Five Questions With Curtis Blaydes

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Turns out Dana White is actually a pushover, gets hooked for 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies

Do you think Dana White is more a Thin Mints man, or a Tagalong kind of guy?

We’ll find out soon, it seems, as the UFC president just committed to buying 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from Michelle Waterson’s daughter, Araya.

White took to social media to reveal he’d been hit with “the cutest sales pitch I’ve ever seen in my life!!!” and was ready to shell out $4,000 for the annual fundraiser for the Girl Scouts of the USA.

So take note, fighters – the next time negotiations for your next fight aren’t going so well, don’t ask your manager to handle something your daughter could probably accomplish with a properly rehearsed cell-phone video.

Waterson (16-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) returns to action at next week’s UFC on ESPN 2 event in Philadelphia, where she takes on Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC). “The Karate Hottie,” who sits as an honorable mention in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA women’s strawweight rankings, looks to move up the list against No. 6 Kowalkiewicz.

Prior to the fight, Waterson and her daughter will be featured as part of an ESPN “E:60” profile entitled “Cage Mom.” You can check out a preview of the feature in the video above.

Here’s how ESPN describes the episode:

Eight years ago, Michelle Waterson was still in the early stages of her professional MMA career when UFC president Dana White famously declared that no women would ever fight for the UFC. Around that same time, she learned that she was going to have a baby. But instead of ending her career, baby Araya gave Waterson the one thing she didn’t realize she was missing: a reason to fight. Today, Waterson, known as the Karate Hottie, is the UFC’s ninth-ranked strawweight, and she’s among six fighters who are mothers to crack the top ten. She sat down with E:60’s Tisha Thompson to talk about how she balances motherhood and her professional fighting career and why she has decided to allow her now eight-year-old daughter to watch every one of her fights, no matter how gruesome they can be.

For more on UFC on ESPN 2, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMA Junkie’s blog space. We don’t take it overly serious, and neither should you. If you come complaining to us that something you read here is not hard-hitting news, expect to have the previous sentence repeated in ALL CAPS.

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Coach: T.J. Dillashaw USADA news ‘throws a wrench’ in Henry Cejudo rematch plans

Coach Eric Albarracin and UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo

The shocking news of T.J. Dillashaw’s adverse USADA findings is certain to set off a sequence of dominoes and one fighter affected in a major way is UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo.

Back at UFC Brooklyn in January, Cejudo successfully defended his title against Dillashaw, the bantamweight champion who was going down a division for a second belt, winning by first-round TKO. Dillashaw and UFC president Dana White argued that the stoppage was premature and it appeared that the two were destined to meet again, either in a rematch for Cejudo’s title or with Cejudo returning to 135 pounds for his chance to become a dual-division champion.

Any discussions on that front are now moot with Dillashaw voluntarily relinquishing his title as his case is investigated and he serves a one-year suspension from the New York State Athletic Commission.

MMA Fighting spoke to Cejudo’s head coach Eric Albarracin (calling from a bioXcellerator treatment center in Medellin, Colombia, preparing Patricio “Pitbull” Freire for his upcoming fight with Michael Chandler) to get his thoughts on the situation and he expressed remorse for Dillashaw should this prove to be a misunderstanding, and also lamented what could be a lost opportunity for Cejudo.

“My instant reaction to tell you the truth was I felt sorry for T.J.,” Albarracin said. “I was like, man this guy was the champ chasing another belt, he had to come down a weight class, trying to beat the guy who beat the G.O.A.T. to become the pound-for-pound best and he lost it all. I kind of felt sorry, I was hoping it was a mistake on two different ends. I was hoping it was a mistake because he’s got a family to support and I don’t wish that on anybody, that fall from glory.

“But then on the other hand it kind of sucks for Henry because Henry really wanted that rivalry fight and that money fight and the belt at 135 and that made the most sense. Let’s move up, we shut the critics up, we get another fight at 135, we beat him again, we win the belt, there’s a rivalry there, everybody wants to watch it because [Dillashaw was] on Joe Rogan and telling everybody that he didn’t lose the fight, Henry didn’t beat him. We were going to shut the critics up once and for all. Dana was saying that the fight was stopped early, so we were going to shut everybody up.”

Asked how close a Cejudo-Dillashaw rematch was in coming to fruition, Albarracin said it would have been perfect for them to be part of the UFC 239 card in Las Vegas during International Fight Week. He wouldn’t even mind if Cejudo’s next fight played the co-headliner to the return of Conor McGregor.

“It kind of throws a wrench in our plans because we were really pushing for that International Fight Week, Henry vs. T.J.,” Cejudo said. “Especially if Conor McGregor was going to be on that card, that would have been something to be part of.”

Albarracin reiterated multiple times that he hoped it was simply a mistake, though he added that Cejudo’s victory over Dillashaw would be that much more impressive in retrospect should it be proven that Dillashaw was benefiting from banned substances.

Dillashaw, a two-time bantamweight champion who has wins over Dominick Cruz, Cody Garbrandt, Renan Barao, and Raphael Assuncao, has already put together a resume that puts him among the all-time greats, and Albarracin thinks that Cejudo beating him made a statement not just for Cejudo, but the entire flyweight division.

“If (Dillashaw) was on something, that just raises Henry’s stock,” Albarracin said. “For a flyweight, the flyweights who everybody thinks sucks and are boring and want to get rid of the division, and he beats the greatest bantamweight of all-time who has an adverse USADA finding.”

The field is wide open now for Cejudo, who could schedule another flyweight title defense and give the UFC a reason to keep that division around or still make that jump back up to bantamweight and face another top contender there for a vacant title. Albarracin mentioned Marlon Moraes as likely being first in line to claim a spot in the next bantamweight title fight, though he noted that Moraes and Cejudo have the same representation.

Another name he brought up was Joseph Benavidez, a longtime UFC flyweight title contender who holds a 2016 split decision win over Cejudo. Albarracin said that Cejudo would love to “serve Joe Benavidez up a cold plate of Aztec warrior revenge.”

Albarracin believes that its Cejudo who holds the cards now in deciding his next matchup.

“If I know Henry, he still wants that [bantamweight] belt,” Albarracin said. “But I don’t know if that’s the money fight though. To tell you the truth, I think Henry’s the money fight now.

“Henry’s created his own kind of legacy in his own division and people should be wanting to come to him to fight him because of what he’s done in this sport as far as beating Demetrious Johnson, the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time, 11 straight title defenses, and then beat the greatest bantamweight of all-time. So Henry, to me, has created his own superfight division.”

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Georgi Karakhanyan Ready to Headline in Bellator MMA Following Whirlwind Year

When he left Bellator MMA in January 2018, Georgi Karakhanyan never expected to be back. The Moscow-born Armenian-American was leaving the promotion for the second time, heading to Russia to fight in Absolute Championship Berkut. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

John Makdessi Knows All About Toughness

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T.J. Dillashaw gave up his belt, so who should fight for the UFC’s bantamweight title?

With this morning’s shocking development that UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw was ‘voluntarily relinquishing’ his title following an adverse finding in a drug screen taken earlier this year, the 135-pound title will now be up for grabs. So who should get their shot at the belt? We take a look at the options below, ranging from the highly likely to the slightly bizarre.

Take a look at our thoughts, and offer yours in the comments below.

Check out the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA bantamweight rankings, as well, if you’re looking for a little inspiration in terms of potential matchups.

Marlon Moraes

Marlon Moraes

Marlon Moraes (22-5-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) absolutely has to be involved in any bantamweight title fight should the promotion care about legitimacy in terms of a fighter claiming the vacant belt and being considered a true champion. The former WSOF bantamweight champion came to the promotion in 2017 and promptly lost a hotly contested split-decision to Raphael Assuncao at UFC 212 – a bout that 16 out 17 tracked media outlets scored for Moraes, according to MMADecisions.com. Since that time Moraes has earned four wins over legitimate contenders, including Assuncao in a rematch, and earned three “Performance of the Night” bonuses. In short, the “Magic” man is the leader in the clubhouse.

Henry Cejudo

Henry Cejudo

UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo (14-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) has certainly enjoyed a front-row seat for the drama that has unfolded, as it was his belt that was on the line when Dillashaw dropped down for an opportunity at champ-champ status, only to be rebuked in a mere 32 seconds. While Dillashaw had called for a rematch at flyweight, it made more sense for Cejudo to move up to 135 pounds and take his shot at a second belt. Of course, with Dillashaw no longer involved, Cejudo may want to focus on keeping the flyweight division around – which has seemed anything but a certainty – by defending his belt at 125 pounds. Cejudo and Moraes also share a manger in Dominance MMA’s Ali Abdelaziz, so the team may collectively decide it’s better to avoid a fight. But if Cejudo wants his shot at becoming .a double champ, he’s certainly done enough to earn the call.

Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain Sterling

It wasn’t long ago that the Aljamain Sterling (17-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) hype train seemed well on its way to complete derailment. A pair of split-decision losses to Raphael Assuncao and Bryan Caraway were disappointing setbacks, but a 67-second knockout loss to Marlon Moraes in December 2017 was a true crushing blow. But since then, “The Funk Master” has battled back with a victory over a previously undefeated Brett Johns, turned in a “Submission of the Year” win over Cody Stamann and put together perhaps his most complete victory to date a dominant decision win over Jimmie Rivera. Perhaps a rematch with Moraes and a shot at redemption – along with a UFC title – could pique fans’ interests.

John Lineker

John Lineker

While John Lineker (31-8 MMA, 12-3 UFC) spent the early part of his UFC career trying to convince the world (and maybe himself) that he was a flyweight, “Hands of Stone” has seen his career flourish since moving up to 135 pounds. Lineker hasn’t fought since May, after a pair of previously scheduled contests fell through, but he currently stands at an incredible 8-1 in his past nine appearances, with the only loss during that time coming to Dillashaw. With his propensity to stand and bang, Lineker is one of the division’s most exciting fighters, and a clash with Moraes could produce a very violent start to a new champion’s title run.

Pedro Munhoz

Pedro Munhoz

He may be a bit of a wild card, but Pedro Munhoz (18-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) has certainly earned a right to be part of the discussion, as well. “The Young Punisher” was in action earlier this month and secured a thrilling first-round knockout over former champ Cody Garbrandt, earning a “Fight of the Night” bonus in the process. With such a recent victory on which to lean, Munhoz could certainly put his hand in the air, as he did following that big win. But the body of work is far deeper than just that victory over “No Love,” with Munhoz standing at 7-1 in his past eight appearances and boasting three “Performance of the Night” wins in that stretch.

Raphael Assuncao

Raphael Assuncao

OK, listen, it’s a stretch since he was submitted by Marlon Moraes in his most recent octagon appearance, but Raphael Assuncao (27-6 MMA, 11-3 UFC) has been chasing a title shot since his arrival in the UFC in 2011. Ever the company man, Assuncao has taken fights against the best in the world, even when it wasn’t always in his best interest. With a pair of fights (including a win) already under his belt against Moraes, perhaps a trilogy fight between two Brazilians for the vacant title could be an easy sell. Assuncao also boasts a previous win over Dillashaw that he could use to bolster his case.

Kyoji Horiguchi

Kyoji Horiguchi

You may have stopped paying attention since he moved back to Japan, but Kyoji Horiguchi (26-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) hasn’t lost since his infamous 2015 UFC title shot against Demetrious Johnson. In fact, the American Top Team product now boasts an 11-fight winning streak and is the Rizin FF bantamweight champion. When’s the trade deadline, again?

Petr Yan

Petr Yan

I mean, this absolutely isn’t going to happen, but Petr Yan (12-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) did volunteer for the assignment, and I’ll watch this guy fight anyone.

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

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T.J. Dillashaw reveals ‘adverse’ USADA finding from UFC Brooklyn, plans to relinquish UFC title 

T.J. Dillashaw has revealed that the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) and USADA have informed him of an “adverse finding” from a drug test stemming from his first-round loss to Henry Cejudo, who he faced for the flyweight title at UFC Brooklyn in January.

Dillashaw also revealed that he would relinquish his UFC bantamweight title out of “fairness and respect” for the rest of the division until the matter is resolved.

The former bantamweight champion broke the news of the findings and his relinquishing of the title on social media on Wednesday morning.

The post read:

“To all my fans, I wanted to be the first one to let you know that USADA and the NYSAC have informed me of an adverse finding in a test taken from my last fight. While words can’t even begin to express how disappointed I am at this time, please know that I’m working with my team to understand what has occurred and how to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. Out of fairness and respect to the rest of the my division, I’ve informed the UFC that I’ll be voluntarily relinquishing my title while I deal with this matter. I want to thank all of you in advance.”

Dillashaw has also been suspended for a year by NYSAC. It released the following statement.

The New York State Athletic Commission issued a one-year suspension and $10 thousand fine to Mr. Dillashaw for violations relating to use of a prohibited substance. We have no further comment.

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T.J. Dillashaw Relinquishes UFC Title After ‘Adverse Finding’ In Drug Test

Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw stunned the mixed martial arts world on Wednesday morning with the revelation that he would be voluntarily giving up his belt in the wake of an “adverse finding” in his drug testing for UFC Fight Night 143. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

One Day At A Time For Luis Pena

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Joanne Calderwood investing in body, mind – but may need a microphone, too, at UFC 238

LONDON – Joanne Calderwood is 2-0 since moving to the UFC women’s flyweight division, and she insists it’s no accident.

Spending her days split between training at Las Vegas’ Syndicate MMA and the UFC Performance Institute, Calderwood believes she’s taking her career seriously for the first time, and she’s reaping the rewards of her invested effort, even she hasn’t reached her ultimate goal just yet.

“I feel like my strawweight body wasn’t good,” Calderwood recently told reporters, including MMA Junkie. “I was kind of skinny-lean, so it wasn’t good. I feel like now, each camp, it’s getting better and better. I can see changes in my body, so I know it’s not going to be – obviously I wanted it to be the first camp. I wanted it to be like, ‘Oh, she actually looks like a fighter, but it’s taken, like – well, I’ve still not got the body I want, so maybe next camp. But I know it’s going to take some time.”

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Still, it’s hard to deny the quality of Calderwood’s performances. A surprising submission win over Kalindra Faria was followed by an impressive decision over Ariane Lipski, washing away the frustration of back-to-back losses to Cynthia Calvillo and Jessia Andrade.

Calderwood said her confidence has improved right alongside her fighting skills, and she thinks that “JoJo 2.0” is a very real entity.

“I wasn’t honest with myself (earlier in my career),” Calderwood said. “I was just kind of winging it and going with he flow. For a professional athlete, you shouldn’t be doing that. You need all the help you can get, and you need to invest in yourself – your body and your mind – because at the end of the day, that’s the tool you’re taking in with you.”

Calderwood (13-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) had a big opportunity up next, taking on Katlyn Chookagian (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) at UFC 238, which takes place June 8 at United Center in Chicago.

With Calderwood currently ranked No. 14 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA women’s flyweight rankings and Chookagian at No. 6, it has real meaning in the division, especially since it takes place on a card that sees current champ Valentina Shevchenko put her belt on the line against Jessica Eye. Calderwood said UFC President Dana White advised her to stay ready to move up the bill, and the Scottish striker said she’ll oblige.

After all, Calderwood believes her tool is now as sharp as ever – though she joked there may be one more investment to make before the fight.

“I know (Chookagian) is an awkward fighter – oh yeah, and a noisy one because when she fights, she’s all ‘ish, ish, ish,’ so I feel like I have to be better than that, maybe go in with a mic or something,” Calderwood said with a smile. “But yeah, I just see it being a real – I”m going to bite down on my gumshield and go after it.”

For more from Calderwood, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 238, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Dana White: Fighting right now would not be in Tony Ferguson’s ‘best interest’

It doesn’t appear that Tony Ferguson will be fighting any time soon.

UFC president Dana White briefly discussed the sensitive situation the former UFC interim lightweight champion is going through in an interview with Yahoo! that published Tuesday. Ferguson’s wife Cristina has filed a request for a temporary domestic violence restraining order against Ferguson, claiming the fighter is going through “delusions and paranoia.”

On Monday, UFC lightweight fighter Al Iaquinta said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on ESPN that he was offered a fight against Ferguson. White explained to Yahoo’s Kevin Iole how that came to pass and the likely outcome: Ferguson probably should not be fighting right now.

“Tony had hit me up after the Max Holloway fight went to [Dustin] Poirier and was saying, ‘What’s next for me?’” White said. “I said, ‘Well, we can get you a fight with Al Iaquinta.’ Reached out to Al, Al was interested in the fight. But the reality is that right now Tony has a lot of personal problems that he needs to deal with. I don’t think that putting him in a fight right now would be in his best interest. He needs to handle his personal stuff first.”

Ferguson seemed a shoo-in to be fighting for the UFC interim lightweight title he once held against either Holloway or Poirier, but the UFC 236 main event fight will be between those two and not Ferguson. It has become clear over the last week, though, that Ferguson is going through issues at home that could keep him out of the Octagon.

On March 13, Ferguson’s wife filed the restraining order requests. In the court filing obtained by MMA Fighting, she is accusing him of pushing her and her mother out of the way, then running out of her parents’ home, where she is now living, with their 2-year-old son and taking him for six days. Police removed the child when the restraining order request was filed.

Cristina Ferguson wrote in a media statement that her main aim for the restraining order request was so that her husband get “the help necessary” to continue being a good father and husband. She wrote in her declaration to the court that Ferguson has had some “frightening” potential mental breaks, including tearing up their family home in fear that there were cameras watching him and saying he believes his son is Jesus Christ.

“[His] behavior is getting worse and more frightening,” Cristina wrote. “I am afraid that during one of [Tony’s] episodes [Tony] will kill me, our son and/or himself.”

The court has scheduled a domestic violence prevention services investigation into Tony Ferguson for March 22 and a hearing for April 5. He has not been arrested, nor charged with a crime.

Tony Ferguson, 35, has won 11 fights in a row and is one of the top fighters in the UFC. He was in line for a title bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov in April 2018, but injured his knee slipping on a wire during media obligations just a week out from that fight. He was forced to withdraw and have surgery. Cristina Ferguson wrote that his behavior started getting worse after that unfortunate mishap.

In an Instagram post over the weekend, Tony Ferguson wrote that his management team and the UFC are “helping me find the help we need.”

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Unbeaten Russian Light Heavyweight Ivan Shtyrkov Signs with UFC

Ivan Shtyrkov has signed a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

UFC on ESPN+ 6 breakdown: Why Stephen Thompson will be too much for Anthony Pettis

MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC on ESPN+ 6.

UFC on ESPN+ 6 takes place Saturday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The event streams on ESPN+.

Stephen Thompson (14-3-1 MMA, 9-3-1 UFC)

Stephen Thompson at UFC Fight Night 130.

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 36 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 75″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Darren Till (May 27, 2018)
  • Camp: Upstate Karate (South Carolina)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Kempo karate black belt
+ 5x kickboxing world champion
+ 7 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 5 first-round finishes
+ KO power
^ Knocked down 6 of past 9 opponents
+ Superb feints and footwork
^ Plays in and out of striking range
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Intercepting punches and dynamic kicks
+ Improved wrestling ability
+ Underrated clinch game
^ Good head position/strikes off breaks

Anthony Pettis (21-8 MMA, 8-7 UFC)

Anthony Pettis at UFC 229.

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 32 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: TKO loss to Tony Ferguson(July 6, 2018)
  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwaukee, Wis.)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Former UFC and WEC lightweight champ
+ Tae kwon do black belt (third degree)
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 9 KO victories
+ 8 submission wins
+ 12 first-round finishes
+ Good footwork and feints
+ Improved boxing
^ Accurate counter-cross
+ Diverse kicking game
^ Dangerous body attacks
+ Improved wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Excellent submission grappler

Point of interest: Traditional-style standoff

The main event in Nashville features a fun pairing of two traditional martial artists who have been successful at translating their styles at the highest levels inside the octagon.

Anthony Pettis, who initially comes from a taekwondo base, has been able to bring a spectacular array of kicking techniques into the cage. Balancing out his traditional stylings under the tutelage of Duke Roufus, Pettis has rounded out his attacks with punches and feints to help set up his fight-ending kicks.

As flashy as some of the kicks on his highlight reel may be, Pettis’ body kick seems to be his bread and butter, unloading them from either stance with authority. Considering the tall stature of his opponent, I would not be surprised to see Pettis unleash a healthy amount of liver kicks – which quite possibly may be his best shot at stopping his durable foe.

The former lightweight champion also has an underrated counter cross that could come in handy when looking at the successes of his current counterpart’s past foes. However, I’m not sure how much of Pettis’ punching power will translate up a division.

Enter Stephen Thompson.

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One of the other few fighters to successfully translate traditional martial arts into MMA at a high level, Thompson brings an interesting influence of both kenpo karate and point-fighting stylings to the table. The South Carolina native also incorporates some boxing fundamentals and principles that should serve him well in this matchup.

With footwork often being the quiet killer in the upper echelons of combat sports, Thompson’s switch-stance stylings afford him options in regards to taking away or reducing the threats, depending on what his opposition is doing.

In facing one of the more sound welterweight strikers in Rory MacDonald, Thompson was able to take away the Canadian’s jab using superb outside-foot awareness. Keeping his lead foot just outside of his MacDonald’s lead foot, Thompson was able to shut down the traditional striking lanes, leaving the former UFC title challenger looking hesitant.

Thompson is, of course, also known for his dynamic kicks and counters, but I’m not sure how hard he will open with those techniques given that Pettis is no stranger to traditional-style kicks (or their counters). For that reason, I suspect Thompson will be the one trying to counter the stylistic spitfire that is likely headed his way.

Next point of interest: Potential grappling stanzas

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Dominick Reyes sees himself ‘one, two’ fights away from Jon Jones

Dominick Reyes

Ready or not, Dominick Reyes knows that everyone expects big things from him.

That’s the burden on every undefeated fighter, especially one who has gone 5-0 in the UFC’s light heavyweight division with three first-round finishes. The hype train on Reyes has hardly slowed as his competition has improved, with him picking up a convincing unanimous decision win over Ovince Saint Preux and a more contentious split nod over Volkan Oezdemir this past weekend at UFC London.

Still, the record books will show that Reyes beat Oezdemir, a recent UFC title challenger, on the scorecards, and that victory will likely earn Reyes a top-5 contender’s spot when the official rankings are updated. Looming in the distance is 205-pound king Jon Jones and Reyes appears to be on a collision course with “Bones”.

During an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday, Reyes was asked how close he feels he is to getting that title shot.

“I feel that I need another fight under my belt before I fight Jon,” Reyes said. “So maybe one, two more, and we’re dancing.”

Reyes expects that it will be at least a couple of months before he can take his next booking, which gives him time to see how the rest of the light heavyweight division will shake out. Currently, Brazilian veteran Thiago Santos is expected to be a prime candidate to fight Jones next, but other fresh challengers have been tossed out by fans and media including Johnny Walker and Corey Anderson.

In Jones’s most recent title defense, he methodically outpointed Anthony Smith. Reyes was complimentary of the champ while also wondering if there was more that Smith and Jones’s other past conquests could have done inside the cage.

“Championship performance,” Reyes said of Jones’s win at UFC 235. “He’s the champ for a reason. He has great game plans and he did his thing. It was just classic Jon, neutralizing his opponent and getting the win.”

“I think the common thread would be people kind of get in their own heads and let Jon dictate the pace of the fight as opposed to just throwing caution to the wind or — I feel (Alexander Gustafsson) did it best with his movement and avoiding those knee kicks. Jon puts you in awkward situations, he’ll make you do things that you’re not as comfortable doing, but he’ll put you there,” Reyes continued, discussing what kind of approach it might take to give Jones a real challenge.

“I think it’s about being comfortable being uncomfortable against Jon. If that makes sense.”

And Reyes definitely wants to put that theory to the test above all else. He said he’ll be happy getting a title shot under any circumstances, but that beating Jones for the belt would be ideal.

In 26 pro bouts, Jones has yet to taste defeat outside of a disqualification early in his career, and Reyes wants to be the one to hand him his first proper loss.

“I would love to be the guy [to defeat Jones],” Reyes said. “Not many times in your life do you get the opportunity to do something like that.”

At 29 years old, Reyes is in his prime and he is grateful that his last two fights have gone the distance, so that he might learn as much as possible before it’s time to face the best of the best. He refrained from making any bold proclamations, but admitted that a showdown with Jones has long been on his mind.

“I’ve thought of it before, but that’s something you don’t really think too hard on it until you get there,” Reyes said. “When I first came into MMA, it was always train to beat Jon. Do everything right to beat Jon when you do fight him. So I think when the time comes, I’ll be ready. I know it’s coming soon, so I’m getting there.”

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Campos vs. Scope, Raymond Daniels’ Second MMA Bout Set for Bellator ‘Birmingham’

Bellator “Birmingham” has its co-headliner, as Derek Campos will square off against Ryan Scope in a lightweight clash. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA rankings, March 19: Leon Edwards positioned for big fight

Leon Edwards has been asking for a little more respect, and with his latest victory, he’s certainly earned it.

Edwards (17-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) picked up a decision win over Gunnar Nelson at this past weekend’s UFC on ESPN+ 5 event in London, giving “Rocky” a seven-fight winning streak and seeing him move up to the No. 15 spot in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA welterweight rankings. It’s a position that should get him a big fight, perhaps even against Jorge Masvidal (33-13 MMA, 10-6 UFC), who moved into the list at No. 14 with his win over Darren Till in the headlining bout of UFC on ESPN+ 5.

Dominick Reyes (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) also made a big move with his win in London. Check out the new look of every weight class in the latest edition of our weekly rankings.

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Ryan Scope vs. Derek Campos announced for Bellator Birmingham co-main event

Ryan Scope (pictured) fights Derek Campos in a lightweight co-main event bout at Bellator Birmingham on May 4

Ryan Scope is getting a second chance to beat a Bellator veteran.

The 27-year-old Scope has been matched up with Derek Campos (19-8) in the lightweight co-main event of Bellator Birmingham on May 4, officials announced Tuesday.

This will be the second Bellator appearance for Scope (11-2) following his debut with the promotion in February. At Bellator Newcastle, Scope lost a split decision to longtime lightweight contender Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. Prior to that, Scope had won 11 of his first 12 pro bouts and he claimed a BAMMA lightweight title in Dec. 2017.

Campos, 30, is coming off of back-to-back losses to Freire and Sam Sicilia. Sicilia defeated Scope by split decision at Bellator 212 last December to drop Campos’s Bellator record to 8-6.

Bellator Birmingham will be headlined by a lightweight bout between former lightweight champion Brent Primus (8-1) and Tim Wilde (12-3). The event takes place on May 4 at Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, England, and it will air on Paramount Network.

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