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The Debate: Who is the Greatest MMA Fighter of All Time?

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Setting up his eventual rear-naked choke with a left hook landing flush on the man who had used that same punch to win the title, Georges St-Pierre defied the odds at UFC 217 by returning from a four-year hiatus and claiming the UFC’s middleweight championship at Michael Bisping’s expense.

With GSP’s stunning return suitably confirmed as one of mixed martial arts’ greatest comeback stories, the immediate aftermath of St-Pierre’s third-round submission was to proclaim the Canadian superstar as the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T).

But is he?

With the question hanging in the air, five of MMALatestNews’ writers have taken the task of debating and making the case for the fighter they feel is the one true G.O.A.T:

The case for Demetrious Johnson, by Graeme Harper (@GraemeHarp)

The debate surrounding the greatest of all time is always a contentious one in any sport. Whether it be advancements in technology, a change in rules or just too large a period of time to make a sound judgement, picking the very best to do the damn thing is always a tough one to make.

Fortunately, in MMA, that decision isn’t that hard to make. The G.O.A.T in all actuality is a ‘Mighty Mouse’.

Since the sport’s inception in 1993, no fighter has ever been as adept in each and every aspect of what it means to be a martial artist or as innovative as the UFC’s current and only flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Stringing takedowns to seamless passes on the ground; moving from a linear striking range to new angles within milliseconds and then everything in between, including suplexes into armbars, ‘Mighty Mouse’ has dominated all before him at 125 lbs.

Take one of Johnson’s latest performance against Wilson Reis for example. Facing off against a Roger Godoi black belt, Johnson beat the Brazilian from pillar to post on the feet before handing Reis his first submission loss on the ground. The near 15 minutes of action in which Johnson outlanded his opponent 108 to 16 in strikes was as close to perfection as you’ll ever see in within MMA and exemplified everything that Johnson has developed into over his 30 fight professional career.

From starting out as a criminally undersized bantamweight, Johnson suffered both of the only losses in his career at the 135 lbs limit yet still managed to beat the likes of former pound-for-pound greats ‘Kid’ Yamamoto and Miguel Torres. With the UFC’s introduction of the flyweight division, however, Johnson was afforded the opportunity to fight in a weight class more befitting of his stature and with it began to truly shine.

Since running the gauntlet of the promotion’s champion crowning tournament, Johnson has since broken the UFC’s record for successful title defences with 11, overtaking Anderson Silva this past October. A faster pace, more technically proficient fighters and more well-rounded fighters are just some of the aspects that have been tougher for Johnson to overcome than the likes of Silva, yet the leader of ‘The Mighty Squad’ has come through his tests with flying colours. While others in the discussion for greatest of all time have had their weaknesses and flaws, both inside the cage and out, have been highlighted to an alarming degree at some stage in their career, Johnson remains unscathed.

The simple fact surrounding Demtrious Johnson is that no other fighter has ever made the art of fighting look as effortless while dominating his competition wherever the fight has gone. Whether it be in the clinch against an Olympic wrestler or champion Sambo player, striking against an elite karateka or on the mat against a deadly black belt, Demetrious Johnson has beaten them all without giving them a sniff of victory. Simply put, Demetrious Johnson is the greatest of all time.

The case for Georges St-Pierre, by Jaewon Paik (@JaewonPaikMMA)

Georges St-Pierre’s return was as good as any return in the history of MMA, as he came back and won the fight, shut Michael Bisping up once and for all, and walked away as the UFC Middleweight Champion. It could not have gone any better for GSP, and with this win, a major question was brought up for all the MMA fans to discuss; Is GSP officially the greatest of all time?

Well, it’s quite simple. To those who say otherwise, I ask this question to them; What else does a man have to do to become the greatest of all time? Let’s run down the long list of why GSP is the greatest of all time.

First and the most obvious, GSP now has the most title fight wins, with the glorious win over Bisping that allowed him to surpass Anderson Silva and Demetrious Johnson on the list. An incredible feat of 12 total wins in title bouts already gives him more reasons than the rest of the fighters in the conversation. And ironically with UFC 217’s win, St-Pierre also officially tied the record for most wins in UFC history at 20, with the man he took the title from, Michael Bisping. He also now has the longest active winning streak in the UFC, one more than Demetrious Johnson and two more than Max Holloway.

Let’s move onto the fact that he is officially a two-weight world champion now, one of only four men in the history to accomplish this feat, along with Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, and Conor McGregor.

