Champ Robert Whittaker and UFC 221 opponent Luke Rockhold discuss GSP's departure

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Georges St-Pierre is out of the UFC middleweight title picture, and UFC 221’s headliners are ready to move on without him.

After St-Pierre, a longtime welterweight titleholder, returned to the UFC after a four-year layoff, he scored a submission win to dethrone middleweight champion Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) in November. However, St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) recently vacated the belt after facing an uncertain future due to his diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.

That opened the door for interim titleholder Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) to be promoted to undisputed champion, and he now meets former titleholder Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in UFC 221’s pay-per-view headliner, which takes place Feb. 10 at Perth Arena in Perth and marks the UFC’s debut in Western Australia.

Whittaker initially was targeted for a title-unification bout with St-Pierre, but the 26-year-old New Zealand-born Australian never really counted on the fight.

“With the UFC, anything can happen, really,” Whittaker, who won the vacant belt with a July victory over Yoel Romero, today said. “There was no clear-cut matchup for me at any point in the last six months. So I’m just happy to have closure.

“I’m just happy to know Georges has stepped down, I’ve taken the title, and I’m going to defend it come February against Luke. So yeah, it’s just good to know what we’re doing. I’m a very objective-drive bloke, so to have a goal in mind and to have something to do is very important to me.”

Whittaker, who was part of today’s UFC 221 kickoff press conference, got a look at his upcoming opponent. He even squared off with Rockhold, which showed the size difference between the two (via Twitter):

Rockhold, a 33-year-old former UFC and Strikeforce champ, rebounded from his title loss to Bisping with a recent submission win over David Branch.

Rockhold, who’s No. 3 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, said he always considered No. 2-ranked Whittaker the real champ – even after No. 1-ranked St-Pierre’s return.

“It sucks to see what they’ve done with everything, but I’m just glad we’re back on track,” said Rockhold, who had been critical of Bisping’s title reign, which lasted 17 months and consisted of just one title defense – over Dan Henderson. “Like I said, I said Whittaker has been the true champion for some time now, and I’m excited to get in there and mix it up.

“It’s going to be a fight, man.”

For more on UFC 221, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Trading Shots: Dana White isn't mad at Georges St-Pierre, but what about fans?

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Did Georges St-Pierre do a disservice to fans, fellow fighters, or the UFC when he relinquished his middleweight title without a fight? Would the answer change if a less popular fighter pulled the same maneuver? MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes and retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes discuss in this week’s Trading Shots.

* * * *

Fowlkes: Georges St-Pierre is no longer the UFC middleweight champion after a little more than a month with the belt, Danny. And UFC President Dana White? He’s not mad at all. No way. In fact, he knew this would happen.

So when he said just a couple weeks ago that he’d be “super pissed” if it happened? Nah, he didn’t mean it.

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I have a couple questions here. For one, if this was indeed the outcome White expected, that GSP would not even attempt to defend the middleweight title upon winning it, does he deserve some criticism for making the fight in the first place, since this very foreseeable outcome has now disrupted the lineage of the 185-pound championship?

But more importantly, what should fans make of GSP now? He’s got an out in the form of his ulcerative colitis diagnosis, but even before that he didn’t seem thrilled about defending this belt. And if he wanted to wait, get healthy, and then defend, you know the UFC would let him.

Sure seems like he picked the easiest path he could find (which is not to say it was an easy fight) to a second UFC title and a big payday, and then he bolted once he got what he wanted.

If this were almost anyone else who skipped the line, nabbed a belt, and then fled like a thief in the night before the actual contenders could get a crack, seems like MMA fans would be all over them. Why isn’t that happening here? And should it?

Downes: The holidays must have you frazzled, Ben. You’re all over the place today. Let’s try to unpack all these questions one at a time.

As usual, you make an assertion with little evidence. Who says GSP played anyone (other than fans)? I believe White when he says that he saw this coming. As for why he said he’d be “super pissed” in the lead up to the fight, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but promoters lie.

By saying that he’d put the pressure on GSP to defend the middleweight title if he beat Michael Bisping, he avoided a PR problem that would hurt his pay-per-view buys. Even though most of us were skeptical that GSP would defend the belt, there was still the possibility. If White admitted he thought this was going to happen in the build up, it would have overshadowed the entire fight.

As far as the “lineage of the 185-pound championship” is concerned, I think a lot of this relates to our discussion last week. Sanctity might be too strong of a word, but UFC titles don’t have the same weight they once did. They’re thrown around haphazardly like the term “for a limited time only.”

Even the idea of a two-division champion seems blasé now. GSP may not have had his titles in as close succession as Conor McGregor, but his win was still a major accomplishment, even though fans and media welcomed this feat with indifference. Part of that has to do with the disrespect people have for Bisping, but the response was still tepid.

Having said that, I do think fans should be mad at the UFC and GSP. They were sold a bunch of wolf tickets. GSP had no intention of defending the middleweight title, and the UFC knew it. They colluded together to sell PPVs. Even though this is a regular occurrence in the combat-sports world, we should still be outraged when it happens.

What about you? I know you always have room in your heart to hate on the UFC brass, but can you find some room for some GSP anger? A conspiracy to defraud requires two parties. Do you find GSP guilty, or is he too “classy” to be mad at?

Fowlkes: So your theory is that White and GSP had this planned all along, but lied to us about in order to sell PPVs, and now that the money’s all in the bank, the final phase of the plan is to admit that it was all a ruse? Brilliant. Right up there with the villain explaining his whole evil scheme before leaving the hero alone to die in a cave that’s slowly filling up with water.

Here’s the rare instance in which I almost believe White. You know, to an extent. Like, when he says he put Robert Whittaker in GSP’s contract because he knew St-Pierre wouldn’t want to defend the belt after winning it? That I believe. When he says he knew it would go down this way from the very start and now he doesn’t even mind? That I don’t.

If he’d known all that, there would have been no point in trying to pressure GSP with the threat of his rage just a couple weeks ago. And if the plan is to promote him in another one-off money fight whenever he’s healthy enough, it would be pointless to de-promote him now by making him sound like a hit-and-run mercenary who’s scared of the actual middleweights.

What I think is the UFC really wanted GSP to defend this belt but feared he wouldn’t, which is why it tried, in whatever ways available, to ensure that he would. But even if White suspected that St-Pierre might find a way out of it, he didn’t much care because he was too focused on the short-term gain to think about the longterm repercussions. And honestly, that’s been the UFC in a nutshell for the last several years.

As for GSP, the goodwill he’s built up with fans is one reason they’re not coming down hard on him. The colitis excuse is another, since who’s going to tell a fighter that he’s obligated to risk his health any more than he already has for the sake of our entertainment?

There’s also the fact that his win is still so fresh. Contrary to your claims about it being “tepid,” GSP’s win over Bisping might have cemented him as the consensus GOAT of his era, especially when you factor in Anderson Silva’s second doping fail and Fedor Emelianenko’s continued descent into cautionary tale.

St-Pierre came back after four years and choked out the champion in a weight class above his. Now he’s acting like he wants to ride off into the sunset, which is something we can never seem to convince our heroes to do in this sport, so who’s going to demand that he stay and get beat up some more?

Plus, promoters have been getting over on fighters since the dawn of combat sports. There’s something satisfying about seeing it go the other way. And if the UFC doesn’t care about guarding the legitimacy of its titles, why should the fighters feel obligated to do it?

I mean, sure, now Whittaker will never get the chance to truly unify that title. But why is that GSP’s problem? Seems to me he learned the lessons of this business well, and then put them to work for his own interests. Maybe because it’s so uncommon to see a fighter pull that off, I just can’t get mad at him for it.

Downes: You just performed a lot of rhetorical jiu-jitsu to simply say “fighters don’t owe fans anything.” That’s a perfectly fine position to take. One I even support to a certain extent. At the same time, though, you have to acknowledge a graft when you see one.

