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.

“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.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Michael Chandler Predicts That He’ll Be ‘Extremely Dominant’ at Bellator 192

When looking back over 2017, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler is more opt to discuss how things developed in his personal life as opposed to his professional one.

For Chandler, last year was one of great change, and he couldn’t be happier with how things turned out and what that will lead to in his 2018.

“2017 was a great year and honestly was the best year of my life,” Chandler told MMAWeekly.com. “I built a beautiful home in Nashville with my beautiful wife. I signed a lease on a gym in Nashville. I adopted a son.

Michael Chandler“Fighting for me is just a paycheck and something that gives me a great platform, but the true riches in life have grown exponentially in 2017.”

Though Chandler’s sole fight in 2017 was a loss to Brent Primus at Bellator 180 in June that cost him his lightweight title, it’s not a defeat he feels detrimental to him because of how it ended.

“I had an (ankle) injury that in three people’s mind – the ref and the two cage side doctors – said I wasn’t fit to compete,” said Chandler. “A lot of people probably though that.

“I was 100-percent confident I was going to knock (Primus) out on one leg. I dropped him and knocked him down on one leg and wanted to continue beat him up on one leg. It’s a freak accident. It’s a freak thing. And that’s it. I have no problem taking an L like that. It’s no big deal.”

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Chandler (16-4) will look to get back on track when he takes on Goiti Yamauchi (22-3) in a main card 155-pound bout at Bellator 192 on Saturday in Los Angeles.

“He’s a puzzle we’ve got to solve,” Chandler said of Yamauchi. “He’s dangerous in numerous positions. He’s good on his feet. He’s very solid on the ground. But he’s never stepped into the cage with a man like me. Not even close.

“I’ve just got to go out there and fight like I know I can, and I will come out not just victorious, but extremely dominant.”

With his personal life flourishing, Chandler is only looking to stay active in his fighting career and face the best possible competition he can in 2018.

“I never try to think about the next move after this one,” said Chandler. “But I will say I want the biggest fights possible. I don’t care about the title. I don’t care about labels. I don’t care about anything besides challenges and big names to step into the cage with.

“There are decent names in this organization that I would love to step into the cage and tangle with. I just want to fight the biggest fights I can.”

Source: MMA Weekly

'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.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Joe Rogan Previews UFC 220 Main Event: Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou

(Courtesy of UFC)

The most anticipated heavyweight title bout in years features two knockout artists in Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou. Don’t miss them do battle at UFC 220 live on Pay-Per-View.

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Tune in Saturday, Jan. 20, for UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou full results and live fight stats, with the first bout slated for 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT on MMAWeekly.com. 

The card is headlined with the heaviest fights possible, as UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic puts his belt on the line opposite fast-rising knockout artist Francis Ngannou. There’s no drop-off in the UFC 220 co-main event, as light heavyweight titleholder Daniel Cormier attempts to defend his championship from another fast-rising talent in Volkan Oezdemir.

Source: MMA Weekly

Justin Gaethje Expected to Meet Dustin Poirier at UFC Event in Spring

A lightweight clash between two of the most exciting fighters in the division is in the works for later this year as Justin Gaethje is expected to meet Dustin Poirier at a UFC card still to be determined.

Sources close to the matchup confirmed the fight is expected to take place with a targeted date in the spring following an initial report from MMAJunkie. UFC officials have not made any announcements regarding teh fight.

Poirier has been gunning for a top ranked opponent ever since he dismantled former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in his last fight and he hoped for a rematch with old foe Eddie Alvarez after their first matchup ended in a no contest. Unfortunately that fight didn’t come together but Poirier definitely got a touch opponent for his return to action in 2018.Dustin Poirier UFC 208

Gaethje has long been considered one of the best lightweights in the world while also putting on some of the most exciting fights in the sport over the last few years. Thus far through only two performances in the UFC, Gaethje has already earned three post fight bonuses including two ‘Fight of the Night’ awards. 

Now Gaethje will look to bounce back from his first professional loss after falling to Alvarez last December as he prepares to meet Poirier later this year. 

Source: MMA Weekly

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.

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Source: MMA Junkie

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.”

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.”

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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Source: MMA Junkie

Chuck Liddell Gained Motivation Again On Ultimate Expedition

It’s been seven years since former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell last fought inside the Octagon. He hung up his gloves and put away his trademark icicle trunks and entered the unfamiliar world of retirement.

With fighting behind him, “The Iceman” felt lost. “It’s hard to explain,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “When you spend 40 years having something scheduled, a football game, a wrestling match, a baseball game, a training camp, a fight, I was a little lost. I needed motivation and it was good to have that motivation back again. It was good having a goal.”

Liddell found that motivation again when presented with the opportunity to appear on the Youtube Red original series “Ultimate Expedition.” The show, which premiered on Wednesday, brought together eight celebrities with no previous climbing experience to summit the 20,000-foot Mount Tocllaraju in Peru.

“My manager called me with the opportunity and I needed a little kick in the ass to get back in shape, so I said sure, let’s do it,” he said.

Arriving in Peru, the elevation was felt immediately. The lack of oxygen had cast members, including Liddell, getting winded doing basic activities.

“I thought I was going to be able to get in shape before I went, but I only had two weeks,” he said. . “Going up the steps with your luggage and getting winded going to the second floor, I was like, wow.”

With no previous climbing experience, each cast member accepted the challenge, but was on a separate journey. Some wanted to prove they could do it. Others wanted the adventure. For Liddell, it was about setting an example for his children.

His daughter, Guinevere, was born in 2011, and his son, Charles Jr., was born in 2013. They didn’t see their father rise up the ranks of the 205-pound division and become a UFC world champion.

“I wanted to do it so my kids could see me accomplishing the goal, working hard. I was a world champion, but they didn’t get to see that. I wanted them to see me that way,” he said.

Base camp for the expedition was over 14,000 feet. At the time, that was the highest elevation Liddell had ever experienced.  He had to learn survival techniques, as well as how to climb in treacherous conditions.  Mostly, he had to learn to pace himself. 

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“Mountain climbing isn’t a sprint.  It’s a marathon.  I had to learn to slow down.  When facing a challenge, I would always just push through.  The biggest thing was to just slow down and pace myself,” he said.  

Ultimate Expedition was exactly what Liddell needed to have a goal again.  To be motivated and feel a little bit like his younger self. 

“It was a good experience. It gave me that motivation back. I needed that,” he said. “The Iceman is definitely back.”

(Subscribe to MMAWeekly.com on YouTube)

Source: MMA Weekly

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.

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.

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Source: MMA Junkie

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.

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.

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Source: MMA Junkie