Posts Tagged ‘ever’’

The absence of Ronda Rousey has certainly been felt by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Outside of Conor McGregor, and Brock Lesnar every five years, the former women’s Bantamweight champion is the biggest pay-per-view (PPV) draw in mixed martial arts (MMA) today. Hate her or love her, fans tune in to see Rousey step inside of the Octagon.

Since losing her title to Holly Holm back at UFC 193 via second-round knockout, Rousey has not made her return to the cage. In her absence, McGregor has carried the promotional torch with ginormous PPV events like UFC 194, UFC 196 and most recently UFC 202. All three of those cards did well over 1,000,000 PPV buys with UFC 202 reportedly doing 1.5 million. Still, UFC president Dana White believes that Rousey will take over where she left off, use her return as a way to create buzz and even surpass the numbers that “Notorious” has posted over the past nine months.

Yes,” said White on a recent edition of “The Herd” when asked about Rousey’s PPV potential (h/t MMA Junkie). “I think that Ronda Rousey’s return will be the biggest pay-per-view we’ve ever done.”

“If you had told me 15 years ago that women would be fighting in the UFC -€” and if you told me that women would be as technically sound as the men and the fights would be loved by millions of people all over the world and it’d be the hottest thing going on in the UFC -€” I would have never believed it.”

Obviously White is going to promote Rousey’s return to high heaven, especially since she’s no longer champion. But when you consider that Rousey’s biggest PPV showing was 1.1 million buys for UFC 193, it’s difficult to believe she’ll surpass McGregor after sitting on the sidelines for over one year. Add in the fact that Rousey will be returning to compete against the likes of either champion Amanda Nunes, top contender Valentina Shevchenko or TUF winner Julianna Pena, and it becomes apparent that she’ll be fighting an uphill battle to promote a title fight that doesn’t involve Holm or Miesha Tate.

Stick with Mania as more Rousey news and coverage becomes available.

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What did you do over the summer?

The staff of UFC Fight Pass went to work creating an incredible library, uploading every single fight from The Ultimate Fighter.

That includes 671 bouts with 178 knockouts and 238 submissions.

Of course, with two new seasons set to start in the coming days, the collection will quickly be out-dated.

The post UFC Fight Pass Uploads Every Ultimate Fighter Bout Ever appeared first on

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United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) sure has caught a lot of flack as of late.

Especially from this guy.

Now, Mirko Filipovic is also expressing his displeasure with the organization after he was suspended for two years after he admitted to taking the banned substance human growth hormone, which eventually led to him being pulled from his fight against Anthony Hamilton at UFC Fight Night 79 last November.

According to “Cro Cop’s” comments on The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting), it isn’t fair that he received the same sentence as the other fighters who actually failed a test. In his eyes, that simply isn’t justice.

“The whole thing that happened with USADA, it just isn’t supposed to happen. It just isn’t supposed to happen. I could be warned. I could be, at the end of the day, suspended a few months. Six months, whatever. But when your test comes completely negative and you suspend that person for two years, the same sentence like some other fighters who was caught after the fight, so they did the fight under doping, under prohibited substances that was found in their body. And they get the same suspension? That isn’t justice.”

Sure, had Mirko not informed USADA of the transgression prior to his fight, it would’ve surfaced after the bout anyway. But as the Croatian striker sees it, he was being honest while others hid the facts and got to fight (and get paid) only to get busted soon thereafter.

“They were caught after the fight. So they put the money in their pocket, they fought, they earned the money and they get the same sentence like I did. It’s not fair. But let’s not talk about it anymore. I just had to mention it. From my point of view, that is not justice.”

Furthermore, Mirko wasn’t too pleased with the fact that USADA offered him a reduced sentence if he snitched on other potential violators; an actual option that legally exists under the UFC anti-doping policy.

“Offering a fighter that the suspension will be reduced if I snitched on someone, it is below every level. That’s how I see it. If I’m guilty punish me, but don’t come with that kind of offer. And if you punish me for being completely negative, which means I didn’t use any prohibited substance, you cannot give me the same punishment.”

Mirko ain’t no snitch.

While Filipovic isn’t happy how his UFC career ended after he was granted his release earlier this year, reiterating that the promotion treated him well, he has now moved on to RIZIN FF.

He will make his debut with the promotion when he takes part in the upcoming Open Weight Grand Prix, which is set to go down on Sept. 25 in Tokyo, Japan.

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Eddie Alvarez isn’t going to be heading up any Conor McGregor Fan Clubs anytime soon, and the new UFC Lightweight Champion isn’t shy in letting that fact be known.

During a recent discussion with celebrity-gossip website, the only man to hold the 155-pound titles in both the UFC and Bellator MMA made it clear that he would like to make his first defense of the UFC Lightweight Title against the winner of the UFC 202 main event between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.

While announcing that he has his eye on the McGregor-Diaz 2 winner, he couldn’t help but take a shot at McGregor’s recent WWE-related comments and rumored lackluster ground game, which ultimately cost him his first loss inside the Octagon, as Diaz choked him out in the second round after rocking him on the feet with punches.

“The only wrestler Conor will actually challenge is a fake wrestler. I got my eye on Nate Diaz-Conor, I would love to fight the winner of that whole crew. You fight all the best guys in the world and at the end of the day, the media asks you about Conor McGregor. I’m sick of being asked about his name.”

UFC 202:Diaz vs. McGregor 2 takes place on Saturday, August 20, 2016 from the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Join us here at on 8/20 for live coverage of the UFC 202 PPV!

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In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, turns out there’s a UFC event this weekend – but wait, the main event is actually worth your time, even if it’s just through DVR.

Also, “Cyborg” Justino has another UFC fight in a weight class that doesn’t exist, and GSP keeps talking like he’s really going to come back and fight again, for real this time.

Got a question of your own? Tweet it to @BenFowlkesMMA.

* * * *

Probably because any fight that is dependent on Georges St-Pierre (23-2 MMA 19-2 UFC) coming out of retirement still feels like a bit of a fantasy. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like GSP has been teasing a return for so long that there must now be fans of this sport who only know him as that guy who used to fight and keeps threatening to again.

Last time we went through this, it was over his talk about fighting Michael Bisping. Now that there’s been a shakeup at welterweight, suddenly he’s more interested in that division.

I’m not saying St-Pierre won’t come back, or even that he won’t come back to fight new champ Tyron Woodley (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC). But all this talk over all this time, and now you want me to believe that it’ll all get wrapped up and signed in time for a fight three months from now? I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I’ll save my excitement for the stuff that’s actually happening.

Two things here: 1) Yeah, I get what you’re saying. I mean I really, really get it, especially when I picture myself sitting through the same four commercials while slogging through a six-fight main card on FS1. 2) That said, this UFC Fight Night 92 main event should be a whole hell of a lot of fun once we finally get there.

Yair Rodriguez

Yair Rodriguez

You’re not necessarily wrong to label Yair Rodriguez vs. Alex Caceres an early prelim fight, but it could be more accurately described as a pay-per-view kickoff fight. You know how the UFC loves to start those main cards with an action fight to get everybody on their feet early? It’s not always the biggest names, but it is usually a pairing that can be counted out to result in some fast-paced, brutal action.

That’s what this feels like to me. Rodriguez (7-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC)? That guy will try anything out there, and often enough he actually makes it work. Caceres (12-8 MMA, 7-6 UFC) has a similar thing going on, though with a little more polish as the years progress.

You put these two in a cage together, I don’t see how we don’t end up with a bloody good time. It’s not a fight with much in the way of star power, and I wouldn’t blame you one bit for using the magic of DVR to skip through all the filler. But unlike that stockpile of “House Hunters” episodes, this is not one you’re going to want to let languish in the DVR queue for very long.

I suspect the point is to keep Cristiane Justino (16-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) busy and make sure we don’t forget about her while the UFC figures out what’s next. We keep hearing about all these potential blockbuster bouts for “Cyborg,” but they all require either her going down to 135 pounds or someone of note from that division coming up.

The former seems less and less likely, especially when you see the mummified version of Justino that shows up to make 140 pounds. As for the latter? It’s kind of like running with the bulls, in that a lot of people seem to think it’s a good idea in theory, something they’d like to have done, but maybe not something they want to do right now. Until that changes, feels like we’re treading water here.

One of the points of having so many fighters on the roster is keeping them away from other promotions. Another is having them ready as backups when you need them. That’s how Ross Pearson (29-12 MMA, 6-5 UFC) ended up in his most recent fight at UFC 201, his second in the month of July. He filled in as a short-notice opponent right after losing a decision to Will Brooks, then he nearly got knocked out by Jorge Masvidal three weeks later.

Jorge Masvidal

Ross Pearson and Jorge Masvidal

As strategies for longterm health and career advancement go, this doesn’t seem like the best move by Pearson. On some level, I understand. You want to help out, get in the UFC’s good graces by saying yes when the phone rings, and you also want to get that money while you can.

Still, watching Pearson wander around after the second round, clearly under the impression that the fight was over, it was hard to feel like he’d done himself any favors here. He took two losses instead of one. He absorbed a mountain of strikes rather than just a small hill. He came into July on a win. He leaves on a two-fight losing streak.

I understand that it’s hard to find a suitable replacement for a guy like Masvidal. Most of the UFC’s hundreds of fighters simply won’t do. But you raise a good point. With all those guys under contract, we couldn’t find one who wasn’t still nursing his wounds from the last fight?

As someone who is never more than three beers away from pulling his DVD of the 2005 PRIDE GP off the shelf, I love this idea. Unfortunately, UFC President Dana White has said many times that he’s no fan of tournaments, and he’s slated to stick around after the sale, so we may still be out of luck.

Dan Henderson

Dan Henderson

But also, come on, Jay. How are you going to mention divisions in which a grand prix might work and not bring up middleweight? If Dan Henderson (32-14 MMA, 9-8 UFC) beats current champ Michael Bisping (29-7 MMA, 19-7 UFC), and then follows through on his promise to retire immediately thereafter, a grand prix-style tournament to crown a new champ just makes sense.

It’s a bit of a longshot, what with all the things that have to happen first, but if the MMA gods love us at all they will grant us this one thing. Please. We’ve been so good.

Good question, though I’d point out that one of the two drug tests Brock Lesnar (6-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) failed was the fight-night test at UFC 200, so there is still some hope that people will keep screwing up even if they’re not constantly under the microscope.

But you’re right that, especially for those using more sophisticated methods, fewer tests means a better chance of getting away with something. The good news is, it’s not like those fighters know how many times they’ll be tested, or when. That’s kind of the whole point of a program like this.

And, really, if you’ve only been tested once or twice in the last year, you might reasonably conclude that another test must be coming, and soon, especially when you look around and see everyone else getting hit with multiple tests.

On the flip side, if you get tested five times in a month? That might be when you start to think you’ve got some breathing room before the next one. And maybe you’re right. Unless you’re wrong.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

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It didn’t take the MMA world long to get comfortable with Robbie Lawler as UFC welterweight champion.

Any initial doubts about the future of the 170-pound division without Georges St-Pierre quickly subsided in 2014 after Lawler and Johny Hendricks authored an epic title struggle spread across two fights and 10 rounds at UFCs 171 and 181.

When Lawler emerged with the belt, it felt like more than just a changing of the guard. After seven years of more or less uninterrupted dominance by St-Pierre, fans were ready for something new. Lawler’s ferocious stand-up-oriented style and general preference for wild brawls made the battle-tested veteran an instant fan favorite.

In the wake of Lawler‘s championship loss to Tyron Woodley by surprising but emphatic first-round KO at Saturday’s UFC 201, will spectators now extend the same level of admiration to Woodley?

At first glance, it was tempting to be disappointed by Lawler’s defeat. In a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic for UFC champions, this latest upset could be seen as just another step toward anarchy.

It at least temporarily scratched plans for a hotly anticipated fight between Lawler and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, and at this juncture, we don’t yet know what kind of champion Woodley will be or who he will fight next.

Perhaps contrary to popular belief, however, there is still plenty of room for optimism. Company-wide, the UFC title scene may be devolving into a hot mess, but welterweight figures to remain hotter than ever.

As it so often does, a change at the top has given new life to nearly the entire 170-pound division. With Woodley’s unexpected reign just getting underway, it frankly seems like anything is possible.

Credit the new champion for trying to get out in front of the news cycle with a few ideas of his own.

Woodley caught some flak when—instead of Thompson—he immediately tabbed St-Pierre or the recently reinstated Nick Diaz as his preferred opponents for a first title defense.

Obviously, this is pretty much the same tactic Diaz himself has used throughout his own career when attempting to drum up the biggest paydays. Somehow, though, when Woodley did it, fans accused him of ducking Thompson:

The truth of the matter, though, is that this was actually a pretty shrewd move. After spending the first seven years of his professional career toiling in relatively anonymity, it’s no wonder Woodley is suddenly interested in seizing his chance to earn a few big paydays.

And after UFC President Dana White inexplicably labeled him a guy who “chokes in big fights” back in 2014, per MMA’s Dave Doyle, you can understand how Woodley might want to take this opportunity to flex his newly won political muscle.

Perhaps he also inherently understands that as the lowest-profile welterweight champion in recent memory, the UFC will want to book him against a bankable first opponent.

While the top-ranked Thompson has the best resume, he’s arguably the least well-known of anyone in the 170-pound top five. If we’re making matchmaking decisions these days based entirely on which choices are the most economically viable, Wonderboy is likely going to end up taking a back seat for the time being.  

Here’s Woodley breaking the news to Thompson himself as part of Fox Sports 1’s UFC 201 postfight show:

“Stephen Thompson said he wanted to fight Robbie Lawler…,” Woodley quipped at the postfight press conference. “He’ll get the opportunity to have that fight [now]. I feel no obligation to go by the rankings. We all know how those rankings are produced anyway. I want to fight the money fights.”

But if Thompson won’t be his huckleberry, then who is most likely to actually land a date with The Chosen One?

For starters, there is the issue of a potential rematch for Lawler to figure out.

After running off five straight wins and becoming one of the UFC’s most beloved recent champions, the fight company could probably book Ruthless Robbie an immediate return bout against Woodley and get away with it.

That would work. Nobody would complain about that. After what we saw last weekend, the idea of a Lawler-Woodley rematch even sounds more exciting and interesting than their first meeting did. At least now we know the outcome isn’t a foregone conclusion.

But if rankings are no object and Woodley is only interested in maximizing his earning potentialand assuming GSP doesn’t suddenly end his quasi-retirementthen Diaz stands as the most intriguing pick.

The trouble might be convincing the Stockton bad boy that the fight is worth his time.

Diaz‘s suspension in Nevada over a dubious marijuana test lapsed this week, and his return thickens the plot considerably. But his last fight at welterweight was a loss to top star St-Pierre in a 2013 championship fight.

Diaz lamented this week there were “no superstars” left for him to fight, per MMA’s Jed Meshew. If that’s how he feels, would a shiny gold belt and a bout with a dangerous guy like Woodley be enough to entice him to return to the cage?

Maybe not.

Even if the shoot-the-moon options all fall through for Woodley, however, there is still a robust crop of 170-pound contenders lining up behind him. A few of the options aren’t too shabby as a worst-case scenarios, either.

Demian Maia and Carlos Condit are scheduled to scrap in late August. The winner of that bout would clearly shape up as an able opponent. Condit’s aggressive stand-up skills and Maia’s very traditional grappling style would make compelling matchups for the new champ.

While it’s probably far-fetched to think that a matter as simple as the title changing hands might affect the free agency of Rory MacDonald, it’s tough not to notice that MacDonald’s prospects may have also improved.

He appeared locked out of the title picture after a recent loss to Lawler. With Woodley on top, the Canadian phenom would suddenly make a fresh challenge, if he decides to eschew other offers and return to the UFC.

Oh, and you want a wild-card option?

What about Conor McGregor?

Prior to McGregor’s welterweight loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, there were whispers he might land a shot at Lawler’s title. With the Irishman set to rematch Diaz at UFC 202 on August 20, it’s unclear where a win would leave him.

McGregor has been adamant that he will return to featherweight to defend his 145-pound title, likely against new interim champion Jose Aldo. But what if a chance to win Woodley’s belt were dangled in front of his nose?

Would McGregor jump on it, the same way he seemed eager to test his skills against Lawler?


The only thing we do know for sure is that Woodley currently enjoys a wealth of options for his first fight as champion.

Everywhere you look, the welterweight division brims with intriguing possibilities, with or without Lawler

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Nikita Krylov has scored finishes in each of his last five fights.

However, at UFC 201 Saturday night, the 24-year-old might have out-done the rest.

Krylov connected with a head-kick that left veteran fighter Ed Herman out cold on the canvas in Atlanta.

Since a 2014 submission loss to Ovince Saint Preux, Krylov has been one of the hotter fighters in all of 205 pounds. Along with his win vs. Herman, he’s also submitted Francimar Barroso, Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Stanislad Nedkov, along with a first round TKO of Cody Donovan.

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The matchup is perfect, almost to the point of being theoretical. It’s like one of those CGI-based competition shows you’d catch on the Discovery Channel. What happens when you take two apex predators from different habitats and lock them together in a cage?

The more the chaos of women’s MMA deepens around them, the sharper Ronda Rousey and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino stand in relief. With other big names in women’s MMA playing musical title belts, the rivalry between Rousey and Cyborg is a bastion. 

It only looks like it’s moving because everything around it is. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. Sometimes you have to let people go and learn their own lessons. Now the people are coming back, and realizing all over again that Ronda vs. Cyborg is the marquee rivalry in not just the women’s game but all of MMA.

Could the planets finally be aligning? Rousey’s making noise about ending her hiatus. Justino recently issued a fresh challenge to her rival. For all their talent and likability, other prospective breakout stars—Holly Holm and Miesha Tate, to be harshly specific—haven’t made the most of their moments in the spotlight. 

Ronda and Cyborg haven’t cycled back to the top; everyone else cycled back to them. The tougher question to figure out isn‘t where they stand but whether fans will ever be lucky enough to actually witness this one-of-a-kind contest. 

“It’s Batman vs. Superman,” said Julie Kedzie, a retired fighter who serves as matchmaker and color commentator for the all-female Invicta Fighting Championships. “We all want epic fights, and this is as epic as it gets. You don’t always see two absolutely charismatic fighters who bring that sort of presence. And it manifests itself in different ways. They’re both kind of terrifying, and both kind of beautiful.”

Styles—And People—Make Fights

Rousey, of course, is the judo genius, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist who became the biggest star MMA has seen. Her stats are succinct and eminently recitable: all 12 of her pro wins came by stoppage, nine of them by her famous armbar, all but one in the opening round. 

Then came her loss to Holm last fall at UFC 193. The head kick heard around the combat world placed an auspicious “1” behind the 12. In the ensuing storm of scorn and schadenfreude, Rousey slipped away and has barely been seen in public since.

Justino has carried the air of the outcast her entire career. One reason for this is her natural home in the 145-pound featherweight division—10 pounds heavier than Rousey’s bantamweight class and nonexistent in the UFC. Because of this, Cyborg has had to carve out her name on MMA’s periphery. 

She has done just that, and in so doing further separated herself with her own prowess. There’s a reason Cyborg is called Cyborg. She is an unadulterated wrecking machine, stalking and tearing down opponents like a hound to a treed raccoon.

Justino (16-1-1) is large even for a featherweight. Her muscles ripple and strain. Her muay-thai striking has a mind of its own, and it’s a mind bent on mechanical destruction.

Cyborg’s 14 career knockouts are testament to that, as is the speed with which she doles them out.

Rousey’s time to victory is remarkable, notching her last five wins in an average of 38 seconds. Cyborg isn’t that far behind, ending her last five in an average of five minutes and 37 seconds, or slightly more than one round per fight.

Between the two of them, only one pro contest—a decision win for Cyborg back in 2005—has gone the distance. 

“They both destroy their opponents,” said Brian Stann, a retired fighter and a UFC analyst for Fox Sports. “Before Holm, no opponent for either woman was ever even in the fight. …They don’t like each other and they’ve said some mean things to each other. I know I want to see those two titans clash.”

In Invicta, where Justino is featherweight champion, fighters are so reluctant to face her that she has trouble staying busy. Ditto the UFC; she needed 81 seconds to knock out Leslie Smith in her debut there in May, which occurred at a catchweight of 140 pounds. So far, despite her wide and growing popularity, she’s had no luck finding opponent No. 2.

Striker vs. grappler is a trope as old as MMA. It has no better embodiment than Ronda vs. Cyborg.

“Ronda Rousey was so dominant as a champion,” said George Lockhart, a nutrition coach and owner of FitnessVT, a firm that works with dozens of fighters including Justino. “She’s a finisher; same reason everyone wanted to watch Mike Tyson. Ronda Rousey would do it by armbar, Cris does it by knockout or technical knockout.”

There’s more than a contrast of styles at play, though. The contrast of personalities might be even more defined.

Outside the cage, the supremely confident Rousey is celebrated for her poise and blonde California looks. Broadcasters gorge themselves on her candid sound bites.

Along with Conor McGregor, she is the face of modern MMA, and despite her loss, she stands alone as the standard-bearer on the women’s side. In short, Rousey is a pioneer of women’s athletics, and she is not afraid of the title or the obligations that confers.

In the same public setting, Cyborg is nowhere to be found.

It’s only Justino, with the shy grin and low voice. Although she is outspoken with her feelings on opponents, self-awareness comes off the Brazilian in waves as she works to assemble answers during English-language interviews. 

“She’s a very sweet and quiet woman, but there is a presence,” Kedzie said. “You know when she’s in the room.”

Public people have openly derided Justino for her appearance or what they view as an undesirably masculine carriage. UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan joked about Justino having a penis. UFC president Dana White once said Justino resembledWanderlei Silva in a dress and heels.” Rousey herself once referred to Justino as “it” in an interview.

The enmity has been boiling for five years now. In 2011, Rousey entered pro MMA and, coincidentally, Justino failed a drug test that saw her suspended for a year. Before the failure, Cyborg had been the queen bee.

Despite only two years of age difference between them (Rousey is now 29, Justino 31), Justino had a significant experience edge. But with Cyborg on the sidelines, Rousey made up ground, winning and defending the Strikeforce bantamweight title (Justino was the first and only featherweight champ in the same promotion).

There’s not a lot of upside to rehashing their trash talk, but the key themes are Rousey’s repeated accusation that Cyborg is doping (Cyborg hasn’t been flagged since her 2011 failure) and Justino claiming Rousey is ducking her. Every dig spreads across social media like wildfire, each word cataloged and tucked away until the volley can be returned in the next interview.

“They’re both very tough and competitive, but they’re both sensitive in a way,” Kedzie said. “That’s part of what makes a great rivalry. They both remember all the stuff they’ve said about each other, and they really don’t like each other.”

Cyborg’s Cut

One of the historical roadblocks to the fight has been the weight class at which the fight would take place.

Team Ronda has consistently said she would take the fight, but that Justino must come down to 135 pounds. That was a few years ago, though, when Rousey was able to make such demands under the aegis of a UFC title. Her leverage is still formidable, but the belt no longer anchors her stance like it once did.

Cyborg’s camp has said cutting to 135 is a threat to her health, at one point claiming it could affect her fertility. Rousey, who spent her judo career competing at 70 kilograms or about 154 pounds, hasn‘t budged.

According to Lockhart, Justino usually walks around at 170 pounds. For that simple reason, a super fight could, for Cyborg, involve not one but two opponents. Lockhart, who also works with with fighters like Jon Jones and Rory MacDonald, has guided the cuts for Justino’s last three fights. Those contests, however, were at 145 and 140 pounds.

Is a cut to 135 feasible? Lockhart’s answer is yes—with a but.

“I can get anyone down to any weight, but the question is can she perform and perform confidently,” Lockhart said. “Sometimes athletes in this position start to worry about the cut, not the fight. Cutting down from 175 to 140, that’s a huge cut for a woman, especially if she doesn’t have much body fat. Five more pounds doesn’t sound like much, but it really does put it on to the extreme end.”

Stann, who called Cyborg’s UFC debut and spent time with her and her team in the run-up to the bout, said she appeared to reach the catchweight threshold with relative ease.

“She was running six miles a night,” Stann said. “She was only over by 2.5 pounds on the morning of the fight to make 140. She was surprised by that.”

Another signal in Justino’s favor—and, it seems, that of every fighter—is the commitment by the UFC and other organizations to earlier weigh-ins. Stepping on the scales on the morning before fight day, instead of the evening, gives athletes more time to rehydrate and refuel before stepping into the cage.

“[Justino] really doesn’t enjoy cutting weight,” Stann said. “But the new protocols are far better for her.”

So Will It Happen? 

A new television commercial recently surfaced. It features Rousey, and it obliquely teases an impending comeback.

Dana White recently asserted, seemingly without a ton of prompting, that Rousey would get a title shot if she were to return, further stoking speculation that Rousey isn’t done.

The women’s bantamweight belt is now with its fourth owner in the past eight months. Only Rousey has ever defended it.

On Friday, Justino penned a lengthy Facebook post criticizing Rousey and renewing her calls for the super fight. She expressed a preference for November’s UFC 205 blockbuster at Madison Square Garden—the UFC’s first event in New York. 

Despite all this, though, Ronda-Cyborg is still very much a theoretical discussion.

The first reason for that is Rousey, who has kept mum on her MMA future since losing to Holm. She’s earned a steamer trunk full of money from fights and sponsorships and purportedly has suitors in Hollywood at the ready whenever her fight career is over.

It’s an open question as to when and who Rousey would fight should a return occur (White is not exactly known as a bastion of truth), but it stands to reason Cyborg would be on the short list, particularly if Rousey‘s second MMA act is limited.

An urgency to make Ronda-Cyborg could be increased now that the UFC has new owners, thanks to its recent $4 billion sale. It would be entirely understandable if the new brain trust wanted to make a splash.

Lockhart, for one, doesn’t think Rousey will budge from her weight demands, and he thinks he knows why.

“After working with Cris for all this time, I can say I wouldn’t even be too excited to see the outcome,” Lockhart said. “I’d be surprised if Ronda made it out of the first round.”

There is also the matter of the payday, which would certainly be huge in this case. Last year White estimated a Ronda-Cyborg could bring in 2.5 million pay-per-view buys, more than twice the current UFC record.

Rousey will get paid no matter who she fights; Justino less so. That may be why there have been persistent reports that money—not weight—is the real sticking point in Camp Cyborg.

“I do think it will happen,” Stann said. “Once an executive sits them down and looks them in the eye and says ‘here’s a number,’ then you might see it move forward. Talk about motivation; how much weight would you lose for seven figures?”

It’s not uncommon to hear folks agree with Lockhart’s viewpoint: that the fight would go the way of the larger, more tested, perhaps more well-rounded Cyborg—assuming her cut goes well, that is.

If Rousey doesn’t want to roll the dice, Cyborg is not the opponent for her, particularly not soon after returning. But fans have another ace up their sleeves.

It’s no secret Rousey is a hyper-competitive person. It seems suspect that she would walk away from the sport she built without facing down her greatest athletic foil. Her status as the GOAT of women’s MMA could be at risk, especially now that she is no longer undefeated. Fairly or not, she could be subject to the same claims of ducking as boxing’s Floyd Mayweather or MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, among others. 

Put another way, defeating Cyborg would silence more doubters than 10 wins over Amanda Nunes.

“I don’t think [Rousey] is a weak-minded person,” Kedzie said. “I think she’ll come back. She wouldn’t just let this go.”

Even so, Kedzie said she doesn’t see the fight materializing.

“No, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Kedzie said. “Not because they’re too weak to do it, but because sometimes the circumstances just go by. The window is closed or closing. It may not be over, but it’s getting close. That happens sometimes, and we don’t have any choice but to think ‘what if.’”

Are prospects really that dim? It’s entirely possible. At least fans can hang their hats on the fighters’ past comments, which have expressed openness to what would be a true touchstone event for every fan.

And here in the present, maybe, just maybe, the worm is turning. With Cyborg’s star on the rise following her UFC debut, Rousey perhaps pondering a return, friendlier weight-cutting rules in effect, the UFC’s recent sale and UFC 205 starting to break the horizon, will MMA’s greatest rivalry finally become more than just a distant monolith?

“Of course I would want to fight her at a lighter division where she’d be weaker, because I feel like that would be more of an advantage to me,” Rousey said in 2011. “But also a fight between me and her does eventually need to happen. I’m going to make it happen one way or another.”

Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. For more, follow Scott on Twitter. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight and welterweight champion BJ Penn, currently serving a six-month suspension from United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), is not the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA0 fighter of all time.

Perhaps he could have been.

That’s according to UFC President Dana White, who insists the Hawaiian had both the tools and the talent, but came up short in his ability to stay motivated. Failing to evolve along with the sport — as well as documented struggles with his weight — certainly didn’t help.

“BJ Penn probably should have been one of the best ever, to ever live, to ever do it,” White told TMZ Sports. “But BJ was so talented, I just… I don’t know. I think BJ, in his own words, would go back and do things differently if he could.”

It’s not too late.

Penn (16-10-2) was pulled from his comeback fight against Cole Miller, which was set to go down at UFC 199 on June, 4, 2016, in Los Angeles, Calif., after disclosing his intravenous hydration to USADA, currently banned by the governing body (because of this).

“The Prodigy” turns 38 this year and has a very short window for one last run at greatness.

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By now, everyone has heard the announcement from Georges St-Pierre regarding his desire to return to the fighting world, where he specifically mentioned new UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping as someone that would interest him enough to get back in the Octagon.

For those that missed it, earlier this week legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach, who has worked off-and-on with GSP in the past, claimed Bisping was offered the fight against the former longtime UFC Welterweight king, but turned it down.

“I do like that fight,” Roach said about his own interest in working with St-Pierre again to help him prepare for his long-awaited Octagon return. “But Bisping said no. I know that fight’s not going to happen.”

Never one to shy away from responding to criticism and/or rumors, “The Count” took to social media this week to react to Roach’s comments. While he made sure to point out that he respects the legendary boxing trainer, who has most famously worked with Manny Pacquiao in recent years, he also didn’t hesitate in saying his comments about turning down an offer to fight St-Pierre was the “funniest bullsh*t [he’s] ever heard.”

After the quick tweet about Roach’s comments being “funny bullsh*t,” the reigning UFC 185-pound champion also posted this reply to a fan who tweeted him about the story.

“I like Freddie Roach,” wrote Bisping. “He must be misinformed. He’s not the type to spread lies. I wasn’t even offered the fight.”

As noted by UFC President Dana White directly to Bisping on the official UFC 200 post-show on FOX Sports 1 this past weekend, UFC has apparently decided on giving the vocal majority of MMA fans the fight they have been asking for, Dan Henderson vs. Bisping 2, in Bisping’s hometown of Manchester, England.

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