What happens when you pay a fighter to retire? What happens when you stop?

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Buried in a 58-page pitch to potential investors was a plan for the UFC’s future that former fighters like Chuck Liddell might have been very interested to read. That plan included ways to increase profits through various “cost-saving opportunities,” such as tightening up certain “compensation practices.”

One such practice? The use of “long-lived consultants.”

That was in the summer of 2016, right around the time the UFC was sold to WME-IMG following weeks of denials, both to the public and internally to employees, about rumors of a sale.

Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Liddell had been retired for roughly six years by that point, all of which he’d spent on the UFC payroll. That seemed to be a big part of the reason he retired when he did. Following Liddell’s third straight knockout loss, UFC President Dana White urged his longtime friend to hang up the gloves, and he succeeded with help from the promise of a perpetual paycheck for a do-nothing gig as a UFC “executive.”

It was the first time the UFC had paid one of its stars to perform the service of not fighting, but it wouldn’t be the last. Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes would also wind up retiring to take a similar gig (“one of those Chuck Liddell jobs,” he said once years earlier, while discussing the prospect of retirement and rubbing his hands together at the thought) in 2013.

Former “TUF” winner and light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin also got a similar role, as did former interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

For the moment, at least, Griffin and Nogueira still have their jobs; Liddell and Hughes don’t. Perhaps not coincidentally, Griffin and Nogueira are both known for actually doing stuff relating to their jobs, while both Liddell and Hughes seemed intent on driving home the point that they were collecting checks for what they had done, and not what they were doing.

Still, for a time this system worked. It offered a solution to a problem. Pro fighters are notorious for not knowing when to quit. While promoters can refuse to give them any more fights, they can’t stop a competitor from stepping up with an offer to fill the void. If you care enough about an aging fighter’s health or legacy – or you just want to keep him out of the hands of another promoter – paying him to do nothing is an effective strategy.

Trouble is, it’s also expensive. The old Zuffa might have been willing to eat that cost, but the new regime was less enthusiastic. So what’s a guy like Liddell supposed to do now?

He seems to be asking himself the same question. On a recent episode of “The MMA Hour,” Liddell admitted he’d been caught by surprise when the UFC job that was supposed to be his for life suddenly evaporated.

“Life changes,” Liddell said. “And I think at first I took it a little hard, but now I look at it as a blessing in disguise. It’s got me re-motivated to go out and find what I really want to do.”

That’s where it gets tricky. The whole reason the UFC was paying Liddell was because it worried that what he might really want to do is fight some more.

Now Liddell is 47. His last win was nearly 10 years ago, but that’s not a significant barrier to entry in today’s MMA landscape. Over in Bellator, the home of MMA’s senior tour, company president Scott Coker says Liddell would need “a battery of tests” before he could fight. Then again, when you’ve already promoted a fight between Dada 5000 and Kimbo Slice, you might have to forgive people for assuming that your medical standards aren’t that high.

If Liddell did come out of retirement for Bellator, there’s Chael Sonnen, beckoning him to join in a prolonged debate to be followed by a show of geriatric athletics for the enrichment of all parties involved. There, too, is old friend Tito Ortiz, who Liddell probably still punches in his sleep on particularly restful nights.

And you could see why Liddell would be tempted to join them, couldn’t you? Especially if he feels like the UFC paid for what was left of his prime and then dumped him once it needed to cut costs.

You have to wonder how the UFC president would feel then, watching his old buddy back in the cage, but this time under another banner. It’s exactly the scenario White was trying to prevent, but in the end he might only succeed in delaying it.

Plus, no matter what you think of the practice of paying fighters to quit, the experiment seems to have a limited future. Who would trade whatever’s left of their career for a cushy UFC gig now, especially since there seems to be no better than a 50-50 chance of holding onto the job?

That leaves us right back where we started, with a stubborn problem that combat sports can’t quite solve. Old fighters, when confronted with the question of what they really want to do next, so often decide that it’s the thing they did last. If you’re looking for a different answer, it’s probably going to cost you.

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

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

Yokota Air Base personnel in Japan motivated by recent visit from UFC fighters


Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC

When the UFC hits the road, more often than not part of the fight week schedule includes some community outreach.

That was true 10 days ago when the promotion headed to Japan for UFC Fight Night 117. Ahead of the event, several fighters and personalities, including Hall of Famer Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and two-time flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez, paid a visit to U.S. military members at Yokota Air Base west of Tokyo.

Col. Kenneth Moss, the 374th Airlift Wing Commander at Yokota Air Base, said visits like that help inspire his forces.

“We’re out here 12 hours away or so from everything that we love in America, and all the people that we love,” Moss told MMAjunkie. “It’s great when America comes to visit us. You cannot imagine the morale boost it is when people see in real life, in the flesh, the people they’ve been rooting for on TV and their heroes. So getting the opportunity to spend time with them and seeing that the people back home still care and remember about everybody who’s forward – it’s fantastic. We’ll ride a little mission improvement here for a few more days, minimum.”

Check out the video above for an inside look at the UFC’s visit to Yokota Air Base.

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

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

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

If these pics of champ Cyborg visiting a children's hospital don't warm your heart, nothing else will

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Before a trip to Anaheim, Calif., brought her the UFC’s women’s 145-pound title, Cris Cyborg was gifted a symbolic belt by the children of a hospital in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil.

This Monday, delivering on a promise she made to herself, the champ returned to the hospital with a gift of her own: an actual UFC belt.

“These kids are much more than champions – they fight every day for their lives,” Cyborg said in an official statement sent out by the UFC. “And a small gesture like this one makes a huge difference in their lives. I always talk about this, about the importance of fighting for those who can’t fight. It’s so good to make someone happy because it makes us happy, as well. It was very gratifying to come here today.”

Instagram Photo

For the visit to the hospital, which is an industry leader in cancer treatment, the champ was joined by former PRIDE champ and UFC Hall of Famer Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. According to the official statement, the hospital will keep the belt in its pediatric area.

Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) captured the 145-pound title at last month’s UFC 214, with a third-round TKO over fellow former Invicta FC champion Tonya Evinger (19-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC). She’s currently in her native country for a media tour.

While Cyborg has been campaigning for a meeting with ex-champ Holly Holm, her octagon future is still uncertain.

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

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

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

Having a bad day? These pics of kids getting a cool MMA masterclass from UFC fighters in Rio should help

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As far as MMA introductions go, it’s hard to top the masterclass a group happy-looking children and teenagers from social projects in Rio de Janeiro got this past Saturday.

As part of the celebrations of the one-year anniversary the 2016 Olympic Games held in Rio, former PRIDE heavyweight champion and UFC Hall of Famer Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was joined by six active UFC fighters in teaching the free class, held at the venue that hosted basketball competitions at the Olympics.

Former strawweight title challenger Jessica Andrade, flyweight Alexandre Pantoja, lightweight Alan Patrick, strawweight Poliana Botelho and middleweights Vitor Miranda and Thiago “Marreta” Santos all shared some knowledge.

“Social actions like these bring the children closer to martial arts and work as motivation for them to follow this path, as many have little access to sports,” Nogueira stated. “I believe that, by allowing direct access with idols such as UFC fighters, we help both the self-esteem and the development of these children.

“I’ve been working with this for a while and I understand how much the engagement between sports and social projects benefits the future of or country.”

Did the kids enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience? Check out the photos in the gallery above and decide for yourself.

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

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

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Think ex-UFC champ Jose Aldo is down and out? Check out these messages

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In the days that have passed since Jose Aldo’s title loss in Saturday’s UFC 212 headliner, the former featherweight kingpin’s countrymen have been taking to social media to issue messages of support.

Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) suffered a third-round TKO loss to Max Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) in their pay-per-view scrap at Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena. While this wasn’t Aldo’s first octagon loss – he suffered a title-costing 13-second knockout to lightweight champ Conor McGregor – it carried the weight of taking place in front of the passionate fans of his adopted home of Rio.

Among those who stepped up to speak on behalf of Aldo’s legacy are colleagues who have felt firsthand the sting of losing UFC gold.

Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, for instance, posted a video on Instagram talking about the importance of family at these times. He went on to say his fellow Brazilian ex-champ, who went on a staggering decade-long undefeated run before the McGregor loss, has “nothing to prove to anyone” (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “I hope you see this video, Aldo – to tell you that only you and your team know how hard it is. People who are criticizing now, saying you should have done this or that, this type of people have never been punched in the face. They have no idea what they’re talking about. And only the true fans will be by your side now. And you, your wife, your family know your sacrifice. And your coaches. At the end of the day, brother, when you get home and rest your head on your pillow, it’s you, your family, your wife, your daughter. That is your biggest treasure. I’m sending this message to say that you’re an example for many – for me. A great champion, not only in the octagon but in life too. You have nothing to prove to anyone.”

Former middleweight champion and all-time great Anderson Silva was one of the first to issue his support on social media. Silva stressed Aldo’s part as a role model in the sport. Under a picture that featured Aldo’s daughter, Joana, and wife, Viviane Pereira, Silva called his fellow countryman a “giant” and a “hero” (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “My brother. You are much bigger than any battle. Your story gives us the full assurance that you are a great hero, a great champion, I am and I will always be your fan, brother. What you have most precious goes far beyond. Of course we were all rooting for you and for your victory, but do not cover yourself or let anyone charge you brother, because you are fantastic in what you do and do with love and with your heart. Do not forget who you are and how much you make a difference in this sport. You have changed the lives of many people. You are cause for victory and overcoming by the example that has become. Always keep your head up God is always in control. You are a great champion, no one can take this story from you, no one; battle is won and other losses, but never war. You are a giant, did not come to this world by chance. You are Ze Aldo. Our Ze Aldo. Do not forget brother, GOD bless you always warrior.”

Former UFC interim heavyweight titleholder and current UFC Hall of Famer Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira also used the word “hero” to describe the former 145-pound kingpin (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “Our warrior. You’re our Brazilian hero, bud.”

Members of the newer octagon generation have also stepped up. Undefeated UFC welterweight Alberto Mina, for instance, published an inspired statement that takes aim at the public’s “ungrateful” attitude toward the fall of the longtime champ.

The message, which featured a “Whomever roots for me, roots for Aldo” hashtag, was shared by fellow UFC up-and-comers such as welterweight Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “What’s going to happen to us, the ‘new generation of the UFC?’ Once the Brazilian fans can show so much ungratefulness with our champion who spent (and still is) over 10 years at the top? You watch your team lose, get downgraded, and you still root for them. Your favorite singer misses a show, cancels it, gets sick, wakes up with a bad voice or just didn’t sing what you wanted to hear… And then? You’re no longer a fan? What about your politician? Who you carried on your shoulders? Wore his jersey and even fought family members for him…. He let you down and certainly next year you’ll vote for him once again… Our profession is cruel, from hero to villain in the blink of an eye. The fan who can’t understand the greatness of Aldo for us fighters really isn’t apt to push the new generation.”

Check out other messages of support for Aldo:

Pedro Rizzo – Aldo’s coach, heavyweight legend, UFC and PRIDE vet (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “Everything passes, the bad and the good, what stays is our history and how people will remember you. Your life story is beautiful and victorious, keep writing it. No matter what happens, I’ll always be here, as I’ve always been, by your side and ready for everything.”

Leonardo Santos – UFC lightweight, “TUF: Brazil 2” winner and Aldo’s Nova Uniao teammate

Santos shared a comment from an aspiring fighter who sees the ex-champ as a role model in overcoming his own struggles to make it away from his family, sleeping at a gym, much like Aldo did (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “Today I had no words to describe something that diminished the pain of the loss for my friend @josealdojunioroficial. Something that made him see how important he is to all of us, how big of a part we play in his life. How much he managed to transform our lives. And just by being him, @josealdojunioroficial! So I got this… An example of how beloved he is and how much he has and still inspires us all.”

Bethe Correia – former UFC women’s bantamweight title challenger (via Instagram):

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Her message: “You were a warrior. Eternal people’s champ.”

Gilbert Burns – UFC lightweight (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “We’re #TeamAldo in victory and defeat. You represent me in and outside of the octagon.”

For more on UFC 212, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie