UFC-Fresno's Aljamain Sterling says T.J. Dillashaw needs to clean out division before challenging Demetrious Johnson

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FRESNO, Calif. – Aljamain Sterling has heard all the superfight talk about UFC bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw moving down to fight flyweight title holder Demetrious Johnson, and frankly, “Funk Master” isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I do understand that T.J. is a two-time world champion at this point, but at the same time, you haven’t cleaned out the division yet,” Sterling told MMAjunkie. “‘Mighty Mouse’ has cleaned out his division. He’s done his job in his weight class.

“T.J., stay put, do your job, because I’m coming for the belt. You’ve got all of us hungry young competitors coming up for the belt, and that’s all it’s all about right now. We’re all chasing gold.”

While there’s no question that Johnson is in dire need of new contenders at 125 pound, Sterling does make an interesting point. After all, Dillashaw just reclaimed the belt with a November knockout of Cody Garbrandt and only defended the title twice in his previous run.

Sure, the thought of Johnson vs. Dillashaw seems fun, on paper, but how do you justify it to the bantamweight contenders currently waiting their shot at the title? Count Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) on that list ahead of his meeting with former WSOF bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123, which takes place Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

“I think there’s a lot that’s riding on this fight for the both of us,” Sterling said. “Whoever gets their hand raised – which will be me – I think they’re going to solidify themselves as a true No. 1 contender or line themselves up for a No. 1 contender fight.

“T.J. has been talking about fighting ‘Mighty Mouse.’ If that happens, that’s going to really hold up the division all over again. There’s a lot of young blood, new faces for T.J. to challenge. He hasn’t yet cleared out this division. I think he should stay put, do his job as a champion and fight the guys who are the true No. 1 contenders at this weight class. You’ve got Jimmie Rivera in the hunt. You’ve got Raphael Assuncao in the hunt, who Marlon and I both lost to via split decision. … You’ve got (John) Lineker if he gets the win over Rivera. … Dominick Cruz’s arm is broken, and Cody just came off a knockout loss to T.J., so it’s really a who’s who. It’s kind of a pick ’em.”

Of course, before he can even think about Dillashaw, Sterling has to get past Moraes, who has gone 1-1 in two split-decision results under the UFC banner since migrating over from WSOF. Despite the mixed results, Sterling admits his opponent still offers some serious challenges but has simply discovered just how deep the talent pool is in the UFC.

“I don’t really gameplan,” Sterling admitted. “I go out there, and I just fight my fight. I do what I do best. I’m going to bring my skillsets to the table, he’s going to bring what he brings to the table, and we’re just going to have to figure this (expletive) out.

“He’s a great leg kicker. He’s good off his back. He’s good on top. I think it’s just going to be a matter of will – who’s going to have the most heart when we go out there, and I think that guy is going to be me.”

Sterling carries back-to-back wins over Renan Barao and Augusto Mendes into the matchup, righting the ship after suffering the first (and to date, only) losses of his career in a pair of split-decision results to Assuncao and Bryan Caraway. But with momentum now swinging in his direction, Sterling believes it’s his time to shine.

Sterling currently sits at No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, while Moraes sits at No. 6. Sterling knows what’s at stake in the matchup and knows if his opinion on Dillashaw’s next move is going to matter at all, he has to prove victorious on Saturday night.

“I’m just going to fight, wherever this fight goes,” Sterling said. “If he tries to go for that patented knee-tap, Frankie Edgar, if the fight goes to the ground, I’m no stranger to fighting off my back. I will be slashing up elbows, I will be throwing up submissions, and I will be kicking like a mule, so if he wants to take it there, we can take it there. If he wants to stand up and fight, we can stand up and fight.

“I’m willing to die in there, so bring it.”

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

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Trading Shots: With champs eyeing different divisions, does a UFC title mean what it used to?

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With so many champions looking to make their fortunes outside their own divisions, do UFC titles still have the value they once did? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss in this week’s Trading Shots.

* * * *

Downes: On Saturday night at UFC 218, Max Holloway defeated Jose Aldo via third-round knockout to retain the featherweight title. Lest you think there’s finally stability at 145 pounds, Holloway already has eyes on other things.

He expressed interest in eventually moving to lightweight and grabbing a title there. He did say that he wants to solidify his legacy as the featherweight GOAT first, but you know if some of that dual title money comes his way, he’ll jump ship quick.

This got me to thinking about the status of UFC championships in general. Demetrious Johnson and T.J. Dillashaw look like they’re finally going to fight. Holloway has his eyes on another division. Conor McGregor is in the middle of his descent into madness. Geroges St-Pierre (a lifelong welterweight) holds the middleweight title, but it looks like he’s going to be out for an undisclosed amount of time. Daniel Cormier is the reigning light heavyweight champ, but that’s because Jon Jones can’t stay out of trouble.

Couple all these divisional issues with the fact that the UFC throws around interim title shots the way you throw money around after a couple glasses of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and what does a UFC title mean any more? Has the importance of the belts diminished?

Fowlkes: It usually a means a piece of the pay-per-view revenue, so that explains why the titles retain importance in the minds of many fighters. Plus you get to walk around with a big shiny belt having people call you champ, so what’s not to like about that?

But I see your point, and it goes even further than what you mentioned. UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, for example? He’s been inactive since expressing his dissatisfaction with the state of his pay. And bantamweight champion Dillashaw? The first thing he did upon reclaiming the title is start talking about a move down to flyweight.

Meanwhile, flyweight champion Johnson seems to be the one most committed to defending his title and staying in his lane, and fans are increasingly frustrated by it. Oh, and welterweight champ Tyron Woodley? He might like to try middleweight now.

That’s why I think it’s worth asking how we got here, because it’s not just the UFC’s bad habit of pulling an interim belt out of the supply closet every time it wants to spruce up a fight card (though that’s part of it).

Really though, it’s that champs want to get paid. That’s the whole idea, right? I mean, sure, they also want to prove that they’re the best in the world, but that’s a somewhat hollow feat if it doesn’t come with fame and riches. And how do you get the big money? You get it with the big fights – not just run-of-the-mill title defenses.

This is the reality we have created for ourselves in this sport, and the McGregor phenomenon is a big part of it. He’s by far the highest paid superstar in the game, so it makes sense that other fighters will do what they can to replicate that success.

That’s how you get this trend of weight-class jumping and money-fight hunting, which, when combined with the UFC’s willingness to get selective about when a title makes you the best (and when it makes you another fighter who should shut up and do what you’re told) leads to a gradual devaluing of the titles themselves.

But OK, that’s where we are. Those titles are, as Nate Diaz so presciently declared, a bit of a fairytale. My question is, what do you want to do about it?

Downes: Before you treat a problem, you have to properly diagnose it. You’ve already mentioned a number of contributing factors. Fighters copying the McGregor model and the UFC diminishing the belts are certainly both issues. What you ignore, though, is the root cause of all these symptoms. The major reason why we feel indifference toward UFC tiles nowadays is the lack of depth of the roster.

Look at the rankings. Besides lightweight and perhaps welterweight, what division interests you outside the top three?

If there were more depth in each division, then you wouldn’t have to hop around to find other interesting fights. You would also get more respect from the fans. Who knows, maybe even Carlos Monarrez from the “Detroit Free” Press would have enjoyed himself at UFC 218.

The answer to this problem is to find more high-level MMA fighters to populate these divisions. Easy answer, but extremely difficult to accomplish. But there are a number of things the UFC can do besides hoping another McGregor walks in the door.

The first is to spread the wealth. I know this is probably even less likely than Ronda Rousey’s clone existing, but if you want to attract the best talent, you have to offer competitive wages. This doesn’t just apply to the exodus of talent to Bellator, but the fact that MMA loses out on athletes who choose other sports.

Since the UFC won’t share the money, it could spend some of it on production. The pre-fight video packages and hype are seemingly unchanged from what we were watching a decade ago. The Reebok uniforms make fighters indistinguishable from one another. Where’s the individuality?

We always compare MMA to professional wrestling. Imagine if the WWE only had two characters and only two types of costumes. The matches would get repetitive and boring very quickly.

A lot of things in life rely on luck or timing. MMA is no different. Amazing fight cards fall apart due to injuries. Cards that look boring on paper exceed expectations in reality. Sometimes a plumbing apprentice from Ireland becomes the biggest star in the sport. A lot is left up to chance, but there are tangible things the UFC can do to fix the ennui gripping casual and hardcore fans alike.

Fowlkes: The depth argument works in some weight classes (like the one that rhymes with “schmevyweight”), but not all. Lightweight is arguably the deepest division there is – shoutout to that Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje crackerjack for proving that sometimes the hype is more than justified – and still it has one interim champ and one absentee titleholder. And what happened when the interim champ demanded a fight to unify the title? The UFC president rushed to remind him that he doesn’t get to call any shots around here.

Nobody has done more than Dana White to un-promote his own champions. From Woodley to Amanda Nunes to “Mighty Mouse” to Cris Cyborg – even GSP – you’re never more than a quick Google search away from White bashing his own fighters, usually in a transparent effort to undercut their financial demands.

And that’s where your wealth-sharing plan comes in, Comrade Downes. Should the UFC pay fighters more in order to attract talent? Sure, but I don’t think the new owners at Endeavor bought this thing because they saw an opportunity to spend more on the same product. One of the things that made the UFC an attractive purchase was its financial structure, and the fact that you’re essentially buying a whole sport with very few restrictions or regulations impeding your profitability.

The crazy thing is that the pieces are all there. Just look at the young talent on display at UFC 218. If you can’t make Francis Ngannou into a star, you don’t deserve to make a dime. It’s just a matter of making the fighters a priority, which is tough for the UFC, which for so long has operated on the principle of brand over everything.

For more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Johnson and Dillashaw? Henry Cejudo will fight either, but says 135 champ 'in for a treat' at 125

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After his unanimous-decision victory over Sergio Pettis on Saturday at UFC 218 in Detroit, Henry Cejudo is ready for something bigger.

Whether that’s a rematch with current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) or a fight against UFC bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC), who has teased the idea of coming down a weight class, Cejudo’s up for either, as he told reporters following UFC 218.

“From what I’ve heard, (Johnson) doesn’t really want to fight (Dillashaw) just yet, or he wants the right money,” Cejudo said. “And I said I’ll welcome T.J. to the weight class. If D.J. does not want to fight him, I’ll fight T.J. I know with him, he’s a former wrestler, it’s going to be a mixed fight. I like it at 125 pounds.”

What the Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler does not like, however, are Dillashaw’s chances of becoming a two-division champion if he meets Johnson at flyweight. In fact, Cejudo (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) said, he thinks a Johnson-Dillashaw fight would be great for the 125-pound division, mostly because it would show people how good Johnson really is.

“I have no rivalry with T.J., but I can see Demetrious Johnson easily handling T.J.,” Cejudo said. “Because you lose an additional 10 pounds against the pound-for-pound king, going down to his weight class? Well-rounded, good wrestler, good striker, just a great mixed martial artist? Man, you’re in for a treat. He can say he’s light and everything, but when you get down to 125 pounds, you’re going to feel it the next day. And Demetrious is a cardio machine. I think that’s what’s going to make that fight dangerous.”

UFC President Dana White said on Saturday that the Johnson-Dillashaw fight is “going to happen,” even if it hasn’t been announced. But if it does, that leaves Cejudo with an uncertain immediate future.

The former title challenger is on a two-fight winning streak, with his only losses coming against Johnson and perennial flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez. Prior to UFC 218, Pettis’ (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) name was thrown around as a possible challenger for Johnson’s title, but Cejudo’s UFC 218 win over Pettis (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) would seem to remove him from that picture.

For his part, Cejudo said he still wants a rematch with Johnson, in part because “when you get rocked in front of 20,000 people, it’s personal.”

But then, he added, since the loss to Johnson was the first of his pro career, and his only defeat via stoppage, it was also an important learning experience that has served him well.

“I really did believe that I was going to beat up Demetrious Johnson when I fought him,” Cejudo said. “Like, deep down in my heart, in my mind, I thought I was going to beat this dude, like beat him up. And I was watching it, because sometimes I’ll get these Instagram alerts, and I was watching it and I remember watching when I lost. I was so sad and disappointed. I just kept looking down, like, ‘Did this just happen?’ But through that, it literally did, it made me respect him and everybody else in my weight class.”

For more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Dana White: T.J. Dillashaw vs. Demetrious Johnson is happening next

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DETROIT – UFC President Dana White said flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s next title defense will be against current bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw.

“Yeah, that fight’s going to happen,” White told reporters at the post-event press conference for UFC 218, which took place Saturday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. “We haven’t announced it yet.”

White didn’t say when and where the fight would take place, or whether he’d yet spoken to Johnson, who was in attendance at the pay-per-view event. Johnson watched cageside as his former opponent, Henry Cejudo, halted the rise of promising up-and-comer Sergio Pettis.

Johnson has repeatedly hedged on a “superfight” with a bantamweight champ, declaring he would need $2 million to agree to it. White balked at the demand.

Dillashaw, however, has persisted. After taking the bantamweight title this past month from his rival Cody Garbrandt, he renewed his call to move down in weight to challenge Johnson, who turned down a potential fight in favor of a record-breaking 11th title defense against Ray Borg in October.

Dillashaw claims he can make the flyweight limit without issue. Cejudo, however, warned that fighting down a division might be detrimental to his performance.

“He can say he’s light; when you get down to 125 pounds, you’re going to feel it the next day, and Demetrious is a cardio machine,” the onetime title challenger said at UFC 218’s post-fight presser. “I think that’s what’s going to make that fight dangerous. How at 135 pounds, it might be different. But at 125 pounds, I can say it will be a pretty dominant win by Demetrious Johnson.”

Before any more predictions get made, though, it sounds like the UFC needs to iron out the details on the champ vs. champ showdown.

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

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Sergio Pettis would give up title shot if UFC wants Demetrious Johnson vs. T.J. Dillashaw

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DETROIT – Sergio Pettis is all about this potential champion vs. champion fight between Demetrious Johnson and T.J. Dillashaw, even if it hinders his own career in the short-term.

Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC), who meets Henry Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in a potential flyweight title eliminator on Saturday’s UFC 218 pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, would likely be viewed as the obvious next contender for Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) should he emerge victorious.

The problem, however, is that the UFC has expressed interest in having bantamweight champ Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) drop down a weight class to fight Johnson in what would have to be considered the most significant matchup in 125-pound history. Pettis would be the odd man out if the promotion moves forward with those plans, but surprisingly, he said he’s OK with that.

“I’m 24 years old, I’m getting better and better, and if they want me to fight again before a title, I’m good with that,” Pettis told MMAjunkie at Thursday’s UFC 218 media day. “I’m building my resume, getting some money on top of it and getting some experience. T.J. vs. DJ, that’s an interesting fight, even for me. I’m a fan of the sport. It’s entertainment and it makes sense. It’s part of the business. I have no hatred towards that. I understand it. If they want me to build my resume and get to that DJ shot, I will. If I have a great performance against Henry Cejudo, maybe I can get there.”

Although Pettis’ title aspirations are strong, he knows his youth puts him at an advantage. Whether it’s one fight or 10 fights, “The Phenom” promises to flourish with every performance the same way he has to this point in his career.

He has a gargantuan task ahead at UFC 218, though, because outside “Mighty Mouse,” Cejudo is as good as it gets in the flyweight division. Cejudo said his power will be the difference in the fight, and brings that confidence following a knockout of Wilson Reis at UFC 215 in September. Pettis, however, said he’s not buying it.

“Most of his wins are by decision, besides his last fight,” Pettis said. “Wilson was there to get hit by that power. I’ve got five inches of reach on this guy. I’ve got movement. He doesn’t have that power there. He’s going to fall onto my sword and he’s going to fall into my striking.”

If all goes according to plan, Pettis said he hopes to be the one scoring the knockout win. He believes his style meshes well with Cejudo and insists he’s going to send a message to “The Messenger” on fight night.

“I want to get a knockout on my belt,” Pettis said. “First win by not decision. Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to go out there and push the pace. I believe my style is different now. I’m not longer a little boy. I’m a grown man. My style is going to make him come in and think he has the power. I’m going to hit him with something hard and he’s not going to expect it. If not, I’m going to pick that face away all night.”

For more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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UFC 218's Henry Cejudo warns T.J. Dillashaw about dropping to flyweight

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DETROIT – It wasn’t long ago that the MMA world was close to writing off Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo as a flyweight phenom.

Two misses on the scale with the now-defunct Legacy FC made the UFC antsy about promoting him as the next big threat to champ Demetrious Johnson.

Cejudo turned things around, though he wasn’t able to best Johnson when his title shot came. But he emerged from the experience with a great respect for demands of moving between weight classes.

That’s why when Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) hears about UFC bantamweight T.J. Dillashaw’s (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) plans of gunning for Johnson’s title, he is a bit skeptical.

“If Demetrious doesn’t fight T.J., I’ll welcome T.J. to the flyweight division,” Cejudo told MMAjunkie in advance of his meeting with Sergio Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) on Saturday at UFC 218, which takes place at Litle Caesars Arena in Detroit and airs on pay-per-view. “Because I know what it’s like to cut 10 pounds, and I know how much that stuff hurts.

“I know if he’s going to take a crack at DJ, it’s a whole new ball game at 125. You’re not going to feel the same as at 135, and DJ seems to do very, very well at 125 pounds. So I wouldn’t mind welcoming him to the weight class as a home sweet homecoming for Dillashaw.”

But first, Cejudo has his eye on Pettis, who’s won his past four at flyweight and could be a title contender with a win. Another shot at Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) is Cejudo’s ultimate goal.

If he has to detour for another champ, however, all the better.

For more from Cejudo, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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MMAjunkie's 'Fight of the Month' for November: Who thrilled most in an event-heavy month?

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMAjunkie looks at the best fights from November. Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMAjunkie’s “Fight of the Month” award for November.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting on your choice.

* * * *

The Nominees

T.J. Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217

The bad blood between Cody Garbrandt (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) finally got a chance to boil over, and an ex-champ got his title back in the grudge match with a former teammate.

Dillashaw stunned Garbrandt with a head kick, then moments later planted him again with a right hand before finishing him with a series of punches on the ground. The end came midway through the second round – and came after Dillashaw was saved by the bell in the first round when Garbrandt nearly had him finished.

Instagram Photo

Georges St-Pierre def. Michael Bisping at UFC 217

Georges St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) promised to make history against Michael Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC), and he delivered by becoming just the fourth fighter in UFC history to win belts in two weight classes when he claimed the middleweight belt.

Former longtime welterweight champ St-Pierre was successful in his return to the octagon after nearly four years when he defeated Bisping by third-round technical submission, tying the record for most wins in UF history.

Instagram Photo

Dustin Poirier def. Anthony Pettis at UFC Fight Night 120

After faltering in his first UFC main event, Dustin Poirier (22-5 MMA, 14-4 UFC) thrived in his second when he defeated former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (20-7 MMA, 7-6 UFC) in a thrilling bout.

Poirier’s solid run since returning to the 155-pound division in early 2015 continued with the victory over Pettis. It was a back-and-forth affair, and while the finish was anticlimactic due to an injury, “The Diamond” won a highlight entertaining bout.

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Frank Camacho def. Damien Brown at UFC Fight Night 121

In a no-brainer “Fight of the Night,” Frank Camacho (21-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) and Damien Brown (17-11 MMA, 2-3 UFC) beat each other up for 15 minutes in a lightweight affair.

In the end, however, it was Camacho who got the most work done, and bloodied Brown up on his way to a split decision win. The judges rewarded his output with scores of 30-27 and 29-28; Brown got a dissenting 29-28 score.

Instagram Photo

Fabricio Werdum def. Marcin Tybura at UFC Fight Night 121

Not many were expecting the heavyweight main event between Fabricio Werdum (23-7-1 MMA, 13-4 UFC) and Marcin Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) to go the distance. But that’s exactly what happened.

Werdum and Tybura went five rounds, combining for a single-fight heavyweight record 282 significant strikes landed. In the end it was Brazil’s Werdum, a former UFC heavyweight champion, who took the unanimous decision.

Instagram Photo

* * * *

The winner: Dustin Poirier vs. Anthony Pettis

Poirier and Pettis delivered on the expectations, engaging in a wildly entertaining fight that saw “The Diamond” take home a third-round TKO in a blood-soaked affair.

Poirier took the center at the start, looking to press, but Pettis was there to open with a few powerful kicks to the legs and then up high. A Pettis flying knee just missed, and Poirier then changed levels and quickly drove the action to the floor. Poirier kept the legs wrapped as Pettis patiently worked to a sitting position and looked to crawl to his feet. Poirier stayed heavy on top, and Pettis turned to a kimura, but Poirier reacted well and was able to pull free and move to his opponent’s guard. A slick Pettis sweep created a scramble, and the two moved back to the feet, where both men landed crisp right hands.

Poirier came up short on another takedown, but a nice right hand followed and briefly stumbled Pettis. Poirier turned up the head, and combinations rocked his opponent. Pettis answered with a spinning backfist that stunned his opponent, but Poirier and continued with the assault until the bell.

Pettis seemed fully recovered to start the second, coming out aggressive and looking to strike. Poirier again turned to the takedown, getting the fight to the floor and battling through a triangle attempt from his opponent. Poirier scored with a few big elbows from the top, slicing open Pettis, who was forced to roll and expose his back. With blood streaming down his face and impacting his vision, Pettis was able to spin inside and take top position, scoring a few big punches and elbows of his own. Wild scrambles followed, with both men covered in blood and battling for position. Eventually, they returned to the feet, where Pettis scored a takedown but was unable to control Poirier, who slipped out the back door and took top position. With blood pooling on the face of Pettis, referee Keith Peterson called time and brought the doctor in to take a look.

Despite a few nasty cuts in dangerous spots, the fight was allowed to continue, and Pettis locked in a dangerous triangle choke in the final seconds. Poirier survived the hold and wound up on top, striking until the bell.

Both men looked battered to start the third, and after a few back-and-forth strikes, Poirier again pushed inside for a takedown. Pettis looked to scramble free, but Poirier was able to slip around to the back and lock in a body triangle. Pettis did well to battle the hands, but as he again tried to spin inside the hold, Poirier transitioned over to mount. The torque was too much for Pettis, and he verbally submitted due to an apparent injury, resulting in a TKO finish.

“It was weird,” Poirier said of the finish. “I thought I was going to get the head-and-arm or rear-naked choke. He was hurt, and I felt the power leave him. You know the point in a fight when a guy gets broken. I do that to a lot of these guys.

“I’m a nasty dude. I love this. This is what I live for. The talking, calling people out and acting crazy? That’s not what I do. I fight.”

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T.J. Dillashaw renews call for fight with Demetrious Johnson: 'Don't be scared, man'

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

It’s the season of giving, and UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw is hoping, again, flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson will give him a fight.

Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) renewed his call for Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) to step up to the plate to face him and told TMZ the fight was in both of their best interests.

“He should be (on board),” Dillashaw told TMZ. “This is the fight that makes the most sense for (him), even moreso than me. He needs a fight that’s sellable.”

Any criticism of Johnson has definitely not come from his in-cage performances. He hasn’t lost in more than six years. He won the UFC’s inaugural flyweight title in September 2012 and has defended the belt 11 times. Most recently, he submitted Ray Borg at UFC 216 in October and broke Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses.

Over the course of his streak, he has seven finishes and seven post-fight bonus awards. But he’s also been perhaps the most favored fighter, on average, in UFC history. So far ahead of most of the rest of the flyweight class is “Mighty Mouse” that the betting lines for his fights make him a massive favorite each time he steps in the cage. His past seven title defenses have seen him close with odds of -2000 (Chris Cariaso, -1500 (Kyoji Horiguchi), -725 (John Dodson 2), -450 (Henry Cejudo), -1150 (Tim Elliott), -1100 (Wilson Reis) and -1200 (Borg).

That’s a big reason Dillashaw is advocating they fight – the matchup between a flyweight and bantamweight, presumably with Dillashaw moving down to 125 pounds, finally would mean a competitive bout for Johnson, and one the fans would see as competitive, as well. And that would mean the potential for stronger pay-per-view sales than Johnson is accustomed to seeing.

“Demetrious Johnson’s always showed up,” Dillashaw said. “He’s always done his job. He’s always been the better fighter. He’s looked awesome. He’s finished fights – looking great. Really, what it comes down to, is not having an opponent to say, ‘We’re excited about this fight.’ Everyone’s always excited like, ‘Let’s see if Demetrious Johnson can break the record,’ or ‘He’s on this long win streak,’ this, this and that. But they never talk about Demetrious Johnson and who he’s fighting.

“This is a fight that will happen – this is a fight that will get the fans entertained. You’ll be glued to the TV because he’s fighting me, not because he’s just fighting. That’s why he doesn’t sell tickets – because everyone knows what’s going to happen.”

In anticipation of a potential matchup, Johnson is a -140 favorite over Dillashaw, who sits at +110. There was talk of the two fighting earlier this year, but Johnson chose to fight Borg, instead. Dillashaw went on to challenge former teammate Cody Garbrandt for the bantamweight title after the two coached opposite each other on Season 25 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

At UFC 217 earlier this month, Dillashaw reclaimed the 135-belt with a second-round knockout of Garbrandt, giving him three straight wins since losing the title to Dominick Cruz nearly two years ago in a close split decision. After that win, Dillashaw renewed his hope for a fight with Johnson, and it’s one UFC President Dana White says he can get behind if Dillashaw can make the weight – which he believes he can.

The question in Dillashaw’s mind just seems to be whether or not Johnson wants the fight.

“Don’t be scared, man. Let’s get this done,” Dillashaw said. “This is the fight that makes sense for you and me. This is the fight the fans want to see. This is the fight I want to see. Not sure if you want to see it, but man up – let’s do it.”

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Justin Buchholz talks Cody Garbrandt's UFC 217 title loss and current Team Alpha Male role

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Cody Garbrandt’s first attempt to defend the UFC bantamweight title didn’t go as planned. But given the rough road there, coach Justin Buchholz thinks the former champion’s solid start at UFC 217 served as a testament to his skills.

Garbrandt (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) was a 2-1 betting favorite heading into UFC 217’s co-headliner against then-ex-champ and former Team Alpha Male stablemate T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC). And his heavy hands almost confirmed those expectations in the first round, when he had the challenger in serious trouble.

But Dillashaw was able to turn things in around in the second, pulling off an unexpected knockout to take back the bantamweight title.

Buchholz, who cornered Garbrandt, hadn’t gotten back to Team Alpha Male by the time he checked in with MMAjunkie Radio. But he shared some thoughts on Garbrandt’s comeback.

“When it comes to Cody regaining the title, it’s honestly just the focus he has,” Buchholz said. “A focused Cody Garbrandt, man, you saw what he did against Dominick Cruz. You saw what he did last year. And he was on the losing end of kind of a firefight.

“It will be an interesting process, coming back.”

Buchholz went into some detail in regard to less-than-ideal leadup to the drama-filled UFC 217 match. The two bantamweights, of course, were originally supposed to meet in July, after they were done with their roles as opposing coaches on Season 25 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

A back injury, however, forced “No Love” out of the booking – and we got about four extra months of beefing, with the occasional finger-pointing and even controversial leaked sparring footage.

When the two finally met in the octagon on Nov. 4, it was Dillashaw’s night. And Buchholz in no way takes away from Dillashaw’s merit there; he was always acutely aware of how dangerous of an opponent he was as they headed into the fight.

But what we saw up in the octagon was the result of a process that, especially considering such a worthy opponent, could’ve been better.

“Honestly, Cody, he was hurt a lot this year,” Buccholz said. “This is a known fact: The fight is won or lost in the gym. It’s such a known fact. So the camp going into it, it’s everything. With Cody’s injuries and what was going on with the gym. I just felt like – especially to get someone like T.J., T.J. is one of the most sickest competitors I’ve ever seen. He will train hard, and he will do whatever it takes to win this fight and this competition. He’s so ultra competitive.

“Cody has that competitive streak, as well, but I’ve never really seen another fighter like T.J. who has that type of just singular focus like that. And to train for T.J. Dillashaw for a year – this guy’s training, just in the gym, just trying to get back everything that he thinks was taken from him or whatnot. And this is the guy we’re going to face. I knew we were in for a tough fight.

“People would always ask me, they’d say, ‘What is the tougher fight?’ They’d do the MMA math, and they’d say, ‘Cody humiliated Dominick Cruz, and Cruz beat T.J.’ But that is MMA math. And we know it’s all bull(expletive). It doesn’t matter. It’s the setup. It’s the matchup. I knew we had a super tough competitor out there. And it was hard to get Cody the camp that I felt we needed to deal with someone like T.J.”

After the fight, Garbrandt briefly touched on the “long, hard road” and the adjustments he had to make “on the fly” due to the multiple procedures he had to have stemming from his back injury. But ultimately, he reiterated he made no excuses for the loss.

“I’m just thankful to be here and have health,” Garbrandt added.

Garbrandt went on to add that, at least, he went out on his shield. And the coach agrees that, all in all, his athlete did showcase some serious skill in there.

“With all that being said about Cody’s camp, he still almost put away in the first round,” Buccholz said. “That is a credit to how amazing of an athlete and a fighter he is. He was looking good. He was looking good and got caught with that kick.”

Buchholz also took the opportunity to address another topic that’s been on the news, though this time it’s one involving himself: his situation at Team Alpha Male. The UFC vet, who recently made a victorious return to fighting, caused some waves late last month when he announced that he was no longer the head MMA coach for the Sacramento-based team.

Buchholz, who now leads the muay Thai training there and has some “deep” loyalties to fighters such as UFC vets Darren Elkins and Cynthia Calvillo, clarified to MMAjunkie Radio that the situation wasn’t a “business thing.”

“I don’t run the MMA program anymore,” Buccholz said. “We were at the old gym, and I think two months into this gym we moved into a new facility. The program I had set and worked on and had coached over, it wasn’t really what I was trying to do.

“There was a lot of influences coming in. It wasn’t the same tone. I don’t want to be considered the head of a program I’m not in complete control over. It’s basically what happened.

” … Business aside, I love coaching. I love the team. I was the first guy to fight in the UFC on the team, when everyone was at WEC. I’ve done a lot for the team. So it’s not really a business thing, it’s just – I have these standards in the way that I like to run things.”

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

For complete coverage of UFC 217, 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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Jimmie Rivera tweets sales pitch, then challenges T.J. Dillashaw for UFC bantamweight title

Jimmie Rivera believes he’s done enough to earn a stab at T.J. Dillashaw’s bantamweight title. But considering results aren’t always what count in times like these, you can’t blame a guy for exploring some angles.

Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC), who is left without an opponent after injury forced former champion Dominick Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) out of a scheduled UFC 219 meeting, took to Twitter today to throw a jab at newly re-crowned champ Dillashaw (via Twitter).

Saw T.J. Dillashaw’s interview on MMAFighting. Urijah Faber is the reason you got into MMA, UFC and won a title. Then you leave. I have an oldschool martial arts upbringing and loyalty is huge. I looked up to Urijah and beat him, I’ll whoop your ass 10 times worse.

If the first Tweet read more like a sales pitch than a challenge, the second one made sure to clarify his intentions. (via Twitter)

I need someone for Dec 30th and the UFC needs a main event. Let’s go, T.J. Dillashaw. You only fought for 7 and a half minutes, I know you’re in shape and healthy. Step up and stop trying to run down to 125.

Rivera did beat Faber in September of 2016, walking away from their UFC 203 encounter with a clean sweep on the scorecards. Each fighter went on to fight once more – Rivera dominated Thomas Almeida en route to a unanimous decision, while Faber beat Brad Pickett in what has (so far) marked his retirement as an MMA fighter.

Recently, though, Faber (34-10 MMA, 10-6 UFC) hinted at how a matchup with former pupil Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) could maybe lure him back into the game. That, incidentally, is what seems to have sparked the comments that irked Rivera – though he did not clarify which article he was referring to.

“(A fight with Faber) sounds like the easiest payday ever,” Dillashaw told BJPenn.com, via MMAFighting.com. “I mean it’s just comical. I mean, come out of retirement, get a title shot off of what, losing to Jimmie Rivera and looking like crap in his fights? I mean it’s hilarious.

“But, like I said, it’d be an easy payday, so I guess I shouldn’t be laughing at it. I should be pumping him up.”

Of course, there are a few roadblocks there. Dillashaw has made it quite clear that he wants a meeting with flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson next – and is willing to cut an added 10 pounds in order to make that happen. And, considering his wife is having a baby due Dec. 28, fighting on Dec. 30 might not sound too appealing.

Whether Rivera, who’s currently ranked No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, will ever get his shot at the No. 1 fighter remains to be seen. But messing with the hornet’s nest that is Dillashaw’s relationship with some of his former Team Alpha Male peers seems like as good a bet as any.

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

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