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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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On Wednesday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Tony Ferguson, one of the best lightweights on the planet, nearly fell to unknown debutant Lando Vannata.

Ferguson had won seven fights in a row against an increasingly difficult stretch of opposition, including Abel Trujillo, Gleison Tibau, Josh Thomson and Edson Barboza. Vannata made it eight, but not before Ferguson suffered a knockdown and barely survived to lock in a choke just before the midway point of the fight.

In hindsight, though, we shouldn’t have been surprised.

Ferguson’s near-upset against Vannata was just one more day in the shark tank of the lightweight division, where there are no easy fights, even against talented prospects who are entering the UFC on just two weeks’ notice.

Every fight against a 155-pound opponent is dangerous. Former Bellator champion Will Brooks, Bleacher Report’s fifth-ranked lightweight, had a competitive UFC debut against Ross Pearson at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, and Pearson doesn’t even crack the UFC’s Top 15.

There’s no margin for error against fighters this talented and dangerous. Eddie Alvarez backed into a title shot on the basis of split-decision wins over Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez, an injury to Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s commitment to not fighting during Ramadan.

Alvarez then knocked out Rafael Dos Anjos, who had the makings of a dominant champion, in the first round. 

Just take a moment to contemplate this murderers’ row of talent. Alvarez is now the top fighter in the division following his win over Dos Anjos, but Nurmagomedov, who is undefeated and handily defeated the former champion in a three-round fight back in 2014, sits just behind him. Ferguson has now won a staggering eight fights in a row, and all of them have been entertaining.

Dos Anjos didn’t become a journeyman overnight because of a single knockout loss, and there isn’t a fighter in the division he couldn’t beat given the right circumstances. Nate Diaz just finished Conor McGregor in a barnburner, and after the two men rematch in August, he’ll bring his substantial name value and charisma back to the lightweight division.

Melendez is unranked because of a failed drug test, but the former longtime Strikeforce champion went to a tight split decision with the current champion only a year ago. Until proved otherwise, he still belongs in the conversation at the top of the division.

Donald Cerrone is having fun as a welterweight action fighter, but he’s still the fifth-ranked lightweight in the UFC and compiled an eight-fight winning streak of his own between 2013 and 2015. Behind him, Barboza just took a clear decision from Pettis, the former champion, in a performance that indicated the Brazilian has finally arrived as an elite fighter. 

Pettis is on his way down to featherweight, but not long ago he looked like a long-term champion at 155 pounds. Now, three consecutive losses—to Dos Anjos, Alvarez and Barboza—have bounced him from the division.

Pettis fell from sure-thing future star to afterthought in just 13 months. There’s no better indicator of the level of competition at 155 pounds than that.

That list of fighters represents the cream of the crop at lightweight, but several weight classes have a strong crop of elite athletes at the top. What sets this division apart from the others is the sheer depth of talent it has beyond the elite and how thin the line separating the very best from the rest is.

What separates Barboza and Cerrone from Dustin Poirier, Michael Chiesa and Michael Johnson, the next three fighters in the UFC’s rankings? Johnson holds a win over Barboza, while Poirier and Chiesa lack only the opportunity to prove themselves against fighters ranked above them.

Moving down the line, Beneil Dariush holds a win, albeit a controversial one, over Johnson and is still making substantial improvements from fight to fight. Al Iaquinta is another fighter who could vault up the rankings given the right matchmaking, while the talented Russian Rashid Magomedov is on the rise as well.

The dark horse in the division is Brooks, whom the UFC has ranked 12th but Bleacher Report has at fifth in the world. The former Bellator champion had to overcome some adversity against Pearson in his debut, but he can hang with anybody in the world.

Those are just the ranked fighters in the division. Outside the Top 15, Francisco Trinaldo has quietly won six in a row. Rustam Khabilov has headlined shows in the past. Pearson is a longtime action fighter, but he can still trouble elite fighters such as Brooks when he gets the opportunity. Paul Felder fits neatly into the Pearson model but might still slide into the conversation near the top of the division.

