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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

Alexander Gustafsson has pushed some of the best light heavyweights in the world to their limits. But with only losses to show for it, he enters UFC Fight Night 93 needing to get his career back on the winning track.

Gustafsson (16-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) is on a two-fight losing skid, having dropped fights to Anthony Johnson (22-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) and Daniel Cormier (18-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) in his previous two outings. He has only had his hand raised once since 2013.

He will face Jan Blachowicz (19-5 MMA, 2-2 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night 93 co-main event. The event takes place Saturday at Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany. The entire card streams live on UFC Fight Pass.

The latest edition of “UFC on the Fly” caught up with the No. 7 ranked fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light heavyweight rankings ahead of his fight with Blachowicz.

In the episode, Gustafsson gives a tour of his life leading up to the fight and discusses handling disappointment in the octagon and moving forward with his career.

Check out the full video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 93, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

 

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

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From the likes of Yuki Kondo and Caol Uno to Yushin Okami and Kyoji Horiguchi, Japan has had an impressive history in the Octagon. Yet the one thing missing from that history is a UFC championship. Hiromasa Ogikubo would like to change that, and he has the opportunity to do so beginning this Wednesday, when he competes on season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter.

 
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At stake is a shot at UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, and while Ogikubo respects “Mighty Mouse,” he also believes he has the tools to beat him. “He is a complete and excellent fighter who … Read the Full Article Here

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MMAmania.com resident fighter analyst — and aspiring professional fighter — Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 93 headliner Andrei Arlovski, who looks to get back into the win column this Saturday (Sept. 3, 2016) inside Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight kingpin, Andrei Arlovski, is set to do battle with fellow former champ and grappling ace, Josh Barnett, this Saturday (Sept. 3, 2016) night in the main event of UFC Fight Night 93 inside Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany

Arlovski’s career renaissance following his disastrous Strikeforce run was really something to behold. After being written off by the entire mixed martial arts (MMA) world, Arlovski essentially won seven of his next eight bouts, earning another shot in the Octagon. Once back home, Arlovski worked his way into the Top 5 with four straight victories.

Unfortunately for the Belarusian, he’s now lost his last pair of bouts in fairly dominant fashion. The question has rose once more of whether Arlovski’s career is coming to an end or if “The Pitbull” can return to form once more.

Let’s take a closer look at the knockout artist’s skill set:

Striking

Arlovski is a very effective puncher with some tricks up his sleeve. While he spent some time training with Freddie Roach, Arlovski has found more success with rough-and-tumble MMA strategies, ones that revolve largely around his power punches.

To that end, his work with Team Jackson-Wink has done wonders.

Though Arlovski has a quick jab, he has been unable to successfully use it as a consistent weapon or as the focus of his game plan. Instead, Arlovski relies very heavily on his right hand. The Belarusian packs intense power into his right and is aware of his stopping power, so he throws it often. It’s not likely Heavyweight is full of defensive wizards; most men are usually there to be hit when trading in the pocket. Plus, Arlovski does a nice job of slipping his head off to the side when he throws, giving him an advantage in a straight firefight.

Arlovski frequently leads with his straight right and overhand (GIF). “Pitbull” has both a hand speed and overall quickness advantage over most heavyweights, which allows him to lead with his power hand so frequently. Plus, he explodes into the punch quite well, allowing him to close the distance quickly.

After beginning his combination with the right, Arlovski will mix in a left hook. Then, he’ll usually finish the combination with another right hand (GIF). In order to prevent himself from becoming predictable and counter his opponent’s movement, he often will switch to a right uppercut after landing the overhand earlier in the combination.

Arlovski’s combination of the overhand and right uppercut is devastating. He usually establishes the overhand first and then catches his foe ducking down, but it works both ways. As his opponent moves to avoid the one strike, Arlovski lands the second with additional power.

This double threat allowed Arlovski to finish two of the best heavyweight chins in the sport, as both Roy Nelson and Ben Rothwell were overwhelmed by Arlovski’s flurries. In each finish, Arlovski was firing off a large number of punches at his hurt foe (GIF). Eventually, an overhand or uppercut sealed the deal, as it connected cleanly after being set up by the other strike (GIF).

While this combination of right uppercut and cross also brought about Travis Browne’s end, Arlovski showcased a new technique in that fight. After missing on his right hand, Arlovski would return to his stance with a back fist rather than a left hook. It turned out to be quicker and caught his opponent off-guard, dropping the Hawaiian striker (GIF).

Finally, Arlovski will often look to counter with the straight right hand. Though he sometimes looks to come over his opponent’s jab for a cross counter, he usually cuts straight through his opponent’s looping shots. Even against Fedor Emelianenko — the king of corkscrewing overhands — Arlovski was able to counter “The Last Emperor” early and often with his straight right hand and speed advantage.

Besides his boxing attack, Arlovski does have a nasty kicking game that should be utilized more. His leg kicks are particularly devastating, as “Pitbull” is capable of ripping apart both the inside and outside of his opponent’s legs. Plus, he occasionally darts in with punches after knocking his opponent off balance with a low kick, an excellent technique that is difficult to counter.

It does seem that Arlovski has been throwing a few more kicks to the head and body as of late. He finished Travis Fulton with a beautiful switch high kick several years back, and he has added front kicks into his game.

Offensively, Arlovski’s biggest issue is that he can be stymied. His rushes can become a bit predictable, and a patient opponent can pick up upon his patterns and start to avoid his shots. For that reason, it would be wise for Arlovski to utilize his kicks more often, as Arlovski would no longer feel pressured to open himself up and attack if he were still doing damage while awaiting his opportunity.

Considering how many of Arlovski’s defeats came via knockout, it’s clear that he does have some defensive issues as well. Most problematic is that when Arlovski does not plant his feet and counter, he often backs straight up, occasionally with his hands down.

There’s not much room for error at Heavyweight, and that’s a big one.

Additionally, Arlovski often freezes up after getting clocked. That’s not as bad as simply crumbling after getting punched hard, but it’s hardly a good thing. It’s become a bit common for Arlovski to swallow a hard shot and survive the hit, but absorb another dozen strikes as he regains his wits.

Wrestling

Between his Sambo experience and athleticism, Arlovski is historically a very difficult man to take down. Many men have tried to drag Arlovski to the mat, but there’s a reason he’s been able to stay upright and score 17 knockouts.

Arlovski attempts takedowns only on rare occasion. He does not often shoot for a double and prefers to do his work from the clinch. Usually, Arlovski will secure a body lock from the over-under or double under position, drive forward, and attempt an outside trip.

The Belarusian is a pretty strong counter-wrestler as well. It helps a lot that Arlovski has powerful hips and keeps his feet under him when he punches, rather than getting off balance. That alone allows Arlovski to stuff a majority of the double leg takedowns that come his way.

Inside the clinch, Arlovski’s Sambo background often keeps him upright. He usually plays defensive when his back is to the fence, merely fighting off his opponent’s underhooks until an opportunity to push away comes along. Occasionally, Arlovski will transition into a double collar tie to land some knees before exiting the clinch.

For the most part, Arlovksi only gives up takedowns when his opponent gets in on his hips along the fence. Both “Bigfoot” Silva and Anthony Johnson managed to take down Arlovski from that position, as Arlovski does not always fight the underhooks well when his foe is deep on the shot. Alternatively, Frank Mir actually did a really nice job picking his opportunities to shoot and was briefly successful on a couple of occasions, getting in on the shot when Arlovski was out of position. Similarly, Overeem was able to sneakily set up his entries into clinch takedowns.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In more than 30 career fights, Arlovski has finished a mere three opponents via submission and has yet to be finished himself. Though he has legitimate Sambo credentials, Arlovski’s fights rarely hit the mat.

However, Arlovski did pull off a beautiful straight footlock (or Achilles lock) in his first championship bout with Tim Sylvia. After dropping “The Maine-iac” with his right hand, Arlovski latched onto one of Sylvia’s feet and fell back. Arlovski then draped his outside leg across Sylvia’s trapped leg, preventing Sylvia from sitting up and relieving the pressure. From this position, Arlovski turn onto the side that Sylvia’s foot was trapped. This puts all of Arlovski’s weight on top of the ankle in addition to “Pitbull’s” squeeze.

In just 47 seconds, Sylvia tapped out.

Unlike the heel hook, the straight footlock does not do serious ligament damage, which is why it is legal inside even most beginner grappling tournaments. However, it can crush some of the smaller bones in the foot and, rarely, the ankle itself. Overall, it is a pain move that tests the receivers tolerance.

Sylvia, despite his public reputation, is a legitimately tough fighter. The fact that Arlovski forced him to submit to a straight footlock should key fans in on just how deadly Arlovski is with this technique.

Outside of his footlock finish, Arlovski has demonstrated a strong defensive full guard. He doesn’t look to sweep or submit, but Arlovski is able to defend passes and strikes while occasionally delivering an elbow from the bottom. Then, he’ll put his feet in the hips and kick in search of an opportunity to stand up. In his entire 17-year career, Arlovski has never been submitted, and there’s a reason for that.

Conclusion

Every fighter’s career comes to an end at some point, and Arlovski’s has already lasted far longer than most. On the heels of two straight knockout losses, things could very likely be coming to an end, as Arlovski has already tried to make his last run at the strap. In this bout, Arlovski is likely fighting for more than his UFC career. If he loses — and is potentially cut or “talked into retirement” — it’s hard to see him toiling in the regional scene for another chance. If he’s still to keep fighting at a high-level, Arlovski must win this bout.

*****

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight hitters Ryan Bader and Ilir Latifi will battle this Saturday (Sept. 3, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 93 inside Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany. In a match up of powerful wrestlers, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Let’s break it down.

Bader put together the best string of performances in his career to earn a title eliminator opposite Anthony Johnson. Unfortunately, “Darth” was flatlined without much difficulty, and now he must rebuild. On the other hand, Latifi worked his way into the rankings by winning five of his last six, including some devastating finishes. This is a major opportunity for Latifi, as the former short-notice fill-in could climb into the Top 10 and title mix.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:

Ryan Bader
Record: 20-5
Key Wins: Phil Davis (UFC on FOX 14), Rashad Evans (UFC 192), Ovince Saint Preux (UFC Fight Night 47), Quinton Jackson (UFC 144)
Key Losses: Anthony Johnson (UFC on FOX 18), Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 28), Lyoto Machida (UFC on FOX 4)
Keys to Victory: Bader has come a long way in recent years, really refining his technical stand up game and setting up his shots far better. While that all went out the window opposite the ferocious punching of “Rumble,” it should make return in this match up.

Thanks to his technical improvement, Bader should have some serious advantages. He’s already the quicker man, but now that his stand up consists of more than a charging overhand, he should have a major edge at range. Latifi is a powerhouse wrestler with some crazy punching power, but he’s simply not all that fast and has few distance weapons. Against opponents who can move and kick, he’s largely a sitting target. Bader showed in his bout with Evans an ability to land, quickly evade the counter, and keep the distance he wants. If he can replicate that against Latifi, he should be able to control the striking until Latifi slows down.

Once that happens, Bader can change levels and tried to take over on the mat as well.

VS.

Ilir Latifi
Record: 12-4 (1)
Key Wins: Gian Villante (UFC 196), Sean O’Connell (UFC Fight Night 81), Cyrille Diabate (UFC Fight Night 37)
Key Losses: Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 53, Gegard Mousasi (UFC on Fuel TV 9)
Keys to Victory: Latifi is a short and explosive fighter. For the most part, he’s a fairly standard wrestle-boxer — packing the dual threat of double legs and overhands — but Latifi is especially dangerous due to just how strong and durable he is.

Plus, his conditioning is pretty solid for a fighter who seems to be 90 percent muscle.

In this bout, closing the distance will be important. Latifi cannot expect to leap forward and just hope to land the overhand; Bader has improved enough that it probably wouldn’t work. With that in mind, Latifi should focus on two strategies. First and foremost, Latifi should use his wrestling to close the distance into the clinch. From that position, Latifi is within his range and can land hard power shots.

Additionally, Latifi should play the part of counter puncher. Despite his improvements, Bader still tends to hang around in the pocket a bit too long after landing. When that happens, Latifi could let his foe do the hard work and close distance for him before responding with a nasty counter punch.

Bottom Line: This is an important bout for the Light Heavyweight division.

Even with his loss to “Rumble,” Bader is not all that far from potentially earning a title shot. No one knows if and when Jon Jones will return, which means that should Daniel Cormier defend his crown, Bader is as good a contender as any.

Someone needs to fight the Olympian.

However, a loss drops Bader far down the ranks. If he comes up short here, it will take another long win streak to return him to the title mix. This is Latifi’s first real step up in competition, barring his short-notice debut. He’s improved a lot since then, and this is his chance to announce himself as more than a simple knockout artist.

With a victory, Latifi is likely one win away from a title shot. On the other hand, Latifi is not a young fighter and should be in the prime of his career. If he comes up short, just outside the Top 10 may end up being his ceiling.

At UFC Fight Night 93, Ryan Bader and Ilir Latifi will duel. Which fighter will leave the Octagon with his head high?

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Fight Network will be your home for MMA coverage over the next few days, as they are planning to air ONE Championship: Unbreakable Warriors, UFC Fight Night 93 and LION FIGHT 31.

Check out the complete press release below:

Fight Network, the world’s premier 24/7 multi-platform channel dedicated to complete coverage of combat sports, presents a pair of live events this Friday, Sept. 2, beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET as ONE Championship invades Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for ONE: Unbreakable Warriors, which is followed later at 10 p.m. ET by Fight Network’s debut of North America’s largest Muay Thai organization when LION FIGHT 31 emanates from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.

Both events air just one day ahead of the live UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: ARLOVSKI vs. BARNETT main card in Canada on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3 p.m. ET. The main card will repeat in its entirety in primetime at 9 p.m. ET and again on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 11 p.m. ET.

Airing live exclusively across Canada at 8:30 a.m. ET, ONE: Unbreakable Warriors features featherweight hometown heroes Ev Ting (11-3) and Peter Davis (10-4) squaring off with Australian Robert Lisita (15-8) and Thailand’s Shannon Wiratchai (5-1, 1NC), respectively, plus Malaysia’s own Ann Osman (4-2) looks to extend her winning streak against Filipino prospect April Osenio (1-1), Brazilian Gilberto Galvao (29-5-1) battles Japan’s Tatsuya Mizuno (15-11-1) in a middleweight matchup and Yago Bryan (3-1) meets Gianni Subba (7-2) in a flyweight tilt.

Later that day, on Friday, Sept. 2 at 10 p.m. ET, LION FIGHT 31 airs live in Canada and over 30 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, topped a by a pair of massive title fights. Reigning Lion Fight women’s welterweight champion Jorina Baars, who is best known for her stunning victory over the phenomenal Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino in March 2014, will put her title on the line against Angela “Riptide” Whitley. The vacant Lion Fight super lightweight crown is at stake when rising stars Gaston “The Dreamkiller” Bolanos takes on Tum “Hollywood” Sityodtong. Also at the top of the marquee is another burgeoning female fighter as European sensation Iman “Pretty Killer” Barlow makes her promotional debut.

In the UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: ARLOVSKI vs. BARNETT main event, well-travelled top 10 heavyweights will finally cross paths as No. 6-ranked Belarusian sambo specialist Andrei Arlovski (25-12, 1NC) throws down with No. 9-ranked submission wrestling ace Josh Barnett (34-8). In the co-main event, No. 2-ranked Swedish sensation Alexander Gustafsson (16-4) looks to reassert his foothold in the light heavyweight division against Poland’s Jan Blachowicz (19-5). In another pivotal 205-pound showcase, Sweden’s Ilir Latifi (13-4, 1NC) faces a big step up in competition against perennial contender Ryan Bader (21-5). Meanwhile, Germany’s own Nick Hein (13-2) will kick off the main card in a lightweight contest against South Korea’s Tae Hyun Bang (18-9).

Check listings for additional fight week coverage, including a three-hour original production chronicling the similar career journeys of Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett leading up to their explosive heavyweight main event. The special entitled Arlovski vs. Barnett – 15 Years in the Making airs on:

Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. ET
Thursday, Sept. 1 at 3 p.m. ET
Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
Saturday, Sept. 3 at 11 a.m. ET

On Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET, Fight Network premieres a 60-minute UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: ARLOVSKI vs. BARNETT Pre-Show, featuring previews, predictions and analysis leading into the UFC’s first event in Hamburg.

Also this week, Fight Network presents the third episode of the four-part UFC docu-series THE EVOLUTON OF PUNK, documenting former pro wrestler CM Punk’s quest to become an MMA fighter. His wife reluctantly attends a sparring session to see his progress. The couple decides to move closer to Milwaukee to be closer to the gym, but just as everything is starting to come together for the fighter, he experiences a devastating setback. The 30-minute special airs on:

Thursday, Sept. 1 at 2:30 a.m. ET
Friday, Sept. 2 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. ET

In addition to all the live events, Fight Network is the destination for UFC library content, specials and series, including The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Unleashed, UFC Now, UFC Ultimate Insider and classic UFC PPV, WEC and PRIDE events.

New programming this weekend includes:

Best of PRIDE – Sat, Sept. 3 at Midnight ET / Sun, Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. ET
WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis Replay – Sun, Sept. 4 at 1 a.m. ET / Sun, Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. ET
UFC Fight Night: Dillashaw vs. Barao Replay – Sun, Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. ET

UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: ARLOVSKI vs. BARNETT and ONE: Unbreakable Warriors will be televised on Fight Network across Canada, while LION FIGHT 31 will be televised in Canada and over 30 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The post Fight Network Loading Up With UFC, ONE Coverage This Week appeared first on Fightline.com.

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After 21 violent minutes, Rory MacDonald‘s arsenal was spent. Beyond his last breath, the Canadian contender had nothing left to give as he lay shattered on the Octagon canvas.

Few people realized it at the time, but there and then, in MacDonald’s most difficult moment as a professional fighter, the seed was planted for the next phase of his career. Images of the clash with Robbie Lawler at UFC 189 remain raw and impossible to forget. For good or for ill, MacDonald’s ability to endure pain made it a championship bout for the ages.

Thirteen months later, on the verge of what should be his prime years as an athlete, having been materially changed by the experience of fighting to his breaking point, MacDonald decided to leave the UFC in hopes of something else, something more appealing.

“For me, that title fight against Robbie was an eye-opener,” said MacDonald, who saw the light while his eyes swelled from punches as he pocketed a paltry $59,000. “OK, we got to the show where we wanted to go. It didn’t work out, but now it’s time to start making some money.”

Widely regarded as one of MMA‘s top welterweights, MacDonald (18-4) officially signed with Bellator MMA on Friday night following a six-and-a-half year stint with the UFC where “The Red King” was established as a talented and popular contender happy to go through hell if need be.

Still on the mend from one of the most savage fights in recent memory, MacDonald returned to the Octagon in June knowing he was physically unprepared to compete at his best. A stiff shot to his nose meant another setback and more pain, yet the consequences were acceptable because MacDonald, win or lose, would get the chance to cultivate his post-Lawler vision once he was done with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.

Having thought long and hard about his future, MacDonald concluded that rather than take time off to heal correctly, his freedom was worth the risk of losing consecutively for the first time in his career.

“Last time, I didn’t treat it the way I was supposed to,” he said. “I was too hungry to get back in the gym, to get in there and spar with guys to fight.”

MacDonald said the decision to leave UFC for Bellator came easily. Bellator gave him the opportunity to develop and grow a business together, and he felt the promotion respected him as a professional athlete. His marketability in Canada is a major reason Bellator President Scott Coker signed a fighter who, at a glance, carries the potential of damaged goods. Intent on giving his face a chance to fully heal, MacDonald said he won’t fight until the summer of 2017. 

“I can’t be taking a year off between every fight,” MacDonald said. “That’s just not what I’m about. I’m going to give [my nose] the time it needs to heal back to 100 percent, then hopefully I can fight once a quarter. I usually fight once a quarter, so that’s the plan.”

If MacDonald can make good on that level of activity, his signing should be a boon for Bellator, particularly in his native land.

“There are a lot of opportunities that Bellator is giving me,” MacDonald said. “The belief that they have in me. The weight that they’re putting on me to promote me to go into Canada. We’re going to take Bellator into Canada and we’re going to do it big. We’re going to reinvigorate that market. Those fans are going to get a proper fight show again.”

By joining a Viacom-owned property that comes off as a plucky underdog to the $4 billion UFC, MacDonald is following the path other high-profile UFC fighters have paved. Top contender Phil Davis and former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, who headlined Friday’s Bellator 160 card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, have spoken glowingly about their transition from the UFC. MacDonald views his arrangement similarly: as a partnership with a promoter that gives him some autonomy, rather than being relegated to a cog in the machine.

“We get to be our own individual self and promote ourselves,” he said. “Whereas where I was before, everyone is wearing the same uniforms. Now we’re all walking out of the same boring dressing room. It’s boring. People are tired of that.

“You walk into the cage like every single other person on the roster. We’re basically a robot walking into the cage.”

For a man not regarded for his charisma, MacDonald’s comments are curious, and they don’t necessarily reflect the truth of things. Yes, UFC’s fighters are mandated to wear outfits that look like Uno cards, yet some of them have become rich and famous while doing so. With the potential of big-money pay-per-views, UFC is an appealing place to fight as well.

This is why free agency and its rewards are not a one-way street. Bellator veterans have opted to head to the UFC, too, and some have thrived both financially and in the cage. In July, Eddie Alvarez rose to become the promotion’s lightweight champion after taking down Rafael dos Anjos. Will Brooks couldn’t wait to leave Bellator, so he gave up the promotion’s lightweight championship and ran when he had the chance.

Entering his third year as president of Bellator, Coker views the influence of free agency as vital for fighters and the overall health of MMA. 

“This is good for the MMA industry, not just for Bellator or whoever,” Coker said during the press conference introducing MacDonald as a Bellator fighter. “You need to have two buyers. When you only have one buyer, the price will ultimately go down at the end of the day.”

The addition of top young competitors like MacDonald is key for Bellator to move beyond the prevalent mindset among fans and media who see it as a second-class organization. Bellator has occasionally damaged its reputation under Coker’s leadership, like the night Kimbo Slice fought Dada 5000 and dinosaurs Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie met in a sad spectacle. The big ratings for Spike allowed Coker to justify the matchmaking. That, though, is fleeting, risky stuff.

Coker is aware that as much as he enjoys the occasional low-hanging fruit of a circus fight, the future of Bellator can’t be tied to those kinds of events. As his short-term and long-term visions for the company merge, the hope is dismissive attitudes—similar to the ones leveled at Strikeforce, which Coker founded, before Zuffa purchased it in 2011—will melt away as talented fighters emerge into known fighters, and, potentially, bankable stars.

“We built Luke Rockhold. We built Daniel Cormier. We built Tyron Woodley,” Coker said of his leadership at Strikeforce. “These were guys we found from scratch. I think we’re very good star-identifiers and we know how to build stars in this business, and that’s what we’re doing here. It’s the same formula.”

Sprinkle in the increasing ability to pluck away some of UFC’s talent, and Coker envisions a future for Bellator that puts it on par with MMA’s premiere group that was recently purchased for $4 billion—a notion that has MMA supporters inside Viacom excited about the future.

“We’re going to go after every free agent that’s out there,” Coker said. “And if you’re a fighter fighting in a different league and you want to exercise your free agency, that’s how you’ll know your value. To me, I think Rory did the right thing. And why wouldn’t you? If you don’t, you’re only going to know what one company is offering.”

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Three preliminary contests have been announced for Bellator 161, including a featherweight bout pitting UFC veteran Daniel Pineda against Mark Dickman.

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Free agency is a hot topic in MMA these days, but it’s nothing new for featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan.

Karakhanyan (25-6-1 MMA, 4-4 BMMA), who wrapped up his Bellator contract this past weekend with a 53-second knockout Bubba Jenkins (11-3 MMA, 8-3 BMMA) at Bellator 160, has done this plenty of times before.

He was a member of the Bellator roster from 2010-2011, but when his contract ended following a Bellator 37 loss to Patricio Freire (25-4 MMA, 13-4 BMMA), he parted ways with the company and began a run of nine consecutive victories, a streak that included a stint with WSOF, where he captured the organization’s 145-pound belt.

Once his WSOF run was over at the end of 2014, “Insane” circled back to Bellator for a four-fight deal that concluded when he starched Jenkins in brutal fashion in a rematch of their Bellator 132 fight in January 2015, which Karakhanyan won by submission in less than two minutes.

Sandwiched between the two victories over Jenkins were back-to-back losses, to Pat Curran and Daniel Weichel. Karakhanyan, though, said he feels pretty good about his position. He ended his contract on a high, and now he’s prepared to open himself up to all potential suitors.

“Going into this fight, it was important for me to win, but I had to win in a different fashion,” Karakhanyan told MMAjunkie Radio. “I did that part. Now it’s just testing the waters and negotiating and hopefully coming to an agreement.”

“Pay me more. That’s the one thing (I want) – more money.”

Although Karakhanyan said he’s comfortable being a Bellator fighter and competing under the company’s banner, supposed loyalty isn’t going to impact his decision. Karakhanyan wouldn’t mind staying put, he said, but ultimately his choice will come down to the money, which may not have been the main priority in the past.

“Bellator does feel like home because I was there in 2010, then I left, and then I came back,” Karakhanyan said. “But like I said, I think money talks, and with us fighters, we need to get paid. I’ve been fighting for more than 10 years, and I think this time around, when I’m on that horse, I’m going to ride it a little differently and do different things.”

If he does opt to sign a new deal with Bellator, Karakhanyan said he only wants big fights. He was supposed to challenge and rematch then-champion “Pitbull” Freire at Bellator 138 in June 2015, but he suffered a torn ACL in training and was forced out of the fight.

Ideally, Karakhanyan would like to get his title shot back, but more than anything, he said he wants another crack at Freire, who sustained a leg injury in a Bellator 160 loss to Benson Henderson but could be open to a rematch upon returning.

“(I want) the title because last year I was getting ready to fight against ‘Pitbull’ for the title,” Karakhanyan said. “I would like to fight ‘Pitbull,’ but I know he fractured his shin, so hopefully he has a speedy recovery with that. For me it’s just the gold. I already have two belts, and I want to get another belt. That’s the main thing for me.”

View full post on News | MMAjunkie

We’ve waited a long time for his long-promoted UFC debut, but is it turning into overexposure for former WWE start and MMA newcomer Phil “CM Punk” Brooks?

That’s the topic we cover in this week’s edition of The Speed Bag.

Punk (0-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) meets fellow welterweight Mickey Gall (2-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) next week at UFC 203, which takes place Sept. 10 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Punk gets a spot on the pay-per-view main card.

Although exposure can be good, overexposure comes with some obvious (and not-so-obvious) drawbacks.

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There have been plenty of mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters who have been fortunate enough to land several opportunities outside of fighting, thanks to their success inside the cage or simply due to their looks, charisma, or “it” factor.

Whether it’s Ronda Rousey breaking into Hollywood, Paige VanZant “Dancing with the Stars,” or even Randy Couture and Georges St-Pierre getting into the movie business, there isn’t a shortage of combatants who have set themselves up nicely for life after (or during) fighting.

Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is the latest MMA star to realize some of those perks, as he recently revealed on The MMA Hour that he has plenty of big deals in the works in the fashion world.

“I’m doing well. I’m here (in New York) next week for fashion week. I‘ve got some big contracts that we are working up right now. I’m meeting some top brands and talking about some deals we can potentially jump into in that market, as far as modeling. I’m talking about getting paid. We’ll keep it under wraps. But we are talking top tier brands.”

For Luke, while he is a fighter first, he says he can’t simply turn down other opportunities outside of the cage that are presented to him if it means more coin for his piggy bank.

“I’m a fighter at heart, but I am here to get paid. If there is more potential there, I will take it and we are talking big numbers. So I can laugh, let my body heal and wait until the time is right to come back when it makes sense.”

When asked about a rumored fight between he and Yoel Romero at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 in New York, Rockhold didn’t confirm it, but did say he would consider all fight options if UFC makes it worth his while.

“There is potential in that. I feel like let’s make it worth my while,” he said. “I have a good relationship with UFC, for sure. They are always going to try to, it’s business and they are going to try to make things to their advantage. They will try to take advantage of certain things and put you in a place and do what they can. It’s business and it’s how it is. But guess what? I got my own business on the side and I can stand my ground, too, and I can take some time off and make some money.”

Luke — who was last seen losing his 185-pound title to Michael Bisping via first-round knockout — says he prefers to stay active with little time off in between fights and intends to fight soon, especially since he wants to get back to a championship fight.

That said, he is adamant UFC has to make it worth his while since he isn’t simply going to go out there and put his body on the line when he can make plenty of money in the fashion world.

With many new ventures at Luke’s disposal, he has a tough trek to navigate, as he says putting his body through the rigors of training and a fight now have to come with a nice payoff, especially if it means having to turn down other projects that have nothing to do with fighting.

Indeed, it seems more and more fighters (like this one and this one) are starting to follow Conor McGregor’s lead and are taking Nate Diaz’s advice when it comes to negotiating fight contracts. And who can blame them after seeing the kind of cheddar “Notorious” and the Stockton slugger are making.

Though some are skeptical.

Nevertheless, when it comes to booking Rockhold for a fight, UFC has to come correct.

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