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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.

Overpriced and underwhelming – the UK’s UFC fans are suffering

This year’s London UFC event took place at that mecca of commercial extortion, the O2 arena. 

And the venue continued its tradition of crippling prices, a pain only paralleled by the card’s mediocrity.

For the longest time, UK mixed martial arts (MMA) has been a respected marketplace for the UFC, having produced thoroughbred fighters such as Brad Pickett, Michael Bisping, and more recently Darren Till – all of them participating in the narrative of the charismatic and outspoken Brit.

However, the announcement of this year’s London UFC card had many fans feeling undervalued.

Upset at the lack of notable names, having anticipated the possible retirement fight of Bisping, or even a title eliminator for Liverpool’s up-and-comer Till.

Instead, what fans were presented with was an assortment of unranked British fighters – aside from Jimi Manuwa largely unrecognisable – and the prospect of having to pay £14.50 for a burger and cheap lager; an unwelcome expense having already paid £60-£200 for seats.

The night was a less-than spectacular affair considering the price of tickets, but probably worth the trip all the same – the rematch between South London’s Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blaschowitz being the saving grace.

Hindsight

Having previously suffered a defeat to Manuwa in his native Poland, Blaschowitz avenged the loss with a beautiful display in the co-main event; cutting clean angles and dominating all three rounds behind a stiff jab, earning himself a deserved decision victory.

It wasn’t, however, without a fight. Having only won their previous contest via the judges, Manuwa expressed his desire to right the only decision victory of his career with a knockout this time around.

Speaking to the BBC, he said. “My coaches told me a win’s a win, no matter how you do it. But I wasn’t happy. He’s the only decision win on my record, and I plan on rectifying that.”

A ruthless intent that shone through in the fight, both seemingly rocking the other at points, but neither able to close the show.

In hindsight, maybe the UFC brass would’ve bumped this light-heavyweight bout to top of the bill, considering the calibre and the fact that both looked fairly fresh getting off the stool.

The question is raised however, with this being the second time the pair have left it up to the judges: would a main-event slot and ultimately an extra two rounds have affected the result at all?

Mauna’s bloody defeat on home soil sets up the potential for a third match held at a neutral location in the future, whilst wetting our appetite for the final fight of the night.

The ceremonial weigh-in to our main-event saw Russia’s well represented Alexander Volkov, tower over Brazil’s heavyweight pride by four inches when they finally faced off.

Stood before a London crowd, Fabricio Werdum recognising his opponent’s stark height advantage, jokingly leapt onto a chair; briefly restoring his usual domineering superiority whilst reclaiming poll position in the battle of wits.

Shot at the title

To the fighters; maybe just a touch of playful showmanship to calm pre-fight jitters. To fans; an unwelcome reminder that our main-event lacks any kind of palpable magnitude.

What materialised the day following, was the former heavyweight champ Werdum persisting in his attempts to drag his 6ft 7” opponent to the floor where he would utilise his BJJ black-belt to a finish.

Although being largely successful in his take-downs, Werdum was unable to mount any credible threat from the ground – ending back on his feet more often than not.

Having dealt with most of Werdum’s attacks, the Russian began utilising his five-inch reach advantage, keeping on the outside and continuing to fight long before eventually stopping the 40-year-old veteran in the fourth round.

The victory extends Volkov’s UFC win streak four-fights-wide, being credited with performance bonuses for two of those.

Which beckons the question: is the Russian ready for a shot at the title?

Yes, a finish in the main event. But what did you expect from heavyweights? The card was still sub-standard, crying out for a name of some stature.

To some parts of the world, more prominently North America, UFC events are a regular occurrence.

Like the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, they’re guaranteed five pay-per-view cards a year with the same assurance.

Pitfalls

Unfortunately, for most countries in Europe, being satisfied with a couple of Fight Nights, a possible Manchester card (if you reside in England) and late night/early morning viewings is something we’ve had to come to terms with.

The justifying to family or housemates why a 2pm Sunday surfacing is out of necessity and not laziness is something that will never sit well with us.

The countless Saturday nights spilled over to Sunday mornings have proven on more than one occasion to be the catalyst for a debate over, ‘Why you can’t just record it and watch it in the morning?’ – they don’t understand.

Despite all of these pitfalls, we persist. We persist as fans of the sport and in the faith that our market will never be depreciated, that the quality of our annual London card will remain sacred. And that CM Punk remains British-visa-less.

And that maybe the UFC can make it up to us in the future? We wait patiently across the pond…

mmajunkie.com

Does positive drug test signal the end for Jon Jones?

“Suck one” is the message Jon Jones tweeted to his ‘haters’ last week; a sentiment he has shared throughout his career with anyone who suggests  he is not a clean fighter.

However, the UFC star may have incriminated himself during a recent California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) hearing.

Awaiting punishment for a failed drug test, the former champion admitted to having his management forge signatures on documents relating to anti-doping enforcement.

At the age of 30, and with his career dogged by plenty of other controversies, Jones’s time among MMA’s elite might well be ended by a lengthy ban.

This latest episode relates to a positive urine sample he submitted prior to his eagerly anticipated rematch with Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 of last year.

Appearing before a panel of six CSAC commissioners, Jones appeared visibly nervous.

Having only returned from a 12-month drugs suspension last summer, he’s all too familiar with being on the ropes (to use a boxing metaphor).

The hearing resulted in his licence being revoked, but Jones was told he can re-apply for in a year. To get it back, Commissioner Shen-Urquidez said the CSAC would need to see evidence of rehabilitation.

However, Jones also has to answer to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which might well decide that he deserves a ban of up to four years.

So how exactly how did metabolites of the anabolic steroid turanibol get into his urine?

Sitting in front of his manager, wearing a plain white polo and the look of ‘It wasn’t me’, Jones requested that he begin with a statement before stumbling and quickly changing his mind.

“I’m sorry it’s just… where do I start?” he asked plaintively.

Instead, Team Jones decided his attorney Howard Jacobs would ask him a series of questions about the weeks leading up to and following the test.

“You can call me many things; a party boy, a wild man, a knucklehead… but being a cheater is something I’ll never admit to,” the two-time UFC light-heavyweight title-holder said. “[It’s]…something I’ll never say that I am.”

Controversy

Jones has been before his fair share of these panels. His rap sheet also includes hitting a pregnant woman in his car and then fleeing the scene in April 2015.

There’s no doubting he is a substantial talent, but one that’s been hampered over the years by a severe lack in judgement.

The youngest of the three brothers, his talent undoubtedly has strong genetic foundations; his siblings are both NFL players.

A supreme athlete and technician inside the cage, Jones finds the perfect balance between crazy and calculated, speed and strength. He has is possessed by an overwhelming and incessant urge to win.

Having never been beaten in the octagon, aside from a disqualification to Matt Hamill, perhaps aligning himself with the laws of the land was always going to be his greatest challenge.

Jones and Mr Jacobs shared a fairly unconvincing back and forth, outlining the dubious precautions that his team took in the lead-up to the Cormier fight, before handing over to the panel.

The cross examination indicated quite clearly the commission’s wishes. They wanted to see Jones point towards an explanation, some sort of reasoning as to why he tested positive – if conscious consumption of the substance was as ridiculous as he suggested.

Jones failed to make a compelling case, however. At one point even suggesting sabotage from inside his circle. Surely not?

His answer to most of the questions was to repeatedly deny ever taking the drug, citing “common sense” as his key disposition. Although CSAC executive officer Andy Foster expressed sympathy, he made his point well with a pithy“…and yet, here we are.”

Interrogation

In hindsight, Jones’s testimony was destined for a squeeze into submission the moment commissioner Martha Shen-Urquidez’s took the mic.

She began her questioning with a polite “Good morning, Mr Jones,” accompanied by a wry smile.

What followed was a damning assessment on what she described at one point as “a continual lack of diligence and responsibility”.

Clearly having done her homework, the commissioner pitched hard balls for the best part of 30 minutes.

“The UFC gave you a Bentley. Which you wrapped round a utility pole. Correct?”

Oh, Jon. I’d actually forgotten about that one.

She even had the UFC’s unconquerable talent admit to having never disclosed 10 supplements to USADA, despite him signing a document specifying that he had. The supplements only came to light when submitted for banned substance testing, post-positive test.

“You’re saying all 10 supplement weren’t listed? Probably like fish oil and protein?” said Jones.

“… and endura, melalite and…” continued Shen-Urquidez.

“Very healthy things people should take,”  Jones mumbled nervously.

Incrimination

The last line of a shaky defence crumbled when a thread of questioning intended to rob Jones of his ‘USADA-oblivious narrative’, led to the assertion that Jones, in fact, took part in an online USADA training programme.

His response was: “I’m going to be honest with you guys. I never did that. My management did that for me.”

Cut to Jones’s manager sat behind him, now looking rather uncomfortable.

“I’m just here to be super honest and open with you guys,” he added.

When Jones was asked to clarify whether the signature had been forged on his behalf, he confirmed this.

His intention seemed to be to over-compensate with honesty in the hope it would equate to leniency from the commission. But with the definitive USADA hearing into his case to be held within the next few weeks, this strategy was questionable.

Despite imposing a maximum fine of $205,000 and revoking his licence, ultimately the Commission’s verdict seemed to be that of faith in USADA’s process and final judgement.

It will be the second time the Agency and Jones have collided in as many years, typically meaning the doubling of a previous sentence. Which in this case would suggest a four-year suspension in the prime of his career.

Would a 34-year-old Jones be able to reclaim his mantle?

It is, however, USADA policy that mitigating and aggravating factors are considered in a case of this nature. However, it’s hard to imagine Jones’s admission to having had his management complete his online training has helped his cause.

Change

“Have you considered a change in management?”

It was clear from the commission’s comments that any sign of character rehabilitation would’ve gone a long way.

Instead when questioned on the subject, Jones appeared lost in the line of questioning. Commissioner John Carvelli echoed that point and suggested a crack in his foundations.https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwifzduJ98vZAhUHBMAKHRX9D5sQjB16BAgAEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.reviewjournal.com%2Fsports%2Fmma-ufc%2Fformer-ufc-champ-jon-jones-license-revoked-in-california%2F&psig=AOvVaw2YdZOhNaN5t-4nUW4KnkZA&ust=1520016345175429

“You’ve been asked time and time again to show evidence of changes you’ve made based on the things that keep happening to you. I see no changes.

“Have you considered a change in management?”

Jones turned to his manager and joked about his sacking.

“Yes, I have actually. A few times.”

Jones’ flippant nature seems to be the bedrock of his problems. His lack of preparation and whimsical approach may well have buried his career this time.

An inability to see past the end of his nose and take responsibility for his actions may have cost him the “immortality” we hear him speak of increasingly.

Talk of heavyweight title fighting has cooled and a ‘super fight’ with Brock Lesnar may now just be an opportunity missed.

But rest assured that Jones’ ‘the fairies did it’ argument won’t hold up in front of USADA.

‘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.

Bring on Bisping, says Bellew

Boxing and UFC could be on for another high-profile showdown after Tony Bellew and UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping agreed on Twitter to go head to head 

While there are plenty of questions to be answered over how and under what rules the fight could actually happen, Bellew says he is not afraid of entering the UFC world.

The Liverpudlian is currently fully focused on his rematch against David Haye at London’s O2 Arena on December 17, whilst Bisping is preparing to fight Georges St Pierre at Madison Square Garden on November 4. 

But Bellew, the WBC emeritus world cruiserweight champion, still has fellow Briton Bisping in his sights.

“Michael [Bisping] wants to fight me in a boxing ring, which would be absolutely ridiculous,” he told me. “I do not want to render someone unconscious in 20 seconds. That does not appeal to me.”

Advantage

Around the time of the year’s most talked-about fight, when unbeaten multiple world champion Floyd Mayweather boxed UFC’s Conor McGregor in Las Vegas in August, Bellew met with the owners of the UFC and let them know he means business.

‘I would wrestle with Michael Bisping all day long. It would not be an issue. It would not be a problem’ – Tony Bellew

“If you are paying, I’m playing. If he wants to do it, I’ll do it. I was willing to go in a cage,” said the 34-year-old, who stopped Haye in 11 rounds last March.

“I met with some of the guys from the UFC while in Vegas, but not with Dana [White, President of the UFC] personally. I met with the owners of the UFC [WME-IMG, owners of the UFC]. They say to me ‘Are you serious, would you get in a cage?’ and I said ‘I would strangle Michael Bisping in a cage’.”

Bellew’s supreme confidence stems in part from his size advantage.

“I fight at 200lbs usually. I’m not stupid. I couldn’t play with Jon Jones [UFC light heavyweight champion]. The guy would choke me and pull one of my arms out within seconds. But If I was to get in the octagon with Michael Bisping at 185lbs… he ain’t beating me in the octagon or a boxing ring.

“How is he going to beat me? What’s he known for? A fantastic cardiovascular system. He’s a running machine. He’s got amazing cardio. He outworks guys. He sometimes outstrikes guys.

“His strength is his work rate. His strength isn’t wrestling or jiu-jitsu. I would wrestle with Michael Bisping all day long. It would not be an issue. It would not be a problem.”

Opening

Bisping, 38, was famously knocked out by MMA veteran Dan Henderson back in 2009. It is one of the most famous highlight reel KOs in MMA and UFC history. But Bellew promised to deliver a better finish should the opportunity present itself.

“You think the Henderson knockout that he received was bad? Mine would be twice as bad. He would be out for a good 10 minutes, not 10 seconds,” said former WBC world cruiserweight champion.

In reality, a fight between the two is a long way off and, at this point, almost impossible to make.

But if there’s an opening and the money as well as the timing is right, Bellew says he will do it in 2018.

“If the UFC/IMG show me same digits as boxing, I would go into the cage happily,” he stated.

How a pursuit of mastery turned Osipczak away from the UFC

It’s June 20th, 2009. ‘Slick’ Nick Osipczak forces Frank Lester to tap-out in the first ever UK v US Ultimate Fighter series in the United States. His unique submission move sees his name echo around the MMA community and reach the ears of the UFC.

Despite not making it past semi-finals of the competition, more performances in a similar vein to the one against Lester earn Osipczak a UFC contract.

Fast-forward a few months; Osipczak wins his first UFC fight and goes on to compete in four more after that until November 2010. That was his last fight in the UFC – a split decision loss to Duane Ludwig.

But why exactly did the British welterweight of Polish descent, who showed such promise, just vanish? After all, his combined MMA and UFC record was a positive 6-3 (as per Sherdog).

The decision

Nick recounts his first ever UFC win: “I just found myself in that situation [winning a UFC fight], it wasn’t a lifetime goal or anything like that.

“In fact, I would more likely have been thinking to myself around that time, ‘how did I come to be here, doing this?!’. One thing for sure is I knew I wouldn’t be like the majority of fighters who would compete continuously for as long as they could until their bodies gave up on them and had taken too many head shots.”

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Nick pounds on Matt Riddle for his second UFC win [image courtesy of Dave Mandel]
But the question remains – why did he just disappear with such a promising career beckoning? He makes a revealing comment.

“As UFC is first and foremost an entertainment business, it’s difficult to train optimally when you have to answer to their beck and call,” said Osipczak.

