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/
Exclusive: Santiago Ponzinibbio eyeing March-May return, teases a UFC event in Argentina
Santiago Ponzinibbio has quietly amassed a six-fight winning streak in the UFC’s stacked welterweight division.
The native of Argentina is currently coming off of a solid victory over rising contender Mike Perry. The fight was made to figure out which of the two would go on to enter the top-ten. All three of the judge’s scorecards read 29-28 and the Argentine became ranked number ten in the world.
For the man the man affectionately referred to as the “Ponzi Scheme” the victory was a ‘good one’ even if he did get tired in the process.
“It’s good, good victory, it was a good fight more me, a good victory,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Latest. “I got a little bit tired in the second round and the third round. I trained a lot, my conditioning is really good but my recovery is not very good, I felt very tired. I have more experience, I know I have more fights than this guy. I’m the more complete fighter, I won, I controlled the fight all the time and I won, it’s good.”
Before he fought Perry, Ponzinibbio had to take out the Icelandic grappler, Gunnar Nelson. Although “Gente Boa” won the fight via knockout, the contest didn’t end without any controversy. Nelson came out after the fight and claimed he had been poked in the eye ‘multiple times’, a claim Ponzinibbio finds suspicious.
“No,” Ponzinibbio says as he shoots down any notion of his victory having less significance due to the eye pokes. “I have fourteen fights in UFC (The Ultimate Fighter included.) I never did anything illegal in the fight. If Gunnar Nelson felt anything he didn’t make a sign, he didn’t move or anything. I would have stopped the fight if he had put his hands up, but he didn’t say anything in the fight, the only sign was after the fight when he lost. This is stupid (Nelson’s claim) if he felt something in the fight he should’ve put his hands up and I would’ve stopped in the moment. The referee and the UFC they didn’t see anything either, this is stupid.”
Having moved on from the Nelson and Perry fights, Ponzinibbio now has his eyes set on the title. Although he believes a title shot could be next, he isn’t going to say no to a number one contender fight.
“I don’t understand the rankings, the rankings don’t make sense,” Ponzinibbio said. “I have six victories in a row, I have fourteen fights in the UFC I have four fights on TUF Brazil second edition really good TUF on the show I won all my fights in the UFC I have eight victories with six wins in a row six knockouts in the first round but I think I’m ready for the belt. But UFC- I don’t know… If they give me the belt, perfect. If they give me one more, okay give me, maybe, a top-five guy, Robbie Lawler or Rafael dos Anjos. So if I beat this guy I go on to fight for the title.”
If not for the title, Ponzinibbio only sees two opponents that could potentially make sense next. As for his return to the cage, don’t expect to wait too long.
“I think Robbie Lawler is a good fight, I think Robbie Lawler or Rafael dos Anjos is a good option. I’m waiting for my next fight, I’m ready for April, May, maybe March. I’m ready for one more fight.”
Currently, there has never been a UFC event in Argentina, but that doesn’t mean the sport isn’t popular in his homeland.
“These days, in Argentina, the UFC is really popular,” Ponzinibbio says. “The UFC gets brought up a lot. I’m really happy because all the people know me and I’m really happy that the UFC represents my country and hopefully the UFC comes to Argentina. In all of Latin America, it’s really popular”
But Ponzinibbio believes it won’t be long before the UFC comes to Argentina, especially with the promotion set to host an event in Chile.
“The UFC has signed in the next year two events in South America in Brazil and Chile and hopefully one event in Argentina,” Ponzinibbio laughs. “The UFC hasn’t confirmed anything but I think this is their big chance.”
With Ponzinibbio’s 2017 having gone so well, he takes a moment to outline his goals for 2018.
“My goal for 2017 was to stay in the top ten in the world,” Ponzinibbio said. My goal for 2018 is the belt and I want to help develop this sport in South America especially in Argentina and take this belt. I’m ready to be the next champion. If I need one more fight that’s okay I’ll fight at the start of the year March or April and then later this year I’ll fight for the belt.”
Santiago Ponzinibbio can be found on Facebook @SantiagoPonzinibbioMMA, Twitter @SPonzinibbioMMA, and Instagram @sponzinibbiomma
Dana White gives update on Conor McGregor and the lightweight division
The top end of the UFC’s lightweight division is thriving. Dustin Poirer defeated former division champion Anthony Pettis, in dominant fashion. Tony Ferguson won the lightweight division’s interim title by carving Kevin Lee from his back. Safe to say, no everyday person would ever want to see Khabib Nurmagomedov down a damp and dark alley. Don’t forget, the gutsy performance of Eddie Alvarez stealing Justin Gaethje’s undefeated record away. The division is thriving like gas attempting to escape a shaken champagne bottle.
On Friday, UFC President, Dana White, spoke to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, about a number of topics. One, which came up fairly quickly; Conor McGregor and his stranglehold on the lightweight belt. The pair began talking about recent performances inside the octagon when the illustrious name of, Khabib Nurmagomedov, came up. White claimed, “Conor always finds a way to win. When he hits you, you go…”. Then speaking of the potential bout between Nurmagomedov and McGregor, “I love that matchup but, Tony Ferguson is the interim champion. Conor and I haven’t really figured out when he’s coming back and what’s going on…”. He continued, “I don’t think Conor wants to fight until August, but if he waits until August or September, that’s around two years since the belt has been defended and that can’t happen”.
Iole followed up by asking, due to circumstances, does McGregor owe it to the sport to defend his title? The UFC president agreed, “And to the other fighters. Not only to the sport but, to the other fighters. This is a game of time… when you’re a professional athlete, time is your enemy and we can’t let this thing go on forever and not give other guys the opportunity. Tony Ferguson has been around for a long time and has earned his dues, Khabib has earned his dues… Conor has done very well, he’s made a lot of money, and if he decides that he doesn’t want to fight again for another however long that’s up to him… but, the belt has to move on… we gotta figure some stuff out here in the next couple months”.
It only makes sense that the UFC wants progression in the one-hundred and fifty-five lb. division. Even without their massive revenue generator, the division must move on. Athletes like Nurmagomedov may be relatively unknown outside the MMA community in the United States but, his official Instagram page holds 3.2 million followers. While Tony Ferguson may not hold online notoriety, he does have an exciting style. A style that could win a good many of fans, the more exposure he receives.
For White, one of these two men must fight for the division’s championship title. When asked about what is next, he stated, “As long as Conor is willing to fight by March, we could do Khabib versus Tony and then the winner fights Conor… or Conor doesn’t wanna fight and wants to sit out till next fall. Then we would have to make Khabib vs. Tony for the title”.
Time can be the only truth serum in this particular situation. The UFC brass has spoken of forcing McGregor to vacate his lightweight title for some time. Yet, nothing has happened. On the other hand, it would be more than surprising to see the division’s belt sit on the shelf for another year. Considering it all, including the status of contenders and depth of the division, the bottleneck created by one man never ceases to amaze.
Exclusive: Neil Magny: “It’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail”
On Saturday, December 30th, Neil Magny steps back into the Octagon as he takes on the returning Carlos Condit. Magny’s had a rough past couple of months as the 6’3 welterweight has alternated wins and losses as well as fighting a lot less than usual. Magny was known as one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster until injuries started to take away from his time in the cage.
Welcoming Magny back to the cage is a man who is also making his return after a long layoff, Carlos Condit. Fans and even Magny have been waiting a long time for the fight to come together.
“I love this fight, this a fight I’ve been chasing for nearly two years now,” Magny told MMA Latest. “The fight’s going to be happening this Saturday and I’m excited for it.”
Condit hasn’t competed since he lost to Demian Maia back in August 2016. The Jackson-Wink product lost via first round rear-naked choke, the loss prompted a semi-retirement that left everyone unsure if he would ever return. The time spent away from the cage could potentially bring upon the universally hated “ring-rust”.
“Not at all,” Magny said as he shot down any talks of ring-rust. “I mean, if anything, I would be more affected by ring rust than he is. I mean, I’m a guy who likes to compete all throughout the years. This is the least amount of fights I’ve had in a year- in awhile- I don’t think the ring rust will be a factor at all and I can’t let that allow me to think that this fight will be easier because of that.”
With Condit’s return being the big story in this fight, it’s easy to think Magny’s been swept under the rug. The fan-favorite has been loved for his tendency to turn every fight into a brawl and putting everything on the line. The hype and excitement haven’t lead Magny to believe he’s being overlooked.
“Not all,” Magny says with a shrug. “I don’t feel like I’m being overlooked in this fight at all. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of hype around Condit going into this fight. But yeah I don’t consider it a bad thing at all. I know I’m focused on what I need to do and I spend most of my time focusing on that rather than the other possibilities or what media attention is drawn to that kind of thing.”
Condit’s tendency to turn his fights into brawls is something Magny’s comfortable with, as technique and advantages tend to fly out the window. The Colorado native is honest about where his strengths are.
“This is a fight where it’s going to be a fight and turn into a brawl and were going to fight tooth and nail,” Magny said. “Going into this fight I don’t have the grappling advantage, the submission advantage, I don’t have the significant striking advantage. So anywhere this fight goes it’s not going to be one guy just outclassing the other guy. I know it’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail or anything that will win this fight. So that’s something that I’m looking forward to the most- going out there and allowing this fight to go down successfully.”
Magny’s rough patch continued in his last fight when he lost to former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos by submission. While a good chunk of fighters have a tendency to dwell on losses, Magny’s moved on and, more importantly, he’s learned from his mistakes.
“I could backtrack and pick the fight apart and find a thousand things I did wrong and things I could’ve done differently,” Magny begin to explain. “But at the end of the day, it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of the fight, all I can do is make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for this fight. That’s what I’ve been spending my time focusing on as well as covering every angle going into this fight mentally, physically, and emotionally. Everything I need to do to be successful in this fight I’ll do it.”
Although Magny’s moved on from the loss, that hasn’t stopped him from making changes in his lead up to fights.
“Since my last fight one of the main things I changed in my training camp was the use of a sports physiatrist,” Magny said. “I noticed for these last four fights I got myself into tough positions all three have been lackluster fights that I wasn’t too proud of. Coming into this fight we’ll be sure to work on all angles and we’ll see if the talks and working with a sports physiologist will make a difference. I have no idea but the thing about it is that I want to be as prepared as possible.”
Welterweight contender Kamaru Usman claimed that Magny was going to fight him, that is until Magny accepted the fight with Condit.
“No, nothing was ever set for Usman and I to ever fight,” Magny said. “I was in a position where I was coming off a loss and it didn’t matter who I fought next. I was just eager to get that nasty taste out of my mouth from the last fight. So he’s done his usual call me out on Twitter call me out on Instagram wherever he could I was just like ‘meh whatever, if you really want to fight me I’m available, I’m interested in doing it right away’ so why not take the matchup sooner and get the taste out of my mouth.”
Although the fight with Usman isn’t happening, the fight with Condit definitely is. So what does Magny predict?
“I see me going out there and just winning any way I see,” Magny said. “Whether its a decision where we go back and forth and go all out war, or me getting the TKO, submission, or knockout. I mean, I’m just looking forward to going out there and getting my hand raised.”
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