UFC's Joseph Benavidez on initial pain, isolation, helplessness of injury recovery: 'I cried every day'

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

Scrolling through Joseph Benavidez’s Instagram account, you’ll see a few things: pictures of him with wife Megan Olivi, snapshots of movies, and cute selfies with their dog, Benny.

What you won’t see are too many pictures of his recovering knee.

That doesn’t mean that the two-time UFC flyweight title challenger isn’t going to the UFC Performance Institute every day. Or that he isn’t training. Or that he isn’t powering through every rough stage of rehabilitation after surgically repairing a torn ACL.

In the more than six months that have passed since Benavidez announced that an injury had forced him out of a scheduled bout with Ben Nguyen, he’s done all those things.

We just haven’t since much of it.

“It was only me going through it, and that’s the way I thought about it,” Benavidez told MMAjunkie Radio. “Like, no one else is going to care. That’s why I’m not like, ‘Hey guys, I’ll be back soon. Check it out. I just bent my leg to 30 degrees or whatever.’ In this sport, there’s such a short memory. There’s always something happening. Someone getting injured, a fight that weekend.

“I’m just like, ‘People are not even going to know I’m injured by the time nine or 10 months comes. And I’m going to win, and I’m going to fight. So they’re not even going to remember that, anyway. So I’m not going to start with everybody else, so I’m going through it myself.’”

For those interested in updates of his recovery, though, Benavidez will gladly give them.

“It’s coming along,” Benavidez said. “You can get places faster banding and lateral and stuff. But it takes a certain amount of time for the tendons and everything to heal properly. I’m like at a six-, six-and-a-half-month mark right now. I’m training and stuff. Nothing live – anything where an injury can happen.

“Just like you would a week before a fight or something. Something you would do where you couldn’t get injured? That’s kind what I’m doing. Going through the mitts, the motions, the drills and stuff.

“I’m getting there. Hopefully shooting for a March, April return next year.”

Benavidez has been “good” for months now. But that’s after what often felt like a very slow process that had him relying heavily on others for basic things. For two months, he had to use at least one crutch. He was stuck with an ankle-to-hip cast. His wife, who’s also a host and reporter for the UFC, had to skip trips to help him.

For the first week, Benavidez had to sleep in the couch because couldn’t even go up the stairs in his home. After that, he could go up slowly, with Olivi’s help, to do basic things like taking showers.

“It was miserable, of course,” Benavidez said. “And I know Megan wouldn’t be doing anything else, but she was in there helping me shower, you know. I cried every day. On my couch, like – it was just terrible to have something taken away from you like that.

“I would cry all the time, and Megan would go down and sleep with me on the couch because I couldn’t go up the stairs. And I’d have to wake her up because I was just crying. Just breaking down and just kind of – I don’t know. It was just a long road. And then the pain and everything as well. There were times when I was crying naked with my dog on my lap.”

With time, it got better. Eventually, Benavidez could walk. Then he could drive. And now, possibly three or four months away from an octagon return, the flyweight is looking ahead to what’s currently an interesting division.

Since Benavidez had to withdraw from his UFC Fight Night 110 meeting with Nguyen, 125-pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson has cruised past yet another challenger at UFC 216, pulling off a crazy submission win over Ray Borg to break Anderson Silva’s previous record of 10 consecutive title defenses.

Benavidez, who’s suffered two losses to Johnson in the past, has made no secret of his desire for a third stab at the belt. And, considering he’s coming off six straight victories, the No. 2 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings isn’t exactly crazy to feel that way.

If it does come to fruition, however, that shot might involve peculiar circumstances. While nothing’s been officially announced, there’s a strong push to make Johnson’s (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) next fight against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) – a matchup that Benavidez thinks is “awesome.”

The specifics of that are also up in the air. Would it be at flyweight? Bantamweight? Somewhere in between? But if it ends up being Dillashaw going down to the 125-pound division, and becoming a two-division champ in the process, that could lead to Benavidez going up against a former Team Alpha Male stablemate and friend.

When talks of a Johnson-Dillashaw fight first started, Benavidez figured he’d have time to see the whole thing unfold. But Johnson had other plans. And Benavidez was always aware, as small as it was, as much as he knew both ex-teammates would tried to get around it, of the possibility of fighting Dillashaw.

Now that it seems more real than never?

“I’ll fight the best guy in my weight,” Benavidez said.

To hear more from Benavidez, check out the video above.

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

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC-Fresno's Aljamain Sterling says T.J. Dillashaw needs to clean out division before challenging Demetrious Johnson

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FRESNO, Calif. – Aljamain Sterling has heard all the superfight talk about UFC bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw moving down to fight flyweight title holder Demetrious Johnson, and frankly, “Funk Master” isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I do understand that T.J. is a two-time world champion at this point, but at the same time, you haven’t cleaned out the division yet,” Sterling told MMAjunkie. “‘Mighty Mouse’ has cleaned out his division. He’s done his job in his weight class.

“T.J., stay put, do your job, because I’m coming for the belt. You’ve got all of us hungry young competitors coming up for the belt, and that’s all it’s all about right now. We’re all chasing gold.”

While there’s no question that Johnson is in dire need of new contenders at 125 pound, Sterling does make an interesting point. After all, Dillashaw just reclaimed the belt with a November knockout of Cody Garbrandt and only defended the title twice in his previous run.

Sure, the thought of Johnson vs. Dillashaw seems fun, on paper, but how do you justify it to the bantamweight contenders currently waiting their shot at the title? Count Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) on that list ahead of his meeting with former WSOF bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123, which takes place Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

“I think there’s a lot that’s riding on this fight for the both of us,” Sterling said. “Whoever gets their hand raised – which will be me – I think they’re going to solidify themselves as a true No. 1 contender or line themselves up for a No. 1 contender fight.

“T.J. has been talking about fighting ‘Mighty Mouse.’ If that happens, that’s going to really hold up the division all over again. There’s a lot of young blood, new faces for T.J. to challenge. He hasn’t yet cleared out this division. I think he should stay put, do his job as a champion and fight the guys who are the true No. 1 contenders at this weight class. You’ve got Jimmie Rivera in the hunt. You’ve got Raphael Assuncao in the hunt, who Marlon and I both lost to via split decision. … You’ve got (John) Lineker if he gets the win over Rivera. … Dominick Cruz’s arm is broken, and Cody just came off a knockout loss to T.J., so it’s really a who’s who. It’s kind of a pick ’em.”

Of course, before he can even think about Dillashaw, Sterling has to get past Moraes, who has gone 1-1 in two split-decision results under the UFC banner since migrating over from WSOF. Despite the mixed results, Sterling admits his opponent still offers some serious challenges but has simply discovered just how deep the talent pool is in the UFC.

“I don’t really gameplan,” Sterling admitted. “I go out there, and I just fight my fight. I do what I do best. I’m going to bring my skillsets to the table, he’s going to bring what he brings to the table, and we’re just going to have to figure this (expletive) out.

“He’s a great leg kicker. He’s good off his back. He’s good on top. I think it’s just going to be a matter of will – who’s going to have the most heart when we go out there, and I think that guy is going to be me.”

Sterling carries back-to-back wins over Renan Barao and Augusto Mendes into the matchup, righting the ship after suffering the first (and to date, only) losses of his career in a pair of split-decision results to Assuncao and Bryan Caraway. But with momentum now swinging in his direction, Sterling believes it’s his time to shine.

Sterling currently sits at No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, while Moraes sits at No. 6. Sterling knows what’s at stake in the matchup and knows if his opinion on Dillashaw’s next move is going to matter at all, he has to prove victorious on Saturday night.

“I’m just going to fight, wherever this fight goes,” Sterling said. “If he tries to go for that patented knee-tap, Frankie Edgar, if the fight goes to the ground, I’m no stranger to fighting off my back. I will be slashing up elbows, I will be throwing up submissions, and I will be kicking like a mule, so if he wants to take it there, we can take it there. If he wants to stand up and fight, we can stand up and fight.

“I’m willing to die in there, so bring it.”

To hear more from Sterling, check out the video above.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

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.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Max Holloway and UFC 218's other winning fighters?

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(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 218’s losing fighters?)

The UFC featherweight title was defended for the first time in more than three years on Saturday when Max Holloway successfully retained his title against Jose Aldo in UFC 218’s pay-per-view headliner.

Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) closed out the five-fight main card at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit with a third-round TKO of Aldo to extend his winning streak to 12.

Prior to the main event, Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC), Henry Cejudo (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Tecia Torres (10-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) made cases for title shots in their respective divisions, while former UFC champ Eddie Alvarez (29-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC) bounced back from a two-fight skid.

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 218’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Tecia Torres

Cynthia Calvillo

Should fight: Winner of Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza at UFC 219
Why they should fight: Torres continued to shine in the UFC strawweight division when she beat former Invicta FC champion Michelle Waterson for her third consecutive victory in the weight class.

A month ago it seemed guaranteed a Torres unanimous-decision victory would be enough to get the next title shot. Then Rose Namajunas stunned Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win the 115-pound title at UFC 217, and the entire division was turned on its head.

Instead of fighting for the belt next, Torres, whose only pro loss came to Namajunas, will likely have to wait for a rematch to play out. That could take quite some time, which would mean another fight is necessary in order for “Tiny Tornado” to keep her momentum.

A title-eliminator matchup with the winner of Calvillo (6-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) and ex-champ Esparza (12-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC), who fight at UFC 219 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas, would be an appropriate fight for the top contenders.

Eddie Alvarez

Dustin Poirier

Should fight: Dustin Poirier
Why they should fight: After a forgettable two-fight stint in which he lost the UFC lightweight title and then fought to a no-contest, Alvarez finally got a clean win on his record when he spoiled the undefeated run of former WSOF champ Justin Gaethje.

Alvarez, a former UFC and Bellator champ, was eager to fight one of the most hyped fighters in the sport in Gaethje. No one had been able to figure out “The Highlight” prior, but Alvarez got the job done with a third-round TKO and is back on stable ground in the 155-pound division.

Considering he lost UFC gold to Conor McGregor – who still hasn’t fought since – Alvarez is aware he’s in no position to be fighting for the title in the near future. That leaves him looking to take exciting matchups similar to one he got with Gaethje, and there’s some bad blood out to be resolved with Poirier (22-5 MMA, 14-4 UFC).

Alvarez and Poirier had an exciting fight at UFC 211 in May that ended in a no-contest after Alvarez landed an illegal knee. He claims it was accidental, but Poirier insists it was because he wanted out of a fight that was on the verge of being lost. “The Diamond” has been clamoring for a rematch since, and he stumped for it again after a win over Anthony Pettis at UFC Fight Night 120 this past month. Now is the time to run it back.

Henry Cejudo

Demetrious Johnson

Should fight: Demetrious Johnson (or T.J. Dillashaw?)
Why they should fight: The rapid development of Cejudo’s skillset was a big talking point prior to UFC 218, but against Sergio Pettis, the Olympic gold medalist went back to his wrestling roots to earn a unanimous-decision victory.

Despite already failing in a title bid against UFC flyweight champ Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC), Cejudo seems like he is the most equipped member of his weight class to dethrone “Mighty Mouse.” He provided another example of why when he snapped Pettis’ winning streak.

The initial meeting between Cejudo and Johnson didn’t take place that long ago, but Cejudo’s improvements since then have created a compelling argument for a rematch. The holdup, however, is the champ. Johnson will apparently look to defend his belt against bantamweight champ Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) in a super fight next, and if that happens, it leaves Cejudo left waiting.

Cejudo would either have to be sidelined or take another fight if the Johnson vs. Dillashaw matchup moves forward, but assuming it doesn’t (or Cejudo waits until after), there’s no more deserving contender.

Francis Ngannou

Stipe Miocic

Should fight: Stipe Miocic
Why they should fight: There weren’t many objections to the idea of Ngannou getting a heavyweight title shot before UFC 218. Now that he holds a win over Alistair Overeem, it’s a guarantee.

Ngannou continued his unbeaten run inside the octagon with his biggest win to date. He beat the former Strikeforce and DREAM champion by vicious first-round knockout, strengthening his argument even more as the man who should next challenger current heavyweight kingpin Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC).

Although Ngannou’s dominant style still leaves many questions about potential flaws in his game, no one has been able to expose them so far. He’s earned his keep, but if anyone is capable of figuring him out, it’s champion Miocic.

Max Holloway

Should fight: Frankie Edgar
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Holloway should fight Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC) next for his second title defense.

For complete coverage of UFC 218, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Johnson and Dillashaw? Henry Cejudo will fight either, but says 135 champ 'in for a treat' at 125

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After his unanimous-decision victory over Sergio Pettis on Saturday at UFC 218 in Detroit, Henry Cejudo is ready for something bigger.

Whether that’s a rematch with current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) or a fight against UFC bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC), who has teased the idea of coming down a weight class, Cejudo’s up for either, as he told reporters following UFC 218.

“From what I’ve heard, (Johnson) doesn’t really want to fight (Dillashaw) just yet, or he wants the right money,” Cejudo said. “And I said I’ll welcome T.J. to the weight class. If D.J. does not want to fight him, I’ll fight T.J. I know with him, he’s a former wrestler, it’s going to be a mixed fight. I like it at 125 pounds.”

What the Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler does not like, however, are Dillashaw’s chances of becoming a two-division champion if he meets Johnson at flyweight. In fact, Cejudo (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) said, he thinks a Johnson-Dillashaw fight would be great for the 125-pound division, mostly because it would show people how good Johnson really is.

“I have no rivalry with T.J., but I can see Demetrious Johnson easily handling T.J.,” Cejudo said. “Because you lose an additional 10 pounds against the pound-for-pound king, going down to his weight class? Well-rounded, good wrestler, good striker, just a great mixed martial artist? Man, you’re in for a treat. He can say he’s light and everything, but when you get down to 125 pounds, you’re going to feel it the next day. And Demetrious is a cardio machine. I think that’s what’s going to make that fight dangerous.”

UFC President Dana White said on Saturday that the Johnson-Dillashaw fight is “going to happen,” even if it hasn’t been announced. But if it does, that leaves Cejudo with an uncertain immediate future.

The former title challenger is on a two-fight winning streak, with his only losses coming against Johnson and perennial flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez. Prior to UFC 218, Pettis’ (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) name was thrown around as a possible challenger for Johnson’s title, but Cejudo’s UFC 218 win over Pettis (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) would seem to remove him from that picture.

For his part, Cejudo said he still wants a rematch with Johnson, in part because “when you get rocked in front of 20,000 people, it’s personal.”

But then, he added, since the loss to Johnson was the first of his pro career, and his only defeat via stoppage, it was also an important learning experience that has served him well.

“I really did believe that I was going to beat up Demetrious Johnson when I fought him,” Cejudo said. “Like, deep down in my heart, in my mind, I thought I was going to beat this dude, like beat him up. And I was watching it, because sometimes I’ll get these Instagram alerts, and I was watching it and I remember watching when I lost. I was so sad and disappointed. I just kept looking down, like, ‘Did this just happen?’ But through that, it literally did, it made me respect him and everybody else in my weight class.”

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

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

Dana White: T.J. Dillashaw vs. Demetrious Johnson is happening next

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DETROIT – UFC President Dana White said flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s next title defense will be against current bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw.

“Yeah, that fight’s going to happen,” White told reporters at the post-event press conference for UFC 218, which took place Saturday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. “We haven’t announced it yet.”

White didn’t say when and where the fight would take place, or whether he’d yet spoken to Johnson, who was in attendance at the pay-per-view event. Johnson watched cageside as his former opponent, Henry Cejudo, halted the rise of promising up-and-comer Sergio Pettis.

Johnson has repeatedly hedged on a “superfight” with a bantamweight champ, declaring he would need $2 million to agree to it. White balked at the demand.

Dillashaw, however, has persisted. After taking the bantamweight title this past month from his rival Cody Garbrandt, he renewed his call to move down in weight to challenge Johnson, who turned down a potential fight in favor of a record-breaking 11th title defense against Ray Borg in October.

Dillashaw claims he can make the flyweight limit without issue. Cejudo, however, warned that fighting down a division might be detrimental to his performance.

“He can say he’s light; when you get down to 125 pounds, you’re going to feel it the next day, and Demetrious is a cardio machine,” the onetime title challenger said at UFC 218’s post-fight presser. “I think that’s what’s going to make that fight dangerous. How at 135 pounds, it might be different. But at 125 pounds, I can say it will be a pretty dominant win by Demetrious Johnson.”

Before any more predictions get made, though, it sounds like the UFC needs to iron out the details on the champ vs. champ showdown.

For complete coverage of UFC 218, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Sergio Pettis would give up title shot if UFC wants Demetrious Johnson vs. T.J. Dillashaw

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DETROIT – Sergio Pettis is all about this potential champion vs. champion fight between Demetrious Johnson and T.J. Dillashaw, even if it hinders his own career in the short-term.

Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC), who meets Henry Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in a potential flyweight title eliminator on Saturday’s UFC 218 pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, would likely be viewed as the obvious next contender for Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) should he emerge victorious.

The problem, however, is that the UFC has expressed interest in having bantamweight champ Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) drop down a weight class to fight Johnson in what would have to be considered the most significant matchup in 125-pound history. Pettis would be the odd man out if the promotion moves forward with those plans, but surprisingly, he said he’s OK with that.

