Twitter Mailbag: On McGregor's career crossroads, Holloway's replacement challenger, and more

What will his next choice of opponent tell us about the UFC lightweight champion’s true goals? And who would make the best replacement to fight for the UFC featherweight title now that Frankie Edgar is injured? Plus, the UFC is getting into boxing now? Seriously?

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

* * * *

You have to decide for yourself where that point is, but this seems like a pretty clear crossroads. If Conor McGregor’s next fight (assuming the UFC gives in to his ownership demands) isn’t a UFC lightweight title defense against Tony Ferguson, or whoever holds the interim belt by then, it’s going to get a lot harder to refer to him as a UFC champion.

And I don’t say that lightly, since prior to this point I could see his reasoning for not defending his UFC belts. He’s an ambitious man, which meant he was always looking for something bigger and better. He was also looking for monster paydays and historic fights.

He’s had both in the past couple years. And we enjoyed it so much, we didn’t get overly concerned when it sometimes failed to adhere to a clear logic. But where’s he going to go from here? It’s tough to take a step up from that Floyd Mayweather bout. The best thing he can do is cement himself as a champion by making his first defense against a worthy challenger. And “El Cucuy” is as worthy as it gets.

It’s definitely not targeting the casual audience, that’s for sure. But if you heard all about how awesome UFC 217 was and you decided to tune in to the next free cable TV fight to judge the action for yourself, you could do a lot worse.

There’s bound to be some good action here, especially in the main and co-main. And if you don’t know Diego Sanchez’s long history in the sport, maybe you won’t even be bummed out if Matt Brown steamrolls him the way I expect him to.

Plus, if you can stay up and endure the commercials, Dustin Poirier and Anthony Pettis are probably going to give you one hell of a show in the headliner. I just can’t see that being a boring fight, no matter how it goes.

The question is, do any of these fights have immediate ramifications for their divisions? With a couple possible exceptions, no, not really. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be a good time for anyone with FS1 in their cable package this Saturday night.

“Needed” is a tricky term, especially since Max Holloway already beat all three of those guys. So then you ask yourself two questions: 1) Who has done the most to earn a rematch, and 2) Who’d be the most fun and/or marketable fight for the champ?

Right away that rules out Jose Aldo, I’m sorry to say. He hasn’t fought since his TKO loss to Holloway in June, and the fight was so one-sided that I don’t see anyone getting too excited about running it back.

So how about Ricardo Lamas? He’s riding a two-fight winning streak with two finishes over tough fighters, so that’s a plus. Still, it’s not like he was at the top of anybody’s contender list, and he doesn’t have a super strong fanbase pushing to see him get another shot.

That leaves Cub Swanson, a reliably exciting fighter with four straight wins, the last two of which came with “Fight of the Night” honors. MMA fans love them some Cubbie Sampson. He’s bound to give you a show in victory or defeat, and he seems very into the idea of stepping in as replacement, judging by his initial reaction to the Frankie Edgar injury news on Twitter.

The only problem is, if you pull Swanson out of his fight with Brian Ortega, you create a domino effect of booking problems for UFC matchmakers. But hey, that’s their problem.

That’s a very fair point. For as long as it lasted, Rose Namajunas looked spectacular in her UFC 217 title bout. She wasn’t the least bit intimidated by Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but she also didn’t get overly excited when the fight started to swing her way.

In short, she looked like a well-rounded, mature fighter, which is saying something for a 25-year-old champion with only 10 pro fights in under five years of competition.

The real test is what happens now. Winning a UFC title can change your life in both good and bad ways. Everything we’ve heard from her recently makes me think Namajunas can handle it, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of challenge she faces in her first defense.

Jedrzejczyk had a long and dominant enough reign at strawweight that I think she deserves an immediate rematch – when she’s ready for it. But you’re right that she might be better off taking some time to rest and recover after that fight, especially since she still seems hazy about what happened there at the very end.

First of all, I totally want to hang out with your friend. Second, I’ve got to admit that my eyebrows were literally raised after I read your question.

But we want to be careful about this line of reasoning. Fighters can go on losing skids with or without the help of performance-enhancing drugs. This is just that kind of business. Failure can beget doubt, which begets all sorts of bad and desperate decisions, which begets more failure. We’ve seen it over and over in MMA.

And riddle me this: If Johny Hendricks’ current woes are all the result of getting off whatever you think he was on, all due to a fear of USADA, wouldn’t he have been tempted to get back on the good stuff and take his chances with the drug tests by now? I know I would.

Cris Cyborg wasn’t “installed” on the throne of the 145-pound division – she took it by force. From Strikeforce to Invicta FC to the UFC, she’s beaten the tar out of anyone willing to buy the ticket and take the ride.

As for why the division doesn’t function like all the others, part of it is the lack of naturally occurring depth. There just aren’t a ton of female fighters with the size to compete in the 145-pound division, and Cyborg’s already beaten most of the existing ones.

And so far, the UFC hasn’t seemed that interested in cultivating an actual division there, maybe because it fears there aren’t enough good fighters to populate it, especially since Bellator already has several ranked fighters in the division under contract. In the UFC’s eyes, Cyborg is the whole show at 145 pounds.

Her opponents have mostly been a rotating cast of 135-pounders who were convinced to move up and take their chances, and that didn’t end well for any of them. Perhaps as a result, the job of convincing them seems to be getting harder and harder.

I’ll believe the UFC as a boxing promoter when I see it, and even then I’m going to have some questions. Those questions may include, but are not limited to:

How are the payouts going to work, since top boxing talent usually gets paid a whole lot more than top MMA fighters?

And how can you oppose the Ali Act Expansion for MMA, but essentially admit that it’s fine for the boxing side of your business?

And speaking of the Ali Act, will the UFC try to require the same restrictive contracts of boxers that it does of MMA fighters?

Then there’s the other, arguably bigger question: Who is the intended audience for this? You need different fighting surfaces for the two different sports, so doing them both at the same event is tricky (ask Bellator). Plus, there’s not as much crossover between the two fanbases as people sometimes think, except when it comes to the few really big names in both sports.

I’m not saying the UFC can’t become a boxing promoter. What I am saying is that I wouldn’t be surprised if those “Zuffa Boxing” shirts become collector’s items soon. You know, in the same way that Atlanta Falcons 2017 Super Bowl Champions shirts are.

Short answer: no.

Slightly longer answer: depends on the circumstances, but still mostly no.

I’ve done battle with my nemesis Danny Downes on this topic before, but my position remains unchanged. I think there’s functionally very little difference between tapping to strikes and covering up in the fetal position while waiting for the referee to stop it. It makes no sense that we accept the latter as just something that happens, while the former makes a fighter an immediate object of scorn.

In fairness, what we reported is UFC President Dana White said the fight was happening. And if you’ve been following this sport for any length of time, you ought to know that White excels at the art of just saying stuff. This time, it seems like he announced a fight without even discussing it with at least one of the participants.

And wasn’t White the one who, just last week, complained about inaccurate reporting on MMA? Wasn’t he the one who claimed that there’s “nothing factual that’s ever written about this business”? If that’s true, maybe it’s because we’re too willing to take his word for it, regardless of how many times he lies to us.

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

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Paulo Costa's response to Derek Brunson's PED accusations? First a big laugh, then: 'He's scared'

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NEW YORK CITY – Things have escalated quickly between UFC middleweights Paulo Costa and Derek Brunson.

Costa (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) was the one who shot first there, calling Brunson out immediately after his knockout win over ex-champ Johny Hendricks (18-8 MMA, 13-8 UFC) at Saturday’s UFC 217. But Brunson (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC), himself fresh off over a knockout win over an ex-UFC-champion, mercilessly shot it down.

By the time Costa made his way backstage to talk to media at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, he hadn’t yet seen Brunson’s tweet, which means the cameras were able to catch his real-time reaction to Brunson’s confidence he was on steroids.

“He’s crazy,” Costa said after a hearty laugh. “He’s scared. He doesn’t want a fight against me. USADA tests everybody all the time. So Derek Brunson doesn’t want a fight against me, but I’m ready. It’s like Vitor Belfort, he doesn’t want a fight against me. (Or) Tim Boetsch.”

Costa was accompanied by his manager, “vale-tudo” pioneer Wallid Ismail, who chimed in and added that Brunson was simply making excuses not to meet the Brazilian up-and-comer. Ismail, who repeatedly intervened, went on to say that Costa had been tested by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency three times in one month.

“Please, Derek Brunson, don’t be scared,” Costa said.

As for his reasons for eyeing a matchup with fellow knockout artist Brunson, Costa was to-the-point: After what has so far been the peak moment of his undefeated career, he wants someone in the top-5 or top-10 of the UFC’s official rankings. Which means that Brunson, who happens to occupy the 6th position, would fit just fine.

It would appear Brunson is not too interested.

Whomever he ends up meeting next, though, Costa wants to give it three of four months before returning. Some time off doesn’t sound entirely unreasonable considering Costa has fought another two times since his UFC debut back in March – all of which, like the remaining fights on his professional record, ended in knockouts.

Costa has been able to accomplish quite a lot considering such a short UFC stint. Saturday’s meeting with ex-champ Hendricks, it turns out, was already Costa’s second pay-per-view main card bout. He’s since sharpened up his language skills, adapted his nickname to better suit the U.S. market and has shown no problem with promoting himself.

Moving forward, the 26-year-old Brazilian has some lofty goals to accomplish. Whether he’ll get to fulfill his own prophecy, only time will tell. But there’s no denying that he’s so far been delivering.

“I’m the next generation from Brazil,” Costa said. “And I have no questions: I will be the next legend from Brazil.”

To hear more from Costa and Ismail, check out the video above.

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

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Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Michael Bisping and UFC 217's other losing fighters?

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(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 217’s winning fighters?)

UFC 217 was not a good night for champions. All three titleholders who entered the octagon dropped their belts with a stoppage loss on Saturday’s pay-per-view card at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The fairytale title reign of Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) came to a halt in the main event when he dropped the middleweight title to Georges St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) with a third-round technical submission.

Prior to that, Cody Garbrandt (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) had their undefeated records, as well as UFC titles, taken away with knockout losses to T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) and Rose Namajunas (7-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC), respectively.

Also on the main card, former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks (18-8 MMA, 13-8 UFC) continued his career slide while Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC) experienced another disappointing setback.

After every event, fans wonder whom the losing fighters 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 217’s losing fighters.

* * * *

Johny Hendricks

Rashad Evans

Should fight: Rashad Evans
Why they should fight: Hendricks’ career slide took arguably it’s most worrisome turn when the former champ suffered a second-round TKO loss to rising middleweight prospect Paulo Costa.

After being forced out of the welterweight division due to multiple failed weight cuts, Hendricks won his 185-pound debut earlier this year. He lost his subsequent fight against veteran Tim Boetsch, but after falling short against a previously unproven prospect, he’s in a challenging position.

Hendricks is just 1-5 in his past six UFC fights dating back to March 2015. He moved his camp to Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., in hopes of finding new results, but it didn’t go his way. As long as Hendricks decides he wants to fight, he’s going to be a notable name who will have a job with the UFC or elsewhere.

“Bigg Rigg” desperately needs to win his next fight, and fighting someone who’s at a similar stage in his career might be the only thing to help him regain his confidence and form. Fellow ex-champ Evans (19-7-1 MMA, 14-7-1 UFC) is no gimme fight when he’s on point, but even the current version of Hendricks would likely be a favorite.

Jorge Masvidal

Dong Hyun Kim

Should fight: Dong Hyun Kim
Why they should fight: Just when Masvidal appeared to be on the cusp of a welterweight title shot, he suddenly finds himself on a two-fight losing skid after suffering a unanimous-decision defeat to Stephen Thompson.

Masvidal fell short against the two-time title challenger and is now in a difficult position. His two losses came against the best in Thompson and Demian Maia, but in a similar situation to when he was fighting at 155 pounds, Masvidal has had trouble winning at the most crucial moments.

Nevertheless, Masvidal isn’t going anywhere and will attempt to fight his way back into the mix. Kim (22-4-1 MMA, 13-4 UFC) is coming off a loss to Masvidal’s teammate Colby Covington, and he’d surely be happy to follow up on his good friend’s handiwork with a showdown against “Stun Gun.”

Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Should fight: Namajunas
Why they should fight: After putting together one of the most dominant title runs in UFC history, Jedrzejczyk finally experienced her first career setback with an upset loss to Rose Namajunas to drop the 115-pound title.

Although it was a surprising and disappointing outcome for the Polish fighter, it’s obvious what has to happen for her next: an immediate rematch with Namajunas. The UFC often gives dominant titleholders an immediate chance to regain the belt, and Jedrzejczyk has more than earned that opportunity.

If there were a clear No. 1 contender who had been overdue for a title shot, then perhaps there would be an argument to go a different direction for Namajunas’ first title challenger. No such contender exists, so Jedrzejczyk vs. Namajunas 2 should be next.

Cody Garbrandt

Should fight: John Lineker
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Garbrandt should fight Lineker (30-8 MMA, 11-3 UFC) next after his title-fight loss.

Michael Bisping

Should fight: Luke Rockhold
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Bisping should have his trilogy bout with Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) following his title-fight loss.

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

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UFC 217 post-event facts: Record set as 3 new champs crowned in historic night

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UFC 217 will go down in the history books as one of the most memorable fight cards in UFC history. Underdogs reigned supreme as three new champions were crowned and a remarkable nine of 11 fights ended inside the distance.

With memorable action from beginning to end, the fact all three title bouts changed hands will be the cornerstone of UFC 217, which took place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York with a pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In the main event, Georges St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) returned from a four-year hiatus to take the middleweight title from Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC). T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) knocked out former teammate and rival Cody Garbrandt(11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) to take back the bantamweight title in the co-headliner, and in the most unexpected outcome of all, Rose Namajunas (7-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) dethroned Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) of strawweight gold with a quick knockout.

The biggest UFC event of the year lived up to the hype, and it showed on paper. Check below for 50 post-event facts and footnotes to come out of UFC 217.

* * * *

General

UFC 217 became the first event in UFC history to have three new champions crowned.

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $315,000.

St-Pierre, Dillashaw and Namajunas earned $50,000 UFC 217 fight-night bonuses. Ovince Saint Preux and Ricardo Ramos received $25,000 bonuses.

UFC 217 drew an announced attendance of 18,201 for a live gate of $6.2 million.

Betting favorites went 5-6 on the card.

Total fight time for the 11-bout card was 1:46:17.

Main card

Georges St-Pierre

St-Pierre became the fourth fighter in UFC history to win titles in two weight classes. Randy Couture, B.J. Penn and Conor McGregor have also accomplished the feat.

St-Pierre’s 13 victories in UFC championship fights are the most in company history.

St-Pierre’s 20 victories in UFC competition are tied with Bisping for most in company history.

St-Pierre’s 13-fight UFC winning streak is tied with champ Demetrious Johnson for longest among active fighters in the company. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since April 2007.

St-Pierre’s 13-fight UFC winning streak is tied with Johnson and Jon Jones for second longest in company history behind Anderson Silva (16).

St-Pierre earned his first submission victory since Dec. 29, 2007 – a span of 3,598 days (nearly 10 years) and 11 fights.

St-Pierre’s 87 takedowns landed in UFC competition are most in company history.

Michael Bisping

Bisping had his five-fight winning streak snapped for his first defeat since November 2014.

Bisping has suffered his past two losses by submission after going his entire career without being submitted.

Dillashaw’s 11 victories in UFC bantamweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Dillashaw’s 11 victories in UFC/WEC bantamweight competition are tied with Urijah Faber for second most in divisional history behind Dominick Cruz (12).

Dillashaw’s seven stoppage victories in UFC bantamweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Dillashaw’s six knockout victories in UFC bantamweight competition are most in divisional history.

T.J. Dillashaw

Dillashaw’s seven knockdowns landed in UFC bantamweight competition are second most in divisional history behind Garbrandt (eight).

Dillashaw’s seven fight-night bonuses for UFC bantamweight bouts are the most in divisional history.

Garbrandt became the first UFC bantamweight champion to lose the title before making a successful defense.

Garbrandt had his 11-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of his career.

Garbrandt’s eight knockdowns landed in UFC bantamweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Rose Namajunas

Namajunas became the third UFC strawweight champion.

Namajunas’ five victories in UFC strawweight competition are tied with Tecia Torres for second most in divisional history behind Jedrzejczyk (eight).

Namajunas’ four stoppage victories in UFC strawweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Namajunas earned the first knockout victory of her career.

Jedrzejczyk had her 14-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of her professional career.

Stephen Thompson’s (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) nine knockdowns landed in UFC welterweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Thiago Alves (13) and Jake Ellenberger (11).

Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC) fell to 4-4 since he returned to the welterweight division in July 2015.

Masvidal has suffered 10 of his 13 career losses by decision. That includes all five of his UFC defeats.

Paulo Costa

Paulo Costa (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) has earned all 11 of his career victories by stoppage.

Costa has earned 10 of his 11 career victories by knockout. That includes all three of his UFC wins.

Johny Hendricks (18-8 MMA, 13-8 UFC) fell to 1-2 since he moved up to the UFC middleweight division in February.

Hendricks fell to 1-5 in his past six fights.

Hendricks has suffered all three of his career stoppage losses by knockout.

Preliminary card

Joseph Duffy (16-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Walt Harris (10-7 MMA, 3-6 UFC) suffered his second UFC loss in a 28-day stretch.

Harris fell to 3-3 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in April 2016.

Ovince Saint Preux

Ovince Saint Preux (22-10 MMA, 10-5 UFC) earned his second UFC victory in a 42-day stretch.

Saint Preux’s three-fight UFC winning streak in light-heavyweight competition is tied with Mauricio Rua and Volkan Oezdemir for the longest active streak in the division.

Saint Preux’s eight stoppage victories since 2013 in UFC competition are most in the light-heavyweight division and tied with Derrick Lewis and Max Holloway for second most in the company behind Donald Cerrone (nine).

Saint Preux has earned 17 of his 22 career victories by stoppage. That includes eight of his 10 UFC wins.

Corey Anderson (9-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) has suffered all three of his career stoppage losses by knockout.

Mickey Gall

Mickey Gall (4-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) had his four-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of his career.

Curtis Blaydes (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has earned seven of his eight career victories by stoppage, all by knockout.

Aleksei Oleinik (52-11-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) suffered his first knockout loss since July 22, 2011 – a span of 2,297 days (more than six years) and 15 fights.

Ramos (11-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has earned nine of his 11 career victories by stoppage.

Ramos became the second fighter in UFC history to earn a knockout victory stemming from a spinning back elbow. Dong Hyun Kim also accomplished the feat The Ultimate Fighter China Finale.

Aiemann Zahabi (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) had his seven-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of her career.

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

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

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UFC 217 results: Paulo Costa continues to shine, stops Johny Hendricks in second

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Paulo Costa got a name change earlier this week, but it certainly didn’t affect his performance.

Costa (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) stayed perfect and took out former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks (18-8 MMA, 13-8 UFC) with a second-round TKO. He had to go farther into a fight than ever before, but got the finish 83 seconds into the middle frame.

The middleweight bout opened up the main card of today’s UFC 217 event at Madison Square Garden in New York. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Costa tried a low kick early, then went to the body with a hard left kick. Costa went right back to the midsection seconds later. The Brazilian tried a high kick after that. Ninety seconds in, Costa got inside for a pair of rights. a left-right was good, and Hendricks moved in for a takedown. But he was met with a knee and Costa stayed on his feet. Costa tried a spinning kick, but it was just off the mark.

Costa continued to get inside, and Hendricks was forced to try to counter – but most fell short. With less than two minutes in the round, Hendricks got a combination off, but it wasn’t much. Costa kept delivering, and Hendricks landed – only to have Costa tell him to come forward. When Hendricks landed two straight lefts with 30 seconds left, Costa laughed at him and again told him to come forward.

Hendricks landed a left and a kick early, then had a short wait after an eye poke. But Hendricks wanted to restart quickly and not give Costa a chance to rest. Costa put together some major punches and kicks after that, though, and was relentless in coming forward. Hendricks tried to fire back, but it just wasn’t there. Costa landed a head kick, then punches right after it. But Costa was too much.

Costa stayed perfect in his pro career and moved to 3-0 in the UFC. Hendricks lost for the second straight time and has dropped two of three since moving to middleweight. Overall, he has lost five of six and seven of his past 10.

Up-to-the-minute UFC 217 results include:

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

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan, Mike Bohn, Ken Hathaway and Abbey Subhan contributed to this report on site in New York.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

Video: Johny Hendricks' comical UFC 217 weigh-in included an underwear disclaimer

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Dann StuppNEW YORK – Even when he makes weight, Johny Hendricks knows how to bring some drama to a UFC weigh-in.

This time, though, he also brought some laughs.

Earlier today at UFC 217’s early and official weigh-ins, Hendricks (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC), who meets fellow middleweight Paulo Borrachinha (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) on Saturday’s UFC 217 pay-per-view main, hit the scale for the fight, which takes place at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

He was one of the first to weigh in, in fact (via Twitter):

Hendricks, the former UFC welterweight champion who’s missed weight three times during his current 1-4 skid, stripped naked and got behind a towel for the weigh-in, but he assured attendees – mostly reporters and photographers – that it was only because he misjudged the weight of his underwear.

But he also misjudged his misjudgment, as you can see in the video above.

For a full rundown of the proceedings, check out the official UFC 217 weigh-in results.

And for more on UFC 217, 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

UFC 217 staff picks: With 3 title fights, who's picking upsets at Madison Square Garden?

Bisping
vs.
St-Pierre
Garbrandt
vs.
Dillashaw
Jedrzejczyk
vs.
Namajunas
Masvidal
vs.
Thompson
Costa
vs.
Hendricks
MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2017: 97-67
stpierre2017
St-Pierre
(56%)
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
(64%)
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
(83%)
thompson2017
Thompson
(73%)
costa2017
Costa
(72%)
Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2017: 108-62
stpierre2017
St-Pierre
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
costa2017
Costa
Ben Fowlkes @BenFowlkesMMA
2017: 106-64
trophy copy 2016 Champion
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
thompson2017
Thompson
costa2017
Costa
Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2017: 106-64
trophy copy 2015 Champion
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
costa2017
Costa
Steven Marrocco @MMAjunkieSteven
2017: 105-65
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
costa2017
Costa
Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2017: 103-67
bisping2017
Bisping
dillashaw2017
Dillashaw
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
hendricks2017
Hendricks
Fernanda Prates @nandaprates_
2017: 100-70
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
thompson2017
Thompson
costa2017
Costa
Matt Erickson @MMAjunkieMatt
2017: 98-72
bisping2017
Bisping
dillashaw2017
Dillashaw
namajunas2017
Namajunas
thompson2017
Thompson
hendricks2017
Hendricks
George Garcia @MMAjunkieGeorge
2017: 97-73
stpierre2017
St-Pierre
dillashaw2017
Dillashaw
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
hendricks2017
Hendricks
John Morgan @MMAjunkieJohn
2017: 97-73
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
thompson2017
Thompson
costa2017
Costa
Mike Bohn @MikeBohnMMA
2017: 96-72
trophy copy 2014 Champion
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
hendricks2017
Hendricks

The UFC is back in the “Big Apple” this week for its second show at the famed Madison Square Garden.

UFC 217 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

(Click here to open a PDF of the staff picks grid in a separate window.)

In the main event, middleweight champion Michael Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) puts his title on the line against returning former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC), who is fighting for the first time in four years. And while St-Pierre is a slight favorite with the oddsmakers, it’s Bisping who has an 8-2 advantage from our 10 MMAjunkie editors, writers and radio hosts.

In the co-feature, bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt (11-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) meets former champ and ex-teammate T.J. Dillashaw (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) in a major-league grudge match. The favored Garbrandt, still at Team Alpha Male, is a 7-3 choice over Dillashaw from our pickers.

The third title fight on the main card features the heaviest favorite at the event, women’s strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC), who takes on challenger Rose Namajunas (6-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC). Jedrzejczyk is a 4-1 favorite trying to tie Ronda Rousey’s record for most consecutive UFC women’s title defenses, and only one brave soul is picking against her.

Also on the main card, Jorge Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC) meets Stephen Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) in a welterweight bout. Masvidal is a slight underdog, but has a 6-4 edge in the picks. And to open the pay-per-view, Paulo Costa (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) fights former welterweight champ Johny Hendricks (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC) at middleweight. Costa (who recently announced a name change from Paulo Borrachinha) is a 6-4 pick, as well.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, St-Pierre, Garbrandt, Jedrzejczyk, Thompson and Costa are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

UFC 217 in-depth breakdown: Stylistic matchups, fight picks, best bets and fantasy studs

MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC 217’s main-card bouts.

UFC 217 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Michael Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC)

Michael Bisping

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 38 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 75.5″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Dan Henderson (Oct. 8, 2016)
  • Camp: RVCA Gym (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ UFC middleweight champion
+ “TUF 3” winner
+ Regional MMA titles
+ 18 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 12 first-round finishes
+ Excellent feints and footwork
^ Manages distance well
+ Consistent pace and pressure
^ Good cardio and conditioning
+ Accurate left hook
+ Underrated wrestling
+ Good guard retentions and getups
– Dropped in 4 of last 6 fights

Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC)

Georges St-Pierre

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 36 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Johny Hendricks (Nov. 16, 2013)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Excellent

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC welterweight champion
+ Kyokushin karate black belt
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 8 KO victories
+ 5 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ Intelligent and tactical fighter
+ Well-versed striker
^ Conducts well off of the jab
+ Tremendous takedown ability
^ Changes level, chains, transitions
+ Excellent top game
^ Superb passing and ground strikes
– Coming off of a 4-year layoff

Summary:

The main event in Madison Square Garden is a superfight for the middleweight title as champ Michael Bisping welcomes back Georges St-Pierre.

A longtime staple of the UFC, Bisping’s better days were thought to be behind him after the veteran sustained an eye injury that was cause for concern and inconsistent performances alike. But after a storybook resurgence that came to fruition in 2016, the Englishman earned his long-sought title after beating the likes of Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson.

Seeking another legendary name to add to his resume, Bisping has accepted the challenge of a returning champion who’s also chasing history.

Considered the greatest welterweight of all time, St-Pierre was one of the few to walk away as champion, as well as a pound-for-pound great. Now, nearly four years after his last appearance in the octagon, St-Pierre has decided to return north of his usual weight class while attempting to become just the fourth fighter to achieve gold in two divisions.

With the intangible of St-Pierre’s extended layoff, it can be difficult to forecast what style or state the former welterweight champ will return in.

Given St-Pierre’s insane work ethic, resources and obsessive nature, I am sure he’s coming into this contest in serviceable, battle-ready condition. Still, I would not be surprised to see a different version of the French-Canadian, who has had multiple iterations to his game throughout his career.

Coming from a Kyokushin karate base, St-Pierre’s striking style shone through in his initial ascension up the UFC ranks.

Embracing his sport karate stylings, St-Pierre would almost bounce in and out of range, working particularly well when striking off of his lead leg. And even though he could win fights on the feet, the French-Canadian was a complete fighter who was quietly crafting his wrestling game (with the help of Olympians) for the challenges ahead.

Not only did St-Pierre steadily develop into one of the best wrestlers in the division, but he – more importantly – used his newfound skills to fuel his love for strategy.

After his first career loss in what was a title fight with UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, St-Pierre began to gameplan much more wisely for his opposition. Against former welterweight title challengers in Frank Trigg and Sean Sherk, we saw St-Pierre do the unthinkable by out-wrestling two of the most accoladed wrestlers in the division to score spirit-crushing stoppages.

Although St-Pierre eventually earned his first welterweight belt, he quickly lost it to Matt Serra in what was one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.

From that point on, St-Pierre further hedged his bets in regards to preparation and strategy. After winning back his belt from Serra, St-Pierre continued to pile up victories before retiring following 12 straight wins.

Despite St-Pierre’s conservative style drawing criticism from some, the dominance of his game paints a pretty clear path for him in this matchup.

Bisping, a stick-and-move stylist, should have the on-paper advantages for as long this fight stays standing.

Coming from a kickboxing base, we saw Bisping steadily evolve his style over the years. After his knockout loss to Henderson, the Englishman made a concerted effort to come back better and sounder than before.

Since then, we have seen Bisping improve upon his hand and head positioning, as well as sitting down more on his punches. Although his high-output approach still makes him hittable by nature, we have seen Bisping minimize these scenarios since joining forces with Jason Parillo.

A striking coach with strong boxing roots, Parillo has helped many notable fighters grow, including lightweight legend B.J. Penn. In turn, we now see Bisping move much more fluidly with his footwork, which fuels his pulling and returning preferences.

Applying angles appropriately, Bisping will also change his level more, which can open up his options and make him harder to hit. What is most impressive about the Englishman’s renaissance is the fact that he is doing it with only one healthy eye.

Shortly after his loss to Vitor Belfort, Bisping sustained an eye injury that required surgery, albeit not corrective.

Despite initially struggling in his return fight against Tim Kennedy, Bisping has since shown he can come back into combat, carrying a heightened sense of urgency and awareness about his game. Coupled with the byproducts of gelling with his striking coach, we have seen Bisping have his best years during what is arguably the winter of his career.

Still, striking improvements aside, Bisping has demonstrated that he is not beyond being taken down, which sets up the key dynamic for this fight.

Whether it’s through offensive or reactionary takedowns (that take place against the fence or in the open), I see St-Pierre inevitably getting Bisping to the ground.

The question, however, is: What will he be able to accomplish while there?

One of the best guard passers and ground strikers to grace the octagon, St-Pierre will undoubtedly have an array of options he can employ. That said, he will also be facing one of the best get-up artists in the game.

Although wrestling pressure has been Bisping’s traditional foil, he surprisingly succeeds little control time in both wins and losses. Facilitated by active hips, the Englishman beautifully utilizes a butterfly or half-guard to create enough space to stand or scoot his way to the fence.

Not afraid to turtle and stand if he needs to, Bisping displays excellent grip and hip awareness, making it difficult to grab his back in the process of getting up. St-Pierre has shown the ability to take an opponent’s back smoothly, but his conservative sensibilities had him opting for ride positions toward the latter part of his career.

Don’t get me wrong: St-Pierre electing high-percentage options is not bad in theory, but I see his style allowing Bisping to get back to this feet if the French-Canadian isn’t willing to put his pieces on the line when it comes to fighting for position.

So, with the most recent iteration of St-Pierre in mind, I have a hard time seeing Bisping getting submitted or stopped on the floor unless compromised prior. Nevertheless, takedowns score and will likely bank St-Pierre rounds, which leads me to my next question: How long will he be able to employ his transition game?

St-Pierre was known for his conditioning and pace prior, but he is coming into this fight at least 15 pounds heavier than usual, with an additional four years of ring rust on his back. Whether it’s the weight of the moment or the literal pounds put on, St-Pierre will have some on-the-job intangibles to work through.

Furthermore, the stereotype of St-Pierre’s biological makeup and transition game shine less brightly when re-watching his last three fights – matchups that ended up putting the most miles on him, statistically speaking.

Not only did the former welterweight kingpin, in my opinion, appear to be a beat slower in transit (to what was an already slimmed down and refined game), but St-Pierre also seemed to struggle with his accuracy and output numerically.

We even saw Nick Diaz, who has an otherwise vacant double-leg defense, stuff legitimate takedown attempts from St-Pierre in their last two rounds of action. It was also in the mid to late rounds in which we saw St-Pierre sustain the most damage in each of his final three performances.

These type of trends usually don’t decrease over time, but the oddsmakers and public seem to be much more optimistic for the returning legend given how competitive the betting lines have been.

Part of me is happy to see St-Pierre back, and finally taking a step up in the size of his competition. However, I also feel he’s reaching into the wrong cookie jar for multiple reasons.

In the fight game, timing is typically the first thing to go, and we’ve seen it tax the greatest names in this sport. If St-Pierre cannot find his finish on the floor, then I see him eventually succumbing to Bisping’s pace and pressure before the final bell.

Official pick: Bisping insde the distance

Official outcome: To be determined

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

Why is Georges St-Pierre a big deal? 5 fights that defined a UFC legend

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Take heed, fight fans. The return of Georges St-Pierre in a middleweight title fight with Michael Bisping at UFC 217 on Saturday is nigh at hand.

If, like me, you’re wondering why that doesn’t seem like a bigger deal to more people, maybe it’s time to consider a lot has changed in the four years since St-Pierre last fought, and those changes might include some serious shifts in the fanbase.

For instance, you could have first discovered an interest in MMA midway through your freshman year, gotten gradually more into it during your sophomore and junior years, then graduated as a wise and haggard senior all without ever having actually lived through a GSP fight.

You could have watched every moment of the last 161 UFC events, which would have taken roughly 1,000 hours of your life, and still never have seen the former longstanding welterweight champion in action.

What’s it to you if he’s coming back now? And if he’s so great, why doesn’t he have a bunch of fight-ending highlights floating around the internet? There’s not a single clip of him yelling at someone while throwing an energy drink at the guy’s head, so how important could he be?

All fair points (kind of). So here, let’s look back at the defining moments that made St-Pierre an MMA great – even if we have to peer into the non-HD vault of UFC fight footage to do it.

1. St-Pierre vs. Sean Sherk, UFC 56

It’s crazy to think GSP got his first crack at the UFC title in just his third fight with the promotion, and his eighth pro fight overall. What’s even crazier is that he lost, getting armbarred by Matt Hughes for the first loss of his career in a battle for the vacant 170-pound title belt.

It was a crushing blow for the 23 year-old St-Pierre, but a year later he was back near the top of the welterweight division, having reeled off four wins in a row. The last came against Sean Sherk, who would later become UFC lightweight champ, but on that night he was little more than a punching bag for a bigger, stronger GSP.

But what was really notable about the fight was what came after. During a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, St-Pierre literally got down on his knees and begged “UFC management” for another chance at the title. It succeeded in helping him stand out, especially since the very next fight on the card saw the champion Hughes defeat Joe Riggs via submission.

2. St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes II, UFC 65

In his rematch with the champion, St-Pierre vowed that he wouldn’t make the same mistake he did in the first fight. That mistake? “I gave him too much respect,” St-Pierre said.

He was already on the path to avoiding that error some two months before the fight, when he showed up at Hughes’ title defense against B.J. Penn at UFC 63 (a spot that was supposed to be St-Pierre’s before injury forced him out of the fight) and hugged the victorious champion before dropping one of his most famous lines.

“I’m very glad you won that fight, Matt,” St-Pierre said into the microphone. “But I’m not impressed with your performance.”

By St-Pierre standards, it was blisteringly severe trash talk. He would meet Hughes in the rematch two months later, and this time it was a different St-Pierre who showed up. Confident, aggressive, he attacked the champion with a diverse striking attack, dropping him with help from his signature Superman punch late in the first, then finishing him with a head kick followed by ground-and-pound early in the second.

At the time it felt like a monumental shift. After two long stints as champ, the first interrupted only briefly by a loss to Penn, Hughes felt like the welterweight champion of record for many MMA fans. Seeing him so easily dethroned seemed to mark the beginning of a new era – one that would continue for the better part of the next seven years, with only one brief pause …

Georges St-Pierre got revenge on Matt Serra but not before one of the most stunning upsets in MMA history.

3. St-Pierre vs. Matt Serra, UFC 69

Any conversation about the biggest upsets in MMA history must inevitably include GSP’s first fight with Serra, who came into the bout as a roughly 8-1 underdog and left as the UFC welterweight champion. This was the unthinkable in action. Serra had earned the shot by winning the welterweight division of a “comeback” season on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Coming into the bout, he seemed less like a threatening challenger and more like a man in possession of a certain kind of lottery ticket.

That all changed when Serra’s right hand found the sweet spot just behind St-Pierre’s ear. Soon the 13-1 favorite was stumbling like a newborn fawn, and Serra was swarming in for more. When the fight was finally stopped and the belt strapped around his waist, even Serra seemed to be in a state of shock.

As for GSP, he became obsessed with, in his words, “revenge.” He wanted nothing more than to beat Serra and reclaim his title. As he would later tell it, a sports psychiatrist he was working with compared his single-minded focus to a brick that was weighing him down day after day.

“He made me get a brick, and I wrote ‘Matt Serra’ on it, and he said, ‘When you are ready to release that brick and look to the future, you’re going to take this brick and throw it into the river.’ It sounds stupid, but that’s what I did,” St-Pierre said. “I think it helped me to release a lot of the negative energy that I had. Instead of focusing, I kept my eyes off of the goal. So now I’m focused again on the goal. I think this helped me a lot.”

After a decision win over Josh Koscheck, followed by a submission over Hughes in the rubber match for an interim title, St-Pierre got another shot at Serra almost exactly one year after their first fight. This time GSP took no chances. After touching gloves to start the fight, he immediately took Serra down and then began a systematic destruction that finally ended with a barrage of knees to the body of a downed and exhausted Serra late in the second round. He had avenged his only loss as champion. And he has yet to lose again.

Georges St-Pierre dominated B.J. Penn at UFC 94.

4. St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn, UFC 94

GSP’s path to winning the title in the first place had gone straight through another former champion in Penn, who he narrowly defeated via split decision after being bloodied early on in a three-round fight at UFC 58. After Penn’s follow-up loss to Hughes, he returned to lightweight, where he soon won the vacant title before defending it against Sherk, who’d been stripped of the belt after testing positive for steroids in 2007.

But Penn couldn’t seem to forget about St-Pierre, and soon he was talking about going back up in weight for a champion-vs.-champion clash with the welterweight titleholder. The UFC apparently liked the idea enough to put more promotional muscle than usual behind the bout, including a new preview show called “UFC Primetime,” which showed both men’s preparations (though it also led to some criticism of Penn’s training habits and work ethic).

St-Pierre would dominate Penn in the fight, eventually forcing a corner stoppage at the end of the fourth round, but controversy soon followed. Penn and his team pointed toward a moment earlier in the fight, when one of GSP’s coaches – muay thai specialist and general guru Phil Nurse – appeared to rub Vaseline on St-Pierre’s chest between rounds.

Penn took his complaint to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which heard from just about everyone – including Penn’s mother – in a hearing on the matter. St-Pierre and his team insisted that any violation of the rules was accidental, but for a time the accusation threatened to stick to the champion. Other previous opponents popped up with complaints that GSP felt “greasy” during their fights, though it was hard to tell what was serious accusation and what was just sour grapes.

Ultimately, the NSAC took no action against St-Pierre, and Penn had to live with the lopsided loss. Though St-Pierre would go on to defend his title seven more times, the victory over Penn was his last stoppage win to date.

Georges St-Pierre eked out a controversial win over Johny Hednricks at UFC 167.

5. St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks, UFC 167

After going to his “dark place” to beat Nick Diaz in March 2013, St-Pierre returned in November to face a dangerous contender on a six-fight winning streak. Hendricks made for an interesting opponent because he seemed to pose a new kind of challenge for St-Pierre. His background as an NCAA national champion wrestler meant he wouldn’t be as easy to take down as past opponents like Diaz and Carlos Condit, and his string of knockout victories suggested he could hurt the champion on the feet.

In a lot of ways, Hendricks lived up to those promises. Over five close rounds, Hendricks seemed to hurt St-Pierre with strikes at several points, leaving his already bruise-prone face looking like a lump of spoiled fruit by the end.

Georges St-Pierre after UFC 167.

Still, two of the three judges saw it for St-Pierre, surprising many fans and fellow fighters who thought Hendricks had done enough to take the title. In the cage after the win, GSP threw more fuel on the fire. He was “stepping away” from the sport of MMA, he told Rogan. He refused to explain why, or to say if or when he might return.

At the ensuing post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White was livid. Much of his ire was directed at the judges and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which he called “atrocious” and in need of an intervention from the governor’s office.

But as White ranted and raved – all before St-Pierre had arrived – he also complained about St-Pierre’s post-fight comments.

“He didn’t say he was going to retire,” White said of GSP. “He said, ‘I’m going to take some time off.’ You don’t just say, ‘Hey I’m going to take some time off, maybe I’ll be back, maybe I won’t.’ You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe it to this company, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again, unless you’re going to retire.”

St-Pierre, however, was resolute. He’d made up his mind. Having his boss scream at him while he was out of the room didn’t seem to soften his stance any.

“I’ve being fighting for a very long time at a high level,” St-Pierre said. “It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve decided I need to take time off. I vacated my title for the respect of other competitors. One day, when I feel like it, I might come back. But right now, I need a break.”

And that was the last we saw of him in the UFC. Until now.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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UFC 217's Johny Hendricks reports this time he's not sick, not fat – just chillin'

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NEW YORK – Former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks maintains an illness kept him from making weight in his previous fight. He playfully chided the media for reporting the information, despite the fact that he hadn’t informed anyone about it.

Now on the verge of his third bout as a middleweight, a twitchy Hendricks (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC) claimed all systems are a go for a must-win fight against Paulo Borrachinha (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at UFC 217. He said the Brazilian will have a bad night when they meet on the event’s pay-per-view main card at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“I’m not going to get sick this time,” Hendricks told reporters at Wednesday’s media day. “If I don’t get sick, it’s an easy weight cut. Easy weight cut means good fight for me.”

So far, those have been in short supply. Hendricks came in heavy for a bout against Tim Boetsch at UFC Fight Night 112, adding to a long list of weight-induced struggles outside the cage. He was stopped in the second round, bringing him to 2-5 in his past seven outings.

Hendricks has taken drastic measures to pull out of his current stall. The Texan drove across state lines to train at the famed Jackson Wink Academy in Albuquerque, N.M., getting in rounds with a bevy of top-tier UFC fighters.

The undefeated Borrachinha stands between Hendricks and redemption. The up-and-comer has stopped his past two opponents with fists. All but one of them have made it out of the first round.

“Yeah, he’s a large human being,” Hendricks said. “He feeds his muscles babies, and that’s the jist of it. All show, no go – that’s what I like to say. And we’ll find out on Saturday if they have any go in them.”

That’s likely the question most fans will be asking of Hendricks when he steps into the octagon. Looming before that fight is a battle with the scale.

Hendricks said there are many struggles behind the scenes that the public never knows about. Unlike other professions, he said, fighters have to suck it up and keep going. Plenty of times, he has come in less than 100 percent, whether he let the world know or not.

This time, though, he said everything is going just smoothly.

“I’m not sick,” he said. “I’m not fat. I’m just chillin’.”

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie