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LFA announces busy schedule with four events set for May

Legacy Fighting Alliance Logo - LFA

Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) CEO Ed Soares announced on Wednesday that the promotion will have a busy month of May with four action-packed MMA events in Colorado, Utah, Missouri and Minnesota.
 
Full Fight Cards and further information about LFA 65, 66, 67 & 68 will be announced soon. The entire main card of all LFA events will be televised live and nationwide on AXS TV.
 
LFA 65 takes place Friday, May 3rd at the Dobson Arena in Vail, Colorado. In May of 2018 LFA made history by producing the first nationally televised MMA event from the world famous resort town.  Vail has been the home to many world class sporting events including the Alpine World Championships, Freestyle World Championships and the Burton US Open. The LFA will continue that tradition when it returns on Friday May 3rd. 
 
LFA 66 takes place Friday, May 10th at the Maverik Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. LFA 66 will be the first LFA event to take place in the state of Utah. The Maverik Center is the home of the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies. The Maverik Center gained international acclaim and exposure as the host venue for the Ice Hockey Championships at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. On May 10th, the LFA will bring the top prospects in the sport of MMA to the beehive state.
 
TRENDING > Luke Rockhold expected to face Jan Blachowicz in light heavyweight debut at UFC 239

LFA 67 takes place Friday, May 24th at the Branson Convention Center in Branson, Missouri. LFA 67 will be the third LFA event to take place in the "Show Me State"of Missouri. Resting at the heart of the $420 million Branson Landing development, the Branson Convention Center is a world-class meetings and events facility in one of our country's most dynamic and entertaining destinations - Branson, Missouri.

LFA 68 takes place Friday, May 31st at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota. LFA 68 will be the tenth LFA event to take place in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes".  Minnesota's largest casino is only 25 minutes from Mall of America with slots, blackjack, bingo, luxury hotel, entertainment, best of Twin Cities restaurants and bars, bus service, meetings and events.  On Friday, May 31st the Mystic Lake Showroom will once again host the LFA Octagon continuing a long history of exciting MMA competition.

Dana White addresses what’s next for Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier

Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier

(Courtesy of UFC)

All signs were pointing to Conor McGregor returning opposite Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. But then again, all signs were initially pointing to UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier fighting Brock Lesnar and then retiring on his 40th birthday. 

Neither of those things is happening. 

TRENDING > UFC strikes landmark pay-per-view deal with ESPN, extends broadcast deal through 2025

So what is next for McGregor and Cormier? UFC president Dana White recently sat down with Megan Olivi and addressed what's next for two of the mixed martial arts world's biggest stars.

Kevin Lee moves to welterweight, faces Rafael dos Anjos in UFC Rochester main event

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee will make the move to welterweight for a main event showdown against Rafael dos Anjos as the first ever UFC Fight Night card from Rochester, N.Y. at the Blue Cross Arena on May 18.

UFC officials confirmed the fight with the Democrat & Chronicle on Wednesday.

Lee has long talked about the possibility of moving up in weight after struggling to cut down to 155 pounds for the majority of his fights in the UFC.

Coming off a decision loss to Al Iaquinta last December, the 26-year old contender will now test himself at 170 pounds with a main event fight in New York.

As for dos Anjos, the former lightweight champion had enjoyed quite a bit of success after moving to welterweight but he’s recently suffered back-to-back losses to Colby Covington and new champion Kamaru Usman.

Dos Anjos will look to bounce back when he faces Lee in the headliner for the UFC Fight Night card in Rochester that will air live on ESPN+.   

Georgi Karakhanyan looking to finish Emmanuel Sanchez in Bellator 218 main event

While the first half of his 2018 didn’t play out the way that featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan would have liked, he was able to close out the year on the winning side of things.

Following a loss to Henry Corrales at Bellator 192 in January, Karakhanyan rebounded with a win over Alexey Polpudnikov at ACB 86 in May before finishing the year out in November with a no contest versus Timur Nagibin at ACB 90.

“It didn’t start out well because I lost in Bellator and then I got cut, which is a fair shot on their side because I wasn’t performing well,” Karakhanyan told MMAWeekly.com. “I needed to change a lot of things up, and I did and partnered up with The Treigning Lab. I got pushed to a different level.

“I signed with ACB and fought a couple of guys and did well against them.”

Working with a new team at The Treigning Lab, Karakhanyan feels like he’s continuing to evolve his game over 10 years into his career and believes himself to be a much different fighter in 2019 compared to years past.

“I feel like I’m still learning,” said Karakhanyan. “I wake up every day and I’m happy doing what I do. I train, I get beat up, I don’t mind getting hit, and keep evolving.

“I don’t go out. I stay home a lot. I train Monday through Saturday. This is my lifestyle. These next five years are very important for me. I’m going to take it one fight at a time and enjoy every single experience.”

This Friday in Thackerville, Oklahoma, Karakhanyan (28-8-1) steps in on short notice to rematch Emmanuel Sanchez (17-4) in the 145-pound main event of Bellator 218.

TRENDING >

TJ Dillashaw relinquishes bantamweight title, suspended for ‘adverse’ findings in drug test

“There’s a lot of rematches I want to do in Bellator and this is one of them,” Karakhanyan said. “(Sanchez is) a fighter who comes forward, which is what I like a lot, and I have to break his little habits.

“Our first fight I thought was controversial because I feel like I won the first and third rounds, but you can never leave it to the judges because they can ruin your career. This time I’m going out there and going for a finish. I’m either going to finish him or get finished – I don’t care – I’m going to put everything on the line.”

Never one to seemingly having a conventional year, Karakhanyan is just looking to focus on each fight as it comes and enjoy the opportunities as they come his way in 2019.

“This sport is so crazy, a couple weeks ago I had no home and then I got signed to Bellator and got this call to fight in the main event,” said Karakhanyan. “I’m going to enjoy every second and take it one fight at a time.”

Luke Rockhold expected to face Jan Blachowicz in light heavyweight debut at UFC 239

Former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will finally make his long awaited move up to 205 pounds with a fight against Jan Blachowicz in the works for UFC 239 on July 6 in Las Vegas.

Sources close to the contest confirmed the news on Wednesday following an initial report from ESPN.

Rockhold has been teasing a move to light heavyweight for quite some time while also waiting for his body to get back to full health so he could fight again.

The former champion at 185 pounds is coming off a knockout loss to Yoel Romero in Feb. 2018 while going 1-2 over his past three fights in the middleweight division.

Due to the brutal weight cut to get down to middleweight, Rockhold ultimately decided to make the move to light heavyweight where he hopes to once again become a title contender.

As for Blachowicz, the Polish fighter is coming off a knockout loss of his own to Thiago Santos from the first ever UFC event in the Czech Republic in February.

That loss stopped a four-fight win streak from Blachowicz that included victories over Jimi Manuwa and Nikita Krylov.

Rockhold vs. Blachowicz is expected to take place at UFC 239, which will be the annual headliner for the UFC’s International Fight Week in Las Vegas in July.

TJ Dillashaw relinquishes bantamweight title, suspended for ‘adverse’ findings in drug test

TJ Dillashaw - UFC Brooklyn Promo

T.J. Dillashaw is no longer the UFC bantamweight champion.

On Wednesday, Dillashaw announced that he has voluntarily relinquished the 135-pound belt while also revealing that a drug test from his last fight against Henry Cejudo returned with ‘adverse’ findings, which will cost him at least a one-year suspension from the sport.

“To all my fans, I wanted to be the first one to let you know that USADA and the NYSAC have informed me of an adverse finding in a test taken for my last fight,” Dillashaw wrote on Instagram. “While words can’t even begin to express how disappointed I am at this time, please know that I’m working with my team to understand what has occurred and how to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.

“Out of fairness and respect to the rest of my division, I’ve informed the UFC that I’ll be voluntarily relinquishing my title while I deal with this matter. I want to thank all of you in advance for the support.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvOsK_nlrAL/

Following Dillashaw’s statement the New York State Athletic Commission officially suspended him for one year and fined him $10,000 for the drug test results surrounding his last fight.

“The New York State Athletic Commission issued a one-year suspension and $10,000 fine to Mr. Dillashaw for violations relating to use of a prohibited substance. We have no further comment,” New York State Athletic Commission representatives said in a statement on Wednesday.

The suspension is retroactive to the date of the fight so Dillashaw would be eligible to return after Jan. 19, 2020.

USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) also issued a statement in response to Dillashaw's declaration that he had been flagged for a potential doping violation. USADA facilitates the UFC’s anti-doping program and it’s possible that they could suspend Dillashaw for a shorter or longer period of time than the punishment handed down by the New York State Athletic Commission.

“In light of Mr. Dillashaw’s social media post this morning, we can confirm that an in-competition test conducted by USADA on January 18, 2019 resulted in an adverse analytical finding," USADA officials said in a statement. 

TRENDING > UFC strikes landmark pay-per-view deal with ESPN, extends broadcast deal through 2025

“In this instance, we are able to confirm the finding due to Mr. Dillashaw’s public statement. The presumption of innocence under the rules is a vital part of an effective anti-doping program and it’s only fair that Mr. Dillashaw be allowed due process before any conclusions are drawn.”

Based on that statement it appears USADA is still going through the adjudication process with Dillashaw and no punishment has been handed down yet. 

The UFC has not issued any official statement regarding Dillashaw or plans for the bantamweight title now that he has relinquished his belt.

With Dillashaw out of the picture for at least the next year, it’s likely the UFC will move swiftly to book a title fight to crown a new champion.

Top ranked contender Marlon Moraes would almost certainly be the person at the top of the list to battle for the vacant bantamweight championship after he’s rattled off several wins in a row including knockouts over Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera and a submission victory against Raphael Assuncao.

It’s entirely possible flyweight champion Henry Cejudo then becomes the next candidate to fight for the vacant title after he defeated Dillashaw in just 32 seconds in their meeting in January.

As of now, no decisions have been made as Dillashaw prepares to sit out for at least one year and the bantamweight division moves on without him.

UFC Nashville: Anthony Pettis – ‘I’m going to show the world that weight doesn’t matter’

Anthony Pettis

(Courtesy of UFC)

Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis looks forward to the new challenges moving up in weight presents, including his main event matchup with Stephen Thompson at Fight Night Nashville on March 23.

TRENDING > Conor McGregor continues push for UFC ownership shares

Joe Rogan responds to Conor McGregor’s criticism about his UFC commentary

Joe Rogan - podcast

Conor McGregor pays attention to every facet of his career — even the commentary made during his fights in the UFC.

During a recent stop through Chicago while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day weekend, McGregor was asked about possibly appearing on Joe Rogan’s popular podcast and that led to the former two-division champion taking exception to some of the commentary he’s made during past fights.

Particularly, McGregor had issues with some of the comments Rogan made during his epic rematch against Nate Diaz from UFC 202 in 2016 as well as his most recent fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“I’d like him to call a fight how he sees it correctly and not be reading off a script,” McGregor said. “The Diaz rematch it was like he was reading from the first fight and that last one, he was talking about my face was being smashed in.

“I left that Octagon with a black eye, the same way [Nurmagomedov’s] two rat cousins left. His brother and his cousin left the Octagon with a black eye, so what is he talking about?”

On Tuesday, Rogan responded after hearing that McGregor had a problem with his commentary.

“That is not really true because no one ever gives me a script. That’s a fact. I don’t know what exactly he said, maybe he didn’t like my commentary. I bet he likes it when he wins,” Rogan said with a laugh.

“That’s his perception, I understand what he’s saying. Sometimes people think that but it’s very difficult when someone is calling your fight. If he’s talking about me calling someone’s fight that’s not his friend, that makes much more sense. It’s f—king hard. It’s hard for me. I have a really hard time calling friend’s fights. It’s f—king hard.”

Rogan understands the criticism he receives sometimes for his commentary because it’s not an easy job but he’s never trying to offend anybody when calling fights.

Even with McGregor’s perceived slight, Rogan holds no ill will towards him regarding the message about his commentary.

“I get his position,” Rogan said.”That Diaz fight was a good f—king fight. It was a hard fight. I wasn’t calling it like the last fight but I had to call it with the knowledge of the last fight. I had to know what happened in the last fight. In the last fight, Diaz survived the storm, tagged him, had him rocked and then finished him on the ground.

“It doesn’t mean that he didn’t win the second fight. It was a close f—king fight, the second fight was a very close fight but you have to acknowledge that, that other fight took place.”

One thing that Rogan can say for certain is that he has nothing but the utmost respect for McGregor and the skill set he brings into the Octagon each and every time he performs.

“I don’t know him that well but I like him a lot,” Rogan said about McGregor. “I respect the f—k out of him.”

Casey Kenney believes he’ll be too much for Vince Cachero in LFA 62 title fight

When it comes to his 2018, flyweight Casey Kenney had his most productive year of his five year MMA career. After picking up two wins to start the year, Kenney closed out 2018 by capturing his first major MMA championship when he defeated Brandon Royval in November for the LFA 125-pound championship. “It was a great year,” Kenney told MMAWeekly.com. “I fought three times in the LFA cage. They were all great performances. I knocked off a UFC vet (in Roman Salazar) at 135 pounds, and then got the LFA belt (against Royval), so it was a great year, and I can’t complain.” For Kenney, 2018 was the culmination of his game fully developing from what he already felt was a very solid base. “I’ve always been pretty well-rounded, but I’m starting to feel like I’m one of the most complete mixed martial artists on the planet,” said Kenney. “My striking is really diverse. I can hit you with anything. My grappling and takedowns are top-notch, and it’s the same thing on the ground. I’m feeling super complete right now.” On Friday in Dallas, Texas, Kenney (10-1-1) steps up in weight class to face Vince Cachero in an interim 135-pound championship main event at LFA 62. “He’s a tough kid,” Kenney said of Cachero. “He’s up and coming. He’s undefeated. He comes forward, throws big punches, and has solid grappling. I’m definitely not taking this kid lightly at all, but I just think this is my time, and I have more experience and will have too much for him. TRENDING > Conor McGregor in negotiations for next fight, targeting summer return to the UFC “I feel like I’m a pretty good sized flyweight. Not having to cut that extra 10 pounds will be nice. I fought Roman Salazar, who is a true bantamweight and a pretty good-sized bantamweight as well, and the size didn’t really seem to play a factor.” With a possible second LFA title to add to his resume, it could very well just be a matter of time before Kenney makes his move up to the next level. It’s a move Kenney would welcome, but he’s not going to let such a move dominate his plans for 2019. “It’s something that I’ve kind of learned that if I’m super-eager to get in there and am setting time limits on the UFC, it kind of wears at me a little bit mentally,” said Kenney. “I’m just having fun fighting, and when the time comes, the time will come.”

Zac Cavender is looking well beyond Friday’s SteelFist Fights: March Mania

Following a highly successful amateur career, light-heavyweight prospect Zac Cavender made his pro debut at Final Fight Championship 34 last November and was able to come away with a first round TKO victory.

For Cavender, making his pro debut went better than he could have hoped, as he was able to remain calm going into the bout and ended up having a strong performance.

“I thought it felt great,” Cavender told MMAWeekly.com. “That was actually my first time fighting out of state. It was an awesome experience, especially going in as a new pro going into a larger promotion and experiencing that.

“I thought I’d have more nerves; I normally have a lot of nerves before my fight, so I’d assume it it’d be two times worse for my pro debut in Las Vegas, but I almost didn’t have any nerves. Everything felt right. It was an awesome and a surreal experience.”

While he was able to gain a lot of experience over the course of a couple years in the amateur ranks, Cavender is excited to be able to show his full game with the more open rules as a pro.

“I had taken almost a year long hiatus from fighting just to train and get better, but a lot of the techniques and things that I’m good at are things only pros can do,” said Cavender.

“I love elbow strikes, I love head kicks and knees to the head. When it comes to grappling, leg locking is one of my specialties, and heel hooks are everywhere, but you can’t use those in amateurs.”

For his second pro fight, Cavender (1-0) will face Chris Thompson (0-1) in a 205-pound main card bout at SteelFist Fight Night: March Mania on Friday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

TRENDING > Ben Askren has a lot of reasons why Khabib Nurmagomedov fight makes sense

“He’s a bigger, athletic, guy,” Cavender said of Thompson. “I’ve watched pretty much all of his fights. I just see a lot of unpolished athleticism with him, so no matter where the fight goes; whether it’s standing or on the ground; I feel like my skill level is just a mark above his.

“As long as I keep my conditioning high and don’t gas out or get tired, I feel like I’ll be able to finish him whether the fight goes to the ground or stays standing.”

Having just started his pro career, Cavender is looking to establish himself over the coming year and then begin making a push towards larger opportunities in 2020.

“I’m definitely looking ahead,” said Cavender. “I want to make it to a bigger promotion. I’m just fighting for fun or as a pastime or hobby. I love MMA. It’s pretty much my whole life.

“My goal is to do at least four fights in 2019 and be on the doormat of a larger promotion like Bellator, the PFL, or the UFC in 2020. I want to make it to one of those bigger stages and show everyone that I’m a next level fighter.”

Emmanuel Sanchez is hungry for greatness heading into Bellator 218 main event

Looking back on his 2019, featherweight Emmanuel Sanchez feels like the year went well, but it didn’t live up to the high standards he has for himself.

In two bouts last year, Sanchez went 1-1, closing out 2018 with a unanimous decision loss to Patricio “Pitbull” Freire for the Bellator featherweight championship in November.

“It was good, but I felt like it could have gone better,” Sanchez told MMAWeekly.com. “Good isn’t good enough. I’ve got to go out there and achieve greatness.

“I like to stay active and I like to stay busy (but I only fought twice) because I was waiting for the title fight. The title fight didn’t go my way. I’m not discouraged. I’m not disappointed. It’s motivated me to work harder in 2019.”

One area that Sanchez did see a lot of positives in was his growth not only as a fighter but as a person as well.

“I’ve matured,” said Sanchez. “As the years and time goes by, you’re growing and learning and evolving, but you mature.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about the fight game; judges and judging, and the way fights are judged. I’m making those improvements to get those more dominant performances and finishes.”

Following his original opponent dropping out, Sanchez (17-4) is now looking to get back on track against Georgi Karakhanyan (28-8-1) in a rematch of their 2017 bout in the 145-pound main event of Bellator 218 on Friday in Thackerville, Okla.

TRENDING > Dana White: ‘I’m ready for the Diaz brothers’ to return but they don’t accept fights

“It was a bit of a shocker and surprise (to get Karakhanyan again),” Sanchez said. “You never know if they’re going to move somebody up on the card, if they’ll find a replacement, if (who they approach) accepts the fight, and Georgi accepted the fight.

“He’s a top, tough, great fighter. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s got a lot of finishes. He comes to bring it. That’s what excites me and motivates me is that I’m going in there against another killer.”

For Sanchez the goal going forward is to work his way back towards title shot, no matter when or where or against whomever it takes.

“I’m on the road back to gold,” said Sanchez. “I’m going to take it one day at a time, one fight at a time, one year at a time, etc., etc., to get that shot and get that belt.

“I hunger for that belt, that title, and to have ‘world champion’ come after my name. I hunger getting my hand raised. I hunger feeling satisfied getting my hand raised and saying I did that. I don’t want to have those should haves, would haves, could haves. I’m hungry and determined to go out there and get my hand raised.”

Take a look at Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson’s best UFC fights

(Courtesy of ESPN MMA)

With wins over Robert Whittaker, Patrick Cote, Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Jorge Masvidal under his belt, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson has proven himself to be one of the best welterweights in the UFC.

TRENDING > UFC strikes landmark pay-per-view deal with ESPN, extends broadcast deal through 2025

Thompson steps into the UFC Nashville main event on Saturday opposite former lightweight champion Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. Tune in to MMAWeekly.com on Saturday for full UFC on ESPN+ 6: Thompson vs. Pettis live results.

Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone vs. Al Iaquinta expected to headline UFC’s return to Ottawa

A lightweight showdown between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Al Iaquinta is in the works for the UFC’s upcoming return to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on May 4.

Multiple sources close to the contest confirmed verbal agreements are in place from both fighters for a bout that is expected to serve as the main event. ESPN initially reported the contest.

Bout agreements have not been signed at this time and the UFC has made no official announcement regarding the fight.

It was previously rumored that Cerrone could be the fighter to welcome Conor McGregor back to the Octagon later this year but that matchup never quite came together. McGregor wants a main event slot for his return and it appears the UFC was aiming at a co-headline status for the lightweight matchup.

That means Cerrone is moving on while looking to continue his climb up the rankings after returning to 155 pounds with a win over Alexander Hernandez in his last fight.

As for Iaquinta, the former title challenger is coming off a huge win over Kevin Lee in his last fight this past December.

Iaquinta is 6-1 in his past seven fights with his only loss coming to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a matchup that came together on 24 hours notice.

Assuming the fight is finalized, “Cowboy” vs. Iaquinta would serve as the main event for the UFC’s return to Ottawa on May 4 with the card expected to air on ESPN+.

 

 

Did Jorge Masvidal assault Leon Edwards? Kamaru Usman says ‘it’s tricky’

While Jorge Masvidal was being interviewed backstage following his UFC on ESPN+ 5 knockout win over Darren Till on March 16, he and Leon Edwards got into a physical altercation that was caught on camera. In the video, one of Edwards' entourage can be heard saying, "That's assault."

UFC commentator Joe Rogan agreed with Edwards' camp. "That's assault," he said while discussing the situation with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on his podcast. Usman, however, did not agree.

“It’s hard to say assault when you’re dealing with UFC fighters,” said the champion. “It’s a tricky situation.”

Edwards and Masvidal exchanged words before the altercation and Masvidal approached Edwards to confront him. As he did, Edwards put his hands up in a fighting stance and Masvidal unloaded a three-punch combination that caused a laceration to Edwards' face.

According to Masvidal, when a fighter approaches you with their hands up, it indicates that you're in a fight.  Edwards claims that his hands weren't up and that Masvidal "threw a few cheap shots." 

Rogan compared the situation to two NBA players challenging each other to a basketball game or a pitcher striking out a fellow MLB player in the parking lot. Just because your profession is fighting doesn't mean you can't be assaulted by another professional fighter.

TRENDING > Dana White: ‘I’m ready for the Diaz brothers’ to return but they don’t accept fights

Former heavyweight champion Fabrico Werdum was charged with assault after throwing a boomerang at Colby Covington outside of a hotel in Sydney, Australia in November 2017. Cris Cyborg was charged with battery after punching Angela Magana during a UFC fighter retreat in May 2017. Conor McGregor was charged with assault after attacking a bus carrying UFC fighters following a media event for UFC 223 in April 2018.  

Fighters can be victims of assault by other fighters, but that doesn't mean that Masvidal assaulted Edwards at The O2 Arena in London.

UFC fighters have gotten into physical altercations during weigh-ins, at press conferences, and even inside the cage following fights. None of them were charged with assault. They faced fines and suspensions from athletic commissions and the fight promotion but weren't charged with a crime.  Usman is right, it is a tricky situation. 

Who do you think is right?

(Courtesy of JRE Clips)

Conor McGregor questions Joe Rogan’s fight commentary

Conor McGregor and Joe Rogan

Former UFC dual-division champion Conor McGregor is open to the idea of one day being a guest on UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan's world-leading podcast, but he has a bit of a bone to pick with him first.

It appears that McGregor isn't all that pleased with how Rogan calls his fights, insinuating that he sometimes sounds like he's "reading off of a script."

In a recent off the cuff interview on a bartop caught by BJPenn.com's Mike Pendleton, McGregor was down for maybe being a Joe Rogan Podcast guest down the road, but then started railing on Rogan's calls of his fights...

TRENDING > Conor McGregor continues push for UFC ownership shares

https://twitter.com/MP2310/status/1108020111175241729

UFC Events Pick Em Contest: Can Anthony Pettis find his mojo against Stephen Thompson?

UFC Nashville Thopmson vs Pettis Pick Em Contest

MMAWeekly.com and MyBookie teamed up to give MMA fight fans a rewarding and free MMA pick 'em contest. Following the overwhelming response of the first five events, we've decided to keep it going and amp it up a little.

NEXT UP: UFC Nashville, where Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson looks to get back into the title hunt by welcoming former lightweight champion Anthony "Showtime" Pettis to the UFC welterweight division.

As many of you already know, the pick 'em contest is a free and easy way to turn your handicapping skills into cash.

You think you have the skill and the knowledge to pick the winners at this weekend's event – UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ 6: Thompson vs. Pettis? Then go over to https://www.tapology.com/groups/98 and enter your picks and see how you match up and possibly win a prize. See the details below.

If you want to participate, all you have to do is open an account at Tapology, join our group MMAWEEKLY, and make your winning picks for the next UFC event. Prizes are awarded on an event by event basis.

See the details below:

MMA Pick Em Contest with Prizes!

Group Name: MMAWEEKLY

Step 1: Open an account at Tapology.com: https://www.tapology.com/groups/98
Step 2: Join group MMAWEEKLY
Step3: Enter picks for the Current UFC Event.

We plan to run this open MMA pick’em contest under the Group MMAWEEKLY at least through UFC 236 on April 13.

Top 3 leaderboard finishers will win Freeplay bonus money at Mybookie.ag after each event. To receive a prize open a player account at mybookie.ag or https://bit.ly/2Dh88Hl.

Promo code: MMAWEEKLY

Freeplay Prizes to be awarded after each event: 1st $200 (Freeplay), 2nd $100 (Freeplay), and 3rd $50 (Freeplay). Standard Freeplay rollover will apply on the bonus money before it can be cashed out.

Any player who does not finish in the top 3 but goes 10/13 is eligible to claim a $50 Freeplay Prize for hitting such a high win/loss ratio of 76% or better.

Please note: All prizes are awarded in the form of a Freeplay bonus, which means you’ll have to meet the minimum rollover requirement before you can cash it out. The rollover on these contest bonuses is 3x. For example, if you win a $200 Freeplay this means you’ll have to roll it through 3 times putting $600 in action before you can cash it out.

After the event, email editor@mmaweekly.com or affiliates@webpartners.co your player account details. We need both your Tapology username and Mybookie account number to confirm and award the Freeplay prize to your Mybookie account.

Be sure to follow us on twitter at @MybookieMMA and at @MMAWeeklycom for the latest MMA news.

Dana White happy to have Ben Askren in the UFC but still wants Robbie Lawler rematch

Ben Askren UFC 235 octagon interview

Despite Ben Askren’s belief that UFC president Dana White doesn’t like him much, it turns out that the 2008 Olympian has been a welcome addition to the roster.

After trading Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship in exchange for Askren in a blockbuster deal last year, White says Askren has jumped right into the deep end of the welterweight division and there has been a lot of interest in him thus far.

“Askren has been fun,” White told Yahoo! Sports this week. “This guy’s smart, he’s funny, he likes to mix it up with everybody in a fun way, too. So it’s been good. I’m glad he’s here.

“Timing is everything in life and this was the perfect time for Ben Askren to be in the UFC.”

Now as happy as White is with Askren being part of the UFC roster, that doesn’t mean the former Bellator and ONE Champion is going to get to pick his own fights.

As much as Askren has talked about facing fighters such Jorge Masvidal or Leon Edwards after this past weekend’s card in London, White says those aren’t the matchups he’s looking to make.

“I’m trying to make the [Robbie] Lawler rematch,” White revealed. “First of all, that fight was awesome, it was fun, it was controversial but it’s the fight to make right now.”

Askren defeated Lawler at UFC 235 with a first round bulldog choke that came after the start of the fight where he was dumped on his head and blasted with a huge barrage of punches from the former welterweight champion.

Askren staged an incredible comeback to lock on the bulldog choke but just after referee Herb Dean stopped the fight, Lawler popped up and protested the finish because he never tapped and was never fully unconscious from the submission.

In the aftermath, Askren has disagreed that the fight was stopped prematurely but White says because of the controversial ending, he wants the rematch with Lawler to happen.

“Robbie Lawler said the choke was around his ears,” White explained. “So when the ref’s talking to me, his arms are wrapped around my ears, how am I supposed to respond? I gave him the thumbs up. How about the fight (Claudio Silva vs. Danny Roberts) the other night in England that got stopped?

“It’s terrible when that happens. That’s the fight we want to make.”

Conor McGregor continues push for UFC ownership shares

Conor McGregor UFC 229 Pre-Fight Serious

Conor McGregor has a lot of clout when it comes to getting what he wants in regard to his UFC career. The one thing that he hasn't apparently received yet is an ownership stake in the UFC. 

McGregor is one of the highest paid athletes in the world, consistently landing near the top of Forbes' list of the world's highest paid athletes, but he hasn't yet been able to breach the ownership ranks of the UFC. He's cut some tremendous promotional deals for his business ventures outside of the Octagon, namely his Proper No. 12 line of Irish whiskey. 

That hasn't stopped the Irishman for pushing for more. 

While all signs were pointing to a fight between McGregor and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone, talks stalled recently when rumors began circulating that McGregor wouldn't take the fight unless it was a main event. According to him, however, that's not quite the full truth of the matter. He doesn't necessarily want headlining status, he wants his due compensation for driving the promotional train of any fight card he's on, regardless of his positioning in the line-up. 

"I’m ready to fight. I’ve said that, no problem," McGregor said in a video posted by BJPenn.com’s Mike Pendleton. "If the UFC wants me to slide into that co-main event slot and help, what that is, if I slide into the co-main event it’s boosting their brand over fighter rhetoric that they have. There’s no problem with that.

"If they want me to push that, and I have no problem pushing that, give me my rightful shares in the UFC company. That’s all I ask. You can put me on the first fight of ESPN+ but just give me my shares."

McGregor is a rare breed in mixed martial arts, as he has revolutionized the promotion of fights and elevated himself to a superstar status like no other fighter before him. By those facts alone, McGregor has earned a certain place within the company like never before.

TRENDING > Dana White: ‘I’m ready for the Diaz brothers’ to return but they don’t accept fights

But if the UFC opens the door to ownership, it sets a precedent for others to follow. That is likely the hesitation to acquiesce to McGregor's demands.

Does McGregor bring enough value to the brand that the UFC should grant him ownership? That is the question that is soon going to be answered, one way or another.

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Dana White: ‘I’m ready for the Diaz brothers’ to return but they don’t accept fights

UFC president Dana White would love to welcome both Nick and Nate Diaz back to the Octagon but there’s just one underlying problem.

They don’t accept fights.

That’s the word from White, who says he is contractually obligated to offer the Diaz brothers fights in the UFC and has done so constantly over the past few years but claims he’s rarely ever received a positive response.

“So people understand, if you’re under contract with me, I owe you three fights a year,” White explained just recently. “If I don’t get you three fights a year — let’s say I only get you one, I have to pay you for the other two. If I get you two, I’ve got to pay you for the other one. I’ve never paid the Diaz brothers anything because we offer them fights and they don’t accept them.

“If you look at any fighter’s contract, it’s all the same. If you do not accept the fight, you can’t hold me responsible for paying you so we extend your contract. That’s what’s happened.”

Typically speaking, UFC fighter contracts are based on a total number of fights as well as a certain period of time. The UFC is required to offer the athletes a certain amount of fights over a given period of time or the contract expires.

When a fighter turns down a fight or gets injured, further delaying their ability to compete, the UFC will automatically extended the contract, which appears to be what has continued to happen with both Nick and Nate Diaz.

Nate Diaz hasn’t fought since 2016 when he lost a majority decision to Conor McGregor. He was scheduled to return last year in a fight against Dustin Poirier until the bout was scrapped at the 11th hour.

Meanwhile, Nick Diaz has been out of action since facing Anderson Silva at middleweight in 2015.

White adds that he would love to have both of them back in the UFC but there’s no telling when or if that will happen any time soon.

“I’m ready for the Diaz brothers to fight whenever they are,” White said. “When they’re ready, they know all they have to do pick up the phone and call and we’ll get you a fight.”

Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson eyes a faster path back to the title now that Kamaru Usman is champion

Stephen Thompson UFC 209

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson has never given up on becoming UFC champion.

Unfortunately his path back to the title seemed impossibly long after battling Tyron Woodley to a draw in their first fight and then a lackluster decision in the rematch. Further exacerbating his efforts to compete for gold again, Thompson lost a razor-close decision to Darren Till last year that seemingly put a third fight against Woodley out of reach.

Despite the long road back to gold, Thompson was determined to fight for the title again one day even if it meant taking out every welterweight contender thrown in his path.

While he’s still carrying that same mentality today, the 36-year old South Carolina native knows that his ability to compete for the  welterweight title was made easier when Kamaru Usman earned a lopsided victory against Woodley at UFC 235 in early March.

“With a new champion, with a new guy standing there with a belt around his waist, I think it does make it easier for me or a quicker path to that title fight again,” Thompson told MMAWeekly ahead of his return at UFC Fight Night in Nashville. “Now Usman is a different animal. He’s a grinder. He’s got cardio for days. He can fight five, five-minute rounds like it was nothing.Stephen Thompson UFC 217 Media Day

“He is another guy to prepare for but I do think it does make it a little bit easier for a guy like me who has fought for the title twice against the same guy and nobody really wanted to see that third fight again. Now there’s a new title holder, it would be easier for me to get that title shot I believe.”

Even before Usman dethroned Woodley for the title, Thompson was trying to find a top ranked opponent to face him in an effort to get back in that hunt for gold.

Sadly, Thompson struggled to find anybody with a number next to their name who was willing to face him and it left him on the sidelines just waiting for an opponent to say yes to his offer.

“I know everybody is considering me a gatekeeper at this point but a dangerous gatekeeper at that,” Thompson explained. “It is a little disappointing that there are some guys in that division who I think would put on a great fight but then it doesn’t happen.

“I think a lot of these fighters were waiting to see what happened with Tyron [Woodley] and Usman, where the rankings would go, if Tyron was going to win or if Usman was going to win. For a little while my whole division was kind of held up.”

As much as he wanted to face fighters like Robbie Lawler or Santiago Ponzinibbio in his next fight, Thompson ultimately got paired with former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, who is moving up from 155 pounds for this particular challenge.

On paper, Thompson will have the size, reach and power advantage but he’s not discounting what Pettis brings into the cage, especially with so much riding on a win in this main event showcase.

The only way to guarantee another title shot is to keep winning and that’s exactly what Thompson intends to do when he faces Pettis this weekend.

“You’ve got a lot of guys coming up from the 155-pound division and doing work at 170,” Thompson said. “Donald Cerrone, Michael Chiesa just came up and submitted Carlos Condit, who Anthony Pettis submitted. He’s no joke on the ground. He’s a high-level grappler. I think a lot of people underestimate that. I do have to be careful.

“I’m not giving up on that title and I do want to work my way back up to face Usman if he still has it when I get there. I’m not taking Anthony Pettis lightly at all.”

UFC strikes landmark pay-per-view deal with ESPN, extends broadcast deal through 2025

Dana White on UFC-ESPN Deal

The UFC has struck a deal with ESPN+ as the exclusive distributor of pay-per-view broadcasts in the United States through 2025.

The landmark deal was announced on Monday.

As part of the contract, ESPN+ will now become the exclusive home for UFC pay-per-views in the U.S. starting with UFC 236: Holloway vs. Poirier 2 on April 13.

Fans in the United States will only be able to purchase UFC pay-per-views through ESPN+ starting with that card in April with the events being streamed in high definition on the platform. The preliminary cards will remain a staple of regular ESPN broadcasts, which will then lead into the pay-per-views airing on ESPN+.

UFC will continue to sell its pay-per-view events to commercial establishments (such as restaurants, bars, etc who carry UFC cards). 

Along with the new pay-per-view contract, the UFC has also extended its broadcast rights deal with ESPN for an additional two years through 2025 as well.

“Today’s announcement further establishes the strength of the partnership between UFC and ESPN,” UFC President Dana White said in a press release. “Now our fans will be able to watch all UFC events exclusively on ESPN platforms, including ESPN+, which is an innovative way to deliver fights to our young fan base.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work with ESPN for the next seven years. Together we’re going to do amazing things to help grow this sport.”

The new deal also comes along with benefits to ESPN+ subscribers interested in watching the UFC pay-per-views.

“New ESPN+ subscribers will get one-year of ESPN+ and a UFC PPV event for $79.99; Existing ESPN+ subscribers will be able to purchase UFC PPV events for $59.99 per event.”

As part of this new deal, viewers purchasing UFC pay-per-view events will only be able to do so through ESPN+ starting with UFC 236 in April. The events can then be viewed via streaming or directly from the ESPN app on devices such as Amazon Fire, Apple, Android, Chromecast, PS4, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, X Box One and more.

“The extremely successful launch of the UFC on ESPN+ emphatically demonstrated the collective power and scale of ESPN and DTCI, and we couldn’t be more excited to continue to drive passionate fans to these new pay per view experiences," ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. 

Pay-per-view has traditionally been one of the biggest moneymakers for the UFC over the years but this new deal completely changes the landscape for the promotion moving forward.

Just earlier this year, the UFC was in a public dispute with DirecTV over pay-per-view broadcast rights before striking a deal to continue airing events on that format.

Now the UFC will be putting all of their pay-per-views in the United States exclusively on ESPN+ with no other linear formats available for purchase through cable or satellite providers.

Watch Stephen Thompson knock out former champ Johny Hendricks (UFC Nashville free fight)

Stephen Thompson arm raised by John McCarthy

(Courtesy of UFC)

Stephen Thompson continued his climb toward a title shot with a Performance of the Night knockout victory over former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks back in 2016. Thompson faces Anthony Pettis in the main event of UFC Fight Night Nashville on Saturday, March 23.

TRENDING > Backstage Video: Jorge Masvidal busts Leon Edwards open in UFC London brawl

Jorge Masvidal rips Ben Askren, praises Darren Till in wild Twitter storm

Jorge Masvidal UFC 211 Media Day

Following Jorge Masvidal's victory over Darren Till at UFC London this past weekend, he took to Twitter on Monday to field a few questions from fans. 

Among the hottest topics of interest, Masvidal ripped undefeated former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder Ben Askren for balking at a Robbie Lawler rematch and heaped praise on Till.

TRENDING > Ben Askren claims Jorge Masvidal ducking him; Kamaru Usman ducking Colby Covington

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UFC London Fight Highlights: Jorge Masvidal stops Darren Till dead in his tracks

UFC London fight highlights

(Video courtesy of ESPN MMA | Viewing may be limited by broadcast rights restrictions)

Look back at the highlights from every fight at UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal from the O2 Arena in London.

TRENDING > Backstage Video: Jorge Masvidal busts Leon Edwards open in UFC London brawl

Jorge Masvidal capped the night by quieting the London crowd that was staunchly behind countryman Darren Till. Masvidal laid the Englishman out cold with a walk-off knockout in the UFC London main event.

Conor McGregor in negotiations for next fight, targeting summer return to the UFC

Conor McGregor UFC 229 Early Weigh-in

Conor McGregor is ready to book his next fight in the UFC.

This past weekend while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the United States, McGregor revealed that he was in negotiations for his return to action with a summer time return on his schedule.

“We’re currently in negotiations. We’re aiming for July so we’ll see what happens,” McGregor said when speaking to ABC7 in Chicago. “I am staying ready. This morning I was doing incline sprints on the treadmill on my program, the McGregor F.A.S.T. program, staying in a hotel room.

“So we’re staying on it. Getting work in as we go.”

McGregor was rumored for a showdown against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone but that fight apparently fell apart after the UFC wanted the matchup as a co-main event on an upcoming card.

As the biggest draw in the sport, McGregor has seemingly moved past co-main event status even when he’s not competing for a title but it’s impossible to say right now what options have been presented for his next fight.

McGregor has stayed plenty busy over the past couple of weeks while touring the United States.

He made stops in both Boston and Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day while promoting his Proper No. 12 whisky brand not to mention an unfortunate incident in Miami where the former two-division UFC champion was arrested after smashing and grabbing the phone of an onlooker attempting to snap some photos of him.

TRENDING > Video: Recounting Conor McGregor’s second felony arrest in less than a year

McGregor has his next court case scheduled for April 10 to deal with the fallout from that incident.

As for his return to the UFC, McGregor’s timeline in July seems to suggest a date at International Fight Week 2019 in Las Vegas, which is always a marquee card for the promotion every year.

Right now, McGregor will continue to tease his next fight as negotiations continue with the UFC on his return to the Octagon.

(Video courtesy of Chicago's ABC7 | Viewing may be limited by broadcast rights restrictions)