Jessica-Rose Clark says she's fighting Paige VanZant at UFC Fight Night 124 in St. Louis

In the span of a few short weeks, Jessica-Rose Clark has gone from making her UFC debut on short notice to being lined up for a fight with one of the organization’s biggest stars.

Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who debuted in the octagon with a split-decision win over Bec Rawlings at UFC Fight Night 121 this past weekend, revealed on social media that she’s lined up to fight Paige VanZant (7-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) at January’s UFC Fight Night 124 event.

Her announcement follows initial reports from ESPN.com and MMAFighting.com (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

UFC Fight Night 124 takes place Jan. 14 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

Clark accepted the UFC Fight Night 121 matchup with Rawlings on short notice after Joanne Calderwood was forced to withdraw due to injury. She missed weight by two pounds for the UFC’s newly created women’s flyweight division, but the 29-year-old Australian managed to get the narrow win over Rawlings on the scorecards.

Following the fight, Clark said she already feels near title contention and hoped for a full training camp for her sophomore octagon appearance. She’ll get that, and more.

VanZant hasn’t competed since a first-round submission loss to Michelle Waterson at UFC on FOX 22 in December 2016. After some time off, “12 Gauge” announced her intention to move up to the 125-pound division from strawweight, and she was booked for a clash with Jessica Eye at UFC 216 in October. However, the 23-year-old was forced to pull from the card due to a back injury. She’s already returned to training, though, and will debut in the weight class against Clark.

The latest UFC Fight Night 124 card now includes:

  • Vitor Belfort vs. Uriah Hall
  • Jessica Eye vs. Kalindra Faria
  • Irene Aldana vs. Talita Oliveira
  • Matt Frevola vs. Marco Polo Reyes
  • James Krause vs. Alex White
  • Thiago Alves vs. Zak Cummings
  • Darren Elkins vs. Michael Johnson
  • Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Paige VanZant

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

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Episode No. 11 recap: 'The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion'

Episode No. 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” opens with focus on the first semifinal matchup, which will see No. 2 Barb Honchak of Team Alvarez take on No. 14 Nicco Montano of Team Gaethje.

First, though, some high jinx from the coaches. Coach Eddie Alvarez steals opponent coach Justin Gaethje’s car keys and moves his vehicle from the spot it was parked before putting the keys back in their original position. Coach Gaethje walks out of practice utterly confused but is pointed in the right direction.

“It was funny, I’ll give it to him,” Gaethje says of the prank. “But it was super weak. I’m going to get him good. A lot better.”

Back at the TUF house, Honchak and Montano are simply trying to stay focused on their upcoming fight, while their follow contestants are beginning to wind down and express an eagerness to get back home to their families and loved ones.

At the next Team Gaethje training session, Montano begins working on her game plan for Honchak. As one of the lowest-ranked fighters coming into the tournament, Montano has far exceeded expectations. She plans to continue that with an upset of Honchak.

Honchak begins to gear up her training with Team Alvarez, and her team has the utmost confidence the former Invicta FC champion will get the job done. She strategizes with the coaching staff and sets a plan she believes will be effective against a less-experienced opponent in Montano.

Later on, coach Gaethje gets some revenge on Alvarez. He elevates his car off the ground with a crane and writes “Team Gaethje” and “I Love Justin” all over the windows. Alvarez takes it all in stride and admits he got “one-upped” in the pranks.

At the official weigh-in, Honchak and Montano come in under the 126-pound flyweight limit. A tense staredown follows.

Fight day arrives. Both fighters finalize preparation and warm up with coaches in the backstage locker room. They walk to the octagon, and the first tournament semifinal is about to take place.

#2 Barb Honchak (10-2) vs. #14 Nicco Montano (3-2)

Round 1 – Honchak opens with a hard inside leg kick. Montano is moving around the octagon but eats a pair of straight right hands from her opponent. Honchak clinches an incoming Montano and pushes her against the fence. Montano immediately starts working knees to the body with her back against the fence before spinning Honchak around. Honchak answers with some of her own knees, and there’s a frantic fight going on in the clinch. Honchak finally breaks free. Honchak goes back to the low kick but quickly ends up back in a clinch situation. They are trading knees again from the clinch and Montano lands a nice punch off the break. Honchak goes for a takedown, but Montana reverses her and ends up on top. Montano lands some crisp ground-and-pound from on top. Honchak is fighting hard to get out from bottom, but Montano is strong on top and dominates until the end of the round.

Round 2 – The beginning of the second round is tentative, with both fighters only throwing one strike at a time and missing. Montano closes the distance and clinches Honchak against the fence. She’s grinding Honchak out, who is beginning to get desperate in her attempt to escape. She finally does and lands a body kick and combination after breaking. Montano lands a hard leg kick of her own. She throws another one, and Honchak uses it to close the distance and go for a takedown. Montano is very difficult to take down, though, and lands more knees to the body. Honchak gives up on the position and goes back to striking in the middle of the octagon. She catches Montano with a right hand coming in. Honchak goes for another takedown in the final 45 minutes, but Montano once again stifles her. They clinch once more before the end of the round and Honchak gets a takedown, but there’s no time to work before the horn.

Round 3 – Honchak lands a pair of early right hands, and she’s beginning to find her range on the feet. Montano lands a left high kick, but Honchak catches it after a connection and tries to take down Montano. Montano somehow spins and takes Honchak’s back, though, and is in position for a rear-naked choke. She begins to work the forearm into the neck of her opponent, but Honchak finds a way to scramble to her feet. Montano is hanging on to a body leg and presses Honchak against the fence. The fight returns to open space and Honchak is pressing to make something happen. She shoots for a takedown, but Montano’s defense is solid. They trade punches and knees from inside the clinch several times over before breaking. Montano refuses to give an inch to Honchak on the takedowns and is landing a lot of good, solid shots. Montano shoots for a double leg takedown in the final 30 seconds and puts Honchak on her back. Honchak stands up before the end of the round, but there’s no enough time to do anything.

Nicco Montano def. Barb Honchak via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Montano completes her cinderella story with a huge upset of Honchak. She becomes the first fighter to advance to the finals of “The Ultimate Fighter 26” tournament and will have a chance to vie for the inaugural 125-pound belt at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale on Dec. 2 in Las Vegas.

“I did what I came here to do, and it’s just awesome,” Montano says. “I’m just super grateful. Thankful.”

Montano will take on the winner of next week’s semifinal showdown between No. 1 Roxanne Modafferi of Team Gaethje and No. 12 Sijara Eubanks of Team Alvarez.

Also see:

Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1. MMAjunkie recaps each episode of the reality series.

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Chase Sherman not excited for Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC-Shanghai: He 'fights like a (expletive) girl'

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SHANGHAI – Chase Sherman is typically a rather upbeat personality, but when the name of UFC Fight Night 122 opponent Shamil Abdurakhimov pops up, he loses a bit of that twinkle.

Sherman (11-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) will put it bluntly: It’s difficult for him to get overly excited when facing an opponent with Abdurakhimov’s (17-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC) style. He wants opposition that will bring the action, and from what he knows of foe going into Saturday’s UFC Fight Pass-streamed heavyweight bout at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, that’s not what he’s getting.

“Am I super excited about the fight? No, I’m not,” Sherman told MMAjunkie. “I’m a fighter who likes to go out there and throw and put on an exciting fight for the fans. I’ll be honest with you: He’s not a very exciting fighter. He kind of fights like a (expletive) girl. He likes to run around and he scores his points. He does what he needs to do to get the win. He’s a good fighter, he’s a very smart fighter. I can’t take that away from him.

“But, from an entertainment aspect, no he’s not. His last fight with (Derrick) Lewis he almost got a point deduction from running. We’ll see how it goes. He’s going to have to fight me.”

Sherman is not all negative, though. He knows there’s some upside to the upcoming fight, the majority of which stems from the fact Abdurakhimov is ranked above him in the heavyweight division. The Russian is also coming off a main-event bout with Derrick Lewis at UFC Fight Night 102 in December, which gives him some additional clout.

Currently, Sherman’s main priority is to ascend the heavyweight rankings as quickly as possible. To do that, he knows he must accept challenging fights, whether he likes the style matchup or not.

“We’re really trying to break into the top 15,” Sherman said. “That’s the bottom line and what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to climb the rankings. This will be three wins in a row. It’s hard to come by three wins in a row in the heavyweight division if you look at the win-streak pattern. Shamil is No. 16, I’m No. 19, so it makes sense.

“I’m coming here to get a ‘W.’ I’m coming here to collect a check and move up the ladder. It’s just a business trip for me. If it’s an exciting fighter or not it doesn’t really matter. That’s all that important is to just keep moving forward.”

Sherman might also be a little bit on edge because of where his fight is located. In recent months “The Vanilla Gorilla” has emerged as one of the most enjoyable Twitter personalities in the sport. His social media following has grown extensively since his UFC debut, but in China, Twitter is nearly inaccessible.

Although the lack of social media makes it a little harder for Sherman to pass the time, he plans on making a triumphant post-fight return to Twitter – hopefully to celebrate a win.

“I didn’t realize that until a couple days before I came over here,” Sherman said. “People were like, ‘Yeah, no Facebook, no Twitter, no social media.’ I was like, ‘What the hell is going on? Why not?’ It is what it is. Twitter will have to wait for me until I get home.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Kailin Curran is 'good at losing,' but feels due for a win at UFC-Shanghai

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SHANGHAI – Kailin Curran is one of very few fighters on the UFC roster with a sub-.500 record. She’s not happy about it, but also won’t allow herself to be consumed by the negative results she’s experienced in recent years.

Curran’s (4-5 MMA, 1-5 UFC) UFC record speaks for itself. She’s had some entertaining fights, but when it comes to winning, she hasn’t been producing. Curran is sitting on three straight losses as she enters Saturday’s strawweight bout with Yan Xiaonan (7-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 122, which takes place at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and streams on UFC Fight Pass.

Personally, Curran doesn’t think her record is an accurate reflection of her ability. She’s had some close fights along the way that, had they gone in her favor, would make things looks different. That wasn’t the case, though, and now Curran is entering UFC Fight Night 122 in search of a definitive outcome.

“I say this a lot: I got good at losing,” Curran told MMAjunkie. “My record doesn’t really show the kind of fighter I am. My record doesn’t show what I’m actually capable of. I was bummed for sure. I definitely thought I won (my last fight vs. Alexandra Albu at UFC 214). Sometimes judges see it with a different perspective and there’s nothing really I can do about that except for making sure going into this next fight I solidifying I’m going to win.

“Either I win by submission or ref’s stoppage. I really have to make it clear that I won. It was heartbreaking, but at the same time I was very happy with how I performed. I feel like I’ve come a long way from fighting Paige VanZant. It’s been a crazy journey, but I love it. I feel like I’m getting better every fight.”

Curran, admits the road to this point has been a rocky one. She’s had to deal with mental hurdles that would potentially break the spirit of other fighters, but not the Hawaiian. Curran was likely signed to the UFC far earlier than she should have been and has been forced to develop at the highest level of the sport.

At 26 and going into her 10th fight, Curran feels she’s coming into her own at this point. She hopes that translates with her performance against Xiaonan.

“It hasn’t been easy to stay positive,” Curran said. “My last two camps I’ve been very positive, though. There’s been a change in my attitude because there’s been times I wanted to give up and I’m just like, ‘I keep losing.’ But I just put winning in a different category now. That used to be my main priority. It’s funny because I’m basically winning. I have these little wins throughout the fights. I’m getting wins for myself personally, it’s just not on paper. I feel like a winner every time.”

Curran said there’s a lot of good signs for her going into UFC Fight Night 122. She’s getting a quick turnaround from her most recent bout at UFC 214 in July, got married a few weeks back and is on the same card as teammates and former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping.

Although Curran is open about how she learned to lose, that doesn’t mean she’s OK with it. The moment of glorious victory is the primary reason why many athletes compete in MMA, and after taking her lumps in recent years, Curran is ready to turn the tide back in her favor.

“Every fight is a must-win for me,” Curran said. I haven’t been as worried because I fee; like I’m due. It’s my time, I’m sorry. I’m winning this fight. There’s no way I’m going to lose. That’s how I feel going into this fight, to be honest. I don’t really have a thought in my mind I’m going to lose. If it happens, like I was saying earlier, I know how to lose, so it’s OK. I just don’t see me losing this fight. I work too hard. My last fight was so close. I can just taste victory. It’s right there.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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UFC Fight Night 122 pre-event facts: How legendary is Michael Bisping? Just look at his resume

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The UFC makes its first stop in mainland China on Saturday with UFC Fight Night 122, which takes place at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and streams on UFC Fight Pass.

After years of waiting to host an event in a major city in China, the organization brings a card that features a former champion in the main event. Ex-middleweight titleholder Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) makes a three-week turnaround from losing the title to Georges St-Pierre to take on “The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner Kelvin Gastelum (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) in an important showdown.

There’s not much meat on the bone outside of the headliner, but 10 fighters are scheduled to make their octagon debut on the undercard, seven of which are from China. For more on the numbers behind the UFC’s final November fight card, check below for 50 pre-event facts about UFC Fight Night 122.

* * * *

Main event

Michael Bisping

Bisping, 38, is the oldest of the 24 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

Bisping competes in his second UFC bout in a 21-day span. He lost the UFC middleweight title to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 earlier this month.

Bisping competes in his 29th UFC bout, the most appearances in company history. His 24th UFC middleweight fight also marks a new record for most in divisional history.

Bisping makes his 14th UFC main-event appearance (8-5 in previous headliners). He’s been main or co-main event in 22 of his 29 UFC appearances, including UFC Fight Night 122.

Bisping is the only fighter in UFC history to headline two cards in a one-month span.

Bisping has headlined UFC cards in seven different countries, most in company history.

Bisping’s total cage time of 6:03:03 in UFC competition is second most in company history behind Frankie Edgar (6:27:49). They’re the only two fighters with six-plus hours of octagon time.

Michael Bisping

Bisping’s 20 victories in UFC competition are tied with St-Pierre for most in company history.

Bisping’s 16 victories in UFC middleweight competition are most in divisional history.

Bisping’s 10 knockout victories in UFC competition are tied for fourth most in company history behind Vitor Belfort (12), Anthony Johnson (11) and Anderson Silva (11).

Bisping’s seven knockout victories in UFC middleweight competition are tied for second most in divisional history behind Silva (eight).

Bisping’s seven stoppage victories in UFC middleweight competition are tied for fourth most in divisional history behind Silva (11), Chris Leben (nine) and Nate Marquardt (nine).

Bisping’s 10 decision victories in UFC competition are tied for fourth most in company history behind St-Pierre (12), Diego Sanchez (11) and Gleison Tibau (11).

Bisping has landed 1,560 significant strikes in UFC competition, the most in company history.

Michael Bisping

Bisping is one of three fighters in UFC history to record 100 or more significant strikes in five separate bouts. T.J. Dillashaw and Joanna Jedrzejczyk also accomplished the feat.

Bisping’s 216 leg kicks landed in UFC middleweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Bisping’s five knockdowns landed from the clinch position in UFC competition are the second most in company history behind Silva (seven).

Bisping won the middleweight championship from Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in his 26th UFC appearance, the latest into a career of any first-time titleholder in company history.

Bisping is one of six European-born champions in UFC history. He’s the only from England.

Bisping’s one of five fighters in UFC history to win “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series and an undisputed UFC title. Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Matt Serra and Carla Esparza also accomplished the feat.

Bisping is the only fighter in UFC history to win “TUF,” a UFC championship and make a successful title defense.

Kelvin Gastelum

Gastelum competes in his fourth career UFC main event. He’s 0-2 (with one no-contest) in previous headliners.

Gastelum is 1-1 (with one no-contest) since he moved up to the UFC middleweight division in December. He’s 3-1 (with one no-contest) in the organization at 185 pounds.

Gastelum has earned nine of his 13 career victories by stoppage.

Gastelum has landed six knockdowns in his past five fights.

Co-main event

Li Jingliang’s (13-4 MMA, 5-2 UFC) three-fight winning streak is the longest of his UFC career.

Jingliang has earned all three of his UFC stoppage victories by knockout.

Zak Ottow (15-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has earned his past three victories by decision after stopping his opponent in his first 12 career wins.

Remaining main card

Alex Caceres

Alex Caceres (13-10 MMA, 8-8 UFC) is 3-2 since he returned to the UFC featherweight division in January 2015. However, he’s just 3-5 in his past eight UFC appearances overall.

Caceres is one of three fighters in UFC/WEC bantamweight history to land 100 or more significant strikes in two different fights. Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz also accomplished the feat.

Caceres’ submission of Sergio Pettis at the 4:39 mark of Round 3 at UFC on FOX 10 marked the second latest in a three-round UFC bantamweight fight. Only Bryan Caraway’s victory at the 4:44 mark of Round 3 at UFC 159 occurred later.

Caceres’ 12 submission attempts in UFC bantamweight competition are tied with Dillashaw for most in divisional history.

Wang Guan (16-1-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has earned all 12 of his career stoppage victories as a result of strikes.

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia (14-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) has earned 11 of his 14 career victories by stoppage. He’s earned 10 of those finishes in Round 1.

Garcia has completed 20 takedowns in his past six UFC appearances.

Muslim Salikhov (12-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his UFC debut on a 10-fight winning streak. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since December 2012.

Salikhov has earned 11 of his 12 career victories by stoppage. He’s earned 10 of those finishes in Round 1.

Salikhov has earned his past two victories by first-round spinning hook kick knockout.

Preliminary card

Zabit Magomedsharipov (13-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) enters the event on a nine-fight winning streak. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since April 2013.

Magomedsharipov has earned 11 of his 13 career victories by stoppage.

Kenan Song (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his UFC debut following a more than one-year layoff in a loss in his most recent bout at Road FC 34 in November 2016.

Kailin Curran

Kailin Curran (4-5 MMA, 1-5 UFC) competes in her seventh UFC strawweight bout, tied for the second most appearances in divisional history behind Joanna Jedrzejczyk (nine).

Curran’s three-fight losing skid is the longest of her career. She hasn’t earned a victory since December 2015.

Curran’s five UFC losses are tied with Jessica Eye for most of any female in company history.

Xiaonan Yan (7-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is 4-0 (with one no-contest) since returning from a nearly five-year layoff in July 2015.

Chase Sherman (11-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has landed a combined 214 significant strikes in his past two UFC appearances.

Shamil Abdurakhimov (17-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has earned his past four victories by decision, the longest stretch of his career without a finish.

Wu Yana (9-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), 21, is the youngest of the 24 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

For more on UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

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Champ Max Holloway questions Jose Aldo's mindset ahead of UFC 218 rematch

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway has some questions about the mindset of Jose Aldo going into their title rematch at UFC 218.

Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC), who challenges Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) in the main event of the Dec. 2 pay-per-view card at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, is looking to gain revenge after “Blessed” took his belt by third-round TKO at UFC 212 in June.

Aldo said he’s more motivated than ever, mainly because this time he enters the fight as the challenger with everything to gain, and not as the titleholder with everything to lose. Holloway said he takes umbrage to that, though, because Aldo should have had plenty to get up for the first time they shared the octagon.

UFC 212 took place in Aldo’s hometown of Rio de Janeiro and saw red-hot Holloway coming in with bold claims that he was going to take the belt in front of the Brazilian fans. That should have been enough to get Aldo’s motivation to its peak, but apparently that wasn’t the case.

“This guy, we fought him in his hometown, he was the champion, and for him to be saying that now he feels way more motivated; fighting for your country and fighting in front of your people for your belt is not enough motivation, what’s going on?” Holloway said on today’s UFC 218 media call. “I’m motivated. The belt is great. You know what comes with the belt? Better payday, pay-per-views and a lot more stuff, but the belt is the belt. A fight is a fight.

“I ain’t trying to go out there and get my butt whooped, my ass whooped in front of billions of people watching at home, thousands of people. That’s not what I’m about. I’m in the hurt business. I’m out there, and I want to win.

“I don’t care who I fight. I could fight this guy 10 times in a row. I’ll be motivated. That’s just what it is. That’s this warrior spirit that I have in myself and this whole belief I have in myself. It doesn’t take much to motivate me. I don’t know why people talk about, ‘It’s hard to get motivation.’ You’re in the wrong business, man. In this business you can get hurt. There’s another guy trying to hurt you seriously in there. This guy’s talking about motivation. It just blows my mind.”

Holloway, No. 1 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, has backed up his words with actions in the lead-up to UFC 218. The Hawaiian was originally set to defend against No. 3 Frankie Edgar, but the former lightweight champion suffered an injury and was forced to withdraw on short notice. That allowed Aldo, who was already booked to fight at UFC on FOX 26 in December, the opportunity to step in for his rematch.

There are plenty of previous instances throughout UFC history in which a main-event title fight has fallen apart on short notice and the champion did not remain on the card. Holloway said he intended on fighting at UFC 218 no matter what, though, even if it meant taking a fight against low-ranked opposition or moving up to lightweight.

“I don’t care if it’s him; I don’t care who it was,” Holloway said. “I was ready for the next man up. Line them up, and I’m going to knock them down. Too much people depend on, ‘This is what he did in the first fight; this is what he’ll do in the second fight.’ We don’t know what happens. I’m getting ready for the best Jose Aldo in the second fight, just like I did for the first fight. I was getting ready for the best Frankie Edgar, now it’s Aldo.”

It doesn’t take much to get Holloway’s blood boiling to step in the octagon, but he does feel there’s upside to his situation. Aldo suffered just two losses in his opening 12 years as a professional fighter, and now Holloway has the chance to beat one of the sport’s all-time greats twice in six months.

“At the end of the day this is a legacy fight,” Holloway said. “This is huge for legacy. Jose back to back. Nobody ever beat him twice. Me being the greatest featherweight champion is a long journey. This is a step. That was a stepping-stone. I’ve just got to focus. I got to focus on this one first and then I’ve got to get defenses. He’s got six or seven or eight of them.”

For more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Jose Aldo: If proven guilty, Anderson Silva's 2nd drug-test failure diminishes legacy 'a lot'

Jose Aldo has been quick to defend former longtime UFC champion Anderson Silva during many of his career trials and tribulations. He has a difficult time standing by his fellow Brazilian this time, though.

Silva (34-8 MMA, 17-4 UFC), the former UFC middleweight champion, was flagged with a potential doping violation from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency earlier this month, forcing him out of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 122 headliner in Shanghai. If proven guilty, it would be the second drug-testing infraction of Silva’s career and a critical blow to the legacy of a fighter once argued by many as MMA’s greatest of all time.

Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC), who challenges Max Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) for the UFC featherweight title Dec. 2 in the UFC 218 main event at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, said he’s trying his hardest to keep an open mind until all the facts are in. However, he can’t help but speculate on how the world will see Silva if the test results are accurate.

“Whether you like it or not, it does diminish it a lot,” Aldo told MMAjunkie on Monday at a UFC 218 media day in Rio de Janeiro. “He’s an idol for us. For those who are in the MMA community, not so much, but for the fans, yes (it hurts his legacy). They have a different view. And he got caught twice. If it were once, we could maybe say something. But twice, it could condemn him to that. It could taint a career that, for me, was one of the best.”

Aldo has watched what has happened to Silva, as well as many other high-profile fighters who have failed drug tests during their careers, and taken away serious lessons to apply to himself. “Scarface” has never tested positive for a banned substance in more than 13 years as a professional fighter, and he said it’s because he’s done his due-diligence.

There was a point when Aldo was viewed as perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world while he was nearly untouchable in the cage for more than 10 years. He wants history to look kindly on his accomplishments and contributions to the sport, and said that’s more difficult to do with fighters who have drug-testing blemishes on their records.

Aldo claims to be a clean athlete, and whether Silva’s incident was a misunderstanding or because of blatant cheating, he said he never wants to be in the same position.

“I think this taints someone’s entire career,” Aldo said. “Many fans and reporters, people in the MMA community, they now say Anderson was the champion because he was doping all along. This really taints someone’s career. So I try to take every precaution and do everything the right way. Before starting a camp, I e-mail (the World Anti-Doping Agency) and USADA saying everything I’m going to take and then, when they say it’s OK, we start. I think that’s a precaution that not just me, but every athlete should take.”

For more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Champ Daniel Cormier to 'go to the next guy' if Volkan Oezdemir's legal woes scrap UFC title fight

UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is no stranger to other fighters’ outside-the-cage troubles hindering his own fight schedule, and his current situation is no different.

Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) reportedly planned to put his 205-pound title on the line against Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) at January’s UFC 220 event in Boston. However, the matchup could be in jeopardy after the challenger was recently arrested and charged for an alleged battery that took place in a Florida bar in August.

It’s still unknown exactly what type of ramifications Oezdemir could face for the alleged incident, but it seems likely that sharing the octagon with Cormier has dropped down on his list of priorities. If he’s unable to fight soon, the reigning champ said he’s ready for the next man up, whether it’s Alexander Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC), Ovince Saint Preux (22-10 MMA, 10-5 UFC) or another challenger.

“Of course I’d fight any of these guys; it doesn’t matter,” Cormier told the “Anik and Florian Podcast.” “(Oezdemir is) on the longest win streak in the division, so he was getting the title shot, but if this trouble is going to keep him out of that opportunity, I’ll just go to the next guy.

“Of course I’d fight Gustafsson,” Cormier continued. “Someone told me yesterday that Team Ovince Saint Preux was like, ‘We want a title fight because we’ve got a good winning streak too.’ Whoever is winning gets the title shot, that’s just the way it is. I don’t care who it is.”

Oezdemir, No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light heavyweight rankings, was widely viewed as the most legitimate contender to No. 2-ranked Cormier due to his three-fight winning streak that includes first-round knockout wins over Misha Cirkunovm and Jimi Manuwa. Going down the list, though, the remaining options don’t have quite the same appeal.

No. 5-ranked Gustafsson is on a two-fight winning streak, but before that, he suffered a title loss to Cormier at UFC 192 in October 2015, albeit by narrow split decision. A rematch does carry some appeal, and likely more than a clash with No. 10-ranked Saint Preux, who’s currently booked to fight Ilir Latifi at UFC on FOX 27 in January.

Regardless of what happens, Cormier said he will be prepared to defend his title early next year.

“It’s tough to be going through this type of thing, especially at this time when you’re on the cusp of your biggest moment in your career,” Cormier said of Oezdemir’s situation. “I don’t know what happened. You’ve got to not be doing things that are wrong or put yourself in these situations where stuff can go sideways. You’ve got to try to stay out of those positions. Maybe it was self-defense, but because of who he is then it’s much worse because he has the ability to sleep dudes that are trying to hit him. You never know what’s happening, but even just these run-ins, they’re really unneeded, especially when you’re a young guy as Volkan is and you’re on the cusp of something so big for the first time in your career.”

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Georges St-Pierre: 'My entourage told me it was a bad idea' to fight Michael Bisping at UFC 217

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Georges St-Pierre admits there was some conflict within his team regarding whether it was wise to make his return from a four-year layoff to challenge Michael Bisping for the middleweight title at UFC 217. As we now know, though, his decision paid off.

St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC), a former longtime welterweight champ, moved up a weight class to challenge then-champ Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) for the 185-pound title earlier this month at UFC 217 in New York. “Rush” emerged with the gold via third-round submission, proving wrong his naysayers, some of whom came from his own camp.

St-Pierre’s longtime training partner Rory MacDonald said he would have advised a different comeback plan. The French-Canadian’s longtime mentor Kristof Midoux publicly criticized his preparedness for the bout, and even grappling coach John Danaher admitted to having some doubts along the way.

Despite all that, St-Pierre claimed the belt from Bisping with a solid performance, which made him just the fourth fighter in UFC history to win belts in two weight classes. That historic moment is what St-Pierre was pursuing for his comeback, and he said he relishes his accomplishment even more after what he was forced to overcome.

“What I’ve done, it’s never going to be taken away from me,” St-Pierre told MMAjunkie at a media appearance following UFC 217. “It’s something I will keep for the rest of my life. Maybe one day I will go through some negative thing in my life. I will be able to think back about that moment, and it will make me smile. That’s what it is what people don’t understand. I do this to live a moment. (UFC 217), I lived a moment.

“I feel very privileged to live that moment. It was a big risk, but bigger the risk, bigger the reward. Even though a lot of people in my entourage told me it was a bad idea, I always trusted my myself and I always believed I was able to do it, and I did it and I’m very proud.”

In the wake of his legendary win, which took place Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden and aired on pay-per-view, St-Pierre said he was going on vacation before resuming business and deciding what’s next. He’s contractually obligated to meet interim middleweight champ Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) in a title-unification bout, but he also knows that could change at any time, so he left the door open for a return to welterweight.

St-Pierre also hinted that there’s no guarantee he actually fights again. At 36, he has only so many prime years left, and one of his biggest fears is to stick around the octagon beyond his expiration date.

For St-Pierre, the way he ends his career is just as important to his legacy as everything else he does along the way. He said that’s something he keeps in mind as he plots out his next move.

“The goal in this game is to retire on top, to not leave too late like a lot of guys like Muhammad Ali,” St-Pierre said. “They made the mistake of believing they were on top, but when you start to get a little bit greedy thinking that you’re special – we’re all human beings, and nobody is invisible. There’s no such thing as being the strongest man. When I was young, I wanted to do MMA because I wanted to be the strongest man. There’s no such thing. I realize now. Everybody can beat everybody on any given day.”

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Jessica-Rose Clark already feels near title shot in 'wide open' flyweight division

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SYDNEY – Although she’s only one fight into her octagon tenure and still hasn’t technically made the weight class, Jessica-Rose Clark feels like a contender in the UFC women’s flyweight division.

Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who made her promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 121 on Saturday with a split-decision win over Bec Rawlings (7-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC), came in two pounds overweight after accepting the contest, which co-headlined the FS1-televised card at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, on just 11 days’ notice.

Still, Clark feels beating Rawlings puts her on the map at 125 pounds. She regrets not making the limit, but knows she can in the future. Moreover, given the fact it was just the third bout scheduled for the weight class under the UFC banner, Clark believes the win puts her in a good position.

“100 percent, I’m supposed to be in flyweight,” Clark told MMAjunkie following her win. “I’ve felt like that for a long time and it’s just taken me a while to get my weight in check and make sure my preparation is key. It’s wide open. I feel like I’m a couple fights away from being able to fight for the belt anyway after they crown it Dec. 1 (at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale). I feel I stack up well with anybody they give me.”

Clark’s UFC debut came together in a whirlwind situation. She stepped in as a short-notice replacement for Joanne Calderwood and defeated a veteran opponent. It was a closely matched fight over three rounds, resulting in a split call from the judges. The all-Aussie matchup was something Clark saw in her future for quite some time, but didn’t expect it to come under the given circumstances.

“Everything about this fight and the matchup was amazing,” Clark said. “It felt like the perfect storm. It’s my 30th (birthday) in a few days and I really wanted to come home, but I couldn’t afford it. Then this fight happened and it was against Bec. This fight has been talked about in Aussie MMA for about five years now, but we were always two divisions apart. It’s crazy it finally happened, and it happened on the biggest stage in the world.”

Although missing weight will somewhat put an asterisk next to the win, Clark was just pleased to get her hand raised. She believes she would have finished Rawlings inside the distance with a full training camp, and said she hopes to have that opportunity ahead of her next fight.

“I honestly thought I could have finished that fight,” Clark said. “Obviously I took it on pretty short notice and had a tough weight cut. I feel like with a bit of better preparation I could have finished it in the second. I almost finished it anyway. I’m sure happy with that. As each fight goes by, they get better and better.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie