Alexander Gustafsson will wait for Daniel Cormier-Volkan Oezdemir winner, picks 'DC' to retain

Two-time UFC light heavyweight challenger Alexander Gustafsson will wait his turn for another shot at the belt.

“Daniel (Cormier) knows I’m here to stay, that I’m waiting for my rematch against him,” Gustafsson told Viaplay Fighting in a post on his official Facebook page. “I’m not in a hurry. I’ve had longer stretches between fights than this. I’ll be fine.”

Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) said he’ll be ready to face the winner of a likely fight between Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) and Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), which could take place in early 2018 with the champ taking time to recuperate from a busy 2017.

Although Gustafsson might not be in a rush, his desire to win UFC gold hasn’t waned.

“I want the belt,” he said. “I want a title fight. We’ll see if Volkan vs. Cormier gets confirmed. Then I’ll fight the winner and … I’m pretty sure I’ll fight ‘DC.’”

“The Mauler” pushed Cormier to the limit when they met two years ago at UFC 192, which marked Cormier’s first title defense after seizing the belt left vacant by Jon Jones’ out-of-cage troubles.

With Cormier the champ once again following Jones’ failed drug test, Gustafsson’s path to the title is clear. The Swedish star has been on a tear since his loss to Cormier, defeating Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira.

Gustafsson compared Oezdemir to Anthony Johnson, who lost a pair of bouts to Cormier.

“Volkan does have a puncher’s chance,” Gustafsson said. “He’s not someone you want to underestimate. He’s a power puncher. But ‘DC’ is the better fighter.

“(Cormier) can take a punch. He has the cardio. He is a better mixed martial artist than Volkan. So I see ‘DC’ winning the fight.”

Of course, as Gustafsson well knows, heavy-handed fighters can catch you. Johnson did just that when they met two years ago, bringing “Rumble” another title shot that ended in a bizarre fight and his retirement from MMA.

The difference between Gustafsson and Cormier, however, is their wrestling pedigrees. Cormier is a world-class grappler with the ability to take anyone down.

“He’s going to put him on his ass,” Gustafsson said of the champ. “He’ll take him down and dominate on the ground. Volkan is sort of like Anthony Johnson – a power puncher. We haven’t seen much of his ground game. And I think ‘DC’ will take him down.”

But if Oezdemir pulls off the upset, Gustafsson will happily take the fight. Then he would not only get the chance to win the title, but get some payback for his teammate Jimi Manuwa, who Oezdemir knocked out in his most recent fight.

“Styles make fights,” Gustafsson said of the potential matchup. “I want to beat ‘DC.’ I want to avenge my loss. Because of that, I want ‘DC’ to win. But if Volkan were to win, that’s fine with me. Then I’ll avenge Jimi.”

Whatever ends up happening, Gustafsson figures he’s got time to let it play out.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Jon Jones' legacy, Daniel Cormier's new/old title and Conor McGregor's UFC leverage

What’s to become of Jon Jones now? How about his legacy, or that of Daniel Cormier? And what sort of leverage will Conor McGregor have when he emerges from his bout with Floyd Mayweather on Saturday?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

You’re really going to make me say it? Jones deserves his due process, just like anybody else, before we make any final judgments. Now that that’s out of the way, yeah, it ain’t looking good.

The problem is that if his “B” sample comes back positive and USADA can prove Jones had the steroid Turinabol in his system at the time of the test, his options are extremely limited. He can argue contamination, much like he did the last time he tested positive, when he blamed the estrogen blockers in his system on a knock-off sex pill, but at a certain point that strains belief – even if it’s true.

Think about it, that would make this the second time in just over 12 months that Jones, a fighter with an abundance of both resources and reasons to double-check everything he ingests, had accidentally got some banned drugs into his body. And, as you may have noticed, a lot of people already don’t buy the first excuse.

So say we come away from all this feeling pretty sure that Jones took steroids. Say you’re among those who don’t believe the counterfeit Cialis story (I actually do believe it, though this one threatens to make me feel like a naive jerk for doing so), thereby bringing his career total to two failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs. Does that mean we’re automatically done with him?

I ask because that would still leave him well short of Josh Barnett’s career record. Barnett had a UFC title stripped from him in 2002 and pretty much single-handedly brought down an already weakened Affliction with another failure in 2009. But he still got to headline UFC cards as a fan favorite (until his fourth positive last December), so clearly we weren’t so quick to be done with him.

How about Chael Sonnen? The first time he was popped, he insisted that he had a doctor’s note and secret athletic commission approval. That didn’t fly and he got suspended, only to get caught again a few years later, at which point he told us it was the result of fertility treatments. Then we learned he had actually failed a third test for still more PEDs, at which point he finally gave up and admitted he was just straight-up doping.

Are we done with Sonnen? Because last I checked, he was headlining Bellator pay-per-views and going on ESPN to call other fighters cheaters.

The point is, you’ve got to really screw up in this sport for us to permanently turn our backs on you. We get mad, but we get over it. Jones’ problem is that he failed a test at such a crucial time, right after this career-defining victory that essentially established him as the greatest fighter in the history of this sport. That leaves him with a long way to fall before he can start to pick himself up – and he hasn’t even hit the ground yet.

Recent history tells us that Cormier has no problem claiming the title and carrying himself as champion in the event that someone else “disqualifies” himself. I’m sure it’s not how he’d prefer to get the UFC title around his waist, but what choice does he have?

If Jones’ positive test holds up, the bout pretty much automatically becomes a no-contest. Like it never even happened. And since Cormier was the light heavyweight champ before the fight, he stays the champ if the fight didn’t happen. Unless, of course, he retires or renounces the throne or skips out of the division to make a new life for himself as a heavyweight.

Which, hey, maybe he’s so shaken by this whole experience that he’ll go one of those routes. Or maybe he puts the belt back around his waist and makes his case to the public that he’s still the best <i>clean</i> fighter in the division.

And, who knows, maybe people appreciate that distinction more than they expected to. Two losses to Jones can’t help but affect his legacy, but there are worse legacies to have than being the guy who was better than almost everyone while still doing it the right way. Plus, early indications are that Jones could end up with a lengthy suspension, which would give Cormier plenty of time to get reacquainted with the belt.

Let’s just say that if you want to see every fighter treated equally under the existing rules, without regard to how much money they have/will/might bring into the state, there’s ample reason these days to be glad that Jones’ drug test failure happened in California rather than Nevada.

I think it tells us what we already knew, which is that no sport is as willing to break its own rules and twist itself into a logical pretzel in order to get that money.

Combat sports have always existed in a different realm from the more traditional stick-and-ball stuff. Here, you have to get the paying customers into the tent. There are no season tickets. There’s nobody showing up just because they’re from Green Bay or because their dad used to bring them every Sunday when they were kids.

They need a compelling reason to buy tickets and pay-per-views, and the financial health of all associated parties – promoters, commissions, fighters, etc. – depends on making sure they get it.

One thing that New York Times article points out, thanks to law-blogger extraordinaire Erik Magraken, is that “commissions exist in an inherent conflict of interest.” If they take a cut of the proceeds from the fight, and if they depend on that money to operate, how can that not affect them?

But that’s fight sports for you. It’s always going to rely in part on selling us on our own curiosity. And when taken to its extreme, curiosity is just a more polite term for freak show.

Really? That’s what’s stopping you? One guy tests positive from a fight last month, and that makes you not want to watch two different guys in a completely different sport this Saturday? And it’s not like these two haven’t undergone extensive testing themselves. The bout was put together in a hurry, but every indication is that USADA has been all over these two.

If you’re going to get too sad to watch, at least choose a better reason. Like, for instance, Mayweather’s appalling history of violence toward women.

And, nope, my obsessive-compulsive tendencies are not the least bit inflamed by the fact that you misspelled Jones’ first name and McGregor’s last name in the same sentence. Not at all.

I want to believe. The things he’s done inside the cage are incredible and creative and dynamic. He’s expanded our understanding of what an MMA fighter can do, and he carried us along in this gripping redemption story that seemed to have a dramatic ending with the win at UFC 214. If he doped for that, you’d have to wonder about the prior test failure before UFC 200. Then you’d have to wonder whether he’s been doping his whole career.

I’d like for there to be some way to not go down that depressing rabbit hole, but I’m going to need a better explanation than vague accusations of a setup. Who, with the power to do so, would want to set Jones up like this?

Not the UFC, which got a much-needed pay-per-view boost from his return. Not USADA, which risks turning public sentiment against its continuing program with the UFC if people start to feel like all the best fighters and fights are being ruined by questionable tests. Definitely not Jones’ team, which needs him to keep fighting and keep getting paid in order for all the coaches and nutritionists and managers and assistants to stay in business. So who? And how? And why?

If the best answer available is the same old answer we’ve heard before, I’m not sure it’ll be enough.

This is the other aspect of the Cormier question. Say he decides he doesn’t want that belt, or that he doesn’t even want to stay in this division after this twisted turn of events. If he leaves either for another weight class or for a job talking into a mic (and the UFC needs him even more in that regard now that Brian Stann, the best in the business, has bounced), what then?

The short answer is that light heavyweight goes from being a glamour division to being a desolate wasteland, and almost overnight. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good fighters. You’ve got Alexander Gustafsson. You’ve got Mr. “No Time,” Volkan Oezdemir. You’ve even got Jimi Manuwa. I guess.

