Twitter Mailbag: On GSP's potential middleweight exit, Ngannou's terrifying possibilities

What would “”GSP”’s” immediate exit from middleweight tell us about Michael Bisping’s title reign? Is Francis Ngannou going to scare off all the would-be heavyweights? And what is the UFC going to do about its Conor McGregor problem?

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

Why, because it would prove that Michael Bisping lost the UFC middleweight title to a welterweight? Seems to me we already knew that. From the very beginning, this was a savvy calculation by Georges St-Pierre. He went years without even seriously discussing a comeback, then changed his tune the instant Bisping became middleweight champ.

It was smart. Whatever else you think of it, you have to give him that. “GSP” wanted to come back for a big money fight, but he also wanted an opponent who wouldn’t take his head off. Bisping allowed him to etch his name into MMA history as a two-division champ while also padding his bank account.

Why stick around at middleweight now? Because UFC President Dana White will be “pissed” if he doesn’t? I’m not sure a friendship with the same man who threw him under the bus upon his departure from the UFC is reason enough to risk a fight you don’t really want to take, especially if you’ve already got “GSP” money.

As for Bisping, it’s true that his title reign wasn’t exactly the picture of dominance. He had one successful defense against an aging non-contender, and even then he narrowly clung to consciousness long enough to win.

But the fact that Bisping won a UFC title at all, and so late in his career, is impressive all on its own. So many people (myself included) wrote that possibility off as an impossible dream that only he still believed in. Then he made that dream come true, and leveraged it for a huge payday. Knowing how the fight game is played, you have to respect that – even if you don’t like it.

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Easy there. You might be doing the thing where you remember best the thing that happened last. Personally, I think you only have to go back to UFC 217 to find a bigger, better event, especially when you start comparing prelims.

What UFC 218 reminded us is that when you book exciting fights, you get exciting outcomes. Look at all the best fights from that card. They were exactly the ones you would have predicted to deliver exactly the type of action that they did. No real surprises there, which is unlike all the title turnover that made UFC 217 so memorable.

The UFC is in a sticky situation with Conor McGregor. He can’t be controlled, can’t be manipulated. At this point he has so much money that he can’t even be enticed or motivated. That leaves the UFC sitting around waiting for him to decide what, if anything, he wants to do next.

But how long do you wait, especially as he seems to be creating more obstacles to a return with his choices outside the cage? According to Dana White, McGregor may never fight again (of course, White also wants us to believe that he was booked to fight on Dec. 30, before all the Bellator madness). So how do you let him keep walking around with a title he hasn’t defended in more than a year if you think he might be done?

Still, the guy’s a walking payday for the UFC. Taking away his title would only alienate him, and anyway it’s not like it would makeTony Ferguson’s title seem that much more “real” just because you removed the interim tag. (The same Tony Ferguson just had elbow surgery, to boot.)

It’s a tough situation, and right now it seems like the UFC doesn’t know what to do. That might explain why, at least so far, what it’s doing about it is nothing at all.

Jon Jones has other stuff to worry about at the moment, but I would definitely rethink my options if I wereAnthony Johnson.

But just generally, can we resist the urge to get too far ahead of ourselves withFrancis Ngannou? He has yet to fight for, much less win the UFC heavyweight title, and already he seems to be getting the Ronda Rousey-esque “once in forever” type of treatment.

I get it. We’re hyped about the guy, and with good reason. But let’s not forget how hard it’s been to keep star heavyweights healthy and consistent in the UFC. There’s a reason that title has never been defended more than twice in a row.

What a terrifyingly plausible look into the future. Watching McGregor live out the most cliched possible version of the Sudden Fame Lifecycle, I can’t help but wonder how it is that so few people in that situation seem capable of learning from the mistakes of others.

Is that indicative of the kind of person who achieves that type of fame in the first place? Is it created by the environment that comes with all that? Is it one of those things where, it’s easy to see it happening from the outside, but when you’re stuck in the whirlpool you can’t quite appreciate it?

I don’t know. But if McGregor ends up as an MMA Mike Tyson, blowing through all of his money as he self-destructs in full public view, it’s going to be seriously depressing. Though I admit I am curious as to what his eventual face tattoo will look like.

I remember being at a post-fight press conference a few years ago when Dana White, only half-jokingly, mentioned the possibility of Frankie Edgar some day ending up as a bantamweight. The look on Edgar’s face right then could best be described as nervous dread.

Back then, Edgar was a small lightweight (and former champ in the division). Now he’s a small featherweight who lost his most recent crack at the title due to a training injury, and so here we are talking about him shedding 10 more pounds at age 36 like it’s as simple as switching parking spots.

Could he drop to bantamweight? Maybe. Is that really something anyone should pressure him to do when he’s 7-2 as a featherweight, with his only losses coming against one of the best in the history of the division? Nope.

Plus, at featherweight Edgar represents something thatMax Holloway needs right about now – a fresh challenge. The UFC featherweight champ beat so many different people on his way to the belt that title defenses could easily turn into reruns. If the division loses Edgar, that only becomes more likely.

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: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC champ Daniel Cormier apologizes to Anthony Johnson: 'The reality is, I was wrong'

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Filed under: News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

It’s not exactly rare for a fighter to have some words with past or future opponents. Apologies, though, don’t come around that often.

So there’s something refreshing about UFC light-heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier’s willingness to admit he was wrong, during a recent MMAjunkie Radio appearance, in the way he went about former title challenger Anthony Johnson.

Cormier (19-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) and Johnson (22-6 MMA, 13-6 UFC) met twice in the octagon, at UFC 187 and UFC 210. Other than the fact both fights ended in rear-naked-choke submission wins by Cormier, they had in common somewhat respectful lead-ups. Things, however, turned sour recently – when Cormier took issue (via “Talk and Talker”) with Johnson’s possible return from retirement and buddy-buddy attitude with former 205-pound champ Jon Jones prior to the UFC 214 encounter between Cormier and Jones.

Johnson, who announced he was hanging up his gloves immediately after their UFC 210 encounter, didn’t take too kindly to being called “(expletive) soft” on Cormier’s podcast. So he responded to the “crybaby” champ on Facebook:

To which Cormier fired back. (via Twitter)

After speaking to other people, though, Cormier realized he was off base. While there’s a side of him that’s measured on his words and approach, Cormier said, there’s also the ultra competitive side, which comes out swinging when he feels disrespected in any way.

That, the champ explained, is what we got in this whole Johnson ordeal. But that doesn’t make it right.

“After Rumble put that post up, I tweeted him,” Cormier told MMAjunkie Radio. “But then I texted him. Because I was mad. Like, ‘I’m mad. I want to fight.’ The reality is, I texted him, and I said some things that weren’t very cool. But then I was talking to somebody that means a lot to me and they said, ‘Why are you so mad? You started it. You said stuff. And you’re mad at him.’

“So the reality is, I was wrong. I should not have called him soft. But I thought that I didn’t like the action, but why do I expect so much out of him? Why do I expect him to not be able to be respectful and still compete at the highest level of the sport?

“So I walk it back a little bit. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have said anything about him being soft. Everybody does not have to view competition like I do. And I think that’s why – if he wants to be friends with (Jones) and be nice and cordial, then fine. What does that matter to me?”

In his post, Johnson joked about the lack of logic in Cormier’s thinking that he could have given Jones any advice on how to beat him; after all, Cormier did beat Johnson twice. And Cormier, now, agrees.

Mostly, though, Cormier said he was peeved by seeing his two two-time opponents hugging and being playful with each other – simply because that’s something that he wouldn’t do due to his competitive nature. But he, with a hand from his wife, also realizes that not everyone has to go about things the same way he does.

“I was wrong,” Cormier said. “It took me talking to Ali Abdelaziz (Johnson’s manager) of all people. Ali was like, ‘You guys are like – what the hell?’ He was right. But I talked to somebody last night. And my wife, she goes, ‘I get it. You’re a man. You’re from Louisiana. You don’t like to be disrespected. So when you feel a challenge, you go at it head-on.’

“But she goes, ‘You were wrong. You didn’t have to say that about him in the first place. What was the point? You won both fights.’ But, again, it’s just me looking at competition a certain way. And I guess just expecting people to do it too. And it really doesn’t have to be that way.”

Cormier’s issue with Johnson, however, wasn’t only with the Jones situation – but rather with the former challenger’s quite unexpected announcement that he would be leaving MMA to pursue other endeavors after the loss to Cormier. Which, again, the champ now sees is not his place to judge.

“I think the bigger issue for me was just not even the thing with Jones; it was like, ‘Man, I wish you would have just thought about it a little more before he made that decision,’” Cormier said. “Look, I said it before: I hope he comes back. Because he should be fighting. He’s that good. But it was just so quick.

“It just seemed like he should have taken a little more time in regards to making that decision, but who am I to pick when he retires? I’ve just got a different way of viewing stuff, man. I guess that’s why I am who I am.”

While Johnson has yet to formally announce anything on that end, his manager recently told “The MMA Hour” that a comeback was being discussed – this time, at heavyweight. Cormier, on his end, thinks a “Rumble” comeback is imminent. And he wants to make amends.

“I do believe he’ll fight again,” Cormier said. “So I’ve got to talk to ‘Rumble.’ I need to talk to ‘Rumble’ and try to either apologize or make it right in some way, shape or form.”

It’s unclear whether Cormier has since reached out directly to Johnson. But, in the meantime, the champ used the MMAjunkie Radio stage to get his message out there.

“The reality is, I was wrong,” Cormier said. “Not everybody should view competition like I do. So to Anthony Johnson, I apologize. I should not have said that. I should not have said that. I should not have said that. And because I said it, I have to truly expect him to respond. And he did.

“And because he responded, I should not try to fight him in the streets of Las Vegas. I’ve got to be better than that.”

To hear from Cormier, check out the video above.

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

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

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Filed under: News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Retired UFC fighter Anthony Johnson: Medical marijuana business 'for all the right reasons'

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Retired light heavyweight Anthony Johnson was backstage at this past Saturday’s UFC 214, there to shoot the breeze with reporters, support training partner Volkan Oezdemir, and, of course, shoot down questions about whether he might step into the cage again.

Even before that question could be completed, Johnson interrupted, “No chance.” And that tweet he sent about “getting the itch” after Alexander Gustafsson – a previous victim – knocked out Glover Teixeira, another victim? All in good fun.

“That was just me being a little cocky,” Johnson (22-6 MMA, 13-6 UFC) said. “Gus threw, what, probably five, 10 uppercuts to put Glover out? I just threw one. I was just busting his balls a little bit – you need 10 bullets, I need one.”

When veteran MMA reporter Ariel Helwani managed to broach the topic, Johnson said even if Jon Jones beat Daniel Cormier, he wouldn’t come out of retirement to give it one last go.

Now that Jones has done that, the world has that on-the-record answer for whatever does or doesn’t come next. Still, if Johnson is truly retired, what does he do with his time these days? If he’s not getting up early, dieting, running, or “sweating like a dog,” what keeps him busy? How does he keep those itches at bay?

The answer, according to “Rumble,” is a lot of cardio. Another one is, he chills. But also, he tends to his new business venture in the green rush.

The company called “Farm Med” (or perhaps, “Pharm Med,” as no website exists for either spelling). According to Johnson, it’s a medical marijuana business based in Canada that he bought into through a mutual friend. Now, it’s part of his nest egg.

Not much was known about Johnson’ foray into medical marijuana when he revealed it in May, but the two-time UFC title challenger said his new job isn’t merely a get-rich-quick scheme.

“We’re doing it for all the right reasons,” he said. “It’s not about the money. We’d rather help society out the right way, instead of trying to put pills into their body.”

Johnson said he and his partner will make sure the new business is successful in Canada before bringing it to the U.S., where several states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, though his home state of Florida has yet to.

“We’ve got to make sure the home surf is safe and stable,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t worried about what Uncle Sam could say. This is something I truly believe in.

“I have somebody close to me that’s dealing with cancer. I’ve seen them take 10 pills every three or four hours for the aches and pains and sickness, and it might go away for a little, but they still feel bad. I’ve seen them take a hit, and all of a sudden, 10 minutes later, they’re like, ‘I don’t feel anything. I feel great. I’m ready to go and run. I’m ready to have a good time.’ That’s what I want to see.”

So for now, that’s Johnson’s pursuit. Rather than taking down the toughest guys in the world, he’ll be helping to elevate those who need a lift.

When he makes that move across the border, though, one UFC vet says he should hire a good lawyer – just to be safe.

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

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

A running list of notable 2017 MMA retirements

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Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, News, UFC

MMA is a constantly evolving sport with a revolving door of athletes entering and exiting. Currently, fighters from the era that helped make the sport so popular are beginning to trickle away from competition and hang up their gloves in order to move on to the next chapter in life.

If there’s one thing that’s well known about combat sports retirements, though, it’s that they often don’t last long. The urge to compete, and perhaps more importantly get a payday, will continue to drive fighters back even well beyond their expiration dates.

2017 has seen an uptick in notable fighters announcing they’re done with the sport, and The Blue Corner has kept a running list of those who have decided in favor in retirement.

* * * *

Mirko Filipovic (Jan. 3)

Although this song and dance with 42-year-old heavyweight legend “Cro Cop” has happened several times before, the PRIDE and UFC veteran claimed “this is definitely the end” following his surprising run through the Rizin FF open-weight tournament in December.

Tim Kennedy (Jan. 17)

Former Strikeforce middleweight title challenger and decorated military man Kennedy flirted with the idea of retirement for quite some time. He made it official following a TKO loss to Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 206.

Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (Jan. 19)

After a disappointing 0-3 run during her UFC career, women’s strawweight fighter Jones-Lybarger opted to step away from competition after just 10 pro fights.

Tito Ortiz (Jan. 21)

Ortiz, who is one of the most notable fighters and personalities in MMA history, made it known well ahead of time that his Bellator 170 fight with Chael Sonnen would be the last of his career. He won, and thus far the former UFC light heavyweight champion has stuck to his guns.

Aisling Daly (Jan. 30)

Although Irish MMA is all about Conor McGregor, the credit for raising the profile for the women’s side of the sport in the country goes largely to Daly, who was forced to retire against her own will after a brain scan revealed an abnormality.

Ricardo Abreu (Feb. 3)

Two U.S. Anti-Doping Violations (USADA) within the span of a handful of months caused Abreu to announce his retirement. His two-year suspension froze when he mad the announcement, so if he ever wants to come back, there’s a long waiting period ahead.

Cody Bollinger (Feb. 12)

Former WSOF title challenger Bollinger lost three of his final five fights before he announced his retirement, citing the desire to spend more time with his family. He left the door open for a return “far, far down the road.”

James Moontasri (Feb. 13)

After going 2-4 during his UFC career, Moontasri, who bounced between the lightweight and featherweight divisions, said he was ready for something different in life following a loss to Alex Morono at UFC on FOX 22 in December.

Brock Lesnar (Feb. 14)

Former UFC heavyweight champion Lesnar has retired before, but after flunking multiple drug tests around his comeback fight with Mark Hunt at UFC 200, it’s possible this one could actually stick. Lesnar has been rumored for another comeback, but he must first enter the USADA testing pool and serve the final six months of his suspension.

Phillipe Nover (Feb. 15)

After a career which included two UFC stints and a run to the finals of “The Ultimate Fighter 8” where he received comparisons to Anderson Silva from UFC President Dana White, Nover decided his time in the sport was done following a loss at UFC 211.

Cody Pfister (March 3)

Not many fighters have the strength to go out on a win, but that’s exactly what Pfister did when the 27-year-old surprisingly announced his retirement after wining his Bellator debut at Bellator 174.

Marloes Coenen (March 3)

Women’s MMA pioneer Coenen fell short in her last shot at glory when she lost to Julia Budd in the inaugural Bellator women’s featherweight title fight at Bellator 174. She announced her retirement in the cage immediately afterward, but has made a smooth transition out of the sport by picking up some broadcasting reps for Bellator and Spike.

Nam Phan (March 11)

Prone to putting on exciting fights throughout his more than 15-year career, Phan lost seven of his final 10 bouts before a 21-second loss under the ACB banner prompted him to retire.

Ian Entwistle (March 18)

Much of the damage sustained by fighters comes inside competition, but outside of it weight cutting can be just as harmful. British bantamweight Entwistle unfortunately fell victim to the harsh physical tolls and retired after withdrawing from consecutive UFC fights on either weigh-in or fight day.

Brad Pickett (March 18)

Although he didn’t get the storybook ending in his hometown that he desired, Pickett’s long and successful career came to an end in his native London when he lost to Marlon Vera at UFC Fight Night 107. “One Punch” went out as a trailblazer for the sport in his country and as one of only two men to defeat current pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson.

Patrick Cote (April 8)

Former UFC middleweight title challenger and one of the top Canadian fighters in history, Cote, decided 34 career fights (with 21 under the UFC banner), was enough for him. He retired after a UFC 210 loss to Thiago Alves, but still keeps close to the octagon as the promotion’s French-language commentator.

Anthony Johnson (April 8)

One of the most surprising retirements of the year so far went to knockout specialist Johnson, who suddenly decided he didn’t want to fight any more following a submission loss to Daniel Cormier in a light heavyweight title fight at UFC 210. “Rumble” cited his desire to explore other business opportunity, including a venture into the marijuana industry.

Miguel Torres (April 19)

Once considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, former WEC bantamweight champion Torres waved the white flag on his more than 17-year fighting career when with an emotional retirement announcement.

Gilbert Smith (June 14)

Season 25 of “The Ultimate Fighter” was a shot at redemption for a group of fighters whose UFC careers did not go as planned. Smith was on the cast, but after being bounced from the tournament in the quarterfinal round, admitted his passion for the sport had fizzled.

Neil Seery (July 16)

Irish flyweight Seery made his plans to retire from the sport known more than a year before it actually happened. His retirement fight was delayed twice over due to last withdrawals by his opponents, but finally it happened at UFC Fight Night 113. Unfortunately, the result didn’t go his way.

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

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

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Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie