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Floyd Mayweather Twitter feed

Mayweather UFC bound? ‘Money’ says yes

The circus is back in town. Or maybe it never actually went away…

Floyd Mayweather is giving out strong hints of a potential UFC debut after confirming training and intentions of applying for an MMA licence.

We thought the dust had definitely settled from the absolute media beast that was Mayweather-McGregor. The sporting world had reached a consensus that the experiment of putting a 0-0 boxing novice against a 49-0 veteran was financially worth it but, in terms of pure competition, did not live up to its expectations.

Mayweather finished the job in August of last year by stopping Conor McGregor in the tenth round. After countless rumours, whispers, the actual fight itself and its aftermath, here we are again.

In a short but informative interview with TMZ  Sports, Mayweather confirmed his proper mixed martial arts training will commence soon under the tutelage of current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

‘Money’ teased the public with short clips of him in a cage alone and also published a couple of photoshopped MMA related pictures of himself earlier this year, causing serious speculation about his MMA debut.

Same old story

‘It’s just noise and Floyd being Floyd,’ said many following the story. Purists even went as far as implying that Mayweather was just messing with Golden Boy Promotions by trying to hijack the spotlight away from Oscar De La Hoya’s massive Gennady Golovkin versus Canelo Alvarez rematch on May 5.

But with Mayweather’s recent public statements, it’s not just smoke and mirrors anymore. And it wasn’t last time either, when McGregor entered boxing.

‘No way could Mayweather ever step inside a steel cage and take on a professional MMA fighter. However, he’s going to’

The whole narrative is being repeated by Floyd under a familiar blueprint set out by ‘The Notorious.’

First, it was McGregor publishing subtle hints on social media of him in boxing gloves and making public statements about potentially stepping into a ring to box Mayweather for a $100m.

The audience laughed and the media got a great chuckle out of it, too. It was supposed to be just a crazy little thought from McGregor that had nothing to do with reality.

Even when Floyd fired back in the media publicly, we still lived under the belief that it’s just two dogs barking at each other with tight leashes around their necks and a big fence in the middle.

No way could McGregor ever step into a boxing ring and take on a world champion. However, he did.

No way could Mayweather ever step inside a steel cage and take on a professional MMA fighter. However, he’s going to.

Mixed ‘Money’ Arts

As is custom in prizefighting, it comes down to the figures.

The UFC have been struggling recently simply due to its lack of starpower. Former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has switched to professional wrestling, leaving the UFC for WWE.

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is still under investigation over a positive drugs test, and it’s safe to say he won’t be returning anytime soon.

The knight in shining armour is McGregor, and the Irishman has confirmed his return to the octagon for 2018. But he alone is not enough.

Getting Mayweather to step into a UFC cage will cost a pretty penny, but the powers-that-be are willing to pay whatever it costs since they need to be relevant again in mainstream media in the biggest way possible.

It’s another business move that attracts both sides. The boxing audience will undoubtedly want to see what Mayweather can do in a UFC fight. Haters and fans alike will show their interest in hopes of a Mayweather upset victory or a violent defeat.

As for the UFC crowd, it is a chance for some payback. McGregor took the risk and represented the sport when stepping into the lion’s den in Las Vegas last summer.

Mayweather is looking to do the same, potentially later this year, and the MMA hordes will be salivating and dreaming of the boxing great being outclassed in the octagon.

Nothing is set in stone just yet, but all signs and statements from the 41-year-old point towards another mega-fight involving two superstars – just as those powers-that-be probably planned even before the first encounter.

‘I just want people to see me as a good fighter, not a disabled one’

Despite having cerebral palsy, mixed martial arts fighter Jack West aims to turn professional at the end of the year. By which point he says, his doubters will have been forced to accept him.

At the BST MMA Gym in the heart of Northampton town centre is where you’ll find ‘The T-Rex’ five nights a week, practising his skills and gaining respect with each passing fight.

As we sit bare footed on wrestling mats, the thud of blows being landed on a chained heavy bag resonates through a space whose sweat-soaked atmosphere captures years of primal aggression being channelled into physical prowess.

The man responsible for the noise is Jack’s main coach, former World Cage Warriors and British Tae Kwon Do champion Danny Batten, snapping a series of unrelenting low kicks into 180lbs of leather and sand.

West tells me: “My coaches and training partners are the best about. Technically, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone better in the country.”

Physical pain

As well as being his coach, Batten also plays the role of sparring partner from time to time.

Attesting to his ferocious abilities, West speaks of the pain he often endures after training.

“With my condition, I have restricted use of my right side with little range of motion. It’ll usually cause me pain after training, but I’ve never known any different.

“Submission wise, because I don’t have full extension of my right arm, anything on that side I’ll tap to immediately, unlike my left arm where I could possibly twist and wriggle out. I’m not going to risk it.”

‘People don’t want to fight me, and I get it. It’s a lose-lose situation for them’

Despite being born with a hemiplegia of the right side, West has managed to make a name for himself in the amateur ranks of MMA.

With a record of three wins and one loss so far, it’s hard to deny his talent, although some try to.

“People don’t want to fight me, and I get it. It’s a lose-lose situation for them. Losing means they got beat by the guy with cerebral palsy. Win, and it’s only a guy with cerebral palsy. There’s little to gain from their side.”

His solution to this problem? “If I keep working, at some point I’m going to be of the skill level where they’re forced to accept me.

“When I turn pro, I’m going to be there through ability not sympathy, and they’re going to have to fight me.”

Currently, there is no MMA organisation that has disabled-specific platforms for fighters. As a result, West has always trained and fought with abled-bodied competitors and says he’d not have it any other way.

“I don’t want to be known as a disabled fighter. I want people to say ‘he’s a good fighter’ regardless. I want people to see me as a good fighter in spite of my disability.”

Overcoming the odds

Ahead of meeting West, I was slightly nervous and unsure as to how I’d approach the topic of his disability. Rightly or wrongly, I adopted a position of sympathy.

My perception shifted dramatically when after a toilet break, I returned with two packets of dry roasted peanuts for us.

After passing West his and then woefully attempting to open mine, I felt a sudden rush of anxiety and thought ‘I should’ve opened the bloody nuts myself.’ I looked up to find him making light work of the wrapping, utilising his teeth and self-proclaimed ‘piston’ of a left hand.

“I call it the money-maker,” he tells me in jest.

“I know that sounds silly, but my condition is something other fighters don’t have. When we step inside the octagon together, I’m beating you even with cerebral palsy. I have an obstacle to climb that you don’t.

“I’m as good a fighter as anybody that I’ve stepped in there against. I have obvious disadvantages, but I make up for them in other ways. Fighting is what I’m best at.”

Researching cerebral palsy threw up a list of problems associated with the condition including poor co-ordination, stiff and weak muscles, bad posture, problems with balance –  all things you’d assume mitigate against a successful career in combat sports.

West is, however, made of sterner stuff. “Everything you’ve said there is true, but I’m overcoming it.

“I’m just as capable as everyone else. When I first started in MMA, that was exactly what it was – showing I’m just as physically capable as you lot.

“I’m actually good at sport. I can’t kick a ball to save my life, but I’m a good goalkeeper!”

Anxious

Having joined a boxing class with friends at the age of 13, West continued even after his mates lost interest. He then transitioned in MMA and found his “calling”.

“I loved thinking I was the man,” he tells me. “Playing sport (at school) people would say ‘sit down’ or whatever but I knew my potential. I knew I was strong.”

‘I’m not scared, and my mum sees that. She sees that I love it’

Now, if you were to ask most parents which sport they’d least like their child to show an interest in, MMA would probably be right up there. Add in a serious birth defect, and West admits his mother was initially extremely anxious about her son’s passion for fighting.

“When I began training at 13, obviously like most mums she was worried. Like most people, she was unaware that there is an art to mixed martial arts.

“Soon enough, she stopped worrying and just watched. Now she’s a fan of the sport.

“It’s like, if she saw I was scared, then she would be, too. But I’m not scared, and she sees that. She sees that I love it.”

No limits?

Although Jack’s situation is rare, he’s not the first disabled mixed martial artist to fight inside the cage.

Nick Newell, formerly of America’s XFX fight organisation, tasted success when he defeated Eric Reynolds to become champion of the world in their 155lb division, despite being born with a congenital amputation ending below the elbow on his left arm.

Newell is a hero to West, who takes much inspiration from his example.

“He’s someone I look up to massively. We’ve actually exchanged emails on various occasions and he’s wished me luck for upcoming fights and stuff.

“When I was younger, it was a dream of mine to fight him. I’d still love to. We’re basically the same weight.”

In 2015, Newell retired from MMA despite winning a unanimous decision in his final fight. West explained how following the American’s career opened his eyes to his own limitations.

“There’s a ceiling. It’s important to not be deluded about this. He knows, like I know, that there’s a limit to what we can do with our disabilities, and I think he’d reached his.”

Two fights prior to his retirement, Newell lost a bout to Justin Gaethje, a top fighter who currently poses a challenge to UFC superstar Conor McGregor’s lightweight crown. West remembers it vividly.

“It was tough to watch. He obviously took a proper beating, but it goes to show that there really is a gap, and that’s cool.

“I’m not ever going to get lost in the emotion of it and think ‘I’m going to be the next UFC lightweight champion’ or anything. I know what I’ve got.”

Newell held an impressive 9-1 professional record, with nearly all of his victories coming via submission. I, like most, interpreted this as Newell recognising his disadvantage on the feet (having one arm significantly shorter than the other). West’s victories, however, have come via KOs and TKOs.

“Stand-up fighting is what I’m best at. I hit hard, I know that. Everything I’m doing is setting you up to land my big left hand.

“I don’t want to use the ground and for people say I’m just using it because I can’t stand. I’m a good striker and they learn that quickly.”

Perspective

A habitual reader and appreciator of philosophy, West’s outlook and demeanour took me back, admittedly. Articulacy accompanied by a defiant aura, I had no qualms in telling him I felt he’d go far.

“That whole philosophy that Conor McGregor holds of ‘believe in your surroundings’ is one that I share and agree with wholeheartedly. This is a gift.

“You have to love yourself, and every part of you.”

I end our interview by asking where he sees himself in the near future.

“I’m looking to turn professional at the end of the year,” he replies.

“Then from there, I can hand on my heart say I’m going to be world champion. I believe that, absolutely.

“When I retire, maybe I’d like to start something to help others in my situation. I’ve been approached before about teaching a disabled class. That’s something I’d love to do in the future.

“Right now, I’m fighting.”

Notorious poster

As ‘Notorious’ debuts in cinemas, is McGregor losing the plot?

Conor McGregor’s rise from penniless Dublin plumber to UFC bill-topper is the subject of a new feature-length documentary Notorious.

It charts the four years between the Irishman’s UFC debut and his second fight with Nate Diaz; a mixed martial arts rags to riches tale which sets up an eagerly-anticipated third and deciding bout against Diaz in 2018.

‘Notorious’ serves as a testament to the 29-year old’s character, reminding us how far charisma combined with hard work and talent can propel a rising star of the octagon.

Having banked a reported $30m from his August match-up with Floyd Mayweather in the boxing ring, with his reputation enhanced by a decent display against the multiple world champion, the future looked bright for the 29-year-old.

However, McGregor’s recent fracas at the Bellator 187 MMA promotion in Dublin on November 10th has dampened that mood and suggested all may not be well in the Mac’s life.

Chaos

McGregor hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after hurdling into cage at the Bellator event in his hometown to celebrate with the seemingly victorious Charlie Ward.

Referee Marc Goddard had appeared to stop the fight just before the end of the round, after Ward left his opponent John Redmond slumped on the canvas.

But Goddard proceeded to usher McGregor out of the cage, and Ward back to his corner, insisting the fight hadn’t finished.

McGregor made a beeline for Goddard, aggressively shouting and waving his finger whilst being held by officials.

After being removed, McGregor attempted another charge at the cage door calling Goddard a ‘savage’ and demanding the fight be stopped.

Damning footage later released, appeared to show McGregor slapping an official as he tried to remove him from the cage.

Stressed

This isn’t the first time Goddard and ‘The Notorious’ have clashed.

Last month, Goddard had to interrupt a fight between Andre Filli and another one of McGregor’s stablemates Artem Lobov, asking the UFC lightweight champion to sit down and to stop screaming instructions from cage side.

Later that evening, McGregor was filmed backstage consoling the defeated Lobov, calling Filli a ‘faggot’.

This comes after footage surfaced of McGregor acting out of character in a night club, looking visibly stressed as a club-goer reached out to touch him.

Rapid ascent

“The illusion of crazy is over,” McGregor tells his coach John Kavanagh in Notorious, moments after the weigh-in for his second fight against Diaz.

McGregor’s zero-to-hero timeline has certainly been short in scale – and he will make sure you’re aware of it – but it’s entirely possible that his rapid climb has not benefitted him entirely.

It’s ironic that, having adopted a nickname based on his notoriety, he now risks becoming a victim of it.

There is a chance that the huge amount of cash McGregor made in his boxing debut has upset the apple cart somewhat.

Having earned so much for one fight, how difficult is it to return to fighting for a lot less in a more savage sport with a greater risk of serious injury?

McGregor is expected to defend his UFC crown in the lightweight division shortly.

Tony Ferguson currently holds the interim belt, and UFC president Dana White has told the media that “this is the fight to be made”.

Will McGregor defend his belt further his claim to be the best mixed martial artist of all-time?

Or will he be swallowed by fame and the pressures that come with it?

For more information on Notorious, visit the film’s website.

The rise and rise of UFC

Once seen as a brutal, bloody and barbaric sport with murky if not borderline illegal ‘cage fighting’ origins, UFC is now watched by millions around the world.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship was devised to discover the most effective martial art in bouts with minimal rules between competitors from different combat disciplines, and is now the face of mixed martial arts (MMA) — a term first used by TV critic Howard Rosenberg after UFC 1 in 1993.

“23 years after its inaugural event at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, UFC has evolved into a global phenomenon”

Since then, UFC has become the largest promotion company in MMA, absorbing rivals such as Pride, World Extreme Cagefighting, Strikeforce and the International Fight League in the process.

Some 23 years after its inaugural event at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, UFC has evolved into a global phenomenon, sweeping across the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe on its journey to becoming the sporting powerhouse we know it as today.

So why is UFC becoming such a big thing in the UK?

UFC roster

From better accessibility to promotion via social media, there are various explanations to why UFC is gaining more recognition in the UK. But the roster of the number one MMA promotion, ultimately, represents its largest pull.

In recent years, the likes of Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes, have all produced jaw-dropping moments in the most incredible of fights to help put UFC and MMA on the map.

YouTube Preview Image

Likewise, UFC’s roster of exceptional female fighters, which includes Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg to name a few, has also been good advertisement for the brand and sport.

However, two fighters in particular stand out from the rest as individuals who are heavily responsible for UFC’s growth in popularity both in the UK – Conor McGregor and Michael Bisping.

McGregor

McGregor is largely considered right now as one of the best fighters in the UFC and arguably the MMA promotions’ most popular figure among fans.

“McGregor’s behaviour outside the Octagon has helped him transform into a fighter that even non-UFC fans want to follow”

Dublin-born McGregor made his UFC debut in 2013 against Marcus Brimage, instantly making a name for himself after knocking out the American in the first round.

The 28-year-old has since elevated himself to the top of the UFC, reigning as the UFC featherweight champion and featuring in several of UFC’s most viewed fights of all-time.

UFC 194: Aldo v McGregor, UFC 196: McGregor v Diaz and UFC 202: Diaz v McGregor 2, rank as three out of the four most sold UFC pay-per-view cards ever, showing the pulling power the Irishman has brought to Dana White’s organisation.

©Wikimedia Commons

McGregor’s record of 20 wins and three losses, which includes a UFC featherweight championship victory over Aldo after a record (13 seconds) title fight first-round knockout, shows how good a fighter he is and why everyone is eager to watch him in action.

But the fighting skills of ‘The Notorious’ are not the only draw.

McGregor’s behaviour outside the Octagon has helped him transform into a fighter that even non-UFC fans want to follow.

His arrogant persona, X-rated rants and often amusing social media posts, grab the attention of many and sway them towards taking an interest in his career.

Bisping

In addition to McGregor, Bisping, who successfully defended his UFC middleweight championship against Dan Henderson at UFC 204, has played a huge part in helping UFC to increase its fanbase in the UK, having been raised in Manchester.

©Wikimedia Commons: Michael Bisping(L)

But as well as influencing fans, MMA writer Nick Strickland also believes Bisping has had a huge impact on UK-based MMA fighters and has opened a gateway for them as a result of his success.

“I think without Bisping the UK scene and the fighters would not have been given the right opportunities to fight around the world,” Strickland said.

“I’m not saying the other fighters are not good enough and would not have made it, but it was Bisping who brought the attention to the United Kingdom.

“He opened the doors for all the UK fighters as we all saw when he coached in the Ultimate Fighter: Team UK vs. Team USA, a show that was dominated by the UK athletes.”

Other promotions

Thanks to fighters such as McGregor and Bisping, UFC has made its mark in the UK, but Strickland suggests there’s also room for other MMA promotions to gain an audience.

“They [UFC] usually hold about 90% of the talent right now but saying that Bellator MMA has a phenomenal roster of fighters who could give UFC fighters a run for their money on any given day,” the MMA writer said.

“Local shows are where the talent is grown so promotions like Cage Warriors, UCMMA and now ACB Fighting League are super important for the growth of the sport here and around the world. Either one of these promotions, with the right roster of fighters and shows could make its mark in the UK market.”

Since 2009, UFC programming has reached over 1.1 billion television households across the world, according to Forbes.

And while it may not yet be able to produce a fight that could match the viewing figures of a Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao or potential Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko bout in boxing, UFC’s popularity continues to grow within the UK and around the rest of the world.

Featured Image: ©BogoGames

Mamadaliyev eyes MMA greatness

It has been a while since Ilyaz Mamadaliyev set foot in the derelict warehouse in Dayton, Ohio, where he trained for many years.

Back then, he was a boy dreaming of MMA stardom. Now he is a promising young fighter determined to turn his big ambitions into reality.

In the intervening period, things have changed considerably for Russian-born Mamadaliyev, who has grown from a timid, bullied youngster with depression to become a fledgling talent with the potential to become a UFC powerhouse.

The 18 year old is happy to bide his time. He has gained plenty of attention since his MMA debut in July, but that does not mean he wants to take shortcuts to get to the top.

Putting Ahiskans on the map

Mamadaliyev grew up in the Russian village of Kolos in a family of Ahiskan Turkish heritage. He emigrated to the United States with his parents and siblings aged eight.

It pains him that so few people have any awareness of his culture, but hopes to put it on the map by making history in the UFC.

“As a group of people, we are not well known,” says Mamadaliyev. “I get a little perplexed and surprised when people are not aware of what and who Ahiskan people are.

“I want to be the first Ahiskan in the UFC to win a fight and stay in the UFC.

“I believe I can show something new as a fighter. My personality will ensure that a lot of people support me, and fingers crossed that I provide special moments for my people in the future.”

Racial abuse

Yet the first steps on the road to stardom have not been plain sailing.

As the presidential race in America between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton hots up, Mamadaliyev has experienced instances of Islamophobic behaviour, fuelled at least in part he believes by Trump’s views.

“I love America because it is the land where everyone has opportunities”

However, he insists he has become stronger for it.

“Back in September, I was discriminated against for my religion. It was the first time I had experienced such abuse in the US.

“I was at a Chinese restaurant with my cousin (Eldar, 26) and my two younger brothers aged 10 & 16. As we sat down at a table and started to eat, I noticed that a man and his wife were sitting a table away from us. The individual started eyeing us up and started shouting things like ‘Look at those Muslim goat fuckers’.

“The man went up to get his food and I felt this vibe from him as if he had so much hatred in his eyes and was eager to start a fight. I felt very bad in this moment.”

A less mature head on a young fighter’s  shoulders might have lost his cool, but the 18-year-old insists it was crucial he kept calm.

“I knew the guy wanted to fight me,” says Mamadaliyev, “but I was not going to hit him because I know that if I touched him it would hamper my career prospects.

“He continued to shout things like ‘They should go back to their own fucking country’, but I remained calm. After I left the restaurant, I thought about the incident the whole night but then I remembered that one man’s actions does not mean everyone is the same.

“I love America because it is the land where everyone has opportunities. If I lived in Russia, I would never have become a fighter so I will continue to grow and become a better person.”

Family

In a fledgling career including just a handful of fights so far, he insists he has gained a new level of maturity and responsibility, and offers gratitude to his loved ones.

“Without my family I would be nothing – they complete my life”

“Family is so important to me,” says Mamadaliyev. “I love having a family of eight people, living in one house.

“My grandma, parents, aunt, cousin and two brothers complete my life. I have promised them a new house in a good neighborhood once I have turned professional.

“My cousin Eldar did not have the opportunity to fight in the cage and since I do, I am dedicating it to him.

“Without my family I would be nothing. My dad Zakir, helps me sell my tickets but my mother and aunt avoid the fights because they are scared to see me get hurt.

“They pray for me to come out healthy but that’s part and parcel of the fighting game. What does not kill you, makes you stronger.”

Mamadaliyev alongside his mother and aunt

Debut win 

Mamadaliyev, speaks eloquently as he discusses his scintillating debut win in a performance that was highly praised within the amateur ranks.

That bout in Dayton saw him earn victory in a brutal manner as the youngster bloodied his more experienced opponent to seal a unanimous decision.

“It was the best moment in my career so far,” he says, laughing happily at the recollection.

“I had a great training camp and my fight was literally a day after my birthday, so I was excited to give myself a present. I showed up to the weigh-in and saw my opponent for the first time.

“From what I remember, he was a lot taller and much older. I believe he must have been about 28 years old. We had a stare down and I looked him in the face and I smiled.

“Although, I am just becoming an adult, I have big plans. I do not fear anyone and there was no way I was going to lose that fight.

“I got hit a couple of times but I knew that was needed in order to win, and by the end of it I had my hand raised.”

Depression

Nicknamed the ‘Turkish Assassin’, Mamadaliyev struggled with his confidence at school and negative experiences left him suffering from depression.

“There was bullying happening all over the place,” he recalls. “I was always quiet and I hated violence, so people would take advantage of me.

“I hated bullies but I never confronted them and this meant I did not train enough and at one point back in

Mamadaliyev alongside his training team

2015, I was out of shape and weighed 195lbs. I gained 50lbs because I was stressing about life and my anxiety and depression got the better of me.

“I believe leaving everything behind in Russia including my family was what caused this stress, but in theory it is what has made me stronger today.

“God puts you through life situations and when you get past them it means you were capable and strong enough, and for that I will forever be thankful.”

Support

With hopes of emulating UFC megstars such as Conor Mcgregor, Mamadaliyev says he is delighted with the support and confidence he has gained from well wishers within the sport.

“The fans are the ones that drive me on. I’ve got 50,000 or so followers on Twitter and 30,000 followers on Instagram, and every one of those fans motivate me with their comments and messages.

“It makes me happy that so many people know me.

“Many fans and coaches in have compared me to the ‘Notorious One’ (Mcgregor) because of my movement and kicks, but that man is a legend and I would never compare myself to him.

“It just makes me happy to know that I am doing something right and people are cheering me on.”

Achieving history 

A product of Dayton’s Heated Combat MMA training centre, Mamadaliyev has grown in the fight game, and you could be forgiven for wondering if he has experienced too much too soon.

However, his maturity is steering him on the right path as he aims to climb up MMA ladder and eventually make his mark amongst the sport’s elite.

“I hope to become a big name and a world champion”

“I am focused on my goals, and the only thing in my head right now is that I want to turn professional before the end of 2017,” insists Mamadaliyev.

“This is my life. I want to start making this my living, and once I have graduated from high school next year, I will take a month or two to fly out to a top MMA gym.

“I hope to become a big name and a world champion. I have one shot in this industry and I am going to do everything to ensure that I end up being a success. Failing is not an option for me so the only way is up.”

Follow Mamadaliyev on Twitter @Official_ilyaz