But that’s a long way from the days of Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. In terms of depth and quality of talent and overall marketability, it’ll be a new low for the weight class in the UFC. And just thinking about it bums me right out.

Again, due process, “B” sample, so forth and so on. But what makes the situation worse for Jones – and for fighters in general, really – is that they don’t have to dope for their whole career or even a significant portion of their careers for the stain to stick to them. Fighting isn’t a collection of seasons; it’s a series of moments. Some moments are more important than others, which is why not all failed drug tests register equally in people’s minds.

Jones didn’t just fail a drug test. He failed one for the biggest fight of his life. He could come back and turn in nothing but clean results for the next 20 years, and still people aren’t going to forget this one.

As a side note for those people who will inevitably say that it doesn’t matter, that PEDs are good, that we shouldn’t even bother with them: It wasn’t your head in there getting thumped on. Want to tell me that steroids don’t make anyone a better fighter? Fine, then explain why fighters keep taking such risks to use them. Even if their primary benefit is recovery, using a recovery aid that the other guy (assuming he follows the rules) doesn’t get to use is still cheating. It still matters. If you don’t think so, go ask Cormier.

There’s always the chance that Saturday night’s result could severely diminish the value of his personal brand, but consider the likely outcome for McGregor. Even in an embarrassing defeat he makes more from one boxing match than he would have from a half-dozen or so UFC title defenses. If he can acquit himself even a little bit in the big gloves, he’s already got a rivalry brewing with Paulie Malignaggi.

So how do you convince him to come back to the UFC? Even tougher, how do you convince him to come back soon, when you need him?

Dana White and friends are going to have to find a way to make it worth his while, whether that’s through offering him a piece of the company or by letting him slap his logo on the mat or even just by letting him rep his own sponsors somehow.

Because how are you going to keep them down on the Reebok farm after they’ve made millions to wear a T-shirt and some shorts for one night against Mayweather?

Tony Ferguson is a tough fight for anyone, but he’s also a huge opportunity for Kevin Lee, who doesn’t have the most airtight case for a title shot and yet finds himself with one largely due to the unusual circumstances in the division. So why not take your chances?

As for what happens to the winner, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to wake up one morning and discover that the interim title has morphed into the real thing overnight, especially if McGregor doesn’t show enough interest in returning to defend the real thing.

At the moment, at least, the UFC President doesn’t seem to be straining himself to sell the thing. Then again, all of MMA seems to be on hold until we get past this Mayweather-McGregor business, so what’s the point of rolling out a bunch of promotion we’ll just ignore?

Still, it’ll be curious to see how hard the UFC pushes this one, since it features two champions that Dana White has very recently and very publicly maligned. It’s tough to tell us how mentally weak or historically unpopular these people are and then turn around a few months later and convince us to pay for their fights.

Losing the Junior Dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou fight on the undercard sure doesn’t help.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Alexander Gustafsson 'sad,' but 'not surprised' by Jon Jones' latest positive test

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Daniel Cormier isn’t the only one reeling from Jon Jonessecond positive drug test.

Alexander Gustafsson, who likely was next in line to fight the pound-for-pound king at light heavyweight, called the news “sad … if true” and “a pity for our whole sport.”

He also said Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) should hang up his gloves if the findings are confirmed.

“I do not want to judge him yet – not until we know everything,” Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) told MMABetz.com. “But if it’s true, then it would be best for him to end the sport.”

But considering his previous feelings for Jones, Gustafsson isn’t surprised to be in this position.

“Nothing about that man surprises me anymore,” he said.

Gustafsson said he’ll join the rest of the MMA world in waiting for the results of Jones’ “B” sample, likely to arrive in a few weeks, before he officially weighs in on the fallout.

A second positive would certainly be a setback for Jones, though his team already has signaled it will attempt to prove the positive came from a contaminated supplement, as it did after a first positive steroid test that canceled a title unifier with Cormier at UFC 200.

With Jones knocking out Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) at UFC 214, Gustafsson appeared to be the strongest candidate to get another title shot. Jones’ camp indicated the Swedish fighter was high on the list of immediate priorities. There were even reports a rematch was in consideration for UFC 218, but UFC President Dana White recently indicated Jones instead was being considered for a heavyweight title fight against champ Stipe Miocic.

White said if Jones can’t beat the latest positive test, he considers Cormier the champion, which means Gustafsson would get a chance to avenge a decision loss to the ex-champ two years ago.

But it also denies Gustafsson a long-desired rematch with “Bones.”

“If there’s somebody I’ve been looking forward to fighting, it’s him,” Gustafsson said. “Revenge in that fight is what I wanted.”

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC champ Jon Jones open to Alexander Gustafsson rematch – but not in New York City

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Newly crowned UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is still weighing the options for his next fight, but he’s not shutting down the possibility of a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson.

Although a matchup between Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (5-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) has been the talk of the town after “Bones” reclaimed the 205-pound belt with a third-round knockout of Daniel Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) at UFC 214 10 days ago, there are many hurdles to clear before such a fight can occur.

Between his two reigns as UFC champ, Jones already has wiped out most of the elite in his weight class. Gustafsson gave him his toughest fight to date when the pair had the 2013 “Fight of the Year” at UFC 165, though, and the chance to run it back is something both fighters have expressed the desire to do.

No final decisions have been made, Jones said, but he’s open to the rematch with Gustafsson next.

“Every fight gets my blood flowing,” Jones told MMAjunkie. “I know how important it is to never underestimate anyone. I get up for every one. I think the Gustafsson fight is an option for us right now. We’re just going to wait and see. We’re weighing our options right now.”

Jones, No. 1 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA pound-for-pound rankings, defeated No. 5 light heavyweight Gustafsson by unanimous decision in a bloody affair at UFC 165. Jones was pushed to his limit in that contest, but came through on top despite an admittedly lackluster training camp and frequent partying in the lead-up to the fight.

The pair was scheduled to rematch at UFC 178 in September 2014, but Gustafsson suffered an injury and was replaced by Cormier, who went on to have a multi-fight feud with Jones. Nevertheless, Gustafsson is riding a two-fight winning streak against Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz, and “The Mauler” wants to finally have his rematch with Jones (via Twitter):

Jones said his preference going forward is to stay active. He’s targeting a return before the end of the year, but the opponent, date and location are still up in the air, he said. The UFC has five more pay-per-view events remaining on the 2017 calendar, but the one Jones surprisingly is not interested in goes down in his home state of New York.

UFC 217 takes place Nov. 4 in New York City. Jones said he once had dreams and aspirations of fighting at Madison Square Garden, but over time those apparently have fizzled. He said fighting in New York doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective, so whether his next fight is against Gustafsson or someone else, don’t expect it to go down in “The Big Apple”

“To be honest, I love being from New York, but my whole thoughts and dreams of fighting in New York – they’re kind of starting to fade,” Jones said. “Looking at it from a business standpoint, it’s not a really good idea to pay 9 percent to the state of New York off the top just for fighting here. With 9 percent of every $1 million, that will add up real quick.

“I realize people from all over the world are going to watch it, whether it’s in Vegas or Canada or wherever. It would have been great to be the first person to fight at Madison Square Garden, but now that it’s happened and everything … I want to do it eventually, but it’s not something that’s a dream the way it used to be.”

For complete coverage of UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site. And for more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Was post-fight Jon Jones the real one, or just a convincing fake?

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In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, was the UFC light-heavyweight champion extending a sincere olive branch to his vanquished challenger, and where does all this leave the former champ’s legacy? Plus, is GSP-Bisping the fight that no one but the participants has been asking for? And can you really blackmail your way into an apology from the UFC president?

All that and more in this edition of the TMB. To ask a question of your own, tweet it to @BenFowlkesMMA.

* * * *

I think he was being sincere. The things Jon Jones said about Daniel Cormier immediately after the fight were not so different from what he said about him a few days before the fight. Talking to reporters after the open workouts, Jones called Cormier “a good (expletive) dude” and admitted to liking him as a person. What stopped them from getting along, he said, was that Cormier had this weird hangup that simply wouldn’t allow him to admit that Jones was better than he was.

Now, we hear that and we can spot the ridiculousness in the argument. Of course Cormier can’t admit that. He’s one of the best fighters in the world. His whole life is about being the absolute best. He’s not killing himself in the gym just to be second place. How could Jones not realize that?

I think the answer has to do with the inherent narcissism that comes with being the best fighter in the world. It’s so obvious to Jones that everyone else is just a character in his story. So why can’t they see it, and just be happy to have a supporting role in the great drama?

That’s where his head seemed to be at before the fight. Once Jones had knocked out Cormier, then he was free to let his guard down and admit that Cormier was a good guy and a great fighter. Why not? If you praise him now, it just makes you seem greater for having beaten him. And it’s not like anybody will get confused about who the best is while Cormier is stumbling around off-camera.

So yes, I think he meant every word. I also don’t think for one second that he would have uttered anything close to that if he’d lost.

The book isn’t closed on Cormier just yet. He could stick around at light heavyweight and still trash nearly everyone in the top 15. Or he could go to heavyweight and end up fighting for the title by this time next year. A lot depends on what he wants to do next, so it’s hard to make too many sweeping statements about his legacy.

