keep doing super fights if I don’t have an MMA fight scheduled,” Dern said. “I want to fight the World Championships, ADCC, the major ones. If I don’t have an MMA fight scheduled, I’ll try to do that. Obviously, I won’t fight the smaller championships like I did before.

“But I know that now I have to put 100 percent of dedication into MMA. So the priority will be MMA. Around May or June, I’ll try not to schedule MMA fights in order to be in the World Championships or something. But the priority will be MMA.”

RelatedVideo: Watch Mackenzie Dern get the tap in her Invicta FC debut

Of course, Dern is not just any UFC debutant. A jiu-jitsu practitioner since she was 3, she brings in more than two decades’ worth of mat experience and multiple world titles. As it happens with fighters who have done so much in a previous field, like Bellator’s Aaron Pico, the grappling ace has been watched from her very first time in a cage.

Sure, that means everyone got to watch as Dern scored three submission wins – including a particularly elaborate finish over “TUF 26” alum Montana De La Rosa. But, on the flip side, it also means everyone got to see her missing weight twice.

While some fighters get to grow quietly in the amateur circle, making their mistakes away from the public eye, whatever Dern does – good or bad – gets put under the microscope.

“For sure, there’s a lot of criticism,” Dern said. “Toward my striking or the fact that I missed weight. Maybe a lot more than other fighters who are just getting this experience. I think the thing I hear the most is to not be like Ronda Rousey, who thought she was a striker and fought a girl who had good timing and movement and lost.”

That’s an interesting way to get compared to former 135-pound UFC champion Rousey. A few years ago, the dominant judoka was seen as the ultimate compass for success in MMA. But then, after back-to-back knockout losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, respectively, her striking ability came under fire – and, with it, a lot of her credibility.

Dern looks at these types of comments two ways.

“It keeps me grounded. It reminds me to not make mistakes other fighters have made,” Dern said. “The fact that everyone is watching, critiquing, making these comments – I think it’s good, even. Because it keeps reminding me that I’m from jiu-jitsu.

“But I also like proving myself. I like proving people wrong – or even proving them right, too. I take it in stride. I don’t see it as a bad thing.”

Dern has been presented with the classic MMA dilemma, which seems particularly tricky considering lifelong grapplers: How to stay true to yourself and stick to your strengths without becoming one-dimensional – or even boring.

It’s a thin line, but so far Dern has been able to toe it.

RelatedUsually the one eating punches in training, LFA's Mackenzie Dern happy to land some of her own

Although most of her wins have stemmed from her area of expertise, she got to showcase her improved striking in her two most recent outings. Against Mandy Polk at LFA 24, Dern set up her submission with punches. Then in her Invicta FC debut in December, Dern rocked Medeiros a couple times before an armlock late in the third round.

“I feel a lot better (about my striking),” Dern said. “In my first fights, I thought a lot before throwing a punch. I thought, ‘I’ll throw a jab and a right hand.’ And, as I took that time to think, I was already a step behind. Now … Of course, I don’t have many combos yet. I have about three combos that are instinctive. But this is evolution.

“I’m getting to a point where I don’t really have to think that much about what I’m going to do. I can see openings. I can see the punches, too, on the defensive bit. When she punches me, I’m not closing my eyes as much. I look at my opponent a lot more.”

To a point, Dern reasons, that’s inevitable. Considering the sheer amount of time and practice that have been put into honing her striking, it would be basically impossible for her not to evolve from her first MMA bout. But it’s also the product of something that she has applied to every aspect of her life.

“I never think that I already know everything,” Dern said. “I’m always open to learning. Even in jiu-jitsu, which is my strong suit and I’ve been training for 21 years, I’m sure there’s a lot to evolve and learn.”

‘I don’t want to get punched in the face forever’

It’s with the same humble, open approach that Dern is preparing for her UFC debut. Sure, she feels absolutely prepared to be at the highest level – and even thinks it could’ve happened sooner if not for surgery earlier this year and her weight misses. But she knows there’s still a way to go before she reaches the likes of champ Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Even when it comes to assessing her opponent, Dern prefers to take guidance from those who have been doing this longer than she has.

“I’m not at the level yet, where I can study my opponents,” Dern said. “I don’t even know my own game yet. I’m getting to know myself as an athlete, so I leave it up to my team to watch tape and study them.”

Dern is fully aware of the attention that will be on her when she enters the cage at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. And she knows that, while many are supportive, there’s also a portion just waiting to pounce on her should this become her first loss in MMA.

“There have been people saying that I’ll get my ass beat, that I’ll lose like Ronda Rousey,” Dern said. “MMA is a lot more aggressive than jiu-jitsu in that aspect, so it’s something I’m getting used to – focusing on the good, on the people near me.

“I don’t care too much. I’ve been practicing focusing on myself and on my training. I take vacations. I have my life.”

Mackenzie Dern at LFA 6. (Legacy Fighting Alliance)

There’s also the fact that, before, Dern represented women on the mats. Now that she’s on a new stage, she’s taken it upon herself to represent both women and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In that sense, she ponders, the more attention, the merrier.

Dern’s athletic career has been one to admire. And the strawweight, just like every other UFC athlete, hopes to achieve that same type of success in the octagon, too. Whether she’ll get there, we’ll see. But you might want to get your Dern fix while you can, because she’s not going to be around forever.

“I don’t want to stay in MMA for too many years,” Dern said. “I’ve accomplished a lot in jiu-jitsu. I come from such a big history in jiu-jitsu. I dedicated so many years to this sport. I want a life, too. I want to have kids. I want to get married. I want to do these things. I don’t want to get punched in the face forever. I want to get in there and evolve as an athlete.

“I know what I need to achieve that, to be a UFC champion. How long it’s going to take, I don’t know. I hope it’s not 10 years. I hope it’s more like three years. But that’s just a guideline. I want to keep evolving, as fast as I have been. I don’t think I’m going too fast or too slow.

“I think I’m going at the right pace. I’m 24, and I think I’m at my peak. I think things are happening at the right time. Hopefully I won’t get injured. I want to stay healthy and keep going like this.”

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

UFC 220 co-main-event breakdown: Oddsmakers correct with Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir?

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MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC 220’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event.

UFC 220 takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Also see:

* * * *

Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC)

Daniel Cormier

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 38 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: No-contest against Jon Jones (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: American Kickboxing Academy (San Jose, CA)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ UFC light-heavyweight champion
+ Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner
+ 2x U.S. Olympian (wrestling captain)
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 8 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Pressure-fighting approach
^ Forces high work rate
+ Dangerous overhands and uppercuts
+ Deceptive distance closer
^ Slips and rips way inside
+ Strong clinch game
^ Effective dirty boxer
+ Diverse takedown game
^ Favors high-crotch single
+ Transitions intelligently on top

Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC)

Volkan Oezdemir

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age:280 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 75″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Jimi Manuwa (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Hard Knocks 365 (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Kickboxing accolades (5-0 as pro)
+ 10 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 11 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Solid muay Thai technique
^ Seldom out of position
+ Accurate left hook
+ Hard leg kicks
^ Often punctuates combos
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Strikes well off the breaks
+ Underrated wrestling/grappling
^ Good offensive and defensive fundamentals

Summary:

The co-main event in Boston features another title affair as Daniel Cormier attempts to defend the light-heavyweight championship against Volkan Oezdemir.

Coming off of a crushing defeat to Jon Jones, Cormier – through a crazy turn of events – would end up back on the throne of the 205-pound division after a failed drug test from Jones. Now looking to reestablish his status of champion, Cormier will be jumping right back in the octagon to fend off another young lion.

Storming the UFC scene in 2017, Oezdemir would earn himself three wins en route to his fast climb up the ranks. Seemingly unshakable in focus, the Swiss-born fighter will get his shot to make a huge statement with a win here.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between two pressure fighters who aren’t afraid to step into the fire.

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

Hailing from the American Kickboxing Academy, Cormier embodies a similar style on the feet to stablemate Cain Velasquez. Stalking forward with feints, fakes and measuring jabs, Cormier will slip and rip his way inside.

Often punctuating his presence with hooks up high, the champion has no issues finishing down low with leg kicks. In fact, I feel that Cormier has an underrated kicking ability, and I would not be surprised to see him compete in that department with his counterpart.

Nevertheless, the on-paper edge should still reside with the challenger.

A well-trained muay Thai practitioner who’s trained both in Thailand and the Netherlands, Oezdemir implements a bit of both styles into his MMA game. Moving well with his punches and seldom throwing himself out of position, the eight-year pro will punctuate his combinations with crushing kicks that often follow his patented left hook.

Despite typically maintaining a technical and measured approach, Oezdemir has also shown that he is not afraid to stand his ground and return with force when he needs to. And when Oezdemir gets his opponents near the fence, he will get even more aggressive, throwing kicks and combos with impunity.

If things begin to get heated on the feet, I fully suspect Cormier to exercise his advantages on the ground.

A former captain of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team, grappling – to say the least – has come second nature to Cormier.

From his high-crotch hikes to his slick trips in close, Cormier is a formidable force for anyone inside of the clinch. The champion also has good reactionary takedowns, which will likely come in handy against his aggressive counterpart.

Oezdemir, who has yet to have a chance to display much on the ground inside of the octagon, has shown that he possesses competent defensive and offensive wrestling abilities in other organizations.

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

From topside, the sturdy base and balance Oezdemir displays as a striker seem to translate well to the floor, and the 28-year-old holds a solid mount, striking and transitioning well along the way.

When taken down, Oezdemir still appears to offer good answers defensively. Demonstrating the wrestling improvements he has made state-side, Oezdemir will immediately turtle or tripod up to his base, fighting hands while making his way to a standing position.

That said, turtling can come at the cost of front-headlocks or back takes. And although those threats are fewer and far between at light heavyweight, Oezdemir will be up against one of most relentless transitional grapplers north of 205 pounds.

Even fellow Olympian Dan Henderson had difficulty in keeping Cormier off of him, and he was privy to a plethora of positional rides that were ruthless and wearing. If Oezdemir allows Cormier to get that far into his groove, then it will likely be a long night for the man from Switzerland.

The oddsmakers and public seem firm in their opinion, listing Cormier -320 and Oezdemir +260 as of this writing.

Although I hate to pick against Oezdemir – a fighter who has a pension for proving people wrong – I have to agree with the oddsmakers above. Cormier may be coming off of a brutal defeat, but he is still one of the sports most proven fighters pound-for-pound.

Ultimately, I believe that Cormier will enact a similar strategy to the one he used in his fight with Oezdemir’s stablemate Anthony Johnson. I see the champion weathering the early storm and sucking Oezdemir into his world, steadily cooking the Swiss fighter underneath him for a fourth-round finish.

Official pick: Cormier inside the distance

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

Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier hold onto one another during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) enters T-Mobile Arena during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) prepares to fight Anderson Silva during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) reacts after his win against Anderson Silva (blue gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) is interviewed by Joe Rogan after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/nSWP6AjXdehwFnqPirqHH5/296934", customAnalytics: true, title: "Daniel Cormier", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC 223 opening odds: Champ Tony Ferguson a firm underdog vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Tony Ferguson will enter UFC 223 as the champion but not as the favorite.

UFC President Dana White, who recently said the fight would happen, today announced that interim lightweight titleholder Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) are indeed booked for the event.

UFC 223 takes place April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., with the main card on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

RelatedDana White says UFC fighters should build themselves into stars. Now why didn't they think of that?

Despite entering on a tear and being the much more active competitor, Ferguson opens up as a firm underdog to Nurmagomedov, according to the Oddessa Line. Veteran MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa has set Nurmagomedov at -200 and Ferguson at +165.

At those odds, a winning $100 bet on Nurmagomedov would result in a net profit of $50 (implied win probability of 66.7 percent). A winning $100 bet on Ferguson, meanwhile, would net a profit of 165 (37.7 percent win probability).

Ferguson currently is on a 10-fight winning streak, including an impressive third-round submission of Kevin Lee in October at UFC 216 to claim interim gold. Ferguson’s streak dates back to 2013. In that same time period, the undefeated Nurmagomedov has just four fights, most recently a dominant decision win over Edson Barboza last month at UFC 219.

Khabib’s inactivity has factored into the line.

RelatedKhabib Nurmagomedov after UFC 219 win: Give me Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson on same night

“I don’t know if Khabib is going to take him down at will, but he’s going to take him down and hold him there long enough to win rounds and win the fight,” Odessa told MMAjunkie. “If there weren’t so many cancellations and inactivity with Khabib, the price would be higher. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality often brings down a guy’s stock in the eye of public opinion but not in Khabib’s case.

“He’s looked even more impressive in his recent limited appearances. He was sitting around the same price when he was forced to pull out of UFC 209, and not much has changed.”

This marks the fourth time that Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been booked against each other after three previous fights failed to materialize. After each pulled out of one scheduled bout due to injury, Ferguson, No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, and No. 3 Nurmagomedov were most recently signed to fight each other at UFC 209 last March. The fight for the then-vacant interim title fell apart on weigh-in day, though, when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized after a failed weight cut.

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

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/296964", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nurmagomedov def. Barboza", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

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