You’re making the mistake of viewing MMA as a bilateral relationship – one that simply occurs between fighters and promoters. Promoters exploit fighters, so seeing a fighter “getting over” on a promoter is a welcome change to you.

What you forget is that MMA is what the French-Canadians would call a “ménage à trois.” A “household of three” if you will. And within this household, there are certain agreements that are agreed upon. Thomas Hobbes would refer to it as a social contract. Chief among these agreements is that you don’t defraud fans of their money.

I draw a line between embellishments/exaggerations and straight-up lies. GSP entered into his agreement with the public in bad faith. We all understand why he chose Bisping. We all know why he wants to take some time off (colitis aside). Just because we understand all these things doesn’t mean he should get a pass.

I agree he’s built goodwill up through the years, and that accounts for the lack of outrage. I would also argue that indifference is a major contributor too. Hardcore fans are so inundated with content that it’s difficult for them to focus on any one fighter when there’s an event every week. Casual fans who care about big names like GSP are indifferent to the day-to-day operations of the UFC, so they couldn’t care less about the middleweight title implications.

I guess I’m surprised at how nonchalant you seem to be about the whole ordeal. You’re always looking for something to be outraged by, yet you seem unfazed. Scam is too strong of a term, but can’t you admit that we were sold a bill of goods?

As far as MMA scandals are concerned, GSP getting a title shot and dropping it immediately is a minor one. I mean, it’s not like he’s refusing to defend his belt to go fight Miguel Cotto. At the same time, giving him (and the UFC) a total pass will embolden this type of behavior even more.

The next time St-Pierre makes a promise to fans, we should be more skeptical. We should distrust all future statements a little more than we did a few moths ago. And he just can’t get mad at us for it.

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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Source: MMA Junkie

Dana White thought he'd be mad about Georges St-Pierre vacating UFC title, 'but I'm not'

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FRESNO, Calif. – UFC President Dana White isn’t surprised by Georges St-Pierre’s decision to relinquish the UFC middleweight championship, but he’s not exactly mad, either.

St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) decided this week to give up the 185-pound belt he won from Michael Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) last month at UFC 217. It’s the second time in St-Pierre’s UFC career he’s vacated a belt, along with giving up the welterweight title in November 2013 to take a four-year hiatus from competition.

“Rush” cited uncertainty about his fighting future after a recent diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. He was criticized by some for trying to avoid a matchup with interim middleweight champ Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC), who he was contractually obligated to meet in a title unifier.

White didn’t exactly refute that notion following Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 post-fight news conference.

“There’s a reason I put that stuff in the contract for him to sign,” White told MMAjunkie. “There’s a reason. Am I shocked? I don’t think anybody’s shocked. He came out, and he hand-picked Bisping and went away again. So, whatever – it is what it is.

“I thought I would be (mad), but I’m not. I expected it. Listen, I had him sign a contract that said he would defend against Whittaker for a reason. Because I knew he wouldn’t.”

White said he has no idea what the future holds for St-Pierre, who believes his weight-gain and diet program led to his health issues, which is why a return to middleweight seems unlikely.

St-Pierre fighting at his natural weight of 170 seems like the most obvious situation should he compete again. White said he’s not convinced that happens, either, because he simply doesn’t feel there are any fights St-Pierre finds appealing.

“He doesn’t want to fight anybody at welterweight,” White said. “That’s why he fought Bisping. He didn’t want to fight (Tyron) Woodley. He didn’t want to fight (Stephen) ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. He didn’t want to fight any of those guys. He only wanted to fight Michael Bisping. He did, and now he’s off again. I’m not shocked; I’m not mad. It is what it is.”

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Be 'super pissed' all you want, but Georges St-Pierre doesn't owe us anything

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The Falklands War. Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries. The lifespan of a carton of eggs when properly stored in your refrigerator.

All these things have got Georges St-Pierre’s tenure as UFC middleweight champion beat, at least in terms of longevity.

Just a shade over a month after choking out Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) at UFC 217 to claim the belt, St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) has vacated the 185-pound title that he never seemed too enthusiastic about defending.

The official culprit may be ulcerative colitis, which St-Pierre said he was diagnosed with upon returning from his post-fight vacation, but come on. You didn’t need a crystal ball to know that there was a very good chance GSP might never defend this belt, even if he was healthy enough to do so.

To be fair, he never made us too many promises. Standing in the cage with the blood still damp on his skin, he stressed that he took the fight with Bisping to “challenge” himself. What he didn’t say, right then or in the immediate aftermath, was that he couldn’t wait to get back in there and unify the title with a fight against interim champ Robert Whittaker.

Instead he talked all around it. He told us he didn’t know what he’d do next. He promised not to “freeze” the division with inactivity. Even as UFC President Dana White warned that he’d be “super pissed” if St-Pierre didn’t defend the title, GSP himself remained committed to being noncommittal.

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That is, until this week. Shortly after St-Pierre himself admitted that he probably wouldn’t fight again at 185 pounds, the UFC announced that he had vacated the title, leaving Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) and former champ Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) to battle for the division’s sole championship at UFC 221 in February.

On one hand, good for St-Pierre. Suffering from an illness that might sideline him for months, he went ahead and relinquished the belt so the division could move on without him. When viewed from the right angle, it’s a selfless, classy move by a legendary fighters who’s often proven himself more dignified and reasonable than the company he represented during his years-long reign as UFC welterweight champ.

On the other hand, if ever a case of colitis could be considered convenient, this is it. St-Pierre may have wanted to win the middleweight title, but he never seemed too enthusiastic about being the middleweight champion and shouldering all the burdens and responsibilities that come with it. He may be legitimately very sick, but it also seems to have hit him at a time when he didn’t really want to go to work anyway.

That’s kind of perfect, at least for St-Pierre. How can White be “super pissed” at him now? The man is sick. His health has to come first, does it not?

And if he were to get his colon sorted out just in time to come back for a non-title, mega-money bout against someone like Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) some months down the line, hey, that’s not a master plan in action or anything. It’s just a man being tossed about by the tides of fortune – and ending up looking very, very fortunate.

But what about the middleweights who’ve been left behind? Whittaker’s interim title already seemed pretty legit, based on who he had to beat to get to that point, but now he’ll never even get the chance to dethrone an actual champion.

The entire lineage of the title – the way Anderson Silva begat Chris Weidman, who begat Rockhold, who begat Bisping, who begat St-Pierre – has now been broken. And you can write it off as bad luck, what with the champion getting sick and all, but that excuse doesn’t stand up to closer examination.

If St-Pierre really wanted to wait, get healthy, then defend his title, you know the UFC brass would let him. Seriously, with all the pay-per-views he sells? Of course they would. Just as the heavyweight division waited through Brock Lesnar’s diverticulitis, and just as the lightweight division is still waiting out McGregor’s fame spiral walkabout, so too would middleweight wait for GSP.

But he doesn’t want that. He never really did. Like he told us, he just wanted to challenge himself against Bisping. He also wanted to make a bunch of money and lay his hands on another UFC title just long enough to call himself a two-division champ, and he was smart enough to realize that he’d never get a better chance than this.

So he offered his services and his resiliently bankable name, and the UFC did the math and then took the ride. Everybody got paid and so nobody can get too mad.

Still, it is something of a letdown, in part because of how obvious it was. Weeks before the UFC 217 bout, Rockhold shook his head with disdain and told us, come on, we didn’t really believe that GSP would defend the belt if he won it, did we?

Plenty of us didn’t. It’s at least debatable whether or not the UFC did, or if it even cared to look any further than the next payday.

As for GSP, you’ve got to give him credit. He saw the situation for what it was, and he made it work for him. What’s he supposed to do now, be heartbroken because the same boss who trampled on him four years ago is “super pissed” at him now? Woe be unto the fighter who is not at least as selfish as the people signing his checks. Woe, also, to the fighter who lets his ego talk him into unnecessary risks.

GSP’s always been smarter than that, even when it got him criticized. With this historically short title reign, he reminded us that he’s pretty savvy still.

For more on UFC 221, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Twitter reacts to Georges St-Pierre vacating title, Robert Whittaker-Luke Rockhold at UFC 221

The UFC’s roster of champions was shaken up Thursday after Georges St-Pierre vacated the middleweight title and Robert Whittaker was promoted from interim to undisputed champion.

St-Pierre’s (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) recent medical issues forced him to give up the strap. As a result, Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) puts his crown on the line against ex-champ Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) on Feb. 10 at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia.

Check below to see the top Twitter reactions to today’s big news.

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Instagram Photo

For more on UFC 221, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Georges St-Pierre vacates; Robert Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold title fight set for UFC 221

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There are no more lingering questions surrounding the UFC middleweight championship.

The promotion announced Thursday night that Georges St-Pierre has vacated his belt just one month after winning it, and an undisputed title fight between previous interim champ Robert Whittaker and ex-champ Luke Rockhold is set.

Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) vs. Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is happening at UFC 221, which takes place Feb. 10 at Perth Arena in Perth, Australia, and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

The development comes just one day after St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) told TSN in Canada he didn’t think he would defend the 185-pound belt. St-Pierre, the former longtime welterweight champ who claimed middleweight gold with a third-round submission of Michael Bisping at UFC 217, revealed last week that he’s suffering from colitis, which will keep him out indefinitely.

St-Pierre never was clear about his future beyond his comeback fight after a four-year hiatus, despite being contractually obligated to unify the belt. In the week after his win over Bisping, St-Pierre vowed that he wouldn’t “freeze” the division.

Now things can move along with Whittaker, Rockhold and the rest of the 185-pound title picture.

Whittaker claimed the interim middleweight belt in July with a unanimous-decision victory over Yoel Romero at UFC 213. Whittaker has won his past eight contests overall, including seven-straight since he returned to middleweight from welterweight in November 2014. Although he’s been patient along the way, Whittaker clearly was eager to get a shot at one of the sport’s all-time greats in St-Pierre.

Instead, Whittaker will face Rockhold, a former titleholder who is coming off a second-round TKO of David Branch at UFC Fight Night 116 in September. The bout marked Rockhold’s return to the octagon after more than a year. In his fight prior, he suffered a stunning first-round knockout loss to drop the belt to Bisping at UFC 199 in June 2016.

For more on UFC 221, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Twitter Mailbag: On GSP's potential middleweight exit, Ngannou's terrifying possibilities

What would “”GSP”’s” immediate exit from middleweight tell us about Michael Bisping’s title reign? Is Francis Ngannou going to scare off all the would-be heavyweights? And what is the UFC going to do about its Conor McGregor problem?

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

Why, because it would prove that Michael Bisping lost the UFC middleweight title to a welterweight? Seems to me we already knew that. From the very beginning, this was a savvy calculation by Georges St-Pierre. He went years without even seriously discussing a comeback, then changed his tune the instant Bisping became middleweight champ.

It was smart. Whatever else you think of it, you have to give him that. “GSP” wanted to come back for a big money fight, but he also wanted an opponent who wouldn’t take his head off. Bisping allowed him to etch his name into MMA history as a two-division champ while also padding his bank account.

Why stick around at middleweight now? Because UFC President Dana White will be “pissed” if he doesn’t? I’m not sure a friendship with the same man who threw him under the bus upon his departure from the UFC is reason enough to risk a fight you don’t really want to take, especially if you’ve already got “GSP” money.

As for Bisping, it’s true that his title reign wasn’t exactly the picture of dominance. He had one successful defense against an aging non-contender, and even then he narrowly clung to consciousness long enough to win.

But the fact that Bisping won a UFC title at all, and so late in his career, is impressive all on its own. So many people (myself included) wrote that possibility off as an impossible dream that only he still believed in. Then he made that dream come true, and leveraged it for a huge payday. Knowing how the fight game is played, you have to respect that – even if you don’t like it.

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Easy there. You might be doing the thing where you remember best the thing that happened last. Personally, I think you only have to go back to UFC 217 to find a bigger, better event, especially when you start comparing prelims.

What UFC 218 reminded us is that when you book exciting fights, you get exciting outcomes. Look at all the best fights from that card. They were exactly the ones you would have predicted to deliver exactly the type of action that they did. No real surprises there, which is unlike all the title turnover that made UFC 217 so memorable.

The UFC is in a sticky situation with Conor McGregor. He can’t be controlled, can’t be manipulated. At this point he has so much money that he can’t even be enticed or motivated. That leaves the UFC sitting around waiting for him to decide what, if anything, he wants to do next.

But how long do you wait, especially as he seems to be creating more obstacles to a return with his choices outside the cage? According to Dana White, McGregor may never fight again (of course, White also wants us to believe that he was booked to fight on Dec. 30, before all the Bellator madness). So how do you let him keep walking around with a title he hasn’t defended in more than a year if you think he might be done?

Still, the guy’s a walking payday for the UFC. Taking away his title would only alienate him, and anyway it’s not like it would makeTony Ferguson’s title seem that much more “real” just because you removed the interim tag. (The same Tony Ferguson just had elbow surgery, to boot.)

It’s a tough situation, and right now it seems like the UFC doesn’t know what to do. That might explain why, at least so far, what it’s doing about it is nothing at all.

Jon Jones has other stuff to worry about at the moment, but I would definitely rethink my options if I wereAnthony Johnson.

But just generally, can we resist the urge to get too far ahead of ourselves withFrancis Ngannou? He has yet to fight for, much less win the UFC heavyweight title, and already he seems to be getting the Ronda Rousey-esque “once in forever” type of treatment.

I get it. We’re hyped about the guy, and with good reason. But let’s not forget how hard it’s been to keep star heavyweights healthy and consistent in the UFC. There’s a reason that title has never been defended more than twice in a row.

What a terrifyingly plausible look into the future. Watching McGregor live out the most cliched possible version of the Sudden Fame Lifecycle, I can’t help but wonder how it is that so few people in that situation seem capable of learning from the mistakes of others.

Is that indicative of the kind of person who achieves that type of fame in the first place? Is it created by the environment that comes with all that? Is it one of those things where, it’s easy to see it happening from the outside, but when you’re stuck in the whirlpool you can’t quite appreciate it?

I don’t know. But if McGregor ends up as an MMA Mike Tyson, blowing through all of his money as he self-destructs in full public view, it’s going to be seriously depressing. Though I admit I am curious as to what his eventual face tattoo will look like.

I remember being at a post-fight press conference a few years ago when Dana White, only half-jokingly, mentioned the possibility of Frankie Edgar some day ending up as a bantamweight. The look on Edgar’s face right then could best be described as nervous dread.

Back then, Edgar was a small lightweight (and former champ in the division). Now he’s a small featherweight who lost his most recent crack at the title due to a training injury, and so here we are talking about him shedding 10 more pounds at age 36 like it’s as simple as switching parking spots.

Could he drop to bantamweight? Maybe. Is that really something anyone should pressure him to do when he’s 7-2 as a featherweight, with his only losses coming against one of the best in the history of the division? Nope.

Plus, at featherweight Edgar represents something thatMax Holloway needs right about now – a fresh challenge. The UFC featherweight champ beat so many different people on his way to the belt that title defenses could easily turn into reruns. If the division loses Edgar, that only becomes more likely.

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

Georges St-Pierre respects Michael Bisping for quick turnaround, criticizes UFC for allowing it

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Georges St-Pierre praised Michael Bisping but questioned the UFC for the fight with Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 122 that took place just three weeks after “Rush” claimed the UFC middleweight title from Bisping.

St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) beat Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) by third-round submission at UFC 217 in early November to win the 185-pound belt. Bisping agreed to fight Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) as a replacement for Anderson Silva just three weeks later, and the result was a brutal first-round knockout loss.

After the contest there was a wide range of opinions on Bisping’s quick turnaround and whether he should have been allowed back in the octagon so soon after being dropped and choked unconscious by St-Pierre. Several fighters criticized the UFC, and longtime commentator Joe Rogan called it a “crazy” decision. St-Pierre has only positive things to say about “The Count” from a personal standpoint took umbrage with the fighter safety aspect.

“That was not a good thing to do medically,” St-Pierre said in an interview with TSN in Canada. “He took a big risk, and I respect that. He took a big risk. If he would have succeed, he would have been like a hero. ‘Oh my God, he just lost the title and came back with zero preparation, boom he wins a fight.’ I think he tried to do something that was very, very risky.

“At the time if he would have achieved it, it would have been a very big reward for him. I can respect that. I can respect the idea that he had, the goal he had doing that. However, I believe for the UFC it was not good to let an athlete fight after getting concussed in a fight for the world title and then getting choked out. I don’t think it was medically a good thing for the UFC.”

UFC President Dana White said recently that he had no regrets about booking Bisping for two event headliners in a 21-day span. Bisping originally said he had no regrets, either, but as time wore he’s admitted he made an impulsive choice that wasn’t in his best interest.

St-Pierre understands why Bisping would make the decision, and although it didn’t work out in his favor, he said he can relate to Bisping’s thought-process.

“For Michael, as a fighter, I understand his point of view,” St-Pierre said. “He wanted to turn around the table, and he wanted to do something that was special. I can understand that. Myself coming back after four years, it was a risk, and I wanted to do something special and succeed, and I did it. Unfortunately for Michael, it failed. But I can respect that from a man.”

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC champ Georges St-Pierre on if he'll defend middleweight title: 'I don't think so'

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Those worried Georges St-Pierre would never defend the UFC middleweight title may have had their fears realized. From all indications, the champ won’t be sticking around the weight class from too much longer.

The past week has been a rollercoaster for St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC). UFC President Dana White said several days ago he would be “super pissed” if St-Pierre doesn’t defend his title against interim 185-pound champ Robert Whittaker, but then just days later it was revealed “Rush” is dealing with a case of ulcerative colitis.

St-Pierre, the former longtime welterweight champ who claimed middleweight gold with a third-round submission of Michael Bisping at UFC 217, is uncertain about what the future holds given his medical issue. He believes the colitis was brought on by the weight-gain program he used to help switch weight classes, and given the negative affects, St-Pierre said remaining in the division to defend his belt may no longer be an option.

“I’m not sure if I will compete if I will go back to 185,” St-Pierre told TSN in Canada. “I don’t think so.”

St-Pierre said he has no regrets about his dietary approach to bulking up, because he did it “the natural way.” With his current medical situation, though, his next move remains to be seen – it just likely won’t be a title defense.

“I did what I did; I learned from my mistakes,” St-Pierre said. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to do, to force myself to eat to gain muscle mass. I’ve always been against performance-enhancing drugs, and I did it the natural way. There’s no easy way. I did it the hard way. It was to gain weight and to maintain my muscle mass and it was very hard and it was not healthy. I think the body has a natural weight that it can perform at its best athletic ability. For me, the wight I have now is my perfect weight.”

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

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Tyron Woodley willing to vacate UFC belt for GSP, but 'open to any fight' that makes sense

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DETROIT – Tyron Woodley has come to terms with the fact he might never fight Georges St-Pierre. But for what it’s worth, Woodley would make some sacrifices to make it happen.

Woodley (18-3-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC), the reigning UFC welterweight champion, has made no secret of his desire to meet newly crowned middleweight champ St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC), who recently came back from retirement to earn his second UFC belt. But right after his victorious return, doubt was once again cast in regard to the future of St-Pierre – who, according to UFC boss Dana White, is “out for a minute” due to dealings with colitis.

Woodley, who had his hopes of a Dec. 30 UFC 219 matchup with Nate Diaz recently squashed, isn’t holding his breath for a meeting with St-Pierre either. He did, however, contemplate leaving his belt behind for it.

“If I went up to 185 – before Georges started having whatever the condition he had, I considered making a move up to 185 and fighting at that weight class,” Woodley said, when answering a question about a possible return of friend and now-retired ONE Championship titleholder Ben Askren. “(I’d give) up my belt at welterweight and fight him for the middleweight title and stay at middleweight.”

Jumping up a division, though, apparently wouldn’t be that big of a sacrifice for Woodley, who said he was sitting at 205 pounds when he talked to the media backstage at UFC 218 and doesn’t exactly have an easy weight cut in the class he currently rules.

“I’m not going up to middleweight because I think that would boost me on the pound-for-pound (rankings),” Woodley said. “I want to fight Georges, and he’s not fighting in my weight. So I’ll come up and see you there. And I do think there are some guys I can compete with in the middleweight division. I’m going to be so much faster. I don’t think I’m giving up that much power in the punching.

“Guys like (ex-champ) Chris Weidman, (Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza), (ex-champ) Luke Rockhold – brothers have got some size on me. I have to be real creative. But in reality I think I’m a competitor and I will find a way to do what I need to do.”

As for St-Pierre’s “whatever condition”? Woodley won’t go so far as to doubt his peer’s ailments. But he does think St-Pierre wouldn’t be wrong in trying to dodge his contractual obligation to fight interim champion Robert Whittaker – a hungry opponent who would offer little financial or career incentives to a man who’s accomplished so much already.

“What is colitis?” Woodley asked. “Exactly. I don’t have questions what it means. And I’m not saying he doesn’t have the condition that he has. But was he even scheduled to fight? I think it’s a method in which he’s going to buy some extra time. …

“I think he’s smart, and I think he doesn’t have to take that risk, once again. He’s already done what he needs to do. And I really don’t think he wants to reign over a division and defend the title – all these guys coming back-to-back-to-back. He wants fights that are important to him and I don’t blame him.”

In fact, while that’s the fight Woodley has “always wanted,” the current 170-pound champ can’t really fault “the greatest welterweight of all time” for not wanting to go up against him, either.

“Does Georges need to fight me? No,” Woodley said. “He’s done what he needed to do. He’s been through the specialists, he’s been through the freestyle fighters, and he’s been through the fighters that are the wrestlers with heavy hands. He’s done it.

“He’s coming back in the sport because he built the blueprint for the pay-per-view. We’ve sort of seen it take off, the sport started really catching fire. Now he wants to come back and participate in some of those points. He doesn’t have nothing to prove. And I’m not the guy he’ll want to fight right now.”

Ultimately, Woodley has come to terms with the fact that St-Pierre might just not be in the cards from him. And he’s ready to move on from it. But if it isn’t Diaz or St-Pierre next, who is it?

Well, UFC President Dana White says it’s the winner of UFC on FOX 26’s headliner between former champions Rafael dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler. But as much as Woodley is fine with fighting either man, he’s not committing to that either.

“I’m open to any fight – anything that makes sense for me,” Woodley said. “But right now, I’m not putting myself on a box and saying, ‘These are my next guys.’ Who else is doing that? What other division beside my division is forced to actually compete against the No. 1 contender?

“That’s forced to say you have to fight this guy? Nobody else is in that position. With that said, I’m just keeping my options open.”

In fact, not even Woodley’s ideal timeline for a return is clear right now. While the welterweight currently has a shoulder procedure scheduled for Dec. 19, which could keep him on the shelf for at least three to four months, he’s reconsidering that idea too.

“I’ve just been praying over it and giving it some thought and, man, I really don’t feel like I need to do it,” Woodley said. “Me and (coach Duke Roufus) were in there hitting pads, working on technique and stuff yesterday. I feel like a beast. I’m going to pray over it, we’ll see in the next week or so.”

To hear Woodley’s full scrum, check out the video above.

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

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