UFC on FOX 26's Glover Teixeira knew he'd fight Misha Cirkunov sooner or later

WINNIPEG – Glover Teixeira’s had a feeling he would eventually cross paths with Misha Cirkunov, even when they were friendly and spending time together when competing on the same fight card earlier this year.

Teixeira (26-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) and Cirkunov (13-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) both fought – and lost – at UFC Fight Night 109 in May. Now they are pitting against each other in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday at UFC on FOX 26. The Brazilian only had positive comments about his upcoming opponent, but Teixeira said that’s not going to stop him from doing his work.

“I look at all the light heavyweights that way, that we’re probably going to end up fighting each other sooner than later” Teixeira told MMAjunkie at today’s UFC on FOX 26 media day. “Especially him, a young guy. I knew he was going to come up in the division. He was already top 10 when I met him. I knew I was going to fight him sooner or later.

“You always look at those guys as a challenge,” he continued. “You always look at his style, you always look at his fight before. I’m excited to fight him. I like the guy. He helped me in Sweden to grab some food over there. I couldn’t find a store, so he explained it to me. But it’s a business.”

UFC on FOX 26 takes place at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Teixeira vs. Cirkunov opens the FOX-televised main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

When fighting in Sweden earlier this year, Teixeira suffered a fifth-round knockout loss to Alexander Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) in a competitive fight. Cirkunov, meanwhile, was starched by Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in a mere 28 seconds for his first octagon setback.

Going into the event many believed Cirkunov, and not Oezdemir, was going to be a future title contender. The situation played out the opposite, though, and now Oezdemir is scheduled to challenge Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 220 on Jan. 20.

At the time Oezdemir’s quick knockout of Cirkunov was considered stunning. That has changed now, though, and for that reason Teixeira said he’s not putting much stock into the previous fight.

“Volkan did a very good job, caught him with a good punch and after that he fought (Jimi) Manuwa and did a great job,” Teixeira said. “Let’s see what happens with the belt, title shot. He’s going to fight experienced guys. That fight is hard to say with Volkan. It was one of those fights where he didn’t have time to fight. He got caught with one punch, and what are you going to say about it?”

Teixeira and Cirkunov were originally booked to fight in October, but the matchup was pushed back two months due to Teixeira’s lingering hand injury. He said he’s 100 percent recovered now, though, and hopes to hand Cirkunov his second knockout loss in a row.

“I’m going to come after him and I’m going to go for the knockout,” Teixeira said. “I have to do it. This is my style. I have to push and bring a knockout for my fans.”

Although he’s coming off a loss, Teixeira believes a big win at UFC on FOX 26 puts him right back in contention to fight for the 205-pound belt. Gustafsson seems like the next candidate to challenge for UFC gold after the Cormier vs. Oezdemir fight, but “The Mauler” is also coming off a surgery and his timetable too fight again is not certain. Because of that, Teixeira thinks he could slide in.

“Jon Jones is out right now and Gustafsson is hurt,” Teixeira said. “So, it could be a possibility in fighting the winner (between Cormier and Oezdemir). Who knows?”

For more on UFC on FOX 26, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Tickets on sale today for two-title fight UFC 220 blockbuster event

The first UFC pay-per-view of 2018 promises to be big figuratively and literally speaking, and tickets for the event go on sale today.

Featuring two title fights at the top of the card, UFC 217 takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In the main event, champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) will defend his title against Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in one of the most anticipated heavyweight title fights in UFC history. And in the co-headliner, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) will square off with surging contender Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the first defense of his second stint as the 205-pound titleholder.

Tickets, priced from $350 cageside to $60 for the cheapest seats, go on sale today at 10 a.m. ET for UFC Fight Club members only via UFCFightClub.com. UFC newsletter subscribers have access to a special pre-sale beginning Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. Tickets become available to the general public Friday at 10 a.m. ET on Ticketmaster.com.

The current UFC 220 lineup includes:

  • Champ Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannouo – for heavyweight title
  • Champ Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan  Oezdemir – for light heavyweight title
  • Islam Makhachev vs. Gleison Tibau
  • Dustin Ortiz vs. Alexandre Pantoja
  • Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font
  • Shane Burgos vs. Calvin Kattar
  • Kyle Bochniak vs. Brandon Davis
  • Maryna Moroz vs. Jamie Moyle

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Jon Anik and champ Daniel Cormier on the call for UFC on FOX 26 on Saturday

The broadcasting and reporting crews for this weekend’s UFC on FOX 26 event are set.

FOX Sports officials today told MMAjunkie that play-by-play man Jon Anik and color commentator/current UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will call the action at the Canadian event.

UFC on FOX 26 takes place Saturday at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the main card airs on FOX following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Anik and Cormier are a frequent pairing on UFC fight nights.

Some other familiar faces will be a part of the broadcasting lineup.

Welterweight champ Tyron Woodley and former middleweight titleholder Michael Bisping work as desk analysts, along with lead host Karyn Bryant and reporter Megan Olivi.

The event marks Bisping’s debut on the FOX desk; his past work has been part of the UFC’s FS1 broadcasts.

Additionally, Victor Davila and UFC bantamweight Marlon Vera call the action for FOX Deportes.

UFC on FOX 26 features a 170-pound headliner with two former champs: ex-welterweight titleholder Robbie Lawler (28-11 MMA, 13-5 UFC) vs. former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos (27-9 MMA, 16-7 UFC). Additionally, perennial contender Ricardo Lamas (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) meets late replacement Josh Emmett (12-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in the featherweight co-headliner.

For more on UFC on FOX 26, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Trading Shots: With champs eyeing different divisions, does a UFC title mean what it used to?

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With so many champions looking to make their fortunes outside their own divisions, do UFC titles still have the value they once did? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss in this week’s Trading Shots.

* * * *

Downes: On Saturday night at UFC 218, Max Holloway defeated Jose Aldo via third-round knockout to retain the featherweight title. Lest you think there’s finally stability at 145 pounds, Holloway already has eyes on other things.

He expressed interest in eventually moving to lightweight and grabbing a title there. He did say that he wants to solidify his legacy as the featherweight GOAT first, but you know if some of that dual title money comes his way, he’ll jump ship quick.

This got me to thinking about the status of UFC championships in general. Demetrious Johnson and T.J. Dillashaw look like they’re finally going to fight. Holloway has his eyes on another division. Conor McGregor is in the middle of his descent into madness. Geroges St-Pierre (a lifelong welterweight) holds the middleweight title, but it looks like he’s going to be out for an undisclosed amount of time. Daniel Cormier is the reigning light heavyweight champ, but that’s because Jon Jones can’t stay out of trouble.

Couple all these divisional issues with the fact that the UFC throws around interim title shots the way you throw money around after a couple glasses of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and what does a UFC title mean any more? Has the importance of the belts diminished?

Fowlkes: It usually a means a piece of the pay-per-view revenue, so that explains why the titles retain importance in the minds of many fighters. Plus you get to walk around with a big shiny belt having people call you champ, so what’s not to like about that?

But I see your point, and it goes even further than what you mentioned. UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, for example? He’s been inactive since expressing his dissatisfaction with the state of his pay. And bantamweight champion Dillashaw? The first thing he did upon reclaiming the title is start talking about a move down to flyweight.

Meanwhile, flyweight champion Johnson seems to be the one most committed to defending his title and staying in his lane, and fans are increasingly frustrated by it. Oh, and welterweight champ Tyron Woodley? He might like to try middleweight now.

That’s why I think it’s worth asking how we got here, because it’s not just the UFC’s bad habit of pulling an interim belt out of the supply closet every time it wants to spruce up a fight card (though that’s part of it).

Really though, it’s that champs want to get paid. That’s the whole idea, right? I mean, sure, they also want to prove that they’re the best in the world, but that’s a somewhat hollow feat if it doesn’t come with fame and riches. And how do you get the big money? You get it with the big fights – not just run-of-the-mill title defenses.

This is the reality we have created for ourselves in this sport, and the McGregor phenomenon is a big part of it. He’s by far the highest paid superstar in the game, so it makes sense that other fighters will do what they can to replicate that success.

That’s how you get this trend of weight-class jumping and money-fight hunting, which, when combined with the UFC’s willingness to get selective about when a title makes you the best (and when it makes you another fighter who should shut up and do what you’re told) leads to a gradual devaluing of the titles themselves.

But OK, that’s where we are. Those titles are, as Nate Diaz so presciently declared, a bit of a fairytale. My question is, what do you want to do about it?

Downes: Before you treat a problem, you have to properly diagnose it. You’ve already mentioned a number of contributing factors. Fighters copying the McGregor model and the UFC diminishing the belts are certainly both issues. What you ignore, though, is the root cause of all these symptoms. The major reason why we feel indifference toward UFC tiles nowadays is the lack of depth of the roster.

Look at the rankings. Besides lightweight and perhaps welterweight, what division interests you outside the top three?

If there were more depth in each division, then you wouldn’t have to hop around to find other interesting fights. You would also get more respect from the fans. Who knows, maybe even Carlos Monarrez from the “Detroit Free” Press would have enjoyed himself at UFC 218.

The answer to this problem is to find more high-level MMA fighters to populate these divisions. Easy answer, but extremely difficult to accomplish. But there are a number of things the UFC can do besides hoping another McGregor walks in the door.

The first is to spread the wealth. I know this is probably even less likely than Ronda Rousey’s clone existing, but if you want to attract the best talent, you have to offer competitive wages. This doesn’t just apply to the exodus of talent to Bellator, but the fact that MMA loses out on athletes who choose other sports.

Since the UFC won’t share the money, it could spend some of it on production. The pre-fight video packages and hype are seemingly unchanged from what we were watching a decade ago. The Reebok uniforms make fighters indistinguishable from one another. Where’s the individuality?

We always compare MMA to professional wrestling. Imagine if the WWE only had two characters and only two types of costumes. The matches would get repetitive and boring very quickly.

A lot of things in life rely on luck or timing. MMA is no different. Amazing fight cards fall apart due to injuries. Cards that look boring on paper exceed expectations in reality. Sometimes a plumbing apprentice from Ireland becomes the biggest star in the sport. A lot is left up to chance, but there are tangible things the UFC can do to fix the ennui gripping casual and hardcore fans alike.

Fowlkes: The depth argument works in some weight classes (like the one that rhymes with “schmevyweight”), but not all. Lightweight is arguably the deepest division there is – shoutout to that Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje crackerjack for proving that sometimes the hype is more than justified – and still it has one interim champ and one absentee titleholder. And what happened when the interim champ demanded a fight to unify the title? The UFC president rushed to remind him that he doesn’t get to call any shots around here.

Nobody has done more than Dana White to un-promote his own champions. From Woodley to Amanda Nunes to “Mighty Mouse” to Cris Cyborg – even GSP – you’re never more than a quick Google search away from White bashing his own fighters, usually in a transparent effort to undercut their financial demands.

And that’s where your wealth-sharing plan comes in, Comrade Downes. Should the UFC pay fighters more in order to attract talent? Sure, but I don’t think the new owners at Endeavor bought this thing because they saw an opportunity to spend more on the same product. One of the things that made the UFC an attractive purchase was its financial structure, and the fact that you’re essentially buying a whole sport with very few restrictions or regulations impeding your profitability.

The crazy thing is that the pieces are all there. Just look at the young talent on display at UFC 218. If you can’t make Francis Ngannou into a star, you don’t deserve to make a dime. It’s just a matter of making the fighters a priority, which is tough for the UFC, which for so long has operated on the principle of brand over everything.

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

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

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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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Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir title fight confirmed for UFC 220

As expected, Daniel Cormier will square off with surging contender Volkan Oezdemir in the first defense of Cormier’s second stint as UFC light heavyweight champion.

The matchup will take place at UFC 220, which takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston. The event’s main card airs live on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

FOX Sports PR rep John Stouffer confirmed the news announced on UFC Tonight, where Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) serves as a UFC analyst.

The booking comes two week after Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) was arrested and charged with aggravated battery stemming from an altercation with a man at Capone’s Nightclub in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The alleged victim, Kevin Cohen, claimed he was knocked out after hearing his friend had been knocked out by an unknown man, identified later by bar patrons as Oezdemir. Cohen said he was taken to the hospital and was treated for concussion symptoms and a laceration.

The UFC said it was looking into the matter and declined further comment.

Earlier this year, Cormier named Oezdemir his next opponent despite the pending case of Jon Jones, who was stripped of the belt after failing a drug test in connection with their rematch at UFC 214. Cormier lost the bout via third-round knockout but was later reinstated after Jones’ win was overturned and changed to a no-contest.

Oezdemir fought prior to Jones vs. Cormier 2 on the event’s pay-per-view main card and notched his third straight win with a knockout of Jimi Manuwa, who’d been earmarked for a title shot.

Cormier contemplated an end-of-the-year meeting with Oezdemir before electing to take time off to heal from his loss. He said the bout would likely happen in early 2018.

With the addition, the latest UFC 220 lineup includes:

  • Champ Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan  Oezdemir – for light heavyweight title
  • Islam Makhachev vs. Gleison Tibau
  • Dustin Ortiz vs. Alexandre Pantoja
  • Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font
  • Shane Burgos vs. Calvin Kattar
  • Kyle Bochniak vs. Brandon Davis

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Dana White: Volkan Oezdemir likely to still fight Daniel Cormier for UFC title despite legal trouble

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Volkan Oezdemir currently finds himself in hot water with Florida authorities, but it’s unlikely to affect his title-shot opportunity against UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.

Oezdemir was arrested earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and charged with aggravated battery causing bodily harm or disability as the result of  bar room altercation that took place Aug. 12. The charge carries a maximum 15-year sentence.

According to UFC President Dana White, the case against Oezdemir likely won’t have any bearing on Oezdemir’s immediate fighting future.

“He’s probably still going to fight, yeah,” White said Tuesday during a media luncheon at UFC headquarters in Las Vegas.

The title fight between Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) and Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) has been in the works for weeks, with a target date of Jan. 20 at UFC 220 in Boston. Cormier has said last week he “will go to the next guy” if Oezdemir’s legal woes scrap the plans, though White’s statement is a strong indicator that won’t be the case.

Oezdemir’s manager, Frederic Englund, has said his client was “not the aggressor.” Oezdemir’s alleged victim, Kevin Cohen, claims he was knocked out unconscious after being punched by Oezdemir outside a bar called Capone’s.

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

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Daniel Cormier tweeted something peculiar about Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov

UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier had an interesting conversation today with Khabib Nurmagomedov and shared the details on Twitter.

According to Cormier, the UFC tried to book lightweight contender Nurmagomedov opposite interim champion Tony Ferguson at UFC 219. Ferguson, however, declined (via Twitter).

So I walk into the gym today and @khabib_nurmagomedov walks up and says the @Ufc is wanting to make me vs @tonyfergusonxtfor dec 30. Then he tells me that tony is saying no to the fight. Come on Tony, that ain’t gangsta bruh. Take the fight man!!!!

Purely speculating here, but before the Cris Cyborg-Holly Holm title fight got booked last week, my guess is the UFC tossed some Hail Mary’s in hopes of booking a main-event worthy fight for the Dec. 30 pay-per-view in Las Vegas. Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov was one of those desperation inquiries, even though Nurmagomedov is already booked against Edson Barboza on the card.

And whereas Nurmagomedov was game, Ferguson wasn’t – and for good reason.

Why would Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) defend an interim belt against Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) when a potential title-unifying “money fight” with champion Conor McGregor is right in front of him? And why would Ferguson even want to fight Nurmagomedov after what happened earlier this year, with Khabib being forced out of their UFC 209 interim title fight because of a bad weight cut?

Ferguson declining the fight might not be “gangsta,” but accepting it also wouldn’t have been very smart, either.

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

Champ Daniel Cormier to 'go to the next guy' if Volkan Oezdemir's legal woes scrap UFC title fight

UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is no stranger to other fighters’ outside-the-cage troubles hindering his own fight schedule, and his current situation is no different.

Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) reportedly planned to put his 205-pound title on the line against Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) at January’s UFC 220 event in Boston. However, the matchup could be in jeopardy after the challenger was recently arrested and charged for an alleged battery that took place in a Florida bar in August.

It’s still unknown exactly what type of ramifications Oezdemir could face for the alleged incident, but it seems likely that sharing the octagon with Cormier has dropped down on his list of priorities. If he’s unable to fight soon, the reigning champ said he’s ready for the next man up, whether it’s Alexander Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC), Ovince Saint Preux (22-10 MMA, 10-5 UFC) or another challenger.

“Of course I’d fight any of these guys; it doesn’t matter,” Cormier told the “Anik and Florian Podcast.” “(Oezdemir is) on the longest win streak in the division, so he was getting the title shot, but if this trouble is going to keep him out of that opportunity, I’ll just go to the next guy.

“Of course I’d fight Gustafsson,” Cormier continued. “Someone told me yesterday that Team Ovince Saint Preux was like, ‘We want a title fight because we’ve got a good winning streak too.’ Whoever is winning gets the title shot, that’s just the way it is. I don’t care who it is.”

Oezdemir, No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light heavyweight rankings, was widely viewed as the most legitimate contender to No. 2-ranked Cormier due to his three-fight winning streak that includes first-round knockout wins over Misha Cirkunovm and Jimi Manuwa. Going down the list, though, the remaining options don’t have quite the same appeal.

No. 5-ranked Gustafsson is on a two-fight winning streak, but before that, he suffered a title loss to Cormier at UFC 192 in October 2015, albeit by narrow split decision. A rematch does carry some appeal, and likely more than a clash with No. 10-ranked Saint Preux, who’s currently booked to fight Ilir Latifi at UFC on FOX 27 in January.

Regardless of what happens, Cormier said he will be prepared to defend his title early next year.

“It’s tough to be going through this type of thing, especially at this time when you’re on the cusp of your biggest moment in your career,” Cormier said of Oezdemir’s situation. “I don’t know what happened. You’ve got to not be doing things that are wrong or put yourself in these situations where stuff can go sideways. You’ve got to try to stay out of those positions. Maybe it was self-defense, but because of who he is then it’s much worse because he has the ability to sleep dudes that are trying to hit him. You never know what’s happening, but even just these run-ins, they’re really unneeded, especially when you’re a young guy as Volkan is and you’re on the cusp of something so big for the first time in your career.”

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

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Volkan Oezdemir on UFC title shot vs. Daniel Cormier: 'Just waiting on a contract to sign'

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

NEW YORK – UFC light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir just needs to sign the paper to make his fight with champ Daniel Cormier official.

Backstage at UFC 217, Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) told reporters he is the next contender for Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC), and all that needs to be confirmed is a date.

“Nothing is confirmed right now, but everything is in talks,” Oezdemir said this past Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. “I’m just waiting on a contract to sign, and I’m on.”

Oezdemir indicated UFC 220 is a leading candidate to host the bout. The pay-per-view event takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston. It’ll be Cormier’s first fight since losing the title to Jon Jones, only to be reinstated when Jones (21-1-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) failed a post-fight drug test for a banned substance.

Oezdemir doesn’t question the legitimacy of Cormier’s title and is grateful to the champ for giving him the opportunity to fight.

“He is the champ,” Oezdemir said. “I have no doubt about that. He beats everyone at heavyweight and light heavyweight. He’s the champ. What happened with Jones is controversial, so now, everything’s different. But Cormier’s one of the toughest guys in the 205-pound division and pound-for-pound also. It’s amazing for me to be fighting him.”

Cormier declared Oezdemir the No. 1 contender to his belt after an informal online poll, and the two have playfully jabbed each other online. The fight was initially discussed as a possibility for December, but Cormier followed doctor’s orders to give himself more time to heal after a knockout loss to Jones in July at UFC 214.

Cormier recently said the fight is nearly a done deal but didn’t mention a date.

Recently, Oezdemir tried to drag Cormier’s longtime training partner and friend Luke Rockhold into the fray with Rockhold training at Oezdemir’s gym. Cormier countered that Rockhold is the classic inside man. Oezdemir doesn’t believe that’s true, but he doesn’t care either way.

“I respect the relationship,” Oezdemir said. “(Rockhold is) training with me. (Cormier) can know all the secrets about me. He’s not going to be able to avoid my power. So all the technique he can do, it’s all about the power in my hands. (Rockhold has) never told me anything. He’s a straightforward guy. I like D.C. also. I respect him, and I really appreciate what he’s offering.”

With only three octagon bouts to his name, it’s been a dizzying rise for the Turkish-Swiss fighter. If the fight takes place in February, it will mark Oezdemir’s one-year anniversary with the UFC.

He plans to celebrate by knocking out Cormier.

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie