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GSP in no ‘Rush’ to return to competition

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If Georges St. Pierre, the greatest welterweight fighter the sport has ever seen does come back, at least he’ll have two good knees. That’s about all we really got out of this interview.

Inside MMA’s Ron Kruck caught up with GSP recently and their interview aired on AXS TV last night. If you’re lookingfor a definitive answer about Georges coming back, well, you’re not going to get one. Here’s a snippet of what he had to say.

“After my first comeback when I fought Condit I had a lot of fun, it was a great training camp. After that..not that good. And the last one..not good at all, you know. I lost the motivation, I lost the fun of it. I think for me I needed to step out of it. I need to find the fire back. The need..the feeling that I want is the need to compete again and mixed martial arts is a sport that you cannot have a bad day. It’s not like a race , it’s not like a hockey or a football game…If you have a bad day you can get hurt really bad. I truly believe if find fun of doing it again with time and if I find the fire back I believe I’m the best in the world and if I ever want to come back it’s going to be to show. But right now I’m enjoying my time.”

St. Pierre took what he would call an ‘indefinite leave‘ from the sport that made him a multi-millionaire last December following an  equal parts brutal, and controversial split decision win over the man who would end up being his rightful successor, Johny ‘Bigg Rigg’ Hendricks. If this is it for Georges, he leaves the sport with a record of 25-2, having avenged both of those losses with decisive finishes. He has nothing left to prove. When that “who was the best mixed martial artist off all-time” argument comes up, and it does often, GSP is the easiest fighter to make a case for. Especially when you consider what happened to Anderson Silva over the past year. If he does comes back, it wouldn’t hurt his concrete legacy, but he does risk suffering a similar fate.

I’d be the last person to try to tell a professional like Georges to think twice before embarking on a comeback. However, I will be the first to say I’m sick of seeing the legends of the UFC’s golden age get beat up by the new breed. I fear the same for Georges if he decides to return after his extended layoff. St. Pierre is easily one of, if not the greatest mind this sport has ever seen. That said, MMA is like modern technology. It’s constantly evolving, upgrading, and being replaced. The point fighting style Georges adopted during the latter part of his career isn’t going to fly against killers like Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks moving forward. Technically he did beat Johny at UFC 167 to leave the sport with a ridiculous 12-fight win streak, but at what cost? The recurring  nightmares of the punishment he took against the man who holds the belt that made him a Canadian hero can’t have him rushing back to the octagon anytime soon. The undying competitor inside of him though, that man will never let him lie in bed at night with out at least dreaming about exacting revenge and leaving the sport with another decisive victory to end all victories.

image credit – (Jacques Boissinot – Canadian Press)

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Five Questions for the UFC Featherweight Division in 2019

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While 2018 will go down in history as the year that the 155 pound lightweight division truly became the glamour division of the UFC, ten pounds south, the featherweight division also saw a banner year in 2018.

From the rise of Brian Ortega as a potential future superstar, to the fielding of a new crop of rising young contenders such as Zabit Magomedsharipov and Alexander Volkanovski, to Yair Rodriguez and The Korean Zombie having one of the best fights in UFC history at the UFC 25th Anniversary show in Denver on November 3, this division provided nothing but thrills. The incredible battle between champion Max Holloway and Ortega at UFC 231 in Toronto on December 8 was the best icing on a beautiful cake that was the amazing year of 2018.

Going into 2019, however, the featherweight division is hanging in a bit of limbo, thanks to the status of champion Max Holloway.

With the possibility of the Hawaiian champion moving up in weight, the division could be wide open. Add to that the number of both experienced contenders and rising prospects, 2019 could be the craziest year on record for the 145 pound weight class. Yet, as the new year kicks off, how are the five questions that must be answered about the immediate future of the featherweight division.

1) Will Max Holloway stay in the 145 pound division?

With his star-cementing performance last month against Brian Ortega, the world became Holloway’s oyster, and few fighters have as many future matchups as Max does. Somewhat surprisingly, many of those aren’t at 145, but in the 155 pound division. In the shadows of UFC 231, Dana White was very enthusiastic at the prospect of “Blessed” moving up to the 155 pounds, where there are several matchups that everyone would love. The UFC has already tried to make Max versus champion Khabib Nurmagomedov once. For hardcore fight fans, Max versus Tony Ferguson is a wet dream. Yet, for the most MMA fans, the fight they want to see is Max versus Conor McGregor, which would be a rematch of a fight the two had as UFC youngsters back in 2014, and Max’s last loss. It is a fight that makes a whole hell of a lot sense.

In addition to the financial windfalls that would be possible for Max if he moved up, there is also the factor that Max a big dude for featherweight. Reports suggest that he can get as high as forty pounds over his fighting weight between camps and common sense tells you that he won’t be able to cut down to 145 pounds forever, especially considering that Max may still be growing at twenty-seven years old. Plus, there are many that believe that the symptoms Max exhibited in his new infamous interview with Michael Bisping and the UFC Tonight crew were weight cutting related. Going to 155 in 2019 may be what is best for his body.

Then there is the fact that Max is running out of top contenders at 145. While most people seek to clean out their divisions once they become champion, Max did much of that work before he won the belt by outslugging Ricardo Lamas, submitting Cub Swanson, out-kickboxing Jeremy Stephens, and outfoxing Charles Oliveira. With his two destructions of Jose Aldo and running through Ortega, Max is almost out of challengers.

Notice the word “Almost” in that last sentence. There is one more legitimate challenger for Max at 145 pounds and that leads us to our second question.

2) Will Frankie Edgar challenge for the 145 pound title again?

While Dana White and the UFC Tonight crew wondered who was left to challenge Max Holloway for the title, somewhere in New Jersey, Frankie Edgar had to be looking on incredulously. Twice now, Holloway and Edgar have been signed to clash for the 145 pound title in a matchup that was looked at as one of the best matchups in any division. Edgar had to pull out of their UFC 219 clash with an eye injury and then Holloway had to pull out of UFC 222 with a leg injury. With that event in serious jeopardy, Edgar agreed to a three round bout with Ortega and suffered a shocking first round knockout, effectively knocking him out of the title picture for the time being.

Edgar followed up by doing what Edgar does — fight. He bounced back thirty-five days later with a three round domination of Cub Swanson and was scheduled to fight the Korean Zombie on the UFC 25th Anniversary Show, but he had to pull out with a torn bicep. It seems that Edgar is close to being fully healed and should be ready to get back in the cage soon. Even with his loss to Ortega, there is no reason why Edgar hasn’t earned the next shot at the world title, especially after the career he has had in the UFC and what he did for the company last year.

Not to mention that the matchup between Holloway and Edgar is just as interesting now as it was a year ago. With his inside boxing and offensive wrestling, Edgar presents Holloway with some unique challenges that he has not faced before. Most of Holloway’s victories have been against other strikers and jiu-jitsu masters. He may have never faced a wrestler as good as Edgar, and damn, do I want to see this fight!

3) What is next for Brian Ortega?

When Ortega knocked out Edgar with a single uppercut at UFC 222 last March, the company has stumbled onto a gold mine. There are few babyfaces in combat sports as pure as Brian “T-City” Ortega. Jiu-Jitsu bros love his chokes. Women (like Claudia Gadelha) want to have his babies. He surfs. He loves to do charity work. He looks, talks, acts, and most importantly, fights like a star. That so many media and fans were firmly picking Ortega over Max, despite the fact that Max had twelve fights in row, shows how powerfully Ortega has won over the UFC audience. Despite the fact that Holloway cut him to ribbons with combinations until Ortega’s corner stopped the fight at the end of the fourth round, Ortega’s effort, his graciousness in defeat, and the fact that he looked normal in a week only advances his cause with fans. This is guy that people are going to be coming to see for a long time.

For now, however, his future seems uncertain. He won’t be getting an immediate rematch with Max. Jose Aldo, who would be a great opponent for him, is matched up with Renato Moicano on February 2 in Brazil. He’s already beaten Edgar. Names such as Zabit and Volkanovski seem a little too risky at this point. Then there’s the fact that like Max, Ortega is a big 145 pounder. 155 doesn’t seem too far away.

Given everything that is going on this division, Ortega’s best course of action may just be to wait. If Max does move up, Ortega is a great position to fight for the vacant title, possibly against the Moicano/Aldo winner. If Max versus Frankie does get made, Ortega should take a fight and look to call out the winner. But for now, Ortega should probably just kept suffering and working on his wrestling-which Max exposed a little bit last month. This guy has plenty more left in him.

4) How long can the old war horses last?

Few divisions have as many long-time contenders still fighting at a high level as does 145 pounds. Guys like Edgar, Aldo, Swanson, Ricardo Lamas, Stephens, and others have been plying their trade in this division for many years now and the fact that many of them are still viable in 2019 is pretty remarkable.

Aldo, the most legendary of these men, rescued his career with his bodyshot knockout of Stephens in July in Calgary and if beats Moicano, who has emerged a legit title threat, in Ferbuary, he could be a position for another title shot.

Despite his loss to Aldo, Stephens was on a real knockout streak beforehand and seems to still be near top form. Lamas shook off a devasting knockout at the hands of an overweight Josh Emmett and a rough decision to Mirsad Bektic to stop Darren Elkins in November. Only Swanson had a really rough year, losing three times in nine months, getting submitted by Ortega and Moicano and dominated over three rounds by Edgar. It’s a tough break for a fighter that looked on the verge of a title shot just a year ago. Meanwhile, another 145 stalwart in Charles Olivera, who has been fighting at lightweight, seems poised to come back to the division.

The likes of Aldo and Lamas and Olivera and Swanson are still viable but there is a young set of contenders that is looking to knock them off. They will get plenty of chances to work in 2019 and if anyone of these guys can put some wins together, upset a Zabit or a Yair, that’s the fast track to a title shot! All of these guys can still fight and as long as have that fire in their bellies, they are going to continue to make this division a lot of fun.

5) Which young contender will break out in 2019?

Few, if any divisions, have as many young contenders ready to break out as does the 145 pound weight class. Of course, you have to start with Dagestan’s Zabit Magomedsharipov, who trains out of the Iron Army camp in New Jersey and may very well be the top prospect in the sport. He went 2-0 in 2018, the last win being a sick kneebar victory over Brandon Davis at UFC 228 in September. He has been on a collision course with Mexico’s Yair Rodriguez over a year now, and that fight is now as coveted as ever given how Yair rescued his career with his insane elbow knockout over the iron-chinned Korean Zombie in November, in one of the greatest fights in UFC history.

Coming behind up those two men is Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski, who went 3-0 in 2018, the last being an upset knockout win over former title challenger Chad Mendes last week. This dude can wrestle and kickbox and as thick as they get in the 145 pound division. The sleeper contender remains Bosnia’s Mirsad Bektic, who recovered from his shocking loss to Darren Elkins in UFC 209 by going 2-0 in 145, the last being career making win over Lamas at UFC 225 in Chicago. He may be the hardest hitter in division and he can also wrestle.

The question is which one of these guys is going to get the right matchup and cash in. Zabit vs Yair is one of the best fights that can be made in any division. Volkanovski is ready for a top five guy and Bektic may have trouble getting anyone to fight him. Any one of these guys could be ready to be champion by the end of the year; its just the matter of which one surges forward first.

And one more…

6) What are we missing?

As a wise man said, there are known knowns and known unknowns, all of which we have covered here. But what are the unknown unknowns, the things we don’t know we don’t know? Will anyone from the 155 pound division come down in weight looking for green pastures? Does anyone from 135, following the current trend move up and start tearing through everyone? Who is the next young prospect that’s going to come along and wow us? Will the GOAT himself Artem Lobov, stop having mercy and start running through anyone? And maybe, just maybe, will Conor McGregor move back down to challenge Max Holloway.

One thing I have learned about MMA and the featherweight division — you don’t rule anything out…

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Artem Lobov Loves Fighting in the UFC But Refuses to Ever Beg for His Job

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Artem Lobov didn’t know for certain after his last loss if he would still be a UFC fighter.

While the former “Ultimate Fighter” finalist always puts on exciting fights, he had dropped his last two bouts in a row and didn’t know if the UFC was going to keep him on the roster any longer.

Rather than plead for his job or ask UFC president Dana White for one more chance, Lobov went an alternate route by putting out feelers to other promotions about potential employment as well as exploring options in both boxing and kickboxing. Of course, Lobov wanted to return to the UFC but no matter what he’s always going to look out for his own best interests and that doesn’t involve getting down on his knees to ask for a job.

“The UFC is full of beggars. They’re all beggars,” Lobov said about the current roster of fighters in the UFC. “You need to be a go getter. You need to go and get it. You need to go and make changes and go after what you want. All these guys they beg for everything. When they want more money, they don’t how else to go about it. They say ‘oh please pay me more, you’re not paying me enough’. What kind of attitude is that? I hate people like that. I never want to be a guy like that and I never will be. I went out there, I reached out to other organizations and said I could potentially be getting cut, I’m not yet but I could be, what are the offers, what are the options?

“You have to put yourself in the situation where you have other options rather than just waiting for fate to turn out the way you want it to.”

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According to Lobov, he’s always going to make sure he’s got somewhere to go even if the UFC decides one day they no longer want to work with him.

That’s why he hinted at retiring from mixed martial arts after his last fight and instead hinted at pursuing opportunities in other combat sports that would keep him busy with paychecks flowing into his bank account.

“You know I’m just a guy I don’t like being dependant on someone. I take my career into my own hands and I make things happen for myself,” Lobov said. “I see a lot of guys they get released [from the UFC] or they’re praying they don’t get released or if they do they don’t know what to do. I see it all the time. I’m not one of those guys. I know there’s options out there. I thought I perhaps might get released from the UFC so I was just being realistic about the situation I was in. Don’t get me wrong, there have been people in worse situations than mine and still got kept on so it wasn’t for certain.

“But I was expecting if I do get cut, I had a plan of action. That’s what I was talking about. I had offers from the boxing world, I had offers from the K-1 world. I had offers from other MMA organizations and trust me those weren’t just some s–tty little offers because I couldn’t get it done in the UFC. Those offers were for more than in the UFC. So they were very, very good offers.”

In the end, the UFC told Lobov that they didn’t want him going anywhere but back into the Octagon for another fight.

Now he’s returning at UFC 223 where he’ll face Alex Caceres on the undercard and Lobov is excited to put on another exciting show — because that’s all he knows how to do.

“Of course, I was happy to receive a call from the UFC that they still want me, that they don’t want to release me,” Lobov said. “They’re happy with me fighting in the UFC and I said in that case, give me a fight and that’s how it happened.”

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Dan Henderson – A Sincere Thanks

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Dan Henderson – A Sincere Thanks

Maybe it’s my roots in pro wrestling, but I wish the UFC would allow its legends to walk to the cage, grab a mic, and address the fans when they walk away from the sport. Give Dan Henderson more than a few minutes to express himself. Let him have a clear mind, a body free from exhaustion and a spotlight deserving of the significance of the announcement. Let the fans stand, chant in unison, “Thank you Dan.”  

Dan Henderson is an MMA icon, it’s not even up for debate. Whether you feel he won, or lost at UFC 204, you don’t doubt his spot in the history in sport.  He’s on Mt. Rushmore, undoubtedly.  He achieved amazing success at every level, and in every organization he’s competed in. More so, he’s earned fans in droves that will forever admire his understated sense of self, and the H-Bomb that scrambled brains and left fans dizzy with excitement.

Dan was an elite high school wrestler,  a college National Championship qualifier, a two-time Olympic wrestler and is a multi-time world champion.  As a mixed martial artist, he’s been at the top since he debuted.  He’s won multiple world titles, in multiple weight classes, including holding the Pride Welterweight and Middleweight Titles at the same time. He has beaten literally a who’s who of MMA.  Don’t believe me? I’ll run the names.  Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Babalu Sobral, Renzo Gracie, Shogun Rua, Murilo Bustamante, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping, Hector Lombard and Fedor Emelianenko.  Let that sink in.

Respected doesn’t begin to cover it.  Fans and fighters alike love Dan Henderson.  He’s basically the most respected man in the sport.  Here’s what a few of his peers had to say as they took to Twitter to pay their respects.  There are many, many more.

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Aside from being perhaps America’s best ever professional MMA fighter, Dan might just be America’s best man as well.  Nobody in the sport represents the USA like Dan does. He just leaks “Merica from every pore.  As you settle in to watch another political debate tonight, think how much better a Henderson/Stann presidential ticket might look. Of the two,   I don’t care who is President and who is Vice President, they’ve got my vote. I don’t even care about their policies, they can run on integrity and patriotism.

Even as I write this, I have to be honest, I’m not the biggest Dan Henderson fan in the world.  I’m still a little bitter that I made the trip to Vegas in 2007 to watch my favorite Wanderlei Silva fight in person.  It was Pride 33, and Dan Henderson did what he often does, landed the H Bomb and sent his opponent into a world of gum drop dreams and candy cane memories, planting Silva with a highlight reel KO, and taking his Middleweight title in the process.  Fair play for Hendo, I mean, you play with the bull, you get the horns.  However, after the fight he made a comment that Silva’s post fight party was in the emergency room, and it bugged me.  For going on nine years it has bugged me.  I guess it’s time to let it go.  I too embrace Dan Henderson as the best of the best.  The GOAT if you will.

Fast forward to Manchester, England last night.  It was roughly 5AM local time as the main event was set to kick off, and the fans were hot. They were their to cheer for their hometown hero, Middleweight Champion Micheal Bisping.  I have to admit, I was nervous, I didn’t know what I was to witness, I just knew I had to see it play out.  It was time for Dan Henderson’s last fight.

As I watched him make that long walk, to Toby Keith’s “Made in America” it seemed logical that Dan would land the shot and walk away from the sport as the UFC Champion, the only belt that has alluded him. It made poetic sense, it should have happened, and it damn near did.

As the first round neared conclusion, Bisping, who had looked sharp, was a little tardy in getting his left hand back after throwing it at Henderson, big mistake. Shuffle, shuffle, Right Hand, BANG….Henderson landed and sent Bisping falling to the canvas.  Hendo jumped into action, landing punches and elbows that lumped and opened up Bisping’s face.  It was close, it was really close, but Bisping escaped the first round, albeit in shaky fashion.

Dan Henderson’s shuffle, shuffle, right hand shouldn’t be effective. You know it’s coming. It’s coming….I mean, it’s what he does.  You should be able to prepare for it, defend against it, but you can’t.  Nobody can.  The Shuffle, shuffle, H Bomb is like the bass-line of that song you hear in the club on Saturday night, and can’t keep from hearing in your head over and over Monday morning.  You don’t know where you heard it, but it now lives in your head, and you’re powerless against it.

In the end, Michael Bisping was awarded the judge’s decision.  Some fans agreed, some didn’t, but life goes on, and Dan Henderson is in no way tarnished by the experience.  If anything, his legend grows.  He made the walk, forty-seven times in his career.  He won way more than he lost, he held belts all over the world, and he won the hearts of fans everywhere as well.  How can you not love Dan Henderson?  I tried, and I’ve failed.  I look up to him as a fighter, and as a human being.  He’s a 46-year-old man, who is tougher than you are, and he walks into the sunset with a clear mind, and a full life.

Success for Dan Henderson isn’t measured with a golden belt, it’s measured in a golden life.  My hat is off to him, and the sport will be less than it was when he competed.  Hero, Legend, Icon….Thank You Dan Henderson.

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