Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos: ‘The Fight of Your Life’ (Video)

(Courtesy of UFC)

Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos are both warriors, fighters that like to finish. They’re also both former champions and want to get the gold back.

They each know that in order to do that, they have to approach their UFC on FOX 26 main event as the fight of their lives.

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Tune in Saturday, Dec. 16, for full UFC on FOX 26: Lawler vs. dos Anjos live results and fight stats. Who will move another step toward a welterweight title shot, as Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos throw down in the main event in Winnipeg, Canada.

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Source: MMA Weekly

Bellator 191 headliner Michael McDonald: Insane to think I could have another 10-15 years in MMA

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As he prepares to make his Bellator debut, now is probably a good time to remind you that UFC and WEC veteran Michael McDonald is just 26.

Crazy, right?

“To think about the fact that I could have another 10-15 years (in MMA) if I wanted it is pretty insane,” McDonald told MMAjunkie Radio. “I’ve already been doing this for over 10 years now, professionally, and that’s a good thing – as long as I can keep my body intact. I’ve got a lot of miles, but I’m learning to take good care of my body.”

McDonald debuted in the WEC in 2010 as a teenager and then immediately transitioned to the UFC, earning a “Fight of the Night” bonus in a decision win over Edwin Figueroa in his promotional debut. He was victorious in his first four UFC fights before coming up short in a bid against Renan Barao for the UFC’s interim bantamweight title in 2013.

Injuries and contract disputes slowed McDonald’s output for the next several years, and he ultimately elected to leave the UFC in favor of a fresh start with Bellator.

In Friday’s Bellator 191 headliner at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England, McDonald (17-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) faces Frenchman Peter Ligier (8-1-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a bout that airs on Spike via same-day tape delay.

It’s a fresh start for McDonald, who could still have plenty of upside remaining in his fighting career. With plenty of top-level experience already under his belt, he knows what it takes to compete against the world’s best. His only regret is that he faced top competition so early in his career that it was difficult to have his compensation match the difficulty of the challenges.

“There’s positives and negatives to it,” McDonald said of the early start to his career. “I fought such high competition so quick while I was on my first UFC contract, and that kind of sucked. I fought Miguel Torres on my very first UFC contract. It’s hard to fight someone according to my pay grade when I’ve just beaten Miguel Torres, and I’m still on my first contract after that. There are complications business-wise. But professionally, when it comes to the competitor in me, I’m very happy with it.”

It’s been nearly 17 months since “Mayday” last stepped in the cage, and he said the time away has done him wonders. At such a young age, McDonald still has plenty of time to deliver on the potential he’s long possessed.

But the first step comes Friday, when McDonald can prove his decision to walk away from the UFC was a wise one.

“I’m really excited, man,” McDonald said. “This is the most focused I’ve been in a very long time. Not only that, it’s the best shape, the best technical-wise, best strength, best cardio I’ve ever had in my entire life. Part of me wishes I felt this way for my UFC fights, particularly my title fight in the UFC, but it happens the way that is is.

“God is sovereign over what’s going on, and I’m positive that what happened was good, but I think still this is the greatest I’ve ever felt in my life, and I’m really excited to see how that translates to performance.”

For more on Bellator 191, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Tito Ortiz: Fans Deserve Cris Cyborg vs. Ronda Rousey Fight

Ronda Rousey has all but confirmed that she is done fighting.

While she has yet to make it official, Rousey has not uttered a word about returning to the Octagon. Her boss, UFC president Dana White, doesn’t think she’ll ever return, and he doesn’t want her to.

One person that does want to see Rousey back in the Octagon is former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. He her to return because, in his eyes, Rousey is the one that got away from his friend and client, Cris “Cyborg” Justino.

“I think the fans deserve it, Cris deserves it, and for sure I think Ronda deserves it after everything she’s said about Cris,” Ortiz said on a recent edition of Submission Radio. “If you’re ever gonna talk about somebody, at least step in the cage and try to prove yourself. But she’s afraid to do it, I understand.

Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg“There’s many women who are afraid to fight Cris, and I’d just say the proof is in the pudding of how dangerous Cris truly is. If that fight’s in front of her, it shows that UFC are able to once again put a great, huge fight together.”

Cyborg is, of course, focused on other matters at the moment. She is slated to put her UFC featherweight championship on the line against Holly Holm in the UFC 219 main event on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.

Though she’s moved on from Rousey, the fighter that once captured the entirety of her focus, Ortiz believes Cyborg would still love to do that fight if it were offered.

“I think she’s past it, but I know she still would love to do the fight. I know she still would love to put her hands on Ronda. That’s just the way that Cris works,” Ortiz continued.

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“She’s a very respectful woman, a very kind woman, but when it comes to fighting and somebody talks about her, she’s willing to step in and defend herself. So if that fight ever does come up, I think it’ll be a huge payday for both fighters.”

With Cyborg continuing her career in the Octagon and Rousey rumored to be moving on with the WWE in her future, it’s unlikely that the fight fans once craved will ever come to fruition.

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Source: MMA Weekly

Cris Cyborg: UFC 219 title fight vs. Holly Holm could go beyond just stand-up

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

On paper, the UFC 219 headliner between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm offers a clear stylistic narrative.

Champ Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who was most recently seen conquering the UFC’s women’s featherweight belt at UFC 214, has used her notorious, hyper-aggressive muay Thai to knock out her three UFC opponents and 13 of the 16 that came before.

Former 135-pound champ Holm’s (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) knockout rate in MMA is slightly more modest – eight in total. But Holm, who’s also an ex-kickboxer, conquered multiple titles in boxing throughout a decade-long career in which she lost just twice.

What is apparently a striker vs. striker battle, though, might just be the chance for Cyborg to shine in lesser-known aspects of her game.

“She’s had a lot of experience in boxing. She had more than 300 rounds,” Cyborg told MMAjunkie ahead of the Dec. 30 headliner, which airs on pay-per-view from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “And she had a lot of sparring time. I think it’s going to be a great fight. I think she’s gonna have a lot of things to challenge myself. And it’s MMA.

“Maybe this fight, I can show (another) Cyborg, too. Not just in the stand-up, (but on) the ground, and then takedown and submit. Let’s see.”

A submission win would be the first for Cyborg. The only time one of her fights ended that way was, incidentally, her first and sole MMA loss. That was over 12 years ago. Holm, too, never has won a fight via submission – though it was a choke, by Miesha Tate, that ended Holm’s short 135-pound reign.

In any case, this could always just be a decoy. Cyborg, who’s recruited some high-level assistance in multiple-time boxing champion Cecilia Braekhus, has talked about her desire to try her hand at boxing. Outworking someone with Holm’s credentials on the feet would certainly be a nice way of setting that in motion.

Few would disagree this was the match to make. Amid Cyborg’s somewhat slim pickings in the UFC, a former champion who permanently left her mark as the first person to defeat Ronda Rousey – via knockout, no less – is certainly a good call.

There’s also the fact that, this time, Cyborg won’t be carrying a considerable size advantage as she goes up against a highly technical striker who narrowly lost to Germaine de Randamie in a bid for the UFC’s inaugural 145-pound belt (de Randamie was stripped of the title shortly after, due to her refusal to fight Cyborg).

Will that translate to numbers, though?

Cyborg, who’s fought tooth and nail to claim her place among the UFC’s hot commodities, is optimistic.

“I think I’ve already proven I can be a draw,” Cyborg said. “I think people have really (been following me) for a long time. And, after the opportunity I had to fight at 140 in Brazil. I think people who didn’t know Cyborg just met me there.

“Let’s see. December, I think, will be an amazing time, an amazing match. I think people are going to be very excited to buy the pay-per-view and watch me and Holly.”

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

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 219 test run for AI-inspired glove sensors approved

Big data is coming to the octagon.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission today approved a test run for a new UFC-approved product that uses analytics and artificial intelligence to tell the story of a fight.

At UFC 219, select fighters will be equipped with glove sensors that measure everything from punch strength to stress. The data from those sensors will then be interpreted in real time using analytics and artificial intelligence.

The UFC’s hope is to give fight fans a better understanding of what’s really happening inside the octagon with a new set of stats that can be shown during broadcasts. But first the promotion needs to make sure the data is accurate – and useful.

Today during an NSAC hearing in Las Vegas, the UFC pitched the program as a way to potentially improve fighter safety, including concussion protocols and training methods. The commission was optimistic about its potential, though concerns were expressed about how the data is stored and used.

NSAC Chairman Anthony Marnell likened the program to the use of Sabermetrics in baseball but cautioned the data could sway judges if displayed on their cageside TV monitors during a fight. He said the UFC should work behind the scenes with the commission to determine the best rollout.

Before the initial findings are released, the commission also wants to sign off. Commissioner Raymond “Skip” Avansino noted that previous attempts to place sensors on fighters resulted in data being distributed without permission.

The collaboration that resulted in the new product came together in 2016, when Endeavor CEO and UFC co-owner Ari Emanuel brokered a deal between analytics company AGT International and consumer platform company HEED. A live demonstration took place this past month at the tech conference “AWS re:Invent 2017.”

After a mock sparring session between UFC fighters Edson Barboza and Mark Diakiese, HEED co-founder Mati Kochavi said the sensors used to collect data produce 70 new insights about what happens during a fight. The sensors on the gloves alone, he said, produce 12 different “stories.” There are sensors in the octagon canvas to measure movement and range, and even sensors monitoring a fighter’s cornermen and his family members.

Kochavi said all of the data is interpreted by a highly complex “AI agent,” which works from a detailed “world graph” of different data points. They include the attributes a fighter displays in the cage such as his style, emotion, and energy, as well as the surrounding environment made up of the fans, referee and media.

The AI agent can beam all that information to fans via smartphone, and fans can tailor the information they want to see based on their preference for particular stats.

“Those insights are covering entire aspects of the fight between Diakiese and Barboza,” Kochavi said. “They cover their passion, the power of the fight, the resiliency, the strategy. All of those things happen in the octagon.

“Shouldn’t we tell the story of sport that way? Shouldn’t sport be told in real time, with real data, with real information, and with real insights, and the real emotions? We are a company which is trying to revolutionize the way we’re going to (broadcast) sports and live events.”

Fans won’t immediately see the changes when they watch UFC 219, which takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. But every time they see a punch, a new line of data will get collected.

What becomes of that data is the next big question.

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

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Kate Jackson Plans to ‘Bring Out Her Best’ in Bellator 191 Co-Main Event

Following her elimination from The Ultimate Fighter 23 in March of 2016, flyweight Kate Jackson had waited to return to action for nearly a year before finally making her comeback.

Since returning to fighting, Jackson has picked up two TKO wins in her two bouts in 2017, first against Bryony Tyrell at British Challenge 18 in March, and then against Colleen Schneider in August at Bellator 182.

“My first one was against probably the best strawweight in the country, and somebody I had trained with as well (in Tyrell),” Jackson told MMAWeekly.com. “I knew I had the edge on the ground, and that’s where most of the fight took place. There was a little top control and ground ‘n’ pound, and the ref stopped it in the third round.

“(Against Schneider) I noticed quite a size difference. It was a lot of work for that fight, getting inside, and dealing with the way she fights. I wanted to stand with her. I fell back on my kicks quite a lot and it paid off. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go. But I went in there and got the job done.”

Having fought both at flyweight and strawweight this year, Jackson is willing to do either, but her decision at what weight to compete at will come on a case by case basis.

“Within Europe I seem to stack up quite well at flyweight,” said Jackson. “I’ve never particularly been at a size or strength disadvantage. I think Colleen was one of the biggest flyweights I’ve come across. I do know there are others who cut down from 150 pounds, which for me isn’t ideal. It’s a toss-up really.

“Without large water cuts, flyweight is a good weight cut for me. But it depends on what opportunities are there. It depends on what happens over the coming year in weight cut culture.”

Jackson (9-2-1) will look to cap off an undefeated 2017 when she takes on Valerie Letourneau (8-6) in a 125-pound co-main event of Bellator 191 in Newcastle, England, on Friday.

“It’s not like (Letourneau) was ever a huge bantamweight, and she has never made strawweight, so I think we’ll be closer in size, which is good,” Jackson said. “It’ll be a fast-paced fight. She pressures a lot. I think, I hope, and I plan for it to bring out the best in me.

“She doesn’t have any problem with being punched in the face, and I’ll be happy to oblige that. I’ll stand with her. I’ve worked on my hands a lot the last 18 months. But if the option needs to take it to the ground, then I’ll go to the ground. I’m comfortable there and I feel I have the edge on the ground.”

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After her run in TUF, Jackson hasn’t really put much thought into where she wants to take things in the future, but for now she’s signed to a multi-fight contract with Bellator and will move forward with the promotion in 2018.

“I haven’t really considered the next step, which sounds crazy,” said Jackson. “You can’t look past a fight. I want to get this one out of the way and evaluate from there. I’ll fight in the flyweight division of Bellator as long as they want me here.”

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Source: MMA Weekly

UFC's Joseph Benavidez on initial pain, isolation, helplessness of injury recovery: 'I cried every day'

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Scrolling through Joseph Benavidez’s Instagram account, you’ll see a few things: pictures of him with wife Megan Olivi, snapshots of movies, and cute selfies with their dog, Benny.

What you won’t see are too many pictures of his recovering knee.

That doesn’t mean that the two-time UFC flyweight title challenger isn’t going to the UFC Performance Institute every day. Or that he isn’t training. Or that he isn’t powering through every rough stage of rehabilitation after surgically repairing a torn ACL.

In the more than six months that have passed since Benavidez announced that an injury had forced him out of a scheduled bout with Ben Nguyen, he’s done all those things.

We just haven’t since much of it.

“It was only me going through it, and that’s the way I thought about it,” Benavidez told MMAjunkie Radio. “Like, no one else is going to care. That’s why I’m not like, ‘Hey guys, I’ll be back soon. Check it out. I just bent my leg to 30 degrees or whatever.’ In this sport, there’s such a short memory. There’s always something happening. Someone getting injured, a fight that weekend.

“I’m just like, ‘People are not even going to know I’m injured by the time nine or 10 months comes. And I’m going to win, and I’m going to fight. So they’re not even going to remember that, anyway. So I’m not going to start with everybody else, so I’m going through it myself.’”

For those interested in updates of his recovery, though, Benavidez will gladly give them.

“It’s coming along,” Benavidez said. “You can get places faster banding and lateral and stuff. But it takes a certain amount of time for the tendons and everything to heal properly. I’m like at a six-, six-and-a-half-month mark right now. I’m training and stuff. Nothing live – anything where an injury can happen.

“Just like you would a week before a fight or something. Something you would do where you couldn’t get injured? That’s kind what I’m doing. Going through the mitts, the motions, the drills and stuff.

“I’m getting there. Hopefully shooting for a March, April return next year.”

Benavidez has been “good” for months now. But that’s after what often felt like a very slow process that had him relying heavily on others for basic things. For two months, he had to use at least one crutch. He was stuck with an ankle-to-hip cast. His wife, who’s also a host and reporter for the UFC, had to skip trips to help him.

For the first week, Benavidez had to sleep in the couch because couldn’t even go up the stairs in his home. After that, he could go up slowly, with Olivi’s help, to do basic things like taking showers.

“It was miserable, of course,” Benavidez said. “And I know Megan wouldn’t be doing anything else, but she was in there helping me shower, you know. I cried every day. On my couch, like – it was just terrible to have something taken away from you like that.

“I would cry all the time, and Megan would go down and sleep with me on the couch because I couldn’t go up the stairs. And I’d have to wake her up because I was just crying. Just breaking down and just kind of – I don’t know. It was just a long road. And then the pain and everything as well. There were times when I was crying naked with my dog on my lap.”

With time, it got better. Eventually, Benavidez could walk. Then he could drive. And now, possibly three or four months away from an octagon return, the flyweight is looking ahead to what’s currently an interesting division.

Since Benavidez had to withdraw from his UFC Fight Night 110 meeting with Nguyen, 125-pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson has cruised past yet another challenger at UFC 216, pulling off a crazy submission win over Ray Borg to break Anderson Silva’s previous record of 10 consecutive title defenses.

Benavidez, who’s suffered two losses to Johnson in the past, has made no secret of his desire for a third stab at the belt. And, considering he’s coming off six straight victories, the No. 2 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings isn’t exactly crazy to feel that way.

If it does come to fruition, however, that shot might involve peculiar circumstances. While nothing’s been officially announced, there’s a strong push to make Johnson’s (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) next fight against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) – a matchup that Benavidez thinks is “awesome.”

The specifics of that are also up in the air. Would it be at flyweight? Bantamweight? Somewhere in between? But if it ends up being Dillashaw going down to the 125-pound division, and becoming a two-division champ in the process, that could lead to Benavidez going up against a former Team Alpha Male stablemate and friend.

When talks of a Johnson-Dillashaw fight first started, Benavidez figured he’d have time to see the whole thing unfold. But Johnson had other plans. And Benavidez was always aware, as small as it was, as much as he knew both ex-teammates would tried to get around it, of the possibility of fighting Dillashaw.

Now that it seems more real than never?

“I’ll fight the best guy in my weight,” Benavidez said.

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

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

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Referee, Judges Assigned for UFC 219 Main Event Between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm

When Cris “Cyborg” Justino defends her UFC women’s featherweight title for the first time against Holly Holm at UFC 219, veteran referee Herb Dean will be the third person in the Octagon.

Dean received the assignment via the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who appointed him to the fight on Tuesday during a monthly meeting in Las Vegas.

Dean has refereed dozens of title fights but did come under fire recently thanks to an early stoppage at UFC 218 in Detroit when he prematurely put an end to the bout between Sabah Homasi and Abdul Razak Alhassan. Now those two fighters will rematch at UFC 219 in Las Vegas but there’s no word if Dean will be assigned that fight or not.

As for the judges for the main event, Derek Cleary, Dave Hagen, and Chris Lee will score the fight sitting cage side in Las Vegas.

UFC 219 will serve as the first time Cyborg has headlined a pay-per-view as she faces off with Holm in the first defense of her women’s featherweight title.

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Source: MMA Weekly

Commissioner Retires, Leading to Next Generation of Nevada Athletic Commission

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Marking a new generation for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Raymond “Skip” Avansino, Jr., announced his retirement at the commission’s Dec. 12, 2017, meeting.

Avansino was the final commission member of the “old guard” of the NSAC, which had been besieged with complaints and criticisms over the past few years.

The installation of Anthony Marnell to the commission in 2014 began the shift to a next generation commission, which has since seen all five of the prior commission members either retire or fail to be reappointed by Nevada’s governor.

Avansino served on the commission for 15 years, including a stint as Chairman, often taking up the position of the “voice of reason” in opposition to some of the more aggressive commissioners in recent memory.

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Current commission members include Chairman Marnell, as well as commissioners Staci Alonso and Sandra Douglass Morgan, leaving two open seats for the governor to fill by January.

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Source: MMA Weekly

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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