That said, if it ends here? I wouldn’t be surprised if the collective conventional wisdom fails to give Cormier his due. He was champion in the absence of Jones, that’s true. In a different era, he might have been his own dynasty. In my book, that puts him ahead of Tito Ortiz and somewhere right behind Chuck Liddell. Both those guys should be glad they came along before Jones did.

Yes. However he wants.

Tempers seem to have cooled somewhat between Tyron Woodley and UFC President Dana White, but you’re right, that was not a great strategic move on the champ’s part. The problem with trying to blackmail your way into an apology is that even if you get what you want, what does it really mean? An apology given just to stop something bad from happening is completely insincere, thus defeating the entire point.

Then there’s the question of what you’re supposed to do about it if you don’t get the apology. Assuming Woodley really does have damaging info on the UFC, leaking it because the boss hurt his feelings would probably not improve his relationship with his employers. It also doesn’t turn him into some hero of transparency in the eyes of the public, because he already told us that the only reason he was telling secrets is because White wouldn’t say he was sorry.

Of course, if White doesn’t give you that public apology and then you back down from your leak threat anyway, it just makes you look weak and desperate.

That brings us to what actually happened in the end to resolve this situation (at least for now). According to White, he spoke to Woodley privately and smoothed things over. Also according to White, Woodley explained his outrage and his threats by saying that “he was just pissed and upset and didn’t mean it.” Maybe it’s just the source, but it kind of sounds like the apology went in the opposite direction.

I see the logic at work here, but how do you enforce something like that? Especially when MMA referees seem to have such a hard time enforcing the existing rules. What, do we require fighters to tell the ref in advance what they’re game plan is, so the ref can be on higher alert for illegal moves that might nullify it? Is the ref then required to share that info with the opponent, so he can know which type of cheating will be more severely punished?

The only fix I can see is that we either allow fence-grabbing or we don’t. And if we don’t, then why aren’t fighters punished as soon as they do it? It’s not like they’re learning the rules on the fly. And a fence grab isn’t like throwing an inside leg kick and accidentally hitting the groin. It’s something you can only do on purpose. So why aren’t you penalized the moment you do it, regardless of what your opponent’s game plan is?

There’s a growing sense that this is the fight no one asked for outside of Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre themselves. And that’s funny, since the reason they both seem so intent on it is because they’re convinced it will make a lot of money. But how does it make money if fans are lukewarm about it?

It’s possible that we’re just suffering from hype fatigue. They’re been talking this fight up for over a year, and still nothing. Maybe by the time it actually happens we’ll have changed our tune. The return of GSP is always going to be a big deal, and Bisping is so easily hatable whenever he opens his mouth that you know he’ll convince some people to pay just on the hope that he’ll get beaten up.

But right now? I can’t say I’m excited. There are so many compelling fights for Bisping at middleweight, and welterweight is going to need some help very soon. The more I think about this fight, the more it seems like we’re all being asked to go along so that the already rich guys can make more money. Maybe it’s just me, but that is not a compelling sales pitch.

Oh, Cameron. Are you really going to force me to be the jerk who points out that there is a difference between being a legend and just being old? Not that I don’t have a lot of affection for Daniel Kelly, who seems awesome, but he’s also 13-2 at the age of 39. Sam Alvey beat him in 2015, when he had to cover slightly fewer body parts in supportive wrap, but he still wasn’t exactly a young sprout back then.

Rashad Evans is a slightly different story (even if he does have a recent split-decision loss to Kelly). He’s also edging into his late 30s, but he’s a former UFC light-heavyweight champion. Then again, he’s on a three-fight losing skid and has dropped five of his past seven.

You really want to know how far this is from being a part of any kind of legends tour? Just look at where it is, in the middle of the main card at UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City, on the week after the biggest pay-per-view of the year. Does that seem like where you’d stick your legends, if you thought they still qualified as such?

I suspect you are not the only one, especially since the UFC chief recently went out of his way to disparage both champions who are slated to defend their titles at UFC 215. Plus, those other three fights each feature a former champ, and they’re all likely to be exciting, competitive matchups.

That makes you wonder how they’ll do on pay-per-view, doesn’t it? We know that the UFC has written Demetrious Johnson off as box-office poison. Amanda Nunes hasn’t been a huge draw either, and is probably less of one after pulling out of UFC 213 and getting scorched by the boss for it. But that undercard? How do you not pony up the dough to see those fights? Even if you’re not that interested in what follows.

This feels a little like a return to the old UFC strategy, back before it could rely on any one fighter to sell tons of PPVs. If the main attraction won’t do it, you have to make your case in the aggregate. Honestly, this lineup looks like a pretty good way of doing just that.

From the sound of it, Volkan Oezdemir likes that fight too, and he’s even suggested that the winner would be dubbed “the real king of Europe,” which is obviously pretty awesome.

If I’m Alexander Gustafsson, I might rather wait for Jones. But if Jones is holding out for a big money fight with someone like Brock Lesnar, how long does Gustafsson really want to sit around waiting and not making money?

As for whether “No Time” has it in him to be the division’s new knockout artist, early indicators are good. But let’s not forget that in recent years there’s been a major drop-off in talent in that division once you get past the top three or four. If Oezdemir wants to prove he belongs in that elite club, Gustafsson’s a tough test to get in.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Volkan Oezdemir calls out Alexander Gustafsson to determine 'real king of Europe'

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, UFC

Volkan Oezdemir knows he’s probably not going to get the next crack at new UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. So, instead, he’s going after the next best thing.

Following his 42-second knockout of Jimi Manuwa at UFC 214 this past Saturday, Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) has called out former two-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) for a fight to “increase the value of the next title shot.”

The Swiss fighter said he not only views a matchup with Gustafsson as a No. 1 contender bout to get to Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC), but also thinks a showdown with the Swede would determine “the real king of Europe” (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

“Let’s increase the value of the next title shot! @alexthemauler and I need to figure out who is the real king of Europe! Alex, I know how great you are and I respect you a lot but I’m going to knock you out! Not because I want to just because I have to!
#jonesvsthekingofeurope #notime #newblood #iamdifferent”

Oezdemir, No. 8 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light heavyweight rankings, has exploded onto the scene as a new face in the weight class over the past six months. He won his short-notice debut against Ovince Saint Preux at UFC Fight Night 104 in February. He followed that up with a 28-second starching of Misha Cirkunov at UFC Fight Night 109 in May, before stunning Manuwa in less than a minute at UFC 214.

No. 5 Gustafsson, meanwhile, is coming off consecutive victories over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz, which helped him rebound from a title-fight loss to then-champ Daniel Cormier at UFC 192 in October 2015. “The Mauler” is looking for a title shot of his own, and after putting on the 2013 “Fight of the Year” with Jones at UFC 165, appears to be looking for a rematch, not an encounter with Oezdemir (via Twitter):

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Jon Jones and UFC 214's other winning fighters?

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

The most significant UFC pay-per-view event of 2017 took place Saturday with UFC 214 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

In the main event, Jon Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) reclaimed the light-heavyweight championship with a third-round knockout of rival Daniel Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC), completing one of the most tumultuous comeback stories in UFC history.

Additionally, Tyron Woodley (18-3-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) defended the welterweight belt while Cristiane Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) won the vacant women’s featherweight title.

Other winners included ex-UFC champ Robbie Lawler (28-11 MMA, 13-5 UFC) and rising 205-pound contender Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC).

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 214’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Volkan Oezdemir

Mauricio Rua

Should fight: Winner of Mauricio Rua vs. Ovince Saint Preux at UFC Fight Night 117
Why they should fight: Oezdemir’s arrival as a light-heavyweight contender reached another high when he put away Jimi Manuwa in just 42 seconds, marking his third consecutive win since his UFC debut less than five months ago.

Oezdemir still had questions around him after winning his first two UFC appearances in unexpected fashion, but there’s no doubting his legitimacy after he stopped Manuwa quicker than the likes of former 205-pound title challengers Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson.

In many cases, Oezdemir’s body of work would be enough for a title shot. Unfortunately, he’s in a division ruled by Jones, who’s seeking big-fight opportunities that Oezdemir simply doesn’t currently provide. That means he’s going to have to take another fight to further strengthen his case and get the champ’s attention.

Fighting the winner of September’s UFC Fight Night 117 main event between “Shogun” Rua (25-10 MMA, 9-8 UFC) and Saint Preux (20-10 MMA, 8-5 UFC) could be his avenue. Oezdemir beat “OSP” by split decision in his UFC debut earlier this year, but it was a short-notice fight. If Saint Preux wins, it may not make the most sense to rematch, but the thin nature of the 205-pound division may not give him any other option.

The best case scenario for Oezdemir is a Rua victory. The former UFC champ would be on a four-fight UFC winning streak if he beats Saint Preux, and while the Brazilian isn’t the same fighter he was in his glory days, he would still be a signature win for Oezdemir.

Robbie Lawler

Tyron Woodley

Should fight: Woodley
Why they should fight: Although he’s just one fight removed from losing the UFC welterweight title to Woodley at UFC 201 in July 2016, Lawler appears he could slide back into another title fight after his unanimous-decision win over Donald Cerrone.

Lawler vs. Cerrone was one of the most anticipated fights of the year, and for the most part, it lived up to the hype. “Ruthless” proved he’s still one of the best at 170 pounds when he went toe-to-toe with Cerrone and came out on top.

Although one win is arguably not enough to get another title shot, Lawler benefits from the fact the weight class is currently thin on worthy challengers. Most of the top-ranked fighters are coming off of losses, and the nature of Woodley’s fights since winning the belt from Lawler opens the door for a rematch.

If the first fight is any indication, Woodley is an awful style matchup for Lawler. But at the very least, it seems likely he would bring an entertaining fight out of the champ. Woodley has severely lacked that in his past two title defenses, and that’s to Lawler’s benefit in his quest to regain the gold.

Jon Jones, Tyron Woodley, Cristiane Justino

Should fight: Watch the video above to see why Jones should fight Alexander Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC), Woodley should fight Lawler, and “Cyborg” should fight Holly Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) after their UFC 214 title-fight victories.

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 214's Volkan Oezdemir understands UFC might make Jones-Gustafsson 2, but wants title shot

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Upset-maker Volkan Oezdemir wants to climb the UFC light-heavyweight ranks faster than anyone else, which is fitting considering his nickname – “No Time.”

The way things are looking, Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) might have a shot. A 42-second knockout of Jimi Manuwa (17-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 214 pay-per-view main-card opener marked his third UFC win and second straight upset of a high-ranked opponent.

The only roadblock now is Jon Jones’ unfinished business.

“I think I proved that (I’m a top contender) because (Manuwa) was supposed to be fighting for the belt,” Oezdemir said after his bonus-winning knockout at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. “So my goal is to go for the belt right away and be the fastest rising guy for the belt.

“I understand, for sure, (if they give it to Alexander Gustafsson), because there is a beef with Jon Jones and Cormier, because both have tough five-round fights with Gustafsson, and I think the fans want to see (those) fights – the revenge. It’s a lot about what the people want to see, too. You’ve got to be able to make exciting matches. But I think I’m going to be able to make an exciting fight because I know I’m going to knock both of them out.”

Oezdemir didn’t know then that Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) would end up knocked out when Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) stopped him in the third round of Saturday’s main event with a head kick.

UFC President Dana White didn’t firmly commit to the promotion’s next move in the 205-pound class, which is once again topped by Jones after Cormier’s two-year reign. Brock Lesnar has even entered the mix.

But Oezdemir said he doesn’t want to wait around for Jones to determine his schedule.

“If I have to wait, I’ll wait, but I want to be active, too,” he said. “So I’m going to have to think about it.”

Oezdemir can count on one thing: a big jump in the top-15 list. He is now the No. 8 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light heavyweight rankings, one below Manuwa. Count on a flip-flop.

The 27-year-old Oezdemir’s opportunities could lag behind his number. The good news? He’s still got time.

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Coach Winkeljohn: Jon Jones will finish Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson in rematches

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Jon Jones’ longtime coach, Mike Winkeljohn, guarantees the former UFC light heavyweight champion will not only show up for his UFC 214 title rematch with Daniel Cormier, but he’s going to win more impressively than the first time.

“Jon’s getting his title back – well, the title he never lost,” Winkeljohn told Submission Radio. “Yeah, he’s walking out back being the champ of the world again.”

UFC 214 takes place July 29 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Jones (22-1 MMA, 16-1 UFC) challenges champion Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) in the pay-per-view headliner, which follows prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Jones was the longest reigning 205-pound champion in UFC history prior to being stripped of the gold in April 2015 following a hit-and-run incident. His final title defense before being stripped came against Cormier at UFC 182 in January 2015, with “Bones” winning by unanimous decision in the grudge match between the heated rivals.

In the more than two years since Jones was forced to give up his title, Cormier has taken over the throne and recorded consecutive title defenses against Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC). Jones has made it clear he believes “DC” is merely keeping the belt warm for him, though, and Winkeljohn said he agrees.

Although Jones controlled the majority of the 25 minutes of action in the first match, Winkeljohn expects an even better performance in the rematch. The pair has only that one fight but have gone through nearly four full training camps for one another. The preparation and plan of attack becomes more refined each time, and Winkeljohn said that should lead to a stoppage victory for Jones.

“I think it’s a different, shorter version of the first fight but playing out the same way,” Winkeljohn said. “I think Daniel’s going to get frustrated because he can’t get a takedown. He’s going to get frustrated because he can’t hit big bombs like he’s used to, and there’s going to be some frustration on his part.

“Jon’s focus is on point. When Jon gets on top of someone on the ground, it’s always a bloody mess with elbows, et cetera. He’s got great submissions from there too, and Jon can take Daniel down like you saw last time, there’s no doubt about it. But on the way, there are a lot of strikes that Daniel’s going to run into before he gets taken down.”

