More than ever the UFC has seen a number of its biggest fighters choose to test the market so see what other organizations can offer them. Guys such as Phil Davis, Josh Thomson and Jake Shields (who was actually cut) have left the UFC and went to other corporations. Right now guys like Benson Henderson, Alistair Overeem, and Aljamain Sterling are in the process of testing the free agent market to see if a possible leave from the world’s biggest MMA organization is going to be right for them.
One man in particular has stood out in saying that a leave from the UFC may be what happens. Aljamain Sterling fought his last fight on his UFC contract on December 10th with a second round submission win over Johnny Eduardo. A top 10 guy in Sterling was on the preliminary of a Fight Pass event and made it known he was not happy about it, but was happy to be fighting. Sterling has a lot to say about his current state of contract negotiations and on the champ TJ Dillashaw saying he’s not impressed with his performance (video here)
VC: You have been very vocal in saying that you have been cleared to talk to other companies for a new contract. How did your talks with the UFC go before that?
FM (Funkmaster): My manager and the UFC spoke and the matchmakers made a new deal that wasn’t much different from the first one. They told me straight up that I would get way more money from Bellator and to go see what that amount is and bring back an actual number instead of pulling figures out of the air on both sides. They pretty much expedited the exclusive negotiation period the UFC has (90 days). They pretty much waved that period for us.
VC: It sounds like the UFC wants to keep you, but they want a number to match?
FM: I don’t know if they want to keep me or not. It sounded like they did in regards to what Dana was saying to me after my fight, but a few days after that I got the word from my manager. It sounded like they wanted me to bring back an offer, something concrete, so they can see what my value is and go from there. I’ve also heard through the grapevine that they’re not planning on matching the offer no matter what it is, or something along those lines. Who knows, that might just be here-say stuff and I don’t know exactly know how true that is but I guess we just have to wait and find out.
VC: Regardless of company, do you want your next fight to be for a title?
FM: Not necessarily, doesn’t have to be for a title. That would be ideal, but I’m in no rush. I think I could get one more fight before a title. If I need one more fight to prove my worth, then that’s fine. If I had to or was given the option to, then I would take it.
VC: If you’re in the UFC, what fight do you want next?
FM: I think the fight that makes sense next is between me and Raphael Assuncao. I know he’s been waiting for a long time and they may decide to do Assuncao and Thomas Almeida for a number one contender and give me someone different. Maybe Michael McDonald next or even Barao if he stays at 135. It’s kind of a weird situation our division is in because it’s almost guaranteed that Faber is going to get the next title shot, regardless of the winner just based on his following and numbers. Based on a business perspective, I could see him getting the next title shot; it’s almost a no-brainer. I don’t know what’s next, but it will probably be Assuncao or Almeida. I really don’t care, I would fight either one of those guys.
VC: Before your previous fight, you said the Almeida fight was not right for the moment. Now with the situation arising, have you changed your mind?
FM: I think so. I think the UFC bringing him out to my Eduardo fight says something. I’m pretty sure they didn’t bring him out to my fight to watch Sage Northcutt or Paige VanZant. It’s very possible that could be my next fight, or he could get Assuncao. I don’t know what they want to do because they normally have a plan and it’s sketched out and move pieces around with the results of fights. I’m not exactly sure what the plan is, I don’t think they thought I would win my fight against Eduardo the way I did.
VC: Let’s talk about your win. You dominated the fight from start to finish and ended it with a slick Guillotine. Talk me through that?
FM: I’m a very big Guillotine guy in training. A no-arm Guillotine is hard to get if the guy can get his arm over or inside the choke and over the top. I’m pretty sure he’s well versed in defending Guillotines, but the difference between mine and the others you see is once I got ahold of his neck, I got ahold of my left hand and flared my elbow out to block his hand from coming inside. I had the cage that helped me preventing him from rolling like the normal defense does. As I blocked the hand from coming up and his back is being pressed against the cage, he had nowhere to go. I raised my elbow and stepped right over the arm and I see that there is an opening for me to almost hang him.
I started to lift him off the ground and that’s when he tapped.
I actually saw the vertebrae and disk in the back of his neck start to pop out while I was lifting him up, and I thought ‘Oh man, this looks pretty nasty’. He tapped really fast too.
VC: After your win, our own Jim Edwards spoke with TJ Dillashaw who said he was not impressed with your fights. Your thoughts?
FM: I think the dude is lying to himself. If that’s what he has to say to make him sound safer against me, then that’s what he has to do. In my opinion, these guys can’t hit me. I don’t see what TJ will be able to do me. If anyone can dethrone the guy, it’s either [Dominick] Cruz or me. It’s one of those things like how isn’t he impressed with my performance when I don’t get hit. Even great strikers can’t lay a hand on me and I feel like I make it look easy. I would love to get ahold of his little neck and squeeze it off so he can realize this whole anaconda thing, while it is fun and games, it is for real.
I would legit rip his head off his body like I almost did Eduardo.
VC: Like you said, maybe they didn’t think you were going to win the fight. They buried you on the preliminary card of a Fight Pass event. Do you feel that was them telling you that you these contract negotiations might not go your way?
FM: I think so. I wanted to try and break it down and analyze the situation and how it happened. Either they don’t think that I can get the eyeballs (viewers) or they are trying to bury me so I don’t get the eyeballs so the last fight on my contract is one that people don’t get to see me. If I have a lackluster performance, the ball is in their court now because I had a crappy performance that no one saw. In my opinion, I think they tried to bury me in a strategical way so that people have to subscribe to Fight Pass to see me if they really want. It’s a thing where can I bring people that want to watch me on the undercard that’s earlier in the day, which I think they did a really good job of. They ended up Re-tweeting the finish on multiple UFC run accounts, so when they did that, it helped a little. That’s all I need is a little push, if they can do that I’m going to take off just like anyone else did in my situation whether that be Sage Northcutt or Paige VanZant and even Conor McGregor early on. These people get the notoriety of the fans from that, and I don’t get that but I feel as if I got a little bit of it even being on the prelims. I think my performance spoke for itself and it’s one of those things where how can you not put it out there after a great performance like that.
VC: You got a new nutritionist, Lou Giordano, who works with people like Eddie Gordon and Johny Hendricks. Is that working out well for you?
FM: This was my easiest weight cut. When you get down close to weight, you are going to feel like crap regardless. I actually only had to a pound in the sauna, put I did two to be down at 135. This was definitely my easiest weight cut to date.
VC: Did you make 135 to show you’re championship ready?
FM: That was the whole point of that. I want people to know I can make the weight for the championship fights. I may be a big guy for the weight class, but if needed, I can be the guy to step in there.
VC: What’s the mood around the camp with Weidman not coming back the champ?
FM: It was a little different, but no one really looked at him differently. We all know he didn’t perform the way he usually performs. It’s one of those things where if you don’t show up for work, things just won’t go your way sometimes. That’s all it was and I feel if they run it back, Weidman had him in some dominant positions early in the fight and I could see him finishing from those next time. Let’s see, hopefully he gets another chance and he can bring the belt back to the gym. Everyone still loves the guy and he’s still a father who takes care of his three kids. He’s a great role model for the sport.
VC: It’s a bummer that your contract negotiations have to come now that serious talks of a Madison Square Garden event are in talks with guys like Jon Jones and Anderson Silva pushing it. Will you be on that card if nothing else?
FM: I’ll absolutely be on that card; it makes no sense for me not to be on that card. I told everyone I’m the Fresh Prince of New York, so for them not to put me on that card would be crazy.
VC: You have some social media interaction with ambiguous meanings about the new UFC video game. What’s the meaning of those tweets?
FM: They posted a tweet with a list of like 30 characters with like 230 characters added to the game and Al Iaquinta and I were added. I wanted to put a smiley face emoji to show my emotion that I’m finally in the game after asking to be in one for a while now.
VC: You were very vocal in wanting to fight more in 2015 than you did. With guys like Sage Northcutt fighting three times in four months, what do you want 2016 to bring you?
FM: Regardless of the company, I just want to be able to fight three to four times in the year. Granted it depends on how I come out of the fights, but I think three very feasible. Two fights, with me making the money I make, is crappy and I can’t make a living with that money. I was hoping to be able to fight more in 2015 so I can make that thresh hold a lot sooner, like I could have made the money I made in two years in one. I wish they would have allowed to me stay more active that way I can utilize my prime years and utilizing my youth. I know a year older isn’t that much different, but you do notice you start to slow down in how fast your body heals. For me, I want to be active now while I’m young so I can slow down as I get older and let my body heal the proper way.
VC: Most people’s prime years are around your age now (26) and the next four years or so. It seems as though you want to take advantage of your prime years, but the UFC isn’t allowing you to?
FM: That’s what it is all about. They told me it was more so guys didn’t want to fight me, but it’s weird that they say that and they I call these guys out on Twitter and they say they will fight me. Which one is it, will you fight me or not? I’m sitting here waiting for a fight and being told that no one wants to sign a contract to fight me, so someone is lying and I’m just sitting here. Are these guys just screwing with me and saying they want to fight and then not accepting the fight or I’m being lied to be the matchmakers. Maybe the matchmakers are keeping me from certain guys to wait for others, but I’m not sure what’s been going on.
VC: One year from now, what organization are you fighting for?
FM: One year from now? I really have no idea where I’ll be. I honestly couldn’t tell you and it’s an issue. It all depends on the UFC in negotiations, and if we can’t get that figured out then I don’t know where I’m going to be. Out of respect, I will not bend over backwards.
From the man himself, ‘ You can cop a human anaconda and funk university shirts on my website’. http://www.aljamainsterling.com/
Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186
Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.
Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”
Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”
With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”
For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”
Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”
Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”
Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”
With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”
Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”
Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”
Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.
Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”
Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:
Just make sure you don’t put cooking oil all over your body like Anderson did so it’ll be easy to grab ahold of you @lyotomachidafw 👌
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 17, 2017
Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”
Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.
“Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”
Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.
Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut
MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.
Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.
‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”
Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?
I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.
Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?
Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.
Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?
Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.
There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.
Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?
I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.
Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?
The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.
Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?
Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.
You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.
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