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.

if(typeof(jQuery)==”function”){(function($){$.fn.fitVids=function(){}})(jQuery)};
jwplayer(‘jwplayer_UCkQ9dO8_RbnemIYZ_div’).setup(
{“playlist”:”http://content.jwplatform.com/feeds/UCkQ9dO8.json”,”ph”:2}
);

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/PVHvwAmcPibVKkBiQxUBCm/288973”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Ngannou def. Overeem”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Don't feel bad for laughing at Junior Albini's diaper look – he's doing the same thing

You might be disappointed to find out that wearing a Reebok diaper to the octagon wasn’t part of some genius marketing plot by Junior Albini – also known as “Baby.”

The peculiar look sported by the Brazilian in his UFC Fight Night 120 loss to former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (26-15 MMA, 15-9 UFC), Albini (14-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) said, was the result of an attempt to make his shorts more comfortable. And considering there was another man inside the cage to worry about, one can kind of understand that.

But Albini is not oblivious to the comical effect that his attire had. How could he be, anyway, when the Internet is there to serve him constant reminders?

“People were sending my messages, making fun of me,” Albini told Brazil’s Combate.com. “I thought it was funny, too, in the fight: ‘It does look like a diaper.’ My manager was laughing. We send each other some of the memes and laugh a lot. I was a good sport about it. I have to be. If I get pissed at this, I’m going to get pissed at everything.”

Albini had worn regular shorts in his octagon debut – in which he demolished Timothy Johnson in the first round to earn a “Performance of the Night” bonus. But they kept riding up and bothering him. The weight fluctuations between the time Albini arrived in the U.S. for fight week and the time he actually got to fight made the outfit an annoyance in the leg area.

“The guy wants to kill me across the cage, and I’m going to worry about this, about shorts?” Albini said. “So I did that big diaper, but I had no idea it was going to look like that. Next time, I talked to my manager, I’m going to keep my weight stable and ask Reebok for (stretch material) so I can get accustomed to them. I don’t like (the shorts) tight.

“Next time I’m going to wear Lycras, no more shorts like these. Fighting in a diaper is rough.”

In any case, Albini doesn’t place the blame for the loss on his wardrobe. Rather, the 26-year-old up-and-comer said the pressure of being a favorite against Arlovksi, helped by the fact he was heavier than usual this time around, may have gotten to him.

“The main factor was that I ended up feeling pressured to win, and to win with a good knockout,” Albini said. “I believe I should have loosened up more. (I should have) made a different game and stayed more relaxed, as in a normal fight. The knockout ended up not happening, and I was a bit frustrated.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/MjAnt2GJz28D7S5Cas6N2e/285009”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Arlovski def. Albini”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Alex Davis: Hype always has been part of fight game – but no need to be jerks about it

Looking to attract fans and hype up your image has always been part of the fight game.

Even before MMA, Muhammad Ali talked smack about everything and everyone. I remember many different entertaining fighters who would put on a display before the fight. Who remembers Genki Sudo and his theatrics? They were entertaining, they were positive and they had a meaning to them.

And who remembers when Melvin Manhoef would come in held on a leash by his trainer? How about James Te Huna,  when he and his corners came out to a UFC fight dressed as the Men in Black, dancing and everything?

In the UFC, Rebook put an end to those things.

And then there have always been the talkers. I remember I was at a Cage Warriors event in England back in the day. Ex-UFC champ Michael Bisping fought and caught his opponent in an armbar. He already talked crap way back then. And it was simply him; he wasn’t forcing anything, he just said what came into his head. It was natural. Or Phil Baroni? The “New York Bad Ass” had always been arrogant. Or Chael Sonnen, who was always articulate and intelligent – even when he talk badly about Brazil. And, of course, UFC lightweight champ Conor McGregor: universal smack master.

But not everyone can do this in a smart and intelligent way.

We are starting to see guys try to pick up from McGregor’s example. They pick up the mic after the fight and act like complete jerks. All you hear is rubbish coming out of them. They are simply trying to build hype, get their names out there, get a connection with the public. But I see this is starting to go in a very negative direction.

These guys are watched by millions of people, including millions of kids and teenagers. As in every other sport, they have big followings. The kids tend to emulate them – to talk, walk and dress like they do. Now I wonder: Is this how we want this sport to go mainstream? As a bunch of punks cursing each other?

Is this really the way to make the sport of MMA go to the next level?

MMA is still considered a bloodsport by many – “human cockfighting.” Those who understand it know that it is, really, a combat sport engaged in by very high level masters in the art of fighting. Of course, as a combat sport, there will always be animosity between opponents. They are going to fight you, you know. But it seems to me that we are overdoing our attempts to gain recognition in a very negative way. I think that each individual has his own charisma. Each person and fighter is different.

“Brazilian Cowboy” Alex Oliveira can’t speak enough English to say bad things about anyone even if he wanted to. But he comes out dancing and happy, so people love him. And how about Junior Albini? He isn’t even trying. He came out unintentionally with his shorts rolled up like diapers, but he made the headlines.

I loved what UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas said after she took the title from Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217: enough negativity. UFC middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre is one of the biggest stars in the sport, but I have never seen him being disrespectful toward anything.

They are proof that you do not need to be a jerk to promote yourself.

Sure, as I said before: This is fighting. We get it. You do not have to be in love with your opponents, actual or future. But if your sole modus operandi is to badmouth people, most likely you will end up having an adverse effect on your image. I am looking down the road and I can foresee a time when we will get tired of this. When it will go full circle and we will again appreciate athletes for what they can do inside the ring.

A little entertainment will always be welcome. We are all humans, after all. But how about putting some imagination into it, as it’s been done ages before our time?

Alex Davis is a lifelong practitioner of martial arts and a former Brazilian judo champion. A founding member of American Top Team, Davis currently oversees the careers of a number of prominent Brazilian fighters, including Edson Barboza, Luiz Cane, Rousimar Palhares, Antonio Silva and Thiago Tavares, among others. Davis is a frequent contributor to MMAjunkie and shares his current views on the sport built through his perspectives that date back to the Brazilian roots of modern MMA.

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

Andrei Arlovski relieved after UFC Fight Night 120 win: 'Finally I broke the streak of losing'

if(typeof(jQuery)==”function”){(function($){$.fn.fitVids=function(){}})(jQuery)};
jwplayer(‘jwplayer_hh0569Gv_FLu19iir_div’).setup(
{“playlist”:”http://content.jwplatform.com/feeds/hh0569Gv.json”,”ph”:2}
);

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

NORFOLK, Va. – Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski relieved a significant amount of pressure from his shoulders Saturday when he snapped a five-fight losing skid with a decision victory over Junior Albini at UFC Fight Night 120.

Arlovski’s (26-15 MMA, 15-9 UFC) UFC career was likely on the line against Albini (14-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC), but he managed to get back in the win column for the first time since September 2015 and credited sticking to his game plan for the result.

“Finally my hard work pays off and for the first time in a long, long time I stick to my game plan,” Arlovski told MMAjunkie after the fight. “It was not 100 percent, but 95 percent. I kept my hands up. Coach told me, ‘Don’t clinch,’ but I clinched a couple times. I’m very happy now.”

“The Pitbull” had many doubters going into UFC Fight Night 120, which took place at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., and aired on FS1. His stretch of defeats came to the likes of UFC champ Stipe Miocic, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, and Francis Ngannou, and a matchup with a hot prospect like Albini was a big test for the 38-year-old.

Arlovski’s experience played to his advantage, but he credited Albini for putting up a tough challenge.

“I have a lot of respect for Junior,” Arlovski said. “I came after the fight to the medical room, and I wished him luck in his future fights. Respect. Tonight it wasn’t personal, it was just business. Tonight I think I needed it more than he does. Of course I look for the KO, but my coach said when I go out, and I just need to keep my hands up. I did this pretty well.”

With 24 UFC bouts on his resume, Arlovski has fought the majority of big names in the heavyweight division. He believes he has a few more years of high-level competition left in him, and he said he will be willing to take on whoever UFC matchmakers throw his way.

“I want to go back home to my wife and my son, but I think I’ll be ready by February or March,” Arlovski said. “Of course it’s up to Dana White and the UFC. 2016 sucks for me, beginning and middle of the year in 2017 was same thing. Finally I broke the streak of losing fights.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/MjAnt2GJz28D7S5Cas6N2e/284175”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Arlovski def. Albini”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Junior Albini's diaper-looking Reebok shorts at UFC-Norfolk were impossible to ignore

If the Reebok fight kits were intended to usher in an era of across-the-board professionalism in the UFC, doing away with the days of the occasionally embarrassing attire choice, let’s just say that the powers that be didn’t see Junior Albini coming.

The 26-year-old Brazilian came up short against Andrei Arlovski at UFC Fight Night 120 in Norfolk, Va., but he also drew all the wrong kind of attention for the look he brought into the octagon.

It wasn’t just people on Twitter who noticed the hilarity of a fighter who goes by the nickname “Baby” showing up in a pair of fight trunks that resembled an adult diaper. Even UFC commentator and fighter Paul Felder could not keep himself from remarking on the look, as Albini turned in a lackluster performance en route to a unanimous-decision loss.

It’s safe to say that it’s not exactly the look Reebok was hoping for. And for UFC executives who once expressed hope that the outfitting deal would take the sport to a new level, this wasn’t exactly a high point. Though, you can’t say it wasn’t memorable.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/MjAnt2GJz28D7S5Cas6N2e/284086”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Arlovski def. Albini”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 120 results: Andrei Arlovski staves off retirement, outworks Junior Albini

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/MjAnt2GJz28D7S5Cas6N2e/283851”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Arlovski def. Albini”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

With five consecutive losses, Andrei Arlovski (26-15 MMA, 15-9 UFC) knew the importance of his bout with Junior Albini (14-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC), and he outworked the Brazilian prospect to claim a decision win.

The heavyweight bout was part of the main card of today’s UFC Fight Night 120 event at Ted Constant Convocation Center on the Old Dominion University campus in Norfolk, Va. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Arlovski took the center of the cage to start, as the bigger Albini look to fire power shots from the pocket. Arlovski was the quicker man, moving in and out of striking range, while Albini simply tried to load up on the homerun shot when his opponent got in tight. The two moved to the clinch, and Albini was able to control from the outside, but Arlovski was able to slip away without taking any damage.

Arlovski kicked the legs a bit on the restart and began to rifle in combinations, but Albini walked through the blows and continued to answer back with big shots of his own that just narrowly missed. The danger was evident with every strike Albini threw, though Arlovski was able to stick and move in the early going.

Arlovski was light on his feet to start the second, while Albini simply waded forward and looked to load up for the finishing blow. When they moved into the clinch, Albini pressed in from the outside, but there was little action, and the bout was bought back to the center. Albini was quick to move back to the clinch, pressing against the cage, and holding Arlovski against the fence until he finally pressed away and escaped back to the middle. Arlovski continued to show more speed with his strikes, but he was unquestionably playing with fire as he just avoided Albini’s powerful punches.

Albini pressed a bit to start the third but was unable to trap Arlovski against the cage. With the better footwork and slicker movement, Arlovski kept himself just away from Albini’s massive punches. For his part, Albini never seemed hurt or bothered but simply walked forward, looking to land one big shot. Arlovski’s combinations found their mark, and he drew blood from Albini’s nose. Albini received a warning for an eye poke, but we carried on for the final few minutes, where Albini did press a bit with what little energy he had left. Albini landed a bit but couldn’t quite land clean, and the bout ended on the feet, with Arlovski awarded a decision win with scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.

“I knew he was tough,” Arlovski said of his opponent. “He’s young. I was sure he was going to look for a knockout. So that’s why I stuck to my gameplan and made it go longer.

“It feels amazing. I still have a couple more years in this.”

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 120 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s Matt Erickson contributed to this report on site in Norfolk.)

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

Providing for daughter is Junior Albini's 'greatest pleasure' since life-changing UFC debut

if(typeof(jQuery)==”function”){(function($){$.fn.fitVids=function(){}})(jQuery)};
jwplayer(‘jwplayer_yE7zz0tz_FLu19iir_div’).setup(
{“playlist”:”http://content.jwplatform.com/feeds/yE7zz0tz.json”,”ph”:2}
);

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Junior Albini’s UFC debut wasn’t the type you see every day.

Albini was by no means well known when he stepped inside the octagon to meet Timothy Johnson at UFC on FOX 25 in July. That wasn’t the case when he left, though, after scoring a first-round knockout over the veteran. The display was impressive enough, with the 26-year-old heavyweight’s quickness and accuracy standing out in a division not known for those qualities.

But the Brazilian made sure to steal the spotlight afterward, as well, as he spoke in fluent English about just how much of a struggle was behind his statement-making display. To top it all off, Albini’s first fight on U.S. soil came with a $50,000 bonus for “Performance of the Night.”

As Albini prepares to make his octagon comeback at this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 120, it’s safe to say a lot more people will be paying attention. Not to mention that, as he goes up against a heavyweight legend in Andrei Arlovski, Albini walks in the favorite.

Albini is aware of the added stakes. But compared to his first fight experience, he has no reasons to complain.

“I take it as positive pressure,” Albini told MMAjunkie. “I believe I trained even better than for the other fight. I’m better prepared physically. It’s my second day (in the U.S.), and I’m feeling a lot better than I did the first time. My trip was much better.

“The flight was empty this time – which was a problem last time. I’m kind of big, it’s hard for me to sleep on planes. Last fight, on Friday I still felt my legs heavy. I was feeling tired. This time, I’m 100 percent. I’m very relaxed and more confident.

“Also, the first thing I felt last time is that, magnitude of the promotion aside, it’s like any other fight. It’s like any other fight or even sparring at the gym. The fighting bit is the same. The only thing that changes is the venue. So I’m very relaxed for this one, for sure.”

Albini (14-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) meets Arlovski (25-15 MMA, 14-9 UFC) in the FS1-televised main card of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 120, which takes place at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va.

Other than the fight-week specifics, there’s also been quite the shift in the lead-up to it. The expression “life changing” gets thrown around a lot in sports, but considering Albini is someone who spent four years fighting for almost no pay, the addition of UFC-level money gives it new meaning.

First, there’s the training.

“Before, for most of my fights I had to buy my plane tickets, spend money on gas and food, on the hotel,” Albini said. “I had all these extra concerns about that. Now I got to focus solely on the fight. I was able to invest a lot in myself. I brought in a new boxing instructor to help.

“And it doesn’t just affect me. A lot of my training partners live off fighting, as well, but need to get other jobs , oo. I was able to pay them, too, so they could put in some more time to work with me.”

And that’s just on the practical side of things for Albini – who, by the way, hasn’t even touched his bonus money yet. Emotionally, too, the heavyweight gets to reap the enormous benefits of a new life.

“Right now, I can go out with my daughter,” Albini said. “I can get her anything she wants. We can go out the whole weekend, and I can treat her to whatever she wants. For me, it’s the greatest pleasure I have in my life right now: to provide my daughter with everything that she wants.”

The part where people send him messages and talk about him online, Albini says, is taking some getting used to. And he’ll also admit that he wasn’t exactly expecting his second UFC fight to come right before the co-main event in a card that includes possible barnburners like John Dodson vs. Marlon Moraes and Clay Guida vs. Joe Lauzon.

Junior Albini.

Overall, though, he’s taking the oddity of his new status in stride.

“I try to put that in the back of my mind and focus solely on the fight,” Albini said. “But I didn’t expect it to happen like this. And, as the fight comes close, the volume gets turned up even louder. So it’s been weird. But I’ve been able to deal with it.

“I’ve been able to stay calm, focusing more on my training and on the people who are here with me.”

If in a way it’s been somewhat of an overnight shift in Albini’s circumstances, in others it’s been a lifetime in the making. Getting this far, after all, involved a lot of sacrifice. But even through the rough times, the heavyweight says he always knew things would end up falling into place.

“I’m just relieved it’s really happening,” Albini said. “I don’t even think it took to long. I think it’s the right time. I believe it happened at a time when I’m ready. Even when things were hard, when money was short and I went without a lot of things, I think it made me grow as a person.

“And I think that, with everything I went through, I came into the UFC a fully prepared athlete.”

Hearing all of this, it’s easy to see why Albini isn’t particularly fazed by the thought of facing someone like Arlovski so quickly. As it turns out, Albini has not only been following his opponent’s career since before he began his own, he’s drawn inspiration from Arlovki’s “classy and composed” style to assemble his own skills.

“He has a different style than most of the heavyweights, so I have always enjoyed him,” Albini said.

But the joy and honor of meeting one of his personal idols ends the moment Albini’s own mission begins.

“I won’t let the weight of his name affect me,” Albini said. “There are many big, tough names in the UFC. So I need to see him as if he’s anyone else.”

There’s added weight in Arlovski’s case: his current skid. While he told MMAjunkie that he still sees himself fighting for a few years, a sixth consecutive loss could certainly carry some implications at least as far as Arlovski’s octagon career goes.

Still, Albini can’t afford the luxury of worrying about that.

“I’m looking for a knockout, for sure,” Albini said. “(The bonus) wouldn’t be bad. But I’m definitely going to look for a knockout.”

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

And for more on UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/aNZacP9A4gcZmUn5kXAoCA/283378”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Albini def. Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Ex-champ Andrei Arlovski knows he can't keep losing, but 'it's primetime for heavyweights'

if(typeof(jQuery)==”function”){(function($){$.fn.fitVids=function(){}})(jQuery)};
jwplayer(‘jwplayer_mOy9Tfx3_FLu19iir_div’).setup(
{“playlist”:”http://content.jwplatform.com/feeds/mOy9Tfx3.json”,”ph”:2}
);

Filed under: News, UFC

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski knows the score. He can’t continue to keep losing in the octagon.

After five straight setbacks, it’s unlikely the UFC will give him many more chances – if any – with a loss to Junior Albini (14-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 120.

“I consider myself a smart person, and if I’m going to be losing all the time and getting hit, of course, I’m going to finish this,” Arlovski (25-15 MMA, 14-9 UFC) told MMAjunkie in advance of his FS1-televised fight against Albini at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. “I don’t want to be an invalid in a few years, because I have family, and I still have a lot of things to do in my life.”

What’s keeping Arlovski in the fight is the possibility he might be able to reverse the trend. He sees examples like UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture and boxing legend George Foreman and thinks he could turn things around late in his career.

As long as he feels he can still compete in the octagon, who’s to tell him he can’t?

“I think it’s primetime for heavyweights,” Arlovski said. “I think I still have a few more years.”

That said, Arlovski is making accomodations to make sure the final years of his career are comfortable. He is now training at the famed American Top Team in South Florida, close to where his family resides, after seven years of working with Greg Jackson at Jackson Winkeljohn Academy.

It was very hard for Arlovski to leave Jackson, but he could no longer bear being away from his loved ones for extended periods of time during training camp.

Now undertaking his second fight under the new camp, Arlovski’s first and foremost goal against Albini is to stay on task. He is prone to getting into reckless firefights, which isn’t good for his chin. If he wants to be successful, he mustn’t stray from the strategies that work.

“I have to be patient,” he said. “I understand expectations are awesome, but for me, it’s more important to stick with my gameplan against Albini.”

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

And for more on UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/UeV2D8SUDYTzsyVGKFXuY7/283145”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Andrei Arlovski”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

On 5-fight skid, ex-champ Andrei Arlovski training at ATT ahead of UFC-Norfolk

Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski is getting some new looks as he attempts to break out of an ugly slump that has seen him lose his past five fights.

Arlovski (25-15 MMA, 14-9 UFC) has relocated his training to American Top Team in South Florida ahead of his UFC Fight Night 120 bout with Junior Albini (14-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC), which takes place Nov. 11 at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

“The Pitbull” revealed the switch in camp on social media (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

American Top Team is one of the most high-profile gyms in the world. It houses heavyweights such as Junior Dos Santos, Antonio Silva and Aleksei Oleinik.

Arlovski, an honorable mention in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, was a longtime member of one of MMA’s other great supercamps at JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., but parted ways with the gym in the midst of his skid.

Although Arlovski has been given a longer leash than most in the UFC in terms of consecutive defeats, the 38-year-old is likely fighting for his place on the roster at UFC Fight Night 120. No one in UFC history has had a six-fight skid in one tenure with the organization, and Arlovski is apparently doing everything in his power to avoid being the first.

For more on UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/rYQ44GoitRNHqXTSoMLs4c/280294”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Tybura def. Arlovski”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

On 5-fight skid, ex-champ Andrei Arlovski set for UFC Fight Night 120 bout vs. Junior Albini

A heavyweight bout between former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski and Junior Albini is the latest addition to November’s UFC Fight Night 120 lineup.

UFC officials today announced the bout between Arlovski (25-15 MMA, 14-9 UFC) and Albini (14-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC).

UFC Fight Night 120 takes place Nov. 11 at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. The event airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, though the bout order hasn’t been finalized.

Arlovski, an honorable mention in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, will attempt to snap a five-fight losing skid in the upcoming fight. Although the majority of his defeats in that stretch have come against the likes of Stipe Miocic, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett and Francis Ngannou, the former UFC titleholder is coming off a unanimous decision loss to a lesser-known foe in Marcin Tybura at UFC Fight Night 111 in June.

Albini, meanwhile, will get a chance to add a marquee name to his resume in just his second octagon appearance. The 26-year-old Brazilian made his UFC debut in July, earning a first-round TKO against Timothy Johnson at UFC on FOX 25.

The latest UFC Fight Night 120 card now includes:

  • Anthony Pettis vs. Dustin Poirier
  • Matt Brown vs. Diego Sanchez
  • Nina Ansaroff vs. Angela Hill
  • Cezar Ferreira vs. Nate Marquardt
  • Karl Roberson vs. Darren Stewart
  • Jake Collier vs. Marcel Fortuna
  • Junior Albini vs. Andrei Arlovski

For more on UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/aNZacP9A4gcZmUn5kXAoCA/266504”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Albini def. Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie