MMA: Dana White

White, Fertitta to meet Carano next week

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
8:59
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Gina CaranoRobert Laberge/Getty ImagesDespite Gina Carano's five-year absence from the sport, Dana White insists she is ready to return.
LAS VEGAS -- UFC president Dana White hopes to have Gina Carano under contract by the end of next week.

The UFC added to its female bantamweight division on Thursday, by signing professional boxer and undefeated mixed martial artist Holly Holm.

White told ESPN.com he and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta will look to add another major piece to the roster in Carano next week, when the two are scheduled to meet with her in Los Angeles.

"One down, one to go," White said. "I'm going to meet with Gina next week and get that f---ing thing done. Next week, man.

"It's just a matter of me and Lorenzo going to jump on a plane to Los Angeles, get in a room with her and her lawyer and get this thing done."

Carano (7-1) is considered the former face of female MMA, but has not fought since August 2009. She exited the sport following a first-round TKO loss to Cris "Cyborg" Justino in a Strikeforce featherweight title fight.

The UFC purchased Strikeforce in 2011, acquiring all of the promotion's contracts in the deal. Technically, Carano remained under Zuffa contract due to her original Strikeforce deal, but that contract expired last month.

A bantamweight title fight between defending champion Ronda Rousey and Carano would equal big business for the UFC. Rousey has stated publicly she credits Carano for her interest in the sport and would relish the opportunity to fight her.

According to White, the holdup in signing Carano (UFC Tonight reported two weeks ago talks had "stalled" between the two sides) has nothing to do with her desire to compete. It all comes down to finalizing details in a new contract.

"There is no doubt about it, she wants to fight," White said. "And she wants to fight Ronda."

The curious case of MMA legend BJ Penn

July, 4, 2014
Jul 4
8:32
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- It was only Tuesday of UFC’s International Fight Week, which means the Mandalay Bay Events Center was relatively deserted.

The venue will host not one but two live UFC cards this weekend, but there’s little reason to be here until then. Nevertheless, a group of approximately 35 to 50 serious fight fans accumulated near one entrance, seeking autographs.

One of the men they had hoped to meet was actually inside the arena, but they were unlikely to catch him.

BJ Penn cherishes his fans, but he couldn't afford distractions this week. He avoided the casino floors and even spent his nights away from the Las Vegas strip.

Inside the press area of the arena, Penn, 35, unpacked a small meal that consisted of basically raw greens. He was upbeat, as he weighed in at 148 pounds on the UFC’s official scale -- a weight he says he hasn’t been at since age 19.

Penn, who fights Frankie Edgar for the third time at "The Ultimate Fighter" finale on Sunday, is a fascinating interview -- mostly because his career has been incredibly unique. At one point in our conversation, he stated the obvious.

“Fighting, to me, has always been something different than what everybody’s else opinion is,” Penn said. “I’ve never believed what everybody else has.”

A lot of mixed martial artists are popular. Few are outright loved the way Penn is. There are several reasons for it, but if you had to pinpoint one, it’s probably that he embodies the attitude fans like to think a fighter should have.

Penn has gone out of his way to find the most impossible challenge throughout his career. He will always pick a fight with the most intimidating figure in the room.
[+] Enlarge BJ Penn
Ed Mulholland for ESPN BJ Penn, left, has never been one to turn down a tough assignment throughout his long and distinguished career.

There are countless examples of this. An obvious one is when Penn fought Lyoto Machida. There comes a time in every new MMA fan’s life when, while researching old fights, they sit back and say, "Wait -- timeout. BJ Penn fought Lyoto Machida?"

Fourteen months after Penn won the UFC welterweight title against Matt Hughes in January 2004, he appeared as a self-described “fat 185 pounds” in a fight against future UFC light heavyweight champion Machida in Japan. He lost via decision.

One largely unknown fact about the fight is that Penn actually wanted to fight Japanese heavyweight Kazuyuki Fujita. He eventually settled on Machida.

“In reality, BJ wanted to fight Fujita,” Machida recalled. “Fujita and I had the same management back then. He didn’t want the fight and said, ‘Lyoto, you go.’ That’s how BJ ended up fighting me.”

When reminded of this, Penn shrugs as if a severely bloated lightweight wanting to take on a full-size 240-pound heavyweight is a perfectly normal thing.

“We were thinking we would be faster, right?” Penn said. “That was the thought.”

That kind of approach has defined Penn’s career -- and possibly shortened it. Since losing the UFC lightweight title to Edgar in 2010, Penn has competed exclusively at welterweight. In his last two fights, he’s been badly beaten up.

His longtime coach and friend Jason Parillo, who once threw in the towel for Penn when he fought welterweight Georges St-Pierre in 2009, has spent a career trying to persuade Penn to fight entirely at 155 pounds.

Parillo was noticeably absent from Penn’s corner when he fought Rory MacDonald in December 2012. Parillo believes it’s because Penn knew he despised the fight.

“He knew I didn’t agree with him going to fight Rory MacDonald,” Parillo said. “I just didn’t know where the fight was going to put him. He probably thought, ‘Jason doesn’t agree with this, so I’m going to do it how I’m going to do it.’

“I believe he is more talented than these guys at welterweight; but when the talent is close, the size comes into play. We end up in the hospital when we lose at 170.”

At a UFC 175 prefight news conference in May, a reporter read back to Penn a statement he had once made in a previous interview.

The quote read: "There’s just something about BJ Penn that gets people amped up. You don’t know what’s going to happen but something is going to happen. He might disappoint you, make you happy, make you cry or make you jump out of your chair, but he’ll do something to you."

The reporter then asked: Is that BJ Penn still here?
[+] EnlargeRory MacDonald
Rod Mar for ESPNThose close to BJ Penn, right, weren't convinced a fight against Rory MacDonald made total sense.

In reality, that Penn never left. That description is BJ Penn for better or for worse. His potential has always been intoxicating to watch -- regardless of whether he was realizing it or wasting it.

The better question might be: How much of Penn’s potential remains and how much of it has been chipped off while fighting men 20 pounds larger than him?

