Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts

  • Last summer at a media luncheon, a reporter sarcastically asked UFC president Dana White how it could be true that fight sports like boxing and MMA helped individuals make better lives for themselves. White, no bleeding heart, was trying to make a point about how many people had used the discipline of training and professional opportunities of competing in fight sports to turn their lives around.

    "You can't tell me punching saves lives!" the reporter was quoted as saying, incredulously.

    The crass writer could not have seen through his own snark to realize how ignorant his comments made him look. The point doesn't need much arguing but, suffice to say, that, with the abundance of studies showing the positive psychological, physical and social effects of competitive sports as well as seemingly endless anecdotal tales of fighter after fighter pulling themselves and their families out of real violence and poverty, to say nothing of a common sense understanding that any type of disciplined work, including that found in gyms across the world, is character-building, the writer proved himself to be a poorly read and out of touch reporter of a singular variety.

    Fight sports, of course, are the toughest sports. It isn't the punching and kicking that magically helps lay and expert practitioners alike better themselves.

    Learning skills, working hard, maintaining discipline and developing a sense of self-worth. These are the things that fighters talk about when they say "fighting saved my life."

    Alex White fought for his life long before he began to train martial arts. And, it's hard to say if that training "saved" his life all over again.

    If fighting didn't save Alex's life, though, it dramatically changed it for the better.

    When Alex White was four years old, he drank gasoline placed in a milk jug near other jugs that were filled with lemonade. Friends say that he died three times before his family was able to get him to a hospital.

    When doctors finally did get a look at poisoned little Alex, they said it would be a miracle if he lived past 10pm. That was twenty one years ago.

    The gasoline accident burnt his vocal cords, damaged his hearing and that all led to a minor speech impediment, but Alex proved stronger than anyone could have imagined. On Saturday, Alex White, now an undefeated professional fighter, will make his UFC debut.

    There was a lot of rough living in between that early childhood trauma and becoming one of the world's best fighters for Alex, however. The Missouri native was bullied much of his life.

    As a young adult, the shy and meek White was in and out of homelessness, working for close to nothing at a McDonald's. Then, one day, Alex walked into Joe Worden's fight gym, which was near the McDonald's he worked at.

    "He walked in and told me, 'Hey, I'd like to try this. I don’t have any money but I'll clean the gym, do whatever I have to,'" Worden remembers of their 2008 meeting.

    "I had never had anyone come in like that. He had a speech impediment, was shy, didn’t want to talk and wouldn’t look me in the eyes. He had his head down, looked embarrassed. I thought, 'I don’t know about this kid.' But the more he trained, I realized he was something. He was always quiet, never said five words through a practice but he worked hard....I guess he was bullied his whole life. Now, he was 19 and he decided to do something about it."

    Do something, he did. Alex trained consistently for a year before Worden entered him in competition.

    First, came amateur boxing. Alex entered a Ringside world tournament, the biggest one in the country, according to Worden, and beat five opponents in five days.

    Alex put in the work, day after day in the gym, improving by leaps and bounds. "He has something I can’t teach," Worden says.

    "He's all heart."

    Alex kept on winning. First, in boxing, then in MMA. Over the past five years, in fact, White has gone 15-0 as an amateur in MMA, before turning pro and going 9-0. Alex also went 12-0 as an amateur boxer and recently made a successful pro boxing debut.

    He's also a perfect 4-0 in kickboxing competition. More important than how well he's done in fighting competition, however, is how training and competing in fight sports changed Alex White.

     Alex in his third pro fight, back in 2012 - Video via Cage Championships

    "He came out of his shell," Worden says.

    "He's a completely different kid, now. He used to not want to talk to people but now he's signing autographs for kids at shows telling them, 'If I can do this, anybody can do this.' "Before, he had never been out of his small town of three hundred people. I coach on the U.S. national team, too, and now we've traveled everywhere. Alex has fought in Italy, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Nicaragua."

    Alex White himself doesn't try to talk up his transformation as much as those close to him do. The humble MMA prospect can't deny what training and competing has done for his confidence and life, however.

    "Yeah, I was kind of shy and all that," Alex says.

    "At that time [before I started training] I didn't really talk to people I didn't know. Training and competing did build confidence, made me more outgoing and more outspoken because before I just kept to myself and my friends and didn’t really talk to nobody I didn’t know. Basically, I was drinking all the time with friends. Fighting has changed me from that. Whenever I do drink these days, it's once in a blue moon. Fighting has helped me change my life for the better. If it wasn't for training and fighting, I'd be doing the same things and working at the same dead-end job."

    Alex still works a day job outside of fighting. His success isn't (at least not yet) one of a rags to riches, world-famous fighter. He has learned and earned the profound dignity of doing professional work to support himself and his passion, because of fighting, however.

