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Posts Tagged ‘future’

The dramatic circus that surrounds Georges St-Pierre, his absence from mixed martial arts and his potential return is well-warranted.

With one of the best resumes in combat history, GSP deserves every ounce of coverage and exposure his retired heart desires.

Not for nothing, but if the former UFC welterweight kingpin ever decided to come back to the promotion he called home for nine hard-fought years, it would set off a media frenzy similar to that of LeBron James returning to Cleveland (of course, on the MMA level).

In a recent appearance on Friday’s episode on Inside MMA on AXS, the 33-year-old superstar opened up to Ron Kruck about his future career plans.

Nobody knows for sure when or even if GSP plans to put his acting career aside, get back in the gym and again fend off the countless divisional hounds like he had done for so many years.

But assuming the Canadian is the super-athlete that we pegged him to be, drenched in competitive goo, it would seem likely that he would make a return to the Octagon if the circumstances were right.

That perfect scenario could be drawn from a superfight with Anderson Silva at catchweight or even a rematch with Johny Hendricks, assuming Rory MacDonald doesn’t quickly ascend the rankings and capture UFC gold.

The money would also have to be right for GSP.

But it seems like he’s enjoying his time off for now and will let us know when he regains the itch to compete.

 

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The working relationship between Ultimate Fighting Championship and Invicta FC continues to blossom with the announcement that the all-women’s mixed martial arts promotion will air exclusively on UFC Fight Pass going forward.

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Here’s what we know for sure about Ronda Rousey’s future in the Octagon: On Saturday she’ll take on Alexis Davis at UFC 175, she’ll win, and then she’ll take a vacation.

Given that she opened as an eye-popping 20-to-1 favorite over Davis, we’d be fools to think anything else about how their fight will go. Rousey will come out of her corner, tinker with a few of the new toys she’s been refining in her striking game and then find a way to finish things, probably on the ground, probably during the first five minutes.

As for every other single thing in her professional life? Well, that’s all a lot more difficult to predict.

Rousey has been going pretty hard since coming to the UFC in Feb. 2013. She’s grown into an industry unto herself, spearheading women’s MMA in a company and mainstream sporting landscape that had historically been dismissive of it. This will be her fourth title defense in 17 months and it’s not as though she’s lacking in other opportunities.

You can’t blame her for wanting to take some time off. The fact is, we thought she might be looking for a respite after beating Sara McMann in late Feb., but here she is, preparing to dispatch another overmatched opponent and retain her spot as queen of the Octagon.

The multimillion-dollar question lingering over Rousey’s career is, but for how long?

If we are to take her at he word, not even the champion herself has any idea what’s next.

“I’m taking it one fight at a time,” she told MMA Junkie’s John Morgan leading up to UFC 175. “Everything is changing so fast and so many things are coming up so quickly that I really can’t think more than one day at a time.”

Rousey says she wants to take part in the UFC’s gala end-of-the-year show, but an opponent for her there is still very much To Be Announced. Rumors that Gina Carano would come out of retirement for a superfight have cooled considerably, but women’s boxing camp Holly Holm is said to be on the verge of a UFC deal and erstwhile No. 1 contender Cat Zingano still hasn’t gotten her chance.

Of course, none of them is expected to have a realistic chance of beating Rousey.

The only woman who might is Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, and she continues to be at odds with UFC ownership. Rousey had some particularly ugly things to say about Justino during a recent media lunch—proving that either they really do hate each other or Rousey’s secretly trying to entice her into the UFC—but each day that passes without a deal makes that fight start to feel more and more like a pipe dream.

Without Cyborg, the lack of competition may be hurting Rousey’s marketability. Her UFC 170 fight against McMann didn’t exactly light the box office on fire and it remains to be seen how many fans will shell out the money to watch her trounce another, even heavier underdog this weekend.

Meanwhile, a second, possibly more lucrative career is heating up. Rousey’s already filmed parts in The Expendables 3 and the big-screen adaptation of HBO’s Entourage series. With production ongoing on Fast & Furious 7 and a part in another big budget Warner Bros. vehicle in hand, people are publicly beginning to wonder if her Octagon days are numbered.

Without much serious competition on the horizon, it’s pretty easy to imagine that proposed December fight—especially if it comes against a high-profile patsy like Carano—could be her last, if it even happens at all.

For her part, Rousey’s not making any big promises about how long she’ll stick around.

“You never know how you’re going to feel after a fight,” she told Morgan. “The fights themselves really affect how you feel. If it’s a five-round war, I might not have as many rounds left in me. If it’s a quick finish, then maybe I’ll have some more. It depends on how those fights go.”

Such sentiments likely make UFC brass (and fans of women’s MMA in general) pretty nervous. Rousey has been hailed as perhaps the promotion’s biggest new star and losing her would be bad news for the fight company and health of the sport she helped build.

The UFC hasn’t really invested in any female fighters beyond Rousey. Its 135-pound women’s division has been a one-horse race since its inception. Yet with the recent addition of a women’s strawweight class and a signed deal to begin showing the all-female InvictaFC organization on its Internet streaming service, it doesn’t seem like the organization is just going to give up on women’s MMA, either.

The wildcard in all this, of course, is Rousey herself. She’s proved to be a savvy and driven businessperson, but being a fighter has consumed basically her entire life. She was a martial arts prodigy nearly from birth (her mom is a decorated judo player) and her innate intensity seems far better suited to a life in gyms and cages than long hours learning lines and hanging around movie sets.

Still, Rousey is smart, and smart people don’t stay in the fight game any longer than they absolutely must.

If there’s a better deal out there for her—and few big-money challenges left in the UFC—nobody will blame her for taking it.

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The UFC has a lot riding on this Saturday’s pay-per-view event.

With Chris Weidman set to defend his middleweight title against Lyoto Machida and Ronda Rousey putting her women’s bantamweight championship on the line against Alexis Davis, UFC 175 figures to be the fight company’s biggest PPV of the year, at least so far.

Questions abound regarding this card. Does Weidman really deserve to be the 185-pound champion? Has Rousey given this training camp enough attention, as she’s been off making movies? Do either Machida or Davis stand a chance of taking the straps off two of the UFC’s next-generation stars?

Ordinarily, you’d have to wait for the event itself to find the answers. Not this time. Bleacher Report MMA lead writers Chad Dundas and Jonathan Snowden are here, they brought their far-eyes, and they’re ready to look into the future.

Here are their bold predictions for what will happen at UFC 175…

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ESPN
Machida, Marquardt's future, more
ESPN
Each week, ESPN.com MMA writer Brett Okamoto, ESPN Insider senior editor Mike Huang and a special guest panelist tackle five topics that are buzzing in the world of mixed martial arts. This week, featherweight contender Chris Weidman joins the panel.

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Jeremy Stephens and Cub Swanson want to believe their stories are still being written.

They both likely shudder to think they would be defined by moments past. Were that the case, Swanson would forever be remembered as the victim of Jose Aldo’s insane eight-second double flying knee at WEC 41; Stephens would be remembered as the guy whose biggest career headlines came after his arrest on felony assault charges just before UFC on FX 5.

Neither would make a particularly proud legacy, so it’s tempting to cast Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 44 main event as a crossroads for both men.

The winner could be granted a future featherweight title shot and perhaps a chance to replace sour memories of the past with a brighter future. The loser shuffles back to the 145-pound pack, known at least a while longer for stuff he’d probably sooner forget.

Stephens obviously has the longer road to redemption. He was meant to fight Yves Edwards in Minneapolis in Oct. 2012, but police jailed him just hours before showtime on a warrant stemming from a year-old altercation in his home state of Iowa.

Details of the incident were ugly—the kind of thing that could follow a professional fighter his entire career—but charges against Stephens were dropped last July. At the time, Stephens’ manager said the 28-year-old knockout artist turned down multiple plea deals before prosecutors ultimately decided not to pursue the matter.

This week, Stephens elaborated to MMA Fighting’s Chuck Mindenhall that he had “no involvement” with the assault and that his accusers were “out for money.”

He continued:

It was a big ordeal, man, but I’m kind of thankful for it. It was a really bad thing that happened, but I’m kind of thankful for it because it opened my eyes to a lot of things I wasn’t paying attention to before. … It’s been a blessing in disguise to make me a better person, a better father and overall a different human being.

Different human being or not, Stephens’ fighting life took a hit in the wake of that high-profile arrest. The UFC finally got him in the cage with Edwards in December 2012, but he was knocked out in a minute, 55 seconds. It was his third consecutive loss in the lightweight division, and after five years and 15 fights in the Octagon, it felt as though he was nearing the end of his usefulness to the UFC.

Little did we know.

Stephens cut to featherweight in the spring of 2013 and has since put together three consecutive wins. The highlight thus far has been last November’s first-round KO of Rony Jason in Brazil, but Stephens has yet to tangle with any A-list 145-pound contenders. It remains to be seen if his signature brand of high-energy savagery will carry the day against the division’s best.

If he ever means to truly distance himself from the debacle that cast him out of his originally scheduled bout against Edwards, there is really only one way to do it. He needs to bury it in a run at the featherweight title, moving beyond the also-ran status that plagued him at lightweight to prove he’ll be a long-term asset in his new weight class.

That’s where Swanson comes in.

The 30-year-old Jackson’s MMA fighter has been a mainstay in the featherweight division dating back to the early days of the Zuffa-era WEC. He’s riding a five-fight win streak in the Octagon (four of them stoppages) and hasn’t tasted defeat in more than two-and-a-half years.

You might think a guy like that could write his own ticket, but Swanson told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto this week that his negotiations with the UFC prior to the Stephens fight didn’t exactly go as planned:

I was told ‘no’ to everybody I asked for. I was like, ‘What about this person?’ They said it didn’t make sense for the division. We basically sat down and went through the entire list of names from Jose Aldo all the way down, and they told me why I couldn’t fight them. It was just very clear I would have to wait for the fights I wanted.

To understand why, one need look no further than a rough patch from 2009-11, which saw Swanson go 2-3. Overall, he’s 11-4 in WEC/UFC, but his biggest opportunities have mostly so far resulted in letdowns.

Also—yeah—the Aldo thing.

It happened in June 2009 and not only propelled Aldo into a WEC 145-pound title fight but also turned out to be the cornerstone of his career highlight reel. Just a glove touch, a grin from Swanson and then Aldo suspending the laws of physics. The kind of thing you could watch again and again before the true genius of the move hits you.

It was certainly not as ignominious as Stephens’ arrest, but when we talk about Swanson, the fact that he once played the Kelly Tripucka to Aldo’s Michael Jordan is never far from our minds.

It’s no secret what it would take for Swanson to erase that memory. He has to beat Stephens on Saturday night and get back into a title match against Aldo, provided the champion gets past Chad Mendes at UFC 176. Once there, he has to win—or at least make it look better than the first time.

Considering that even the most favorable roads for both Swanson and Stephens lead to Aldo, neither is going to have an easy time of it. But this weekend—in what we all expect to be a crackerjack fight—one will get the opportunity to prove his story will be more than just a footnote.

The other may be left still trying to escape his own shadow.

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UFC 174 took place in Vancouver, Canada on Saturday night with some surprisingas well as predictableresults. With the event now over, a number of potential and interesting future fights could be on the horizon for UFC 174’s winners and losers.

Buried in the prelims, Michinori Tanaka had a successful UFC debut. He defeated Ronald Delorme via unanimous decision, boosting his MMA record to 10-0 in the process.

A fight against Pedro Munhoz (11-1)—who got his first UFC victory last monthwould be a good test for Tanaka. A win there would boost Tanaka’s name value and set him up for a fight against a more proven bantamweight.

Ovince Saint Preux remains undefeated in the Octagon after getting a second-round submission win over Ryan Jimmo in the main card’s opening bout. The win puts OSP’s UFC record at 4-0; more importantly, he has finished his last three opponents.

That calls for a step up in competition for the Haitian-American, and Ryan Baderwho earned a dominant victory at UFC 174 against Rafael Cavalcantefits the bill. Bader has established himself as a force in the UFC light heavyweight division but has come up short against top fighters like Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida and Glover Teixeira in the past.

However, Bader’s dominant wins against other fighters in the division make him a perfect litmus test for someone like OSP, who is aiming to crack into the Top 10.

Andrei Arlovski and Brendan Schaub put on an unimpressive showing in their match at UFC 174. While Arlovski won via split decision, neither fighter asserted himself as a top-level fighter in the bout.

A fight with Roy Nelson is an interesting bout for Arlovski. The two have squared off before, which ended in an Arlovski victory. However, Nelson would most likely relish the chance of avenging a previous loss, while “The Pitbull” could show he still has what it takes to be a top-tier heavyweight.

Once again Rory MacDonald showed why he is a top welterweight, winning a one-sided unanimous decision over Tyron Woodley in UFC 174’s co-main event. While he has been viewed as a welterweight title contender, “Ares” is just two fights removed from a loss against Robbie Lawler.

However, a No. 1 contender’s fight against the winner of Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler would be great for MacDonald. Against Lawler, he would have the chance to redeem himself, while against Brown he would be fighting a dominant fighter on an eight-fight winning streak.

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson successfully defended his flyweight title for a fourth time against Ali Bagautinov. There is now no clear contender to fight Johnson for the belt, but John Dodson has a good case to be the next title challenger.

He lost his title bout against Mighty Mouse in January last year but has earned two dominant victories over Darrell Montague and John Moraga since then. That could be enough to see a Johnson vs. Dodson rematch before the end of the year.

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Demetrious Johnson is an avid gamer, and so it is a little upsetting for him that the Electronic Entertainment Expo—or E3, in the parlance of those who follow such things—is taking place in Los Angeles the same week he is scheduled to fight Ali Bagautinov up north in Vancouver, Canada.

He is not that upset, though. He has kept up with the news that comes out of E3, first as a trickle and then as a flood. He is exclusively an Xbox gamer, by virtue of his sponsorship with Microsoft, and is especially looking forward to the two new Halo games coming out later this year and 2015, respectively.

He played the new UFC game from Electronic Arts for the first time earlier this week, and noticed how the new next-generation graphics systems created a nearly perfect digital rendition of his physical form.

“They got me tattoos, my five o’clock shadow, everything,” Johnson says. “It’s good.”

He is also interested in the new Modern Warfare game, but for Johnson, Halo is where it’s at.

Vancouver is Johnson’s current location. He drove up from Seattle on Tuesday and was able to get in two workouts and plenty of rest. Vancouver is very much like Seattle in terms of temperament, weather and people, and though Johnson says it is not the same as having a hometown advantage, there is comfort in familiarity, and Vancouver is familiar.

“It was nice to not have to get on a plane,” Johnson says. Not getting on a plane is a good thing, because it means Johnson can spend more time with Destiny, his wife, and their one-year-old son. Family is everything for Johnson, and he is resolved to spend as much time as humanly possible with them, even during the rigors of training camps that keep him away from home more than he’d like.

Still, Johnson has a plan.

“I’m a young guy, and I’d like to have my kids early so that when I’m 45, they’re all out of the house and I can spend time with my wife,” Johnson says with a laugh.

Bagautinov, a Dagestani native, is the latest flyweight to attempt to wrest control of the UFC championship belt from Johnson’s mighty grasp. Johnson admits that he has come close to cleaning out his division. With multiple wins over Joseph Benavidez and other top contenders, it’s hard to imagine any single fighter overcoming Johnson’s deft blend of speed, wrestling and power.

Johnson has a nagging desire to return to the bantamweight ranks, but he also says he is not quite through with his fellow flyweights. Not yet, anyway.

“I’d like to try my hand there again. But the flyweight division is still growing. There are still new competitors coming up, though. You’ve got Zach Makovsky, the ex-Bellator champion. You’ve got Brad Pickett. Just because they aren’t at the very top, it doesn’t mean they aren’t great competitors.”

Johnson confirms that he heard the rumors circulating regarding the in-camp conflict between Bagautinov and teammate Rustam Khabilov, but said his worries are laid to rest now that Bagautinov is in Vancouver and ready to fight.

“I wasn’t too concerned, and he’s here now, ready to fight. The only time I was concerned was when I thought he wasn’t going to be able to fight,” Johnson says. “But he’s here now, and he’s ready to go.”

Johnson, sipping a bit of water, says that he is on weight and ready to go. He’d like to put on a show on Saturday night, and completely dismisses the notion that he is a massive favorite over Bagautinov. The oddsmakers have Johnson at 6-to-1 to beat Bagautinov. It is the first time in his career Johnson has been such a heavy favorite.

“It doesn’t do anything for me. I still have to go out there and fight,” he says. “So I don’t pay any attention to it.”

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In mixed martial arts, reputations are earned, not given, and Fabio Maldonado has certainly earned his inside the Octagon.

The scrappy Brazilian has proven to be as game as they come under the UFC banner, as he’s consistently put his heart, grit and determination on display on fight night. In addition to his physical durability and mental toughness, Maldonado’s in-your-face style has the potential to overwhelm the opposition and create openings for the former boxer to open up shop in a multitude of fashions.

That formula has been successfully repeated as of late, as the 34-year-old Team Nogueira fighter’s hand has been raised in three consecutive outings.

While Maldonado’s toughness has never come into question, he will face a much different task this Saturday night when he steps up into the heavyweight division to face Stipe Miocic at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale in Sao Paulo. Where Maldonado previously competed at heavyweight earlier in his career, his tilt against the surging Cleveland native will mark his first venture into the heavyweight fold under the UFC banner.

And if Maldonado has his way, his fight with Miocic won’t be his final showing in the weight class.

Maldonado is looking forward to mixing it up with the Ohio-based fighter, but there are a few other potential heavyweight matchups he would love to be a part of.

“I have always been asking my manager Alex Davis for fights against the likes of Pat Barry, Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt,” Maldonado told Bleacher Report with the assistance of a translator. “I have fought other heavyweights before, and this is not a problem for me.

“It’s not just the style but the challenge. I really like the challenge to fight Miocic. I’m a man and I don’t back down from any challenges. I will fight anyone in the heavyweight or light heavyweight divisions in the UFC.”

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

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