“I’m 24 years old, I’m getting better and better, and if they want me to fight again before a title, I’m good with that,” Pettis told MMAjunkie at Thursday’s UFC 218 media day. “I’m building my resume, getting some money on top of it and getting some experience. T.J. vs. DJ, that’s an interesting fight, even for me. I’m a fan of the sport. It’s entertainment and it makes sense. It’s part of the business. I have no hatred towards that. I understand it. If they want me to build my resume and get to that DJ shot, I will. If I have a great performance against Henry Cejudo, maybe I can get there.”

Although Pettis’ title aspirations are strong, he knows his youth puts him at an advantage. Whether it’s one fight or 10 fights, “The Phenom” promises to flourish with every performance the same way he has to this point in his career.

He has a gargantuan task ahead at UFC 218, though, because outside “Mighty Mouse,” Cejudo is as good as it gets in the flyweight division. Cejudo said his power will be the difference in the fight, and brings that confidence following a knockout of Wilson Reis at UFC 215 in September. Pettis, however, said he’s not buying it.

“Most of his wins are by decision, besides his last fight,” Pettis said. “Wilson was there to get hit by that power. I’ve got five inches of reach on this guy. I’ve got movement. He doesn’t have that power there. He’s going to fall onto my sword and he’s going to fall into my striking.”

If all goes according to plan, Pettis said he hopes to be the one scoring the knockout win. He believes his style meshes well with Cejudo and insists he’s going to send a message to “The Messenger” on fight night.

“I want to get a knockout on my belt,” Pettis said. “First win by not decision. Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to go out there and push the pace. I believe my style is different now. I’m not longer a little boy. I’m a grown man. My style is going to make him come in and think he has the power. I’m going to hit him with something hard and he’s not going to expect it. If not, I’m going to pick that face away all night.”

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 218's Henry Cejudo warns T.J. Dillashaw about dropping to flyweight

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DETROIT – It wasn’t long ago that the MMA world was close to writing off Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo as a flyweight phenom.

Two misses on the scale with the now-defunct Legacy FC made the UFC antsy about promoting him as the next big threat to champ Demetrious Johnson.

Cejudo turned things around, though he wasn’t able to best Johnson when his title shot came. But he emerged from the experience with a great respect for demands of moving between weight classes.

That’s why when Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) hears about UFC bantamweight T.J. Dillashaw’s (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) plans of gunning for Johnson’s title, he is a bit skeptical.

“If Demetrious doesn’t fight T.J., I’ll welcome T.J. to the flyweight division,” Cejudo told MMAjunkie in advance of his meeting with Sergio Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) on Saturday at UFC 218, which takes place at Litle Caesars Arena in Detroit and airs on pay-per-view. “Because I know what it’s like to cut 10 pounds, and I know how much that stuff hurts.

“I know if he’s going to take a crack at DJ, it’s a whole new ball game at 125. You’re not going to feel the same as at 135, and DJ seems to do very, very well at 125 pounds. So I wouldn’t mind welcoming him to the weight class as a home sweet homecoming for Dillashaw.”

But first, Cejudo has his eye on Pettis, who’s won his past four at flyweight and could be a title contender with a win. Another shot at Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) is Cejudo’s ultimate goal.

If he has to detour for another champ, however, all the better.

For more from Cejudo, check out the video above.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

T.J. Dillashaw renews call for fight with Demetrious Johnson: 'Don't be scared, man'

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It’s the season of giving, and UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw is hoping, again, flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson will give him a fight.

Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) renewed his call for Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) to step up to the plate to face him and told TMZ the fight was in both of their best interests.

“He should be (on board),” Dillashaw told TMZ. “This is the fight that makes the most sense for (him), even moreso than me. He needs a fight that’s sellable.”

Any criticism of Johnson has definitely not come from his in-cage performances. He hasn’t lost in more than six years. He won the UFC’s inaugural flyweight title in September 2012 and has defended the belt 11 times. Most recently, he submitted Ray Borg at UFC 216 in October and broke Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses.

Over the course of his streak, he has seven finishes and seven post-fight bonus awards. But he’s also been perhaps the most favored fighter, on average, in UFC history. So far ahead of most of the rest of the flyweight class is “Mighty Mouse” that the betting lines for his fights make him a massive favorite each time he steps in the cage. His past seven title defenses have seen him close with odds of -2000 (Chris Cariaso, -1500 (Kyoji Horiguchi), -725 (John Dodson 2), -450 (Henry Cejudo), -1150 (Tim Elliott), -1100 (Wilson Reis) and -1200 (Borg).

That’s a big reason Dillashaw is advocating they fight – the matchup between a flyweight and bantamweight, presumably with Dillashaw moving down to 125 pounds, finally would mean a competitive bout for Johnson, and one the fans would see as competitive, as well. And that would mean the potential for stronger pay-per-view sales than Johnson is accustomed to seeing.

“Demetrious Johnson’s always showed up,” Dillashaw said. “He’s always done his job. He’s always been the better fighter. He’s looked awesome. He’s finished fights – looking great. Really, what it comes down to, is not having an opponent to say, ‘We’re excited about this fight.’ Everyone’s always excited like, ‘Let’s see if Demetrious Johnson can break the record,’ or ‘He’s on this long win streak,’ this, this and that. But they never talk about Demetrious Johnson and who he’s fighting.

“This is a fight that will happen – this is a fight that will get the fans entertained. You’ll be glued to the TV because he’s fighting me, not because he’s just fighting. That’s why he doesn’t sell tickets – because everyone knows what’s going to happen.”

In anticipation of a potential matchup, Johnson is a -140 favorite over Dillashaw, who sits at +110. There was talk of the two fighting earlier this year, but Johnson chose to fight Borg, instead. Dillashaw went on to challenge former teammate Cody Garbrandt for the bantamweight title after the two coached opposite each other on Season 25 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

At UFC 217 earlier this month, Dillashaw reclaimed the 135-belt with a second-round knockout of Garbrandt, giving him three straight wins since losing the title to Dominick Cruz nearly two years ago in a close split decision. After that win, Dillashaw renewed his hope for a fight with Johnson, and it’s one UFC President Dana White says he can get behind if Dillashaw can make the weight – which he believes he can.

The question in Dillashaw’s mind just seems to be whether or not Johnson wants the fight.

“Don’t be scared, man. Let’s get this done,” Dillashaw said. “This is the fight that makes sense for you and me. This is the fight the fans want to see. This is the fight I want to see. Not sure if you want to see it, but man up – let’s do it.”

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

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

Jimmie Rivera: Ex-champ Dominick Cruz's style 'not practical,' makes him 'really accident-prone'

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Jimmie Rivera had some concern about Dominick Cruz’s injury woes when he accepted a UFC 219 matchup with the former bantamweight champion. Ultimately, his reservations proved justified.

With less than two months remaining until the Dec. 30 pay-per-view vent at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) was forced to withdraw due to an injury. “The Dominator” reportedly suffered a broken arm in training, a mishap that continues a disturbing trend for the former titleholder.

Cruz has spent the better part of the past five years on the sidelines with a bevy of injuries. Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) was more than aware of that fact when he accepted the fight, but given the matchup likely would’ve been a title-eliminator in the 135-pound division, he accepted and focused on the task at hand.

“At the beginning I was like, ‘I hope he doesn’t get hurt,’” Rivera told MMAjunkie. “Then day after day, I forgot about it because I have to focus on getting ready for a fight. I can’t train and have it in the back of my mind – ‘What if he gets hurt?’

“I have to train balls to the walls and assume he’s not going to get hurt and we’re going to fight Dec. 30. Now about five weeks out this happens.”

Whether Cruz is simply a victim of dumb luck or just that injury-prone is tough to determine. However, Rivera had some theories about why Cruz finds himself in this situation so often. He said Cruz has a very physically demanding style due to his use of movement and awkward techniques. Rivera said he noticed how much of a hindrance Cruz’s style can be while preparing for UFC 219, so he’s not necessarily stunned by the setback.

“I’m not trying to be a dick about it or anything like that, but he’s out, he’s hurt, and he’s really accident-prone,” Rivera said. “He always gets hurt; it’s always one thing or another. It comes down to his style of fighting. My coach and I sat down and studied it getting ready for this fight, and it’s not practical. He’s more injury-prone than he realizes with his style of fighting.”

With the fight off the table for UFC 219, Rivera said he wants the next shot at current bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC). He hopes it happens but admitted his situation is somewhat uncertain because Dillashaw might be dropping to flyweight to challenge pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC).

Rivera said he was disheartened to lose the opportunity to fight Cruz. He may have rubbed some salt in the former champ’s wounds after the fight cancellation, but he said he wishes nothing but the best for Cruz and hopes they can still share the octagon in the future.

“I have nothing against him,” Rivera said. “It’s a game, and I know I have to go out there and talk smack on Twitter, but I hope he has a speedy recovery.

“No one likes to be hurt. It sucks to be hurt, and I’ve been there. It sucks. Hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”

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

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie