On Saturday night at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California, Invicta Fighting Championships will be holding their 15th event. The card has been battered by injuries, with withdrawals and replacements aplenty, including one bout being cancelled altogether.
Still, there has been no room for UK bantamweight Laura Howarth. Signed by Invicta in April 2015, Howarth has been left waiting for an opportunity inside the six-sided cage ever since. Howarth last fought in August 2014, and told MMA Latest News this week why she has been out of the cage for so long,
“I was fighting for Cage Warriors and I had my last fight with them, and I was looking to get on their next card but then the promotion closed and I was left without a promotion. My coaches hold a show called Shock n Awe and we tried to get me matched on there for K1 and MMA, but I couldn’t get a match in the UK. And then I got signed in Invicta in April of last year so I’ve literally just been sitting on their roster waiting to fight since then.”
While the opportunities for women in the sport continue to grow at a pace, promoters across the United Kingdom have not been so quick to get involved. The pool of available fighters to match up with is much smaller than in the States, and some of the best are already fighting elsewhere in Europe, or across the pond.
Even the UK’s largest promotion, BAMMA, only recently promoted their first ever women’s fights in September 2015. Sinead Kavanagh was the first woman to score a win in the BAMMA cage, defeating Hatice Ozyurt, before Catherine Costigan and Celine Haga clashed later on the same card.
While Invicta lead the way in the United States, they have a tonne of fighters under contract and only so many spots to go around. The company ran only four events in 2015, and many of their fighters were allowed to take fights elsewhere to stay busy. Despite being signed by them nine months ago, Howarth has still not been offered a fight by Invicta FC,
“I was managed by somebody else before and they said that they had spoken with Shannon (Knapp) and they were looking to get me on a card at the end of last year, but then that didn’t happen and also I’ve changed management as well now, obviously I’m in the great hands of Jay (General, of Fresh Start Entertainment) so, I’ve just been training non stop really for the last, well since I last fought.”
Two additional Invicta events at the back end of 2015 never got past the planning stage, and Howarth was one of a number of fighters left hanging. When Invicta FC 15 was officially announced for January 16, UK fight fans were left disappointed,
“It would have been good to fight in January, it’s quite early on, it means I would have had to have a boring Christmas but it would have been cool to fight in January. I haven’t stopped training, I would have been ready for it, but the way I see it, I’ve just had extra time to get ready. I’m not stopping training, I’m training every day full time and I’m just gonna be ready for any card really.”
The ideal scenario would be a bout at Invicta’s next event in Las Vegas on March 11. Howarth feels the enforced time without a fight has given her the opportunity to become an even better fighter than the one we saw go 2-1 under the Cage Warriors banner in 2013-14. She even has an opponent in mind,
“I’m pretty bad at looking up fighters to be honest, I just have the mindset of just give me whoever, I don’t really care, and I’ll stand there and fight with them. There’s a couple of girls on the roster. You’ve got Amberlynn Orr. She’s just turning pro, but she’s had what, 11, 12 amateur fights? And I’d had four, so technically she’s more experienced than me. That could make for a good fight, but some people say that we’re both new to Invicta so it wouldn’t be a good match, but yeah, I don’t really care who I fight to be honest, you can put me against anyone.”
If a fight could be made it would not be the first time two Invicta newcomers were matched up at an event. Recent bouts between Felicia Spencer and Rach Wiley, and Amber Leibrock and Marina Shafir, show that Invicta are willing to match up debutantes and give them a chance to impress.
What is clear is that when the Brit eventually does get her opportunity, the time away has allowed her to focus on becoming an even better fighter than the one who came close to making it into The Ultimate Fighter season 18 house in 2013,
“There’s been a lot of improvement and it has been a good time to improve and work on what I want to work on without the stress of a fight camp. I feel like I’ve been able to improve in a relaxed environment and learn a lot more, having traveled to America twice last year as well to train as well, it’s been really good.”
Visiting the United States has offered Howarth the opportunity to train with some of the best fighters in the world, including Invicta FC bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger. Arguably the best female fighter currently without a Zuffa contract, Evinger has gone a perfect 5-0 inside the Invicta cage and is the target every bantamweight outside of the UFC is aiming for. It has been a fantastic experience,
“I’ve loved it, I mean, people say to me why don’t you just move out there but I think if I was to just move out to America it would be the same as if I was in the UK. I’d still have to work, I’d still have to earn a living, but when I go and travel out there it’s purely for training and you don’t have to worry about all the other stuff that goes on in your life and you can just train hard. So I’ve had great experiences while I’ve been in America, I’ve trained with top people, obviously I’ve trained with Tonya and Amanda Bobby Cooper and plenty of other girls that are doing well for themselves at the moment so it’s just been a great experience and a lot of learning…….. and a lot of fun.”
Those trips were not the first that Howarth had made to the United States. Back in 2013 Howarth was selected as one of the 16 fighters competing in the qualification round in the first episode of The Ultimate Fighter season 18.
It was the year that the UFC promoted their first ever women’s fight, with Ronda Rousey defeating Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 in February 2013. That led to women entering The Ultimate Fighter for the first time, with Rousey and Miesha Tate serving as the head coaches. Howarth came agonizingly close to making the house, losing to Jessamyn Duke by triangle choke in an elimination fight. Given how Howarth snuck her way onto the show in the first place, getting that far was an achievement in itself,
“That was good fun. I kind of cheated my way onto that show really because I hadn’t even had a pro fight yet. I kinda lied about my record and got in that way. For me the experience of doing that was more to see if I was ready to turn pro, see if I was ready to hang with pros and I felt quite comfortable in there with Jessamyn and I felt like I was winning that fight until I stupidly got caught in a triangle. But ya know I’ve changed gyms since then and really worked on my ground game and ya know, things like that aren’t gonna happen anymore.
“It was a great experience, I enjoyed hanging out with all the girls and getting to know them. Cause I literally, I was the only girl from the UK there. I literally didn’t know any of these other girls and they’re all like fangirling over each other and I’m like, yeah I literally don’t know who you are but hey.”
There was no doubt that Howarth was ready to turn pro.Despite the loss, she impressed in the fight with Duke. It was one that Howarth was winning up until she got caught, and one she openly admits got away from her due to a lack of experience. With a professional record that read 0-0 at the time, that’s to be expected, and has only helped push the fighter to continue to improve.
“I just think that was lack of experience really, so I’m not worried about that. I can’t remember the last time one of the guys in the gym caught me in a triangle to be fair. I’m not worried about that at all, it was just lack of experience. I’m training at the right place now, i’ve got the right people around me, and everything’s really good.”
With the division last featuring on the show in that season, the UFC did open up the recent auditions for season 23 to the women’s bantamweights. Howarth did not try out this time around. In fact, due to lack of numbers, the bantamweights who did attend the tryouts were sent home.
Is it an experience that Howarth would put herself through again in future?
“I dunno, I don’t think I need to now. I’m signed to Invicta, they’re a great promotion. They’re like an unofficial feeder into the UFC. If I got that offer or wanted to make that step, but right now I’m quite happy just being with Invicta.”
Now the onus is on Invicta FC matchmaker Julie Kedzie to get Howarth into the cage in March and keep it that way. Ultimately, the decision rests on the shoulders of the promoter, but by the time Invicta FC 16 takes place, Howarth will have been contracted with Invicta for 11 months. With the fighter confident that we will see an even better version of herself next time out, March 11 seems like the perfect time for Laura Howarth to make a statement.
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.”
UFC 219’s Dan Hooker: Fighting in Perth Would Be an “Ideal Situation.”
New Zealander Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker is somewhat of a UFC veteran these days. On the 30th December Hooker will make his eighth UFC appearance, facing Marc Diakiese at UFC 219 in Las Vegas.
The card is a marquee event with some of the biggest names in the sport competing, but Hooker isn’t letting the magnitude of the event affect his preparation.
“It’s something you can look back on tell people you fought on a big card in Las Vegas, so it’s a milestone,” the Kiwi explained. “But when you’re focused on it you have to take every fight as just another fight. You can’t let the moment overwhelm you, or distract you.”
Hooker admitted to not knowing much about his opponent, Englishman, Diakiese, when the fight was announced. “I hadn’t seen him fight before we got matched, but he’s a big name in the UK so I’m looking forward to it”
Twenty-seven year old Hooker is just happy to fight. He had planned on fighting in Sydney this past November. “I had an infection in my knee which ruled me out of Sydney. I’m glad they can get me on [a card] before the end of the year.”
The Kiwi last fought at home on the UFC Auckland card in June, defeating veteran Ross Pearson with a devastating knee that KO’d his foe in round two. A fight that proved he belonged with the best in the world.
“It’s where I believe my skills are at. I’m showing everyone else what I know I’m capable of,” he said of the fight. “I think I’m capable of much more so I’m looking forward to getting back in there and doing it all again.”
The Pearson bout was Hooker’s first in the UFC’s lightweight division, having fought his first six bouts at featherweight, ten pounds below at 145 pounds. Hooker now intends to make 155 his home, and isn’t concerned about size difference.
“I’m not going back to 145, 155 is where it’s at. I’m more likely to go up than down,” Hooker said. “I just feel my skills have caught up, even if someone is carrying more size than me, I can beat them with my skill.”
There has been scrutiny in recent times due to weight cutting in the sport and new rules have been implemented by the UFC and various commissions to make to process safer. But not much is different, according to Hooker.
“It hasn’t changed anything. The bigger guys are still here and still cutting the same amount of weight.” Hooker also expressed his concern that more divisions would do more harm than good.
“You might get the opposite effect where guys are coming down even further, thinking its not ten pounds of weight, it’s only five pounds. Everyone needs to move up a weight class and fight at their natural weight. Lifestyle wise and longevity wise it’s going to pay off.”
A big reason why 155 is where it’s at is because of Conor McGregor. McGregor is currently the champion in Hooker’s division, yet he has been inactive for over a year and shows no signs in returning any time soon. Hooker isn’t holding his breath on the prospect of the Irishman fighting again.
“I’m not getting off the couch with a 100 million dollars in the bank, I’ll tell you that. I’ve never seen a fat lion running around chasing antelope in the desert, it just doesn’t happen,” Hooker joked.
While Hooker doesn’t see the UFC stripping McGregor anytime soon, he’s indifferent about the use of interim belts in the UFC. Tony Ferguson is the current interim champion in the lightweight division and Hooker thinks he should be next in line.
“The UFC have offered Tony [Ferguson] to defend his interim title. Defending an interim title is where I draw the line. It should be your golden ticket to a title shot, or don’t hand it out”
Interim titles aside, the stage is set for the New Zealander at UFC 219 in front of a large global audience. He aims to make his way up the lightweight ladder towards a prestigious top 15 spot on the roster.
Hooker is one of a few New Zealand based fighters making a run in the UFC. Shane Young made his debut this year, as did Luke Jumeau. Both often train alongside Hooker at City Kickboxing in Auckland. Hooker also suggested that the undefeated striker, Israel Adesanya will be next Kiwi fighter to join the UFC roster.
“The New Zealand market has quite a big talent pool and we’re able to get multiple New Zealand fighters in the UFC. It’s a really good sign.”
As for 2018, Hooker isn’t looking too far ahead as the nature of the sport of MMA means an injury can be just around the corner. If Hooker does come out unscathed – and victorious – then he has a plan in mind.
“I’d like to fight as soon as possible. I’d like to catch up to the Aussies and New Zealanders who got to fight in Sydney and will be fighting in Perth. If I can catch up in Perth then that would be the ideal situation.”
The Perth card would certainly make sense for Hooker. A win against Diakiese would give him his first win streak of his UFC career and set him up for even bigger fights in 2018. For now, Hooker is focused on his English opponent and ending his year on a high.
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