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Firas Zahabi: Ronda Rousey ‘believed in the myth that she’s a great striker’

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If you haven’t heard that UFC 207 will see the return of Ronda Rousey, you may have been living under a rock. Headlining the promotion’s end-of-year show, Rousey will fight the current woman’s bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes. The event will take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 30th.

Since losing her 135-pound title to Holly Holm in November 2015, the most famous woman in mixed martial arts has all but been a recluse. Part of this hiatus was prescribed, physically recovering from the beating that Holm laid down, but there was more to it; pride, mentally regrouping, call it whatever – she’s not been around.

One man that knows a thing or two about guiding an almost untouchable fighter through a devastating loss is Firas Zahabi, the revered trainer of Georges St-Pierre. Zahabi was a guest on Luke Thomas’ SiriusXM radio show, and the famed mixed martial arts coach weighed in on Rousey’s return.

“I’ll be honest with you, Rousey who’s somebody that has been training since birth, you know, her Mother was a world champion, she’s been training since birth. I bet you can just throw her in the Octagon right now, right now, give her no preparation, throw her in the Octagon, and she’ll beat anybody in the world, I really think she’s that good. She just has to play her game. She tried to strike with Holly Holm, I think she believed too much in the myth that she’s a great striker. She’s a Judoka, she’s a master grappler, she has to focus on that, she has to use her striking to get the fight to the floor, whereas when she was trading with Holly and getting hit, she got angry, she took it personal and wanted to strike even more.”

“I think she forgot who she is, what her roots are. She has to remember that now, now that she’s been burned, I guarantee you she’s going to remember it in the next fight. Now that she’s been burned, she’s going to get this fight to the ground, one way or another, this fight is going to be completely done in the clinch, on the ground, over and over, and it’s going to be a great fight, but I think Ronda comes out on top.”

One of the biggest title upsets in mixed martial arts history occurred at UFC 69. It was 2007 and current welterweight champion St-Pierre was defending his belt against the challenger, Matt Serra. Riding a six-fight winning streak, with wins over Matt Hughes and B.J. Penn, the Canadian was widely favored over the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu specialist. But like Rousey in her UFC 193 defeat to Holm, a disruption took place.

“Look when Georges got knocked out, he learned that fire burns, he’d never been knocked out in his entire career. He was ten times smarter when he was in the Octagon after that, just from the wisdom of being burned. I think Ronda’s one of those people, she’ll learn. She will never want that to happen again, and she’ll learn. Now some people, when they get knocked out, they’re scared, they develop a phobia, they’re really anxious before they get in the Octagon. They’re not like they used to be, they don’t have that confidence, they’re scared to trade, now, I don’t think Ronda is going to be the tentative type. I think shes going to go out on her shield, or win the fight, she’s going to do it that way.”

“She’s not the type of person that gets intimidated, she’s human like everybody else, she’ll be more nervous than usual, of course, but she’s not going to fold, I don’t think she’s going to fold, she’s very strong mentally. She wouldn’t have gotten this far if she wasn’t. I think she just needs to learn that her true style is grappling, and ground, you know Jiu-jitsu, she shouldn’t try to be too much of a striker.”

All eyes will be on the UFC in December, and not just from across the sporting world. Rousey is an athlete that has truly transcended the sport, and her fame outside of the cage will convert into profitable numbers come the end-of-year show. But who will be victorious, only a fool would guess – unless you’re one of the most highly regarded mixed martial arts trainers in the world today.

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Interviews

UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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Announcement

Mark Hunt Returns to Fight Curtis Blaydes at UFC 221

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UFC 221 in Perth has officially added a another Australian to the main card. Joining Robert Whittaker is the knockout legend Mark Hunt.

The Daily Telegraph first reported that Hunt will be stepping into the octagon to face #9 Curtis Blaydes. Some weren’t sure if we would ever see Hunt fight again after he was pulled from the main event in UFC Fight Night 21 against Marcin Tybura. The UFC removed him due to “medical concerns” while Hunt was stating he was perfectly fine.

After getting evaluated and cleared to fight by Australian and American doctors, it looks like his time has come to return.  Hunt’s last fight was back in June when he derailed the Derrick Lewis hype train with a 4th round TKO win.

Hunt had been adamant about calling out #3 ranked heavyweight Fabricio Werdum and trying to get that rematch booked, labelling Werdum a “chicken shit” and a “coward.”

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes who has an 8-1 record, is coming off a TKO victory due to doctor stoppage at UFC 217 in November. Since losing to now title challenger Francis Ngannou in April of 2016, Blaydes has rattled off three straight wins over Alexey Oleynik, Daniel Omielanczuk, and Cody East.

With all this momentum from the win streak, Blaydes looks to capitalize and win the biggest fight of his career against Hunt.

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Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira Officially Booked for Belem, Brazil card

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The wait is over. Valentina Shevchenko (14-3, 3-2 UFC) will make her highly anticipated flyweight debut when the UFC returns to Brazil. She will face Priscila Cachoeira (8-0) on the February 3rd card scheduled for Belem, Brazil. Luciana Andrade was the first to report the match-up last week. On Tuesday, the UFC posted an article which stated the bout had been set.

Now that the flyweight tournament is over and the inaugural champion has her crown, many women shall migrate from the strawweight and bantamweight ranks in search of a more suitable weight class. The division is so infantile means a lot moving parts in the rankings. Yet, only women who fought at one hundred and twenty-five lbs. are ranked. Such practices muddy the title picture for the time being. Essentially ruling out the idea of Montano vs. Shevchenko for the first defense of the belt, illogical. An idea that floated around the internet until today’s confirmation of the newest female flyweight match-up. The TUF 26 winner, Nicco Montano called it, “kinda silly”, earlier this week while on The MMA Hour. Montano believes her first title defense, as it stands, should pit her against the original finalist of the flyweight tournament, Sijara Eubanks. Although Eubanks withdrew from the title fight, she is still ranked as the #1 contender in the division.

Shevchenko explained her desire for the flyweight belt on The MMA Hour, a week earlier than Montano, “For me it’s number one, to fight for the title… It doesn’t matter for me, if I have to have one fight before it, okay I will do it… my main goal is to be the champion… It doesn’t matter I move from one thirty-five to one twenty-five. My goal is still the same, to be the champion”. The Russian fighter is coming off an unsuccessful title shot in the bantamweight division against the current reigning champ, Amanda Nunes. The bout went to a decision after close five rounds, Nunes ultimately defeated Shevchenko via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47).

Her opponent, Priscila Cachoeira, is not only new to the UFCs female flyweight division but the promotion’s roster as well. Cachoeira originally was scheduled to make her promotional debut against veteran Lauren Murphy at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 26. The Brazilian fighter withdrew from the bout due to visa issues. As a professional, she is undefeated with four knockouts in her eight fights.

UFC Belem is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018. The card will feature Timothy Johnson vs. Marcelo Golm in the heavyweight division. It will also have Thiago Santos taking on Anthony Smith in the middleweight division.

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