However, what makes this feat more impressive for St-Pierre than the other three men who have accomplished it, is the fact that GSP won the middleweight championship after a four-year layoff. And believe it or not, he arguably looked better than his prime. Not many can say they’ve looked just as good after such a long layoff, and the only fighter who comes to mind in the UFC is Chan-Sung Jung, when he returned after nearly 4 years off and knocked out Dennis Bermudez in the first round. And not only did GSP come back from a long layoff to win, he stepped up a division to take the title away, which is as admirable as an achievement can be.

Not only that, but GSP also holds other various records for the UFC, such as the most title bout fight time, 3rd most time spent in the octagon, tied for most PPV main events. Also, he is the owner of most unanimous decision wins in the history of the UFC. While some may criticize such stats for his lack of ability to be able to finish his opponents, it also shows his dominance in most of his fights, completely outclassing his opponents from start to finish. He also owns the second highest win percentage after Tony Ferguson, at 90.90%.

Besides that, there are tons of in-fight statistics that he is involved in, but I won’t get into that, as that would take far too long. But is there really a question after UFC 217 to GSP being the greatest fighter ever? Tons of respect to Anderson Silva, Demetrious Johnson, and Conor McGregor, (maybe Jon Jones?) but when all is set and done, Georges St-Pierre is hard to deny. The fact that he is extremely respectable and likeable helps his case as well, as he has always been admired by all the fighters and there aren’t many who can say they’ve earned the respect of all fellow fighters. Personally, I believe this is a crown that GSP officially holds now, and it would be extremely tough for anyone to take it away from him, even for someone like Mighty Mouse.

The case for Conor McGregor, by Sam Jobling (@SamJoblingg)

This may upset a few MMA purists, but I’m making the case for “The Notorious” Conor McGregor as the greatest of all time.

In November 2016, Conor McGregor cemented his legacy as an all-time great by becoming the first simultaneous two-weight world champion holding both the Featherweight and Lightweight belts. He became the third fighter ever to hold two belts, joining B.J. Penn and Randy Couture.

In that same year, McGregor fought in December (UFC 194), March (UFC 196), August (UFC 202) and November (UFC 205). In that 11 month span, McGregor fought in three different weight classes and won in every single one.

McGregor has the third highest win percentage of any fighter with at least 10 UFC bouts. With a percentage of 90%.

McGregor also holds the record for the fastest title fight win, knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds at UFC 194.

McGregor’s style is poetry in motion. His movement, his striking, his accuracy, his power and his versatility are world-class. He is the most exciting fighter in the UFC by a mile.

It’s a testament to Conor’s ferocious power that after you fight him your chin may never be the same. Look at the way Aldo lost to Holloway and look at the way Mendes lost to Edgar in his last fight.

McGregor has bullied and decisively beaten some world-class competitors like Aldo, Holloway and Alvarez. He also holds wins over other quality fighters like Poirier, Diaz and Mendes.

McGregor is the most popular fighter in the world and every time he steps into the cage he has the most to lose, but it never stops him from taking risks. Whether it’s moving up in weight, fighting Diaz at 170lb’s in the rematch or fighting in boxing. Unlike some fighters considered the G.O.A.T, remember when Johnson wouldn’t fight Dillashaw and where was Jones moving up to heavyweight which has long been spoken about.

Does your status as the G.O.A.T rest solely on performances and records inside the cage? I’d argue not.

McGregor has changed the sport in ways fighters before him never could. He has brought the sport to the mainstream and brought the UFC forward to the point where it is worth over $4 billion. The company would never be worth that much if it wasn’t for McGregor’s popularity and the revenue he brings in.

McGregor is a revenue machine for the UFC. To put it into perspective the gate for GSP’s return at Madison Square Garden was $6,200,000 whereas Conor’s historic UFC 205 card pulled in $17,700,000 in ticket sales.

If that wasn’t enough McGregor also has 4 out of the 5 most bought PPV’s. With his 3 most recent UFC fights being number 1, 2 and 3.

And this is before we mention that McGregor went 10 rounds with arguably the greatest boxer of all time. Which other MMA fighter is so good they can bring the worlds best boxer out of retirement? Let alone hang 10 rounds with him.

The records, the numbers, the titles, the wins, the style, the risks and doing what no MMA fighter has ever done all point to the ‘The Notorious One’ being the best to ever do it.

If McGregor isn’t the greatest then why is everyone else trying to be like him?

The case for BJ Penn, by Josh Murray (@JoshuaMurrayMMA)

BJ Penn just has to be mentioned in this debate, why we’re debating I don’t know because it’s clear that BJ is the best fighter to ever become a champion of the UFC.

When BJ claimed his first title he didn’t do it the easy way, he never went for the easy option in his 30 UFC fights he loved to push himself and fought some of the best UFC fighters to ever step into an octagon such as GSP, Joe Stevenson and Matt Hughes.

He claimed his first title against Matt Hughes at UFC 46 by rear naked choke, which was absolutely amazing for ‘The Prodigy’ because at the time Matt Hughes was a dominant force in the UFC and tore apart anyone put in against him apart from Penn.

At UFC 46 he fought Matt fully focused and composed and landed Hughes on his back after Hughes tried to clinch with BJ after eating a few shots and on his back is where the fight remained for Hughes until he gave up his back on the ground to BJ who instantly reacted by mounting the back landing a few big shots and as soon as Matt’s neck was exposed he locked in a rear naked choke and finished him in the first round to win his first UFC title!

He didn’t stop there he went on to fight in some great fights against great opponents, this is what makes BJ the greatest champion because he always wanted to fight the best fighter out there, he was always looking for a fight to go out and prove he is the greatest he even went to over to K1 in Asia, early in his UFC career, to challenge him self against new fighters and he went 2-1 in the sport

BJ was also one of those fighters who you just have to watch because of how exciting his fights could be which obviously brought a lot of viewers to watch him

BJ also created some memorable moments in the octagon like licking the blood of his gloves after he won the fight against Joe Stevenson (I know crazy!) his speedy knockout of Caol Uno in 11 seconds faster than McGregor’s 13 second knockout of Jose Aldo and let’s not forget his rivalry with Matt Hughes which penn ended with a 21 second knockout in their trilogy fight.

So there we have it why I think BJ is the best champ in history he has been unlucky in his defeats but most of them coming from some dangerous fighters of the sport but despite the losses he topped his long UFC career off by being inducted Into the UFC hall of Fame in 2015 an achievement only a few fighter can say they have earned BJ is the best Champ see no debate about it

The case for Jon Jones, by Dan Keeffe (@DanTheMexiKhan)

Jon “Bones” Jones is the Greatest Fighter of All Time. Not a debate but the reality of the situation.

Allow me to break it down for you.

  • Despite conduct outside the cage, Jon “Bones” Jones has been nothing but a sheer freak of nature, every time he fights. At a tender age of 23, he demolished Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to become the youngest champion in UFC history. He picked apart Pride veterans like Rampage Jackson, and made an example of fighters like Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader & Lyoto Machida.
  • Jones’ adversary Daniel Cormier could have been the P4P GOAT. He ruled heavyweight & light heavyweight. Everyone he fought looked like they had no business being in the octagon. Jones beat him, twice.

His “negligent of the rules” lifestyle makes his accomplishments in the cage even more spectacular.

  • All high-level champions share a common truth, they have an extremely rigid lifestyle. The idea that a fighter with a flippant nature towards diet & training like Jon can somehow become a champion, is purely ludicrous. Yet look at what Jones accomplished.

With the exception of DC, Jon’s opponents either pre or post-USADA have also popped. Jones beat DC after popping for cocaine that he ingested 2/3 weeks prior to the fight. He did not pop for PEDs when he first defeated Cormier, a second infraction is still debatable.

His only loss was a DQ for 12-6 elbows (a ridiculous rule) and his opponent, Matt Hamill thought Jones won and doesn’t recognize it as a legitimate win.

  •  If you are saying, “Who is the Greatest” you are saying:
  • Who has, and, or could beat up the rest?
  • Who had the most impact on the sport?
  • Who is a pure undeniable talent from a such a young age in which the ceiling of their ability is a mystery?
  • Who elevated the game and competition?
  • Who is still capable of destroying anyone who enters the cage?

The answer isn’t Silva, who had his fights in a young UFC where the talent was still emerging and not solidified yet. Or GSP, who arguably lost to both Condit & Hendricks, and it’s not DJ, despite how amazing he is.

The answer is Jon “Bones” Jones. It’s not an argument or an opinion, it’s a statement of fact and denying it is skewing what facts are and choosing which facts matter simply to suit your personal stake in the conversation or to protect your feelings or opinion. This does not change the reality.

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Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224

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Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.

The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.

Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).

In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.

UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.

*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224

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Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”

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In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

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Announcement

UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

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UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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