Having turned pro at 16 years of age #6 ranked UFC Bantamweight Michael McDonald has been impressive ever since his debut tallying together a record of 17-3. Now at only 25m McDonald is one of the top prospects in the Bantamweight division fight now since coming back from his 3-year layoff due to suffering from an injury.
Now one fight back since injury and only weeks away from his second Michael is set to take on another top prospect in John Lineker in the Main Event of UFC Fight Night 91 who is looking to take the Bantamweight division by storm. Lineker is a quite tough and tricky opponent but isn’t prompting Michael to change anything in his preparations from the usual. “The same way I’d prepare for anyone really, I’ve tried a couple of times to change what I do depending on who my opponent is and you know what their strengths are but it never worked out that well. When I fought Barao and Faber they were super strong with their in what they’re good at and I thought I tried to change a little bit of my fighting style to accommodate them and I felt like it never really worked. Everytime that I have felt most dominant. So I’m not really not gonna change anything at all. I’m gonna go back and fix all the mistakes from my last fight”
Lineker is known for his incredible power and ability to knock out his opponent, however, it wouldn’t stop “Mayday” from standing and trading with him “I’m willing to stand up and trade with anyone really”
When asked about how he sees the fight going then, Michael explained how he believes you should not expect how the fight takes place in order to avoid disappointment and that it is best to prepare for every possible outcome. “It’s a mistake to expect how the fights gonna go cause if it doesn’t go that way I’ll let myself down and be caught off guard. I think the best way to do it is to just prepare for every technique, scenario then I’ll just go in there and just play it by ear.” He went on to state his willingness and ability to bring the fight anywhere in order to get the win. “I’m gonna be me and I’m always dangerous on the feet and always willing to stay there and if I feel he’s doing really good there I might change it up and go to the ground, change my striking up maybe.”
When fighters are out for long periods of time you expect them to not be the same or to be slightly rusty in a sense. Well, that wasn’t the case for Michael McDonald as he came back from a 3-year layoff with a POTN earning a victory over Masanori Kanehara, which he also believed he was confident in with no ring rust when asked about it. “No I don’t really think so, the confidence doesn’t come from how many times you’ve been in the cage, it comes training and as long as you’re training solidly you should feel generally confident and it shouldn’t really make a difference and I did feel like I had a comeback but I didn’t feel like I had ring rust”
Currently, in the 135 division things, there are a lot of shifts in the rankings with a lot of fighters in for a good shout at a title shot after some big wins in recent events. This would certainly make it tougher for fighters to get a shot at the belt. This is something he has not really thought about, he then went on to add his thoughts on the division and the difficulty of earning a shot as well as staying on top. “I’m not thinking about it really I guess in theory it could be I mean anytime you got people who are really good it is. But the bantamweight division has always been strong, there’s always been great competition there. It’s always an uphill battle to get to the top, to get a title shot, but it’s even harder to stay there. I mean Cruz has done an amazing job and despite obviously having his fair share of setbacks but you do see a lot of people get title shots, but you don’t see them staying there very long.”
Using the Middleweight division as an example due to the quick change in champions at the top of the division lately, McDonald emphasised on the difficulty of staying on top as well giving his thoughts on a possible future champion at 185. “Yeah it’s very very tough [to stay on top], I mean 185 has some incredible fighters right now and he’s definitely gonna have his work cut out for him but I think that Yoel Romero is gonna be the champion in the future so they’re gonna have their work cut out for them”
There are many fun fights that could be made in the Bantamweight division, without looking past Lineker though Michael says a fight with Bryan Caraway would be of interest in the future. “Well Bryan Caraway has called me out a couple of times and it’d be nice to fight him”
Moving the way from the fighting aspect of the conversation I was interested to know about his spirituality since McDonald speaks very openly about his spirituality and love for god. When asking him about how this strong relationship came about he told me about many things biblical such as the ‘little g gods’,which are the things that make us happy. After explaining about how his ‘little g god’ from his youth was competition, he then moved towards telling me the heartwarming story during a rough patch in his life when he finally connected with god and how god spoke to him for the first time. “To be blunt, with all these successful things that happened to me throughout my career and my life for about six months I can remember not being happy and for six months being in a complete depression. The one day I was at Oakdale MMA, I had a private lesson. When I was just getting ready for this lesson, the guy called me and said “I’m an hour away” when we were meant to be doing it then and now. So I went outside and stood on the street corner and there was this red light that seemed like it just lasted for a year. I remember sitting there, watching the cars go by and life go on and it just in that moment seemed so useless, I remember for the first time in my life I questioned why I was even alive. When I did, God spoke to me for the first time, people always said to me when I was a kid, “oh god spoke to me” and well god didn’t speak to me so it was just another reason for me not to feel good enough. At that moment when I said myself “why am I even alive, god spoke to me for the first time and he said said “I love you and I’m gonna give you a taste of joy” and out of nowhere he just said it to me and I heard it. For no other reason that that god told me he was gonna give me joy, I ran to Starbucks happiest the ever been in my life. My exact words then were “I think I’m gonna give this church thing another try”.
After then noting how he learned there was a difference between god and church, he finished off his beautiful story on a high not breaking down how important god is to him and the major positive impact god has had on his life. “It’s not something I do to make me feel good, it’s not something that I’ve done to make me feel like a better person or anything like that, I’m a failure, I had everything and I didn’t even wanna live. Now I’m not this great awesome person, I’m a failure, I’m a sinner and god called out to me out of the sky and he told me that he gives me grace, he loves me, he redeemed me and that all work is done it’s finished and I am the prodigal son so because of that god has won my heart. It’s not because I wanna do all these religious and good things it’s cause god has won my heart and I’m never gonna be the same cause of it.”
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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