Cub Swanson: Brian Ortega 'ain't making a name off of me' at UFC Fight Night 123


Filed under: Featured, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

Brian Ortega is close to reaching critical mass as a UFC featherweight. After all, he’s booked against veteran Cub Swanson for his next bout at UFC Fight Night 123.

Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), the No. 7 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, has carved out an impressive niche in his octagon career, submitting four consecutive opponents in the third round. He’s earned a test.

The No. 6 Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC), a grizzled veteran who’s come within a step of a title shot, is just that type of opponent. The UFC will either mint a new star or certify an existing one.

Overall, the fight offers more upside for the 26-year-old Ortega, who’s got plenty of time to reset in the event of a setback. Swanson, 33, doesn’t have that luxury.

When the pair meet in the FS1-televised headliner of UFC Fight Night 123 on Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., it will be the final fight on Swanson’s contract.

Calling his choice to test free agency “a power move,” Swanson is making a bet he’ll increase his leverage with the promotion by beating the red-hot Ortega, getting a salary increase through a new contract with the UFC or one with another promotion.

It’s a bet many fighters have taken over the past two years, to mixed results. Swanson figures now is the right time to make his move. He just welcomed his first child and wants to set himself up so he doesn’t need to take physical punishment to make a living.

He chooses to reframe the high stakes as a chance to show off his skills.

“It actually feels good,” Swanson said. “It feels like less pressure. Some people may take more pressure being the favorite, but man, I feel like I’ve worked so hard to be here, and I don’t see somebody coming and taking it from me.

“So whenever a guy that’s the new thing, they’re like, ‘Oh, this is the guy you’re fighting?’ I’m like, ‘He ain’t making a name off of me.’ I’m going to show him why I’m in the spot I’m in, and why I’ve been here so long. I keep getting better. Bring it on.”

Although Swanson believes he’s already a rightful contender for the title, he’s no longer dwelling on opportunities not offered. Ortega is the one in front of him that must be overcome.

“I don’t know exactly how he’s going to come into the fight,” Swanson said. “I know he likes to bang, but I’m sure he’ll try to use his jiu-jitsu, as well. I just see that he’s stylistically a great matchup for me.

“Every fight, I’m chasing the perfect performance and feel like I’m getting closer and closer, and that’s what makes me keep fighting. I feel like this could be it. This could be your perfect performance.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2537 with guests Cub Swanson, Karyn Bryant, Marvin Vettori

Stream or download Thursday’s episode of  with guests Cub Swanson, Karyn Bryant, Marvin Vettori, and Jason Buchamer.

Swanson reflected on his stellar career and discussed his upcoming bout vs. Brian Ortega on Dec. 9 at UFC Fight Night 123. FS1 anchor Bryant discussed the origins of the Tony Ferguson-Kevin Lee rivalry, when Ferguson worked as an analyst and interviewed Lee after his win over Michael Chiesa. Vettori was in-studio to discuss UFC 216, which includes two of his teammates, Fabricio Werdum and Beneil Dariush. Former MMAjunkie Radio intern Buchamer recapped “The Ultimate Fighter 26,” Episode 6.

You can stream the entire episode on or listen below.

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

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Cub Swanson, Marvin Vettori, Karyn Bryant

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Cub Swanson, Marvin Vettori and Karyn Bryant.

Swanson headlines UFC Fight Night 123 on Dec. 9 against Brian Ortega in Fresno, Calif. Vettori will co-host the episode in the studio in Las Vegas. He’s in town to support teammate Beneil Dariush, who opens Saturday’s UFC 216 main card on pay-per-view against Evan Dunham. And Bryant will be anchoring the FOX Sports desk this weekend for pre- and post-fight UFC 216 coverage.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to

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

Cub Swanson says he's headlining UFC Fight Night 123 against Brian Ortega

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UFC Fight Night 123 in California appears to have its headliner.

Cub Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) today announced he’s fighting undefeated Brian Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) at the December event. His announcement follows an initial report from Farah Hannoun (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

UFC officials haven’t made a formal announcement.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The event airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

Swanson is No. 6 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, and Ortega is No. 7.

Swanson, a 33-year-old Californian, looks for his fifth straight victory following decision wins over Hacran Dias, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Dooho Choi and Artem Lobov. The latest wins – over Choi and Lobov – earned “Fight of the Night” honors (and the Choi fight was a popular “Fight of the Year” pick in 2016). Swanson’s been out of action since his April main-event win over Lobov after breaking a hand for the 10th time in his eight-year career.

He now fights Ortega, a 26-year-old who also calls California home. The undefeated up-and-comer and former RFA champ is 4-0 in the UFC (with one no-contest/overturned win due to a 2014 failed drug test). In his most recent fight, he picked up his second “Fight of the Night” award with a submission victory over Renato Moicano at UFC 214 in July. All of his UFC victories have come via stoppage – all in the third round.

The latest UFC Fight Night 123 card includes:

  • Brian Ortega vs. Cub Swanson
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Eryk Anders vs. John Phillips
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.


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

Jose Aldo and head coach Andre Pederneiras weigh ex-UFC champ's future options


Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Former UFC champion and avid sports fan Jose Aldo has always dreamed of fighting in Madison Square Garden. With UFC 217 looming, that dream could very well come true in Nov. 4.

All he needs is a dance partner for the New York City event. And that’s when it gets muddy.

Before losing the belt to Max Holloway at UFC 212, Aldo had already expressed the desire to stay active. With that unchanged by the loss, the first name that was thrown around was Cub Swanson’s (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC), whom Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC)  had met (and made quick work of) before – under the now-defunct WEC banner.

Swanson, whose only reply to the idea was a low-key jab, became a father shortly after. Then, another rematch started being rumored – this time with Ricardo Lamas (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who’d unsuccessfully challenged for Aldo’s belt at UFC 169.

So, where exactly do things stand right now? Head coach and manager Andre Pederneiras explained.

“When we started negotiating way back, it was Cub Swanson,” Pederneiras told MMAjunkie on Friday. “But then he got pregnant. So he wouldn’t be ready for November, (which was) the date we wanted. November or December.

“So when I met someone else, they mentioned Ricardo Lamas’ name. They haven’t confirmed it yet. I think – I think that Lamas didn’t confirm it.”

When alerted to the fact a reporter had already spoken to Lamas, who dismissed the matchup rumors, Pederneiras replied.

“I figured as much,” Pederneiras said. “Because I’m trying to follow up, and they’re not saying anything back. But Aldo wants to fight. And the last thing he heard from my mouth was that it could be Ricardo Lamas and it could be either Nov. 4 or December. So we’re waiting.”

Aldo, who’d talked to reporters earlier that day, didn’t go into specifics of matchup negotiations; instead, he said he was expecting to hear good news from Pederneiras. He was quite clear on one thing, though: He wants to return soon. Hopefully, in New York City.

“It’s a dream of mine to fight there, especially at Madison Square Garden,” Aldo said. “I grew up watching boxers fight there. So, for me to fight at that venue, it’s historic, so I do want to be (at UFC 217).”

As for whom he’d like to meet on Nov. 4, Aldo doesn’t have a personal preference. He wants a fight – whether that means facing 145-pound contenders like Lamas or Swanson, or even accepting longtime lightweight Michael Johnson’s (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) recent invitation to be his first featherweight challenge.

“I think (a matchup with Johnson) is great,” Aldo said. “I see no problem with that. First, you have to talk to (Pederneiras). He’s the one who handles this. The more people saying my name, the better. That’s what keeps me up there. I see no problem.”

So if both Aldo and Johnson are down, it should be simple, right? Let’s just say that, after a learning experience with lightweight contenders Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, Pederneiras is skeptical as to how this one is going to pan out.

“Everyone talks,” Pederneiras said. “(But) when it’s go time, everyone stays behind the curtains. These guys, what they say in front of the cameras, they don’t say behind it – and these are words by the matchmakers.”

Before the loss to Holloway, Aldo had repeatedly expressed another desire: trying his hand at the 155-pound division. That, it turns out, is not yet out of the picture. But it seems the former champion has some unfinished business to tend to first.

“We have this idea of moving up,” Pederneiras said. “But Aldo wants to try the title for a third time. (He wants to) fight for the belt again. We think there’s a good chance. Because in my head, Frankie Edgar is going to beat Holloway. Because their games don’t go together. And then (Aldo) would have a third stab at the belt. He can win the title and then move up.”

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Cub Swanson has interesting response to ex-champ Jose Aldo's sudden interest in rematch

Cub Swanson has heard about Jose Aldo’s interest in fighting him. And he feels some type of way about the timing of it.

Nearly two months after a title-costing TKO loss to Max Holloway at UFC 212, former featherweight champ Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) said he would like an octagon return before November – and that, as far as targets go, Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) would fit the bill.

The meeting, of course, would be a rematch – their first bout, which took place over eight years at WEC 41, ended in less than 10 seconds thanks to Aldo’s perfectly-placed knees. Now, Aldo’s the one coming off a loss. And Swanson is riding a four-fight streak – including two “Fight of the Night” battles – since his own loss to Holloway and has been making the case for his first UFC title shot.

In light of this turn of events, Swanson took to Twitter – and the ancient art of GIF expression – to issue a response.

The matchup does carry some logic, though. Despite Swanson’s pleas, it seems like former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar will be the one challenging for Holloway’s 145-pound belt. And, currently ranked No. 6 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, Swanson could do worse than No. 2 Aldo.

Aldo, in turn, would be involved in his first non-title fight since he joined the UFC as its original 145-pound champion back in 2011. He’s now lost two of his past three fights – a UFC 200 win over Frankie Edgar sandwiched in between the TKO to Holloway and a knockout to lightweight champ Conor McGregor.

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, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC champ Max Holloway predicts Mayweather-McGregor winner and – spoiler – it's neither fighter

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

LAS VEGAS – Max Holloway had barely exited the octagon after his title-unifying UFC 212 win over Jose Aldo when he was asked about who should be next for his title: Frankie Edgar or Cub Swanson.

The champ was diplomatic about it. If it came down to it, he’d be OK with giving Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) a rematch after a UFC on FOX 15 encounter that ended in a third-round submission for Holloway. But he did seem to lean toward former lightweight champ Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC) – who, ultimately, would allow Holloway to add another champ to his list of victims.

Over a month later – shortly before UFC president Dana White pointed to Edgar as the likely challenger – Holloway was once again put in front of reporters to answer questions about his immediate octagon future. And he was, once again, non-committal.

But at least he had a sense of humor about it.

“I guess I’m going to say it to you guys: We’ve got a fight announcement,” Holloway opened his scrum with reporters during Saturday’s UFC 213. “It’s what you guys all thought. It’s Frankie… And Cub. Two guys, one night. UFC is going to do a special event for me. Tag team match. Come get it, guys. Come watch it; it’s going to be great.”

Considering that negotiations were still underway, it’s understandable why Holloway was careful not to express a clear preference of challenger. Instead, he went for his habitual “I want to fight everyone” reply, placing responsibility for what’s ultimately a “business decision” on the UFC brass, the fans, and even the media.

But he did admit that, when it comes to sheer fan interest, there is a frontrunner. As it turns out, it’s neither Edgar nor Swanson.

“It’s actually (UFC lightweight champion Conor) McGregor,” Holloway said. “Everybody keeps saying ‘McGregor, McGregor.’ I’m like, ‘Guys, that guy’s boxing right now. He’s got other things. Respect to that guy, he’s got other things.’”

By “other things” he means of course, the highly buzzed-about boxing match between McGregor and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. The two are set to meet on Aug. 26 at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. And after the mega-event – and the paycheck that will follow – many wonder if McGregor will ever return to the cage.

If he does, the Irishman has unfinished business – at least in the eyes of some contenders. Although McGregor won two UFC belts, in both the 145-pound division and 155-pound divisions, he’s yet to take part in a single defense. While he was stripped of the featherweight title, he’s still the UFC’s 155-pound kingpin.

Holloway, who happens to be one of McGregor’s octagon victims, seems tired of speaking about the Irishman at this point. After all, it’s now been four years, 11 UFC wins and two UFC titles since he lost to McGregor at UFC on FOX 26. Would he like to get that one back? Of course – the same way he’d like to avenge all three of his career losses.

“But, at the end of the day, we’re not here to talk about that guy,” Holloway said. “That guy’s not even in my sport right now. That guy’s over there focusing on boxing. This is called mixed martial arts. They know who to call. they’ve got Dana White’s number. They’ve got my manager’s number.

“I’m the best 145-er in the world, and if they’ve got a question of me going up to 155, I’ll do it no problem. I love eating. I’m Polynesian. You can see – my chubby cheeks is giving it away a little bit.”

OK, so Holloway is done with the McGregor talk. But, while we’re at it, who does he think will be the winner of the mega-event on Aug. 26?

“The big winner of that fight is Dana White,” Holloway said. “And the UFC, dog. They’re the big winners.”

When it comes to his octagon future, the typically active Holloway is confident that he’ll fight at least once more this year. And, though his hand has some healing up to do, he expects to be cleared by August.

If White is to be believed, that return should happen against Edgar. And while time and place have yet to be set, it’s no secret that the UFC is planning a November return to New York City’s Madison Square Garden – which just so happens to be quite close to Edgar’s New Jersey turf.

On his end, Holloway is still pushing for that UFC event in Hawaii. In fact, he thinks it might become a reality as early as next year. But, after going all the way to Brazil to dethrone Aldo in front of his kingdom, he’d be OK with entering enemy territory at MSG as well.

“What is there to say – that’s another legend,” Holloway said. “That’s another legend of our sport, of the lower weight classes, and I can’t wait. I’ve been wanting to fight that guy forever, for a long time.

“I’ve been calling him out for a while now. And now we’re here. Now we’ve got to figure out, we’ll see what happens. We’ll see if we get it done. If it’s at MSG, it’s even better – that’s history.”

To hear from Holloway, check out the video above.

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

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

Can McGregor beat Mayweather? Doubtful, but MMA fighters with boxing experience have ideas

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

On Aug. 26, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor will make his professional boxing debut against arguably the greatest boxer in a generation, which right there sounds like a borderline unsanctionable mismatch.

But that hasn’t stopped McGregor’s many ardent supporters from insisting that he has a good chance to beat Floyd Mayweather. They point to his size and strength. They point to Mayweather’s age (he turned 40 in February). They point to McGregor’s powerful left hand.

You put them all together, they say, and maybe you have a recipe for a McGregor upset. It’s a fight, after all. And while McGregor might not have a single boxing match to his credit, he’s got plenty of fights.

Still, those fighters with considerable experience in both sports say they aren’t optimistic about McGregor’s chances. While both boxing and MMA are built around two people punching each other in the face, the differences between the two sports are more numerous and more significant than many fans realize, according to those who’ve done both.

Marcus Davis

“They’re not the same sport,” said Marcus Davis, a retired veteran of 20 pro boxing bouts and more than 30 MMA fights, nearly half of which took place in the UFC. “Once you understand that it’s not the same sport, you can’t keep telling yourself that it’s just a fight. The gloves are bigger, the tactics are different. A lot of the defenses that work in boxing are ones you can’t even use in MMA.”

Davis learned that lesson the hard way. He began his pro boxing career when he was still just a teenager, but transitioned to MMA a decade later. In his boxing stance, Davis said, he couldn’t stop a takedown or check a leg kick. Head movement techniques that helped him avoid punches in boxing got him kicked in the face in MMA.

Trying to cover up with four-ounce gloves didn’t provide the same protection, and the fights often took place at completely different ranges. It was a rough transition at first.

“But then sometimes I’d go to MMA gyms, and people who knew I boxed would want to put on the gloves and do some boxing sparring with me,” Davis said. “And when we did that, and I could use all my old boxing tricks, my boxing stance and defense, then I’d just destroy them. They just couldn’t touch me because it was a completely different game. I knew how to play that game, and they didn’t.”

The same was true for Chris Lytle, a veteran of more than 50 MMA bouts and 15 professional boxing matches. He often trained for both sports at more or less the same time, showing up to fight gyms looking to do whichever kind of sparring was available that day. But his experience in boxing quickly taught him his limits.

Chris Lytle

“I thought I was a very good boxer,” Lytle said. “But I was definitely not a great boxer or an elite boxer, and there’s a real difference.”

It’s for that reason, Lytle said, that he’s not expecting much out of McGregor. While he regards Mayweather as “probably my least favorite fighter on the planet,” Lytle also has to be realistic about the difference in skills and experience.

“Conor, he’s a very good and maybe even a great striker for MMA,” Lytle said. “But there is a very big difference between boxing striking and MMA striking. Let’s say you think Conor is a good boxer, which is a pretty big compliment for someone who’s never had a boxing match. But even then, he’s definitely not a great boxer or an elite boxer, and Floyd doesn’t get hit by elite boxers.”

K.J. Noons, who competed professionally as both a boxer and a kickboxer in addition to his MMA career, likened the difference between the combat sports to the difference between tennis and racquetball.

KJ Noons

“They’re both sports where you’re hitting a ball with a racquet, but they’re also very different,” Noons said. “One’s all wrist, and one is no wrist. It’s a similar thing with boxing and MMA.”

That’s not to say there aren’t options open to McGregor. Cub Swanson, an MMA fighter who’s trained extensively with pro boxers, recommended a strategy that pushes the boundaries of the rules. His own sparring with boxers has taught him how different the sports can be. While boxers often fight right on top of each other, trying to establish a jab the same way in an MMA fight can result in punches that fall short by half a foot or more.

Instead of trying to match technical boxing skills with Mayweather, Swanson said, McGregor needs to make things messy.

“If it was me against Mayweather, I would grab him and dirty box and just do as much as I could that the referee would allow me to of grabbing and hitting and trying to slow him down before starting to chuck at his head,” Swanson said. “You’re not going to out-slick him in boxing. He makes amazing boxers look bad, so why box him?”

But as Lytle cautioned, that’s an approach that’s been tried before, only to be abandoned by those who attempted it.

“Everybody thinks the way to get him is to pressure him, make it a dirty, nasty fight, because you’re not going to outbox him,” Lytle said. “But everybody who’s tried, after two or three rounds they stop pressuring him. Floyd must have a little more pop than everybody thinks. Nobody’s been able to make that work against him.”

According to Davis, the real enemy for McGregor may be the sheer frustration of fighting a defensive genius like Mayweather.

“He’s going to have to work really hard just to get a clean look at him, but when he thinks he has an opportunity to hit him, then Floyd will tie him up,” Davis said. “I think he’s going to get desperate, he’s going to start lunging, because he’ll realize he can’t lay a glove on him. That’s when I think he’ll start getting hit with the harder shots, and I think he’ll probably get stopped within six rounds. If McGregor can make it more than six rounds, that looks bad for boxing.”

Even the hope that Mayweather’s age will slow him down enough for McGregor to catch him rings false for Lytle. He watched as Roy Jones Jr., long one of Lytle’s favorites, slowed down enough for younger boxers to begin tagging him with the same punches that never came close years earlier.

“The difference with Floyd is that he’s a technically very sound boxer,” Lytle said. “Floyd might be getting older, but he doesn’t take those chances that Roy did, where he would fight with his hands down and rely on his speed. Floyd has his hands in position the whole time, his head in position, his shoulder in position, plus he’s fast and athletic.”

But even if he’s not expecting a competitive fight, that doesn’t mean Lytle won’t watch.

“I’m sure I’m going to watch it,” he said. “Of course I am. I’ve got to see the spectacle train wreck just like everybody else. But I know I’m going to leave disappointed. If Conor is able to land five clean punches the entire fight, and I’m not talking body shots, I’ll be impressed.”

As for Davis, he’s less committed to actually seeing the fight. He “won’t spend a dime” of his own money, he said, but if a friend invited him over to watch?

“Yeah, I might go watch,” Davis said. “Or I might wait and catch the highlights on Facebook, because every fight that ever happens you know you can find at least some highlights, and that might be enough for me. There’s no way this becomes competitive.”

Noons is holding out slightly more hope for a McGregor surprise. Everyone with two fists and a willingness to throw them has a chance, he said, even if it’s not a great one. But whether McGregor can win is almost beside the point for him.

“Will it be competitive?” Noons said. “I don’t know. But it’s fun; it’ll bring eyes to the sport. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment. I’m going to watch it for sure.”

For more on The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.


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

Twitter Mailbag: Does McGregor stand a chance? And what's the MMAJA for, anyway?

In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, let’s be serious now that the fight is set: Does Conor McGregor have any realistic chance of beating Floyd Mayweather? Even a little? Plus, what does the MMA Journalists Association hope to do, now that it’s a real thing? And is it worth waking up early on Saturday morning to see Holly Holm vs. Bethe Correia?

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

The number of times in the past 24 hours I’ve been asked some version of this question by friends who don’t follow MMA or boxing helps to explain how and why this fight got made. It’s ridiculous, when you think about it. But it’s the exact brand of ridiculous that captures our attention, and with it our money, so there’s a good argument to be made that winning or losing isn’t even the point anymore.

If you’re looking for reasons to think that Conor McGregor might actually beat Floyd Mayweather – and, just to be clear, this is if you are actively searching for reasons, scouring the earth for hope in any form – I can give you three.

1. The puncher’s chance
McGregor hits hard, right? This we know. He knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. He at least annoyed Nate Diaz. If he connects with that left hand, who knows?

The problem is that Mayweather is primarily known as a defensive genius. He doesn’t get hit much, and that’s when he’s up against the best boxers in the world. What good is all that power if you can’t lay a glove on the guy? And if the glove you’re wearing is of the boxing variety, which comes with significantly more padding, will the power still be as devastating?

2. The positive thinker’s chance
Let’s take a moment and appreciate what McGregor has done. Just a few years ago he was an Internet stream fighter from Ireland talking all kinds of outlandish mess. He was effectively a nobody who kept saying he was going to beat the greatest featherweight of all time. Many of us didn’t believe him, of course, but he turned out to be right. Then he said he was going to take the lightweight title, too, which he did. After that he set his sights on Mayweather, and here we are.

If you’re looking to sell DVDs of “The Secret” right now, McGregor is your huckleberry. This whole thing feels like a manifestation of his thoughts. Is the physical world an illusion? Are we all just characters in McGregor’s opioid dream? I mean, I don’t think so, but at this point I have to at least question it.

Then again, this whole scenario I’ve just laid out? The one in which he wins because he thinks good thoughts and the universe sees that and therefore he gets everything he wants? That’s insane. That is literally some stuff that people shout about on public transportation. So let’s just say I wouldn’t place a bet based on this alone.

3. The “Great White Hype” chance
This situation mirrors the underrated 1996 sports comedy film in a lot of ways. White guy with no professional boxing matches is somehow sanctioned (in Las Vegas) to take on a dominant black champion. This time the white guy actually is Irish, though the dominant champion is significantly less likable than Damon Wayons.

The movie’s 20 years old so I guess I’m not spoiling it by telling you that the white guy loses. Still, he kind of almost wins, mainly because the champion barely bothers to prepare for the fight.

I guess that could happen here. So sure of his victory, and comfortable in his pseudo-retirement, Mayweather might not put in the toughest training camp. Though it’s worth mentioning that in the movie all it takes is for the improbable challenger to land one good shot – his signature punch is the overhand right rather than the straight left, but still – and then the champ gets mad enough to pull it together. After that, “Danny Boy” becomes a slow, sad dirge.

I get what Joe Lauzon is saying. Sort of. The UFC made this deal with Reebok, and that deal cost many fighters many thousands of dollars. They got no say in it whatsoever, even though lots of them were in the middle of UFC contracts that they’d signed with a certain understanding about sponsor income, only to have that completely obliterated while their end of the contractual obligations remained.

Still, shouldn’t that make them mad at the UFC instead of Reebok? What good does it do to trash Reebok in public? That’s not going to put any more money in fighters’ pockets.

I definitely see the logic in that argument, but where do you go from there? Docile acceptance doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anything. Politely asking the UFC to give you more of the money that Reebok gave it also seems like a strategy with limited chances for success.

Some fighters seem to think that the only way forward is to be a good soldier and trust that the money will flow in the end. But it doesn’t. People don’t give money away unless they have to. So if you want more money, the question becomes how to make people feel like they have to. Maybe bashing Reebok on Facebook or Twitter won’t do it, but it’s fair to ask what will.

I’d be considerably more interested if Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 111 event didn’t start at 2:30 a.m. in the One True Time Zone. That’s the exact worst time! Should I stay up on Friday night and try to make it all the way to the main event at roughly 8 a.m. Saturday morning? Or do I try to go to bed early and set an alarm for bar closing time? What a conundrum.

But I admit, I am interested. Holly Holm is in such a strange place in her career right now. She dethroned Ronda Rousey and then sat on top of the world for about 15 minutes before it all came crashing down.

Now she’s somehow lost three in a row, including two title fights. How did it come to that? Holm is better than this … isn’t she? Style-wise, a fight with Bethe Correia right now seems designed to help her prove it. If she can’t pass that test, I hesitate to think of what comes next.

Simple stuff, mostly. Establishing members. Electing officers. Agreeing on a code of conduct. I think those are all attainable goals by the end of our first year.

A lot of people have asked why MMA journalists need an association in the first place. One reason is strength through unity. As we’ve seen in the past, some fight promoters like to isolate and bully journalists who do work they don’t like, even when that work is literally the journalist’s job. In instances like that, an association allows you to speak with one strong voice in response, and that would be very useful in this sport.

But just as importantly is the ability to establish standards within the industry. MMA is a young sport, which means MMA journalism is also a young occupation. Just as the sport grew up in public view, thanks to the Internet, so did the reporting on it. We’ve made mistakes. Hopefully we’ve learned from them.

I think we’ve also seen that when other MMA media members (or even just MMA media hopefuls) are trying to figure out what to do or not do, they’re looking around at each other, at their colleagues, at us. We are setting standards whether we mean to or not, so we should work to consciously set good ones. An association helps us not only set those standards, but also put something behind them. That will hopefully improve the media environment and the end product.

This effort started as a big group, in sputters and starts, and then the authority to push it forward was delegated to small group, those of us who you see as the initial interim officers on the website. But this isn’t our thing. It doesn’t belong to us. Once we have our first election, members can choose whoever they want to fill those roles, and those of us who have been involved in the long, tedious process just to get to this point might not mind a break from those positions.

The important thing is that the association lasts, and that it doesn’t lose sight of its goals. It doesn’t matter who gets to put their names on it. It matters that it works.

My experience helping to establish the MMAJA mostly taught me that this is a lot harder than it looks. It’s time-consuming. It’s boring. It’s frustrating.

On the flip side, you get to learn new stuff about your colleagues. I was surprised at some of the people who turned out to be valuable allies in making this happen. I was pleased at their ability to put aside differences and work together. It’s not always easy for competitors to become teammates on something like this, and I’d imagine that dynamic is many times tougher for pro fighters than it is for pro writers.

That said, their situation is very different from ours. We had the support of our employers and a lot of very generous legal and logistical help from the people at Vox Media, and it still wasn’t easy or quick. Fighters have more working against them, but in the end they may also have more to gain.

I like the existing Bellator commentary team, so I can’t say that that’s where I was hoping to see the company spend its money. Still, Mauro Ranallo is a good pickup for any combat sports broadcast and I look forward to seeing what he adds to Bellator.

It’s the Mike Goldberg hire that stumps me. Is Bellator hoping to trick people into thinking they’re watching the UFC? Is it part of a prolonged effort to court the viewers who liked the UFC when it was on Spike TV but not enough to follow it to another channel?

I know some people really liked Goldberg on UFC broadcasts. I didn’t. Especially later in his run, he seemed uninterested in learning anything new about the sport or the athletes in it, up to and including the proper pronunciation of their names. He was basically a human speak-and-spell, repeating the same phrases and banal observations.

But that’s just my opinion, and opinions on commentators can vary wildly. Maybe to some people the voice of Mike Goldberg is what big time MMA sounds like. Just seems to me like Bellator might be going a step too far in recycling the UFC’s castoffs.

Wait, is 10 the most crazy? Or is that the most sane? Regardless, I’ll put him right in the middle at about a five. Cub Swanson is smart enough to know that the metric you’re using – you know, wins and losses and common opponents – is the old way. The UFC doesn’t do it like that anymore. Now you just have to prove that you can sell. And a Swanson-Holloway title fight? I’d buy that.

If Frankie Edgar claims a second UFC title in a second division, he’ll have to go down as one of the best fighters and greatest overperformers in MMA history, especially when you consider that he’s probably undersized for both divisions.

Old Man Edgar is also 35, so taking the belt off a man a decade younger would be a huge feel-good story for what we are led to believe is the UFC’s aging demographic. If nothing else, maybe that would land him a Life Alert sponsorship or something.

In fairness to Jose Aldo and Andre Pederneiras, it’s not just when Aldo loses that we get to hear about his injuries. We’ve seen detailed images of the man’s ribs, heard tales of his many training woes, and that’s when he was one of the most dominant champs in the UFC.

Still, the time when people are least interested in hearing about your injuries is in the month or so following a big loss. And if you’re going to tell us how hurt you are, don’t make it some boring leg injury. Go cracked skull or go home.

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

Twitter Mailbag: Mark Hunt's future, Max Holloway's first title defense, and more

Where will Mark Hunt go from here? Who should get the next UFC title shot at featherweight? Should WME-IMG be worried about whether or not Dana White is the right man to lead them into the future?

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

* * * *

Mark Hunt signed a six-fight deal just last year, so new contracts aren’t the big concern right now. For the moment, he’s got to worry about Derrick Lewis throwing those hammers at his head in New Zealand this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 110, but at least Lewis has to worry about the exact same thing in more or less equal measure.

The good news for Hunt here is that, after all his concern about being forced to fight opponents with a history of performance-enhancing drug use, here he can be mostly certain that his opponent isn’t on anything stronger than Fritos.

This is my favorite kind of heavyweight fight, honestly, pitting one fat guy bruiser against another. It feels like it could have taken place in the muck of the Deadwood thoroughfare, on the undercard of Dan Doherty vs. The Captain.

This is a big part of Hunt’s value to the UFC right now. He’s got an exciting style, fans love him, and he serves as a good, though at times limited test for up-and-comers in the heavyweight class. Plus, even in his declining years he can still headline a card in Auckland, and you better believe I’m not going to miss a chance to see it.

As for where he goes from here? Probably back into the cage again as soon as he can. He’s not getting any younger, and the new deal he signed pays pretty handsomely. There are worse fates for a UFC fighter in his 40s.

Either this is a genie with very specific and limited powers, or else I have made a really poor choice on the use of my wishes. But fine, for the sake of the hypothetical, here’s what I would ask of the great genie:

1. Anderson Silva

Because why not, right? Old vs. old. Brazilian vs. Brazilian. Run it back one last time to complete Vitor Belfort’s UFC contract. And then…

2. Chael Sonnen

Assuming the bad guy is willing to put some effort into selling the fight, this could be fun. You know, prior to the bell.

3. Fedor Emelianenko

This one might have to take place in Japan on New Year’s Eve, and I imagine by then Belfort may have found some way to return to the physique he had circa 2012.

4. Guy in a Cartoon Character Mask

Also in Japan. Because if we’re going to get stupid, let’s at least get fun-stupid.

5. Phil ‘CM Punk’ Brooks

After all that, the man deserves to go out on his own terms.

Maybe, but let’s not act like size explains everything here. Yes, Conor McGregor and Max Holloway are both relatively big for featherweight, and definitely bigger than Jose Aldo, who’s about average. But McGregor went on to claim the lightweight title and Holloway was on a 10-fight winning streak coming into his fight with Aldo, so they’re also both just really good fighters.

My money’s on Frankie Edgar. It’s either him or Cub Swanson, and Holloway’s win over Swanson is only about two years old.

Plus, at 25 you can still paint Holloway as a young gun, even with the title around his waist. He beat one grizzled veteran in Aldo, so why not see if he’s up for a legends butt-whooping tour of his own against old man Edgar next? That’ll give Swanson and the rest of the division more time to sort out a pecking order on their own.

Giving UFC President Dana White a share of the profits is a good way to ensure he puts the new company’s interests first, so that wouldn’t be my big concern. What I’d be worried about is the possibility that maybe he only knows one way to do this job, and maybe it’s not the best way to move the company forward.

Especially lately, we see a paint-by-numbers approach to dissent in the ranks. A fighter won’t do what you want? Run to a friendly media outlet (or a UFC-owned one) and blast him. Fighter complains? Make the case that said fighter isn’t really that good. Fighter wants more money? Hey, even if he is good, people don’t pay to see him (which may or may not be related to how many times you’ve told us he isn’t that good).

White’s primary value to the UFC has been his ability to be a bombastically quotable figure capable of hammering a narrative until it becomes true. It’s also his ability to be a constant. Superstar fighters come and go, but White will always be there, and TMZ will always want to hear what he has to say.

One problem is that the UFC is built on a business model that gives athletes a smaller share of the profits than virtually any other pro sport. That’s bound to breed discontent as fighter awareness increases, and in the past White has been known for heavy-handed responses to fighter complaints. But you can’t cut or bully or threaten or intimidate everyone, so as discontent becomes more common your strategy has to change.

Is White capable of that sort of change? I don’t know. If I were a WME-IMG executive, I’d sure hope so.

I like the general idea of referees having a more open dialogue with fans, since I’m sure we could all benefit from a clearer understanding of the rules and the thought processes that officials go through. My concern is that any referee who tried it would quickly become fed up with it, because who wants to spend their time arguing with people who may or may not understand how any of this is supposed to work?

It reminds me of what former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva told me when I asked why he wasn’t active on Twitter or any of the MMA forums. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to engage with fans or answer critics, he said. It was because he knew that if he let himself get started arguing with people, he’d never stop. It would consume his days. And who wants that?

Someone must care about Demetrious Johnson, judging by how much time we’ve all spent talking about him this week. But I think his lack of broader appeal is due in part to a one-size-fits-all approach to fight promotion.

It’s not just the UFC that’s guilty of it. Notice how you jumped right to a McGregor comparison? It’s like we’ve become convinced that the only way for a fighter to sell is by becoming a pro-wrestling cartoon character.

That’s the easiest way, painting in broad, familiar strokes so that even the people in the cheap seats can see, but there are other ways to do it. “Mighty Mouse” isn’t that guy, but he’s still an interesting guy, as anyone who’s interviewed him lately can tell you. It’s just a matter of figuring out what to do with that. One thing I can tell you is that it’s a poor salesman who tries the same approach every time, and then gives up and blames the product when it doesn’t work.

The UFC has toyed with something like that in various informal ways in the past. Back when those UFC Fight Night events on Spike were a relatively new thing, you’d see a clear progression as fighters graduated from cable to pay-per-view. More recently, you’ve seen it on those UFC Fight Pass-only prelims and events. Even “The Ultimate Fighter,” in addition to being an extremely long-running piece of TV content for the UFC, has provided a steady stream of new talent.

This is a more explicit version of that model, and that seems like the better way to go. We’ve seen the slow erosion of meaning in terms like “UFC-caliber” over the years. Now, instead of gobbling up more talent than it can reasonably use all under the same banner, the UFC is coming right out and admitting that what we’re about to see is a glorified tryout.

That helps gives those bouts added meaning, and lends an easy narrative to those who emerge from the process. As with “TUF,” it probably also helps the UFC lock young talent into contracts before they have too much bargaining power. So there’s that, too.

I don’t even think it’s in the top three reasons for it, and at the moment I’m not even prepared to call it an “exodus,” at least not of top fighters.

A lot of the fighters who have jumped from the UFC to Bellator are guys who felt like their options were diminishing inside the octagon, and the appreciation they felt they’d earned just wasn’t there.

Take Rory MacDonald, for instance. He broke his whole face giving us that epic title fight with Robbie Lawler, and afterward what did he have to show for it? He lost, so the UFC started looking at him like he was UFC Fight Night fodder, and no one could realistically tell him what he’d have to do to change that.

If you’re looking for recurring factors in some of these defections, start there. How do you make serious money as a UFC fighter? For a long time the answer was simple – win a title. But how do you get a title shot? And if you’ve already had one and lost, how do you get another one?

Winning the fights isn’t always enough to significantly advance your career anymore. Just ask Lorenz Larkin. If a fighter is unsatisfied with his pay, the UFC can’t sit him down and believably say, “X performance will lead to Y compensation.”

That’s why I think some fighters are rethinking their stance on Bellator. For some, it’s the MMA version of a lucrative old folks’ home. But for others, the ones closer to their prime, it’s a chance to have their past accomplishments really mean something. Because unlike the UFC, Bellator doesn’t have many of those kinds of fighters to choose from.

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: Bellator, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie