Today in MMA history: Conor McGregor knocks out Jose Aldo, going from jester to king in 13 seconds

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Months of buildup. Dozens of interviews. Thousands of miles traveled and multiple countries visited on a press tour that seemed to go on forever. Then 13 seconds in the cage.

That was how the saga of Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo finally ended on Dec. 12, 2015. You couldn’t have missed the months of pre-fight hype if you tried. But the fight itself came and went in less time than it would take you to run to the kitchen and get a fresh beer out of the fridge.

Just like that, one era ended and another began. The jester had become king, and the king had become the past. After that, the featherweight division – and arguably the UFC itself – would never be quite the same.

Somehow, this all started with Dennis Siver. In January 2015, McGregor traveled to Boston to meet the stoically inoffensive German featherweight in the main event of UFC Fight Night 59.

Did this seem like it was even intended to be a serious challenge to the streaking McGregor, who’d stormed into the UFC two years prior and reeled off four straight wins while his fame snowballed into an unstoppable force? Not really.

What it seemed like was a setup. Especially after the Irishman had proven his drawing power in a win over Diego Brandao at a UFC Fight Pass-only event from Dublin, the UFC clearly wanted to be all the way in the McGregor business. So it booked him opposite Siver, a good-but-not-great featherweight who seemed to be slowing down in his mid-30s.

“This fight in Boston,” UFC President Dana White said a couple weeks prior, “if (McGregor) wins, he’s going to fight for the title.”

Of course he won. That was the whole point. But a second-round TKO of Siver didn’t make quite enough noise to please McGregor, so after the fight he leapt over the octagon fence and made a beeline for UFC featherweight champion Aldo, who was sitting at cageside.

The confrontation was brief, but tense. With beefy security types quickly intervening between the two men, McGregor leaned toward Aldo’s face with the wide-eyed stare of a madman. Aldo couldn’t stop grinning. The whole thing was just so funny, he explained later.

“He is a fool, and just kept opening his mouth,” Aldo said. “It just made me laugh.”

This would become Aldo’s standard response to McGregor’s many provocations.

At the event, he showed off a poster depicting McGregor as a court jester. “Go Joker, Go…” it read. “Make me laugh.”

Jose Aldo

After four years as the only featherweight champion the UFC had ever known, it hardly even needed to be said that, at least for the purposes of this metaphor, Aldo was the king.

The fight was set for UFC 189 in July. To promote what it expected to be a blockbuster affair, the UFC took both fighters on a two-week media tour that traveled from Brazil to the U.S. to Ireland, all so fans could work themselves into a frenzy as the two men jawed at one another from opposite sides of a dais.

Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor

Aldo may have started out trying to dismiss McGregor’s antics as harmlessly idiotic, but by the end, he was nearly boiling over. In Dublin, McGregor reached over the podium and seized Aldo’s UFC title belt, holding it over his head as the Irish fans cheered and Dana White tried to restrain the enraged Aldo.

With that image alone, the media tour seemed to have served its purpose.

White later claimed the UFC had spent more money promoting that fight than any other in UFC history. That made it sting all the more when, a few weeks before UFC 189, Aldo withdrew with a rib injury.

The UFC president didn’t take the news well. He accused Aldo and his camp of overplaying the injury, making a bruised rib sound like a broken one. He appeared on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” alongside McGregor to criticize Aldo’s record of pulling out of title fights. Instead, White said, former title challenger Chad Mendes would step in on short notice to fight McGregor for the interim featherweight title.

As for Aldo?

“If a man is scared for his life, we cannot force him to step in and face me,” McGregor said on ESPN. “I feel he is afraid. The doctors have cleared him to fight. It’s a (rib) bruise, but he has still pulled out.”

Even with the late change of opponents, UFC 189 was an unqualified success. The UFC pulled out all the stops with its production, both on pay-per-view and in the arena, with Sinead O’Connor singing McGregor’s entrance music live inside MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Conor Mcgregor and Chad Mendes at UFC 189. (USA TODAY Sports)

And, after a shaky first round in which he was easily taken down by Mendes and bloodied on the mat, McGregor rebounded to knock out an exhausted Mendes in the final seconds of Round 2.

Now the Irishman was the interim champ, and to the tune of more than 800,000 pay-per-view buys, according to reports. The live-gate figures also broke a U.S. record for MMA, according to UFC officials, with just north of $7 million flowing in through ticket sales.

But the fight with Mendes left some doubts. Yes, McGregor had finally defeated a strong wrestler, but one who took the fight on short notice. Plus, his takedown defense was clearly lacking. After being given such a well-manicured path to the title, was McGregor really ready for a focused and prepared champion like Aldo?

We finally got the chance to find out that December. Atop a star-studded fight card that featured Chris Weidman defending his middleweight title against Luke Rockhold (while Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza battled beneath them to see who had next), Aldo-McGregor was the unquestioned headliner.

Before the event, White predicted another record-breaker, saying that UFC 194 was on track to be “the biggest thing we’ve ever done.” Sure enough, live gate figures topped $10 million, according to UFC officials, breaking the U.S. record set by McGregor’s previous fight.

At the weigh-ins, a grinning Aldo and a skeletal McGregor had to be separated by White. The arena practically shook with the raucous cheers of the Irish fans, and all with still a day to go before the fight itself.

Asked for prediction before the fight, McGregor explained that he saw himself slipping Aldo’s right hand and coming back with his own powerful left.

“I see him KO’d inside one (round),” McGregor said.

More than 16,000 fans packed MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas that night. More than a million more watched on pay-per-view.

McGregor entered first, grinning his madman’s grin as he draped himself the Irish flag. A tense and serious Aldo followed a few moments later. The longtime champion looked especially nervous as he waited in his corner, head down, swaying from side to side.

Only referee John McCarthy, standing quietly with his arms crossed, seemed capable of underplaying the magnitude of the moment. When McCarthy gave the pre-fight instructions and offered the fighters the chance to tough gloves, neither man moved.

“Conor looks extremely loose,” UFC commentator Joe Rogan said, as McGregor crouched in his corner, mouthing words that were immediately lost in the din of the crowd. “And Aldo looks like he’s feeling the pressure of this moment.”

At the signal to fight, McGregor bounded out to the center of the cage, his lead right hand extended as Aldo stalked forward. McGregor fired a straight left, and Aldo replied with a counter left hook that came up short. McGregor stabbed a kick at Aldo’s thigh, forcing him back, but only for a moment.

Then it was if Aldo had had enough. He came forward pumping his left, missing with his right and landing his left – just as he walked directly into McGregor’s stiff left hand.

The instant the punch landed, it was as if Aldo’s feet stopped working, while his forward momentum carried his upper body on ahead. He crashed to the mat, rolling onto his side as McGregor stood over him and pounded at his unguarded head with two straight left-hand hammerfists.

Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo

By the time McCarthy shoved him off to stop it, only 13 seconds had gone by.

“Unbelievable,” Rogan said. “The first punch he threw. Slept him.”

As Aldo was being helped to his feet, McGregor celebrated atop the cage before jumping down and jogging around the perimeter, once again draped in his flag.

“The first man to beat Aldo in over a decade,” UFC commentator Mike Goldberg said. “The fastest title fight finish ever, bettering Ronda Rousey’s 14-second armbar.”

Aldo could only stalk the cage, covering his face with a towel as he shook his head. When he came to the center of the cage for the official announcement, he traded a few words with McGregor before standing with his hands on his hips, staring at the mat while blood leaked from a cut on the bridge of his nose.

“He’s powerful, and he’s fast,” McGregor said of Aldo in the post-fight interview. “But precision beats power, and timing beats speed. And that’s what you saw there.”

By the time the post-fight press conference rolled around, McGregor was already talking about his next goal – the UFC lightweight title. His coaches later admitted that the cut to featherweight was a brutal one for him, and one they might prefer him never to make again. But in the immediate aftermath, McGregor was adamant about becoming – and staying – a two-division champion.

“I’ll tell you one thing that won’t be happening,” McGregor said. “If I got up to that lightweight division, there is no way in hell that I am vacating my belt. That is not happening. There will be a belt on one shoulder and a belt on the other shoulder.”

And there was, at least for a time. By then, no one was laughing at the joker anymore.

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

“Today in MMA History” is an MMAjunkie series created in association with MMA History Today, the social media outlet dedicated to reliving “a daily journey through our sport’s history.”

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Source: MMA Junkie

Frankie Edgar nearing return from 'freak accident,' wants UFC champ Max Holloway in March

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FRESNO, Calif. – Frankie Edgar is hoping to reschedule his UFC featherweight championship fight with Max Holloway in the first quarter of next year after a training injury forced him to withdraw from the original matchup.

Less than four weeks out from UFC 218 earlier this month, Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC) suffered a broken orbital bone in training. He was unable to compete against Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC), who beat replacement opponent Jose Aldo (26-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) with a third-round TKO.

Edgar said he will be cleared in the coming days and is ready to fight Holloway as soon as UFC 222 in March. He’s disappointed he couldn’t challenge “Blessed” the first time around, and although he got some criticism from UFC President Dana White for his injury, Edgar doesn’t feel it was an easily avoidable occurrence.

“You got to crack eggs to make an omelette sometimes, unfortunately,” Edgar told MMAjunkie. “I’ve been in this game for a long time. That’s never happened. Nothing crazy, I wasn’t being negligent, just sparring. To get ready for a guy like Max Holloway you’ve got to spar decent. Four weeks, I wish I could go back and maybe change things, but it’s just the way it goes.

“I think it was a freak accident,” he continued. “It’s tough to not take hits. I’m training for a fight, have guys punching and kicking at me. It was really a freak accident. I’m really not anticipating something like that to happen again.”

Edgar described the emotion of pulling out of UFC 218 as “heartbreaking.” He was forced to witness Holloway successfully defend the belt from the sidelines and said it only made him more eager to share the octagon with the Hawaiian titleholder.

“It felt like a death the in the family,” Edgar said. “It felt like a loss. I trained hard and didn’t really get to compete. Watching the fight, it left a pit in my stomach the whole time. But I’m looking to re-book that fight and looking to get in there with Holloway as soon as he’s able.

“I think it’s the fight that makes most sense. We haven’t fought. He’s kind of running through everybody. Let’s me and him get it done. We had a plan. I know the fans want to see it. I’m pretty sure Max wants to fight me, so let’s make it happen.”

Nicknamed “The Answer,” Edgar believes he’s the 145-pound contender best suited to halt Holloway’s 12-fight UFC winning streak. Holloway has been one of the UFC’s best fighters over the past half decade, but former lightweight champ Edgar has been with the organization for over a decade, and he’s done quite well in that time.

“I’m just going to give the credit to Holloway,” Edgar said. “Aldo looked good first and second round, then Holloway turned it on just like the first fight. The guy is phenomenal. He throws a bunch of punches. He’s a tough mountain to climb right now.”

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

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Joe Rogan: Max Holloway 'best 145er ever' after UFC 218 title defense vs. Jose Aldo

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UFC commentator Joe Rogan is all in on “The Blessed Era.”

Rogan said on this past weekend’s UFC 218 broadcast that Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) took the label of “best featherweight in UFC history” when he beat former longtime champ Jose Aldo (26-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) by third-round TKO for the second time in six months. It was a phenomenal feat and currently “Blessed” is doing things others in the sport can’t match.

At 26, Holloway already holds a bevy of 145-pound and overall UFC records. He refuses to call himself the greatest of all time until he holds every single record to himself, and while his humility is admirable, Rogan had no such restraint on the “JRE MMA Show” podcast.

“He’s the baddest mother(expletive) ever,” Rogan said. “I think he’s the best 145er ever. He doesn’t yet because of the record, which I see his point, but the way he fights, the octagon IQ he shows, his fight IQ, his ability to find a weakness, his predatory behavior inside the octagon: I think he’s the best. I really do. It’s so impressive to me.”

Rogan said he doesn’t want to discredit Aldo’s accomplishments while speaking so highly of Holloway. The Brazilian went more than 10 years without a loss and defended the UFC title seven times during his reign, compared to Holloway, who has one defense.

After their two fights there’s no doubt Holloway is the superior fighter to Aldo, but when judging their historical accomplishments and overall resume, there’s still a debate to be had for most. Just not Rogan.

“Aldo in his prime was spectacular and amazingly impressive,” Rogan said. “His flying knee first-round knockout of Cub Swanson, his knockout of Chad Mendes, the Urijah Faber fight. He’s unquestionably one of the greats of all time. But in my opinion, skill wise, Max Holloway has passed him. I think he’s the best.”

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

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Cub Swanson: Max Holloway 'played with Jose Aldo's ego' in UFC 218 title defense

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FRESNO, Calif. – Color Cub Swanson impressed by Max Holloway’s stoppage win over Jose Aldo in his featherweight title defense this past weekend at UFC 218.

Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) has shared the cage with both men and currently stands as one of the top contenders to Holloway’s 145-pound belt. He looks to improve his argument for a crack at the gold when he meets Brian Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 headliner, which takes place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Swanson never has lacked respect for either Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) or Aldo (26-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC). He lost to both men by stoppage during their respective bouts, and while he fully believes the rematches would go differently, he said he admires how “Blessed” conquered the Brazilian not once, but twice.

“I thought it was a great performance,” Swanson told MMAjunkie. “I’ve always known (Holloway) as being tough and just having good cardio, but I’ll say I really underestimated how smart of a fighter he is. He went in there and just played with Aldo’s ego. I think that Aldo looked better than he has in the past, but he still had that one weakness, and Holloway just kind of poked at him, poked at him, poked him. Then when (Aldo) got frustrated he gassed himself out when he (went) for the kill. He took him out in the same round both fights, like clockwork. I’ve got to give him points for that.”

Swanson faced off with Aldo at WEC 41 in June 2009 and lost by flying-knee knockout in eight seconds. He’s pursued a rematch in the time since, but it’s never come together. Swanson said he would still like to fight “Scarface” again but not as much as he would like the chance at Holloway.

The belt in Holloway’s possession is what Swanson desires most. He suffered a third-round submission loss to the Hawaiian at UFC on FOX 15 in April 2015 and would happily enjoy a shot at redemption, along with a title fight.

“I would love to (rematch Aldo); it’s just the fact I would like to get a title fight first,” Swanson said. “It’s like my list of priorities. It’s a little lower than a title fight. What was frustrating when he called me out and said he wanted to fight me, he knew I was in a better position than him at the time. I’m thinking, ‘Man, if you would have beat Max we would be fighting, and I would be getting paid triple what I’m getting paid to fight you now.’ It just doesn’t seem as intriguing. Title fight is No. 1, because I’m trying to make the big money and get the big fight.”

Swanson believes he can get his elusive title fight with a strong performance at UFC Fight Night 123. He’s already riding a four-fight winning streak, and he believes pushing that to five could mean leapfrogging Frankie Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC), who appears to be the likely next contender to Holloway’s belt.

The situation gets even trickier, though, because UFC Fight Night 123 marks the final bout on Swanson’s UFC contract. There will be plenty to figure out win or lose, but assuming he wins and sticks around, he believes he’s done more than enough for the opportunity.

“I think people jump people all the time,” Swanson said. “It sucks what happened to Frankie, but he had the title fight. He had to pull out. In a sense, I’ve been in that situation before, and somebody else is going to step up. That’s the reason I had to fight Frankie the first time when I was promised a title fight, because they told me if I didn’t fight him that Conor (McGregor) was going to pass me up by beating Dennis Siver, which is a joke, but yes. They made me fight him for my fourth consecutive No. 1 contender fight. I think a win with Ortega, a real big win, would be huge. If they don’t want to give me the show, then whatever.”

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

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Max Holloway after UFC 218 title defense vs. Jose Aldo: 'This is what kings do … defend their thrones'

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Backstage at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, as he prepared for Jose Aldo in his first title defense, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway was calm, cool and collected.

Sounds like the ideal scenario, doesn’t it? Except for the fact that Holloway admits he’s usually on edge before he steps inside the octagon. But this time at UFC 218, before the first fight of the “Blessed Era,” things were different, as he explained Tuesday on MMAjunkie Radio.

“I was kind of nervous how relaxed I was,” Holloway said.

For Holloway, who just turned 26 on Monday, the feeling is part of getting comfortable with who he is as a fighter – and now as a champion. That showed in the pay-per-view headliner over the weekend, with Holloway scoring a second TKO win over Aldo to retain the 145-pound gold he claimed six months earlier from the former champ.

Consider these facts: Holloway extended his career-high winning streak to 12 fights, and he hasn’t lost since August 2013. Holloway became the youngest fighter in UFC history to earn 15 wins with the promotion.

And Holloway’s 12-fight winning streak is the fifth longest in UFC history behind Anderson Silva (16), Jon Jones (13), Demetrious Johnson (13), and Georges St-Pierre (13). Yes, those are the names Holloway is now among.

“It’s great to restore order back into the division,” Holloway said. “This is what kings do. Kings defend their thrones, and I’m glad I was able to defend mine.”

And he did it against a better version of Aldo than in their first fight, but that’s what Holloway was expecting all along.

“Before the fight, they released an article on (Aldo) talking about his motivation for the fight, and the motivation was his daughter. The daughter watched the last fight and so on, and he didn’t want to leave the bitter taste of that last fight in is daughter’s mouth,” Holloway said. “When I read that, I knew I was getting the best Jose Aldo. He was motivated.”

And as Holloway did following their first fight, he continued to show Aldo respect by heaping praise on the man who ruled the division for a decade.

“That guy shouldn’t worry. He should not worry,” Holloway said. “He doesn’t owe anybody anything. He’s the greatest of all time in my book. I believe Rio, Brazil should be celebrating him. In all the favelas, they should be making statues of the man. The man is a living, walking legend.”

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

For complete coverage of UFC 218, check out the UFC Events 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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Despite UFC 218 loss to champion Max Holloway, ex-champ Jose Aldo 'always optimistic'

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He kept it short and sweet, but former long-reigning UFC champ Jose Aldo has spoken up after this past Saturday’s title loss.

Aldo (26-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) met champ Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) at UFC 218, which aired on pay-per-view from Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit. The headliner, which served as a rematch of their title-unifier at UFC 212 in June, ended the same way their first meeting did: with a third-round TKO win for Holloway.

The fallen champ took some punishment leading up to the stoppage, but afterward received tons of praise and support from the defending champion, from UFC President Dana White and from a number of this teammates, family and friends on social media.

On Tuesday, the Brazilian took the time to thank everyone for the support and reassure them that, despite suffering the first skid of his career, he remains optimistic.

“I can only thank my family that I love for everything, my team Nova Uniao, the best in the world, for making me great and champion, and the fans who are always with me,” Aldo said. “Thank you very much to everyone. I will always be optimistic, because believing is the first step toward making it happen.” (via Instagram)

Instagram Photo

Aldo stepped in on short-notice to replace former 155-pound champion and two-time 145-pound title challenger Frankie Edgar, who left the card early last month due to injury. By doing so, the Brazilian had to withdraw from a previous appointment with Ricardo Lamas, set for UFC on FOX 26.

Holloway, who just turned 26, has extended his streak to 12 wins in a row. The champ’s last loss was to current 155-pound champ Conor McGregor. Aldo, in turn, has suffered losses in three of his last four UFC bouts – snapping nearly a decade of invincibility in MMA.

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

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UFC President Dana White, champ Max Holloway praise 'legend' Jose Aldo after UFC 218 loss

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Featherweight champion Max Holloway and UFC President Dana White had only positive things to say about Jose Aldo following another loss by the Brazilian at UFC 218.

After going unbeaten for more than a decade and etching a place in history as the most decorated 145-pound fighter in Zuffa history, Aldo (26-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) is now riding back-to-back losses for the first time. He’s dropped two of his past three overall after falling short to Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) this past weekend.

In a rematch of a June fight at UFC 212, which he lost by third-round TKO, Aldo was against stopped by Holloway’s strikes in the third round of the UFC 218 headliner, which took place at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

When an all-time great fighter begins to slide, it’s common for some revisionist history to come into play when looking at his or her body of work. It’s likely Aldo will fall victim to that, as well, but Holloway said that shouldn’t be the case. He hopes the world will recognize Aldo for his accomplishments, even if his championship days are behind him.

“That guy, he should know he shouldn’t have to owe anyone anything,” Holloway said UFC 218. “That guy’s one of the greatest of all time. I think Brazil should be building statues of that guy in all the favelas. He’s a legend,. He’s the GOAT. I’ve got a lot to fill.”

UFC boss White, who has promoted Aldo fights in the UFC for more than seven years, echoed Holloway’s sentiments about “Scarface.” At 31 and with UFC losses only to current champions Holloway and Conor McGregor, Aldo likely still has a lot of fight left him. However, with two shortcomings against “Blessed,” a third featherweight title shot is unrealistic.

Aldo’s current situation leaves him with some decisions to make about his goals in the sport and how he can go about accomplishing them. Whatever he decides, though, White said Aldo has his complete support.

“Jose Aldo is one of the long-reigning world champions in this sport,” White said. “He is an absolute legend. The guy has nothing left to prove. I think it’s one of things (where) he has to go sit down, talk to his family and decide what he wants to do next. He’s got plenty of money.”

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

What we talk about when we talk about building 'stars' in the MMA business

Francis Ngannou showed up to the UFC 218 post-fight press conference looking resplendent in a black-and-gold dashiki, flashing a thousand-watt smile as he nonchalantly discussed that time he nearly knocked Alistair Overeem’s head clean off his massive shoulders.

It was one of the most brutal knockouts this side of Sean Salmon, and it came against a perennial heavyweight contender who’s been in the UFC for longer than Ngannou has even known what MMA is. Was he impressed with himself for this act of sudden devastation against such a prominent opponent? Not particularly.

“That is the past we are talking about,” Ngannou said. “Now I am the present.”

If you were writing a superhero movie and wanted to shoehorn in an MMA fighter character, you couldn’t do much better than this. The boy from the sand mines of Cameroon who became the fearsome fighting prospect while homeless on the streets of Paris. A martial arts savant equipped with an almost supernatural punching power, tossing off quiet one-liners with an oddly terrifying tranquility.

If he wasn’t already a real person, “The Predator” would have a Netflix series or a role in an Avengers movie by Summer 2018.

Instead, you can find him most days just walking around the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, where he must seem to company executives like a walking answer to their prayers.

That question UFC President Dana White always says he’s so sick of hearing, the one about how the UFC will replace the aging or departing superstars who drive pay-per-view buys? Now he can just point to Ngannou, a 31-year-old heavyweight whom the UFC signed two years ago on a contract that paid him just $12,000 to show for his first fight with the promotion. Talk about your “penny stock” fighters who pay off big.

But is Ngannou a “star,” in the MMA sense of the word? How about Max Holloway, who swaggered in with another sci-fi necktie to beat up Jose Aldo for a second time in the main event of UFC 218? How about UFC women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg, who, along with Holly Holm, will headline the UFC’s year-end pay-per-view event on Dec. 30?

Are any of them stars? What does the word even mean to us?

Historically, the UFC’s own internal flowchart on the question “Is this fighter a star?” typically points straight to the follow-up: “Depends – are they asking for more money?”

See, when the UFC is making the case for our money, usually in the form of pay-per-view buys, star fighters are everywhere, lighting up the night sky with their cosmic brilliance. It’s when those same fighters make a case for more of the UFC’s money that the galaxy suddenly grows dark.

All you need to do is look at the one remaining consensus superstar – Conor McGregor – to know that money is inextricably tied up with the question of what it means to be an MMA star.

McGregor’s fame isn’t just built on winning fights. Lots of people win fights. There are UFC fighters who have won more and lost less than he has, but you don’t see them making international headlines when they speed off from a court date in a six-figure sports car.

McGregor is a star in large part because he lives like one. He’s larger than life, and he never misses a chance to prove it with his bank account. No matter how much natural charisma the man may have (and he has a ton), he’d never be such an enduring public fascination if he were making $80,000 a fight.

I was talking to Charles McCarthy recently, a former UFC middleweight turned MMA manager (now retired from both businesses), who made a similar point about the UFC’s struggle to generate new stars on a budget.

“How are you going to get us to believe these guys are stars if they still have to work a day job?” he said.

It’s a solid point, and something to think about when you hear a broadcast full of fighters begging for a little bit of bonus money.

And yet, that money has the desired effect, does it not? It convinces hungry young athletes to disregard imminent health risks for the sake of our entertainment. It also brings with it some instant attention. After every UFC event, bonus payouts are a guaranteed story. The less star-studded the fight card, the more importance the bonuses seem to take on.

For instance, look at new UFC women’s strawweight champion Nicco Montano’s win at the TUF 26 Finale on Friday. Her story coming into the bout was her spartan existence in a crappy little basement apartment as she struggled to make it as an MMA fighter. Then she banked $100,000 for the title fight, plus a $50,000 performance bonus and another $30,000 in “outfitting” pay.

“We were dirt poor just before tonight in all reality,” Montano said after the bout. And now? “I’m going to go move to an apartment with some water pressure, and buy some good food and treats for my cats,” she said.

We love these stories in MMA. We revel in them, whether it’s Junior Albini, the heavyweight who could only afford empty shampoo bottles for his daughter’s toys before his first UFC payday and bonus, or Pat Barry living on rice and ketchup and then suddenly trying to convince the bank that he really did have tens of thousands of dollars to deposit out of nowhere.

It’s prizefighting, after all. It’s fitting that the “prize” comes first there.

Which brings us back to Ngannou. His knockout of Overeem was so memorable that White promised him a bonus (of an undisclosed sum), which was welcome news to the new top heavyweight contender.

“I do need that money,” Ngannou said.

And sure, of course he does. He’s in the middle of doing the rags-to-riches story. Started from the bottom and now he’s here. But where is here, exactly, especially when the man he’s tentatively slated to fight next – UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic – has been sitting out while griping about pay?

It’s hard to convince us that we’re looking at superstars if they’re mostly paid like middle management. It’s not much easier even if you are paying them well but then keeping it a secret.

The way you know the stars in this business? They’re outwardly, visibly rich. They have power. They can call some of their own shots and stand their ground. They are people whose wealth has become inseparable from their public persona.

They are also, perhaps not coincidentally, exceedingly rare in the brutal business of MMA.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Jose Aldo and UFC 218's other losing fighters?

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

Saturday’s UFC 218 event at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit delivered plenty of entertainment value. That won’t matter to the five losing fighters from the pay-per-view main card, though.

In the main event, Jose Aldo’s (26-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) aspirations of a third UFC featherweight title reign were crushed by Max Holloway(19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC). Alistair Overeem (43-16 MMA, 8-5 UFC) suffered a brutal knockout loss in the co-headliner. Additionally, Sergio Pettis (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC), Justin Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) and Michelle Waterson (14-6 MMA, 2-2 UFC) were all topped by their foes.

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 218’s losing fighters.

* * * *

Michelle Waterson

Cortney Casey

Should fight: Cortney Casey
Why they should fight: Waterson suffered consecutive losses for the first time in her career when she came out of the wrong end of a unanimous decision against Tecia Torres in an important strawweight bout.

After falling short against now-champ Rose Namajunas in April, Waterson faltered against the streaking Torres, who put herself in solid standing to challenge for the title with the win.

Waterson is one of the bigger names in the 115-pound division, and as a result, she’s going to get tough competition nearly every fight. Casey (7-5 MMA, 3-4 UFC), who lost to Felice Herrig on the UFC 218 preliminary card, is a lower-ranked opponent but never an easy out.

Justin Gaethje

James Vick

Should fight: James Vick
Why they should fight: The remarkable winning streak of Gaethje was finally brought to an end courtesy of former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in their anticipated fight.

Gaethje suffered a third-round knockout loss to fellow “The Ultimate Fighter 26” coach Alvarez. Gaethje knows his fighting style comes with great risk, and the former WSOF titleholder finally paid the price.

Gaethje’s still a very fresh face to the UFC, and there are countless fights ahead that could bring entertainment. Surging contender Vick (12-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC), who’s riding a three-fight winning streak, is clamoring for a top-ranked opponent. Perhaps Gaethje would be a willing adversary.

Sergio Pettis

Ray Borg

Should fight: Ray Borg
Why they should fight: After putting together a solid run that put him in a title-eliminator, Pettis’ run toward the UFC flyweight title experienced a hiccup courtesy of Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo.

Pettis suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Cejudo that will put him back to the drawing board in terms of making a run at the 125-pound belt. At 24 he’s still got plenty of time to progress, and there’s no doubt Pettis will go right back to work.

Given his character, Pettis will search for the biggest challenge available to help him rebound. Fighting another young flyweight in Borg (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC), who is coming off a title-fight loss to champ Demetrious Johnson at UFC 216 in October, would provide him with an opportunity to make a statement.

Alistair Overeem

Cain Velasquez

Should fight: Cain Velasquez
Why they should fight: Overeem’s latest climb to the UFC heavyweight title suffered a critical blow courtesy of a violent Francis Ngannou knockout, and now it’s difficult to determine where “The Reem” goes from here.

Overeem is still incredibly dangerous and skilled, but the first-round loss to Ngannou is a tough setback for the former Strikeforce champ. Overeem has said the UFC belt is the one thing missing from his mantel, but after a failed title shot against now-champ Stipe Miocic at UFC 203 in September 2016, then the loss to Ngannou three fights later, he’s in a tough spot.

If Overeem has the fortitude to make another run at the belt, he could certainly do that within a few fights. It would be understandable if he weren’t up for it more than 20 years after his debut, but assuming he is, a matchup with ex-champ Velasquez (14-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC), who recently said he’s aiming for a return next year, could get him right back on track.

Jose Aldo

Should fight: Anthony Pettis
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Aldo should move up to lightweight to fight Pettis (20-7 MMA, 7-6) next.

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

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

Conor McGregor threw a subtle jab on Twitter, and Max Holloway quickly countered

It appears Conor McGregor has some interest in a rematch with fellow UFC champ Max Holloway following the latter’s thrilling UFC 218 main event victory over Jose Aldo.

Well, a rematch with jabs on Twitter, anyway.

Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) scored a third-round TKO win over Aldo (26-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) for his first featherweight title defense, which came in Saturday’s UFC 218 pay-per-view headliner at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. With the win, the Hawaiian become the first to defeat “Scarface” twice; McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC), meanwhile, fought and beat the 145-pound great just once.

During UFC 218’s post-event news conference Holloway was asked about the possibility of a rematch with McGregor, who beat “Blessed” via decision at UFC Fight Night 26 in August 2013 (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

Since the defeat, Holloway has gone on a remarkable 12-fight winning streak; McGregor, meanwhile, captured titles in two weight classes and fought all-time great Floyd Mayweather in a boxing blockbuster in August. Today, after Holloway’s victory, the Irishman posted a not-so-cryptic jab at his former foe, who was a little banged up in their 2013 bout (via Twitter):

Holloway wasted no time firing back at McGregor, and it appears he was more than prepared for the occasion. The 25-year-old called McGregor a “retired fighter,” and he had a lovely graphic to go along with his response (via Twitter):

For complete coverage of UFC 218, check out the UFC Events 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