For Penn, the present isn’t reliant upon the past as much as people make it out to be.

“There is some kind of fascination with who I used to be and who I am now,” Penn said. “People are always trying to look at it. I don’t know if it’s a curse or a blessing.

“When the whole fighting thing started, I never knew at the end it was going to be all about your record. I never had that mentality. I wanted to fight everybody.”

In the last two-and-a-half years, Penn (16-9-2) has nearly retired twice. Last year, he underwent corrective surgery on his left eye to repair cataracts that were affecting his vision.

The former two-division UFC champion doesn’t know whether Sunday will mark the end of his fighting career. When talking about it, he sounds like he knows retirement might be the best, safest choice.

But in Penn’s case, that has always been the hardest path to take.

“The plan is to go in on Sunday, take Frankie out and then sit down and figure out what’s the smartest thing to do,” Penn said. “You know once I win, it will be, ‘I want to fight this guy, this guy and this guy!’

“Of course I can’t retire on a win -- but then, I can’t retire on a loss either.”

Sonnen speaks, makes bad situation worse

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
5:05
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Chael Sonnen's first explanation and reasoning behind a recently failed test sort of resembled a train wreck.

The UFC light heavyweight was removed from a July 5 UFC event after it was announced he had failed a random drug test in Nevada.

Hours later, Sonnen was summoned onto Fox Sports, for which he works as a UFC analyst, to discuss the circumstances of the test. Considered a sort of master of dialect, it was a situation Sonnen appeared well-suited to handle.

After all, this is a man who, in May 2012, applied for a therapeutic use exemption in Nevada for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) while he was in a public war of words with the executive director at the time, Keith Kizer.

Sonnen was so smooth and convincing at that Las Vegas hearing that not only did he receive an exemption, one board member actually inquired whether he had interest in an advisory role to the commission at the end of it. Seriously.

During Tuesday’s live interview on Fox Sports, however, the Sonnen thread badly unraveled in front of our very eyes. And UFC president Dana White, although maybe not with the same fire and brimstone as usual, chose to defend him.

Sonnen, 37, who is currently weaning himself off TRT, tested positive for anastrozole and clomiphene. Both antiestrogenic agents are very clearly listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned substance list.

Sonnen says he has been taking the substances to avoid any side effects of getting off TRT. He also said he took them for fertility reasons.

There was nothing he could have said in Tuesday's interview to change the fact he tested positive for two banned substances while he was a licensed fighter in Nevada, but he could have taken responsibility for it.

His image still would have taken a hit and it would not have saved him from the suspension he is likely facing -- but he still could have owned up to it; said he was having a difficult time transitioning off a treatment the Nevada commission once told him he could use.

Right or wrong, many would have accepted (on some level) that type of response.

Instead, Sonnen unleashed a string of factually incorrect information, contradicted himself several times and denied any responsibility for the failed test.

He swore he told anyone who would listen that he was on the medication. Everyone knew. "Anybody I could talk to about this," he said, "I did."

Fox Sports host Mike Hill then asked Sonnen if he had informed the actual Nevada State Athletic Commission of his treatment, to which Sonnen fell momentarily silent.

"I wanted to deal with the UFC," Sonnen said. "I had no opportunity to go before the commission. I had not spoken to them."

Sonnen would repeat a variation of this claim at several points during the 14-minute interview. He didn't let the NSAC know, he said, because he was never presented the opportunity to do so.

The NSAC phone number is very clearly listed (just like the WADA banned substance list) online. Try calling them during regular business hours. Someone will answer.

In another mind-bending attempt to defend himself, Sonnen stated it didn't matter he had tested positive, because the two substances in his system are only banned outside of competition (which is completely false).

"It doesn't matter if it’s the NCAA, the IOC or this commission," Sonnen said. "There has always been a distinction between game day and out of competition."

He later added, when discussing a disclosure form, "as long as you write it down and it's not an anabolic [steroid], illegal or a performance-enhancing [drug], you're going to get a pass.”

The second is an unfathomably ridiculous statement. The WADA banned substance list used by the NSAC includes numerous substances beyond those mentioned by Sonnen, including diuretics, masking agents, hormone modulators, etc. Athletes are prohibited to use any of these, unless they receive an exemption beforehand.

In regards to anastrozole and clomiphene, the two are plainly listed under the "substances prohibited at all times" category of the WADA list.

Near the end of the interview, perhaps sensing it maybe wasn't going well, Sonnen gave his most ludicrous statement of the day.

Relying on a defense similar to the one he used in 2010, after he failed a drug test for the unapproved use of TRT prior to a title fight against Anderson Silva, Sonnen basically claimed he didn't know any better. The rules hadn't been effectively presented to him.

"I want to learn the rules," Sonnen said. "I want to operate within the boundaries. I am just a little frustrated that I'm having trouble understanding where those lines are at. I don't have anybody that I can ask. This isn't an open door policy.

"You tell me. Do you know the rules? Of course you don't. If I challenge you right now to go find them out, how are you going to do it? Is there a website you can go to? Is there an 800 number you can go to? Is there somebody's office door you can knock on? No. This is how we find out the rules. They never tell us the rules until they tell us we're in violation of them."

Chael, the two substances you tested positive for are clear as day, black and white, banned in competition. The NSAC is easily reachable. There were limitless opportunities to disclose or ask about anything you wanted. You chose not to.

Even White, Sonnen's promoter, admitted as much.

"He should have called the commission and said, ‘This is what my doctor told me to come down off [TRT] on,'" White said. "He absolutely should have done that."

Maybe Sonnen is just badly misinformed. That would actually make the whole thing look a little better. Blame these bad excuses on ignorance.

But if there's one thing we've come to know about Sonnen, it's that he more often than not knows exactly what's going on. His ability to talk has been one of his greatest assets, but he should have known when to stop Tuesday.

Jackson: Courage not a problem for Jones

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
8:53
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Jon JonesNick Laham/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesGreg Jackson, left, believes Jon Jones' interest in Daniel Cormier has more to do with his own legacy.
Greg Jackson is not familiar with the exact reasons Jon Jones has for wanting to fight Daniel Cormier, rather than Alexander Gustafsson, in his next UFC title defense.

