Stephen Thompson wants hometown showdown with Robbie Lawler after UFC Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Stephen Thompson is trying not to look past Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 6 headliner with Anthony Pettis, but it’s difficult to ignore what’s on the horizon.

The UFC heads to South Carolina on June 22 to stage an event in Greenville, where Thompson (14-3-1 MMA, 9-3-1 UFC) resides. Having “Wonderboy” headline the card seems like a natural fit, and he has every intention of taking that spot as long as he’s physically capable.

Thompson already has an opponent in mind, too. He’s long pursued a matchup with former UFC welterweight champ Robbie Lawler (28-13 MMA, 13-7 UFC), and he hopes that fight can finally materialize.

“Lawler is definitely the fight I’ve been wanting for a while,” Thompson told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at UFC on ESPN+ 6 media day. “I’ve been a big fan of him and he’s been such a monster in the welterweight division. I thought he looked great in his last fight with Ben (Askren). He looked really strong and just really focused. I think that year off gave him some time to heal up and get his mind right. I think that would be awesome.

“I know there’s a card happening in Greenville, S.C., my hometown, three months from now. Hopefully come out of this fight unscathed and we’ll make that fight happen.”

UFC on ESPN+ 6 takes place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Thompson vs. Pettis headlines the card, which streams on ESPN+.

Thompson said he was close to booking a January showdown with Lawler. However, “Ruthless” said prior to his UFC 235 bout with Ben Askren earlier this month that the matchup was never on the table. Thompson begs to differ, but all of that is in the past, and he hopes they can make it happen in the future.

“To us it was (happening),” Thompson said. “The word we were getting is it was happening. It wasn’t until the fight – I was up in New York with Chris Weidman during his fight (at UFC 230) is when I actually found out he was fighting Askren. Up until then it looked like we would fight him. I don’t know if that was UFC or his coaches, I don’t know what the whole plan was there, but for a little while there it looked like it was a for sure thing. But things happen.”

The matchup with Lawler, No. 9 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA welterweight rankings, has slipped through his fingers before, and No. 5-ranked Thompson said he hopes it doesn’t happen again. With Tyron Woodley no longer champion at 170 pounds, Thompson has renewed championship aspirations and thinks beating Pettis and Lawler in back-to-back fights would give him a strong case to challenge current titleholder Kamaru Usman.

“I think a big win over Pettis is going to put me back in the limelight,” Thompson said. “It’s been almost 10 months since I fought and out of sight out of mind. People stop talking about you, forget about you and I just want to let everyone know that I’m still here. But a win over Lawler – he’s a former welterweight champion. He’s one of the best strikers in the division and has been in the game for a while.

“It may not move me up (in the rankings), but it still shows everybody I’m here if I can do what I’m going to do Saturday and fight Lawler in my hometown and prove that, ‘Stephen is still here, let’s give him that shot again.'”

For more on UFC on ESPN+ 6, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Jack Grant vs. Jai Herbert set for vacant title clash at Cage Warriors 106

Jack Grant will finally be given his opportunity to fight for Cage Warriors gold when he meets fellow surging U.K. lightweight Jai Herbert for the vacant divisional title at Cage Warriors 106 at the London Apollo on Jun. 29.

Cage Warriors announced the title clash via press release Wednesday. The promotion has also vowed to make every fight on the main card a title clash.

This is the second time in the history of the U.K. organization that a ‘Night of Champions’ even has been hosted, the first of which happened in 2005 with Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy and Antonio Silva taking home gold on the night.

Grant (15-4-0) was perceived to be the next challenger to Soren Bak before the Dane vacated his lightweight title to challenge for the interim featherweight title. Known for his sublime grappling ability and stopping power, Grant is currently on a six-fight win streak, with all but one victory coming by way of decision.

Grant featured on MMA Fighting’s ‘European prospects to watch in 2019’ feature earlier this year.

A former BAMMA champion, Herbert (8-1-0) has looked inspired since debuting under the Cage Warriors banner last year, taking out a who’s who of lightweights en route to his title call-up. After a decision win in his debut against Erdi Karatas, he has claimed two impressive finishes over Irish fan favorite Joe McColgan and submission specialist Steve O’Keefe to enter the title fray.