If Jones is able to conquer Cormier for a second time, it would likely spell the end of the rivalry between the longtime foes. Jones would then turn his complete attention to other members of the 205-pound division, but a rematch with Gustafsson appears inevitable.

“The Mauler,” who gave Jones arguably the most competitive fight of his career in a unanimous-decision loss at UFC 165 in September 2013, is coming off a fifth-round knockout of Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 109 last month. Afterward, the Swede made some harsh comments, which were not taken lightly by Jones.

Winkeljohn said that when the rematch does happen there will be some new tricks up Jones’ sleeve to allow him to get the job done more decisively than before.

“I have no problem with them doing whatever, talking the way they talk behind the scenes,” Winkeljohn said. “Whatever can get more pay-per-view sales, whatever’s going to make these guys more money and sell the fight, at the end of the day, that’s what you’ve got to do. But I definitely see it being a shorter fight and Jon finishing him.”

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Alexander Gustafsson calls out Jon Jones for taking PEDs, bragging about cocaine use

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

UFC light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson is not commonly seen talking badly about his opponents, but he hasn’t held back on former champion Jon Jones.

During a press conference after his beatdown of Glover Teixeira at last month’s UFC Fight Night 109, Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) said he didn’t believe Jones (22-1 MMA, 16-1 UFC) was a “good person.” Jones fired back on Twitter, prompting an exchange that had Gustafsson saying the result of their thrilling UFC 165 encounter would have been different had USADA been in play in September 2013.

During an interview with “The MMA Hour,” the Swedish fighter doubled down on his press conference remarks and said he suspected Jones has used performance enhancing drugs.

“I believe so, I believe so,” Gustafsson said. “I think he’s been doing a lot of stuff that he shouldn’t be doing. It’s tragic to say, but I believe he’s been doing (expletive) he shouldn’t be doing for a long time.”

Asked whether he felt PEDs were in play ahead of Jones’ last battle, a victorious UFC 197 effort over Ovince Saint Preux to which Jones showed up in particularly muscular form, Gustafsson said he wasn’t sure. But asked whether he felt that was the case for his own UFC 165 scrap with Jones, Gustafsson was straightforward.

“I think so, yeah. I think so.” Gustafsson said. “He hadn’t been in the cage for a while when I fought him and stuff like that. I don’t know if he was on it or not for that (Saint Preaux) fight, but I believe when we fought and everything like that. But anyway, it’s history now. And new times are coming. And we probably will fight again some day.”

Gustafsson reiterated how he feels about Jones’ undeniable athletic achievements, dubbing him “probably the greatest fighter we’ve ever seen.” But he was once again very critical of the ex-champ’s attitude – especially his nonchalant approach to recreational drug use during the UFC Summer Kickoff press conference.

“I don’t like how he’s talking on the stage, doing the cocaine thing, with so many young people, kids and everything, looking up to him,” Gustafsson said. “I just feel like, man, come on. I don’t support that stuff at all. So, I just told the media what I think of him.

“He’s been getting caught for everything. It feels like it’s just one thing after the other. But then when he was sitting on the stage with (champion Daniel Cormier), and he just said he did cocaine a week before he fought him. And he’s not even embarrassed telling that stuff; he’s just proud telling that stuff. For me that’s just … You don’t do that, come on.”

Although he was the victor of 2013’s “Fight of the Year” battle with Gustafsson, Jones would later say that he felt he “should have lost” considering all the partying he’d done leading up to it. Asked about his thoughts on Jones’ claims that he wasn’t 100 percent for the scrap, Gustafsson  just doesn’t buy it.

“Well, I don’t know what to say,” Gustafsson said. “I just know he was in shape for that fight. And I was in shape for that fight. And, in many eyes, people believe I won that fight. And this may be one of his excuses. He didn’t dominate me like (he had) been dominating everybody else.

“It was a tight fight. I just think that’s one of his excuses, that maybe he didn’t finish me or he didn’t dominate me, didn’t win every round. So, that’s just the way he talks.”

Gustafsson’s future is unknown. With Jones and Cormier set to rematch at July’s UFC 214 headliner, and fellow contender and friend Jimi Manuwa facing Volkan Oezdemir on the same card, Gustafsson is still unsure whether a third title shot is next for him.

But if he is to face the winner of Cormier-Jones, Gustafsson is fine with whatever outcome.

“I’m excited to see the fight, first of all,” Gustafsson said. “I have to be honest, I like D.C. For me, he’s a worthy champion, he’s a good guy. So I hope he wins. But I wouldn’t say no to a fight against Jon Jones either. That’s the fight that people want to see, and I will fight him. So let’s see what happens.”

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

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Source: MMA Junkie