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Muhammad Ali passes away at 74

Matthew Wells

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Born in Lousiville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942, was Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.

The world would come to know him as Muhammad Ali, one of, if not the most, influential athletes and cultural icons to ever walk the planet.

After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, at 74 years of age, “The Greatest” passed away on June 3, 2016.

Muhammad Ali was much more than a legendary boxer. While his career inside the boxing ring provided some of the most memorable fights in the history of the sport, such as the “Thrilla in Manila,” it was his actions beyond the ropes that elevated him into a class of his own. Ali faced social injustices head on during the height of the civil rights movement and never shied away from conveying his feelings on political issues. Ali famously refused to enter the U.S. Army’s draft for the Vietnam War, resulting in being stripped of the Heavyweight Title, in addition to legal issues that kept him sidelined for three years during his athletic prime. “Hell no, I ain’t gonna go on the war in Vietnam I sing this song, I ain’t go no quarrel with them Viet Cong. Clean out my cell and take my tail to jail without bail. ‘Cause better to be in jail fed, than to be in Vietnam, dead,” Ali rhymed in response to questions about refusing to fight in the war. Ali used his boxing celebrity as a platform to speak out against social injustices.

Ali was very quick witted and had a way with words that was completely foreign to the sporting world. He brought a completely new style of fighting to the boxing game, as he verbally knocked out his opponents before even stepping foot inside the ring. He completely reinvented what it meant to “sell a fight” to fans by creating clever rhymes that predicted the outcome of his upcoming bouts. Before his fight with Sonny Liston in 1964, his poem delivered the night before the two would meet in the ring is legendary:

“Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat,
If Liston goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat.
Clay swings with a left,
Clay swings with a right,
Just look at young Cassius carry the fight.
Liston keeps backing but there’s not enough room,
It’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom.
Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing,
And the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring.
Liston still rising and the ref wears a frown,
But he can’t start counting until Sonny comes down.
Now Liston disappears from view, the crowd is getting frantic
But our radar stations have picked him up somewhere over the Atlantic.
Who on Earth thought, when they came to the fight,
that they would witness the launching of a human satellite?
Hence the crowd did not dream, when they laid down their money,
That they would see a total eclipse of Sonny!”

If Ali wasn’t up for the long-form rhyme, he would unleash a quick-witted response that would prove to be equally effective. “Sonny Liston is great, but he’ll fall in eight,” Ali also quipped about Liston. While the timeframe was off by one round in this instance, as Ali finished the fight in the seventh round, there were many other times Ali’s predictions played out to the letter.

Ali’s approach to pre-fight antics has inspired generations of fighters to attempt what he was able to create so genuinely. The best example of this today in the world of mixed martial arts is the pre-fight material from Conor McGregor. The ability to sell a fight is something that few possess, and even a smaller number can pull it off while coming across as believable. Everyone has their favorite Ali quote and there is quite an extensive library of them to choose from.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Ali’s boxing game is that he didn’t let the talk stop once the gloves were laced up. Ali was very much a showman during his fights has he taunted his opponents at nearly every opportunity, much to the delight of the crowd, and the frustration of his opponents. The best example of this in MMA in recent years has been Anderson Silva, who is widely considered to be the best of all-time in the sport and has spoken about Muhammad Ali’s influence on his own career many times.

After hearing the news of his passing, UFC President Dana White spoke with ESPN on Friday evening about Ali’s influence: “I think Muhammad Ali changed the face of combat sports forever. A lot of guys didn’t have a lot of personality back in the day. He was charismatic. He was incredible. He was a guy who was known around the world, one of the most famous human beings to ever live. In my house today, there’s tons of artwork of Muhammad Ali. Anybody who has ever been involved in combat sports, I think is a huge fan of Ali.”

Many of today’s athletes draw inspiration from Ali, regardless of the sport they compete in. When it comes to training, the most grueling aspect of combat sports and mixed martial arts in particular, Ali delivered historic quotes that can be found on posters and painted on gym walls throughout the globe to provide that extra push to persevere. His inspirational quotes reverberate through the walls of the training room and extend out into all aspects of life.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

The legend of Muhammad Ali will live on for generations to come, inspiring people to strive for greatness while standing up for what they believe in.

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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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UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child

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Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

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Dhiego Lima vs. Yushin Okami added to Glendale, Arizona card

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Fights, fights, fights, the world-wide leader in MMA added another fan-friendly bout to the already exciting ‘Fight Night: Glendale’ card. Two time ‘Ultimate Fighter’ finalist, Dhiego Lima takes on veteran Yushin Okami. Lima took to Instagram earlier today to announce the news.

Four days after adding an important Heavyweight clash to UFC Glendale, the promotion booked another crucial bout, in the Welterweight division. While, neither fighter ranks inside the top 15 of the Welterweight division, both sit at pivotal points in their career. In the case of Lima, he comes off a second appearance on the reality series, The Ultimate Fighter. Much like his first appearance, the Welterweight made the competition finals.

Lima first appeared on the reality series during Season 19: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn. In the preliminary round, he defeated Adam Stroup via unanimous decision (2 rounds), to earn a place in the house. From there, he submitted both his quarter-final and semi-final opponents. Lima left the Ultimate Fighter house undefeated, down the line, he did a similar thing on the 25th season of the show. He defeated Hayder Hassan, Gilbert Smith, and Tom Gallicchio, all by unanimous decision leaving the house undefeated for a second time.

Unfortunately, the inverse of his performances in the ‘TUF’ house came to fruition in the finals. In two Ultimate Fighter Finale’s, his record fell to 0-2, following Ultimate Fighter Finale Season 25. What happened to be even more unfortunate, Lima’s opponent at, The Ultimate Fighter Finale Season 25, Jesse Taylor, tested positive for the anti-estrogen agent clomiphene. The sample collected for the failed drug test was in an out-of-competition setting, therefor Lima’s loss to Taylor stands. The loss puts his record with the UFC at, 1-4.

A loss shouldn’t place Lima near the chopping block but, a win would greatly improve his standing with the promotion. The other half of the newly announced bout, is in a similar position.

Yushin Okami made his first appearance for the promotion at UFC 62. Okami earned the victory in his debut. The win marked his third consecutive win in the midst of a six fight win-streak. Over the course of those six victories, Okami defeated Alan Belcher (UFC 62), Kalib Starnes (UFC 64), Rory Singer (UFC 66), and Mike Swick (UFC 69). The Japanese born mixed martial artist remained on the roster for seven more years before being cut following a first round TKO loss to Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza.

Okami fought for various organizations following his release, while also dropping down to Welterweight. When, in the latter part of 2017, he was called upon as a short-notice injury replacement by the UFC. Seven days before UFC Fight Night 117: St. Preux vs. Rua, one half of the main event, Maurico Rua, withdrew due to an apparent knee injury. Okami answered the call, giving him seven days to prepare for rising Light Heavyweight contender, Ovince St. Preux. The Japanese native lost the contest by submission in the opening round.

UFC Fight Night Glendale takes place in Glendale Arizona at the Gila River Arena on April 14th. The main event features Justin Gaethje vs. Dustin Poirer.

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