Jackson, Jones' longtime head trainer, is fairly certain, however, that "being scared" isn't one of them.

Jones (20-1) is reportedly scheduled to meet with UFC officials this week to discuss terms for his next light heavyweight title defense. The promotion is looking to book Jones to a rematch against Gustafsson, possibly on Aug. 30 in Las Vegas.

On Monday, UFC president Dana White revealed Jones has asked to fight Cormier in his next bout. Jones basically confirmed as much in an Instagram post on Tuesday.

Jones' preference has prompted accusations that he is "ducking" Gustafsson, whom he narrowly defeated via unanimous decision at UFC 165 in September. Jackson doesn't see it that way.

"Everybody is looking for a chink in his armor and they are desperate for it," Jackson told ESPN.com. "They are desperate, like, 'Please let us find something wrong with the guy.'

"I've never heard him say, 'I'll never fight Gustafsson again. I'm scared.' I've never seen that from him at all. I don't really think courage is a problem for Jon Jones. He goes up against the best guys in the division."

As for Jones' reasoning for wanting Cormier (15-0), Jackson speculated it might have something to do with elevating his legacy. Cormier represents a new challenge.

Jones, 26, often talks about leaving a mark in the sport.

"It might be a career move," Jackson said. "He already beat Gustafsson. Maybe he's looking for a challenge and doesn't feel that Gustafsson is the challenge everybody else thinks he is. I honestly don't know, but it could be that Cormier would escalate his greatness more than someone he has already beaten."

A rematch between Jones and Gustafsson (16-2) has seemed inevitable since the first meeting, but according to Jackson, he and Jones have spoken very little about it.

The UFC has taken a hard stance recently that Gustafsson would be next for Jones, but Jackson said he rarely discusses or strategizes for a fight before it's announced.

"That's kind of how a fan would think about the sport," Jackson said. "I'm a fan, too, but I don't have that luxury. If I'm in a camp for [Glover] Teixeira and I'm talking about Gustafsson, that doesn't make any sense. I don't say that, 'This fight is inevitable,' because I don't know. I have no idea. There are things I thought for sure would happen that didn't come to pass and the other way around.

"If we fight Cormier, he's super tough. Gustafsson is super tough. Wherever the coin lands on that, it doesn't really matter to me."



Dillashaw on title win, Assuncao, Faber

May, 30, 2014
May 30
6:40
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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video
Newly crowned UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw couldn’t talk long Thursday. He had an afternoon meeting scheduled with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

A Sacramento resident, Dillashaw (10-2) is still riding the wave of his stunning TKO win over Renan Barao for the UFC bantamweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday.

In addition to a summons from the mayor of Sacramento, Dillashaw has blown up on social media since the performance. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist, Flea, contacted the fighter on Twitter and mentioned his walk-out to the band’s song “Can’t Stop.”

Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Jonny Manziel, who attended the fight in Las Vegas (which became big news itself) also sent a congratulatory post.

“It’s crazy how many people watched the fight,” Dillashaw told ESPN.com. “I’ve been fighting on the undercards. It’s nothing like a PPV. People I’ve looked up to hit me up on Twitter.

“Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers -- I’ve been watching that guy since forever.”
[+] EnlargeDillashaw-Assuncao
Jeff Bottari/Getty ImagesTJ Dillashaw, right, is eyeing a rematch with old nemesis Raphael Assuncao.


Tied to the celebration, however, is a nonstop line of questioning regarding whom Dillashaw will fight next. This is, after all, still mixed martial arts.

“It’s the same as all my other fights,” Dillashaw said. “Seriously, as soon as you get done with a fight and you’re walking through the tunnel, you talk to reporters about who you want to fight next.

“It’s like, ‘Man. I’ve been thinking about the guy I just fought for the last 10 weeks.’ Especially Renan Barao. I had been thinking about him for a long time. Obviously, my goal is to defend the belt and there are a couple of guys on a win streak.”

One of the options Dillashaw refers to is Raphael Assuncao, who outpointed Dillashaw in a controversial split decision in October in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Assuncao (22-4) is still on the mend from a rib injury but should be ready to go by autumn of this year.
"

I definitely wouldn't mind that fight. I feel like I beat the guy anyway, so I might as well get that victory on my record. I felt like I got cheated on that one. It wouldn't be a bad idea to finish him up.

"

-- TJ Dillashaw, on a possible rematch with Raphael Assuncao


That’s a fight Dillashaw wants, although this time he’d like it in the U.S.

“I traveled to Brazil and fought him,” Dillashaw said. “Let’s have him travel up here. If that fight happens, the fact that I’m the champion, let him come here.

“I definitely wouldn’t mind that fight. I feel like I beat the guy anyway, so I might as well get that victory on my record. I felt like I got cheated on that one. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to finish him up.”

An immediate rematch with Barao (32-2) remains a possibility, although Dillashaw isn’t in favor of it since the first fight wasn’t close. Takeya Mizugaki (20-7-2) is also on a five-fight win streak.

Of course, one option that will likely continue to pop up is Dillashaw's teammate and close friend Urijah Faber, who is scheduled to fight Alex Caceres at UFC 175 in July.

Faber (30-7) is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Barao in a UFC title fight earlier this year, but that didn’t prevent the topic of an all Team Alpha Male title fight from being broached last weekend.

Dillashaw says that’s obviously not a fight he wants, but if the UFC eventually wants to make it, the organization would have to provide extra incentive.

“I’ve had that conversation with him way before I was in title contention,” Dillashaw said. “I’ve always said I don’t want to fight the guy. He’s one of my best friends. [UFC president] Dana White likes that kind of stuff. It adds drama.

“I feel like if they want us to do that, we should get paid more. If they were to throw an option on the table I can’t pass up, all right. Urijah, let’s do this.

“It has to be, ‘I can see myself fighting Urijah for that. That motivates me enough to want to fight him.' You’ve got to give me a reason to want to fight him.”

Jones mum on Gustafsson rematch

May, 28, 2014
May 28
6:55
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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As of Tuesday afternoon, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had not agreed to a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson on Aug. 30 in Las Vegas.

He hadn’t turned it down, either -- which actually adds to the problem as far as the UFC is concerned.

Jones, 26, is entering perhaps the prime of his athletic career at the same time the UFC is looking to extend his contract. Back-and-forth negotiations might be inevitable.
[+] EnlargeAlexander Gustafsson, Jon Jones
AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Chris YoungThe UFC hopes for an Aug. 30 rematch between Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones, but Jones has not signed off on the bout agreement.

The issue right now, however, is that no negotiations are taking place. According to UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, Jones and his management have been unresponsive since the UFC offered Jones the Gustafsson rematch early last week.

That might have had something to do with the UFC’s decision to uncharacteristically announce the Jones-Gustafsson fight on Saturday, before Jones agreed to it. Get it out in the public, get Jones to respond, hopefully get the ball moving a bit.

The announcement, coupled with Gustafsson’s verbal commitment to the fight, has apparently had little effect on Jones, however. When asked if the fighter or his management had reached out to the UFC since Saturday, Fertitta simply answered, “Nothing.”

Jones’ team also has not responded to ESPN.com’s requests for comment.

Ideally, the situation will be sorted out in time for the rematch to headline UFC 177 on Labor Day weekend. The UFC already has secured the Aug. 30 date at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and a Jones headliner would fit well into its schedule.

If negotiations stall, the UFC might consider a September date, possibly in Sweden, although that likely wouldn’t be the promotion's -- or the champion’s (when you consider fighting in Sweden) -- first choice.

UFC president Dana White has gone on record saying the rematch could produce a 50,000-seat sellout in Stockholm. The UFC would want to announce an event of that size soon though, with plenty of time to market it and work out logistics.

“Two things go into having a stadium show,” Fertitta told ESPN.com. “It has to be the right fight and you have to have time to get behind the promotion of it.

“One thing about stadium shows, you get the benefit of the fact the show gets bigger. People talk about it. It becomes more of a spectacle. You sell more tickets, but the cost to set the thing up almost takes away that additional revenue.

“If we did that fight in Sweden, we would probably do it early in the morning. We’d have to deal with, is public transportation open? Are services, fire, police available at three or four in the morning? It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Let’s do a stadium show in Sweden.’ There is a lot we would have to figure out.”

Jones (20-1), despite all the veteran names on his resume, is looking at arguably the most challenging year of his career.

He dominated a durable, athletic opponent in Glover Teixeira last month at UFC 172. A rematch against Gustafsson (16-2), who took him to the brink of defeat at UFC 165 in August, and (if timing allows) a fight against an undefeated former heavyweight in Daniel Cormier (15-0) would make for an exceptional year.

Of course, Jones’ critics have attributed his silence on the Gustafsson rematch to fear -- and it is fair to note Jones has never appeared delighted when speaking about a second fight against Gustafsson.

In reality, however, the holdup is most likely connected to Jones’ contract extension and, at least for now, his current silence during the negotiation of it.

Henderson looking for final shot at UFC title

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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.

Cormier on Hendo, Jones' tactics, more

May, 20, 2014
May 20
6:40
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Daniel Cormier’s run at a UFC light heavyweight title might soon be less about weight and more about a wait.

Cormier (14-0) will look to improve to 2-0 in the UFC’s 205-pound division when he meets Dan Henderson at UFC 173 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Already ranked No. 4 in the division by ESPN.com, Cormier, a former heavyweight, says he’s content to sit on the sideline and wait for a title shot should he beat Henderson -- even though that might mean he wouldn’t fight the rest of the year.

Would two wins at light heavyweight really justify that type of layoff? And what are his thoughts on the upcoming fight with an accomplished veteran like Henderson (30-11)? Cormier answered those questions and more ahead of UFC 173.

ESPN: Everyone knows the issues you’ve gone through with weight cutting in the past, but at this point is your cut to 205 pretty much a non-topic?

Cormier: I don’t think it’s an issue. Cutting weight is always pretty tough. It’s not like it’s ever going to be easy. I think if I do the right things and not let it worry me, where I’m on the scale every 30 minutes, it’ll be fine.

ESPN: If you remove Henderson’s right hand from this fight, do you basically take away his only chance at beating you?

Cormier: I’ve been lucky enough to call his last four fights [as a television analyst]. I had to watch him a lot closer than I would have normally. The thing about Dan is he doesn’t wrestle anymore, which is great for me because I’m going to wrestle. If I take away the right hand, it really does limit him. He’s a tough, gritty, durable guy.
[+] EnlargeDan Henderson
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAs of late, Dan Henderson relies more on his punching power than he does on his wrestling.

One thing I’ve taken from Dan in these fights is that Rashad [Evans] and Lyoto [Machida] actually fought him very conservative. Vitor [Belfort] went after him and finished him. [Mauricio Rua] went after him and hurt him very bad. So, what I took away is that I have to get after this guy. I’ll just make it look like his right hand is tied behind his back.

ESPN: You’ve said if you win this fight, you’d wait for a title shot. In that scenario, your record at 205 would be 2-0 with a win over Patrick Cummins on short notice and Dan Henderson, who would be 1-4 in his last five fights. Is that really enough to make you a title contender?

Cormier: Just because I fought at heavyweight, that stuff doesn’t go out the window. I was scheduled to fight Rashad Evans at UFC 170. The UFC wasn’t trying to give me an easy fight. I was scheduled to fight Rashad up until 10 days before that event. It’s not my fault [he had to pull out with injury]. I still fought and held up my end of the deal.

You look at my resume. I’ll put it next to anybody’s. Alexander Gustafsson beat [Rua], who is a former champion. I beat Josh Barnett and Frank Mir, that’s two. Two is better than one. Glover Teixeira, before he got his title shot, he beat Ryan Bader, Kyle Kingsbury, Fabio Maldonado and James Te Huna. That guy [Teixeira] got a title shot. My resume would include Henderson, Mir, Barnett, [Antonio] Silva and Roy Nelson. I think me getting a title shot is only fair.

ESPN: What if you go and knock out Henderson in the first round this weekend? You would be looking at a situation where your last two fights ended quickly and then you sit out the rest of the year.

Cormier: That won’t happen. With Dan Henderson, it will be a 15-minute battle. He’s too tough to let anybody walk out there and finish him that fast. I know Vitor did it, but Vitor did that to everybody last year.

ESPN: If you win and decide to wait for a title shot, could that negatively affect your weight at all? Is it a benefit to remain active since you’re cutting to 205?

Cormier: I would have to be very disciplined, but in that time off I would get better. There are a lot of things that can come up in a year. When is Jon [Jones] going to fight Gustafsson? That plays a factor. Dana [White] says I like to stay busy, which is true. That’s how you make money. I’m 35 years old so I like to fight. But I just think at some point you’ve got to say, "What if I get past Henderson and the next guy puts me in a war and I’m out for a long time?" Then I don’t get my title shot.

A lot can happen. Am I completely opposed to fighting a non-title fight before I get a title shot? No. I’m not afraid to earn a shot. I just think I already have.

[+] EnlargeJone Jones, Glover Teixeira
Patrick Smith/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesDaniel Cormier feels he has a strategy to combat Jon Jones' open-hand tactics.
ESPN: Jones was criticized for poking Teixeira in the eye during his last title defense at UFC 172. That technique in which he places his hand on an opponent’s forehead, he’s probably doing that to you and your 5-foot-11 build. What’d you think of that?

Cormier: You watch the Klitschko brothers fight and they always do that. That’s how they find their range. Tall guys do that and there are things you can do to actually make them stop. I’m not opposed to doing them. I’ll punch him in the elbow or I’ll wrench his arm like he did to Glover in that fight.

ESPN: Pretty quick turnaround for you here, as you just fought on Feb. 22. How did camp feel and are you fully prepared for this fight?

Cormier: I’m getting to fight a guy who I’ve looked up to for a long time. He’s a legend. It takes hard work to beat a legend. I’ve worked my tail off for this fight. I’m pretty thorough in my approach. This is a little shorter notice than I like, but after the UFC found me a coffee guy [Cummins] to fight on 10 days' notice, they can ask me for a favor this time.

White's clarification on Jones' eye pokes

May, 1, 2014
May 1
5:42
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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video
LAS VEGAS -- On Thursday, UFC president Dana White clarified his stance regarding Jon Jones’ eye pokes in his title defense against Glover Teixeira on Saturday.

Jones (20-1) recorded his seventh consecutive light heavyweight title defense over Teixeira at UFC 172 via dominant unanimous decision.

In the second round, referee Dan Miragliotta warned Jones for poking Teixeira in the eye. Despite the warning, Jones continued to open his hand and place it on Teixeira’s forehead. Miragliotta never warned Jones again and did not deduct a point.

Immediately after the bout, White said in an interview with Fox Sports, “We’ve got to stop that stuff -- opening of the hands and putting hands on the face.”

On Thursday, White told ESPN.com that while Jones’ foul in the second round made him cringe, he thought the referee handled it well and didn’t mind Jones’ tactics the rest of the fight.

“He stopped,” White said. “I think what Jones is trying to do is, he’s got that range against a hard puncher. So, he’s trying to push him off. It’s no different than what [Muhammad] Ali used to do.

“A lot of guys [open their hands] when they block punches. You have to close your hands. I hate that. It’s very dangerous. Trust me, when Jones did it the first few times I was like, ‘Oh my god, don’t make this fight stop on an eye poke.’

“But that’s what the referee is there for and he handled it. That was it. People will nitpick Jones for anything he does. The guy puts on the sickest performance. He put on a flawless performance.”

Jones, 26, posted a video on Instagram this week in which he mocked his critics by pretending to cry and say, “Jones put his finger in his eye. Dirtiest fighter in MMA.” He has since deleted it from his account.

It was the second consecutive fight in which a Jones opponent complained of an eye poke. Jones caught Alexander Gustafsson in the eye in the first round of a title fight at UFC 165 in September.

Jones is set to face Gustafsson in a rematch of that September fight later this year. White has said the UFC is considering hosting it in the challenger’s backyard, at Friends Arena near Stockholm, Sweden.

White said he plans to speak to Jones in two weeks.

“I’m about two weeks away from talking to him,” White said. “Forty thousand seats. That will sell out like that. I was just talking to AEG [Anschutz Entertainment Group] guys and it’s 40,000. We’ll sell out.”

Davis rips Jones in response to Dana White

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
6:06
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Phil Davis and Vinny MagalhaesEd Mulholland for ESPNCome out swinging: Phil Davis isn't holding his tongue -- thanks, in part, to Dana White.
Last week, UFC president Dana White was asked what he felt light heavyweight Phil Davis would gain with a win over Anthony Johnson this weekend at UFC 172.

White, who was just about to wrap up a media session, suddenly sat forward in his chair. Clearly, he had something to say on this one.

“I like Phil and I don’t want to throw Phil under the bus,” White said, “but Phil needs to get over that mental hump.

“I’ve got guys breathing down my neck for fights, like, ‘I want this fight. I want that fight.’ Phil Davis is like, ‘Eh. I’ll hang out around No. 4 here.’ He’s not that guy that comes across to me like, ‘I f---ing want it. I want to be the best in the world.’”

Davis (12-1) spoke to several media outlets that same day, including ESPN.com, but his best opportunity to answer White’s claim came on Monday during a global media call. He certainly didn’t waste the airtime.

A former Division I NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State, Davis went to work on light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who also happened to be on Monday’s call. He barely uttered a word about Johnson (16-4).

Some of it was strong (calling Jones “Sweetheart”). Some of it was not (saying Jones got hit in the eye so much in his last fight he almost “turned into a pirate”).

The best moment came when Jones, who played along for the most part, asked Davis which rounds Alexander Gustafsson won in their narrow title fight in September.

Davis: I thought he won all the ones where he put those hot hands all over your forehead.

Jones: Oh man. That’s not nice, Phil.
[+] EnlargeRashad Evans
Ross Dettman for ESPNRashad Evans, facing, humbled Phil Davis when the two met in January 2012.

The realest thing that came out of Davis’ mouth on the call? Probably the first thing he said, when he basically warned everyone listening he was about to go off and -- if you read between the lines -- admitted he’s maybe not too happy about it.

“I try to let my fighting do the talking, but I’m going to have to let my talking do the talking for a little bit,” Davis said. “If you want Phil Davis calling and your texting your phone every day, telling you he wants to fight Jon Jones, that’s fine.

“I thought that just winning would get that done, but that’s not necessarily true.”

It’s pretty obvious Davis read White’s message to him loud and clear: Get people interested. As many fighters before Davis have learned, it’s not always strictly about wins and losses. Sometimes you have to talk.

This is why Davis is practicing his stand-up routine, interrupting one reporter on Monday’s call to ask Jones how he would overcome his fear of fighting (did he buy a night light?).

A win, however, is still the most crucial piece to Davis’ title aspirations -- which he does have, regardless of what White says. Secretly, he understands he’s facing a dangerous opponent in Johnson, who has four knockouts in his last five fights.

Davis has been in a similar position to this before. In 2012, a 5-0 start in the UFC had him closing in on a title shot -- until he lost badly to Rashad Evans via unanimous decision. To this day, Davis says he can’t bring himself to watch that fight.

“I watched halfway through the first round and turned it off,” Davis told ESPN.com. “I couldn’t even watch. I was so pissed. I still haven’t seen it.

“I can barely compare who I was in 2012 to the fighter I am now. It’s just so much different. It’s going to take at least two Rashad Evans in the cage at the same time to beat me right now.”

At the request of his boss, Davis is turning up the chatter ahead of his fight in Baltimore. So far, he’s seemed only halfway comfortable with it. It’s still the actual fight on Saturday where Davis will be most comfortable.

Josh Koscheck plans to fight out contract

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
11:06
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Tyron Woodley and Josh KoscheckDonald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesJosh Koscheck, left, found Tyron Woodley's blend of speed and power too much to overcome.
UFC welterweight Josh Koscheck plans to fulfill the final two fights of his contract.

Koscheck (17-8) hasn’t fought since a first-round TKO loss to Tyron Woodley at UFC 167 in November. After the event, UFC president Dana White said Koscheck sent him a text that “sounded a little bit like retirement.”

A 23-fight veteran in the UFC, Koscheck is not considering retirement, but he says he has turned down two fight offers from the UFC since his last loss.

“I’ve been training my whole life,” Koscheck told ESPN.com. “I’ve never had a break. I feel like I need to get away and take some time off and enjoy life.

“At this point, I’m still coming back. I have two more fights on my contract, and I plan on fighting those out and seeing if I want to continue. I’m obligated to two more fights with the UFC.

“I’ve been called twice for fights, and I told the UFC, ‘no.’ I’m not ready yet.”
[+] EnlargeJosh Koshcheck
Sherdog.comBreak from the gym have been few and far between for Josh Koscheck.

In terms of when he could be ready, Koscheck said he would likely get back into fight workouts at the end of the month. The California-based welterweight has remained a regular in the gym but sets a higher standard when it comes to fight preparations.

“A lot of fighters have no clue what it takes to get ready for a fight -- the dedication it takes,” Koscheck said. “That kind of preparation can take a toll on your body.

“Probably at the end of this month, I’ll start focusing more on getting back into fight shape.”

Koscheck, 36, is on a three-fight losing streak. Prior to the skid, he had never suffered back-to-back losses in his professional career. He fought twice in 2013 and was finished in the first round in each.

Preparation has never been a problem for the former collegiate wrestler, but Koscheck admits he underestimated the speed of his last performance. He was caught on camera expressing as much to Woodley after that loss in November.

“Woodley was very, very fast, and he closed the distance on me well,” Koscheck said. “You know, when you do everything right for so long and you have a bad day at the office, it makes you think about things. You wonder, ‘What the hell? Is there more out there? Is there something better I can be putting that much energy into?'”

Rousey's star power, Cormier shove, more

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
6:24
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Almost exactly one year ago, the question regarding Ronda Rousey’s star power was whether it was enough to carry a UFC pay-per-view event.

Today, that question has turned into this: Is her star power actually so strong that it could end her fighting career?

Rousey (8-0) will attempt to make her third defense of the 135-pound title against Sara McMann (7-0) on Saturday at UFC 170 inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

In addition to fighting three times in the previous 12 months, Rousey, 27, has drawn plenty of interest from Hollywood. She’s already completed filming roles for “Fast and Furious 7” and “The Expendables 3.” She is due back on the movie circuit next month to film an appearance on a movie version of the popular HBO series “Entourage.”

During a news conference on Thursday, UFC president Dana White said he does not consider Rousey’s acting obligations to be distractions, pointing out that Rousey has remained an active champion.

“What is she juggling?” White said. “[She will] obviously have time off [after UFC 170], but what do you do when you have time off? Some people gain a bunch of weight and they have to go lose it in their next fight.”

White did acknowledge that although Rousey is far from the first UFC fighter to appear in films, her earning power is far higher than any he’s seen previously.

If that ability to make money in Hollywood does eventually pull Rousey away from the cage, White says he’ll be happy for her and move on.

“Everybody keeps talking about, ‘What if she leaves for Hollywood?’” White said. “What if she leaves for Hollywood? How is that bad for [the UFC]? Is ‘The Rock’ [Dwayne Johnson] being a huge superstar bad for the WWE?”

White added that the UFC plans to have Rousey fight three times in 2014.

DC shoves Patrick Cummins

Daniel Cormier and Patrick CumminsJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesThe UFC 170 co-main event got off to an early start after Daniel Cormier shoved Patrick Cummins.

Prefight scuffles between UFC opponents are rare, but they can happen.

Daniel Cormier (13-0) shoved Patrick Cummins (4-0) during a stare-down on Thursday, presumably because of Cummins’ comments on their history.

The two former amateur wrestlers trained together years ago at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Cummins, who accepted the fight on short notice after an injury sidelined Rashad Evans, claims to have made Cormier cry once at practice.

