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.


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

NASCAR's 2017 finale includes 4-bout Bellator card with guests 'Hendo' and 'Rampage'

Dann StuppNASCAR’s 2017 season finale will be accompanied by some Bellator fights.

The Monster Energy Bellator MMA Fight Series will host its fourth and final event of the year on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., which also hosts NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend.

The four-bout Bellator event is free and open to all attendees prior to the start of the “Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Ford Ecoboost 400.” It takes place at the speedway’s Monster Energy Fan Zone.

Special guests include MMA vets Dan Henderson and Quinton Jackson.

The fights kick off at 11:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m. PT), Henderson and “Rampage” arrive at 1 p.m. ET, and the race commences at 2:30 p.m. ET.

The headliners of the untelevised MMA card – featherweights Matt Wagy (10-4) vs. Kester Mark (5-4) – will be “in consideration to be signed to a multi-fight Bellator MMA contract” according to today’s announcement.

The card features:

  • Matt Wagy (10-4) vs. Kester Mark (5-4)
  • Johnny Eblen (2-0) vs. Emmanuel Verdier (3-1)
  • Thais Souza (0-1 amateur) vs. Ashley Samples (0-2 amateur)
  • Landon Stewart (0-0) vs. Rudial Mora (0-0)

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

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

Fans invited to this week's Bellator 183 weigh-ins, Fan Fest (and chance for a sick dinner prize)

Bellator’s return to its home base in San Jose, Calif., goes down this week, and fans can get up close and personal with some MMA superstars.

Fans are invited to the weigh-ins for Bellator 183, as well as a Fan Fest and meet-and-greet opportunities. In addition, one lucky fan can win a chance to have dinner with three MMA standouts, four VIP tickets to the event and a Bellator prize pack.

Bellator 183 takes place Saturday at SAP Center in San Jose. The main card airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

The weigh-ins take place at SAP Center. Doors open to fans at 4 p.m. PT local time. At 4:30 p.m., weigh-ins for the Bellator Kickboxing 7 event take place, followed by the ceremonial weigh-ins for Bellator 183 at 5 p.m.

After that, a Fan Fest will take place Dave & Buster’s at 940 Great Mall Dr.
in Milpitas, Calif. On hand will be women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd, Dan Henderson, Mike Goldberg and John McCarthy from 8-11 p.m. ET. The event is free with an RSVP by Bellator Nation members, who can sign up at

On Saturday, before the fights, there will be a meet-and-greet opportunity with legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko in the concourse at SAP Center from 3:30-5:30 p.m. In addition, the first 5,000 fans into the fights will receive a limited edition Fedor bobblehead.

There’s another opportunity for one lucky winner, as well. Fans can register to win a dinner with Emelianenko, former lightweight champ Michael Chandler and women’s MMA pioneer Gina Carano. The winner will get dinner, four VIP tickets to Bellator 183, and a Bellator prize pack. Fans can enter to win at

In the Bellator 183 main event, former UFC and WEC lightweight champ Benson Henderson takes on Patricky Freire. In the co-feature, “TUF 10” winner and UFC veteran Roy Nelson makes his Bellator debut against Javy Alyala. Plus, Paul Daley takes on UFC veteran Lorenz Larkin in a welterweight featured bout.

For more on Bellator 183, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Tatsuya Kawajiri joins Rizin FF 7, looking for bantamweight grand-prix spot

Tatsuya Kawajiri is taking a step toward fighting at bantamweight.

The 39-year-old Japanese vet, who’s fought at lightweight and featherweight for organizations rankings from the UFC to PRIDE to Strikeforce since his 2000 pro debut, is looking for a spot in the bantamweight grand prix when he fights at Rizin FF 7.

Rizin FF 7 takes place Oct. 15 at Marine Messe Fukuoka in Fukuoka, Japan. North American broadcast plans haven’t been announced.

Kawajiri (36-11-2) fights Gabriel Oliveira (9-0) at a catchweight of 138.9 pounds, officials recently announced.

According to a press release, Kawajiri sent Rizin FF General Manager Nobuhiko Takad a picture of him standing on a scale at 138 pounds, which prompted the booking of the vet for a wild-card qualification bout.

“The only reason why I am doing this is because I want (Kyoji Horiguchi),” Kawajiri stated. “If he wasn’t in this tournament, I would never go through all of this pain to just make weight. I want to put everything I have, everything I have worked for, in this tournament to fight the icon of Japan’s young, promising generation.”

Kawajiri recently halted a three-fight skid, which included UFC losses to standouts Cub Swanson and Dennis Bermudez, with a unanimous-decision win over Anthony Birchak at Rizin FF 5. Oliveira, a 27-year-old promotional newcomer, is a veteran of the South American fight circuit, where he holds two regional titles, and has four knockouts in nine career wins.

The latest Rizin FF 7 card includes:

For more on Rizin FF 7, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Swanson def. Kawajiri”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News
Source: MMA Junkie

Fans invited to this week's Bellator NYC weigh-ins, Q&A, fan fest in New York City

Filed under: Bellator, News

Bellator’s long-awaited return to pay-per-view takes place this week, and fans can get up close and personal with some MMA legends.

Fans are invited to the weigh-ins for Bellator NYC, as well as a Q&A session with four MMA legends and a fan fest on Friday in New York City. Bellator NYC takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden with a main card on pay-per-view following the Bellator 180 portion of the event on Spike and MMAjunkie.

The Q&A and ceremonial Bellator NYC weigh-ins take place at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Doors open to fans at 4 p.m. ET. At 4:30 p.m., fans can meet the Bellator ring girls. At 5 p.m., a “Legends” Q&A takes place with Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie and Dan Henderson. And the ceremonial weigh-ins for the event kick off at 6 p.m.

After that, members of the “Bellator Nation” fan club can head to Dave & Buster’s in Times Square for a chance to meet Ortiz and Gracie, who will be on hand from 8-11 p.m. ET. The event is free with an RSVP by Bellator Nation members, who can sign up at

In the Bellator NYC main event, Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) takes on Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a long-awaited grudge match. In the co-feature, heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko (36-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) fights Matt Mitrione (11-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA). The pay-per-view portion also features a pair of title fights. Welterweight champion Douglas Lima (28-6 MMA, 10-2 BMMA) takes on new acquisition Lorenz Larkin (18-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), and lightweight champ Michael Chandler (16-3 MMA, 13-3 BMMA) meets Brent Primus (7-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA). Plus, in the main event of the Bellator 180 portion on Spike, light heavyweight champ Phil Davis (17-3 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) rematches recent signee Ryan Bader (22-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) with the title on the line.

For more on Bellator NYC and Bellator 180, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie