Twitter Mailbag: On Cerrone-Till, Cyborg's USADA concerns, UFC's PPV status, and more

Is “Cowboy” taking his Liverpudlian opponent lightly at UFC-Gdansk? Does Cyborg really think there’s a USADA conspiracy afoot? Is Bisping really a jerk, or does he merely want us to believe he is?

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

I doubt it. Donald Cerrone has surrounded himself with experienced professionals who can make an honest assessment of opponents regardless of ranking or name recognition. Cerrone may not have known much about Darren Till when the fight was booked, but by now I’m guessing he’s been briefed.

I don’t every worry about Cerrone taking opponents lightly, because he seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy a parking lot rumble with the toughest dude in any town as much if not more than a main event bout in a packed arena. What I always wonder is what kind of condition he’s going to show up in, because we all know that Cerrone will take fights and cash paychecks whenever he can, even if he’s injured or burned out or just not fully prepared.

And if you asked me who’s hungrier here, or who this fight means more to, that would have to be Till. But then, it’s not like Cerrone hasn’t beaten up people who really, really wanted to win before.

Cris Cyborg is what I like to call a “grievance fighter.” She’s always mad at someone, always feels she’s been wronged by powerful forces. She seems to need that motivation, as if she’s only at her best when she is struggling against a vast conspiracy.

It’s not an uncommon syndrome among pro fighters, but it seems to get worse when your critical thinking skills aren’t all that great. As Holly Holm pointed out, she’s been tested plenty by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. And it’s not up to either fighter to agree to a certain number of pre-fight tests. That part is not up to them, nor should it be. If you know how many times you’ll be tested, you know when the testing is over and it’s safe to dope.

My hope is that Cyborg understands this and is just trying to generate some hype for the fight by taking the doping accusation that follows her like a cartoon rain cloud and using it against her opponent. She’s probably also looking for the fuel that comes with feeling like the world is against her. That, or she’s just saying stuff without thinking any of it through.

1. Tony Ferguson
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov
3. Nate Diaz

In that order.

I’d be interested in seeing that data, but I’d caution against trying to use it in any official capacity. USADA tests fighters year-round, whether they’ve got a fight coming up or not. If they show up two weeks after your latest loss, when you’ve been doing nothing but countering the creeping despair with ice cream and “Deadwood” marathons, they’re probably not going to get an accurate picture of your healthy fighting weight.

But if USADA accumulated the data anonymously, just to tell us how many lightweights walk around like light heavyweights? That’s a graph I’d love to see. I’m just not sure what to do with the information.

Impartial journalism is a thing you do, not a thing you feel. Of course you’re going to form opinions on these people once you get to know them a little. They’re going to form opinions on you, too, and they don’t always express them super diplomatically. But they still deserve the same fair shake in your coverage.

Honestly, it’s not the loathsome people who present the biggest challenge – it’s the lovable ones. At least for me, it’s much harder to write negative things about people you like than it is to write positive things about people you don’t. But what’s true is true. That’s the only guiding principle that’s worth anything.

That’s a hell of a claim to make with UFC 217 staring us right in the face. You’re telling me the return of Georges St-Pierre, plus two other compelling title fights, isn’t going to break half a million buys? If you’re taking bets, give me the over on that one.

But OK, then what? Conor McGregor may or may not return to defend his lightweight title. Jon Jones may or may not end up with a lengthy suspension for his anti-doping policy violation. Ronda Rousey probably ain’t ever coming back, unless the UFC can lure her with just the right offer against someone who promises not to hit her in the face too hard.

So where on the active roster is the next pay-per-view star?

I suspect what we’ll see more of in 2018 is the kind of stacking we see with UFC 217. At one point, that card would have been GSP-Bisping and not much else.

But the UFC’s been burned by injuries and last-minute scratches often enough to appreciate the need for a backup plan or two, which in the best-case scenario results in a better overall fight card for the money. You might be tempted to sit it out and wait for the GIFs if there’s only one fight you want to see. But what if there’s three?

What we won’t see is a complete abandonment of pay-per-view. Not yet, anyway. It’s such a huge piece of the UFC’s revenue pie (see the second graph on this page) that it’d be impossible to pivot away from it without some other huge new revenue stream to take its place. And even if the UFC does get the huge new TV deal it’s hoping for, revenue projections included that money in addition to a growth in pay-per-view sales.

What may actually happen is that a new TV deal could give greater input to the broadcast partner. After all, if you were going to pay hundreds of millions to broadcast the UFC, wouldn’t you want some guarantees that you’d get more than just the leftovers the UFC thought it couldn’t sell for premium prices?

You can’t ever count out St-Pierre, but he’s asking a lot of himself here. We have no idea what he’ll look like after four years away, or how his style will translate against a bigger opponent in a weight class he’s never competed in before.

Say what you will about Michael Bisping (and we will), but these days he’s a sound defensive wrestler who wins fights with his physical and psychological endurance. It’s hard for me to see a smaller man jabbing and double-legging his way to a win over Bisping – even if that smaller man is GSP.

But if you want an explanation for the lack of consensus, look at St-Pierre’s resume. Clearly, he’s a gifted fighter who knows how to execute a game plan. And, let’s be honest, it’s not like Bisping is even one of the scarier middleweights out there. It’s not so crazy to think that GSP could surprise him. But if he does? Let’s just say I’ll be pretty surprised too.

I guess it depends how much of it you think is schtick. Or does it?

Say you’re right. Say this is all an act, and  Bisping has only been pretending to be a jerk in basically every public appearance because it generates heat with the fans and turns him into a draw. Say he’s been doing this for years, never letting the mask slip, forcing himself to go against his own personal ethos by spitting at cornermen and committing intentional fouls in his fights, all as part of a calculated ploy to make fans hate him.

If that’s the case, wouldn’t hating him be the same as rewarding him for a job well done? He’s worked hard at this. Too hard, one might even say. He deserves to be recognized and appreciated. It’s just that, in this case, you show that appreciation with boos.

But if he’s really capable of putting on that convincing an act, for that many years, then Bisping is wasting his talents in MMA.

My theory? At some point, Bisping realized that he was the bad guy. He saw that he was never going to get to wear the white hat, so the best he could hope for was to be good at wearing the black one. It just so happens that he’s very good at it. This is probably not unrelated to why fans felt the way they did about him in the first place. Like all the best schticks, this is his natural personality with the volume cranked up. And it seems to be working.

There was a time when I would have agreed with you. We aren’t UFC shareholders (wait, you’re not Guy Fieri, are you?), so why do care so much how many units the company moves, or what ratings it draws on TV?

The answer is: We care because the UFC cares. Because it clearly influences every decision the UFC makes, and very quickly. You can’t understand what the UFC is doing and why if you don’t pay attention to some of that stuff.

At the same time, it is possible to pay too much attention to it, or to see it as a catch-all excuse. Just because we understand that the UFC is motivated by profits and pay-per-view buys, that does not oblige us to go along with anything just because it serves that end.

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

MMA's week out of the cage: Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey resurface, Cerrone's rattlesnake, more

Social media has become a significant part of the sporting landscape. But few, if any, professional sports match the level of interaction and personal access provided by MMA.

In an individual competition in which nearly every athlete is chasing the same goal of financial success and championship glory, it’s important for fighters to provide insight into their lives in order to connect with fans and gain followings.

Although the life of a fighter often can be mundane and repetitive, there still are moments of interest that take place outside the cage, ring or training room. Here are some of the most interesting of those occurrences from the past week.

* * * *

Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey updates

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Weekly eats

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

UFC champ Daniel Cormier now targets 2018 for title defense against Volkan Oezdemir

UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier expects to defend his title in early 2018, facing upstart Volkan Oezdemir in his first challenge since being re-crowned as the titleholder.

“I’m going to fight Volkan,” Cormier told MMAjunkie Radio during a recent in-studio appearance. “I went to the doctor, and he advised me to take the rest of the year off because I started to contemplate fighting at the end of the December.

“(I’ll fight him) beginning of next year sometime.”

Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) held an informal social media poll to determine the opponent fans wanted him to fight, and Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who’s stormed into the UFC with three straight wins and two high-profile knockouts, came out ahead.

A recent report claimed the matchup was on target for UFC 219, which takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. But Cormier is pumping the brakes to allow himself more time to recover from the past 12 months of his career.

The matchup will Cormier back in the cage after a tumultous summer that saw him lose the belt to Jon Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) via knockout, only to get it back after Jones failed a drug test for a steroid.

Jones’ case with the UFC’s anti-doping partner, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, is currently in process, with the fighter’s team trying to uncover the source of the positive. The process could take several months, and both sides are expected to move to arbitration. Jones also is appealing a fine and suspension handed down by the California State Athletic Commission, which oversaw UFC 214.

Cormier struggled with his next move when the news of Jones’ drug failure went public. Initially, he expected a rematch as the embattled champ waited for the results of a confirmation test. After the initial findings were validated, however, he shifted gears and started to look toward the future.

A second loss to Jones left Cormier an emotional wreck in the weeks following UFC 214. But the positive test and subsequent overturning of his loss also made him question whether his reaction was justified, and it left him uncertain about how he felt about Jones, who took a gentlemanly turn after their rematch.

“Obviously, we should let due process play itself out and everything,” he said. “I worry about the human factor, because he is a father, too, and has a family. But there’s a part of me that’s still pissed off. Obviously, how do you not be pissed off when something like that happens and you feel like, ‘Man, did I really get a fair shake?’”

At the same time, Cormier can’t deny what happened in July when they met at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

“He won the fight,” Cormier said. “That’s me, the competitor. Fighters come up to me and say, ‘No, you didn’t (lose the belt).’ (UFC lightweight) Beneil Dariush was like, mad. He was like, ‘I’m so mad that you had to accept the belt back. That’s stupid. You never lost it if you didn’t get a fair shake.’ He’s like, ‘Why are you down on yourself?’ But everybody doesn’t look at competition like I do.

“For me, I lost the fight. I was there. July 29, he beat me. They can say whatever they want to say, but I lost. That’s just who I am.”

In the wake of Jones’ positive test, his second for a banned performance-enhancer and third for a banned substance, Cormier consulted experts who told him about the drug for which Jones was flagged. The information only left him more confused as to why a fighter with Jones’ gifts would take it – and upset they might have widened a gap between their competitive abilities.

“Talking to some of these guys, these things are so fast-acting, some of these drugs,” he said. “If that’s the case, it allows you to train longer and train harder. It sucks.

“Because at 38, I work hard. I do a lot. And it would feel good to wake up and not feel like death. Come Wednesday, I didn’t know you could be this sore. My ass is sore. When do you get sore in the butt cheek? It happens. If you feel like you have to do something like that, it’s unfortunate, because I don’t believe he needed to. I think he’s that good. But how do you say that?”

“I can’t jump off the side of the octagon like Anthony Pettis,” he later added. “I can’t do any of that stuff. I can try to take you down, and I can stand and strike with you, and I can grapple with you. I can’t do spinning back kicks and jump elbows. So to feel that you have to do something extra to beat me with what I bring to the table kind of sucks.”

Cormier also cites a number of stories released in the wake of his first fight with Jones at UFC 182 that question whether “Bones” may have doped given his abnormally low testosterone-to-epitestosterone (T/E) ratio, despite the fact he wasn’t flagged for an anti-doping violation.

“The T/E ratio was so jacked, it probably would have been flagged,” Cormier said. “That’s messed up. That’s something that really bugs me.”

But in the end, Cormier is resolved to move forward with his career and put the past behind him. He appreciates the fact Jones tried to turn over a new leaf in their relationship, which is why he can’t bring himself to completely condemn the now ex-champ. He is just saddened by the circumstances surrounding their second fight, and ready to turn over a new page of his own against Oezdemir.

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

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

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC champ Daniel Cormier names Volkan Oezdemir as next title challenger

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So much for due process.

Newly re-crowned light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (19-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) is moving on from Jon Jones (21-1-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) and lining up his next fight. Apparently, he’s cutting out the UFC’s matchmaking middlemen too.

Cormier announced today that he’s conducted a poll, and the surging Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) is the opponent fans want to see (via Twitter):

In theory, Cormier’s schedule would be held up by the resolution of his saga with Jones. The now-former champ has yet to resolve his case with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, and the California State Athletic Commission, which overturned his knockout win over Cormier at UFC 214 when a failed steroid test was confirmed.

Cormier urged fans to give Jones due process, and even told them to let up after his “B” sample delivered bad news. But with the ex-champ facing a potential four-year ban, he’s shifting focus to his second reign as champion.

That’s where Oezdemir, who’s No. 7 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light-heavyweight rankings, comes in. The Swiss striking phenom has burst onto the scene at 205 pounds, knocking out top contenders Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa to get into the title mix. After knocking out Manuwa at UFC 214, he called for a title shot.

Before Jones, who’s still ranked No. 1, popped positive, Oezdemir called out two-time title challenger and No. 5-ranked Alexander Gustafsson to “increase the value of the next title shot” and decide the “real king of Europe.” After a knockout of onetime title challenger Glover Teixeira in May, Gustafsson was the most credible threat to Oezdemir’s No. 1 contender’s spot.

Now, it’s a whole new world. But here’s the thing about those UFC middlemen: They have to send the bout contracts that make your poll official. We’ll see if No. 2-ranked Cormier gets one.

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

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

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Jon Jones (not that one), Joe Lauzon, Eric Nicksick, Jason Buchamer

Filed under: News, UFC

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Jon Jones (not that one), Joe Lauzon, Eric Nicksick and Jason Buchamer.

Jones the game developer (not to be confused with Jon Jones the UFC fighter) has become an MMA semi-celebrity of sorts due to his humorous @jonjones Twitter account. Lauzon fights Clay Guida at UFC Fight Night 120. Nicksick, our in-studio guest host, is Xtreme Couture’s general manager and head coach. Buchamer, MMAjunkie Radio’s former intern, recaps the latest “The Ultimate Fighter 26” happenings.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to www.mandalaybay.com.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Refusing to pile on Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier urges fans to lay off criticism for failed drug test

Daniel Cormier is now going to bat for Jon Jones.

The newly minted UFC light heavyweight champion today thanked fans for their support and urged them not to beat up on Jones (21-1-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC), who was stripped of the belt after confirmation of his failed drug test at UFC 214.

“I have never felt so much love,” Cormier (19-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) wrote today on his Instagram account. “It’s crazy because this all happened when I lost. Guys now I call upon you to take a breathe, lay off of Jones. Let him and his team figure out what’s going on and what happened.

“I was down and some may have kicked me but the majority of you showed compassion and love. After the fight Jones showed compassion, regardless of what has happened as humans we must show compassion. Jon is not on this ride alone, remember this man has a family. Let’s respect that. You don’t show ur support for me by hurting others.”

Instagram Photo

After knocking out Cormier in the third round of UFC 214’s headliner, Jones seemed to turn over a new leaf with his longtime rival. He didn’t exit the fight with an obscene gesture or mock Cormier’s tears. Instead, he thanked Cormier for being his biggest foil and motivator.

“He has been a model champion, a model husband, a model father, a teammate, a leader, and I aspire to be a lot more like that man,” Jones said moments after his win. “Unfortunately we were opponents, but outside of that, he is a true champion for the rest of his life.”

That was before both of their lives were completely upended – again – by another Jones failed drug test.

Reeling from his sudden reversal of fortune, Cormier said Jones’ UFC 214 positive was “very emotional” and said he didn’t know what to think anymore about Jones.

“I can’t believe we are going through all of this again,” he said in a prepared statement. “We will see what happens next.”

When the UFC decided to strip Jones of the belt, however, Cormier struck a more critical tone, defending the promotion’s move. He also admitted money was a factor in accepting the belt.

“People will say stuff like, ‘Well, you got handed the belt,’” Cormier said. “He cheated, and the reality is, for me to say I don’t want this title when I was going to be in championship fight anyways, financially it’s just a big difference if I don’t fight as the champion as opposed to fighting for a vacant title. I’m taking the belt.”

Now, Cormier is taking the high road as Jones prepares to mount another defense for why he failed his second USADA drug test. As Jones’ prominent anti-doping attorney Howard Jacobs has indicated, the ex-champ didn’t knowingly ingest any banned substances for UFC 214. It’s the same argument from a failed test at UFC 200, which ultimately led to a one-year suspension.

This time, Jones will need a pretty good defense to keep him from a potential four-year ban from USADA.

Whatever the ultimate verdict, Cormier wants his followers to respect Jones.

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

The MMA Road Show with John Morgan No. 129 – Las Vegas: Roy Nelson, 'Canelo' Alvarez, 'GGG,' Russ from Boston

Episode No. 129 of “The MMA Road Show with John Morgan” podcast is now available for streaming and download.

MMAjunkie lead staff reporter John Morgan hosts the show while traveling the world to cover the sport.

The boys are back together in Vegas, and longtime MMAjunkie hardcore Russ from Boston is in town for a little vacation and joins for a packed episode. Jon Jones news dominates the conversation, but this week’s UFC Fight Night 116 event is on the mind, as well as next week’s Bellator 183, which includes the debut of Roy Nelson, who talks with John Morgan. Cold Coffee adds in some coverage of this week’s big Saul Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin boxing fight, and there’s news discussion – both in and out of the sport – along the way.

Listen below, or check it out on iTunes or at themmaroadshow.com. You can also subscribe via RSS.

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

Twitter Mailbag: Is this too high a price to pay for a clean(er) UFC?

The UFC’s anti-doping program can be a bummer for fans, but does that mean we’d be better off without it? Plus, did we all get what we deserved, in one way or another, with the main event scratch at UFC 215?

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

Those are all pretty frustrating, though when you group them together like that it does make the “money fight” phenomenon seem a lot less annoying, because at least that one results in a fight.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency thing is a different matter. With some of the recent suspensions, I think a lot of people have started to wonder just how clean they really need this sport to be. We don’t want to feel like every main event is a glorified science experiment, but would that be better than no main events at all?

Plus, people are starting to wonder whether USADA is really catching dopers and cheats, or just a bunch of careless supplement shoppers. Of course, then we’d have to ask ourselves why it is that MMA fighters seem so prone to accidentally ingesting steroids, when other sports don’t seem to have the same problem, or at least not this often.

It really comes down to a simple question: Do we care about fighters doping or not? If we do, then I’m not sure we really want to complain that USADA is doing too good a job at catching them. Whatever you think of how that turinabol got in Jon Jones’ system, the positive B sample tells us that it was there. Until there’s a test developed that can tell us if someone actually meant to cheat, we have to accept that result and move on.

Unless you’re in the camp that says we shouldn’t care about doping. And, honestly, I can see how some people might be feeling that way right now. Wouldn’t it be more fun for fans if a bunch of awesomely doped-up fighters smashed each other with all manner of spinning stuff well into their forties?

And, yeah, that would probably be fun to watch, at least as long as you could ignore the human costs associated with it. A sport where doping is allowed will quickly become a sport where doping is required. Some drugs might speed your recovery time from nagging injuries, but they won’t do a thing to protect your brain from the consequences of all this trauma.

That’s exactly what has happened in the hours since you asked this question, although it wasn’t necessarily an automatic move. The outcome of the fight is handled by the commission, but the belt is the UFC’s. The promotion can do what it likes with it, as California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster confirmed when I spoke to him last week.

The options here were limited. Either you give the light heavyweight belt back to Daniel Cormier, or you leave it vacant until someone can officially win it.

But does Cormier feel like the champ? Maybe, if you can convince yourself that Jones only beat him (both times) with some help from performance-enhancing drugs. If you’re more willing to buy any combination of tainted supplement defenses, it gets a little tougher.

The real problem for Cormier’s title legitimacy is that there’s almost nothing he can realistically do about it. He’s already beaten most of the other top 205-pounders, so any victory over a light heavyweight not named Jon Jones will just feel like rehashing old arguments rather proving something new. That’s a tough spot to be in, especially when you’re the one who didn’t do anything wrong.

Ha, good one. As if Dana White could “make” Conor McGregor do anything he doesn’t want to do right now.

via GIPHY

Seems like Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg is slated for UFC 216 now, assuming Borg can steer clear of viral illnesses in the meantime. If that holds, it’ll mean the top three bouts look like this:

  • Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
  • Johnson vs. Borg
  • Derrick Lewis vs. Fabricio Werdum

I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me. Now we just have to hope all those fights are still on the card come Oct. 7.

It’s tricky, because one of the first questions we have to ask is who would issue the ban.

The penalties under the UFC’s current anti-doping program are pretty stiff, with suspensions potentially doubling after each offense. But if the ban came from USADA and the UFC, then the UFC would pretty much have to release the fighter from his contract. If that happened with someone like Jones, you know Bellator would be blowing up his phone trying to cut a deal.

Even if a lifetime ban came from an athletic commission and made it impossible to get a license, that wouldn’t stop someone like Jones from ending up in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve, fighting a sumo wrestler in a one-night tournament (and the wind whispered: “Baruto…”).

Try, for a moment, to imagine that as a bad thing rather than a good one.

If you’re referring to this explanation, it leaves a little to be desired. Amanda Nunes repeatedly extended the fingers of her outstretched hand while fighting Valentina Shevchenko. John McCarthy would warn her, she’d stop for a little while, then she’d do it again.

I can see how someone might argue that as long as there’s no problem as long as there’s no actual eye poke, but that seems flawed to me. If you’re standing there with your fingers outstretched in the general region of my face, I have to weigh the possibility of getting poked when I consider coming forward.

And if I do get my retinas jabbed, hey, you might lose a point, but I might lose full vision for a few minutes or more. That could be enough of an advantage for you that the penalty on the scorecards doesn’t matter.

Maybe a little, but close fights always seem to bring out the worst in us. Georges St-Pierre was super popular when he won that decision over Johny Hendricks in his last UFC fight, and still we had to watch Dana White’s head change colors as he called for the governor of Nevada to look into the state athletic commission.

Shevchenko can be mad if she wants, but if she’s watched this sport for any length of time I don’t see how she can be surprised. She spent most of the fight trying to counter with her back nearly touching the fence. I’m not saying you can’t win a decision that way, but you can just as easily lose one if you don’t make it super clear that you’re the one doing the damage.

Francis Ngannou. He’s a heavyweight, and fans love the big guys. He’s also relatively young (31), so you could still get some mileage out of him. Plus he’s never lost in the UFC, so Dana White can’t claim that he’s on the way down and Bellator’s only reviving the rejects.

Ngannou is a huge dude who puts people away and dresses like a particularly rad Bond villain. If properly hyped, you could do a lot with a guy like that.

What, you didn’t hear? It was a “viral illness.” Nothing at all to do with the weight cut. It just so happened to hit him as he was cutting weight, which is itself a process that hasn’t gone well for him recently. What a coincidence.

People have jumped on this turn of events as proof that Johnson should have fought T.J. Dillashaw instead. What they forget is that Dillashaw has never made 125 pounds in the UFC, whereas Borg has at least proven that he can do it some of the time.

Also, let’s not forget that Johnson was willing to take the fight if the UFC would give him certain financial guarantees in the event that Dillashaw didn’t make the weight. That’s probably because Johnson was smart enough to anticipate a situation just like this, where he trains but doesn’t get paid, and now has to do it all over again a month from now.

My prediction for this one was that we’d all complain until the fight got closer, in part because it feels like we’ve been hearing about this fight for years now, but once fight time arrived we’d get at least a little bit hyped. I still think that’s what will happen, and you’re right that the complete lack of other big fights on the horizon has a lot to do with it.

Is this a kind of silly fight? Yes. Are there much better things that the middleweight champ could be doing, now that we have a wealth of middleweight contenders? Absolutely. Does that mean I’ll sit out the return of GSP? Not on your life.

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

Mike Winkeljohn defends Jon Jones, doubts he'd fight again after 4-year ban

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What will happen to Jon Jones if he receives the maximum penalty from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency? Nobody knows for sure.

It can’t be a good sign, though, that Jones’ long-time coach, Mike Winkeljohn, isn’t confident he can rebound from such a devastating blow.

“I don’t know,” Winkeljohn told Submission Radio on Thursday. “If it’s a four-year (suspension), I think it could be just that kind of devastation (that stops Jon from coming back) and, which like I said, it’s not fair, you know?”

Jones, who has denied knowingly cheating, came up dirty at UFC 214 after a post-weigh-ins drug test revealed metabolites of the steroid turinabol in his system. As a result, the California State Athletic Commission overturned his July 29 knockout win over Daniel Cormier, who the UFC reinstated as light heavyweight champion.

Jones (21-1-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) is likely headed to arbitration with USADA in an attempt to clear his name of a second doping violation and faces up to a four-year suspension. Winkeljohn maintains that Jones did not knowingly cheat.

“He messed up in that maybe he took something that someone said was fine, but he’s not doing it thinking, ‘I’m taking steroids’ or something, you know,” Winkeljohn said. “And that’s the part that’s terrible. He’d be devastated at four years. Who knows, you know? Just, that’s just a long time to just spiral downhill, where bad things can happen.

“So that one scares me. If it’s a year, Jon Jones will come back and dominate the world again, I do believe.”

Jones last year failed a test at UFC 200, which canceled his title-unifying main event with Cormier. Jones’ explanation was that he took a tainted sexual enhancement pill containing estrogen blockers that work in conjunction with steroids. He used that defense during arbitration with USADA, which stopped short of declaring him a cheater, though he was still handed a one-year suspension for negligence.

In the lead-up to UFC 214, Jones passed out-of-competition urine tests on July 6 and July 7 and also passed a blood test conducted on fight night. USADA, however, cautioned it was too early to draw conclusions since turinabol is detected only in urine. Jones’ failed test took place July 28 after weigh-ins.

Winkeljohn believes negligence is at play again, adding that it’s unfair Jones is already guilty in the court of public opinion.

“Jon Jones had been tested multiple times going through the fight camp,” Winkeljohn said. “He would not do something like that. The problem is the public perception. They think he’s got these needles and shoving steroids in his arms when, don’t get me wrong, I understand Jon has messed up in the past. He’s got caught drinking and driving. He’s done some bad things. He’s done things that are idiotic. But he’s grown up.

“As far as taking steroids, what he’s been busted for is, you know, taking a Viagra Cialis from Mexico that had something in it. That’s not steroids, but it came up that way. And if I had to guess, it’s going to come out that there’s been something that he took to re-hydrate himself after his cut or somewhere in that style, that time that was some kind of – what do I want to say – some kind of substance that he thought was just a supplement, that someone said, ‘Hey, this will make you feel better. It’s got electrolytes in it and stuff.’

“But it was tainted. And everybody thinks, ‘Yeah, that’s just an excuse.’ But, no, really, that’s it. That’s what it’s going to be.”

For complete coverage of UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Jon Jones on failed UFC 214 drug test: 'I would never do steroids'

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Jon Jones has finally spoken out – in the form of a tweet.

Jones, who failed a drug test after weigh-ins for his UFC 214 knockout of Daniel Cormier, responded to one of his follower’s asking him to “just tell the truth.” Jones’ response was a staunch denial.

“Dude the truth is I would never do steroids, I put that on my children and I put that on my Heavenly Father”

Jones’ response all but confirms what we already knew: that he’s headed for arbitration with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in an attempt to clear his name after metabolites for the steroid turinabol were detected in his urine during a post-weigh-ins test administered July 28.

Jones (21-1-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) originally was flagged for a potential doping violation Aug. 22; his B sample also tested positive. As a result, the California State Athletic Commission, which regulated the July 29 headliner at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., overturned Jones’ win to a no-contest. The UFC, in turn, responded by stripping Jones of the light heavyweight belt and reinstated Cormier as champion, a decision Cormier (19-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) believes was “the right thing to do.”

Jones last year failed a test at UFC 200, which canceled his title-unifying main event with Cormier. Jones’ explanation was that he took a tainted sexual enhancement pill containing estrogen blockers that work in conjunction with steroids. He used that defense during arbitration with USADA, which stopped short of declaring him a cheater, though he was still handed a one-year suspension for negligence.

If found guilty this time, Jones faces up to a four-year ban.

For complete coverage of UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie