Cagewriter - UFC Blog

Syndicate content Yahoo Sports
Latest Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts from Yahoo Sports
Updated: 18 min 58 sec ago

Clay Guida wins decision over Tatsuya Kawajiri

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 14:50

Clay Guida got back on the winning track with a unanimous decision win over Tatsuya Kawajiri in the co-main of UFC Fight Night: Abu Dhabi Friday. Guida won the bout with scores of 30-27 on all three judges' scorecards.

Of the two scrappy featherweights, Guida struck first, landing a big right hand that floored Kawajiri. The Japanese legend hung tough as Guida then took his back, and avoided giving up a submission. Kawajiri fought back with shoulder lock and arm bar attempts but Guida fended those submissions off before taking the back again.

Kawajiri managed to score a take down before getting caught in a Kimura shoulder lock hold of his own to close the first round. The two engaged in a close grappling war in the second round, which Guida edged out with takedowns and effective scrambling.

In the third, Guida landed more strikes on the feet and scored a big slam. Kawajiri refused to give in and threatened with a guillotine choke and heel hook attempt.

Guida escaped both and walked away with the win.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooSports

Ronda Rousey - Gina Carano deserves title shot

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 12:33

If Gina Carano comes back to MMA, she'd likely fight Ronda Rousey and if she fights Rousey, the UFC bantamweight champion wants to put her belt on the line against "Conviction." "I think it would be the best thing for women's MMA," Rousey said during a recent media event.

"I think it would be the highest profile fight that could be done. I don't think it would make sense for her to come back and fight somebody else and take the risk of maybe losing and not being able to capitalize on the fight between me and her. I think it would make more sense to go straight to a title fight."

Carano last fought in 2009 and lost badly to Cris "Cyborg" Justino. Even so, Rousey believes that Carano deserves a shot at UFC gold because of her fame. Rousey says that she owes everything to a pioneer like Carano.

"She's one of the pioneers on the sport," Rousey said.

"She's the reason I fight at all. You can't say she's just coming in off the street. How can you say no to the woman that I owe everything to? I would bend over backwards to fight her. I'm not going to make her run through the gauntlet to fight me. I would show up at her house if that's where she wanted to fight."

Carano has only once fought MMA at 135 pounds and often had trouble making 140 pounds. Do you think it's possible for Carano to make the bantamweight limit and, if so, would it help or hurt her against Rousey?

Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Clay Guida promises to push pace against Tatsuya Kawajiri

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 10:50

UFC featherweight Clay Guida has a lot of praise and respect for his opponent tomorrow in Abu Dhabi, Japanese legend Tatsuya Kawajiri. "Going to be a heck of a fight. He's fought for belts, he's had belts. He's had some amazing fights, some amazing submissions, very memorable battles in Pride Bushido, Shooto, and it's cool to see the UFC give me this opportunity in neutral ground, in Abu Dhabi in front of just amazing fans," the ever-positive Guida recently told Ray Flores on ESPN Chicago's Fighting Words podcast.

That said, "The Carpenter" is certain that he can push Kawakiri to his breaking point through his conditioning and relentlessness. "I don't know if he knows what deep water is, yet," Guida said.

"He's fought a couple 45ers and he's about to see what fast-paced is...he's about to see what a full gas tank is at 110 miles per hour."

The American wrestler himself has not fought since August of last year when he lost to top contender Chad Mendes via TKO. Since that time, Guida has rested, coached, traveled and rehabbed injuries.

The time off was well-spent, according to the fighter, and he says he's in a good mental place to rebound from the loss.


"You have to have short-term memory. I believe, sometimes in life and definitely in sports," Guida explained.

"Chad taught me a valuable lesson, just like Kenny Florian did right before I went on a pretty good win streak. Just little things that my brother tells me every day in practice. 'Hands up, stay off the fence.' 'Hands up, don't back up.' Chad made me pay for it, unfortunately.

"I'm really looking forward to bouncing back after a nice lay off, resting my body. The body needed to readjust and repair. I had some lower back issues that called for rest. Did a lot of traveling, a lot of coaching, a lot of learning and developing of some skills."

Who are you picking in Friday's UFC co-main event? Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Nick Diaz – "I'm not fighting for less than $500,000"

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 10:34

UFC president Dana White recently said that he offered retired former two-time welterweight title challenger Nick Diaz a fight with Hector Lombard. According to White, Diaz was interested in the bout but then never got back to him. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Nick confirmed that story, but added some crucial details.

"All I said was, 'What am I getting paid?' And he said, 'Let me check your contract.' And the last text I got from him was what I would be fighting for. I didn't consider fighting for that kind of money. I didn't say anything back to him, right, but usually that means something. I'm not considering even for a second fighting any of those guys for less than $500,000. There's no way," Diaz explained.

Diaz last fought in March, 2013, when he unsuccessfully challenged then-champion Georges St. Pierre for his welterweight title. Diaz retired for the second time in three fights after that one, but so far, has stuck to that status, with the occassional teases.

"I'm retired. Completely retired. Unless the UFC wants to renegotiate for something I'm happy with or I'm going to be fighting for the world title, which is obviously going to be for something I'm happy with because I'll make a ton of money," Diaz went on.

The Stockton fighter says that paying him more would be a win all-around. He'd get more money, the UFC would get a draw and the fans would have their bad boy back.

"The UFC wants me to fight. The people want me to fight. I don't want me to fight. So if we're going to need me to fight, we're going to have to work out the right deal," he said.

Do you think the UFC should renegotiate Diaz' contract to bring him out of retirement? Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Nate Diaz speaks out about UFC 'con,' Dana White responds

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 11:28

So, UFC lightweight contender Nate Diaz isn't very happy with his contract. If you couldn't glean that from his tweet requesting his release from the UFC in February, his first interview since beating Gray Maynard last November made it clear.

"I'm ready to fight but not for some funny money that they're trying to give me," Diaz recently told MMA Fighting.

"They can let me go or they can let me fight, but let me do something. They know I need to make some money. I feel like they're just trying to keep me on the waiting list. I don't even want to communicate through anybody. If they want to figure out what's going on, we should talk. No one is contacting me. I'm just doing my thing. Training every day. I'm ready to fight tomorrow.

"They need to be about more money. My contract is all [expletive] up. I want to be paid like these other fighters. I'm over here getting chump change. At this point, they're paying all my partners and other people I train with are getting real money, and it's too embarrassing for me to even fight again for the money they're paying me. So they can either pay me or let me go. I'm with that.

"I train harder than everybody in the UFC. And then there's boxers out there getting multimillion dollar contracts, and I'm a bigger draw than boxers. It's embarrassing. I think I'm the biggest draw in the lightweight division. I feel like they're trying to weed me out of the top 10. I saw that I went from no. 5 to 6 in the rankings, for some reason. That doesn't make any sense."

Diaz says that his brother Nick and training partner Gilbert Melendez now make a great deal more money than he does, though he believes that even they don't get all they deserve from the UFC.

"I don't get paid [expletive], and I'm about to tell the world. I didn't like what my brother and my partners got paid. Now that they got a better contract, which still ain't [expletive], it blows what I get out of the water. And they deserve triple what they get. I've been in the UFC for eight years and never turned down a fight. It's not like I'm getting paid 20 bucks an hour and they're getting 50 bucks an hour. I'm getting 20 bucks an hour and they're getting paid 15,000 bucks an hour. They blow me out the water. At this point, I can't even go to lunch with my partners because if we start talking about contracts or our business, I don't have anything but bitter [expletive] to say. We're entertaining entertainers. We get Shaq, Justin Bieber and Lil' Jon at the show. How are we entertaining billionaires and we can't even get [expletive]?

"My partners still make [expletive] money for what the company is bringing in. They're happy because they're not getting paid what they used to get paid, so they get little chunks to shut up. As far as I'm concerned, I don't get paid [expletive]. I get $60,000 [to show] and $60,000 [to win]. If I were doing this for the fame, I would have quit seven years ago. I can't tell you what my brother and Gil make, but I can tell you that they signed a contract for more than I get paid to headline and win a fight, and that's bull-[expletive]. So you understand where I'm coming from? I can't even fight for the money they're offering me. So I ask to get released because I can't fight there for that."

Diaz went so far as to say that the UFC "conned" him into signing his last contract. The fighter claimed that he signed that contract with the UFC just weeks before fighting Benson Henderson for the lightweight title, a fight he would go on to lose in a lopsided five-round decision.

After fighting Henderson, Diaz got TKO'd by Josh Thomson, but then rebounded with a nasty KO win over Gray Maynard. Three fights into his new contract, Diaz has had enough of it and wants to renegotiate.

He claimed that the UFC told him that they would renegotiate with him after a couple fights if he just signed that new contract before taking on Henderson. Predictably, UFC president Dana White had a much different message in response to Diaz's complaints.

"Nate Diaz came in and signed a new deal and was very happy with his new deal. We gave him a shot at the title and he lost to Benson Henderson. If he would have won, obviously his deal would have changed if he became champion, which he did not. Then he got stopped by Thomson. Thomson finished him," White said.

"Now he comes off a win over Gray Maynard and feels like he should be making Justin Bieber money. Nate needs to get back in there and start fighting, win fights again and earn a title shot again.

"Guess how much money he makes sitting at home? Zero. Get back to work, Nate."

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Alexander Gustafsson - I'm a bad matchup for Jon Jones

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 11:09

 It's pretty clear that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones doesn't want to fight Alexander Gustafsson for a second time after walking away with a razor-thin and controversial decision win over the Swede last year. First, Jones didn't grant the automatic rematch to Gustafsson that was warranted and then he had the gall to suggest that Gustafsson should have to win two consecutive fights to earn the right to challenge him once more.

A lot of fighters in Gustafsson's position might pick up the trash talk at this point but the soft-spoken contender doesn't seem interested in doing that. He'll readily admit that Jones does not seem to want to fight him but the Nordic fighter won't attribute that to simple fear in "Bones."

"The thing is he knows - he knows I'm a really bad matchup for him. He knows that," Gustafsson said in a recent FoxSports interview.

"I don't think Jones is scared or he's trying to run or anything like that. He just knows that I'm a really bad matchup and he knows that we will fight one day. He knows that, but he's trying to avoid it as long as he can."

Jones fights Glover Teixeira later this month in defense of his 205-pound belt. Gustafsson is picking Jones to win but, whomever walks away with the belt, he expects to be the next man to step in the cage with them.

"It feels great, I can't wait," Gustafsson said about getting another title shot next.

"The future looks very good and I'm very excited."

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

[EXCLUSIVE] Josh Burkman talks WSOF controversy

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 15:28

No outside observer could have known something was wrong. Josh Burkman was set to fight the tough Tyler Stinson March 29 in Las Vegas, Nevada on the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 9 card and hoped to get back on the winning track after losing to Steve Carl last Octobepromotion. The WSOF matchmaker got involved, mean things were said and, for some reason, Vinny Magalhaes even got into the scrap.

It was ugly, and then it was over. Burkman announced soon after the twitter spat that he was staying with WSOF and that things were now all good.

Fans were left wondering what in the heck had just happened. Josh Burkman sat down with Cagewriter this week to explain his side of what, exactly, the fuss was all about between he and WSOF.

I can't work on going anywhere else unless #WSOF releases me. If so, we will start fresh somewhere else...

— Joshua Burkman (@JoshBurkman) April 3, 2014

It’s Monday morning in Utah and “The People’s Warrior” is more thoughtful and measured than the terse, angry-sounding version we got from him on Twitter. 140 character-maximum mediums of mass communication are not great for conveying nuance or detail, it turns out.

Burkman, who has just gotten back into the gym recently to begin the slow process of preparing for his next fight – whoever it ends up being against - , wants to explain his account more fully.

“It’s easy for things to get overlooked,” he begins.

“WSOF is a new and fast-growing organization. They’ve got a lot of fighters and a lot of contracts and it’s possible that they don’t know what each one says, you know?”

At saying that, Burkman chuckles. A few weeks ago, however, the situation was not comical to him in the slightest.

“I’ve got a clause that keeps me active, meaning they have to give me a certain amount of fights in a certain period of time. Going into the [WSOF 9] card, we were coming right up on that deadline where they owed me another fight. I told [WSOF matchmaker] Ali [Abdelaziz] that I wanted to fight on the card, but he said the card was filling up and at budget.

“I understood and I’m sure he was right, but I needed another fight. I wanted to fight again after my last one to prove that I had an off night. So, I reminded him that it was in my contract that they needed to get me on this card.

“So, they put me on the card against Stinson but sent me a bout agreement that paid me less than what my contract with them said I am supposed to get paid. So, right then, I made a plan to fight Stinson, hopefully win, and then ask for my release. I was pretty sure that with the way I’d been fighting in recent years, that if I could get another win, I’d be able to sign with other organizations.

“To be honest, I didn’t think they’d mind too much. Ali and Ray Sefo had been saying that they wouldn’t stand in the way of fighters leaving if they wanted to leave. I never thought that it would create this big stir”

The very night he beat Stinson, Burkman says that he told WSOF president Ray Sefo that he wanted to be released. The fighter says that he also spoke with WSOF consultant Shawn Lampman and asked for his release.

Burkman says that both men expressed understanding of his position but asked him to sleep on it for a day or two.

“Shawn Lampman told me, ‘Josh, we’ve put millions of dollars into marketing our top guys and you’re one of those guys. We’re giving you fights, we’re putting you out there,’” Burkman remembers.

“This is all before anything was posted on twitter.”

“When I next talked with Shawn, he said, ‘nope, we’re not releasing you.’ I got pissed off. I had to convince them to give me a fight they owed me, then they paid me less for it than they owed me and now I wasn’t even going to be able to carry out this plan and go elsewhere where I felt I could be appreciated. On twitter, someone posted something about me and [new WSOF welterweight champ Rousimar] Palhares fighting next for the WSOF welterweight title and I tweeted back that I didn’t want the belt. That’s how it all started. I was in a bad mood at the time and I didn’t want the belt. I wanted the money that was owed to me or I wanted to be released.”

Burkman explains how, far from having a prima donna attitude, he actually understands that fight promotions like WSOF have a lot to manage and that matchmaking and keeping contracts current can be difficult.

“Here’s the thing, WSOF has a lot of things on their plate and a lot of goals. And, they are good for the sport of MMA. I realize that I’m just a small part of that or any organization and so, I can be easily overlooked,” Burkman acknowledges.

“That’s why you have to fight for what you deserve and are owed. A lot of people are afraid of confrontation, even if they are right. So, they avoid it at all costs. I have no problem with confrontation if it’s to get something just or if I was wronged. I’ve always managed myself and I’ve always had that attitude.

“As MMA fighters, we are independent contractors. We are 1099, basically. We don’t get insurance, we don’t have 401k retirement plans to pay into. If you lose, you are overlooked. It’s understandable that promotions are like that.”

Burkman is trying hard to convey that he understands why promotions may look at fighters as pretty expendable. He doesn’t begrudge them for it, it’s just the reason why he is so assertive in advocating for himself.

“Fighters just have to stand up for themselves,” says the self-managed fighter. “I never have and never will complain about the type of work I’m in or the lack of security and stability that being a fighter offers. I don’t cry about that. I knew it going in and I love training and fighting so that’s why I do it.

“But, because fighters are basically on their own, you just have to make sure that you get what you are owed while you can and then be smart with your money so you can possibly have it for the future to open a gym or do something else.

“I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been smart with my money, in that I have a gym. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s mine.”

So, Burkman felt wronged and then stymied by the WSOF. He took the matter to his attorney, who then wrote a letter and sent it to WSOF officials.

“I took it to my attorney and he drafted up a letter and sent it to the people at WSOF that needed to see it. Basically, I needed to be released or paid they money they owed me and then I would have no problem fighting the last fight on my contract for them,” Burkman recounts.

Once they received a letter from Burkman’s attorney, the fighter says that WSOF officials were happy to sit down and negotiate with him.

“Basically, we got into a room and worked it out,” he says.


Burkman got he wanted in back pay and WSOF got what it wanted in The Ultimate Fighter vet staying on their roster. “I honestly think that my relationship with WSOF is better for all this happening,” Burkman maintains.

“I also think that WSOF is better off for it happening. Like I said, they are a new promotion and growing fast. It is going to be hard to keep track of all the moving parts they have. I think they are good for the sport but I just needed to advocate for myself.

“As my own manager, I’ve always believed hard in fighting for myself but I’ve also always tried to see the promotion’s perspective. So, you just try to get what is possible and best for you as the fighter and the promotion.

“So, WSOF paid me what they owed me and I agreed to fight the last fight on my contract for them.”

Observers may assume that Burkman’s next fight will be for a title but he says that a lot of work is still needed for that to come to fruition.

“They want it to be a title fight, fine. I’m perfectly fine fighting for a title. But a lot of things have to fall in place for that to happen. If they do, great. If not, I’m happy to fight anybody,” Burkman says.

Burkman may be riding high now, but he explains that things could have very well ended up quite differently for him.

“Now, because I won my last fight with a good knockout, I’m in a decent place in my career. But, if I had lost, then people would think, ‘oh, he lost two in a row, he’s 33, 34 and his best days are behind him.’ Now, I look good and people might think my best fights are ahead of me,” he says.

“But it could have gone another way if I’d lost. Then, I’m sure the WSOF would have had no problem releasing me and I would have just made less to fight than I was supposed to."

MMA business stories may be a niche, but Burkman believes that his struggle really is a universal one. Standing up for yourself is a value and philosophy to the thirty three year-old father.

“This is a bad trend in MMA right now but also in the whole country and world. I wish we could still deals on a handshake, but we can’t,” he begins.

“If you’re wronged or owed something, you need to fight for it. Now a days, there’s lots going on that may make people uncomfortable. Maybe it’s at work, maybe it’s with laws being passed, maybe it’s with rights being taken away. People are uncomfortable with these things happening but they don’t want confrontation. “That’s why things are not going well in this country right now. If there’s an injustice happening, or an inequity, we all need to fight that. Keeping peace isn’t worth everything. Justice before mercy.”

With how hard he fights for himself as his own manager, we ask Burkman if he’s considered managing other fighters once he retires from competition. He says that anything is possible, but that he hasn’t seriously considered it yet.

“Things have worked out a very particular way for me because I’ve lots of help, whether it’s from attorneys or others,” he says.

Burkman does hope to get one important message out to fighters everywhere, though, through his example. “Contracts should be honored at all times,” he concludes.

“They shouldn’t be overlooked when a fighter loses and gone over with a fine-tooth comb when they win. Contracts need to be honored at all times.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Stefan Struve medically cleared to fight again

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:36


UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve was forced to take a leave of absence from competition in 2013 after a scary heart condition diagnosis. Yet, through it all, the big man never gave up hope that he would return.

Slowly, with treatment, his condition and health began to improve until, by the start of 2014, Struve reached the point where he fully expected to eventually make a return to fighting. Today, the seven foot slugger says he's medically cleared to fight once more.

“I’m just working on the last details with the UFC right now for my clearance,” Struve told USA TODAY.

“They’ve got everything — my doctor’s letter, medical files and everything. Everything is there, and we’re just waiting on the UFC to do their thing."

Once the UFC does their thing, Struve said that he is ready to head into a training camp immediately.

“I want to fight,” Struve insisted.

“I’m ready to go into a training camp. I can be ready in two or three months.”

Struve expects to need surgery one day but hopes that less traumatic treatment will suffice for awhile.

“The chamber where the aortic valve is connected is the left chamber of your heart, and that chamber was a lot bigger than it was supposed to be,” Struve said of his condition.

“A lot of that was the high blood pressure. Now they treated me for it with blood pressure medicine, and it got smaller.

“Because of that, the opening where the valve is got smaller, too. Normally, when the chamber gets bigger, like often happens with athletes, the valve gets bigger, too, so that it closes. “

But in my case, the opening got bigger and the valve didn’t grow, so the leakage got worse and worse. But now, it’s smaller again and the valve closes better.”

For Struve, nothing can cure his heartache like stepping back into the UFC Octagon. The twenty six year old is eager to pick up where he left off.

“I left a year behind me that was the most difficult year of my life, but now I’m here. I’m back, and I want to fight," he concluded.

"I want to show that I’m one of the best heavyweights in the world. I really feel like I’ve got another shot at all of this and I’m better than I’ve ever been.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Tatsuya Kawajiri: I'm not cool but I go for it

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:02

Tatsuya Kawajiri may be a fourteen year vet and cult MMA legend, but he still thinks of himself as a grinder. Heading into his April 12 showdown in Abu Dhabi with Clay Guida, Kawajiri says that what he likes in style, he makes up for in doggedness.

"I don’t think I have the sense of making a very exciting, cool fight, like what Anderson [Silva] and [Georges St-Pierre] do, but I do have the ability to win a fight," he told MMA Junkie in a recent interview.

“My fights might not look so cool and clean, but I will just go for it. I am willing to do for a takedown 100 times, even if I get sprawled on 100 times.”

If fans think that this sounds an awful like the Japanese fighter's opponent, Guida, as well, Kawajiri agrees.

“I totally think we’re familiar. We’re the same type of fighter in that sense. It’s going to be a war, for sure," he said.

Who are you picking to win this battle between wrestling scrappers? Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva targeted for co-main at UFC 175 in Vegas; JDS headlines May 31 show

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 19:13

UFC president Dana White confirmed to Yahoo Sports Monday that the heavyweight fight between former champion Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic will be the main event of "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil" finale on May 31 in Sao Paolo.

The bout had been the co-main event of UFC 173. The fight between TUF Brazil coaches Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen has been moved from the May 31 card in Brazil and will now be the co-main event of UFC 175 on July 5 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, White said. The main event of UFC 175 is a middleweight title bout between Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida.

The top two fights on the UFC 173 card on May 24 in Las Vegas are a bantamweight title fight between Renan Barao and challenger T.J. Dillashaw and a welterweight bout between Robbie Lawler and Jake Ellenberger.

However, White said, "I'm not done working on that card," referring to UFC 173, so it is assumed that there could be another bout added to it before long.

GSP surgery to be covered by UFC medical insurance

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:56

Well, at least he's got that going for him. UFC president Dana White has said that Georges St. Pierre's latest surgery will be covered by the UFC's fighter insurance, even though "Rush" is not actively fighting at this time. The longtime UFC welterweight champion stepped away from MMA competition last year because he needed to recharge.

He continued to work out in the gym and managed to tear the ACL in his right knee. Back in 2011, St. Pierre tore the ACL in his left knee, forcing him out of competition for over a year.

If St. Pierre is to ever return to fighting, he'd have to clear this latest arduous hurdle first. For all the stress and pain this serious knee injury must be causing GSP, at least he won't have to pay for the surgery and rehab out of pocket.

“We have health insurance for the guys,” White told MMAjunkie in a recent interview.

“[St. Pierre's surgery] should be covered even if the contract is frozen. He’s still under contract; he’s still a UFC fighter.”

Representatives for St. Pierre provided confirmation to MMA Junkie that the fighter's surgery will be covered by his UFC medical insurance. White went on to say that he has not spoken with the French Canadian fighter since this latest injury.

White and St. Pierre have appeared to be at odds since St. Pierre's announcement that he was stepping away from fighting. In the past, 


“I haven’t spoken to GSP,” White said.

“He blew his ACL, and last time he blew his ACL he was out for a year and two months. So that’s no fun for him.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Ben Askren gets opponent for May 30 ONE FC debut

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 20:52

Former Olympic wrestler and undefeated MMA fighter Ben Askren had been sure for some time that he was the best welterweight in the world. He'd dominated the Bellator ranks and looked to be getting better each fight out.

The only thing was, without fighting in the world's best and most popular MMA organization, the UFC, Askren was sure to not get recognition he felt he rightfully deserved.

His success appeared to be an obstacle to getting a timely shot at the UFC, however, since it seemed unlikely that Bellator would let their best fighter go. And then, they did.

With that, Askren and his management began conversations with the UFC and it was pretty much taken for granted that "Funky" Ben would be offered a contract by the UFC and get his chance to prove himself against the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks at the top of the promotion's welterweight division.

But then, inexplicably, the UFC passed on Askren and let one of the best fighters in the world walk away. The UFC's passing on Askren seemed almost as inexplicable as Bellator's, and the fighter was left without a fighting home.

Askren is still a bit shocked that he and the UFC did not come to terms. "Yeah, it was crazy that it didn’t work out," he admits to Cagewriter.

The outspoken Askren also concedes that his past, and quite public, criticism of Dana White and the UFC while he was signed with Bellator, probably didn't help his chances with the promotion.

"Man, some of the things I said probably didn't help," he says.

"They do like to have company people. I've never been a guy to pull punches or not speak my mind. It probably wasn't the biggest factor [to the UFC] but probably also not something they totally dismissed. Luckily, ONE FC came along and everything worked out great."

Askren signed with the Singapore-based MMA promotion and seemed ecstatic about their treatment of him and the pay, thus far. What remained to be seen was who, exactly, Askren would first fight and how fighting for the top Asian MMA promotion would help him fulfill his career goals.

As for the first question, Askren will face Azerbaijani prospect Bakhtiyar Abbasov in the main event of ONE FC's May 30 card in Singapore. The answer to the second one would appear to be more complicated.

For years, Askren called out UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre. The four-time All-American wrestler seemed to want to be in the UFC for the sole purpose of proving to the rest of the world that he was the best fighter on the planet by fighting the top welterweights out there.

ONE FC may provide Askren with exciting new opportunities in the ring because of their rule-set, and they may treat him well, but has the Duke Roufus team member had to give up on his MMA goals to sign with the fledgling organization?

"I have the same goals in MMA for myself that I had since day one," Askren explains.

"I just want to win every fight that I have. I want to win every fight I'm in. I want to clear out every opponent I face. That's always been my goal and it still is. I want to continue dominating. Obviously, I had a string of decisions and I wasn't a good finisher for awhile. But in my last few fights I think I've proven that I'm a much more well-rounded fighter."

Askren will count on that well-rounded strength of his to face a host of unknowns in his new fighting home. First off, his just-announced opponent is a mystery to Askren.

Askren knows that his opponent's home-country produces great wrestlers and that his rival has fought at middleweight. That's pretty much it.

"No, I don’t know anything about him," Askren admits.

"I'm not really worried about the weight factor. Usually with guys who have never made a lower weight, it's more of an issue for them than an advantage."

Now that he does have an opponent for his ONE FC debut, Askren will study him, but only to a point.

"I will study to a certain extent, but I think people over-do that," he says.

"I like to study an opponent just to see one or two things that they do really well and to make a game plan for myself, but that's it."

Everything from Askren's last weeks of training camp, to fight week and even fight night will now change with his fighting in Asia at ONE FC. Askren will continue to train with his teammates and coaches at Rufous Sport in Milwaukee up until the final few weeks of camp, at which point he will fly over to Singapore early to get acclimated to the time change and close out his camp at Evolve MMA.

However, Askren will not have any of his home-coaches with him during that time or even on fight night. The life-long competitor isn't worried, though.

"My coaches are going to be busy coaching some other guys so I'm not taking any coaches with me," he says.

"I will take my good friend [and UFC fighter] Alan Belcher out with me. He has a ton of experience. And, the coaches at Evolve are good so I will rely on them a little bit."

Askren has trained at the Evolve MMA gym before and has high praise for their staff. They will not, of course, know him as eel as the coaches he's worked with for years.

The fighter knows that, ultimately, his success or failure rests on his shoulders alone. By fight night, his coaches will have given him all they could, and the rest will be up to him.

"I've been in so many competitions that I'm ready compete. I know what to do," he explains.

"It's even something I preach to my little kids that I coach. They are as young as 4th grade to 8th grade. I tell them, 'If, for some reason, I'm not at your tournament or I'm not in your corner, you know how to wrestle. You don’t need me to wrestle." It's about building self-reliance. In wrestling you’ll never know what youre going to encounter so you've just got to be ready for anything."

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Combate Americas looks to bring MMA to Latin audience

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 12:59

It’s been years and years since UFC co-founder Campbell McLaren has worked with the top MMA promotion but he insists that he still loves the product and respects its current owners and executives. That said, McLaren drew from the boxing world for inspiration and strategy with his latest project, Combate Americas – an MMA fighting reality show on new bilingual cable network Mun2.

“I love the UFC and they do it better than anyone else,” McLaren says.

“But I think one of the audiences that they don’t necessarily cater to are Latinos. [Boxing promoter] Bob Arum said in an interview that he believed Hispanic fight fans are what saved boxing and kept it alive. I think that’s true. It can be argued that, broadly speaking, Hispanics are the most enthusiastic and loyal fight fans. But no one had a product geared specifically for them in MMA.”

So, McLaren began crafting Combate Americas, with the intention of creating the most Latino-friendly MMA product in the world. After years of research, development and casting, the show was finally taped and aired on the Spanish/English bilingual Mun2 network.

So far, five episodes have aired in the Sunday, 10 pm EST time slot and McLaren has been pleased with its success thus far. Fans familiar with reality TV shows like The Ultimate Fighter [TUF] may be able to seamlessly begin watching Combate Americas but there are also some major differences between the two shows.

On TUF, fighters usually fight one another on each episode in order to get closer to a Finale match up where they can earn a UFC contract. On the Combate Americas reality show, the fighters are also vying to earn a contract with what McLaren says will become a full-fledged MMA promotion this year with live events held.

However, fighters will not actually fight until episodes 9 & 10 of the Combate Americas season. Until then, they train one another in the gym, live in a Miami area house (they are not restricted communication access with the outside world in the way TUF cast members are) and compete in the types of gimmicky athletic challenges – see, American Gladiatorsesque pedestal jousting - that were prevalent on season one of TUF, in order to earn points. McLaren says that the decision to not have the fighters fight one another until late in the season was a carefully-made one.

“That was a hard choice but I believe the right one,” he says.

“The thing with this cast is, we’ve got some excellent fighters but almost all of them are unknown outside of their areas. I don’t believe people care about fights unless they care about the fighters themselves. So, we decided to focus on these guys’ stories so that viewers get invested in them. Then, by the time they fight, they actually care and are rooting for someone.”

It may be a risky prospect to have a fighting show where fighters don’t fight that often, but Combate Americas has successfully put forward interesting personalities with engaging back-stories. There are fighters with young children at home, there are fighters who are training through injuries, there’s the Youtube fight video sensation, "Level", trying to make it in legit MMA.

The fighting competition reality television genre is not new to McLaren. Neither is the goal of attracting ethnic minority audiences to MMA.

McLaren was the executive producer of The Iron Ring, which aired on the BET network years ago. As is the case with Combate Americas, The Iron Ring did an excellent job of scouting good fighters.

Top fighters like Bellator’s Brian Rodgers and the UFC’s Marcus Brimmage first passed through The Iron Ring. The Iron Ring put good fighters in good fights but often veered into silliness, in large part because of the hip hop celebrity “owners” who knew absolutely nothing about MMA.

With Combate Americas, McLaren is still betting heavily on celebrity cast members and guests, but still insists that he learned from The Iron Ring’s mistakes.

“We have lots of celebrities on Combate Americas (like recording artists Chino & Nacho and Daddy Yankee) but what I learned from Combate Americas was to not position celebrities as experts. We have well-known celebrities on Combate Americas but they are all there because they are interested in and want to learn about MMA. So, they have respect and genuinely want to learn," he explains.

Combate Americas first season of celebrity guests does include some real fight experts, however, like original UFC champion Royce Gracie, who appears on Sunday’s episode. In instances like tonight’s episode with Gracie, viewers get a real sense of what Combate Americas and Mun2 mean by bilingual.

Most of the Combate Americas show happens in Spanish. However, there are always subtitles in English.

When English is spoken on screen, the subtitles become Spanish. All the fighters speak at least Spanish. Royce Gracie, however, doesn’t speak Spanish.

So, the fighting legend speaks to the fighters in English and his words are subtitled. McLaren believes that this open and engaging approach is timely in today’s Latino-American audience marketplace.

Many young Latinos identify with the cultures of their ancestors, whether or not they also possess completely fluent Spanish skills. “It really is about being bi-cultural, not just bilingual,” McLaren maintains.

Combate Americas’ approach of combining good scouting with good stories is proving worth watching thus far this season, but it would all still feel hollow if the fighters weren’t competing for real reward. To that end, McLaren promises that Combate Americas will soon be a full-fledged MMA promotion, with live events that will hopefully be televised.

“We are talking with multiple networks about televising the fights,” he says.

Combate Americas plans to hold three live events in 2014. One will be where the show was taped, Miami, another will take place in Chicago and the third will be held in either San Antonio or San Jose.

“These guys are fighting for a real contract with a real, bonafide MMA organization,” McLaren emphasizes.

“It is a chance of a lifetime for them and you will see it in the way they fight.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Cheick Kongo - Respect over everything

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 10:37

Cheick Kongo made his UFC debut in 2006 and the heavyweight built a solid record against the world’s best for seven years. Then, in 2013, he turned down a new contract offer from the UFC and walked away, eventually signing with Bellator.

Kongo’s friend and training partner Quinton “Rampage” Jackson did something similar and now the two both fight for the UFC’s main rival promotion. “Rampage” was very vocal about his unhappiness with the UFC, for some time, leading up to his last UFC fight in January, 2013 against Glover Teixeira.

Kongo, on the other hand, did not make a big, public stink, so many fans have been left wondering why the Parisian walked away from the big leagues on his own volition. Cagewriter visited with Kongo this past Wednesday as he looked towards a Bellator heavyweight title fight tonight against champion Vitaly Minakov.

The big man was calm, measured and clear but did not mince words in explaining why he decided to leave the UFC. “I want to be treated right,” he said. 

“I’d felt this way for a long time, but friends said, ‘Cheick, relax, just ignore it.’”

Ultimately, however, Kongo could not ignore what he felt was poor treatment from the UFC. He felt it impossible to be a company man while being treated like chattel.

“I’d rather die with my mouth open than to close it, shut up and survive,” he went on.

According to Kongo, the forms of alleged disrespect from the UFC varied. It was a combination of amount of money they offered him for a new contract as he was on a losing streak along with other, unspecified slights.

“It’s a little of everything,” he explained.

“They want people to shut up and go along with things but I can’t be that way. Also, of course, everyone wants to be paid more. I don’t expect to be paid millions of dollars, you know, but we put ourselves on the line for the promotion and do so much – some guys, not saying myself, but some guys go out there and fight like crazy, take hits and are so exciting and then they get $20,000.

“Then there’s bonuses. What’s a bonus? What the [expletive] is a bonus? Are there bonuses in life? You go out there, work hard, fight hard and should be paid fairly to do it, not waiting to see if maybe you will get a bonus or not afterwards…They treat you like you’re a piece of [expletive] if you lose.”

Kongo says that he isn’t averse to hard work, even if it’s for paltry pay. But, after putting in decades into his professional fight career, if he’s going to fight, he needs to feel that his bosses appreciate his sweat and blood.

“I’ve been a fighter for a long time. I’ll do any work. I’ll work for pennies if I need to. I don’t mind hard work. But, fighting is my career and I want to be respected for doing it. I’ll go work for a little money in some other type of work but fighting is my career,” he said.

“Other guys, I can’t speak for them or tell them what to do. They have families, houses, things to pay for. But I have to stand up for myself, even if it means I lose out. For those guys, I just wish them the best with everything."

Kongo has certainly moved past his resentment of the UFC, winning his first two Bellator bouts and earning his title shot Friday night in Reno. Kongo says that he’s been training in his adopted home of Los Angeles with the likes of Jackson, the crew at Antonio McKee’s Body Shop and many other spots.

Because of his years in the UFC, Kongo may be the bigger name in tonight’s heavyweight title match up but he knows what a tall task he has in front of him. Asked what he thinks of his younger, Russian opponent, Kongo laughed. “He’s a beast!” he roared.

“There’s a word in French…in English, it kind of means, ‘mother [expletive] (laughs). He’s a strong, big kid and is doing well. My friends ask me, ‘Cheick, why do you say that? You’re the guy.’ But, I feel that way. He’s a beast.” That said, Kongo feels prepared for the champion. “I’ve worked hard and know I’m ready,” he said.

For years, Kongo called for a title shot in the UFC, but never made it to the top. Now that he’s closer than ever to a gold belt, a title isn’t what motivates the Frenchman.

“I don’t know why, but it is just another fight for me,” he concluded.

“I mean, of course, it would be great to be a champion. I’ve wanted to be a champ for a long time before and now I have a chance to do it in Bellator. But, a hard fight is a hard fight, no matter if it’s for a title or not.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Muhammad Ali refers to himself as ‘the original MMA fighter’ in tweet to Dana White

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 12:44

What you think @DanaWhite? Muhammad Ali - the original #MMA fighter? @ufc

— Muhammad Ali (@MuhammadAli) April 3, 2014

As far as fight-game celebrities go, UFC president Dana White is pretty high up on the list. White makes the day of many mixed martial arts fans when he responds to one of their tweets on Twitter, even if he insults them, as he often tends to do.

White has become so popular in part for his willingness to engage his fan base.

But on Thursday, White received a tweet from a very unique fan. Muhammad Ali, the man forever known as "The Greatest" and one of the most significant sports figures in history, sent a tweet to the UFC president.

Ali was a three-time heavyweight boxing champion, but he sent a picture of him in his fight with pro wrestler Antonio Inoki and wrote, "What do you think @DanaWhite? Muhammad Ali -- the original #MMA fighter."

In texts to Yahoo Sports about Ali's tweet, White wrote, "AMAZING!" and "I'm losin it!"

It's not every day one gets noticed by a legend, and this time White had his day made by someone tweeting to him.