The key word in that sentence is “optimally”, as it helps explain what happened next.

Upon leaving UFC, Osipczak embarked on a journey to learn and master the internal arts – or more specifically, Tai-Chi Ch’uan.

This spiritual martial art that focuses heavily on mind, body and soul is one of the most demanding arts in the world and demands pure dedication from its students.

What began as a hobby has now consumed Osipczak’s life as a fighter – not only is he still a student, but he also teaches.

“We [students] are drawn to the feeling of ‘oneness’ that is experienced during complete presence of the moment.” says Osipczak. “For me, the Internals are a more direct route towards understanding the essence of the inter-connected workings of the mind, body and spirit.”

His devotion to learning the craft and its inner-workings is rare to see in someone previously involved in an activity which, by his own admission, was part of the entertainment business but with real blood.

“Cutting weight, fighting when and where they say, and doing the promotion side of things – it’s difficult to balance,” he said.

“For me, mastery is a life-time pursuit, whereas you only get a few shorts years to compete in the Octagon. I cannot say anyone has or will stop me from achieving mastery of the Martial Arts – the choice is mine.”

Tai-Chi Ch’uan

Osipczak is seen as one of the first fighters to develop the art of Tai-Chi within professional MMA, which has been showcased in his most recent fights outside the UFC.

Although Nick has been fighting professionally on and off since 2015, he isn’t tied to one specific competition or industry.

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Nick demonstrates some moves [image courtesy of Raised Spirit]
Carrying an entire art in a professional environment is an achievement that brings with it a lot of pressure for someone still trying to master the craft.

“Of course it [using Tai-Chi professionally] means there is a great responsibility on my shoulders, should I chose to contemplate that side of things too much,” Osipczak says, laughing.

But behind the laughter is someone with a deep respect for Tai-Chi and a hunger to absorb every part of its wisdom.

Tai-Chi Chu’an is said to have been created in 12th century China by Zhang Sanfeng and has since become one of the nation’s five most important martial arts, along with the likes of Kung-Fu.

The modern day version is practiced both as a means of self-defence but also for personal health, as it is viewed as a way of loosening muscular and bone-related pains, and burning fat.

Accuracy

There is a misconception that Tai-Chi is a martial art that is trained leisurely – something that pensioners incorporate as part of their daily stretching routine – but the execution of the art as self-defence can be brutal.

The focus is on eliminating the distinction between offence and defence, with each movement being powerful and all the while remaining rooted and balanced.

Essentially, that can make a fighter far more efficient inside the octagon – giving them an advantage over their opponent.

“I do not believe any one style or system holds a monopoly on knowledge. However, compared to my training before embarking on my Tai-Chi journey, more emphasis was given to the ‘softer’ side of training, with balance always at the forefront of the mind, and longevity as one of the primary goals,” said Osipczak.

When speaking, Osipczak gives off a vibe of gentleness and intelligence rare in sporting figures. He speaks like a master of the arts; a quote-machine in his own right.

Better fighter

While the 31-year-old values personal development over a career with the UFC, it was interesting to hear how he rates his previous career.

“Iron sharpens iron, as they say. I was only 3-0 as a professional fighter when I entered the UFC, and had only been training in MMA for four years. Being thrown in with the sharks is a good way to learn how to swim,” he says.

“I have started to see my career more in terms of how many people can I have a positive effect on during my lifetime”

“In terms of professional fighting, competing for the UFC is widely acknowledged to be the pinnacle. However, how well I did battling other men will carry little weight as I approach my death bed, and so I have started to see my career more in terms of how many people can I have a positive effect on during my lifetime.”

But, the million-dollar question remains: will the fighter formerly known as ‘Slick’ Nick ever return to the octagon?

“I don’t know. I feel I am still a few years away from reaching my peak. I am happy with the rate I am currently improving, and am putting a lot of my time and energy into raising my family and teaching workshops.

“If I do return to competition, it will be to represent the Internal Arts, and demonstrate their superior efficiency,” he asserted.

Teacher

Tai-Chi Ch’uan’s health benefits mean it is growing in popularity in the UK. But Osipczak is not one for forcing it on people.os

“I try not to see things in terms of what people should or shouldn’t do – simply, when the student is ready, the teacher appears,” he says.

“But I’m sure Tai Chi will explode in popularity over the next few years, not too dissimilar to the way yoga has done before.”

Osipczak also admits that teaching still the best way of learning, which is why both are so important to him.

“Much of my enjoyment and fulfilment comes from furthering my competence of Tai-Chi Ch’uan, so for me it is a bonus that I can share the benefits of it with so many others,” said Osipczak.

Supernova

supernovaIn his first career, the 31-year-old was known as Slick Nick. But now, he is looking to develop a new persona and nickname for his on-going journey representing the Internal Arts.

“When I returned to competition after a five-year break, I knew I was a completely different fighter to the one that had competed before so ‘Slick’, no longer seemed appropriate.

“I knew a new one would pop up organically, and the day before my fight, I saw the photo hanging in my hotel room, labelled ‘Supernova’ – I knew a fit had been found.”

Much like a supernova, Osipczak will be hope his career continues to shine with unparalleled brightness.

You can find Nick’s classes here [http://raisedspirit.com/index.html]. He will also be hosting workshops in Goa (February) and Oxfordshire (June).

 

 

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Pickett relishing underdog status

Nothing in the fight world is more endearing than the lifer who has toiled in the shadows, dreaming of that one shot at greatness. 

Britain’s Brad Pickett gets his ‘Rocky’ moment next month when he faces former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber.

Pickett is skilled and resilient, and his December 17th showdown in Sacramento is the chance for him to throw a spanner in the works, with Faber planning a final victory before hanging up his gloves in front of his hometown crowd.

As Pickett enters the octagon in Sacramento’s new downtown arena, he will be alone under the lights and a long way home.

The atmosphere will be raucous as thousands of shirtless men sing for Faber under a swaying thicket of upraised arms.

Underdog 

Faber (33-10) enters the bout riding the toughest stretch of his lengthy mixed martial arts career.

The 37 year old, nicknamed the ‘California Kid’ has struggled in his previous fights and has only sandwiched a victory over Frankie Saenz before losing to Frankie Edgar, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and most recently Jimmie Rivera at UFC 203.

Pickett, meanwhile, is just as desperate as his American counterpart as the East Londoner risks being trapped in a spiral of defeat, having lost four of his last five bouts.

The slugger was submitted via triangle choke against Iuri Alcantara at UFC 204 in Manchester, and a win over Faber is of huge importance according to the 38-year-old.

“This fight is huge for me,” admits Pickett. “I want to cause an upset – I’m a professional fighter and that’s what I’ll look to do always.

“There’s no pressure on me… I’m just focused on turning up and spoiling his party”

“I have to come forward a lot but I’m in a situation where I’ll be a massive underdog and fighting him in his hometown.

“But I think I can impose myself on anyone against the world. Faber should be worried about my power and he’s going to try to grapple and wrestle me but I need to focus on my wrestling defence a little bit.

“I’m confident and I feel I can knock him out. We have the same style and we’ve been in the fight game a long time, so there’s not a lot of things we haven’t seen before. I think it’ll be a competitive fight.

“Faber is retiring as well so everything will be all about him, so I’m basically going there to make the numbers up. There’s no pressure on me and I like that because I’m not there for him. I’m just focused on turning up and spoiling his party.”

Preparation 

Nicknamed ‘One Punch’, Pickett is known for an exciting style that has garnered him seven WEC/UFC fight night bonuses, including five ‘Fight of the Night’ honours.

Pickett (25-12) is one of the UFC’s most likeable fighters but after talking to key players Dana White and Sean Shelby about not being at the forefront of the company as he’d like, the fight against Faber got arranged swiftly.

“I spoke to Dana White about not being in the main picture as I would have liked to be,” says the 38-year-old.

“Then the next day Sean Shelby gave me a call and we discussed my fight against Iuri Alcantara and then at the end of the call he asked if I wanted to fight Faber next month in Sacramento.

“I was ecstatic and instantly thought it would be a great opportunity to test myself against an opponent like Faber.”

His preparation for the contest has been gruelling but Pickett says he is in really great shape ahead of the fight.

“Training is going really well,” he says. “It’s the first time I’ve gone from fight schedule to fight schedule and I’ve been in really good shape.

“I was obviously already in great shape from my last fight against Alcantara but now it’s just a case of ticking over and recharging the batteries a little bit.

“I’ve done a lot of my camp here in the UK and I will finish my camp in America so things are going nicely.”

Regrets 

Pickett still harbours regrets about his loss to Alcantara at UFC 204. The fight was a great spectacle for the fans, but in hindsight the Brit believes it was a one he shouldn’t have taken.

The former Cage Rage British Featherweight champion accepts that fighting a southpaw of Alcantara’s ability was a mistake.

“The fight was a tough one for me,” he admits. “I always knew that I didn’t like southpaws. I’d never fought one before.

“Whenever I trained with a southpaw, I wasn’t fond of it, and I had to train hard for the [Alcantara] match-up.

“I didn’t understand how much of a completely different game it was. I was up for the challenge before but I would never fight a southpaw again.”

Striking style 

Things could have turned out differently as Pickett had been scheduled to fight Henry Briones, but his opponent picked up an injury. He admits that he wanted to fight so badly that he wasn’t really bothered about who it was against.

Pickett alongside boxing and UFC journalist Gareth A Davies

“The fight wasn’t for me. The striking style was hard and he’s massive but I would never turn down a fight regardless.

“After Briones pulled out, I got offered three other fights.

“I said yes to them all but they started pulling out as it got closer to fight night, I thought man I need to get a fight booked. I then got offered Iuri and I said fuck it, I’ll take it.

“I was in camp getting ready for a fight and I wanted to make sure I had one, so I wasn’t in a position where I was going to say no to anyone.

“The fight was the worst possible outcome. I’ve lost fights before but I didn’t get a chance to do anything and that really sucked so I was happy to get straight back in there with this fight against Faber.”

Ambitions 

Pickett’s will to win still burns brightly after a long career in which he has given his all and earned notable wins against the likes of Demetrious Johnson, acknowledged as one of the best fighters in the world.

His fight against Faber will earn him the chance to shock the world again and Pickett insists that he will leave everything in the octagon on fight night.

“My style has always been the same,” he says. “I’ve always gone for it and I will again against Faber. I’m definitely going to get to work and keep the pressure on him.

“I want to use my brute power and hopefully put on a good show in front of the American public. My main objective is to win and spoil Faber’s party and once the fight is over, I just want to spend some time with my family and enjoy the festive period.”

You can follow Brad Pickett on Twitter and Instagram at @One_Punch

Five successful sporting switches

We all have an occasional urge to do something new to freshen up our lives, and trying out a new sport is one way of doing it.

But imagine if that urge could lead to a potentially lucrative and dazzling new career when you’re already made a name for yourself as a sportsman.

The most recent star to switch from one sport to another is former Bundesliga goalkeeper Tim Wiese, who made a successful WWE pro-wrestling debut in Munich.

We look at five other moves that paid off.

5. Andrew Flintoff – from cricket to boxing to cricket

Flintoff strikes a pose. Pic by Adam Cool© , flickr creative commons

Many cricketers have shown their talents for other sports. Dennis Compton, for example, played 78 Tests for England but also had a successful career as a footballer with Arsenal.

England legend Sir Ian Botham also played football whilst playing Test cricket, while South Africa’s Jonty Rhodes played hockey and was actually selected to represent his country at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

A more recent familiar example is Andrew Flintoff’s decision to try professional boxing after retiring from cricket. The former England all-rounder made his pro debut in Manchester 2012 against Richard Dawson from the US.

It ended successfully for Flintoff as he won the fight, which was filmed as part of a TV documentary about his switch from the pitch to the ring.

However, ‘Freddie’ decided to quit while and he was ahead opted instead to make a cricketing comeback.

He came out of retirement to compete for Lancashire in the 2014 Natwest T20 Blast, and also went to Australia later that year to play in the Big Bash for the Brisbane Heat, before finally calling it a day.

4. Adam Gemili – football to athletics

Team GB sprint star Adam Gemili’s footballing career started at Chelsea as a youth player since at the age of eight, and he went on to ply as a defender for Dagenham & Redbridge and Thurrock FC.

Maybe he suspected deep down that soccer stardom was out of his reach, so he opted to develop his other talent – for running fast – instead and left football behind in favour of athletics in 2012.

His most successful achievement on the track to date came at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when he finished second in the men’s 100m final.

Still only 23 years of age, he’s surely on course to add to his medals tally on the international stage in the next few years.

3. Fabien Barthez – from football to motorsport

MOTORSPORT - GT TOUR 2012 - PAUL RICARD - LE CASTELLET (FRA) - 26 TO 28/10/2012 - PHOTO : FLORENT GOODEN / DPPI - BARTHEZ FABIEN - TEAM SOFREV ASP FERRARI 458 ITALIA - AMBIANCE PORTRAITFormer Manchester United star Fabien Barthez was known as a fabulous shot stopper, and was named ‘keeper of the tournament as France won the 1998 World Cup.

He also helped his country to win Euro 2000, and won plenty of league titles and cups at club level for the likes of United, Marseille and Monaco.

After retiring in 2007, he swapped football strips for racing suits as he developed a successful career in motorsport.

He has competed in competitions including the Porsche Carrera Cup France, the FIA GT Series and Caterham Sigma Cup France.

In 2013 he was crowned French GT champion, and in 2014 took part in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving a Ferrari 458, he and his co-drivers finished 29th overall and ninth in their class.

2. Sonny Bill Williams – from rugby league to boxing to rugby union

Sonny Bill Williams has had an extraordinary career. An true icon to many, the New Zealander has achieved a ton of success in his time.

From winning two Rugby World Cups and several honours in rugby league, to remaining unbeaten in his boxing career, Williams is surely on of the greatest athletes in the world.

He started out in rugby league, playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters as well as for New Zealand.

He then decided to make a switch to boxing and was unbeaten in seven fights, winning them all, including three by knockout, and claiming the New Zealand heavyweight crown and WBA international belt along the way.

However, rugby union came calling again and he returned to the 15-man code in time to become part of the All Blacks squad which won the 2011 World Cup, helping them to retain it in 2015.

1. Brock Lesnar – multi-sport athlete

Not only he can fight, he can play American football too. Brock Lesnar has success written all over him.

Winning multiple championships in the WWE and New Japan pro-wrestling – as well as dominating the MMA/UFC scene – he also had a brief spell at the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL.

Lesnar signed with WWE in 2000, making his main roster debut in 2002. He went on to become the youngest undisputed WWE champion at the age of 25, a King of the Ring and Royal Rumble winner as well as ending Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak in 2014.

Nicknamed ‘The Beast’, Lesnar put his WWE career on hold in 2004 in order to pursue a career in American football as a defensive tackle. He was recruited by the Minnesota Vikings for the 2004-05 campaign and played several pre-season games but was then cut from their roster.

UFC came calling, and it was a fresh challenge for Lesnar. He had nine fights, winning six of them, but has now returned to the WWE and has a bout against Goldberg in the Survivor Series on November 20th.

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.

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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.

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