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  • Monday Morning Analyst: How Demetrious Johnson defeated Tim Elliott

    On this episode of the podcast, we explore how UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson controlled and defeated Tim Elliott at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale.

  • Jose Aldo’s kickboxing trainer scores vicious flying knee KO in Brazil

    Jose Aldo’s kickboxing trainer scored a devastating knockout in his return to the rings Friday night. Headlining the WGP 35 event in Fortaleza, Brazil, Emerson Falcao only needed 98 seconds to beat Oscar Vera with a flying knee in a non-title fight.

    Falcao, who returned to action two years after suffering a leg break and undergoing three surgeries, trains UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro.

    Falcao is now set to defend his super lightweight championship (142.1 pounds) against Anderson Buzika, who won the interim belt with a unanimous decision win over Guilherme Sanchos in the co-main event.

  • Dominick Cruz says 'punch-drunk' Cody Garbrandt got title shot thanks to 'Alpha Fail game'

    When it came down to the next challenger for the UFC bantamweight title, Dominick Cruz had two logical opponents. First was T.J. Dillashaw, the former UFC champion who rebounded from a close loss to Cruz by defeating top contender Raphael Assuncao in July, and second was Cody Garbrandt, the undefeated up-and-comer who scored a trio of big-time knockouts in 2016 and developed a simmering feud with Cruz on his way up the UFC ranks.

    The UFC ultimately elected to go with Garbrandt, eschewing a higher-ranked foe for a juicier storyline and new blood. The decision was unsurprisingly a polarizing one, but it didn’t much matter, as Cruz and Garbrandt are slated to tangle on Dec. 30 in the co-main event of one of the year’s biggest shows at UFC 207. And when it comes to Cruz, the reigning champion isn’t willing to mince words about what he thinks about his young opponent.

    “Plain and simple, he’s not in the top-five of the division. And that’s my job, to go out there and prove it,” Cruz said of Garbrandt on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “He did talk himself into this fight, 100-percent, and now it’s my job to go out there and fight him. I want to fight him. I want to fight this man, and that’s why this fight is happening, because it sparks interest. There’s a beef there. This guy’s been running his mouth a lot, so my job is to go out there and shut it for him and show him why he’s nowhere near the level he think he is.”

    While his credentials may not be as impressive as Dillashaw’s, there is no question that Garbrandt still possesses a formidable résumé. The 25-year-old product out of Team Alpha Male carries an unbeaten 5-0 record inside the UFC bantamweight division, highlighted by a first-round knockout over Thomas Almeida and 48-second thrashing of Takeya Mizugaki. In fact, all but one of Garbrandt’s UFC wins have ended via KO/TKO -- a rarity for the 135-pound class – although Cruz can’t help but question if there is anything more to Garbrandt’s game.

    “He’s got knockouts on his record, yes, in the first round, yes, but so did Shane Carwin and we all saw what happened to him when he went out there and went past the first round, didn’t we?” Cruz said. “And that’s what this game is. This is a game where you have to be able to mix it up, and not just (fight for) one round and show how dominant you can be with your power.

    “You have to have more than power. You have to have prowess. You have to have ring generalship. You have to understand how to mix things up in the clinch, in the takedowns, over-unders. You have to understand that when you’re on your back, how do I get back up without threatening myself? You have to understand how to keep it after you earn it. And a style where somebody’s been proven to only go three rounds, that’s a tough style to deal with when you’re fighting a guy like me.”

    While the war of words has yet to start in earnest between Cruz and Garbrandt, the two have already had several run-ins with one another over the past year, whether over social media or in person. Cruz dismissed many of those exchanges on Monday as an easy way to needle his opponent, who he believes is attempting to perpetuate a tough guy image while being far too easily provoked. Though when asked whether he thinks he already is in Garbrandt’s head, Cruz demurred.

    “I don’t think that he’s smart enough to know if that would even be possible,” Cruz said. “I honestly believe that. I think he’s literally about as smart as a rock. He’s had multiple concussions. If you look at any of the spelling that he does on any of his stuff, I mean, he wrote ‘plain’ as like a ‘plan.’ He just doesn’t have the intelligence to understand if somebody was in his head. All he knows is he’s either angry at you, or he’s cool with you, and that’s it. And that’s alright. If he wants to be angry with me, that’s fine. I applaud that. I look forward to it. It makes this thing more fun for me.”

    An example of the bad blood between the two bantamweights arose in August, when Cruz and Garbrandt had a slight skirmish on the afternoon of UFC 202. The two ran into each other in the halls of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and had to be separated. Later that same night, Garbrandt seethed over comments Cruz made about the lack of a father in Garbrandt’s life.

    Cruz also grew up with a difficult family situation and simply dismissed Garbrandt’s anger as further proof that Garbrandt has little control over his emotions, although he also said he understands what Garbrandt was attempting to do that night.

    “It’s common sense to know where I’m at, because I’m working,” Cruz said. “While these guys are talking, trying to get a chunk of my limelight while I work to make money for myself and money for my family, they find me and they’re trying to get a piece of that. They’re trying to break off a piece of that every single second they can. All these guys, as they should. I commend them for that. And that’s how he talked his way into this fight.

    “He went and found me when I was doing my job, and he put himself in a situation where he tried to look as tough as possible, and he made sure and put his nice coat on that he wears every time he wants to act tough, and he did that. He went there, he acted tough, he did his job, and now all he’s got to do is act that way for every 30-second clip he can and then he gets himself a shot. Same thing (Urijah) Faber did throughout the entire career that he’s had to get title shots. He did it with (Conor) McGregor, he did it with me. I mean, this is their game. This is the Alpha Fail game.

    “They’re going to walk their way, talk their way into everything they can so the publicity gets behind it. If media gets behind it, it becomes real. If media doesn’t get behind it, nobody cares. So they just know to make it real with media, and that’s Faber’s tutoring helping the punch-drunk Cody ‘No Love.’”

    Several critics of the UFC 207 booking have questioned whether this match-up was all too much, too soon for Garbrandt, considering his relative inexperience in the game and his qualifications compared to a former champion like Dillashaw.

    Indeed, it is all happening fast for Garbrandt, a blue-chip prospect who only debuted in the UFC last year. But the UFC is above all else a star-driven organization, and a push like the one the promotion is giving Garbrandt is exactly the kind of formula that can create stars under the right circumstances. Cruz just doesn’t plan on letting it happen on his watch.

    “If they’re grooming him, I’m glad, because we need as many stars as we can get in this sport,” Cruz said. “I mean, how many shows are we doing a week? How many shows are we doing a year? And the more stars that we have in this sport that people can connect to and embrace and call their favorite, the better it is for all of us. It’s better for me, because now people want to follow him and hate me. It’s better for me because people want to see me smash him and start following me. It’s better for everybody.

    “So if they’re grooming him, good. I’m glad. It’s okay with me. But it’s going to take a lot of grooming, because I’m telling you, the guy is not smart enough to deal with this level of competition that’s at the top.”

  • Bjorn Rebney responds to criticism of his MMA Athletes Association affiliation

    The launch of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) has been the biggest story of the past week in the sport. The one thing being talked about more than anything else, though — rather than the issue of fighters’ rights — is the presence of Bjorn Rebney as an MMAAA advisor.

    Rebney, who once sued former champion Eddie Alvarez when he ran Bellator MMA, was a key spokesperson for the MMAAA on its announcement conference call last week, blasting the UFC and new owners WME-IMG. Some fighters and managers have come out on social media saying they will not be involved in the organization due to him having a role.

    “If Bjorn Rebney is in, I'm out,” prominent MMA manager Malki Kawa wrote on Twitter. “He was the most anti-fighter promoter I ever met.”

    On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Rebney, who said he will be working with the MMAAA in an advisory capacity, said he did anticipate something of a backlash from those in the sport’s circle.

    “I expected it,” Rebney said. “I was the second largest mixed martial promoter in the world for a number of years. I didn’t expect people would look at me and go, ‘Oh my god, what a natural transition that is.’”

    Rebney defended himself briefly on the conference call last Wednesday, saying in his best year as Bellator’s president and owner, he paid fighters 53 percent of total revenue. The MMAAA has estimated that UFC fighters only get 8 percent of revenue.

    “I didn’t expect people to go, ‘Oh that’s awesome, what a great dude,’” Rebney said “I expected people to go ‘Ahh, why is he doing this? That guy was part of the problem. Why is he now part of the solution?’ Yeah, I expected that. The good news is the negative vibe has been focused on me, which is exactly where it should be. But the better news is that the reaction has been big.”

    Rebney and UFC fighters Georges St-Pierre, Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, Donald Cerrone and T.J. Dillashaw all made the announcement of the start of the MMAAA on the call last week. The association will also be working with attorney Jim Quinn, who was counsel in lawsuits that led to NBA players and NFL players eventually gaining free agency. Those five fighters are some of the most prominent MMA names to come out and say they need representation.

    The goals for the MMAAA are three-fold. First, the association (which will not be a union at first) wants a settlement from the UFC for current and past fighters. Second, the MMAAA wants closer to a 50-percent share of UFC revenue. And lastly, the association wants to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement with the UFC.

    Some of the things mentioned on the call regarding what the fighters are seeking were a pension, retirement plan and full-scale healthcare for current and retired athletes.

    “There’s nothing in place and this is the most violent sport on the face of the Earth,” Rebney said. “The repercussions for a mixed martial artist far surpass those from hockey or football or, for god sakes, even boxing. Even boxing. And boxing has got a real ugly progressive step for its athletes. And you’ve got nothing in place? No.”

    Along with the criticisms of Rebney, there were also questions about what his motivations were. Rebney said they aren’t financial — he doesn’t need the money after Viacom purchased Bellator from him in 2011. Rebney said primarily he wants to make a difference for fighters, after being around combat sports athletes from an early age.

    Rebney said his grandfather Milton often had boxers stay with them while they were fighting in Los Angeles when Rebney was 6 years old and he kept in touch with them afterward.

    “I see what happens to combat sports athletes when they’re 35 and 40 and 45,” he said. “And it’s frightening. Not for everybody, but for a lot of these guys that evolution is a very, very scary evolution.”

    On top of that, Rebney said this opportunity gives him the chance to push back against the UFC and WME-IMG, both of which he has seemed as bullies.

    “I hate racists and I hate bullies more than anything on Earth,” Rebney said. “They’re bottom feeders. And WME-IMG and UFC today — that conglomerate — they’re bullies. And it may not be with their hands, but it’s with their money and it’s with their power and it’s with their influence.”

    Rebney added that the UFC’s $4 billion-sale to WME-IMG in July — at the time, the largest sports franchise acquisition ever — was not only because of the work of former CEO and owner Lorenzo Fertitta or president Dana White.

    “That didn’t come from Dana or Lorenzo,” Rebney said. “That came on the backs of fighters, who packed the arenas, drove the pay-per-view buyrates, drove the international and domestic television, the sponsorships, the closed circuit, etc., etc. They deserve to get paid what’s fair. And to be able to fight that fight, to be able to be in the middle of that and also to be able to Superman punch bullies in the back of the head, that’s a very attractive proposition for me just given my personality.”

  • Demetrious Johnson fears he may have ‘small tear’ in LCL, to have MRI in coming days

    With Demetrious Johnson having successfully defended his flyweight title a ninth time on Saturday might against Tim Elliott at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale, the countdown to history has officially begun.

    As in: How long until Johnson goes for a record-tying tenth title defense to join the ranks of Anderson Silva, and who will that record come against?

    The most obvious answer is Joseph Benavidez, who defeated Henry Cejudo in the co-main event at TUF 24. Yet the 32-year old Benavidez is already 0-2 against “Mighty Mouse,” which gives it an extra layer of complication — even if Benavidez has reeled off six straight victories after losing to Johnson a second time back in 2013.

    As for Johnson, who has not lost a bout since 2011 against Dominick Cruz while still competing as a bantamweight, it doesn’t matter who the UFC stacks in front of him.

    “It’s up to the UFC man,” Johnson said during an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be the third fight. Is it going to sell? I don’t know if it will or not. But if that’s what they UFC wants, that’s fine. Out of all my title defenses, and this one was number nine, I’ve never picked who I was going to fight. I never cared who I was going to fight because at the end of the day it makes no difference.”

    After a hard-fought unanimous decision over Tim Elliott on Saturday, the biggest factor would seem to be motivation. Johnson has already defeated Benavidez on a pair of occasions, so how would he work himself up for a third bout? It’s similar to Elliott, who made his way to Johnson by navigating the TUF concourse after being cut by Zuffa in 2015.

    Still, Johnson’s disclosed purse for the Elliott fight might have filled in for lack of dramatic emotional detail in the fight. He earned $350,000 to show, with no win bonus, giving him the highest payday of his career.

    Johnson said motivation is never a factor, so long as he’s getting paid. And in this case, so long as the UFC books him in the fight capital of the world.

    “Yeah, it’s another paycheck, I’ll always be motivated,” he said. “This is how I make my money. I’m always willing to go out there and put it on the line. I mean, if you look at that [Elliott] fight, I had everything to lose and nothing to gain essentially.

    “But at the same time, this is my job. The UFC calls and says, ‘hey, this is who you’re going to fight,’ it’s okay. The only think I ask is that I fight in Vegas. I want to break the record in Vegas. That’s where I think I perform my best, and I have my best weight cut. If I’m going to have my…in all my years of being in the UFC and putting my foot down, this is the first time I’m saying I’m fighting in Vegas. I’m not fighting anywhere else.”

    The next big card after the Dec. 30 pay-per-view (UFC 207) happens in March at UFC 209. When that event was thrown out as a possible date for his return, Johnson revealed he might not be ready by then due to a possible injury he suffered against Elliott.

    “That might be too soon,” he said, after counting up the months. “I’m going to go get an MRI possibly Tuesday or Wednesday. I think I might have had a little tear in my LCL in my right knee. It happened in the first round of the fight when we were grappling, I heard a little pop, and I think I might have a pop or tear in the LCL.

    “I had a tear in my left knee, I know the feeling of it. It’s still swollen right now, when the swelling goes down I’ll have an MRI to make sure.”

    In what was an unusual occurrence for Johnson, who is considered by many to be the best active pound-for-pound fighter on the UFC’s roster today, he didn’t win the first round. The unorthodox fighter Elliott put Johnson in danger with a guillotine choke and later a D’Arce that swung the round to him, meaning Johnson was in the rare spot of fighting out of a deficit.

    He did come back. Johnson won the rest of the rounds. He said the knee injury didn’t make him panic.

    “Adrenaline takes over,” he said. “I’ve fought with a broken leg, a broken rib, a broken hand…so when it popped I was like, okay, fun fun.”

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