Here's the official poster for UFC 219, featuring Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm

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

The UFC’s final pay-per-view of the year, UFC 219, is less than a month away. Now it has an official poster.

The event, which takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, features a pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

One of the biggest fights in women’s MMA history takes center stage in the main event when UFC featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) attempts to continue her more than decade-long run of dominance. She takes on former UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), who is looking to pull off another historic upset win.

The current co-headliner pits unbeaten lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) against highlight-reel knockout specialist Edson Barboza (19-4 MMA, 13-4 UFC).

Check out the official event poster below (via Twitter):

The latest UFC 219 lineup includes:

  • Champ Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm – for women’s featherweight title
  • Edson Barboza vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
  • John Lineker vs. Jimmie Rivera
  • Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza
  • Carlos Condit vs. Neil Magny
  • Marc Diakiese vs. Dan Hooker
  • Emil Meek vs. Kamaru Usman
  • Matheus Nicolau vs. Louis Smolka
  • Rick Glenn vs. Myles Jury
  • Omari Akhmedov vs. Marvin Vettori
  • Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Khalil Rountree
  • Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Sabah Homasi

For more on UFC 219, visit the UFC Rumors 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

Holly Holm done with boxing career despite potential for new Zuffa venture

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DETROIT – Early in Holly Holm’s MMA career, she alternated between trips to the cage and boxing ring. Eventually, she tired of the commute.

There is now opportunity to return to her original discipline if the UFC makes good on a plan to promote boxing fights in addition to those in the octagon. But for Holm, a former boxing and UFC champ, she’s already made her choice.

“I am done boxing,” she told reporters ahead of UFC 218 in Detroit, where she appeared as a guest fighter. “I don’t have the passion for it any more, and it hasn’t come back to me. Maybe that’s because I’m still fighting, so I don’t feel like I ever really retired.”

Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) is set to face Cris Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) for the UFC women’s featherweight title at UFC 219, which takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It’s her third shot at gold in the MMA promotion, and undoubtedly the most dangerous.

Holm recently emerged from a three-fight skid that saw her lose the bantamweight title and fall short in a bout for the inaugural featherweight belt. Yet she’s never contemplated the idea of a return to the square circle.

She remembers leaving the locker room after an appearance at Bellator 91 with little motivation for the square circle six weeks later. She walked into her coach’s office after her first day of sparring for the bout and announced her next match would be her last.

“I didn’t know how I would feel when that fight was over, with a win if I’d be excited and want to do it again,” Holm said. “With a loss, I’d probably want to do it again, because I wouldn’t want to end like that. When the fight was over, it was beautiful. It was in my hometown and they brought a beautiful bouquet, and I’m standing there thinking, ‘I can’t wait to take my boxing shoes off.’

“And, that’s it. I keep thinking, am I going to ache for it again? And I don’t. And it’s not because I don’t love boxing. I did, obviously. I did it for 10 years professionally. It’s just my new motivation is this new career I’ve been on.”

With her accolades in both sports, Holm argues she’s the most qualified oppponent to stand across from Cyborg, who’s decimated her opposition in the cage.

“I do feel I’m her toughest opponent to date,” she said. “In an all-around way. There might have been one fighter that had a bit of a ground game. She had one fighter with a clinch game. But really, as far as the caliber of fighter and experience, I do feel like I’m somebody she hasn’t faced before, and that’s why this fight is going to be different.”

For more on UFC 219, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Two-time Olympic champion Claressa Shields rates UFC champ Cris Cyborg's boxing a solid 7

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DETROIT – Two-time Olympic boxing champion Claressa Shields only got to spar with UFC champ Cris Cyborg once. But she was impressed by what she saw.

Cyborg and Shields first became acquainted via social media. The two knew of each other thanks to their accomplishments in their respective combat sports, but the relationship tightened during Shields’ campaign in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

It took a while for their schedules to line up, but the two finally got to hang out in person in Los Angeles. While they only trained together once, Shields said it was a productive session.

“She learned a lot that day,” Shields said. “She’s very athletic. I mean, 1 through 10, her boxing skills are at a 7. She’s very athletic. She’s strong. And if she puts 100 percent into boxing, to actually learn it, she’s going to have an easy transition over to boxing.” (via Twitter)

Although Cyborg also gave Shields some tips that would come in handy should she consider a transition to MMA, the boxer is not really planning on putting them to use for the time being.

“I’m going to try to stick to boxing as long as I can,” Shields said. “As long as I can make a million dollars.”

Even if they didn’t share that much time on the ring, the two hit it off. After Cyborg stayed by Shields’ side in her fight with Nikki Adler back in August, Shields returned the kindness by visiting Cyborg this weekend in Detroit, where the UFC’s women’s 145-pound champ promoted her upcoming UFC 219 encounter with Holly Holm.

Outside the ring, too, Shields is all praise for Cyborg. Like many who get a chance to personally interact with the UFC champ, Shields notices the contrast between Cyborg’s warm real-life persona and the more aggressive version that we sometimes see on social media.

But, for Shields, that too is part of the game.

“I think when you’re boxing, you have an alter ego,” Shields said. “And I think her alter ego speaks. On social media, she’s Cris Cyborg, the beast. But then off social media, she’s Cris cool, laid-back, funny. Nothing really gets to her outside the ring.”

At UFC 219, Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) gets to go against an ex-boxer in former UFC bantamweight champion Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC). But, while Shields knows Holm is a tough challenge, she believes Cyborg has the proper tools to come out on top.

“One, she’s got to catch (Holm),” Shields said. “Holly Holm is a great mover. She has a really good jab. Some head movement and then, whenever she can, slam her a couple of times, take some of the wind out of her. And then, after that, throw hands. And I think that Cris Cyborg is really good at throwing hands.

“She’s strong, she’s fast, and she’s very physical. So I think that she needs to keep it physical with Holly, not let Holly keep it pretty. And she’ll have a victorious night on Dec. 30.”

To hear from Shields, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

What we talk about when we talk about building 'stars' in the MMA business

Francis Ngannou showed up to the UFC 218 post-fight press conference looking resplendent in a black-and-gold dashiki, flashing a thousand-watt smile as he nonchalantly discussed that time he nearly knocked Alistair Overeem’s head clean off his massive shoulders.

It was one of the most brutal knockouts this side of Sean Salmon, and it came against a perennial heavyweight contender who’s been in the UFC for longer than Ngannou has even known what MMA is. Was he impressed with himself for this act of sudden devastation against such a prominent opponent? Not particularly.

“That is the past we are talking about,” Ngannou said. “Now I am the present.”

If you were writing a superhero movie and wanted to shoehorn in an MMA fighter character, you couldn’t do much better than this. The boy from the sand mines of Cameroon who became the fearsome fighting prospect while homeless on the streets of Paris. A martial arts savant equipped with an almost supernatural punching power, tossing off quiet one-liners with an oddly terrifying tranquility.

If he wasn’t already a real person, “The Predator” would have a Netflix series or a role in an Avengers movie by Summer 2018.

Instead, you can find him most days just walking around the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, where he must seem to company executives like a walking answer to their prayers.

That question UFC President Dana White always says he’s so sick of hearing, the one about how the UFC will replace the aging or departing superstars who drive pay-per-view buys? Now he can just point to Ngannou, a 31-year-old heavyweight whom the UFC signed two years ago on a contract that paid him just $12,000 to show for his first fight with the promotion. Talk about your “penny stock” fighters who pay off big.

But is Ngannou a “star,” in the MMA sense of the word? How about Max Holloway, who swaggered in with another sci-fi necktie to beat up Jose Aldo for a second time in the main event of UFC 218? How about UFC women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg, who, along with Holly Holm, will headline the UFC’s year-end pay-per-view event on Dec. 30?

Are any of them stars? What does the word even mean to us?

Historically, the UFC’s own internal flowchart on the question “Is this fighter a star?” typically points straight to the follow-up: “Depends – are they asking for more money?”

See, when the UFC is making the case for our money, usually in the form of pay-per-view buys, star fighters are everywhere, lighting up the night sky with their cosmic brilliance. It’s when those same fighters make a case for more of the UFC’s money that the galaxy suddenly grows dark.

All you need to do is look at the one remaining consensus superstar – Conor McGregor – to know that money is inextricably tied up with the question of what it means to be an MMA star.

