MMA: Anderson Silva

Expect CM Punk's foe to be 'competitive'

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
10:47
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta doesn't know who CM Punk, Phil Brooks, will fight in his professional mixed martial arts debut -- but he promises it will be someone "competitive."

The UFC signed the longtime professional wrestler to a contract late last year, despite the fact Brooks has zero professional MMA experience.

The 36-year-old is preparing for his Octagon debut at Roufusport in Milwaukee, although no date has been announced. Brooks expects to compete at middleweight. Fertitta said the bout will likely fill a pay-per-view co-main event.

I think it has to be somebody with some level of credentials. It's not just going to be some guy off the street. It's going to be somebody who is a professional mixed martial artist -- certainly somebody who MMA media will recognize and know.

-- UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, on CM Punk's (Phil Brooks) debut MMA opponent

Speculation has run rampant regarding who Brooks will face in his debut. Several UFC fighters have already requested that chance, prompting some to wonder whether an athletic commission would even sanction such a matchup.

Others to publicly campaign for the bout include former major league baseball player Jose Canseco and actor Jason David Frank, who is best known for his portrayal of the "Green Power Ranger."

Fertitta recently told ESPN.com he will lean heavily on UFC matchmaker Joe Silva in terms of booking Brooks' first professional fight, but he offered his thoughts on the type of opponent he envisions for Brooks.

"I think it has to be somebody with some level of credentials," Fertitta told ESPN.com. "It's not just going to be some guy off the street. It's going to be somebody who is a professional mixed martial artist -- certainly somebody who MMA media will recognize and know."

When asked if the UFC will go outside of its current roster to find the right fit for Brooks, Fertitta responded, "most likely."

"But I'm going to defer to Joe Silva," Fertitta said. "We'll let him bring two to three names to the table and we'll figure it out from there. But I guarantee you it will be a competitive guy."

Shortly after the UFC deal was announced, Brooks, who has trained in karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, told ESPN.com he was confident the promotion wouldn't go too hard on him to start, but said he was willing to fight anyone.

"They will give me a fight that makes sense -- unless this thing is a big rib on me and they have me fight Anderson Silva right away," Brooks said. "I could tell you what the outcome of that fight would be.

"Only time will tell, but if I had to guess who's standing across the Octagon from me, it's probably a young kid with around the same experience as myself."

In terms of the logic behind signing a professional wrestler to his MMA debut inside the UFC cage, Fertitta said he expected some resistance to it but considers it to be fighter development -- something the UFC has done since its beginning.

"We knew there was going to be backlash," Fertitta said. "At the end of the day, we did our research and we talked to the people he's trained with. We're going to find out what he can bring to the table. We're confident he has the skills to fight. We don't know exactly what level yet. Sometimes, you've got to invest in what we call 'fighter development.' We've done it before and guys have developed into very competitive fighters, and we've done it where guys have not."

Weidman: Belfort bout is personal

November, 18, 2014
11/18/14
9:19
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman doesn't talk much trash, but he still knows when he's dropped a headline.

And Weidman, 30, couldn't help but smile as he spoke to reporters about Vitor Belfort on Monday. He fights Belfort at UFC 184 on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles and in the build-up to it, he's created a few headlines.

"He's been caught cheating," Weidman said. "And I'm not going to let a cheating juice-head take my belt."

After making the statement, Weidman (12-0) asked, "Who's going to have that headline first?"

This is a different Weidman than UFC fans are used to seeing. He was confident but respectful toward Anderson Silva in back-to-back fights in 2013. He was friendly with Lyoto Machida ahead of a matchup in July, and on Monday referred to Machida as "the coolest dude."

Belfort (24-10) has brought out a new Weidman, though. The two were supposed to fight in May, but Belfort, 37, was forced to withdraw when testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) was banned in Nevada in February.

I'm not going to let a cheating juice-head take my belt.

-- UFC middleweight Chris Weidman, on defending his title against Vitor Belfort

The fight was rescheduled for December, but Weidman was forced to pull out with a broken left hand -- which prompted a few angry sound bites from Belfort.

Come February, Weidman has stated he's on a mission to embarrass Belfort at UFC 184 and admitted on Monday the bout has become somewhat personal to him.

"I'm going out to dominate him and if I don't completely smoke him, it's a loss in my eyes," Weidman said. "I don't know him as a person but with the TRT and failed drug tests, I want to completely destroy him. He actually came out today and said he hasn't talked trash, but he was the one who, when I got injured, said I wanted to keep the belt for Christmas -- basically calling me a liar."

In June, Belfort released test results that showed his testosterone levels were above normal during a test taken in February. He also tested positive for a banned substance in Nevada in 2006.

Weidman says he doesn't dismiss Belfort's entire career, which dates back to 1996, but heavily questions some of his performances (especially three knockout wins last year).

"I don't want to take away everything he's ever accomplished, but you look at him in some of his fights and what human being looks like that naturally?" Weidman said. "You go into your own logic and figure it out on your own. I'm not going to be the guy who victimizes him and says 100 percent he was juicing because I didn't test him or watch him inject it in his ass.

"However, I think in his last couple fights, when he got caught and the guys he was beating up in Brazil -- why was he fighting in Brazil? He was bigger than ever. There was some weird stuff going on with those three knockouts."

Belfort applied for a fighter's license in the state of California late last week. The Nevada State Athletic Commission is currently awaiting test results from a random blood and urine test it ordered on Belfort two weeks ago.

Weidman said he'd be "disgusted" if the fight fell through a third time due to a failed test.

"I'm worried," Weidman said. "That's the guy I want to fight. We were supposed to fight for almost a year now. I want to fight him and I would be disgusted if something happens."

'Shogun' hints at possible drop in weight

November, 10, 2014
11/10/14
1:39
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Following the quickest loss of his career -- and his second consecutive loss by knockout -- Mauricio Rua hinted at a possible change in weight class on Monday.
[+] EnlargeMauricio 'Shogun' Rua
Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesMauricio Rua is considering a move down from light heavyweight to middleweight.

"Shogun," the former UFC light heavyweight champion, suffered a 34-second knockout loss to Ovince Saint Preux on Saturday in Uberlandia, Brazil. For Rua, 32, it was his fourth loss in five contests.

The Brazilian gave full credit to Saint Preux in a social media post in Portuguese on Monday, stating he made a "technical error" and would consider a future "change in [weight] category."

"So many times in my career I've been on the happy side and, unfortunately, this time I experienced the sad side," Rua wrote, via Google Translate. "I prepared a lot for this fight and was well-trained and that's what hurts the most -- to lose in this manner, without being able to show what we trained.

"Now I will rest, enjoy my family and then think about next steps. ["The Ultimate Fighter"] Brazil, maybe a change of [weight] category, but move on."

Prior to the loss, Rua had told ESPN.com he planned to fight another "four to five years."

Late last year, UFC president Dana White expressed interest in seeing Rua drop to 185 pounds. However, Rua has said he never seriously considered a drop around that time.

Rua is scheduled to coach TUF Brazil opposite former middleweight champion Anderson Silva in 2015, although the UFC has stated the two will not fight at the conclusion of the season -- a break in tradition. Rua (22-1) has said he would be open to the fight. Silva (33-6) is scheduled to fight Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31.

Silva reportedly hospitalized with back pain

November, 4, 2014
11/04/14
4:15
PM ET
By brettokamoto
ESPN.com
Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva was reportedly hospitalized on Monday morning due to lower back pain.

According to a report from Brazilian news site Combate, Silva, 39, experienced pain and numbness in his legs after a training session at X-Gym in Rio de Janeiro. He was taken to Hospital Barra D'Or where the issue was diagnosed as acute lumbar pain. Silva was reportedly released on Tuesday.

Silva (33-6) is scheduled to fight Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas. It will be his first appearance since he suffered two fractured bones in his left leg during a loss to Chris Weidman in December.

Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission medical director Dr. Marcio Tannure was quoted in the Combate article, stating the issue would not affect Silva's plans to return to action early next year.

"It hurts a lot really, but it will not change anything in terms of training," Tannure told Combate.

Silva claims he's signed 15-fight contract

October, 27, 2014
10/27/14
1:47
PM ET
By brettokamoto
ESPN.com
Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva told Brazilian news site Combate on Monday he has signed a new 15-fight deal with the promotion.
[+] EnlargeAnderson Silva
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesAnderson Silva claims to have signed a 15-fight contract with the UFC.

Silva, who will turn next year, said he met with UFC president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta in Rio de Janeiro last week. He still had eight fights left on a previous deal signed in 2012.

"I was with Lorenzo and Dana on Thursday and the (previous) contract was torn," said Silva, according to the report. "To make Dana crazy, I signed for 15 more fights."

Widely considered the greatest fighter of all time, Silva has a history of playing coy with media in his career. His manager, Ed Soares, did not immediately respond to request for comment by ESPN.com

White, when asked if Silva's statements were true, would only respond: "Must be, if he said it."

Silva (33-6) is scheduled to fight Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas. It will mark his first appearance since he suffered two fractured bones in his left leg during a loss to Chris Weidman in December.

The Brazilian martial artist is 16-2 all-time in the UFC and holds a company record for most consecutive title defenses with 10. He made his UFC debut in June 2006.

Silva speaks candidly about 'new' Silva

October, 15, 2014
10/15/14
8:22
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
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Andreson Silva and Chris WeidmanJayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsAnderson Silva admits he went through trying times after breaking his leg in a loss to Chris Weidman.

A media function with Anderson Silva is always a bit of a crap shoot.

Silva, 39, has a few different faces when handling interviews. Sometimes he'll joke, play coy and offer seemingly nonsensical responses to anything he's asked. It's not unusual for him to grow bored in the middle of a line of questioning and start to answer only in "yes" or "no." He's also known to change his mind on rather significant topics, creating contradicting headlines within the span of weeks.
[+] EnlargeRonaldo Souza	vs. Gegard Mousasi
Ed Mulholland for ESPNAnderson Silva is in full support of Ronaldo Souza, left, and his quest for a UFC title shot.

At rare times though, Silva allows the fight world into his head (albeit briefly).

That was the case Tuesday, as Silva held an hourlong news conference at Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro to promote a fight against Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas.

The Brazilian started the event in typical, awkward-Silva fashion -- saying something about reporters making jokes about his voice and legs (no reporter would make any such joke during the news conference). Between questions, he would treat his microphone like a pirate spyglass, scanning the audience for media members as they asked him questions.

Through all the antics, however, Silva spoke candidly about the pressure that had mounted on him over the course of his UFC-record 10 title defenses, expectations for the rest of his career and, of course, his recovery from the horrific leg injury he suffered during a loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 168 in December.

Silva fractured the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg in the second round of that bout, after Weidman checked an attempted leg kick. He was rushed to a Las Vegas hospital, where UFC surgeon Dr. Steven Sanders performed emergency surgery.

The former middleweight champion said he went into a state of depression after the injury.

"I don't like to remember it too much," said Silva, in Portuguese. "I went through the worst months of my life. I was in a lot of pain. The moment I broke my leg, I thought my career was over. I was depressed, upset. If I didn't have the people around me that I have, I might not have come back."

As it turned out, the break was fairly manageable from a medical standpoint. Silva avoided infection and estimates for his recovery were set at six months to one year. Five months after the injury occurred, Silva posted a video of himself kicking a heavy bag.

Since he announced he would return (immediately after the injury), headlines have gone back and forth regarding whether he'd pursue a UFC title again, how much credit he gave Weidman for the unusual win and if he wants to fight him a third time.

I went through the worst months of my life. I was in a lot of pain. The moment I broke my leg, I thought my career was over. I was depressed, upset. If I didn't have the people around me that I have, I might not have come back.

-- Anderson Silva, on life after his loss to Chris Weidman

On Tuesday, Silva (33-6) said he was neither gunning for a title shot nor avoiding one. He did say he is in full support of teammate Ronaldo Souza, who is currently campaigning for a UFC title shot.

"I went through that phase," Silva said of chasing a title. "I have to respect that 'Jacare' is out there and he has my full support to fight for the belt. I'm in the UFC too, but I've been through that phase. He's training a lot, doing very well and working hard for that. I'm not pretentious to go and fight for the belt right now. I have to qualify myself again to have that opportunity.

"This thing about returning -- it's because I feel I left something. I let go of this whole road of fighting in my last fights. I let something go and I'm looking for that again."

In comments similar to those of longtime UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who vacated his title late last year and took an indefinite leave of absence from the sport, Silva said that the pressure of repeatedly defending a title had weighed on him and his family -- although he blamed technical mistakes for the back-to-back losses to Weidman last year.

"There's something else I felt in my past fights," Silva said. "I had a lot of pressure. I wasn't doing it because I was happy. Not that anybody was pressuring me. The UFC was not pressuring me. It was a self-pressure that ended up taking my focus and my will to do what I did. But it's been good. Everything that's happened made me restart and I've gone back a little bit. I've looked at a few things and I'm training to come back very well and continue doing what I do with a lot of love."

In regard to the left leg, Silva described it as "great." He claimed to be able to use it "without fear" and said he'd be 100 percent by the night of the fight.

Strength and conditioning coach Rogerio Camoes, who appeared at the news conference alongside grappling coach Ricardo De La Riva, boxing coach Luiz Dorea and Brazilian physician Dr. Marcio Tannure, said Silva is currently maintaining a "tactical" approach to training, relying more on pad work and drills than sparring. He anticipated Silva would continue to gain lower body strength through November and then build up his stamina in December.

Beyond Diaz, Silva didn't talk much about future opponents. He did say he would not move to the light heavyweight division to challenge defending champion Jon Jones (a move that seemed possible in early 2013) and acknowledged that a proposed boxing match against Roy Jones Jr. (another possibility that didn't seem entirely crazy in early 2013) is off the table. As he put it, UFC president Dana White took that "candy" away.

He did predict his countryman Vitor Belfort would defeat Weidman when the two meet in a fight expected to take place early next year. He repeatedly declined to express interest in a third fight with Weidman, though. He did say he intends to finish out the 10-fight contract extension he signed with the UFC in 2012.

"If I have to fight Weidman again, I will," Silva said. "A fight is a fight, but I don't like to keep talking about how I want to fight him again. People always ask who I want to fight and I always answer the same thing. I don't want to say anyone's name, so I say I want to fight my clone."

On a day when it appeared Silva was willing to be more honest (or at least more talkative) than the average day, it might be worthwhile to point out one of the final things he said.

Minutes before the news conference wrapped up, Silva, almost in a way that acknowledged his reputation for cryptic responses, offered a simple, direct statement.

"The new Anderson Silva -- he's good," he said. "No, seriously. He's very good."

Five fantasy, non-title "superfights"

July, 31, 2014
7/31/14
7:20
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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The Anderson Silva-Nick Diaz "superfight" is 185 days away.

That should be enough time to determine whether we’re actually going to call it a "superfight" to begin with. We’ve spent years talking about potential superfights in the UFC, but did we ever actually define what they were? We didn't, did we?

Whatever: Superfight status or not, Silva versus Diaz is something you want to watch if you’re a fight fan. Their personalities go a long way in that, but it’s also a fight that just feels different.

At a time when the UFC sometimes airs two cards in one day, different is welcomed.

It's definitely not your average UFC pay-per-view main event. There is no title involved, nor are there any recent wins involved. Both are 0-2 in their respective last two fights.

But this is a matchup that doesn't really care. The stakes feel high, although they’re hard to define. Maybe superfights don’t need UFC titles involved.

In the spirit of this matchup, here are five non-title "superfights" we could all get into. Will any actually happen? Probably not. But that's actually fitting. If there is one attribute about a "superfight" we know of, it's that they rarely come together.

No. 5 -- Nate Diaz versus Matt Brown, welterweight
Right? I mean, right? What if the UFC had announced, "Diaz versus Brown," and when you got to the fight poster it was a picture of Nate? How many pieces would your mind blow into? After Brown lost to Lawler, there was no better opponent for him than Diaz, but he was destined for Silva. How about his younger brother fight Brown instead? We already admitted none of these fights are likely going to happen, but now that this one is out there, I really want it.

No. 4 -- Glover Teixeira versus Junior dos Santos, heavyweight
So many bungalows would be thrown. Both guys don’t go down easy, but they put guys down easily. The exchanges would be nuts. If one of them switched gears and went for a takedown, it would be Teixeira -- but him taking dos Santos down is doubtful. So, what we’re looking at here is a guaranteed stand-up between JdS and Teixeira. Let that marinate for a minute.

No. 3 -- Urijah Faber versus Frankie Edgar, featherweight
Bump Faber back up to featherweight (although a teammate fight between him and Dillashaw would be a good time, too). This one writes itself. The prefight barbs would be as cordial as it gets, but the skill level in the cage would be off the charts. I’d rather see this fight over Faber vs. Masanori Kanehara.

No. 2 -- Anthony Johnson versus Alistair Overeem, heavyweight
Former teammates -- sort of. No one at the Blackzilians camp seems too broken up about Overeem’s decision to bail earlier this year. Johnson said he has no “beef” with Overeem but claims he was never part of the team. This all sounds like something we could exploit and magnify by placing the two in the same room with cameras and microphones for several weeks.

No. 1 -- Conor McGregor versus Donald Cerrone, lightweight
In Dublin. Cerrone would somehow commandeer a Bud Light party submarine for him and his buddies so he could still make a “road trip” out of it. Would Cerrone smile at the weigh-in and carry that carefree aura we’ve seen lately? Or might this kind of moment bring out the Cerrone that screamed expletives after knocking out Charles Oliveira in 2011 or who ran over Jamie Varner in a grudge match in 2010? Both of these guys are down to fight whomever, whenever. McGregor is a big 145.

Anderson Silva: Good as new?

July, 31, 2014
7/31/14
6:31
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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videoWhen Anderson Silva steps into the Octagon to fight Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, it will, in one significant way, be as if he never suffered a leg injury.

As we all know, Silva, 39, fractured the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg during a TKO loss to Chris Weidman in December. Replays produced a lasting image: Silva's leg literally bending in a way it's not intended, as Weidman checked a leg kick.

It was a gruesome injury, but let's pretend for a moment it never happened. Let's pretend Silva finished the fight, but lost to Weidman and then announced his retirement. He sits out seven months, but then decides he wants back in and is booked to January.

As crazy as it sounds, this scenario would have left Silva in the exact same state he's currently in, medically speaking.

"I think that's a fair statement," said Dr. Timothy Trainor, consulting physician to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and a practicing orthopedic surgeon. "Assuming that bone has healed fine, that is safe to say.

"To be honest, the injury [Silva] had is probably a better injury to have than an ACL tear. Once you've put that rod in, it almost always heals without major incident. I'm not surprised at all that he's back within a year; absolutely not."

It is highly unlikely Silva's leg will ever break again, especially now that there is a titanium rod inserted into the bones. Typically, Trainor says if a re-break does occur, it is caused by something truly traumatic, such as a car accident. In other words, Silva should be fine throwing leg kicks.

Of course, this is not to downplay the significance of Silva's injury. Psychologically, Silva (33-6), who is widely considered to be the greatest fighter of all time, will have to deal with a range of potential mental hurdles to be successful again.

[+] EnlargeChris Weidman and Anderson Silva
Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAnderson Silva fractured the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg during his December loss to Chris Weidman in their rematch at UFC 168.
Physiologically, however, there is no reason to doubt Silva will be at a disadvantage. He will be 10 weeks removed from his 40th birthday by the day of the fight, which is past a professional athlete's prime, but his age shouldn't have affected his recovery.

"His age, you know, would he have healed a little easier if he was 25? Maybe, but not necessarily," Trainor said. "He's a very healthy guy. I wouldn't be concerned about his age coming back from this type of injury."

According to Silva's manager, Ed Soares, the Brazilian is still undergoing physical rehabilitation on the leg to restore muscle. Despite that, he is not limiting his activity in the gym and sparred with UFC middleweight Lyoto Machida this week.

Soares told ESPN.com that Silva was in high spirits Tuesday when the Diaz fight was announced. Black House MMA posted photos of Silva training Tuesday, in which he appeared in shape. Soares estimated Silva's current weight to be 205 pounds.

Silva's comeback to professional fighting has been one of the most intriguing stories to follow in 2014. Dr. Steven Sanders, the surgeon who operated on Silva, said the fighter asked, "When can I train?" right before undergoing emergency surgery on the night of the injury. That's fantastic stuff.

With a Jan. 31 fight now announced, the question on Silva will turn from, "Can he come back?" to "Can he be the same?" Amazingly, from a medical standpoint at least, he can.

Michael Bisping not dwelling on losses

July, 30, 2014
7/30/14
6:50
AM ET
By brettokamoto
ESPN.com
On Jan. 28, 2012, Michael Bisping came within five minutes of a UFC title shot.

Bisping (24-6) fought Chael Sonnen that night in a No. 1 middleweight contender bout in Chicago. After two rounds, two of the three judges had the fight even, 19-19. A decisive round for Bisping would have netted a coveted shot at Anderson Silva.

It didn’t happen. Sonnen (28-14-1) set a relentless pace, out-grappled Bisping in the final round and won the decision. He fought Silva six months later; in his second UFC title fight appearance. He eventually fought for a UFC belt three times.

Bisping, 35, had done about everything there is to do in the UFC. He’s fought in the Octagon 20 times and participated on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series as both a contestant (once) and a coach (twice). He’s fought in five different countries.

He has never fought for a UFC title, however. Only three fighters in UFC history have made more appearances than Bisping and never fought for a title. The closest he has ever come to earning a shot was unquestionably that third round in Chicago in 2012.
[+] EnlargeMichael Bisping
Susumu Nagao for ESPNDespite three losses in 2012, Michael Bisping, left, isn't dwelling on the past or what could have been.

Two and a half years later, Sonnen, 37, retired from mixed martial arts on the heels of testing positive for five banned substances in the span of two weeks. It opened a world of questions regarding his previous use of testosterone-replacement-therapy and drug use in general. Sonnen was on TRT when he fought Bisping in 2012.

Was Sonnen on performance-enhancing drugs when he fought Bisping? Were his testosterone levels monitored while he was on TRT for that fight? What affect did it have on the outcome? One would think Bisping might go crazy thinking about it.

And it doesn’t end there. Bisping has lost six fights in the UFC. Three of those came against fighters who later had issues when the Nevada State Athletic Commission, as the result of random, unannounced drug testing.

Wanderlei Silva, whom Bisping lost to in February 2010, ran from a sample collector on May 24. Vitor Belfort, who knocked out Bisping in January 2013, submitted a test that showed high levels of testosterone in his blood as part of a license application earlier this year.

In Bisping’s mind, there is no question all three played outside the rules during the course of their careers. Bisping swears he’s never taken a banned substance.

Does that bother him? He’s fought in the UFC since 2006. Never reached a title. Did drug use in the sport prevent him from that?

Everybody knows Vitor is the most prolific drug cheat in history.

--Michael Bisping

“It doesn’t keep me up at night,” Bisping said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing. I was in No. 1 contender matchups several times and they didn’t go my way. I fought some of the most prolific drug users in the sport. Would things have been different had they not been on whatever they were on? Who knows? You can’t live your life like that.

“Everybody knows Vitor is the most prolific drug cheat in history. Chael, I don’t like to kick a man while he’s down, but he had five banned substances in his system. It wasn’t a surprise. Anybody that was on TRT used it to try and cheat the system.”

Bisping’s window to fight for a UFC title is closing. He is coming off a decision loss to Tim Kennedy in April, during which he looked flat and ultimately uncompetitive.

He is scheduled to fight Cung Le at a UFC Fight Night event on Aug. 23 in Macau. His goal is still the UFC title, but if it doesn’t happen, Bisping says hopefully he’ll be remembered for something else. After watching some of his best opponents fall under drug suspicion, Bisping is simply proud of the fact he’s not with them.

“If I never get to fight for a title, it will be an absolutely crying shame,” Bisping said. “But I want my legacy to be pretty simple. I worked my ass off and did it the old fashioned way. I’ve never taken a steroid in my life.

“You work your ass off and try to achieve what you can.”

Evolving trumps history for Machida

July, 2, 2014
7/02/14
6:42
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- When it finally came time for former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida to make his long-anticipated move to middleweight, it just kind of happened. There was little fanfare.

The UFC called, offered Machida a fight at 185 pounds, and he accepted. In a way, it was more or less decided for him.

“I felt comfortable at 205 pounds,” Machida told ESPN.com. “I was always at the top of my weight class. But they offered me a chance at 185 and I took it.”

Not the most entrancing story -- but it's the outcome that's important. Machida was a middleweight.

A new (old) star will make a run at UFC history on Saturday, when Machida (21-4) meets 185-pound champion Chris Weidman at UFC 175 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

If victorious, Machida would join Randy Couture and BJ Penn as the only fighters to ever win titles in more than one weight class. Coincidentally, Machida has beaten both Couture (April 2011) and Penn (March 2005) in his career.
"

I don't think not moving to middleweight was ever about [Anderson Silva]. Lyoto liked being the quicker guy at light heavyweight.

"

-- Ed Soares, manager for both Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva, on Machida's reasons for staying at 205 pounds for so long


Machida, 36, officially dropped to 185 pounds last year, but could have done it well before. He won the UFC light heavyweight title in May 2009, but relinquished it one year later to Mauricio Rua in a first-round knockout.

For years, it was assumed Machida wouldn’t drop in weight because his friend and occasional training partner Anderson Silva was the middleweight kingpin -- but as it turns out, that was never entirely accurate.

The two are definitely friends, but their careers aren’t dictated by that relationship. Machida can’t even remember the previous time they trained together and although Silva is familiar with Weidman (11-0), having fought him twice, they haven’t compared notes on the champion.

“I don’t think not moving to middleweight was ever about [Silva],” said Ed Soares, who manages both fighters. “Lyoto liked being the quicker guy at light heavyweight.

“He always believed he could work his way back up and beat Jon Jones, but there was a Plan B to reinvent himself at middleweight. And after that robbery loss to Phil Davis (Machida lost to Davis via decision last August), he was forced to take it.”

That controversial unanimous decision loss to Davis at UFC 163 might prove to have a positive effect on Machida’s career. Some would argue his move to middleweight was long overdue, even though he’s a young 36 due to his defensive fighting style.

Had he defeated Davis, who knows how long Machida would have stayed at 205?
[+] EnlargeMachida-Davis
AP Photo/Felipe DanaLosing to Phil Davis, right, might have been the best thing to happen to Lyoto Machida.

“I think if I hadn’t lost to Phil Davis in that way, I imagine I’d still be at light heavyweight,” Machida said. “In reality, that weight class was a little stopped up so it was a good thing I moved down.”

In addition to dropping to a weight class that suits him far better, Machida started to work full time with Muay Thai instructor Rafael Cordeiro in Huntington Beach, California.

The two had worked together previously, but Machida says the partnership truly took off last year prior to his first middleweight fight. The results have been outstanding thus far, as Machida knocked out Mark Munoz in the first round of his 185-pound UFC debut, then dominated Gegard Mousasi in a five-round fight in February.

Having his game evolve under Cordeiro's eye is Machida’s current concern -- more so than rewriting UFC history this weekend. But whether it’s his focus or not, there’s little doubt that the fact he’s in position to do so has been great for his career.

“When people bring (winning titles in two weight classes) up, yeah I think about it and it’s a pretty cool opportunity but that’s not really motivating me," he said. "What’s motivating me is to train hard and go out and have a good performance.”

Henderson looking for final shot at UFC title

May, 22, 2014
5/22/14
3:48
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- The average age of the current UFC champions is 27 years, 10 months. Dan Henderson, who wants one final crack at a UFC belt, will turn 44 in August.

Those numbers aren't promising, but they could be worse. He could be turning 45.

Henderson (30-11) is considered one of the best mixed martial artists of all time -- a distinction that will remain in place regardless of what happens Saturday, when he faces undefeated light heavyweight Daniel Cormier at UFC 173 in Las Vegas.

The big knock on Henderson going into this fight is attached to his age. He's simply too old, man. Not too old to still win a fight here and there, but certainly too old to mix it up with Cormier, who is eight years younger. This can't end well for him.

Things didn't end well for him in November, when he was lifted off his feet by a left hook from Vitor Belfort and finished moments later with a head kick. He rebounded from the loss with a comeback TKO win over Mauricio Rua in March, but was nearly knocked out again in the first two rounds of that fight.

It's the lasting images of those two fights that seem to have many concerned about Henderson's health this weekend. For his part, Henderson says, that's fighting.

"There has been a few fights where that has happened to me," Henderson told ESPN.com. "Obviously, not quite as bad as the Vitor fight but real similar, where I got rocked and had to recover and ended up winning the fight. It wasn't anything new.

"Having it happen back-to-back in big settings where everybody is watching, I think that's why people are talking about it. Am I as quick as I used to be? Probably not. But I don't know. It's hard for me to tell. I don't feel old."

It seems incredible to think that Henderson began fighting professionally in 1997, first fought for the UFC in 1998, has won 30 fights during that time but never won a UFC title. It truly is the last empty space on his MMA bingo card.

And whether he feels old or not, Henderson acknowledges this could be his final run at that achievement. He says he won't lose sleep (at least not "too much sleep") if it never happens, but it'd be icing on the cake. And who eats cake without icing?

"I won't ever say 'never,' but, you know, there's not too many opportunities left for me to get that title belt," Henderson said.

UFC president Dana White has said the winner of Saturday's fight will be next in line to challenge for the 205-pound title.

[+] EnlargeDan Henderson
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comAt 43, Dan Henderson isn't shaken by the long odds against him on Saturday against Daniel Cormier at UFC 173.
A former champion in Pride and Strikeforce, Henderson has flirted with the UFC belt on several occasions, but never brought it home. He lost to Quinton Jackson in a light heavyweight title bout in September 2007, a fight he'd take back if he could.

Henderson had fought almost exclusively in a ring before that title fight and says he didn't acclimate himself enough to the cage beforehand. Six months later, he lost to Anderson Silva via submission in a bid for the UFC's middleweight title.

The one that might hurt the most, though, is UFC 151 in September 2012. Henderson was scheduled to fight Jon Jones in the main event of that card, but withdrew with a knee injury. He lost a non-title bout to Lyoto Machida in his return.

The Jones matchup was one Henderson badly wanted, as he bluntly stated ahead of the fight that Jones, 25 at the time, would only get better with age. Although he still believes he can beat Jones now, he's not as ripe for the picking as he was in 2012.

"I said that three or four years ago, that here is a guy who lacks experience and I'd rather fight him now rather than later," Henderson said. "I think he got offended when I said it, but it was absolutely true.

"He became champ at a young age with not many fights. I would have liked to fight him then, but it is what it is. I still think I can beat him."

To prove it, Henderson will have to find a way to beat an opponent who is a 9-1 favorite over him this weekend. To Henderson, those odds are just numbers. They mean little. Just like the number 43.

Gegard Mousasi: I think I'm underrated

February, 13, 2014
2/13/14
9:46
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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video
UFC middleweight Gegard Mousasi admits that every now and then, he’ll log onto an Internet fan forum to see what’s being said about him.

He doesn’t always agree with what he finds.

Mousasi (34-3-2) will make his first appearance at middleweight since 2008 when he meets Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 36 on Saturday in Jaragua do Sol, Brazil.
[+] EnlargeGegard Mousasi, Ilir Latifi
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesGegard Mousasi, left, feels he's been flying under the radar for too long.

If there’s one knock on Mousasi’s sterling record thus far, it’s that he’s built it while facing lesser competition. Although he’s lost just three fights in the last 10 years, rarely if ever will you see his name on a pound-for-pound list.

“I don’t get a lot of credit,” Mousasi told ESPN.com. “When I fought Denis Kang, Renato Sobral and Melvin Mahoef (in 2008), they were much better then. At that time, Kang was on top. A couple years later, he was losing to everybody.

“When I beat [Ronaldo] Jacare Souza, he wasn’t a big name. Mark Hunt -- no one knew who these guys were. Now they are doing very well. It depends how people look at it and people usually look at it negatively with me.”

Mousasi knows he can do a lot to change that perception with a win over Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion who appears to be on the verge of another title shot following a first-round knockout over Mark Munoz in October.

On Wednesday, Mousasi shared his thoughts on that upcoming opportunity.

ESPN: Does it bother you that some observers criticize the level of competition you’ve faced?

Mousasi: I don’t know how people look at it. I’ve seen so many fighters getting knocked out. I’ve never been knocked out. I’ve never been hurt in a fight. But people don’t look at those things. Vitor Belfort has been knocked out a couple of times. No one looks at it that way. I’m a solid fighter. I don’t know. Everyone has an opinion, but I am always underrated.

ESPN: When you stopped cutting to middleweight in 2009, you said it was too difficult of a cut for you. What’s changed from then to now?

Mousasi: My last two fights (at light heavyweight) I didn’t cut a lot of weight. I was around 206 or 207 pounds. It makes sense cutting now. I think I always knew I was a little undersized. I perform better at 185 and I will get an easier title shot here.

ESPN: What makes you think a UFC title shot at 185 pounds is easier to earn than 205?

Mousasi: There are a lot of popular names in the light heavyweight division. At middleweight there isn’t a No. 1 contender. You have Vitor Belfort next and then no one is really in line. At 205, the next guy is Glover Teixeira, then you have Alexander Gustafsson and then Daniel Cormier or Rashad Evans. You have three guys in front of you at that weight. At middleweight, you only have Belfort.

ESPN: You’re well known for how calm you are in the cage. Has that always come naturally to you, and is it an advantage in a fight against an elusive guy like Machida?

Mousasi: When I was an amateur, I would go to knock guys out in the first minute. When you get experience, you know it doesn’t work like that. Emotion works against you. The less emotion, the more you use your brain and fight smart. I’ve been working on staying calm for this fight and I’ve seen Machida get frustrated, too. If he can’t do what he does, he’ll get frustrated.

ESPN: When you announced your intent to drop to 185 pounds, Anderson Silva was still the champion. Were you excited about the idea of a possible fight with him?

Mousasi: My goal was to fight for the belt. At that time, Anderson Silva was the champ, so of course I wanted to fight him. I was thinking about it. But I just want the belt. That’s my goal. Who has it now is not that important.

ESPN: Chris Weidman is the champ now, having beaten Silva twice. Curious though, who would be a tougher matchup for you, Silva or Weidman?

Mousasi: Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. I would say, I think Anderson a little bit -- but not really. I don’t know. They are both equal. It’s too difficult to say.

Philippou on the belt, Rockhold, Weidman

January, 13, 2014
1/13/14
7:06
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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The absence of longtime UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva at the top of the division has done nothing to change the mindset of Constantinos Philippou.

He never thought about the UFC title before Silva lost and still doesn’t now.

Philippou (12-3) is set to meet Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC Fight Night 35 on Wednesday, in Duluth, Ga. Clearly, Philippou would like to get his hand raised because “everybody likes to win,” but in terms of what it would do for his rank, he doesn't particularly care.

Based out of Long Island, N.Y., Philippou says he won’t lose a minute of sleep if he someday ends his career having never fought for a world title. He understands it’s a weird stance to have as a martial artist, but that’s just the way it is.

"

I don't care about the fame or being called a champion. It's just a means to an end right now. Get a little money to move on to the next step of my life. Fighting is not my life. It's something I'm good at and it's what I do right now.

" -- Constantinos Philippou, on his place in the UFC

“That’s not me,” Philippou told ESPN.com. “I never saw myself in mixed martial arts and I never saw myself in the UFC.

“I don’t care about the fame or being called a champion. It’s just a means to an end right now. Get a little money to move on to the next step of my life. Fighting is not my life. It’s something I’m good at and it’s what I do right now.”

That doesn’t mean, Philippou says, he lacks motivation to improve. Since his last fight, a unanimous decision loss to Francis Carmont at UFC 165, Philippou has worked especially hard on defensive grappling.

He knew how to defend takedowns prior to that fight against Carmont, in which he was badly outwrestled, and chalks up a lot of what happened to an off night.

Still, he expects most of his opponents, even those dangerous on their feet, to try to take him down. So it's always going to be on him to stay upright.

“Carmont has fought many times before where he strikes, but he chose not to stand with me, “Philippou said. “I feel any opponent will try to take me down. I don’t think they will feel comfortable enough striking with me.

“Even if they are good on the feet, they won’t want to chance taking a shot from me.”

Rockhold (10-2) seems to be thinking along the same lines, based on some of his prefight comments. A former Strikeforce champion, Rockhold is deft in establishing the range on his kickboxing, but it sounds as if he watched the Carmont fight.

“If this fight hits the mat within three rounds, I just don’t see him surviving,” Rockhold said. “My ground game and top game are too good. He’s in big trouble if it ever touches the mat.”

Philippou isn’t too concerned about trying to figure out Rockhold’s game plan. Since Philippou isn’t actively pursuing a UFC title, one might think he’d request “fun” fights from the promotion and avoid opponents who rely heavily on wrestling.

He insists, however, that he doesn’t care one way or another. It’s not as though he’s avoiding a title shot, he’s just not looking for one. He’s interested in being in the Octagon on a regular basis and collecting a steady paycheck for it.

The 34-year-old former professional boxer does admit, however, that seeing former teammate Chris Weidman win the belt has enforced the idea in his head that a title shot might present itself someday.

Philippou left Weidman’s team -- coached by Ray Longo and Matt Serra -- early last year for personal reasons, although he says he did so on good terms.

Since then, he has stated numerous times he wouldn’t fight Weidman, even if it were for a belt. But since the fighter Philippou used to spend plenty of time with is now the UFC middleweight champ, he supposes it does make the belt feel attainable.

“I trained with Chris, so now I kind of know what it takes to be at the top,” Philippou said. “It was an unknown with Anderson Silva because everybody thought it was impossible for him to lose. Then Chris went and did it twice.

“I’ve been in the cage with Chris. It proved to me it’s not impossible [to win a UFC title]. It can happen. If Chris did it, maybe I can do it.”

Silva won't benefit from metal rod implant

January, 11, 2014
1/11/14
10:52
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
Archive
LAS VEGAS -- So, about that titanium metal rod in Anderson Silva’s leg …

All early signs indicate that Silva, 38, will attempt a comeback from the serious leg injury he suffered during a UFC middleweight title fight Dec. 28.

Silva (33-6) fractured the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg when his opponent, Chris Weidman, checked Silva's kick in the second round. He was rushed to immediate surgery, where a metal rod was inserted into his tibia bone.

That rod, 11.5 millimeters in diameter, will likely remain in Silva’s body the rest of his life. That prompted many fans to question whether or not the Brazilian might enjoy an unfair advantage -- basically, a metal weapon attached to his lower body.

According to Dr. Timothy Trainor, consulting physician to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, there is no such concern. If Silva was to seek a license to fight in Las Vegas, where he has fought four of his last six fights, the rod would not be an issue.

“To my knowledge, there are absolutely no scientific studies that have ever been done to prove someone gains an unfair advantage in any kind of sport after they have a metal rod inserted to a bone,” Trainor told ESPN.com.

“Can I tell you he can kick harder with that rod? Absolutely not. Do I think he can? No, I do not. The rod is in the middle of the hollow bone. It’s not going to change the force he kicks with. That’s still based on muscles.”

Trainor, an orthopedic surgeon, said the only “benefit” Silva might have is it would be very difficult for him to suffer the same injury with the rod in place.
[+] EnlargeAnderson Silva
AP Photo/David BeckerA steel rod implant might mean a reinforced leg, but it won't make for a harder kick.

In terms of impact during a kick, “the bone still absorbs that trauma,” Trainor said.

Ultimately, no orthopedic procedure exists that would concern Trainor in terms of providing a combat athlete an unfair advantage. Metal pins inserted into the hands of boxers or plates into the orbital area of a martial artist’s face are all included.

“The answer is no,” Trainor said. “You have to understand, the plates and screws being put on for something like that, they’re not very strong. What I mean by that is, in the operating room, I bend those plates with my hands.”

Should a future Silva opponent file a complaint on the rod, Trainor said he would advise the commission to license Silva anyway. The rod is designed to be removable, however it’s typically left in place unless a patient experiences complications.

“Essentially what we would require prior to approving Silva to fight again is a note from the treating orthopedic doctor, stating he’s healed the fracture,” Trainer said.

Dr. Steven Sanders, who performed the operation, estimated Silva could return to the gym within six to nine months.

Knockout of the year: Weidman-Silva I

January, 3, 2014
1/03/14
7:17
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Chris Weidman, Anderson SilvaJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesChris Weidman took advantage of Anderson Silva's taunting to record a shocking finish at UFC 162.
There's a possibility that Chris Weidman's knockout of Anderson Silva in their first meeting will become the single most famous moment in UFC history.

You're probably wondering what is currently the UFC's No. 1 identifiable moment with the casual fan. It's probably Silva's front kick against Vitor Belfort in 2011 or Georges St-Pierre begging for a title shot in 2005. Or maybe it's something relating to Brock Lesnar.

If you ask Weidman, his guess is the fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar that capped off the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series in 2005 -- although that classifies more as the promotion's most famous fight than any singular moment.

In terms of historical context, few fighters mean more to the UFC than Silva and that's unlikely to change. He'll be remembered more for the knockouts that went in his favor than the one that didn't, at least generally speaking.

But when you look at that Weidman left hook, the element of shock it created rippled through mainstream news outlets. Non-UFC fans saw it -- because of its relevance to the promotion and because it was just a wild, crazy moment in sports.

Depending on what Weidman (and Silva) go on to do in the future, there's reason to believe UFC 162 could go down as not just the knockout of the year, but the most recognizable moment in the Octagon ever.

"That's crazy to think about," said Weidman, who defeated Silva a second time in last Saturday's rematch when the former champion suffered a severe leg injury. "But it's hard for me to think about too many things. I'm thinking about Vitor Belfort."

No. 2: Vitor Belfort KO1 Luke Rockhold, UFC on FX 8

Belfort really took to referring to himself as "The Lion" in 2013 and boy did he maim Rockhold in this fight. This was a spinning heel kick for the ages.

No. 3: Demetrious Johnson KO1 Joseph Benavidez, UFC on Fox 9

We're going to say it one last time and then we're not going to argue about it ever again: Flyweights carry knockout power. End of discussion.

No. 4: Renan Barao KO2 Eddie Wineland, UFC 165

This fight felt like treading water for Barao -- just don't lose, get the win and secure a unification title bout with Dominick Cruz. If this is how the Brazilian treads water, what's it look like when he decides to really swim?

No. 5: Lyoto Machida KO1 Mark Munoz, UFC Fight Night 30

Many wondered what "The Dragon" would look like at 185 pounds and they got their answer in his middleweight debut: pretty good. Pretty. Good.

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