    White's coach Worden is impressed by his student's work ethic, in and out of the gym. Worden helped connect White with a new employer, for whom Alex now delivers oxygen tanks, full-time.

    "The crazy thing of it is that he still works full-time," Worden gushes.

    "He gets to the gym and trains at 5am, then works from eight to five, then comes back to the gym and trains again until 8pm. Then, he goes home, gets sleep and does it all over again the next day."

    It would appear that White's motivation as he enters the UFC is the same it was when he first walked into Worden's gym - to see how far he could push himself. The glory of competition is nice but White never thought about it when he first started training.

    "I’ve always been into fighting," he says.

    "I never watched UFC or any of that before but I liked Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and stuff like that is what got me really interested in fighting. I was down visiting my mom and they were telling me about it so I thought I would try it. I didn't think about fighting at first, it was just to train with the other people. I wanted to see how far I could push my limits."

    Alex has pushed and pushed and now gets his chance to fight in the big leagues. Worden says that the UFC put their team on notice months back that Alex could get a call to take a fight, so the possibility has been on their minds for some time.

    As they often do, White's first UFC opportunity came on short notice, just a couple weeks ago. Former world champ Mike Brown pulled out of a fight with Estevan Payan and White was tabbed to replace Brown on April 19th's UFC on Fox 11 card in Orlando.

    "They first offered me the fight April 2, the day after April Fools Day," Alex recalls with a chuckle.

    "My coach called and said, 'you'd better be cutting weight because you got the offer.' I said, 'what are you talking about? April Fools is over!' He said, 'no, for real,' and I thought, 'that’s crazy.' We accepted, of course. If the UFC offers you a fight, you don’t not accept."

    Doctors said that it was a miracle Alex White survived the accidental poisoning at age four. Just a few years ago, perhaps many people who knew him in passing would have thought it would take a miracle for the painfully shy, homeless White to do anything else with his life.

    However, Alex had a strength deep in him that fight training help bring out and here he is, doing interviews and getting set to fight on national television this weekend. The moment is not lost on the fighter.

    "Who would have thought," Alex says.

    "It's just a great deal right there. You've got kids that look up to you, even grown ups that look up to you...I’d have never guessed but you look back and here you are. You work hard enough and you can make it happen. Just fighting in the UFC, that’s a big goal. Back when I started fighting, I would look and see that's where all the best guys competed and thought, 'wow, that would be awesome.'"

    Alex "The Spartan" White's awesome journey continues Saturday.

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  • Legendary former heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira suffered yet another traumatic loss April 11 when he was knocked out in the first round by Roy Nelson. After nearly fifteen years, forty three professional fights and numerous ring wars, UFC president Dana White believes that it is time for Nogueira to retire.

    “As soon as he got knocked out I was getting blown up by media guys saying, ‘What do you want to do? So, out of respect for Nogueira I didn’t want to say anything until he said something publicly. Then he came out and said he wants to fight Frank Mir. I don't want to see Nogueira fight ever again. He should retire," White said in a media scrum last night after the TUF: Nations Finale card.

    "He is a war horse. That guy has been in - just the battles in PRIDE he's been in - let alone the fights that he's fought in the UFC. He's one of the most respected fighters in the world by other fighters, let alone by fans. And I like him very much, too, so I wanted to give him the opportunity to say something first. I wanted to give him the opportunity to say something first, but now I’m going to say Big Nog, I love you, but I’d love you to never fight again.’”

    Do you want to see Nogueira move on to greener and safer pastures with his life? And, what can White do to help convince the warrior to hang 'em up?

    Let us know in the comments section.

    Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

  • Dana White and Gina Carano did recently meet to discuss bringing the former Strikeforce champion into the UFC for her first fight since 2009 and, according to the UFC President, the meeting went well. Carano does not have a deal to fight anyone yet but White was optimistic when he spoke with Fox Sports last night after the TUF: Nations Finale card.

    "Gina and I had a good meeting. I'm very confident that she does want to come back and she does want to fight. We do not have a deal but, umm, we might," White said.

    Rousey, of course, next defends her bantamweight title against Alexis Davis this coming Fourth of July weekend in Las Vegas. According to White, Carano isn't only interested in fighting Rousey - "Conviction" wants to take on whoever the UFC champ is at the time.

    "No, this isn't a 'I'm just coming back to fight Ronda Rousey.' [Carano] wants to fight whoever the champ is," White insisted.

    Speaking of women fighting, White also opined on the controversial question of who would win a real fight between Rousey and boing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    "MMA fight or street fight, Ronda Rousey easily, easily wins that fight," White said.

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  • Tim Kennedy got the last word in his feud with Michael Bisping with a unanimous decision win in the TUF: Nations Finale Wednesday night. Scores were 49-46 (twice) and 50-45 in favor of Kennedy, who moved into the top five of the middleweight division with this, his third UFC win.

    Kennedy used a persistent grappling attack to best Bisping over five rounds. The former Army Ranger sniper controlled the fight with multiple take downs and dominant positions repeatedly achieved on the ground.

    Per usual, Bisping proved resiliant and used his excellent conditioning to fight until the end. Bisping's toughness and sharp striking on the feet, however, were not enough to keep Kennedy off of him and prevent him from controlling him in the clinch and on the ground.

    The win is Kennedy's fourth straight. Bisping, who was returning after nearly a year lay-off because of serious eye injuries, has now lost two out of his last three fights and three out of his last five.

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  • Though he's fought professionally since 2001, middleweight Tim Kennedy is a relative newcomer to the UFC. On the other hand, his TUF: Nations Finale main event opponent tonight, Michael Bisping, is a seasoned veteran of the world's top MMA promotion.

    The outspoken British star is not only confident in his own ability to get the win against Kennedy, he also believes that his opponent lacks professionalism, all-around. "Fighters should behave accordingly, because we're not court jesters. We're not kids working on a school project. We're professional athletes, and this guy is kind of cheapening the whole thing," Bisping said of the wise-cracking and often silly Kennedy in a recent interview with Steph Daniels.

    "He's making these stupid videos. This isn't Comedy Central. We're not here to be judged on the best skit. It's about going out there and fighting to your best ability. I don't think he's representing the sport as he should. He's certainly representing himself well, but not the sport."

    Bisping went even further, questioning how well the proud war veteran Kennedy represents his Army brothers and sisters. "I made the comment about him not representing the armed forces very well because he's acting like an idiot," Bisping said.

    "I'm sure when he was in the service, he was a very good representative, but he's not a soldier any more. He needs to stop going on about it. Good for you, you did a great job. I commend the service you provided for your country, I really do, but you decided to leave the military to fight in the UFC. Your service days are over. Please stop talking about it. Focus on the fight at hand and what you have on your plate now."

    At the end of the day, though, Bisping doesn't doubt that Kennedy might be a good person. Decent human being or not, however, Bisping is sure that Kennedy isn't a top fighter.

    "I don't feel that he has what it takes to be a marquee fighter," he said.

    "He's got his propaganda machine out there rolling with all these videos from Ranger Up. They're in the gym, and they're interviewing Jon Jones and all these other people he trains with. Of course they have nothing but great things to say, ‘Tim Kennedy comes in and teaches our children's class' or ‘Tim Kennedy came in to help with this fighter's training camp', but they're not saying Tim Kennedy will be the next champion. They're just saying that he's a hard worker. That's fine, but where are the comments about him knocking everyone out in sparring or that he's going to be the next big thing in this sport? They're just not saying those things at all.

    "The world is full of hard workers and team players. Does that make you the stuff of world champions? No, it does not. I just don't see him having the ability."

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  • Michael Bisping has said a lot of bad things about and to Tim Kennedy. As the former Army Ranger readies to face Bisping tonight in the main event of the TUF: Nations Finale, he isn't sweating the negativity too much, though.

    "No not at all. we are never going to be best friends, best buds, holding hands running through the fields together," Kennedy joked during a recent interview on the Fighting Words podcast with Ray Flores.

    "I really don’t care. He is a jerk at all times... I don’t respect the guy, I think he's dirty fighter so I don’t respect him as a person. I just don’t care what he says. There is nothing that he does and says that I care about."

    Readers of his Yahoo! Sports blog leading up to this bout will know that Kennedy doesn't think too highly of Bisping as a person and hasn't himself been shy about criticizing the Ultimate Fighter winner. Kennedy does, however, recognize that Bisping is a solid fighter and expects the Brit (who is returning after a long injury layoff) to be in top form.

    "No,I don’t think so," Kennedy replied when asked if he expects Bisping to be rusty in the cage.

    "The best way to get rid of Octagon rust is to train hard. [Bisping] knows I’m coming after him. He’d be an idiot not to train hard. I think he’ll be ready to go."

    While Bisping has had forced inactivity of late, Kennedy earned three big wins last year and is riding high. Even so, he's a big underdog to his opponent.

    That's a-ok to Kennedy. "I don’t like being the favorite so I’m cool for this," he said.

    "I’m excited that I get to fight the number five guy in the world and everybody thinks I’m going to lose. They are going to be shocked…and I’m just going to do what I do, [and that's] winning."

    Kennedy and Bisping are doubtless both equally confident of victory heading into tonight's UFC main event. Kennedy's certainty in one particular area likely can't be matched, however.

    Bisping can and has shouted and cursed in Kennedy's face and "The Count" will no-doubt look to push his usual exhausting pace in their fight. But, win, lose or draw, the war veteran Kennedy knows that no man can break him inside the Octagon.

    "People talk about breaking other people in the Octagon, breaking them mentally and seeing them give up," Kennedy said.

    "That's never going to happen to me. Ever. Not possible."

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  • All fighters on tonight's TUF: Nations Finale weighed in Tuesday. Not to spoil too much for you all but there are at least a few can't-miss moments from the weigh ins (video below).

    Ryan Jimmo vs. Sean O'Connell shared a tender moment, Dustin Poirier and Akira Corassani went the opposite direction and Michael Bisping lost his gosh darn mind for the second day in a row when faced with his main event opponent, Tim Kennedy. Now, as they say, all that is left are the fights.

    Oh, you're interested in what Bisping and Kennedy were saying to one another, were you, you curious lil' bugger? Well, go ahead then and check out the NSFW alternate video below that has both men mic'd up.

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  • Only someone as wonderfully strange and adept at grabbing attention as Vitor Belfort could make the TUF: Brazil set brawl between Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen about himself. The former champ has nothing to do with the feud and fight between Silva and Sonnen but he still has strong, pious, feelings about the whole ordeal.

    “The cat fight between Silva and Sonnen embarrassed me,” Belfort wrote on his Facebook page in Portuguese, according to a report from MMA Junkie.

    “Firstly, MMA is not fighting people not prepared inside the Octagon,” he went on.

    “That’s what I do. Secondly, there is no more room for a sport like MMA to accept this behavior when [the sport] has clear rules for anti-sport attitudes both inside and outside the Octagon. Third and most importantly, MMA cannot, ever, influence behaviors where the discussion ends in aggression as if this was the appropriate model of behavior. Millions of young people suffer violence inside and outside the school, and the TV cannot be propelling this behavior and athletes must not represent any violent attitude by lack of control, whatever the provocation.”

    We suppose that, after pulling out of a title fight because he couldn't continue to use TRT, Belfort has a lot of extra time on his hands these days. Enough time to draft of the occasional treatise of judgment on other fighters, it seems.

    “MMA fighters should, as a matter of urgency, be aware that the behavior inside and outside of the octagons can influence millions of people for better or for worse, and I chose influence for good because MMA also picked this way. Anything outside of that is no longer MMA, [and] definitely doesn’t represent me,” pastor Belfort went on.

    Well, no one asked you for a comparative moral analysis between yourself, Sonnen and Wanderlei, but thanks anyway, Vitor. Personally we don't consider two grown, unarmed men settling differences with their fists embarrassing.

    This haircut, however, is pretty embarassing. So is this one.

    But those are for Vitor to make peace with. Who are we to judge?

    So, now that Belfort has interjected himself into this ugly feud between Sonnen and Silva, who of the three do you think is coming out ahead? Or, as Belfort might say, which fighter is "choosing their influence for good," best?

    It's a tough call, from where we're standing. Although, of the three, Wand is the only one of the three to not have either tested positive for steroids and other banned PEDs, been convicted of a felony, made fun of domestic violence or sucked a foot on national television. So, crazy as he may seem, "The Axe Murderer" seems to be the least tarnished as of now.

    Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

  • Tyrone Spong broke his leg last week in Istanbul in the finals of the Glory 15 light heavyweight tournament when Gokhan Saki checked a leg kick from Spong. Simlar to how former middleweight champion Anderson Silva got hurt last year when Chris Weidman checked a leg kick from "The Silva," Spong's leg snapped on contact and fell to the ground.

    Fortunately, Spong is home and has undergone successful surgery. "I want family, friends and fans to know I'm okay," Spong said in a report by Dave Doyle.

    "The trip home to Florida was a long one and I am thankful to be back in Florida. I had surgery in this morning and it went perfectly."

    Spong would appear to be in relatively good spirits and he said his doctors have given him a time table for when he can resume hard training and fighting.

    "My doctors said it turned out to be a clean break and they feel confident that I will recover 100 percent," he went on.

    "They said I can be training for a fight as early as six months if I rehab properly. I feel very optimistic."

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  • Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping will finally square up in the main event of the TUF: Nations Finale UFC card on Wednesday. As you may have read on our pages here at Yahoo! Sports, Bisping and Kennedy have engaged in verbal warfare leading up to their bout.

    When the two middleweights faced-off Monday at the pre-event press conference, Bisping showed that all the trash talk had gotten to him and spouted a slew of profanities at Kennedy. Kennedy, who as a U.S. special forces war veteran, has had much more stressful moments than an un-armed loud mouth shouting at him, just smiled throughout.

    Watch video of Bisping losing his cool below. The language is absolutely not safe for work, unless you have a colorful workplace so, make use of those ear buds, bud.

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