McGregor’s fame isn’t just built on winning fights. Lots of people win fights. There are UFC fighters who have won more and lost less than he has, but you don’t see them making international headlines when they speed off from a court date in a six-figure sports car.

McGregor is a star in large part because he lives like one. He’s larger than life, and he never misses a chance to prove it with his bank account. No matter how much natural charisma the man may have (and he has a ton), he’d never be such an enduring public fascination if he were making $80,000 a fight.

I was talking to Charles McCarthy recently, a former UFC middleweight turned MMA manager (now retired from both businesses), who made a similar point about the UFC’s struggle to generate new stars on a budget.

“How are you going to get us to believe these guys are stars if they still have to work a day job?” he said.

It’s a solid point, and something to think about when you hear a broadcast full of fighters begging for a little bit of bonus money.

And yet, that money has the desired effect, does it not? It convinces hungry young athletes to disregard imminent health risks for the sake of our entertainment. It also brings with it some instant attention. After every UFC event, bonus payouts are a guaranteed story. The less star-studded the fight card, the more importance the bonuses seem to take on.

For instance, look at new UFC women’s strawweight champion Nicco Montano’s win at the TUF 26 Finale on Friday. Her story coming into the bout was her spartan existence in a crappy little basement apartment as she struggled to make it as an MMA fighter. Then she banked $100,000 for the title fight, plus a $50,000 performance bonus and another $30,000 in “outfitting” pay.

“We were dirt poor just before tonight in all reality,” Montano said after the bout. And now? “I’m going to go move to an apartment with some water pressure, and buy some good food and treats for my cats,” she said.

We love these stories in MMA. We revel in them, whether it’s Junior Albini, the heavyweight who could only afford empty shampoo bottles for his daughter’s toys before his first UFC payday and bonus, or Pat Barry living on rice and ketchup and then suddenly trying to convince the bank that he really did have tens of thousands of dollars to deposit out of nowhere.

It’s prizefighting, after all. It’s fitting that the “prize” comes first there.

Which brings us back to Ngannou. His knockout of Overeem was so memorable that White promised him a bonus (of an undisclosed sum), which was welcome news to the new top heavyweight contender.

“I do need that money,” Ngannou said.

And sure, of course he does. He’s in the middle of doing the rags-to-riches story. Started from the bottom and now he’s here. But where is here, exactly, especially when the man he’s tentatively slated to fight next – UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic – has been sitting out while griping about pay?

It’s hard to convince us that we’re looking at superstars if they’re mostly paid like middle management. It’s not much easier even if you are paying them well but then keeping it a secret.

The way you know the stars in this business? They’re outwardly, visibly rich. They have power. They can call some of their own shots and stand their ground. They are people whose wealth has become inseparable from their public persona.

They are also, perhaps not coincidentally, exceedingly rare in the brutal business of MMA.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

'UFC 218 Embedded,' No. 5: 'Better not be talking no (expletive), Justin!'

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

The UFC visits Detroit this week, and the promotion has rolled out its “Embedded” treatment for a preview of Saturday’s UFC 218 event.

UFC 218 takes place at Little Caesars Arena. and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In the headliner, featherweight champion Max Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) puts his belt on the line against the man from which he took it, Jose Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC).

In the co-main event, a pair of dangerous heavyweights collide in hopes of gaining a title shot, with Francis Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) vs. Alistair Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC).

In the fifth episode of “Embedded,” Holloway shows off his hands while Eddie Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) ribs opponent Justin Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who has an early-career story about Holloway. Additionally, the fighters handle media obligations, where Aldo and UFC champ Cris Cyborg talk shop with Olympic boxing gold medalist Claressa Shields. Additionally, Ngannou has some words for Overeem during their face-off.

Check out the full episode above.

Also see:

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

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Video: Champ Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm's first face-off at UFC 219 media day

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DETROIT – Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm faced off for the first time today ahead of their featherweight championship bout at UFC 219.

Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) attempts to make her first 145-pound title defense against Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at the Dec. 30 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

With UFC 218 going down this week in Detroit, Cyborg and Holm were brought in to town to speak with the media and face off. Watch the video above to see their intense stare down.

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: With title held hostage, what are UFC lightweights fighting for?

What’s going on with the UFC lightweight title, both the interim and the real one? Who’s the biggest what-if in MMA history? Who needs a win the most at UFC 218? And if you get dropped by a punch in one fight, should you be allowed to try it again three weeks later?

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

Recent comments from UFC President Dana White suggest that the UFC is no hurry to take any drastic action regarding Conor McGregor and his lightweight title. He’s off living out the before-the-fall part of the fame life cycle, blowing off court dates and reportedly feuding with organized crime figures like some sort of Irish 2Pac, while the other fighters in his division can only guess at a return date.

Tony Ferguson is losing his patience, and you can understand why. This is his shot. But for some reason White doesn’t think the interim champ is entitled to know when or even if he might get a chance to unify the belt. Then you’ve got guys like Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez, who are probably going to put on a fireworks display at UFC 218 with no clear idea as to where a win would get them.

It’d be a crappy situation in any division, but it’s especially crappy at lightweight, where there are a ton of good fighters and a belt that’s essentially being held hostage for the next monster payday.

You get the sense that, in any other weight class, with any other champion, the UFC would have done something about it by now. But not McGregor. Not now.

It’s got to beJose Aldo. He’s in one of the most talent-rich divisions in the UFC, fighting for a belt that used to be practically glued to him, and he’s fighting the last person to put him away. The only reason he even got the shot again so soon is because someone else got hurt. Luckily he was already in camp, but no one’s going to care about the short notice if he shows up and loses to Max Holloway again. He’ll have to murder the entire division to get another crack at that belt, at least as long as Holloway is holding it down.

Alistair Overeem? He could lose his next three in a row and probably not get cut, if only because the UFC isn’t about to help Bellator out like that.

And Henry Cejudo? If he hits a roadblock on his path back to a bantamweight title fight, it’s not the end of the world. He can just beat a few more potential challengers and wait to see if the UFC has come up with any better ideas for Demetrious Johnson.

It’s Aldo who’s fallen from the greatest height. And it’s Aldo who has the toughest path back to the top.

 

It seems we (and here I mean the UFC) have decided to act like Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm for the UFC featherweight title was the headliner all along. Ta-da!

Seriously, it’s not a bad main event. Holm represents Cyborg’s biggest test in years, and Cyborg remains the most dominant female fighter on the planet. So, yeah, you bet your lasagna I want to see that fight. But what you seem to be asking is, is it enough?

It’s a fair question, especially since this is the year-end event, which the UFC usually tries to make a pretty big deal out of. When you’re closing out the “biggest year ever,” you want to do it with a bang. But Cyborg vs. Holm (with Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza as a co-main event) doesn’t quite rise to the level of year-end blowout madness. It’s just another solid overall card, but positioned in a spot on the calendar where we typically expect more.

You leave Dan Henderson out of this. You hear me?! That man is retired, and you’re going to let him be retired. Now let us hear no more of this idea.

Bellator. You just described Bellator. Or at least the parts of it that draw the most viewers.

That’s one of the tricky things about using current UFC fighters as on-air commenters. They have their allegiances, and at times their own aims to consider, and that can’t help but color their outlook.

I wouldn’t say Daniel Cormier is necessarily required to play it straight at all times just because he also gets paid for talking into a microphone, but you would hope that he’d understand the mechanics at play in this instance.

If you’re Ferguson, you’ve got to be thinking of that interim belt as a ticket to a huge payday against McGregor. Why would you even consider trading that ticket in for (legitimately dope, but nowhere near as lucrative) fight with Nurmagomedov?

Cormier’s been around this game long enough to do that math for himself. There’s trying to help out a teammate, and then there’s being willfully obtuse.

First of all, I see what you’re doing with the intercontinental/interim champ thing and I am into it. Like, so into it I may just straight up steal it. Consider yourself warned, Josh.

Second of all, you make a valid point, even if it comes with a couple asterisks. For instance, Georges St-Pierre took the title off Michael Bisping, but a) Bisping was the least fearsome middleweight champ in forever, and b) you’ll notice GSP is in no hurry to fight the other guy.

Then there’s the other guy in question, Robert Whittaker. True, he was a welterweight once. When he was in his early twenties. He won the TUF tournament as a welterweight just before he turned 22, so it’s very possible that he’s grown into a middleweight as he’s gotten older.

I don’t mean to pour cold water all over your theory, because I’d love a compelling argument for fighters to stop cutting extreme amounts of weight and fight closer to their natural body weights. I’m just not sure this is the smoking gun we’re looking for.

You’re not wrong. It’s just that I can’t get myself to take a side in a fight like this, which is to say a fight that seems like it’s meant as an offering to the very idea of violence itself. All I ask of Gaethje and Alvarez is that they both go out there and be who it is in them to be. Beyond that, let the blood spill where it may.

A fighter can get dropped without being concussed, but concussions aren’t necessarily a prerequisite for brain trauma. A lot of the research suggests that the repeated sub-concussive blows are a big part of the problem, such as what a fighter might endure when sparring and then fighting and then sparring and fighting again without a significant rest period.

As for how long that rest period needs to be, no one can give you a definitive answer. At least, not yet. I’ve spoken to neurologists and researchers who study this kind of thing, and they seem to agree that there’s no test that can tell you for sure when it’s safe to go get hit in the head again.

That’s what really makes you wonder about the Bisping situation. His initial suspension from the New York State Athletic Commission was 30 days, which isn’t much in a sport where fighters usually go at least two or three months between bouts.

Then Bisping wanted to step up three weeks later – and the UFC clearly wanted him to – and the next thing you know his suspension has been reduced to seven days, which is utterly meaningless, since what you’re saying there is that it would be safe for him to fight again eight days after going three hard rounds in a losing effort against GSP.

Was it safe? I mean, it’s never totally safe. Is there any way he could have conclusively, medically proven his fitness to fight again so soon? Not really, no. All he could really have proven is that it wasn’t unreasonably dangerous. Seems like the desire for everybody to stay friends and keep making money carried things the rest of the way.

Like who? One of the stated goals of this tournament is to crown a Bellator heavyweight champion, which is something the organization hasn’t had since the spring of 2016 when it stripped Vitaly Minakov of the belt that he had no interest in defending.

(Side note: He was only the third heavyweight champ in Bellator’s history. The first, Cole Konrad, gave up the belt when he quit MMA altogether to become a commodities trader. That’s how prized a possession this belt has been – at least one champ decided he would rather get a job.)

It’s not just a Bellator problem. There aren’t a ton of quality heavyweights anywhere in MMA. If there were, the UFC wouldn’t have had to go get Anthony Hamilton out of his short-lived retirement just so he could lose his fourth in a row earlier this month.

Plus, we all know the real goal of this tournament, and it’s to create a spectacle worthy of our attention. For that, you need familiar names, and while Bellator has a few of those at heavyweight (thanks to some recent signings), it doesn’t have enough. So you convince a few other guys to hit the buffet and the next thing you know you have a tournament. The start of one, anyway.

That’s a tough one, but I’ve got to go with Ben Askren. At least Fedor Emelianenko ended up in Affliction, where he beat two recent UFC heavyweight champs, and then Strikeforce, where he lost to one future one before his career really hit the skids. He may have never fought under the UFC banner, but he fought enough UFC fighters that we at least got a sense of where he stood, albeit somewhat later in his career.

But Askren, who’s the most accomplished fighter he faced? Probably Douglas Lima. Maybe Andrey Koreshkov as an honorable mention. Then you’ve got an aging Shinya Aoki fighting out of his weight class and Jay Hieron in his post-IFL and Strikeforce era.

There’s not too much there that you can use to gauge how he would have done against the best in his division, which is a real bummer. But maybe that’s the way it’ll have to stay.

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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Twitter Mailbag: Where does Michael Bisping go from here, and does Colby Covington have a point?

Where’s the Bisping Show headed after Shanghai? Does running your mouth really warrant a boomerang to the neck? And is Bellator suddenly more fun than the UFC, or is it only in isolated moments?

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

* * * *

How about someone around his age? And yes, I know Yoel Romero is around his age, but no, not him. It’d be a little too depressing to see Michael Bisping catch a jumping knee knockout in front of the U.K. crowd for his final fight. Plus, if he takes a bad loss, he might be motivated to continue in the hopes of writing a better ending for himself, and nobody wants that.

But it does matter if he wins or loses against Kelvin Gastelum, because it will change what it means to fight and potentially beat Bisping. Right now? It really means something. He just lost his title, sure, but he lost it to an all-time great. Beating him now still makes you a contender, so the fight would still make sense for just about anybody in the top half of the division.

If Bisping loses to Gastelum, however? Then he’s got two straight losses to two former welterweights, and his last fight is just a feel-good formality. That has to affect the UFC’s matchmaking calculation. You don’t want to give him a contender, because what if he wins? All you’ve done is knock off a potential title challenger with a glorified retirement party.

What you want for Bisping is another Bisping. You want someone old enough that it won’t feel like feeding time in the wolf pen, but also someone with a name. You want someone who’s nowhere close to a title, but still feels like a somebody.

Man, it’s times like these you wish Vitor Belfort wasn’t already booked.

What Colby Covington said on “The MMA Hour” this week was that Fabricio Werdum attacked him for exercising his right to free speech. He also compared Werdum to Adolf Hitler, just so he could be sure to hit all the notes of a terrible Twitter troll. But does he have a point?

Yes and no. We can’t go around hitting each other, either with fists or boomerangs, just because we don’t like the words coming out of one another’s mouths. If anything, this should be more of an imperative for pro fighters. Not only are they likely to be treated more harshly by the legal system if they use their skills on civilians (shoutout to Volkan Oezdemir), they’re also giving away the goods for free.

You don’t get paid to fight in the streets, and getting paid is what makes you a professional rather than a criminal.

But we should be careful giving Covington too much leeway under the guise of a gimmick. Pro wrestlers can say anything they want and then leave it behind once they set foot outside the arena, but that’s because we recognize them as a species of actor. Covington is representing himself when he’s on TV maligning an entire nation, so maybe he shouldn’t be too surprised when he’s held accountable for it.

After all, this was the goal, right? He wanted to make people mad, if only as a means of making them care. Well, mission accomplished. Now please accept this boomerang as a reward. As for Werdum, who apparently wants to be some kind of street enforcer of good manners, he can deal with the Sydney police. Somehow I’m confident that both men will manage to learn nothing useful from the experience.

First we’re going to have to trick Quinton Jackson into thinking that he’s been invited to participate in a video-game tournament with a large cash prize and free candy bars, and it just happens to be on the same night as his opening-round bout.

Then we have Shane Carwin hang around the Bellator offices, asking everyone about their weekend plans and barely pausing to let them answer before he informs them that he’s got nothing on the calendar himself. Nope, just totally free for the next several months. No plans at all.

After that, all we have to do is sit back and let nature take its course.

Why strip him when you can create an interim title, which the UFC has already done, and have it hold just as much legitimacy as the real thing would if you took it off Conor McGregor now?

Whether he has a belt around his waist or not is pretty immaterial at this point. McGregor is the biggest star in the sport, and the UFC has no leverage over him whatsoever. Good luck getting him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.

You’re not tripping, but you may be dreaming. All the new deal proves is that the UFC wants to keep Cris Cyborg around, and why not? As difficult as she can be, fans still want to see her. What’s yet to be determined is whether they really care if there’s a whole division around her, or if they’ll be content seeing a series of one-off women’s featherweight title fights.

Ask yourself this: If Cyborg retired tomorrow, would this still be a division that’s worth the trouble for the UFC? If the answer is no (and I suspect it is), the current strategy starts to make lot of sense.

Look, for all the criticism you can heap on Werdum for his behavior and for the company he keeps, you can’t say he’s ducking real competition. He was slated to fight Derrick Lewis before Lewis pulled out hurt at the last minute and left him with Walt Harris. Then he said yes to a short-notice fight against an unheralded but still deceptively dangerous opponent in Marcin Tybura a month later. Clearly, the guy wants to fight.

Does that mean he deserves another crack at the title? Not yet. If I’m the UFC, there’s no way I’m giving that shot to Werdum right now, and his lack of recent wins over top contenders is only a part of the reason why. Hitting a fellow fighter with a boomerang a few days before an event may not get you pulled from the main event, but it shouldn’t get you an immediate title shot either.

Quick, who’s the Bellator middleweight champion? How about featherweight? Or bantamweight? If you didn’t have to look up the answer to at least one of those, congratulations, you are the hardest core of all the hardcore MMA fans.

I agree that stuff like the Bellator heavyweight grand prix has a way of instantly grabbing our attention, which is nice. Bellator’s total willingness to get weird and flaunt it right in our faces (as opposed to the UFC strategy of chasing the quick buck but pretending it’s all legit) feels like a fun use of its role as MMA’s no. 2 promotion.

But outside of the wild and crazy stuff, that’s where Bellator struggles. It can go through weeks worth of events without offering anything that feels like truly must-see material. It does plenty with what it has, but it simply doesn’t have enough. Not yet, anyway.

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

UFC champion Cris Cyborg signs new deal with promotion

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Not only does Cris Cyborg have her first UFC title defense coming up next month, she has a new deal to go with it.

Cyborg, the women’s featherweight champion, announced on her web site today that she’s signed a new UFC contract that will keep her with the promotion for “at least the next 15 months,” making her the “highest paid female fighter currently on the UFC roster.”

The new deal comes one day after the UFC announced Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) will defend her title against ex-bantamweight champion Holly Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) on Dec. 30 at the UFC 219 pay-per-view from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“I am excited to be committed to the UFC,” Cyborg said in a statement. “Dana White has proven himself as the best promoter in the sport, and with the recent addition of Mick Maynard as women’s matchmaker, I felt it was time to come to an agreement where we can both work together and be committed in both building the UFC and the Cris Cyborg brands. … I am excited to start this new chapter in my career as a real partner with the UFC and the fights we will promote together.”

Cyborg shed light on her contract situation back in July, prior to her title win over Tonya Evinger at UFC 214. Cyborg said then that her deal with the UFC was set to expire in October, but she was hopeful she’d sign a new one.

The relationship between Cyborg and the UFC hasn’t always been smooth. UFC President Dana White and analyst Joe Rogan, in particular, have made some unnecessary and harsh comments about Cyborg over the years. But things began to turn earlier this year when White admitted to MMAjunkie that the UFC has “made some mistakes” in its dealings with Cyborg.

Cyborg is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, fighters in women’s MMA history. She hasn’t lost since 2005 on her way to winning championships in Strikeforce, Invicta and the UFC.

For more on UFC 219, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Opening odds: Champ Cris Cyborg is a hefty favorite over Holly Holm at UFC 219

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Can Holly Holm pull off another major upset? If so, some bettors could enjoy a small windfall.

As UFC officials announced on Thursday, women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) fights Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at UFC 219, a pay-per-view event that takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Cyborg looks for her first title defense after winning the vacant belt with a third-round TKO victory over Tonya Evinger in July. Holm, meanwhile, looks to build off a June head-kick knockout win over Bethe Correia, which halted a three-fight skid to Miesha Tate (bantamweight title loss), Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie (featherweight title loss).

Holm’s skid is one reason she’s currently a substantial underdog heading into UFC 219. Veteran MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa has opened the line for the fight with Cyborg at -400 and Holm at +300.

The means a winning $100 bet on Cyborg would result in a net profit of $25 (with an implied win probability of 80 percent). A winning $100 bet on Holm, meanwhile, would come with a profit of $300 (win probability 25 percent).

Still, even at those long odds, Oddessa likes Holm’s chances – at least at that price.

“I’m probably in the minority, but I think Holly Holm has a legit shot at beating Cyborg,” he told MMAjunkie. “Most of Cyborg’s opponents dread standing and striking with her, but that’s where Holly is at her best.

“Unlike 18 of Cyborg’s opponents in the past who got crushed on their feet, Holm’s best path to victory may be by keeping the bout standing.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Holm won a bout due to her striking skills. The former pro boxing champion faced then-bantamweight champion Rousey, who was a massive -1650 favorite in their 2015 bout at UFC 193. It’s the only time Holm was the underdog in a pro MMA bout – and she pulled off one of the sport’s biggest upsets with the head-kick knockout.

Can she do it again? We’ll find out next month, but Oddessa said all the pressure is on her opponent.

“Holly really has nothing to lose,” he said. “She’s only been an underdog in an MMA fight once time. In her 2015 upset win (over) Rousey, many people, including me, wrote her off and didn’t give her much of a chance of winning.”

Although the current odds are available at limited places, the Cyborg vs. Holm line should be available at most major books in the coming days.

For more on UFC 219, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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