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Legacy Fighting Alliance 62 Weigh-in Results: Title Bout Official

The Legacy Fighting Alliance is ready to explode at the Bomb Factory, bringing with it a fighter attempting to become the promotion’s first simultaneous two-division interim champ, as Casey Kenney moves up in weight to face Vince Cachero at bantamweight. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Aussie & Fancy Breakdown: Nashville Edition

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Report: Dallas police investigating ex-UFC champ Frank Shamrock for animal cruelty

Frank Shamrock’s justification for allegedly leaving one of his mother’s dogs tied up in the back of a truck at an airport for five days? “I’m an animal lover.”

Should we pause while you scratch your head trying to figure that one out, especially if you truly are an animal lover?

According to a report from WFAA-TV in Dallas, the 47-year-old Shamrock, who was the UFC’s inaugural light heavyweight champion more than 20 years ago, tied up one of his mother’s dogs, Zelda, in the back of a pickup truck at Dallas’ Love Field airport.

The report says Shamrock left some food and water for Zelda in the truck, then got on a plane to return to his home in California.

In a phone interview with WFAA, Shamrock admitted what he did. He’s under investigation by police in Dallas for animal cruelty, the report says.

“They can charge me with whatever. I will show up,” Shamrock told the station. “It is what it is. I’m not hiding in any way. It’s an unfortunate and terrible thing. I’m an animal lover and I ran away crying. … It’s an old dog – no one wants a 6 1/2, 7-year-old dog with a goofy hip.”

According to the report, Shamrock was in Dallas to help his mother move. A post on Facebook on March 2 said he was seeking a home for his mother’s two dogs. One was taken in, but Shamrock claims no shelter would take Zelda, who now reportedly is in the custody of Dallas’ animal control division.

“Need help! Can anyone take a dog today in Dallas Texas?” Shamrock posted on Facebook. “My mom has to give her dogs away as she can’t care for them anymore. We will be at Dallas Love Field AirPort by 4pm and flights at 5pm. Dog lovers please help Zelda is a great guard dog and she has protected my mom for years. I have called every shelter and no kill pet center within 200 miles. Now I have to fly home and need some help.”

Shamrock believes the dog is better off because he left it abandoned in the back of the truck.

“Here is what I guarantee: That dog is alive and safe right now, and I couldn’t guarantee that before I tied that dog to the truck and left,” Shamrock told the station.

Shamrock is coming up on the 10-year anniversary next month of his final MMA fight, a knockout loss to Nick Diaz in the now-defunct Strikeforce. Prior to that, he lost Strikeforce’s middleweight title when Cung Le broke Shamrock’s arm in a TKO win to take the belt.

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Pedro Munhoz calls for title fight over Cejudo: ‘Literally have two guys from the same division fight’

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. — T.J. Dillashaw’s stunning departure from the bantamweight title picture has left a void atop the UFC’s 135-pound division, and top-ranked Pedro Munhoz is ready to fill it.

A winner of seven of his last eight fights, Munhoz scored the biggest victory of his career earlier this month when he knocked out former champion Cody Garbrandt with a first-round assault at UFC 235. The performance earned Munhoz his fourth post-fight bonus over his last eight bouts and rocketed him up to the No. 4 spot in the UFC’s media-generated bantamweight rankings. And now Munhoz has his eyes on one thing only: a shot at the vacant bantamweight title against fellow top contender Marlon Moraes.

“Man, I think I deserve a title fight right now,” Munhoz told MMA Fighting at a media day at his American Top Team gym Thursday. “I deserve a title fight. Aljamain Sterling, Henry Cejudo — more than either of them I deserve the title shot right now. I just knocked out the former champ.

“I just knocked out the guy who fought T.J. twice back-to-back for the title. I went there and knocked him out, so it’s my chance now.”

The UFC’s bantamweight title was vacated in a shocking turn of events on Wednesday after Dillashaw revealed that he had tested positive for a banned substance in a USADA drug test in relation to his champion vs. champion UFC Brooklyn fight against flyweight titleholder Cejudo. Dillashaw was handed a one-year suspension by the New York State Athletic Commission for the failed test, was fined $10,000 and could ultimately be subject to a longer ban from USADA. The exact substance Dillashaw tested positive for has yet to be revealed.

Munhoz said he was surprised by Dillashaw’s failed test but was also reminded of accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that Garbrandt hurled at Dillashaw during the lead-ups to the two grudge matches the former teammates shared.

“I was [surprised],” Munhoz said. “I didn’t know if that was a part of the trash talk when he said that, but I guess it wasn’t. I don’t know what he tested positive for, but I was surprised. I didn’t think that would happen, especially because T.J. has been in the game a long time, fought for the title a lot of times and gotten tested a lot of times. And right now, this [latest incident] coming up, we know how serious USADA is and I’m very, very glad that they’re part of the game, because we’re all right now on the same page, and people who are going to try to cheat or do something, they’re going to get caught somehow.”

In the wake of Dillashaw’s revelation, the rest of the bantamweight division has been left to jockey for pole position to determine the next challengers for the vacant belt.

Moraes is the current No. 1 contender and has notched four wins in a row, highlighted by a trio of impressive first-round stoppages over Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera, and Raphael Assuncao. He appears to be a shoe-in for any upcoming bantamweight title fight.

That leaves three other viable contenders to potentially oppose Moraes: Munhoz, Sterling, or flyweight champion Cejudo. And after cruising to a 7-1 record since 2016 and picking up tough wins over Garbrandt, Bryan Caraway, Rob Font, and Brett Johns, Munhoz believes he is the choice that makes the most sense for the health of the bantamweight division.

“Henry Cejudo is a flyweight,” Munhoz said. “He’s the flyweight champion, good. They want to do that? They already stopped the bantamweight [division once]. That’s going to be the second time. The first time they stopped it when T.J. went down to ’25. Now they want to stop [the division] again because the guy is going up? Let us fight, so we can literally have two guys from the same division fight; not wait for the second time to do these [cross-divisional] matches. Let us fight.

“Then if it makes sense for the UFC, put Cejudo against [the winner of] Marlon and I. And the reason that I’m not putting Aljamain in the mix is because I don’t think it’s going to be an interesting fight. He’s just going to try to out-wrestle or out-grapple us. Fans want to see blood. Fans want to see swings and a dogfight. That’s what I bring every single time. And the reason I don’t do trash talk is because hands speak for themselves.”

Munhoz added that the UFC’s recent trend of staging superfights like the one that led to Dillashaw losing to Cejudo via first-round TKO in January has caused a domino effect that has led to multiple divisions — including bantamweight — being log-jammed at the top. He noted that by throwing Cejudo into yet another cross-divisional fight, the UFC would be only further sending the bantamweight and flyweight classes into disarray.

“Without a doubt [it’s hurting divisions],” Munhoz said. “Without a doubt. And they already did it. To do it again? Let us fight. We, bantamweights. Let’s just find out. It’s going to be Marlon, Aljamain, and I. Cejudo, if he fights [at 135 pounds] again, that’s the second time in a row that they’re going to stop the division for a guy in a different division. So I think they should give us the opportunity right now to find out who’s the bantamweight champion, and then we’ll see if it makes sense to do a fight against Cejudo or not.”

Although he is soft-spoken, Munhoz also took aim at the UFC rankings which currently have Sterling ranked one spot above him. Sterling is 5-3 over his last eight and suffered a grisly 67-second knockout loss to Moraes back in 2017. He also lost to Caraway over the stretch, who Munhoz finished with a vicious first-round TKO in November.

“It doesn’t make any sense why he’s ranked No. 3 and I’m No. 4,” Munhoz said. “It makes no sense. His last fight was a boring fight. In my last fight, I just knocked out the former champ. So now he’s No. 3 and I’m No. 4? I don’t know how the rankings works, I don’t know who is the one who puts the numbers out there. That doesn’t make any sense. Look at my records. Look at my fights. Look at his fights. He’s a great fighter — I’m not saying he’s not a good fighter, he is a good fighter, but I’m a different level.”

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PFL Reveals Additional 2019 Tournament Roster

The Professional Fighters League has revealed the second round of its 2019 tournament roster, including several 2018 favorites as well as newcomers ranging from Ultimate Fighting Championship veterans to promising prospects. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Jesus Pinedo Wants To Show His True Level

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Anthony Pettis would never fight teammate Ben Askren: ‘I’d save myself the embarrassment’

NASHVILLE – From October 2011 to December 2014, Anthony Pettis went on a streak that saw him conquering the UFC’s lightweight title and defending it. During that time, one of his main training partners was former One Championship and Bellator champ Ben Askren.

A lot has changed since that stretch. After losing the lightweight title and even taking a stab at the 145-pound division, Pettis is set to have his debut as a UFC welterweight, against Stephen Thompson. Askren, in turn, went into and out of retirement before finally joining the UFC. As of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 6, Pettis and Askren will be fighting in the same division, under the same banner.

The two, however, still train together at Roufusport. And while teammates not wanting to go against each other is hardly surprising in MMA, Pettis made an interesting addendum while categorically shutting down the idea of the two ever fighting each other.

“I would never fight Ben Askren, I’d save myself the embarrassment,” Pettis told reporters, including MMA Junkie, during a media day ahead of Saturday’s headliner at Bridgestone Arena. “That dude is a (expletive) monster.”

How big of a monster, you ask?

“(He’s) the type of guy that, you can never count him out,” Pettis said. “I spinning- back kicked him one time, right in the chin, I could tell he was hurt, he double legs me, gets on top, and just starts grinding me out. He’s one of them tough, deep-down guys. He’s really good.”

We’ve seen proof of Askren’s resilience just recently, at UFC 235, when he survived an onslaught by former champion Robbie Lawler en route to snagging a finish of his own in his octagon debut.

On the one hand, being around well-known divisional forces like Askren and Tyron Woodley, who lost his welterweight majesty on the same night of Askren’s debut, is a good way to figure out where you stack up against bigger competition. And though their wrestling-heavy games pose a stylistic contrast to Pettis’ striking game, it seems he’s got some encouraging signs in that regard.

“I feel like while I’m training with Ben and while I’m training with Ty – when I’m 155, obviously they’re stronger than me, they’re bigger than me,” Pettis said. “But when I’m out of camp and I’m my natural weight, I feel amazing.”

On the other hand, it can be challenging to craft a plan to get to the title when you’re not that inclined to face some of the people who are making the climb with you. By taking on a two-time title challenger in “Wonderboy” Thompson (14-3-1 MMA, 9-3-1 UFC), however, Pettis (21-8 MMA, 8-7 UFC) sees a path around them to his destination.

“Well, neither of them are champ,” Pettis said. “So there’s ways to get to that belt. And my name, and where I’m at, a great win, I think I’m right there in the line for this. First, I’ve got to get through ‘Wonderboy.’ This is a big risk, going up a weight class to fight the No. 4 in the world, this isn’t an easy task. But I just feel amazing, man.

“The training camp went so well, the weight right now feels good. My energy is like – I feel like I’m ready for a fight, and not for a weight cut, and that feels good.”

“Amazing” is a word that Pettis uses often to describe the feeling of not having to hit the lightweight limit. The move didn’t mean Pettis go to entirely forego cutting, as he didn’t want to come in small against a big foe in Thompson. But, with just six pounds to cut on Thursday, he’s certainly enjoying the extra energy that comes with being well-fed and watered up.

“I just had breakfast and I couldn’t finish it,” Pettis said gleefully. “So that’s how good this weight cut is going.”

Pettis, of course, isn’t the first former lightweight champion we’ve seen making the move up to welterweight. Just recently, Rafael dos Anjos made the same move and found some early success, going on a three-fight winning streak before suffering back-to-back losses to Colby Covington and champ Kamaru Usman.

Dos Anjos is now set to face former interim title challenger Kevin Lee at UFC on ESPN+ 9. Lee, as we know, has long been an advocate for the creation of an intermediary 165-pound division – and the meeting with a similarly-sized “RDA” seems like a good case for that.

Given Pettis’ history competing at lightweight and a relatively easy cut to 170, he would seem like a shoo-in for the 165-pound division. But, though he is not opposed to having more options with a new class, he isn’t necessarily campaigning for it.

“For me, I want to stay busy,” Pettis said. “And I don’t want to take two months to make weight. And then have like a couple weeks of actual technical training to get better as a fighter. All my training camps have been weight cuts, not a training camp.

“So it feels good to go out here and learn, and my mind is sharp, and not dehydrated and feeling like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to Friday.’ Friday comes, I eat like crazy, and rehydrate, and then Saturday, you feel like crap. There’s no way to bounce back from that. So I think, better than adding a 65 division, us as fighters, fight in your own weight class.”

To hear Pettis’ full chat with reporters, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC on ESPN+ 6, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Justin Willis confident he can put ‘asses in seats’ once the UFC ‘stops f*cking around with me’

NASHVILLE — At UFC Nashville media day, Justin Willis discusses his co-main event bout with Curtis Blaydes, training with champ Daniel Cormier, and much more.

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Report: Antonio Carlos Junior to Face Ian Heinisch at UFC Rochester

Losing his opponent on fight day before their UFC Fight Night 147 meeting, Ian Heinisch is electing for a short turnaround to take a new matchup against Antonio Carlos Jr. this May. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Five Questions With Luis Pena

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PFL’s latest roster reveal includes undefeated UFC vet Jordan Johnson, former ACB champ Denis Goltsov

PFL continues to build toward the promotion’s second season, and company executives today announced 29 names that will feature in the 2019 schedule.

“We are proud that PFL is the organization fighters want to be part of, as these guys have the talent and star-power to have chosen any MMA organization,” PFL President Ray Sefo stated. “PFL has only 68 slots this year for fighters, and the harsh reality is it is highly competitive to get into this league. Fighters from around the world want to control their own destiny, and after seeing six of their peers last year cash $1 million checks and win championship belts, they have come hungry to compete.

“Storylines are forming, rivalries are brewing, training is starting … and we’re not done yet. We will continue with Round 3 of ‘The Selection’ as we finalize the PFL 2019 roster.”

At featherweight, PFL newcomers Alex Gilpin (12-1) and Luis Rafael Laurentino (33-1) join returning athletes Alexandre Almeida (20-9), Alexandre Bezerra (22-6) and Andre Harrison (20-1).

At lightweight, the PFL fighters are Nate Andrews (15-1), Loik Radzhabov (11-0) and Bao Yincang (13-5). They join retuning competitors Ramsey Nijem (10-7) and Chris Wade (14-5).

At welterweight new names include David Michaud (14-5) and Zane Kamaka (13-3), while familiar faces are John Howard (27-14-1), Handesson Ferreira (13-2-1), Sadibou Sy (7-4-1) and Bojan Velickovic (16-8-2).

Light heavyweight newcomers are Jordan Johnson (10-0) and Viktor Nemkov (27-7), alongside returning fighters Bozigit Ataev (20-3), Maxim Grishin (28-7-1), Smealinho Rama (11-5-1) and Dan Spohn (18-6).

And finally, new heavyweights Ante Delija (15-3), Ben Edwards (3-0) and Denis Goltsov (22-5) will compete alongside Muhammad DeReese (7-0), Alex Nicholson (13-7), Jared Rosholt (17-6) and Kelvin Tiller (10-2).

These athletes all join the cast that was revealed in Round 1 of PFL’s 2019 roster reveal earlier this month.

Check out the fill announcement in the video above.

The PFL’s second season kicks off May 9 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. The promotion recently struck a deal with ESPN that will see events broadcast stateside on ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+, with TSN broadcasting events in Canada.

For more on the PFL’s upcoming schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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PFL 2019 roster update includes unbeaten ex-UFC fighter Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson

The list of participants lining up for the PFL’s $1 million prize became a lot more intriguing with the latest roster reveal for the 2019 season.

With almost all of last season’s champions returning (with the exception of light heavyweight Sean O’Connell, who retired after last season), the league’s second season already looked to be off to a promising start. On Thursday, the promotion announced a number of returnees and new signings, including 2018 standouts Chris Wade (14-5) and Andre Harrison (20-1).

ESPN was first to report the news.

Wade, a former UFC lightweight, lost a close split decision to eventual tournament winner Natan Schulte that cost him a spot in the PFL finals. He had one of the early highlights of the 2018 season, launching a flying kick at Yuki Kawana before finishing with a first-round submission.

Harrison entered the 2018 PFL season having previously held the league’s featherweight title, but lost a unanimous decision in a rematch against Lance Palmer in the semi-finals.

Also returning for another crack at a PFL championship are light heavyweight Smealinho Rama (11-5-1), heavyweights Alex Nicholson (13-7) and Kelvin Tiller (10-2), and middleweight Sadibou Sy (7-4-1).

Notable newcomers added to the roster Thursday include former UFC fighters Jordan Johnson (10-0) and David Michaud (14-4), and Brazilian Luis Rafael (33-1) who was recently profiled on MMA Fighting.

Johnson went 4-0 during his run inside the Octagon, most recently defeating Adam Yandiev by second-round submission at UFC Moscow last September. The 30-year-old currently trains out of The MMA Lab.

The other new signings are Russia’s Denis Goltsov (22-5), Cooper’s cousin Zane Kamaka (13-3), K-1 kickboxer Ben Edwards (3-0), and CES lightweight champion Nate Andrews (15-1).

See the updated roster below:

Heavyweight

Philipe Lins

Alex Nicholson

Kelvin Tiller

Denis Goltsov

Ben Edwards

Light Heavyweight

Vinny Magalhaes

Jordan Johnson

Smealinho Rama

Welterweight

Magomed Magomedkerimov

Ray Cooper III

Louis Taylor

David Michaud

Zane Kamaka

Sadibou Sy

Lightweight

Natan Schulte

Rashid Magomedov

Chris Wade

Featherweight

Lance Palmer

Andre Harrison

Steven Siler

Luis Rafael

Women’s Lightweight

Kayla Harrison

Sarah Kaufman

Genah Fabian

Bobbi-Jo Dalziel

Svetlana Khautova

Roberta Samad

Larissa Pacheco

Morgan Freir

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Bellator 218 Weigh-in Results: One Heavy; One Bout Scratched

Bellator MMA is returning once again to their adopted state of Oklahoma, with the promotion adapting after a slew of last-minute changes to give the fans an intriguing headliner: a rematch between Emmanuel Sanchez and Georgi Karakhanyan. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

UFC® CONTINUES CHINA EXPANSION WITH QUTOUTIAO PARTNERSHIP

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Dustin Poirier: ‘I’m coming home with gold’ at UFC 236

As a WEC vet, Dustin Poirier has been competing under the Zuffa banner for nearly nine years, and with his opportunity arriving to finally wrap a belt around his waist, “The Diamond” says he won’t be denied.

“I just feel like I’m different than a lot of these guys,” Poirier told MMA Junkie Radio. “When I set my mind to something, I find ways to make it happen by any means. Since I was 17, 18 years old, I set the goal to be a world champion in mixed martial arts, and in my amateur career, I won some small belts. In my pro career, I won some small belts, and now we’re at the pinnacle. It’s time to collect this one.”

UFC lightweight Poirier (24-5 MMA, 16-4 UFC), who’s currently ranked No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA lightweight rankings, meets current featherweight champ Max Holloway (20-3 MMA, 16-3 UFC) for the UFC’s interim lightweight title in the main event of next month’s UFC 236, which takes place April 13 in Atlanta and airs on pay-per-view.

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Poirier has certainly earned the right to take part in a UFC title fight, interim or otherwise. His current four-fight winning streak includes finishes of stalwarts Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje and Anthony Pettis, not to mention three fight-night bonuses.

But he’s been sidelined since July, forced to wait while current lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and former title holder Conor McGregor settled their differences – first in the cage, then before the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Poirier admits the process was frustrating, at one point even pushing for the promotion to grant him a release, but is now in far better spirits.

“That’s just the business of what we do at the highest level,” Poirier said. “I was just in a rough spot. I felt like I was being put on the shelf for other people’s actions. I did nothing but show up and fight, make weight, and leave it all out there every time I went in.

“I wasn’t getting fights that made sense, I thought. I wasn’t getting any offers, actually, and I felt like that was because of the whole situation at the top of the division with the champion and the top-ranked guy, Conor, being suspended. We were all waiting for that hearing to happen, and when it finally happened, I was assuming there would be some clarity at the top of the division immediately after, and then a couple of weeks went by and there was still no – nothing started moving. So I was like, ‘Dude, what’s going on here?’ you know? I just got really frustrated and wanted to fight and wanted a fight that made sense.”

While it was a brief low point, Poirier said things are on track now. A decade into a professional career that has been contested at the sport’s highest level for nearly its entirety, Poirier said his enthusiasm for MMA has never been higher.

“I enjoy this,” Poirier said. “I started doing this because I just loved it. I was very passionate for this pure form of fighting. I still am, and I’m excited to do it. It’s still a rush, and it’s still – I’m anxious for this fight, and I still have all those feelings I always had, so this is still a lot of fun to me, but at this point in my career, I’ve made a decent living for me and my family. I have a daughter now, and I’m just happy for all the sacrifices that I have made along my career, and the ups and downs that helped make me into the person that I am right now. I’m just good.

“I’m happy with what I’ve done in mixed martial arts, but I’m not satisfied. I’ve got more to do, and I’m just enjoying the journey.”

The UFC 236 headliner serves as a rematch, of course, though the 2012 clash between the two fighters would seem to have little bearing on what happens next month – Holloway was a 20-year-old UFC newcomer at the time of the first meeting, and Poirier’s skills were still in their infancy compared to his current level.

Still, Poirier did submit Holloway in that first contest, and while he respects the man known as “Blessed,” the longtime American Top Team fighter believes he can repeat the performance.

“He seems really well-rounded, honestly, but I have a lot of belief in myself and my ability to make things happen in combat and in the fight,” Poirier said. “All I need is one – one mistake – for him to dip his head the wrong way or to grab me the wrong way or to get up off the ground the wrong way or take a shot. I can finish the fight anywhere.

“I feel like I’m very well-balanced and there’s not a place the fight can go that I don’t have an answer to something he’s doing. All I need is one mistake or one opportunity, and I’m going to take full advantage of it, and I can finish the fight again.”

Poirier knows that reaching his ultimate goal won’t come easy. While Holloway is moving up a division, he’s currently riding a 13-fight winning streak and is considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Still, Poirier is confident his efforts will be rewarded.

“It’s going to be an incredible fight,” Poirier said. “I’m going to leave it all out there, and I’m coming home with gold. I just know it. I feel it in my bones.

“Tune in – it’s going to be great.”

For more on UFC 236, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Ten years and 20 fights later, strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski is still rolling strong at KSW

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a little surprising that Mariusz Pudzianowski — Poland’s cult icon who won the World’s Strongest Man competition five times — is still fighting in MMA. When he debuted nearly 10 years ago at KSW 12 against Marcin Najman, it was a novelty of eye-popping proportions, a chance to see a guy with veins the size of ropes try and use that expansive power to darken somebody’s day.

And why not?

Back then, lots of big men were entertaining the idea of competing in MMA, and some of them were even doing it. Shaquille O’Neal was flirting with a fight against Hong Man Choi. Jose Canseco actually did fight Choi in Japan, and got his ass handed to him somewhat unceremoniously. Eric “Butterbean” Esch, boxing’s beloved globe-shaped figure, was taking MMA fights anywhere from Laredo to Fort McMurray, and handing out occasional whoopings. And of course Brock Lesnar successfully segued from the WWE to the UFC, and began breaking pay-per-view records.

Pudzianowski was among that initial wave of colossi who were testing a new market from wherever it was that gained them fame. With the exception of Lesnar, all the aforementioned have long since retired or given up the fancy to fight in a cage. Yet “Pudzian” remains. He takes on Szymon Kolecki on Saturday at KSW 47, in what will be his 20th pro fight. His record since beating Najman is a respectable 12-6 (1 NC).

Nobody could have predicted that Mariusz Pudzianowski — the guy who is built like a cartoon villain — would continue fighting so long that he’d be celebrating milestones.

“For me, it’s not like 10 years,” Pudzianowski told MMA Fighting this week. “When I started it, I thought it would be something short — something that wouldn’t last that long. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve fought for 10 years and that I’m still active. I want to go on competing.”


Courtesy of KSW

Granted, there’s a B-movie flare to what Pudzianowski has achieved — a kind of campy appeal here in the States that comes with fighting guys like Esch and Sean McCorkle (not once, but twice). But in Poland? Pudzian is a rock star. He is a burbling beaker of human awe, not unlike what Hulk Hogan was in the 1980s-90s for the WWF. When Pudzianowski is on the card, the marquee means something. The light shows are dialed in. The feel of an “event” is in there air, with a magnitude that doesn’t diminish through wins and losses.

Being the specimen is the thing. The specimen that at 42 years old remains the face of KSW. It’s the specimen that sells, but hates doing media. When he does, he usually speaks in exaggerated terms, using words like “ambulance” and “cold-blooded” — you know, terms that excite the sense of side-reality doom, which says a lot without saying anything.

For instance, when asked about his last fight, which he lost via Kimura in the first round against Karol Bedorf at KSW 44: “Well this time Karol was better, he was cold-blooded and he deserved to win — he was better that night.”

The other thing is that Pudzianowski — and KSW, for that matter — likes to play up is that Herculean strength. You will know he’s a former “Strongman” within seconds of any conversation surrounding him. When people around the promotion talk about his power, they may as well be talking about somebody who routinely chucks pianos out of fifth-floor walkups. Whoever is unfortunate enough to be standing in the way is going to get smashed. And during the tale of the tape, it’s not uncommon to see Pudzianowski kiss his own biceps with an intimacy that borders on profane.

For his fight against Kolecki, a fellow Polish fighter who will have a small faction in Lodz on Saturday, Pudzian’s best sales pitch sounds like a pamphlet on roulette (with fine print).

“I expect that in the first two minutes we’ll throw bombs and if anything connects from myself or from [Kolecki], it will be a knockout,” he says. “But if the fight goes a little bit longer it may change into a chess match, one of us will out-strategize the other.”

The marvel is that Pudzianowski hasn’t just survived 10 years fighting in MMA, it’s that he has carried his celebrity into other sectors of recognition. It’s thought that he’s a top-five most recognizable figure in Poland, and he continues to be a fascination — on many levels — globally. Back in the day, when he was winning the Strongman competitions, his feats were being aired to over 100 countries worldwide. Those countries are in the very least aware of him, in the way they are aware of Elvis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For Poland, he is a celebrated national figure who continues to perform. Everything is exaggerated about his fights in the best way possible. “These guys are so big you could show a film on their backs,” the commentators said as he and Bedorf circled early in his last fight. In fact, they wear fully legible advertisements between their shoulder blades, where the letters move with the rolling of the muscles in the way the leather does from the rolling mechanisms within a massage chair.

“I don’t like to plan or expect a knockout, because if you are focused on just on knocking out your opponent it usually doesn’t work out that way,” he says. “It’s better to concentrate on your strategy and if the knockout comes, it comes naturally.”

That’s the best you’re going to get from MMA’s great secular giant, who successfully parlayed his world-class strongman status into the cage 10 years ago, and has just kept going. It’s a shame America only got to see him once before he tucked himself away in Poland, which occurred back at Moosin: God of Martial Arts in Worcester, MA in 2010. It was only Pudzianowski’s third pro fight, and he lost via a barrage of punches from former UFC champion Tim Sylvia in the second round. Because Sylvia had fallen so far from grace by that time, Pudzianowski was easily dismissed as another novelty on the scene.

If he is, he’s the kind of novelty that knows what the hell he’s doing. Speaking of burbling beakers, check out this promo clip for Saturday’s show and tell me KSW doesn’t know how to market its man.

It’s not only been a long, crazy ride for Pudzianowski, it’s been a surprising one. He is a lot of things — a spectacle with a right hand, a barge of humanity who flexes for fans wherever he goes, a strongman who has lived numerous lives, a cartoon villain, a lab experiment, a media-hating Bane — yet above all else, somehow, he is an MMA fighter.

All these years later.

How long does he plan to go on?

“It’s a tough question,” he says. “I actually don’t have a set date or a set age that I want to retire. As long as I’m active and able to compete, I want to continue doing it.”


Courtesy of KSW

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