White responded with a tweet of his own: "U sir are the original EVERYTHING! Ur the reason combat sports is where it is 2day Greatest tweet Ive ever recieved Im honored"

- - - - - - -

Check out what's buzzing on the Yahoo Sports Minute:

[VIDEO] Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson talks Brock Lesnar

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 09:50

Former NCAA Division I football player and WWE professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a helluva athlete. He also knows former NCAA Division I wrestling champ, UFC heavyweight champ and WWE star Brock Lesnar better than most.

To promote the release of all of Brock Lesnar's UFC fights on UFC Fight Pass, the promotion interviewed "The Rock" about his fellow pro wrestler and the movie star had rave reviews (video below). According to Johnson, no one will ever accomplish what Lesnar did in the UFC's heavyweight division, as fast as he did.

In 2007, Lesnar had fought just once, but still signed with the UFC. In his first match, Lesnar was thrown to the wolves and matched up against former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir.

Lesnar lost to Mir but then went on a tear, winning four straight fights, including a rematch against Mir and a UFC title bout against legend Randy Couture. Lesnar then repeatedly got sick and nearly died from diverticulitis complications.

Lesnar lost his title to Cain Velasquez in 2010 and then lost again to Alistair Overeem in 2011. He then retired from MMA and has returned to professional wrestling.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

[VIDEO] Georges St. Pierre & Nick Diaz partner up

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 09:17

Anderson Silva may be training to be a police officer, but what if fellow MMA greats and rivals Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz already were cops and partners, patrolling the streets? Oh, you never before considered that ridiculous scenario?

Well, MMA cartoon satirist extrodinaire Pouya Rebek did and the below video short is the product of that goofy dream. St. Pierre and Diaz, both in a quad car, argue over their secret MMA crush before spotting a suspicious and familiar UFC big man.

Find out who Diaz and GSP arrest, why and check out Diaz' self-serving version of the Miranda rights.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Robbie Lawler not dwelling on UFC title loss

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 22:07


Robbie Lawler came as close as you can to winning UFC gold without actually capturing a belt when he lost a close decision after going to Johny Hendricks after a war last month at UFC 171. It might appear to have been a crushing loss to the welterweight but Lawler insists that he isn't down on himself.

“I’m not dwelling on the loss at all,” Lawler told MMAjunkie in a recent interview.

“It comes down to getting better, working on my skills and pushing myself to get better. That’s about it."

It might help that Lawler already has another challenge to focus himself on - a fight against Jake Ellenberger May 24 at UFC 173 in Las Vegas. 

“The opportunity arose where I could get a fight. I’m making the most of it. I’m back in the gym and working out, getting my body ready," he said. 

Lawler and Hendricks both took ungodly amounts of punishment throughout their five-round title fight in March but that didn't stop Lawler from rushing into another fight on short notice. Nor did it stop him from getting back in the gym right away and pushing his body all over again.

“I worked out that Monday after the fight, just to get some blood flowing in my muscles [and] work out any sore muscles, and then I rested for the next week,” Lawler recounted.

“After a week I started lifting, pushing myself harder than I normally do a week out from a fight. Now I’m just right back in it and pushing myself to get better.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter


Georges St. Pierre to undergo knee surgery next week

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 21:49

Not even a leave of absence from MMA could keep Georges St. Pierre safe as the former champ recently tore his left ACL. On Wednesday night's UFC Tonight program, it was reported that the French Canadian will undergo surgery next week in Los Angeles.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a high-profile surgeon who has also worked on Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and who repaired St. Pierre's right ACL several years back, will perform the surgery on GSP. The last time St. Pierre suffered an ACL tear, he was out of action for over a year and a half.

No one but St. Pierre knows if he planned to return to MMA competition one day but, if he does, this will surely slow down that come back. We wish "Rush" all the best as he prepares for surgery.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

Phil Davis thinks Jon Jones may pull out of UFC 172

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 21:35

 Light heavyweight Phil Davis is scheduled to fight Anthony Johnson this month at UFC 172. Division champ Jon Jones is set to take on Glover Texeira in that event's main event. 

Sounds simple, right? Well, not to Phil Davis.

"Mr. Wonderful" recently took a swipe at Jones during an interview with MMA Junkie. According to the former Division I wrestling national champion, there's a chance that Jones will pull out of his fight with Texeira.

“He may not fight at UFC 172,” Davis said wryly.

“It’s not too late for him to back out of this one. It’s happened before.”

Well, not exactly. Jones vs. Teixeira was indeed a difficult fight to put together and finalize a date for, but Jones refuted White's initial claim that he "pulled out" of the original UFC 170 date with Teixeira. "Bones" is also one of the most active top fighters in recent UFC history and, other than wanting to avoid an immediate rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, he hasn't backed down from many, if any, fights. 

“I’m ready for a title shot whenever it’s available,” Davis went on.

“If he happens to back out of this fight for whatever reason, I’m willing to take on Glover Teixeira for an interim championship.”

As for Jones, the champ was at his home base in Albuquerque on Wednesday during a media day at Team Jackson/Winkeljohn and acted every bit the part of the above-the-fray top dog in response to Davis' taunts.

“Phil, he has his job to do,” Jones explained.

“His job is to try and get a title shot, and he figures if he can stir up enough controversy and insult me enough that that will get him closer to the title shot ... Maybe it’s working – we’re definitely talking about him more than usual. Good for him. Obviously, I’ll be here. My goal is to be in the No. 1 spot when he gets to me, and everything will take care of itself in time.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter