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.”
Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186
Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.
Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”
Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”
With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”
For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”
Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”
Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”
Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”
With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”
Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”
Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”
Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.
Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”
Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:
Just make sure you don’t put cooking oil all over your body like Anderson did so it’ll be easy to grab ahold of you @lyotomachidafw 👌
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 17, 2017
Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”
Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.
“Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”
Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.
Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut
MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.
Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.
‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”
Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?
I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.
Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?
Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.
Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?
Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.
There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.
Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?
I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.
Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?
The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.
Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?
Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.
You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.
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