If all that weren’t enough, there’s a cornucopia of young talent to go along with these battle-tested fighters in their prime. Joe Duffy (28), who defeated McGregor back in 2010 and whose only UFC defeat came at the hands of Poirier, looms as a soon-to-be member of the Top 15. Kevin Lee (23) has serious potential, as do a bevy of other youthful future contenders.

That level of talent provides the ingredients for a slew of outstanding matchups. Take any two fighters in this conversation, and the result will be something entertaining.

There have been a few exceptions—Alvarez’s performances against Pettis and Melendez come to mind—but wars such as Duffy’s January matchup with Poirier and Barboza’s two-round bloodbath against Ferguson last December are far more typical.

The only division that might, just might, have more talent is welterweight, and the entertainment value there is substantially less.

The lightweight division offers something special: large numbers of outstanding fighters in a nearly infinite series of combinations. For now and for years to come, the 155-pounders should occupy a marquee spot in the UFC.

     

Patrick Wyman is the Senior MMA Analyst for Bleacher Report and the co-host of the Heavy Hands Podcast, your source for the finer points of face-punching. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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Maybe Freddie Roach is just a big Henry Rollins fan?

The world-renowned boxing trainer, charged with making former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre a better striker, claims “Rush” was asking for a middleweight title shot against current 185-pound titleholder Michael Bisping, but the Brit flat-out turned him down.

Safe to say “The Count” had a good laugh.

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

Bisping is slated to rematch Dan Henderson in Manchester later this year (more on that fight here), but was flirting with a St-Pierre fight earlier this month when the Canadian dynamo teased a potential mixed martial arts (MMA) comeback — at middleweight — with the gold on the line.

Meanwhile, in the 170-pound division…

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With a wife, a recently arrived baby boy and a new house, Tony Ferguson has a lot on his mind other than fighting these days. Just don’t say he’s getting “civilized” yet.“I might be (Laughs), but I never lost that animal instinct,” he said. “I’m not worried about the marketing part. I spent so much time and energy working on the talent and the technique and the grind and the grunge that I never really paid attention to the internet websites or selling t-shirts. I was a grinder. I was that guy at shortstop trying to make those plays at first base. I’m … Read the Full Article Here

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After weeks of speculation, Zuffa LLC has sold the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

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UFC 200 will go down in the record books as the event that permanently scarred the MMA organization.

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UFC Hall of Fame member and retired mixed martial artist, Randy Couture, was on hand in St. Louis, Missouri during the Bellator 157: “Dynamite 2” fight week, and front and center for the “New Breed” media event, which featured four up-and-coming Bellator prospects: Aaron Pico, Jarod Trice, Tyrell Fortune and Joey Davis.

Like Couture, who was an NCAA Division 1 All-American at Oklahoma State, all four future Bellator competitors hail from strong collegiate wrestling backgrounds. The stark contrast between Couture’s time after college and these young men, is that MMA promotions are paying close attention to NCAA wrestlers in hopes of signing a future star or champion.

This didn’t exist for “The Natural,” who began his MMA career in the “no holds barred” days in 1997, at age 33, several years after his collegiate days.

“When I wrestled? No. This whole thing has gone way further than I ever expected or imagined,” Couture told MMAmania.com. “It’s been an amazing journey. It’s been a blast.”

Each year the NCAA Division I Championships garner a ton of attention from MMA websites, coaches, managers and promoters. Professional wrestling scouts are also keeping a close eye as well, for a potential character to perform in the squared circle. All eyes are fixated on the All-American and top-level talent competing during the tournament, and jobs and careers are now readily available for the athletes to obtain.

“It’s become a professional outlet for pro wrestlers and wrestling, which is great,” Couture said. “It was certainly an amazing career for me to be be a professional athlete for 14 years as a mixed martial artist. I made a great living plying my trade; Taking that wrestling background and applying that value in fighting instances. It’s been fun.”

Fortune, a Division II National Champion at Grand Canyon University in Arizona, who is currently training at the Blackzilian’s camp, is already being talked about as having great potential once he enters the professional MMA ranks. heavyweight talent isn’t in heavy supply these days, especially outside of the UFC, where it can be a barren wasteland. It appears more and more that heavyweight athletes are heading to football and basketball as opposed to MMA. Couture was asked his thoughts on the matter.

“We are still getting some [talented] big guys,” he said. “Cain Velasquez comes to mind right away. There are a number of heavyweights came from football, that came from wrestling, that came from other places that are great athletes. It’s just a volatile sport. You are trying to find that one guy that is going to hold a title for a while so you can say, ‘Oh this is the best guy of all time,’ or something like that. It is such a volatile sport. There are so many ways to win or lose a fight. In all the divisions, but certainly in the heavyweight division, it doesn’t take much, you make one mistake and it costs you the fight.”

“The Natural” has referred to the heavyweight division as “volatile” before, but he maintains that you can’t just judge any MMA athlete by just wins and losses. It’s those other unique qualities that put MMA ahead of modern-day boxing, he says, as far as the fighters are concerned.

“One of the things I love about mixed martial arts is It’s not always about winning or losing, it’s about putting it on the line and going out there and fighting,” said Couture. “I think that has been a big difference between what’s been going on in boxing and boxing decisions and the way boxers have been competing for quite some time now compared to the way mixed martial artists compete. When you look at the old days of boxing, when [Thomas] Hearns and [Marvin] Hagler stepped in there. You knew somebody was getting knocked on their ass. They were going to throw down. There was no pity-patting around trying to win rounds and win a decision. Someone was getting their head knocked off. That was exciting. Most of the time when mixed martial artists step in the cage, that is their mentality. They want to finish a fight.”

Clad in an “Unbreakable” t-shirt, which is NFL insider Jay Glazer’s gym in West Hollywood, California (Glazer and Couture were cornering Guilherme “Bomba” Vasconcelos at ‘Dynamite 2), where both mixed martial artists and NFL players train, as well as other celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson among many others. The former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion spoke highly about the gym and how it is helpful to non-MMA athletes.

“It’s a really cool spot,” he said. “They have some very unique equipment, amazing group of trainers, a unique blend of mixed martial arts style training and professional performance training and the crossover between the two. Obviously, him and I started MMA Athletics a few years ago training professional ball players in all kinds… We’ve had hockey players, we’ve had baseball players. Whether people want to believe it or not, NFL football is a combative sport with different rules of engagement, obviously. It’s a combative sport. So getting those guys to think like a combative sports athlete is a huge thing. That is almost more important than any technique we are going to teach them is getting them to look at life and their opponent across the line from them a little bit different.”

Couture may still be helping others train, but at 53, his fighting days are now behind him for good. “I felt like I stepped down and got out at the right time,” said Couture, who just finished his latest film called “The Treasure Hunter,” and will soon be heading to Europe to film another movie entitled “Category 5.” He has maintained a successful film career since he’s hung up the gloves, doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, and seems more than content with his decision.

“I didn’t push it too far. I’m happily retired now. I still have all my wits about me. All my joints work pretty well. I’m happy.”

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As we near the rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz at UFC 202 later this year, “UFC Tonight” co-host Kenny Florian doesn’t believe we will ever see McGregor defend his featherweight title.

McGregor won the belt last year when he knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. But instead of defending it, he took on Diaz at welterweight earlier this year and lost. That came after a scheduled meeting with lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos was planned.

A rematch was originally booked for next weekend and UFC 200, but issues with getting “Notorious” to do promotional work scrapped those plans.

With plans for an interim champion to be crowned at UFC 200 between Aldo and Frankie Edgar, Florian expressed his thoughts on whether or not we will see McGregor back at 145 pounds.

“I don’t think so,” Florian said. “He’s already beaten the best featherweight ever in Jose Aldo. He’ll stay at 155 and fight bigger fights. If he takes another fight at 155 after the Diaz fight, they should strip him of the title.”

UFC 202 takes place August 20 from Las Vegas.

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