Category Archives: Demetrious Johnson

UFC 215: Latest fight card and trailer – with champ Demetrious Johnson chasing a major record

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Sure, another major event has captured the spotlight, but the UFC soon returns with a pay-per-view event.

UFC officials have largely cleared their August schedule to throw their promotional muscle behind the Aug. 26 boxing mega-fight between UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and Floyd Mayweather (49-0 boxing). But on Sept. 9, the UFC hosts UFC 215, a championship doubleheader.

The PPV event takes place Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and the main card follows prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

Check out a preview of the event – and its top three fights – above.

In the main event, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) looks for his record 11th consecutive title defense when he takes on challenger Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC).

Johnson, who’s No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings (and No. 2 pound-for-pound), could break middleweight great Anderson Silva’s longstanding title-defense record if victorious. “Mighty Mouse” is currently a 10-1 favorite to beat No. 5-ranked Borg, who’s won two straight and five of his past six, though he missed weight on two occasions.

In the co-headliner, women’s bantamweight titleholder and No. 1-ranked female 135-pounder Amanda Nunes (14-4 MMA, 7-1 UFC) rematches No. 2-ranked Valentina Shevchenko (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC). Nunes, who took the title from Miesha Tate during her current five-fight winning streak, also defeated No. 2-ranked Shevchenko via unanimous decision during her current run. Shevchenko has since rebounded with wins over ex-champ Holly Holm (decision) and Julianna Pena (submission).

UFC 215 also features a major heavyweight clash as ex-champ and No. 5-ranked Junior Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) takes on No. 9 Francis Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC). Although Dos Santos lost to champ Stipe Miocic in his most recent bout, a title shot could be on the line for him or Ngannou, who’s won nine straight, including five in the UFC (four knockouts and one submission).

The latest UFC 215 lineup includes:

    • Champ Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg – for flyweight title
    • Champ Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko – for women’s bantamweight title
    • Junior Dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou
    • Gilbert Melendez vs. Jeremy Stephens
    • Rafael dos Anjos vs. Neil Magny
    • Sara McMann vs. Ketlen Vieira
    • Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro
    • Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis
    • Rick Glenn vs. Gavin Tucker
    • Arjan Bhullar vs. Luis Henrique
    • Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Sarah Moras
    • Kajan Johnson vs. Adriano Martins
    • Mitch Clarke vs. Alex White

For more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Here's the official poster for UFC 215, featuring 2 title fights and heavyweight hitters

After a light August schedule, the UFC makes its return to pay-per-view next month with UFC 215.

The event, which takes place Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, features a pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) attempts to make a record-breaking 11th consecutive title defense when he takes on Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in the main event. In the co-headliner, women’s bantamweight titleholder Amanda Nunes (14-4 MMA, 7-1 UFC) rematches Valentina Shevchenko (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in a bout pushed back from July.

Check out the official event poster below:

The complete UFC 215 lineup includes:

  • Champ Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg – for flyweight title
  • Champ Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko – for women’s bantamweight title
  • Junior Dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou
  • Gilbert Melendez vs. Jeremy Stephens
  • Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis
  • Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro
  • Sara McMann vs. Ketlen Vieira
  • Rick Glenn vs. Gavin Tucker
  • Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Sarah Moras
  • Arjan Bhullar vs. Luis Henrique
  • Kajan Johnson vs. Adriano Martins

For more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Twitter Mailbag: Is this McGregor-Malignaggi thing a feud or a plan for the future?

Is a sparring partner feud just an attempt to set up another boxing match down the road for MMA’s biggest star? After years of pushing for it, why don’t fighters want to work in New York anymore? And will UFC 215 bring a return to normalcy, even if that’s bad for the box office?

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

* * * *

I’m not going to say that the gym feud between Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi is fake, exactly, but it sure seems like both sides are determined to milk it for every last ounce. Malignaggi can’t seem to stop talking about his brief time as McGregor’s sparring partner, whether it’s on social media or in multiple interviews. Team McGregor naturally has a conflicting account of the saga, which has served to keep this a top news story all week.

For promotional purposes, that’s all great news. After the press tour and the subsequent shock and awe that follows four days of loud, inane swearing, this fight needed a new kick to fuel headlines as Aug. 26 creeps closer. McGregor vs. Malignaggi provided that kick, and right on time, which ought to make us at least question what we’re seeing here.

Will it result in an actual fight? A lot will depend on how McGregor does against Floyd Mayweather. If he gets thoroughly schooled by Mayweather, I’m not sure how interested people would be in seeing him fight a lesser opponent for the sake of a grudge.

If McGregor hangs tough against Mayweather, but ultimately loses, that would still surprise enough people to generate some continued interest in him as a boxer. Of course, at some point the UFC is going to get less supportive of McGregor’s boxing career, but a contractual challenge to his right to box could potentially force an Ali Act showdown, which the UFC might rather avoid.

Then there’s the least likely scenario, which is a McGregor victory over Mayweather. If that happens, why fight a recently retired former champ like Malignaggi next? Why do anything except an immediate rematch, and for literally all the money that exists in the world?

First would be, don’t overdo it all at once. Remember the old Jon Jones, the one who wanted us to see him as a nice, polite choir boy even while he was partying his way through training camp? People didn’t buy it because it was so clearly an image he was trying to project rather than a life he was trying to actually lead. Eventually the dissonance between the two erupted in a way that was impossible to miss, which is bound to breed some skepticism going forward.

It’s not going to be as simple as fan giveaways or gracious interviews. That’s the stuff we can all see, and we know that he knows it. His problem in the past has been the stuff he says and does when he thinks we can’t see.

If Jones wants to change his image, he’ll have to do it over a longer timeline. It won’t just be what he does, but what he doesn’t do. Because, yeah, we see you being nice to fans and enemies alike. We’re also wondering if there’s not more police bodycam footage in your future. You’re going to have to convince us the same way you convince your insurance company: slowly, over time, and with the absence of notable events.

Any sport where people are hitting each other in the head repeatedly and on purpose is bound to be bad for the brain. Helmets won’t save you, as NFL players have discovered. And while more rest and greater training precautions could probably help fighters, you’re never going to completely remove the risk of brain trauma from combat sports like MMA and boxing.

MMA and its fans will have to find one way or another to make their peace with that, just like with the NFL. One thing that makes it tougher in our sport is that fighters will likely face many of the same health challenges as they age, but without all the money and ongoing care that comes largely as a result of the NFL Players Association.

If you think it can’t get worse than former sports heroes freezing in their cars because they can’t remember to put a coat on, just imagine them doing that with less money and fewer resources to help them when they need it. My guess is MMA has a lot of depressing GoFundMe campaigns in our future.

I’m worried about Johny Hendricks. It was a little over a month ago that he came in heavy at middleweight, then got knocked out by Tim Boetsch. He didn’t look good at any point in that outing, whether before or during or immediately after. Frankly, he looked like a guy who might need to take some time and get his act together before he thinks about fighting again.

So what’s he do? He turns right around and signs to fight Paulo Borrachinho at UFC 217 in November. If Borrachinho’s name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy who knocked out Oluwale Bomgbose at UFC 212. He’s undefeated powerhouse of a middleweight, and he’s a scary dude to face if you’re not completely focused and prepared.

Just as concerning is what this booking says about how the UFC views Hendricks right now. He’s 2-5 since winning the vacant UFC welterweight title, and he hasn’t looked like he really wants to be there in a very long time.

I don’t get the sense that the UFC is throwing him in against Borrachinho because it wants to halt the young Brazilian’s momentum. Seems more likely that the goal here is to give the unbeaten prospect a win over a former champ, making Hendricks the wet rag that the UFC is intent on squeezing every last drop of value from before it tosses him aside. That ought to worry him. The possibility that it’s still not motivating enough for him at this point is what worries me.

First, take a day off and try not to think about what size gloves McGregor and Mayweather will wear, or whether the two megalomaniacs threatening each other with nuclear fire will actually pull the trigger and doom us all. Just mental health-wise, you need a break.

But if it’s going to be a true break, you need to get away from anything that might alert you to what’s happening on the internet/world. For this, I suggest a book, like maybe this one, in which Elmore Leonard spins a fictional yarn about a U.S. Marshall and a bunch of captured Nazi soldiers. Or how about this one, a nonfiction tale about the sinking of the Lusitania, which may or may not have been part of a conspiracy to pull the U.S. into World War I.

What’s that you say? You can’t actually read? In that case, watch a movie or something. Have you seen the documentary “Tickled”? Because that is straight-up bananas. And if you don’t like movies, I don’t know, go see a play or something, you weirdo.

The good news for New York fight fans concerned about a fighter-led boycott is that most fighters don’t have the pull that Jones does, and therefore can’t avoid the Empire State so easily. Also, plenty of them are still starstruck enough by the idea of fighting in Madison Square Garden that they’ll overlook the tax burden that comes with it.

But honestly, I’m weirdly glad to see some fighters getting a little smarter about their tax situation. Pro athletes who work as independent contractors in several different states over the course of any given year face a tricky deal come tax time. If this is how we end up with Jones defending his title exclusively on floating barges in international waters, so be it.

UFC 215 might be a good barometer of the general MMA pay-per-view market in the year 2017. As we saw in Anaheim last month, the UFC can still do big numbers on pay-per-view without McGregor or Ronda Rousey. It just has to offer something special, like a much-hyped rematch between two of the best in the world, plus two extra title fights in support, in order to make up for the loss of the two most famous fighters on the roster.

But UFC 215 is a bit of a throwback. It’s got two title fights featuring zero famous people. The two champions – Demetrious Johnson and Amanda Nunes – aren’t exactly beloved even inside the MMA bubble right now. History tells us that sales should be dismal.

But wait, the undercard for this one is actually really compelling. Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos? Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez? Rafael dos Anjos vs. Neil Magny? When you lump them all together, you get a pretty good value for your money.

The question is whether fans will care. The surest path to breaking through on pay-per-view is with a name-brand star. But those are tough to come by, and the problem for the UFC has been that such stars quickly look to leverage their drawing power in some other field, like boxing or movies, because even big paydays for MMA are relatively small paydays for those other endeavors.

That’s something the UFC will have to figure out if it wants to continue basing so much of its business on pay-per-view in a changing media landscape.

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

Trading Shots: The UFC is taking the rest of August off, but is that a bad thing?

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 114 was the first and last event for the company in the month of August. As the UFC clears the way for a big-money boxing match, is it a good thing to go so long between events at this point in the year? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss.

Downes: Ben, I hope you savored every bit of last night’s fight card from Mexico City, because there isn’t another UFC event planned until a Fight Pass-exclusive card on Sept. 2.

There have been similar lulls in the schedule throughout the years, but this one seems to rest on the fact that the UFC is putting all its might behind that whole Floyd Mayweathervs. Conor McGregor thing.

Why? Are you telling me that people have no interest in watching cage fights two weeks before the biggest freak show fight of this generation? Is every venue in Macau booked up this time of year? Does this mean we can now definitively say that McGregor is bigger than the UFC itself?

Fowlkes: I might wait to see what the sales figures look like for the Mayweather fight before I make too many definitive statements, but odds are that this boxing match (that the UFC is not officially involved in) will be the biggest payday for the company in 2017, solely because it gets to take a cut of McGregor’s money.

When you look at it that way, it’s understandable that the UFC opted to back off in the weeks surrounding the fight. Consider what it could possibly offer us during this time. We just wrapped up UFC 214, which was loaded with three title fights and a whole bunch of fun scraps. That was the top tier of UFC programming, and indications are that it did well on pay-per-view.

Now look at UFC Fight Night 114. It didn’t have much in the way of stars, but it was still surprisingly fun. Of course, it was also on FS1, which means you’re going to have to sit through about six hours of mostly filler just to get to the good stuff, so chances are that a lot of people skipped it and missed all that action, which was better than it looked on paper.

That wasn’t quite the lowest tier of UFC programming, but it’s close. The next UFC event on the calendar, the one headlined by Stefan Struve vs. Alexander Volkov on Fight Pass – that’s the absolute lowest tier. At least, it is if you don’t count Dana White’s Contender Series, which is not officially a UFC product.

Seems to me that this is indicative of a shift in strategy. The UFC is churning out more content, but it is mostly concentrated on the low end of the spectrum. I suspect that’s because it’s cheaper to produce (those DWCS fights take place in a gym, for crying out loud, and the fighters all get about half the usual UFC minimum wage), but still captures a portion of the hardcore MMA fan audience that the UFC has come to take for granted.

So what are you saying here? We want more of that type of programming? And why, just so the UFC can pretend that it’s not content to sit back and wait for Red Panty Night? Which, come on – we both know it totally is.

Downes: You’re calling a Fight Pass-only fight card in Rotterdam the “lowest tier”? But it has former women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie facing off against the “Belizean Bruiser” Marion Reneau! Don’t act like you’re not intrigued to see how “The Iron Lady” competes with a hand that badly needs surgery.

I know MMA hipsters like you confuse cynicism and rudimentary knowledge of “the business” for intelligence, so I’m going to try to set you straight. First off, just because an event may not have the cache of UFC 214, it doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable in a business sense or that MMA fans don’t want to watch it.

You know what else doesn’t get the people going? Flyweight title fights with Demetrious Johnson. Yet, I’m sure once UFC 215 rolls around you’ll talk about how “real” fans appreciate his performances and you’ll probably blame Dana White for not promoting the fight properly.

Secondly, this August recess is much more than a “shift in strategy,” as you put it. Doing more Fight Pass shows would be a shift in strategy. Eliminating or revising “The Ultimate Fighter” would be a shift in strategy.

Shutting down your whole promotion to focus on one fighter, competing in a totally different sport, for one night only isn’t a shift. It’s a monumental deviation. Sure, there will be a big payoff, but it’s what we in “the business” call penny wise and pound foolish. It’s like that time you saved $50 by not buying a bike helmet.

I recall you criticizing the UFC and White for telling fans that they don’t have to watch every fight. The thrust of your argument was that if you tell fans they can ignore some events, they’ll just start ignoring all the fights. The same principle applies here. If the UFC can leave the public eye for six weeks and then ask people to drop 60 bucks on a flyweight title fight, doesn’t that teach people that they don’t need the UFC at all?

Like it or not, the UFC schedule has changed. There have been some negative repercussions to the glut of programming, but that’s the new normal. Consumers and fans have adjusted to the schedule. When you cut it off completely, they’ll find something else to watch. Is feast or famine really the best way to manage your resources?

Fowlkes: You know how long it is between Saturday night’s UFC event and the next one? Slightly less than a month. Only in this age of oversaturation could you look at that and act like the UFC is starving us of the vital combat sports nutrients we need in order to keep our fandom alive.

It seems like you want the UFC to pretend that this Mayweather-McGregor thing is not the only fight people care about in the month of August, even though it clearly is. But no, what we really need is Fight Night: Tupelo to round out the schedule. As if it’s better to put on events that people don’t watch than to do nothing and let the money roll in anyway.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to take a few weeks off and let your fans miss you. That’s especially true if you don’t have anything to offer that they’d be really excited by anyway. Just admit the truth, which is that this boxing match will dominate the headlines, then take your cut and come back when it’s over.

By then, maybe we’ll long for the sober athletic legitimacy of Struve vs. Volkov. In the meantime, sure, people will find other stuff to watch. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do the same thing if you were offering up bottom-shelf programming just to fill the calendar.

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.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Events section of the site. And for more on “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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

Not scared of 'Mighty Mouse,' Sergio Pettis says flyweight division 'needs a new face'

Sergio Pettis will be pushing for a fight with UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson if he comes out victorious in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 114 headliner with Brandon Moreno.

Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC), who will attempt to break the UFC’s consecutive title defense record when he takes on Ray Borg in next month’s UFC 215 main event, is someone Pettis (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) believes he’s capable of beating, despite the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings having run through every 125-pound opponent he’s faced.

Pettis said he will bring something to the table that “Mighty Mouse” hasn’t experienced, and as long as Johnson keeps the belt and Pettis lives up to his end of the bargain against Moreno (14-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC), he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t get the next title shot.

He explained in a recent interview with MMAjunkie’s own John Morgan.

“I feel like an impressive win would definitely get me into title contention. The division needs a new face, and I feel like I’m going to be the next one to do it. I feel like a lot of these guys played into Demetrious’ game. They’re all elephants. They saw the mouse and got scared. I’m not afraid. I think my timing is what’s going to happen now. I’ve went through what I’ve went through, took my (losses), grown from them, and I think I’ve gotten better as a person, as a martial artist. If that’s what’s next on the route, I believe that’s what I want, and I believe that’s what they’ll give me.”

Check out it (and follow MMAjunkie on Instagram):

Instagram Photo

UFC Fight Night 114 takes place at Mexico City Arena in Mexico, and the card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

For more on UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Was post-fight Jon Jones the real one, or just a convincing fake?

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In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, was the UFC light-heavyweight champion extending a sincere olive branch to his vanquished challenger, and where does all this leave the former champ’s legacy? Plus, is GSP-Bisping the fight that no one but the participants has been asking for? And can you really blackmail your way into an apology from the UFC president?

All that and more in this edition of the TMB. To ask a question of your own, tweet it to @BenFowlkesMMA.

* * * *

I think he was being sincere. The things Jon Jones said about Daniel Cormier immediately after the fight were not so different from what he said about him a few days before the fight. Talking to reporters after the open workouts, Jones called Cormier “a good (expletive) dude” and admitted to liking him as a person. What stopped them from getting along, he said, was that Cormier had this weird hangup that simply wouldn’t allow him to admit that Jones was better than he was.

Now, we hear that and we can spot the ridiculousness in the argument. Of course Cormier can’t admit that. He’s one of the best fighters in the world. His whole life is about being the absolute best. He’s not killing himself in the gym just to be second place. How could Jones not realize that?

I think the answer has to do with the inherent narcissism that comes with being the best fighter in the world. It’s so obvious to Jones that everyone else is just a character in his story. So why can’t they see it, and just be happy to have a supporting role in the great drama?

That’s where his head seemed to be at before the fight. Once Jones had knocked out Cormier, then he was free to let his guard down and admit that Cormier was a good guy and a great fighter. Why not? If you praise him now, it just makes you seem greater for having beaten him. And it’s not like anybody will get confused about who the best is while Cormier is stumbling around off-camera.

So yes, I think he meant every word. I also don’t think for one second that he would have uttered anything close to that if he’d lost.

The book isn’t closed on Cormier just yet. He could stick around at light heavyweight and still trash nearly everyone in the top 15. Or he could go to heavyweight and end up fighting for the title by this time next year. A lot depends on what he wants to do next, so it’s hard to make too many sweeping statements about his legacy.

That said, if it ends here? I wouldn’t be surprised if the collective conventional wisdom fails to give Cormier his due. He was champion in the absence of Jones, that’s true. In a different era, he might have been his own dynasty. In my book, that puts him ahead of Tito Ortiz and somewhere right behind Chuck Liddell. Both those guys should be glad they came along before Jones did.

Yes. However he wants.

Tempers seem to have cooled somewhat between Tyron Woodley and UFC President Dana White, but you’re right, that was not a great strategic move on the champ’s part. The problem with trying to blackmail your way into an apology is that even if you get what you want, what does it really mean? An apology given just to stop something bad from happening is completely insincere, thus defeating the entire point.

Then there’s the question of what you’re supposed to do about it if you don’t get the apology. Assuming Woodley really does have damaging info on the UFC, leaking it because the boss hurt his feelings would probably not improve his relationship with his employers. It also doesn’t turn him into some hero of transparency in the eyes of the public, because he already told us that the only reason he was telling secrets is because White wouldn’t say he was sorry.

Of course, if White doesn’t give you that public apology and then you back down from your leak threat anyway, it just makes you look weak and desperate.

That brings us to what actually happened in the end to resolve this situation (at least for now). According to White, he spoke to Woodley privately and smoothed things over. Also according to White, Woodley explained his outrage and his threats by saying that “he was just pissed and upset and didn’t mean it.” Maybe it’s just the source, but it kind of sounds like the apology went in the opposite direction.

I see the logic at work here, but how do you enforce something like that? Especially when MMA referees seem to have such a hard time enforcing the existing rules. What, do we require fighters to tell the ref in advance what they’re game plan is, so the ref can be on higher alert for illegal moves that might nullify it? Is the ref then required to share that info with the opponent, so he can know which type of cheating will be more severely punished?

The only fix I can see is that we either allow fence-grabbing or we don’t. And if we don’t, then why aren’t fighters punished as soon as they do it? It’s not like they’re learning the rules on the fly. And a fence grab isn’t like throwing an inside leg kick and accidentally hitting the groin. It’s something you can only do on purpose. So why aren’t you penalized the moment you do it, regardless of what your opponent’s game plan is?

There’s a growing sense that this is the fight no one asked for outside of Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre themselves. And that’s funny, since the reason they both seem so intent on it is because they’re convinced it will make a lot of money. But how does it make money if fans are lukewarm about it?

It’s possible that we’re just suffering from hype fatigue. They’re been talking this fight up for over a year, and still nothing. Maybe by the time it actually happens we’ll have changed our tune. The return of GSP is always going to be a big deal, and Bisping is so easily hatable whenever he opens his mouth that you know he’ll convince some people to pay just on the hope that he’ll get beaten up.

But right now? I can’t say I’m excited. There are so many compelling fights for Bisping at middleweight, and welterweight is going to need some help very soon. The more I think about this fight, the more it seems like we’re all being asked to go along so that the already rich guys can make more money. Maybe it’s just me, but that is not a compelling sales pitch.

Oh, Cameron. Are you really going to force me to be the jerk who points out that there is a difference between being a legend and just being old? Not that I don’t have a lot of affection for Daniel Kelly, who seems awesome, but he’s also 13-2 at the age of 39. Sam Alvey beat him in 2015, when he had to cover slightly fewer body parts in supportive wrap, but he still wasn’t exactly a young sprout back then.

Rashad Evans is a slightly different story (even if he does have a recent split-decision loss to Kelly). He’s also edging into his late 30s, but he’s a former UFC light-heavyweight champion. Then again, he’s on a three-fight losing skid and has dropped five of his past seven.

You really want to know how far this is from being a part of any kind of legends tour? Just look at where it is, in the middle of the main card at UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City, on the week after the biggest pay-per-view of the year. Does that seem like where you’d stick your legends, if you thought they still qualified as such?

I suspect you are not the only one, especially since the UFC chief recently went out of his way to disparage both champions who are slated to defend their titles at UFC 215. Plus, those other three fights each feature a former champ, and they’re all likely to be exciting, competitive matchups.

That makes you wonder how they’ll do on pay-per-view, doesn’t it? We know that the UFC has written Demetrious Johnson off as box-office poison. Amanda Nunes hasn’t been a huge draw either, and is probably less of one after pulling out of UFC 213 and getting scorched by the boss for it. But that undercard? How do you not pony up the dough to see those fights? Even if you’re not that interested in what follows.

This feels a little like a return to the old UFC strategy, back before it could rely on any one fighter to sell tons of PPVs. If the main attraction won’t do it, you have to make your case in the aggregate. Honestly, this lineup looks like a pretty good way of doing just that.

From the sound of it, Volkan Oezdemir likes that fight too, and he’s even suggested that the winner would be dubbed “the real king of Europe,” which is obviously pretty awesome.

If I’m Alexander Gustafsson, I might rather wait for Jones. But if Jones is holding out for a big money fight with someone like Brock Lesnar, how long does Gustafsson really want to sit around waiting and not making money?

As for whether “No Time” has it in him to be the division’s new knockout artist, early indicators are good. But let’s not forget that in recent years there’s been a major drop-off in talent in that division once you get past the top three or four. If Oezdemir wants to prove he belongs in that elite club, Gustafsson’s a tough test to get in.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Brandon Moreno ready to take out UFC champ Demetrious Johnson

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MEXICO CITY – UFC flyweight Brandon Moreno considers himself the solution to the problem facing the 125-pound division.

Moreno (14-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC) said he’s the “new blood” to help make it exciting again after reigning UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) cleaned it out with 10 title defenses – and possibly a record-breaking 11 if he beats Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) at UFC 215.

Moreno figures if he can get past Sergio Pettis (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 114 main event, a new talent infusion is due at the top.

“If the planets align and there’s a possibility (to fight for the title) – I have Sergio in front of me, and that’s a hard challenge,” the 23-year-old Mexican standout told MMAjunkie. “But if I win this Saturday, I am ready. Definitely.”

UFC Fight Night 114 takes place at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Mexico, and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

The flyweight up-and-comers get their first main event. Both ride three-fight win streaks in the UFC and are neck-and-neck in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings, with Moreno No. 8 and Pettis No. 9.

Coming into the cage in top form is a priority for Moreno after a tough outing. Dustin Ortiz repeatedly took him down and dominated on the mat, exposing a weakness in wrestling. A head kick suddenly reversed the tide in the second, setting up Moreno’s rear-naked-choke win.

Pettis is not the wrestler of Ortiz’s caliber, but that’s no reason to take it easy.

“(Pettis) doesn’t make mistakes,” Moreno said. “My last fight was my smartest fight, because the first round with Dustin Ortiz was really a mess for me. But in the second round, I could change the plan, and I won.”

If he can win in his home country, Moreno will further his plan to make Mexico into an MMA powerhouse alongside Mexican MMA fighters such as Alexandre Pantoja and Erik Perez.

“We are the new blood in the country,” Moreno said. “I want Mexico to be a really strong country in this sport.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Sergio Pettis still irked by Henry Cejudo, but UFC-Mexico City headliner is nice distraction

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MEXICO CITY – Sergio Pettis is satisfied with a Mexico City headliner against a fellow young contender, but he’s still irked about his previously scheduled fight with Henry Cejudo.

Pettis (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who’s No. 8 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings, takes on No. 9-ranked Brandon Moreno (14-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 114 headliner, which airs on FS1 from Mexico City Arena in Mexico.

However, before his first UFC headlining spot, 23-year-old Pettis was slated to fight No. 3-ranked Cejudo (10-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) at UFC 211, but the May bout was canceled three days before fight night due to the Olympic gold medalist’s hand injury.

“Two days before the weigh-ins – about four pounds away from making weight – I finish my last workout, and I get the call from my manager that Cejudo pulled out,” Pettis told MMAjunkie. “So, it was definitely a frustrating moment. I was ready to fight. (He’s) a big name, No. 3 in the division, and it would’ve shot me up (the rankings).”

As someone who embraces his Mexican heritage, Pettis said the subsequent opportunity to headline UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City is a “blessing in disguise.” Still, it’s hard to completely forgot about the opportunity he lost at UFC 211.

“Yeah, I was a little angry (Cejudo) showed up to the pressers and shook my hand, and a couple hours later he tells me he can’t fight,” Pettis said. “He had an injury he knew about a couple weeks before.

“He actually called me to apologize, so that’s cool of him to do. But it sucks. But if you know you have an injury, at least let the guy know so you can get a replacement.”

Still, he’s got another solid opportunity to move up the ranks and solidify his contender status when he fights Moreno, a fan favorite who’s won 11 straight fights, including three in the UFC (two of which earn “Performance of the Night” honors).

“Brandon’s making his way up, and I’m making my way up,” Pettis said. “And one thing that interests me about this fight is that he’s a young fighter. He’s 23 years old, and me – I’m the same age, 23 years old. He’s hungry. I’m hungry. That’ll make me rise to the occasion. I’m excited to test his game.”

When Pettis joined the UFC in 2013, he was a 20-year-old who was perhaps best known as the younger brother of former UFC champ Anthony Pettis. However, the younger Pettis has carved out his own niche in the sport, he’s entered the top 10 at 125 pounds, and he’s now riding an impressive 5-1 run into his first UFC headliner.

After turning pro as an 18-year-old in 2011, Pettis got a trial by fire with his pro-MMA career. But he feels like he’s now settling in just fine.

“My mentality is so different,” he said. “I came into the UFC a little kid. I felt small, man. I felt like a little kid – Anthony’s little brother. I had to play up the hype. But now I feel like I’ve broke out of it. I’m making my way to becoming myself, becoming Sergio Pettis. And I’m slowly but surely doing that.”

And if all goes well, he’ll be the victor of a contender-vs.-contender fight. Moreno will surely be the crowd favorite, though Pettis says he doesn’t mind. Regardless, with an impressive win, either fighter could be next up for long-reigning and long-dominant flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC), who meets Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) at UFC 215 on Sept. 9. There, “Mighty Mouse” looks for a UFC-record 11th straight title defense. After that, the list of contenders is thin.

“The division needs a new face,” Pettis said. “I feel like I’m going to be the next one to do it.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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UFC 215: Demetrious Johnson-Ray Borg, Amanda Nunes-Valentina Shevchenko title fights headline

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UFC 215 will feature two title fights, with Demetrious Johnson being granted his wish and a recently canceled rematch rebooked.

The UFC announced today that Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) will defend his flyweight title against Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in the night’s main event, while a women’s bantamweight title fight between champ Amanda Nunes (14-4 MMA, 7-1 UFC) and Valentina Shevchenko  (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) will serve as the co-headliner.

UFC 215 takes place Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, though the bout order hasn’t been finalized.

Both championship fights will happen after some drama with each.

In the case of Johnson-Borg, the UFC’s original hope was to have Johnson defend his title against T.J. Dillashaw as “Mighty Mouse” aims to break Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses. But Johnson pushed back, which stirred up a weeks-long feud between he and UFC President Dana White. Johnson insisted Dillashaw didn’t deserve to jump the line for a title shot in a new division after his bantamweight title fight with Cody Garbrandt was scrapped.

With that now behind them, the pound-for-pound king will defend his title against Borg, who is ranked No. 5 in the current USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings. Borg has won five of his last six fights, including recent back-to-back decisions over Louis Smolka and Jussier Formiga. Two of Borg’s last four fights have come at a catchweight after he failed to make the 126-pound limit.

For Nunes-Shevchenko, the booking is a second attempt to make the rematch. Their scheduled UFC 213 main-event bout earlier this month was canceled hours before it was set to happen when Nunes withdrew over illness, despite being medically cleared. Nunes would later reveal that complications from “chronic sinusitis” weakened her to the point she couldn’t compete.

It was an unfortunate development after the two got heated in the build-up during the summer kickoff event in May. Nunes and Shevchenko fought last year, with Nunes winning a three-round decision.

With the addition, the latest UFC 215 lineup includes:

  • Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg – for flyweight title
  • Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko – for women’s bantamweight title
  • Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos
  • Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro
  • Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis
  • Rick Glenn vs. Gavin Tucker
  • Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Sarah Moras
  • Arjan Bhullar vs. Luis Henrique
  • Gilbert Melendez vs. Jeremy Stephens

For more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

UFC champ Demetrious Johnson explains why manager Malki Kawa joined 'Mighty Team'

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Demetrious Johnson has kept a very close circle of confidants around him as he’s made his assent to UFC flyweight champion and the ranking as the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter.

The low-key Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) has remained loyal to the same coaches throughout his career, but he recently brought in First Round Management CEO/founder Malki Kawa to be part of what he calls the “Mighty Team.”

Kawa recently made the announcement (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

Until recently Johnson’s longtime trainer and manager, Matt Hume, had negotiated contracts and bout agreements with UFC officials. Johnson said he’s been happy with that arrangement but felt Kawa’s expertise would be beneficial.

Kawa has worked closely with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including former UFC champion Jon Jones, current UFC champ Tyron Woodley, Yoel Romero and Jorge Masvidal. Johnson recently enlisted his services, as well.

“One of the things that was going on with my career is Matt was handling my management and training me at the same time,” Johnson told MMAjunkie Radio. “That’s a lot of things Matt has to juggle. He’s a father and is running a gym and has (an executive role with ONE Championship). We decided it was time to bring somebody in to focus purely on negotiating with the UFC.

“Me and Malki met back in 2012, when I won the belt in Toronto at UFC 152. He’s always kind of looked at my career. We always passed each other by and stuff. We figured it was time to make the team even stronger and bring in Malki Kawa. … We’re bringing on Malki Kawa to make the team stronger, and negotiations can go a lot smoother.”

Now seems like as good a time as any for Johnson to add someone like Kawa to his team. Over the past few months, Johnson has butted heads with UFC brass, particularly company president Dana White.

Johnson currently has 10 consecutive UFC title defenses, which is tied with former middleweight champ Anderson Silva for the most in company history. “Mighty Mouse” can break the record in his next fight, but settling on an opponent has been a challenging task.

The UFC wanted Johnson to fight former bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw, who was apparently going to receive a title shot despite never competing at 125 pounds. Johnson, though, said he preferred to fight an established flyweight contender in Ray Borg – a wish White begrudgingly said he’d grant.

Johnson said Kawa had taken control of talks with the UFC about his next fight, and if all goes according to plan, he hopes to compete again in the fourth quarter of the year.

“Right now Malki Kawa is working close with the UFC to work on a September date,” Johnson said. “Malki’s just doing what he does best, and that’s looking out for his clients. When we brought Malki on board to be part of the ‘Mighty Team,’ we said, ‘Do what you do.’”

As Johnson waits for confirmation of his potentially record-breaking title defense, his recently accomplishments were recently recognized with a 2017 ESPY award for “Best Fighter,” beating out fellow UFC champ Conor McGregor as well as noted boxers Gennady Golovkin and Andre Ward.

Johnson said he was shocked to even be nominated for the award. The fact he actually won came as an even greater surprise, but the champ said he appreciates the recognition.

“It came as a little bit of a shock that I got it, but all the fans voted and I truly appreciate it,” Johnson said. “It’s a huge accomplishment. There’s only been a few mixed martial arts fighters who’ve got them. Ronda (Rousey), Conor and I can’t think of anybody else. I’m sure there’s going to be other great champions up there who are going to get it, but it’s an honor to get one.”

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 and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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