- Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports14 hrs ago
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The toughest part of Thursday's festivities for Renan Barao was being so close to what was once his.
There sat the former UFC bantamweight champion, during a UFC 177 media day at Sleep Train Arena, no more than 15 feet away from current titleholder T.J. Dillashaw. Dillashaw was the fighter with the biggest crowd of reporters and cameras around him, the victor basking in his hometown glory, the star of the show.
And resting on a podium next to Dillashaw was the bantamweight title belt, the one which had been Barao's until Memorial Day weekend, sitting both literally and metaphorically just out of the Brazilian's reach.
"It motivates me a lot," Barao said through an interpreter. "I think about it all day, every day. I want to go over there and get my belt back."
He'll have that opportunity soon enough, as Barao and Dillashaw meet up in the main event of UFC 177, just three months after Dillashaw, as an 8-to-1 underdog, pulled off a jaw-dropping upset with a fifth-round finish in Las Vegas.
- Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports11 days ago
You can't blame Alexander Gustafsson for believing the next shot at Jon Jones' UFC light heavyweight title should be his for the re-taking.
After all, the 6-foot-5 Swede was slated to meet Jones on Sept. 27 in Las Vegas in a rematch of their epic fight a year ago.
But Gustafsson suffered a knee injury early in training camp, which caused him to pull out of the fight, and set in motion the circus-like chain of events which ended up making Jones vs. Daniel Cormier one of the most anticipated fights in years.
So when Jones himself had to pull out of the date because of a meniscus injury, causing the bout to be pushed back to Jan. 3, Gustafsson felt the title shot which had been his should be restored.
"I just heard the news that Jones is injured and the fight is rescheduled to January 3," Gustafsson wrote on his Facebook page. "Until then, I will be more than ready, it was my fight to begin with and I want the fight as the number 1 contender. End of story!"
- Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports18 days ago
LOS ANGELES – For once, Conor McGregor is willing to admit that it might not be all about him.
The bombastic Irish featherweight contender and self-promoter extraordinaire will step into the Octagon on Sept. 27 in Las Vegas.
But unlike his recent appearances, this time around, the cocky Dubliner is willing to admit UFC 178 is more than just the latest edition of The Conor McGregor Show. In this case, he is generous with the spotlight, willing to share it with the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
“I don’t feel pressure to steal the show, but I will steal the show,” McGregor told Yahoo Sports while backstage at Club Nokia before a recent question-and-answer session with UFC fans. “I believe it’s myself and Jon’s card here. Nobody else.”
- Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports23 days ago
LOS ANGELES — Very few people in their right mind would call Daniel Cormier a stupid person.
The light heavyweight contender and former Olympic wrestler out of San Jose is one of the most perceptive and intelligent fighters in the sport of mixed martial arts. The fighter known as “DC” was fast to catch on as a Fox Sports UFC studio analyst, and he’s one of the media’s go-to guys for quick-witted quotes on subjects across the combat-sports spectrum.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Cormier understands that while his UFC 178 news-conference brawl with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones on Monday in Las Vegas is the sort of thing that could cast the sport in a negative light, it will also set the cash registers ringing when the pair square off for Jones’ title on Sept. 27 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Just over two years ago, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson lashed out at his critics over Facebook, after he missed weight for a middleweight bout with Vitor Belfort by an astonishing 11 pounds.
"I don't give a [expletive]," Johnson said in a long-since-deleted post. "I'm laughing at you all."
Johnson went on to lose in the first round to Belfort in what was assumed to be the last anyone would ever see of the Dublin, Ga., native.
Contrast that to the words that came out of Johnson's mouth Saturday night in the Octagon at the SAP Center, after he needed just 44 seconds to score a vicious TKO victory over veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-feature bout of UFC on FOX 12.
Two matches into his UFC redemption tale, and now fighting as a light heavyweight, Johnson is levelheaded, humble and laser-focused on making the most of his second chance.
UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks took an unconventional lesson from his right bicep injury.
"Don't go see the doctor within two weeks of your fights," Hendricks told Yahoo! Sports. "They'll find something that's going to mess with your head."
Hendricks is being a little bit tongue-in-cheek, of course. But as the former NCAA wrestling champion rehabs from surgery to repair the injury that was suffered in training for his UFC 171 title victory over Robbie Lawler and exacerbated early in the five-round fight, the champ didn't need a doctor to figure something had gone wrong.
"What happened was, my final day of hard training [for the Lawler fight], I felt something and I immediately said, 'Let's shut it down,'" Lawler said. "It was like someone dead-armed me. Then in the first round, my first attempt at a takedown, I tore the bicep fully. At that point, it's all about adrenaline and the discipline from your years of wrestling training and you just push your way through."
From the UFC’s aggressive schedule expansion, to Nevada banning testosterone replacement therapy and the fallout the decision caused, to behind-the-scenes maneuvering at Bellator, and so on, the first six months of 2104 in mixed martial arts seemed to be more about what went on outside the cage than what went down when the gates were locked.
But still, several performances managed to cut through the cluttered landscape. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best in the sport so far this year. (And yes, we set the cutoff for the first half of the calendar at July 5, the date of UFC 175, and not June 30).
LAS VEGAS – UFC president Dana White, as would be expected of a promoter in his position, waxed effusive late Saturday after Ronda Rousey scored the fastest victory of her career.
The UFC women's bantamweight champion needed just 16 seconds to rid herself of Alexis Davis at UFC 175, one second off the UFC record for the fastest knockout in a title fight.
The way White saw it, there was no particular good reason why Rousey couldn't take on anyone, anywhere.
"When you look at the NBA, women play basketball, but everybody [expletive] on it like, 'Ah, it's women's basketball; it's terrible,' " White said at the postfight news conference at Mandalay Bay. "This is a chick that could leave this building, walk down the Las Vegas Strip and wreck every guy on the Las Vegas Strip. There's never been a women in the history of the world that could do that."
Well, maybe Rousey could go out and wreck every drunken bozo wandering down the Strip on a holiday weekend night. But the real question going forward is this: Can White find another opponent who can be a credible draw against the dominant champion?
- Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports2 mths ago
In January 2009, Jeremy Stephens got a call he had long awaited: His first shot at a main event in the UFC.
Sure, it was on short notice, but he wasn't about to say no to the opportunity. Why would he? The cocky lightweight prospect from Iowa, then 23-years-old, was the winner of three of his past four bouts and on his way to big things. A main event bout against Joe Lauzon would cement his status as a title contender.
"I thought I was ready back then," Stephens said. "I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I was untouchable. But looking back all it shows is how much I still had to learn."
Stephens lost to Lauzon in Tampa, Fla., falling prey to an armbar in the second round. And it would take him five and a half years to get another main-event look.
In the interim, Stephens has changed camps, shifted weight classes and been through a legal issue. But now, in his 19th UFC fight, Stephens is older, wiser, and back where he felt he belonged so many years ago: In the main-event spotlight.
- Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports2 mths ago
If Rory MacDonald is about to fill Georges St-Pierre’s shoes as Canada’s next mixed martial arts superstar, it’s a role he’ll assume with reluctance.
“I don’t want to be a superstar,” MacDonald said Saturday night after dispatching Tyron Woodley at UFC 174 in Vancouver. “I just like to fight and hopefully I’ll be a dominant champion and represent Canada well.”
Whether or not he wants to take the baton, however, MacDonald may not have much of a choice. The 24-year old welterweight, who trains out of Montreal’s Tri Star gym with St-Pierre, went home to British Columbia and was greeted with a hero’s welcome on Saturday. While UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson was the nominal headliner, it was clear MacDonald, whose unanimous decision over Woodley was the evening’s co-headline bout, was the real draw for the crowd of 13,506 at Rogers Arena.
“The response was great,” MacDonald said at the post-fight news conference. “I feel like I am falling into a groove. Something is clicking.”