Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts

  • Eddie Alvarez has long believed he's the best fighter in the world. Now, the former Bellator lightweight champion is going to get the opportunity to prove it.

    A whirlwind day ended for Alvarez Tuesday with a series of interviews, after he agreed to a new UFC contract and will face Donald Cerrone in the first bout of his new deal at UFC 178 at the MGM Grand Garden on Sept. 27.

    Alvarez had been in a protracted legal dispute with Bellator and had sued to get out of his deal. But Alvarez settled and came back to fight one fight final, a rematch for the lightweight title against Michael Chandler last year. Alvarez won that bout to win the title in a sensational battle after he'd lost to Chandler in an epic match in 2011.

    He was at odds with Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, but when Rebney was let go in June and replaced by Scott Coker, things kicked into motion. Coker on Tuesday morning announced Bellator had released Alvarez from his deal, making him a free agent.

    A few hours later, he'd agreed to a new deal with the UFC and what should be the hotly anticipated fight with Cerrone.

    "This is going to be an extremely fan friendly fight," he said of his bout with Cerrone. "How can it not be? You have two guys with the some of the highest finish ratios in all of the sport. You know people are going to love this fight. How can they not? These kinds of fights, these big fights that get everyone talking and interested, these are the fights I want. I want to fight only dangerous guys. Whenever I've done that in my career, I've stepped up and risen to the challenge."

    Alvarez, 30, is 25-3. He's long sought the kind of stage the UFC will provide. 

    Alvarez is rated fourth at lightweight by Sherdog and fifth by MMA Junkie. He wasn't eligible for the UFC rankings because the UFC's rankings, voted on by media members, are only open to UFC contracted fighters. 

    The fight with Cerrone will give him the opportunity to prove his contention that he's the best in the world.

    "I want to prove the naysayers wrong," Alvarez said. "They're everywhere. And to be honest with you, they're all I see and they're what motivates me. I have a tremendous support from a lot of the Underground fans. They believe in me, they want to see me do well and they're behind me. But there are a lot of people out there who don't believe it, and so I want to separate perception and reality. I want to be able to do that.

    "What they perceive is not real. I'm the No. 1 fighter in the world and they're going to see that very soon."

    Below is the full first fight between Alvarez and Chandler from 2011 that many thought was that year's Fight of the Year.

  • Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez has been granted an unconditional release by the promotion and is now free to sign anywhere he pleases. Bellator and Alvarez both released statements Tuesday afternoon.

    The lightweight star has been interested in leaving Bellator and signing with the UFC for years, but was unsuccessful in freeing himself from his Bellator contract through a contentious legal battle. New Bellator boss Scott Coker, however, has avoided any further conflict and decided to grant Alvarez his requested release, freeing him to sign with the UFC, should they still be interested.

    We’ve granted Eddie his unconditional release," Coker said in a statement.

    "Eddie is free to explore the free agent market, we hold no matching rights, and we wish him the best in the future. We sat down with Eddie and his team a few times, and it became pretty clear early on that he just wasn’t interested in fighting for Bellator in the future. We want guys in this organization that want to be here, and after the history Eddie and the former regime had here at Bellator, we decided to move on. We wish Eddie the absolute best of luck with whatever is next for him. It’s a new chapter for everyone involved.”

    Eddie Alvarez expressed gratitude towards Bellator in his statement, as well as an eagerness to move on with his career. “This was a long process but it’s a decision that everyone seems happy with," he said.

    "I think it’s important to say that I am genuinely thankful for my time at Bellator. I know that sounds a little crazy given everything I went through, but I’ve fought there since 2009, and have been involved in some really amazing fights. The staff there always treated me great, and I’m going to miss seeing a lot of those familiar faces around for sure. Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter in my career.”

    The 30-year old champion last fought in Nov. 2014, when he won a controversial decision over Michael Chandler at Bellator 106. The top lightweight has long been one of the very best fighters outside of the UFC, and has built an excellent 25-3 record over the course of his decade-long MMA career.

    The UFC has yet to officially comment on Alvarez' release but we will keep you posted as this story develops.

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  • Ferguson, MO has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, of late but it's also where UFC welterweight Tyron Woodley calls home. The fighter recently went back home to the St. Louis area to talk with kids who are where he was, years ago.

    In the above video, Woodley visits student-athletes working out at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation center in East St. Louis and tries to inspire them to aspire to greatness outside of what they may see every day in their neighborhoods. "They're in a pretty tough environment," Woodley said of the young wrestlers.

    "This is actually what I enjoy doing. People think that fighting is your life but really, talking to kids, mentoring, giving back, that's my passion. That's going to be my last job. And I use the positive publicity we get from Mixed Martial Arts to inspire, to encourage, to motivate these kids."

    Check out the whole video above and let us know who you looked up to for inspiration as a child in the comments section.

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  • Former teammates Rashad Evans and Jon Jones eventually fought one another after a bitter feud, but current Evans teammate Anthony Johnson says that will never happen with him and "Suga." "That just won't happen," Johnson told UFC.com.

    "That's just how it's going to be with me. I'll tell them I'll go up to heavyweight and fight. By that time Rashad should have a fight, and whatever the outcome is going to be, is going to be. Then I can have my fights at heavyweight or light heavyweight.

    “But I won't fight him, ever. We fight each other every day in the gym, so I think it's just pointless to go down that road and fight a brother."

    There are plenty of people on the resurgent UFC star's hit-list, however. First off, he'd like to fight Ryan Bader in October.

    Bader beat Ovince St. Preux last week via unanimous decision. Johnson was critical of the fight but still admires Bader's skill.

    "It was a boring fight," he said of Bader's win.

    "Exciting fighters put on exciting fights, and that's what fans want to see."

    Johnson is finally willing to call out potential opponents. “People finally want me to start calling people out, you know what I mean?" he said.

    "I never did that before. But I've always wanted to fight Ryan Bader because I've always thought he was a tough fighter.

    "Nobody has really seen my wrestling, so a fight with [Bader] would be a good way for me to display my wrestling. In my opinion, he is a better wrestler than Phil Davis."

    After Bader, Johnson says he'd like to fight number one contender Alexander Gustafsson on the same Jan. 3 card where Daniel Cormier will challenge Jon Jones for his light heavyweight title. "It will be a good fight," he said of fighting the Swede.

    "Gus is taller than me, but I think we have the same amount of length of reach. So it'll be interesting. Gus likes to move a lot and I like to stalk people and see what they have to offer. It will be a hell of fight. I definitely want to give the fans what they want to see.

    “Hopefully we can make the Jones-Cormier fight, one of those fights where that whole card is like a preview of what the light heavyweights have to offer."

    Johnson's loyalty to teammates and ambition are both admirable. Do you think he can continue to roll through the 205 pound division to a title shot?

    Let us know in the comments section!

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  • UFC welterweight Tarec Saffiedine has won five straight bouts and believes he's one or two wins away from a title shot, as he heads into his Oct. 4 UFC Fight Night 54 main event against Rory MacDonald in Canada. According to the fighter out of Belgium, George St. Pierre's absence has left the 170 pound division wide open.

    "It's been quite crazy...since GSP left the division," he said at this week's UFC fight Night 54 press conference.

    "Everybody is, I believe, one or two fights away from a title shot, in the top ten, top fifteen. So, it's pretty stacked and I'm super excited to be a part of it."

    As for his fight against MacDonald, who has won two-straight and seven out of his last eight, Saffiedine believes he's got the style to beat the home-town hero. "I believe I stack up pretty well," he said.

    "I truly believe that my style can match up pretty well with his style. When I was watching [MacDonald's last fight, against Tyron Woodley] I could tell that I have the tools to, stylistically match up pretty well with him...I'm training really hard to put on an amazing fight and get the 'W'."

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  • Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos has fought current champ Cain Velasquez three times and, in his expert opinion, he believes that fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum has a good chance at dethroning Velasquez when they fight in November. "As a Brazilian, I will root for Werdum to bring the UFC title back to Brazil, but he has a difficult task ahead of him," JDS recently told Guilherme Cruz.

    "Velasquez is an impressive fighter with a great cardio, but I know Werdum is training really hard for that. He stands a chance, yes. If he fights like he did the last time [against Travis Browne], he has a good chance at winning."

    Werdum has won four straight fights to earn a crack at Velasquez. The two will meet in Mexico City on November 15 in the main event of UFC 180.

    Velasquez has not competed since beating Dos Santos in Oct. 2013, as he's been out with shoulder injuries. Dos Santos says that Werdum should expect a top-form Velasquez despite the lay-off.

    "I think [the champion's lay-off] might help Werdum," Dos Santos said.

    "But it doesn’t happen very often these days because the level of training in the gym is so high now, so you can get ready for a fight even if you haven’t fought in a while. I think it won’t be an issue for Velasquez, but can be good for Werdum."

    For his part, Dos Santos has also not fought since his last loss to Velasquez in 2013. The defeat was Dos Santos' second brutal loss to Velasquez in less than a year. 

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  • Randy Couture once walked away from the UFC and a world championship in order to try and get a fight with fellow all-time great heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. The bout never happened, unfortunately, and now both men are retired from MMA competition.

    However, Couture said in a recent interview with Submission Radio, that he's still open to competing against "The Last Emperor." Asked if he'd consider a submission wrestling match against Fedor at Metamoris, Couture replied in the affirmative.

    "That would be interesting and certainly given the time to prepare and get back up into good, solid grappling and wrestling shape, that would be a lot of fun," he said.

    Couture's former teammate Chael Sonnen recently competed at Metamoris 4 against submission wrestling world champion Andrew Galvao. UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett also competed against former UFC middleweight Dean Lister at the same event.

    Couture went on to say that, if Fedor is game and in shape, he can be as well. "I'm not sure how active Fedor is at this stage, you know him being retired as well," he said.

    "But I'm certainly no opposed to an idea like that."

    Would you pay to watch Couture vs. Emelianenko, even if no strikes could be thrown? Let us know in the comments section!

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  • Just once, a long time ago, I interviewed Jon Koppenhaver. This was back in 2007, right after he'd been on The Ultimate fighter 6, and before he changed his legal name to "War Machine."

    It was also before a long series of arrests, convictions, disturbed and disturbing tweets and blog posts. Long before an alleged assault on a man and his girlfriend led to a man-hunt and arrest last week.

    Even so, seven years ago, it was clear that something was wrong inside Koppenhaver. Something angry, sure, but also something sad.

    While on TUF 6, the welterweight alternately displayed physical talent and emotional instability and volatility. His coach on the show, Matt Serra, repeatedly shook his head, smiled wondered what was up with the fighter after his unpredictable outbursts.

    "Physically, he could be a problem for anyone. But, I'll tell ya, mentally, he's definitely got some issues.
    War's kind of a piece of work, you know? He just..you know...man, what a nut," Serra opined, lightly.

    Then, more soberly, the accomplished fighter and coach gave an honest assessment of Koppenhaver. "I don't think that War's a bad guy," he said of the man who was turning into "War Machine."

    "I just think he's a guy who thinks the chips are always stacked against him."

    That characterization certainly appeared to the outside world to be true in the following years as "War Machine" got himself into trouble time and again with fights outside the ring and offensive things said in blog posts, interviews and on social media platforms.

    Our brief conversation was before the UFC firing, however, before the arrests, prison time and bad "jokes" about rape, murder and suicide, from "War Machine." No one could guess that Koppenhaver would go on to be involved in so much destructive drama, but it was clear even back then that the young man had struggles and illness he needed help working through.

    Most important, however, Koppenhaver seemed to have the self-awareness and humility to recognize he needed help, back then. When we spoke, very little time was spent discussing his last or next fight in the cage.

    Instead, I asked relatively uncomfortable questions of Jon. Questions about his happiness, about his temper, about feelings, really. After I did, he was anything but defensive, irritable or avoiding.

    Jon eventually worked his way up to his characteristic rapid-fire cadence in California bro-speak tone but at first he was quiet and pained sounding. He spoke about feeling targeted by the world, about getting angry over it all.

    But he also spoke about how he needed help learning to cope and control those feelings of persecution and the real sadness behind them. Moreover, Jon said that he was planning on getting psychological help.

    "It doesn't mean I'm weak if I deal with my feelings and my past," he said.

    Perhaps he was trying to convince himself of it as he said it. But, of course, that was a true statement and one hoped that this was the beginning of a new stage for the talented young fighter.

    I don't know what treatment Jon Koppenhaver ended up getting for his psychological issues, or how hard he fought to get and stay happy and control the sadness that has so often erupted in rage, but he does not appear to be winning the battle. When the cops caught up with War Machine last week, who was wanted for allegedly beating up another man and his girlfriend, he wasn't in Canada or Mexico, fleeing hard.

    He was back in a California town he used to live in, holed up in a hotel with some cash and pizza.

    War Machine will have another day or two in court, sadly, and we'll learn more about what happened the day of this most recent alleged assault. But, his girlfriend - a woman he's joked about raping and hitting in the past - is broken and swollen in a hospital bed, claiming that he's the one who beat her up.

    From every conceivable angle, this is a tragic story, and one that seems so far away from the quiet, reflective and earnest voice I heard that day years ago during our conversation.

    From a distance, our view of War Machine has revealed him, first, as hurt and immature, then insensitive and lacking or ignoring self-awareness, then reckless and dangerous to himself, and now, potentially quite dangerous to others as well as himself. Back then, those many years ago and for a few minutes, he seemed more man than monster, more "Jon," than "War."

    Jon Koppenhaver talked to me about wanting and working to get well. War Machine, would later instead go on to often write and talk about going out in a burst of flames.

    One way or another, I hope this is War Machine's last, horrible stand. None of us yet know the facts of this case but it has been clear for a long time that War Machine needs to go away.

    He's not helping anything, least of all himself. Jon Koppenhaver, on the other hand...well, I hope that he still gets and takes the help that, at least for a moment or two many years ago, he knew he needed and wanted to get.

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  • There was a time when UFC lightweight Gray Maynard looked pretty close to unstoppable. The former college wrestler burst onto the MMA scene and rose through the ranks all the way to a title shot against a man - Frankie Edgar - he'd already dominated once before.

    Then, Maynard had to settle for a draw with Edgar despite nearly knocking him out in the first round. Then, Maynard himself was knocked out in their third bout.

    Maynard won a controversial decision over Clay Guida next, and then was knocked out two more times in succession by TJ Grant and Nate Diaz. The Diaz loss was last November and Maynard has not fought since then.

    He also never seriously considered hanging up his gloves, either, according to an interview with Thomas Gerbasi. Maynard said he lost his focus for a bit, and paid for it.

    “There was just a lot going on,” he said,

    “Tt isn’t an excuse, but I was just going out there and going through the motions. If you’re not alert and you’re not on point, that’s how you get caught and get dropped. A loss always hurts, but if it was something where I got beat up for the whole time, then I’d probably have a lot to look at, but the last two were kind of quick and I think it was the mental lapses. It happens. But you can’t have that, especially going up against top ten guys. You’ve got to be on point.”

    Maynard has far from given up on his MMA career, however, and has moved his training camp to Arizona and the Power MMA team lead by Aaron Simpson. "The Bully" looks to another UFC star who changed camps and has experienced a career turn-around in Robbie Lawler.

    “A lot of people said ‘yeah, he’s kinda done,’ and then he just roared back and did awesome,” Maynard said of Lawler.

    “I think it was his new camp [at American Top Team] and the new attitude.” 

    On Saturday, Maynard's road back begins with a fight against Ross Pearson on the UFC Fight Night card in Maine. Though the fighter has confidence in himself, he can't promise any particular result.

    Though, as he reflects on the unpredictable nature of the sport, it's clear he's optimistic. "It is a crazy game," he said.

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  • UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey was a guest on UFC Tonight recently, and in an interview with Kenny Florian, the "Rowdy" one talked about her knee injury, who she wants to fight next and "Cyborg" Justino. Regarding her injured knee, which she had surgically repaired after her last bout, Rousey says she feels better than she has since she was in her teens as a surging international Judo player.

    "It's great. This is actually my fourth knee surgery...I've had it much worse, before," she said.

    Rousey is feeling so good, as a matter of fact, that she'd be ready and willing to fight right now. The champ revealed that she'd been fighting on one wheel, essentially, for the past couple years.

    "I would still fight today. If they said, 'Hey, we need a fight, we need a fight,' I would do it today (laughs). And, it's going to be pretty scary when I come back 100 percent because I've been operating with one leg, pretty much, for a couple years now. And now I've gotten to the point where my range of motion and everything is better than it's been since I was 16 years old," Rousey said.

    Rousey went on to say that she would like to next  fight on the same Jan. 3 pay per view card that Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier are scheduled to lock horns at. As for who she wants to fight next, Rousey mentioned free agent Gina Carano, recent UFC acquisition Holly Holm and number one contender Cat Zingano

    Of course, the question of if Rousey would be interested in fighting former fellow Strikeforce champ Cris "Cyborg" Justino came up. The Judoka said she's ready to have at it with "Cyborg,' if the fighter and the UFC can come to terms.

    "I'm down to fight her at any moment," Rousey said.

    "If she walked in here right now, I'd push-kick her with the heel (laughs) if it really was what needed to go down.But, I mean, it's all up to Dana, it's all up to UFC and, it's all up to her." 

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