The UFC has never lost a fight because of an incident at a weigh-in or news conference, but it was easy to read the uneasiness on White’s face as the shove happened.

“I don’t like it. I don’t like when they touch each other before fights,” White said.

“The one that scared me the most was Diego Sanchez/Josh Koscheck [at UFC 69]. Sanchez hit him so hard he almost fell over the scale. The sneakiest one ever was Anderson Silva when he hit Chael Sonnen [with a shoulder at UFC 148].”

Zingano still No. 1 contender whenever she returns

Cat ZinganoIsaac Hinds According to Dana White, women's contender Cat Zingano is still in line for a crack at the title.
Cat Zingano remains at the front of the line for the next shot at the UFC women’s bantamweight title.

Zingano (8-0) was supposed to coach against Rousey on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series last year but was forced to withdraw because of a torn ACL. Last month, her husband and coach, Mauricio Zingano, committed suicide in Denver.

White did not know a timetable for her return but said she has not lost her place in the division. Zingano was originally expected to return to training in March.

“Cat Zingano and I have played phone tag, and I owe her a phone call,” White said.

“The kitchen sink has been thrown at that poor girl. Losing the opportunity to coach TUF, losing the opportunity to fight for the title, being injured and going through all the emotional crap and then her husband -- you can’t even imagine.”

Ben Askren's goal: Stay undefeated

February, 9, 2014
Feb 9
6:59
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Ben AskrenDave Mandel/Sherdog.comSpurned by the UFC, unbeaten welterweight Ben Askren signed a two-year deal with One FC in Asia.
LAS VEGAS -- Ben Askren gives a smooth interview.

The undefeated welterweight is plenty charismatic and (by now) has a pretty good idea of what questions he's going to be asked.

A former champion for Bellator MMA whose contract expired in July, Askren's free agency was a major story in 2013. He eventually signed a two-year deal with Asia-based promotion One FC, after the UFC neglected to offer him a contract.

Drama ensued after the UFC's snub -- Askren at one point referred to UFC president Dana White as, "a bald-headed fat man" -- but it has died down. Askren moved on and will fight for the One FC welterweight title in his promotional debut in May.

Askren causally discussed the details of his free agency with ESPN.com on Thursday. He hesitated during just one question, however, breaking into a wide grin when it was asked:

How many welterweights can you name on the One FC roster?

"[Phil] Baroni, [Adam] Kayoom, [Nobutatsu] Suzuki, [Brock] Larson," Askren said. "There are these two other guys who train in Singapore -- man, I can't remember."

This was the obvious knock Askren took when he signed with One FC in December -- very few in the U.S. (and those few, apparently, don't even include him) are familiar with who he's about to fight for the next two years.

What effect will that have on the reputation you have built since 2009? Askren is currently the No. 8 ranked welterweight in the world according to ESPN.com. A certain contingent of MMA fans believe he's ready to hold the UFC title right now. Will they continue to think that, as he fights thousands of miles away?

"As long as I stay undefeated, people are going to be interested," Askren said. "If I've never lost, it's going to be hard for anyone to discount me."

Any criticism for facing lower-level competition won't exist for Askren in Asia, where the fan base is, at least for now, relatively unaware of whom in the world he is.

One FC CEO Victor Cui, however, is aware of it and promises Askren will not waste his talent fighting nobodies over the next 24 months.

"I know we'll get some exciting matchups out of this," Cui told ESPN.com. "Nobody wants to see a blowout fight. That's not good for the fighters, it's not good for our organization and it's not good for fight fans.

[+] EnlargeBen Askren
Will Fox for SherdogBen Askren's 8-0 run in Bellator announced him as one of the world's top welterweights.
"We've got some pretty exciting plans in store for Ben, none of which we've announced yet. You don't grow as a company as well as we have without a really specific strategy in place for every major acquisition."

The incentive of signing Askren for One FC applies mainly to Asia. The company streams its events online in the U.S., but due to time differences, even a marquee name like Askren on a live stream is a tough sell.

Likewise, Askren's incentives, beyond immediate financials, are linked to Asia. One FC, although limited in the U.S., is undeniably the biggest MMA promotion in Asia and is currently available, according to Cui, in 1 billion homes worldwide.

That's a significant audience Askren is about to be heavily marketed in, and he's already embracing it. Fighting out of Roufusport in Milwaukee, Wis., Askren has agreed to finish his future training camps at Evolve MMA in Singapore.

It has been a strong start to a relationship Cui hopes will eventually persuade Askren, 29, into remaining under contract with One FC long-term.

Askren's contract does include a champion clause, which calls for an "automatic renewal" if he is a title-holder at the expiration of his deal. Cui declined to offer specific details regarding the clause.

"I would hope any fighter that makes their home in One FC is thinking long-term," Cui said. "He's going to see how huge the opportunity is out here."

Following a free agency period that left "a bitter taste" in Askren's mouth, Cui is already ahead of the biggest competition. While time heals all wounds, Askren said he's unsure of whether he'd ever feel comfortable working for the UFC.

"I forgive Dana for not signing me; it's whatever," Askren said. "He obviously had his reasons. I'm going to forgive and forget. I don't know that I'll ever want to work for him, though."

Lack of fire hurting Jose Aldo's status

February, 2, 2014
Feb 2
9:22
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Dana White’s reaction to his company setting a new record for decisions on one card is about what you’d expect it to be.

Less than pleased.

Ten of the 12 fights at UFC 169 at the Prudential Center went the distance on Saturday. That’s the most decisions on any fight card the UFC has ever promoted.
[+] EnlargeJose Aldo
Ed Mulholland for ESPNJose Aldo's safety-first approach isn't sitting well with UFC president Dana White.

None of them seemed to irk White more than the co-main event, in which Jose Aldo defended his featherweight title for the sixth time against Ricardo Lamas in a one-sided decision judges unanimously scored 49-46.

It’s not that White was “upset” with Aldo’s performance, but he wasn’t blown away. And with all of Aldo’s talents, White expects to be blown away.

“The thing about Jose Aldo that drives me crazy is the kid has all the talent in the world,” White told ESPN.com. “He’s explosive, fast. He can do anything but he just lays back and doesn’t let anything go.

“When you talk about being the pound-for-pound best in the world, you can’t go five rounds with guys that it looks like you can defeat them in the second round. That’s what Aldo has a habit of doing.”

Maybe. Only lately, though.

Outside of the UFC, Aldo had a finishing rate of 78 percent in 18 professional wins. Inside the UFC, that figure drops to 33 percent. Why? Here are theories:

A. Better competition, obviously.

This is the theory Aldo (and other fighters who are accused of not finishing enough fights) typically turn to: There’s another fighter in the cage, after all. It’s not like that fighter wants to be finished. He’s fighting the best guys in the world, you know.

“My opponents study me a lot now and they know my game and my strategy,” Aldo said. “I try to reinvent myself before every fight.

“If it were up to me, I would end every fight with one punch. The problem is, I have an opponent. He worked very hard for me and he wants to beat me.”

There are shades of truth to this theory, no question. Aldo is fighting better competition now than he was at Meca World Vale Tudo in July 2005. You can defend this theory -- but it also doesn't feel like the full story.

B. The Mark Hominick fight changed things.
[+] EnlargeMark Hominick
Ric Fogel for ESPNFading down the stretch against Mark Hominick, top, might have had a lasting effect on Jose Aldo.

It is accurate to say Aldo’s finishing rate since he joined the UFC is 33 percent. It’s also accurate to say his finishing rate is 33 percent starting with the Mark Hominick fight in April 2011, because that was his UFC debut.

The Hominick fight is a significant one in Aldo’s career. Something weird happened. He tanked, badly, in the final round. After creating an infant-sized hematoma on Hominick’s forehead, Aldo spent the final round on his back absorbing damage.

Of course, everyone wanted to understand why. The most popular theory was that a nasty weight cut in Montreal was to blame. It made perfect sense.

Since that “loss” in Round 5 at UFC 129, one could argue there’s been a visible change in the way Aldo fights. It’s still violent, explosive and dominant -- but it appears, oftentimes, to be more calculated and definitely more paced.

Everyone likes to say Georges St-Pierre never fought the same after Matt Serra knocked him out in 2007. Maybe Aldo, in a similar way, took a lesson from one bad round against Hominick. He doesn’t want to run out of gas again, so he paces himself.

C. This works as more of a subhead to Theory B: He’ll be different at lightweight.

At lightweight, Aldo will no longer be forced to endure a weight cut that, I can only imagine, has become more strenuous as he gets older.

Combat athletes tend to move up in weight as their careers progress, not down. There’s a reason for that. They are naturally heavier approaching the age of 30 than they are at age 22.

There is a likelihood Aldo will fight different at 155 pounds. He fights “big” as a featherweight, whereas at lightweight, I could see him fighting smaller, upping his volume and general movement.

Prior to the UFC, Aldo landed an average of 4.88 strikes per minute in the WEC. In the UFC, he averages 2.57. Is that change indicative of better competition or Aldo’s desire to pace himself?

Ultimately, it probably doesn’t matter to Aldo as long as he continues to win. Should he take on and defeat Anthony Pettis for the UFC lightweight title, Aldo would become just the third fighter to win UFC titles in multiple weight classes. That kind of accomplishment speaks for itself.

But White made a valid point on Saturday. When it comes to determining the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, where the difference between Nos. 1 and 2 are minuscule, finishes matter. And Aldo isn’t finishing fights like he used to.

Notebook: Aldo wants Pettis at 155

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
8:22
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will seek his sixth title defense on Saturday, against Ricardo Lamas in the co-main event of UFC 169.

If everything goes well, this title defense could be his last.

Aldo (23-1) has long wished to test himself at 155 pounds. However, he’s left that decision completely up to his longtime coach, Andre Pederneiras.
[+] EnlargeJose Aldo and Frankie Edgar
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsTarget acquired: Jose Aldo is already turning his attention toward Anthony Pettis and the lightweight belt.

Should Aldo win Saturday, it appears as if everything lines up for his move to lightweight and a title shot against champion Anthony Pettis. He and Pettis (17-2) were scheduled to meet at 145 pounds in 2013, but Pettis withdrew due to injury.

“Everybody is talking about that,” Aldo told ESPN.com. “It’s not up to me. Whatever they decide, I will be ready.

“You never know [what Pederneiras will say]. I’ve been waiting for this permission for a long time. I hope this time, he will allow me to go up.”

The UFC most likely has the same hope. Pettis, who is rehabbing from knee surgery, doesn’t have a clear-cut No. 1 contender to fight upon his return. Josh Thomson had assumed that role, but he lost to Ben Henderson via split decision last week.

UFC president Dana White told the media Thursday that he’d love to see Aldo take on Pettis for the lightweight championship. He did say the Brazilian would have to vacate the 145-pound title to do it.

“I think if he makes the move to 55, he should do it and drop the belt,” White said. “If he doesn’t like being at 155, he can drop back down and fight for the [featherweight] title again.”

Overeem, Mir fighting for their job?
Frank Mir and Alistair OvereemDave Mandel/Sherdog.comHigh stakes: Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem have no choice but to let it all hang out on Saturday.

White remains uncommitted on whether the UFC would cut the loser of Saturday’s heavyweight fight between Alistair Overeem and Frank Mir.

The two veterans have a combined record of 0-5 since May 2012. Both have been stopped twice in that span. Nevertheless, White said he has no concrete plans of dismissing the loser. It will depend on the fight.

“They need to perform,” White said. “Everybody keeps asking me if those guys are done -- if one of them is getting cut. What if the fight is a Mark Hunt, [Antonio] Silva[-type] fight? I’ll keep them both.”

Mir (16-8) told ESPN.com last week that win or lose, he does not intend to retire. Overeem acknowledged he ran out of gas in his previous two losses, but said he addressed that problem in his recent camp.

“Everybody knows I’m the guy who wants to knock guys out in the first round,” Overeem said. “That is what brought me here. That is what people want to see. The last two fights, it backfired. It’s something I dealt with in the gym.”

Vitor Belfort and TRT
Dana WhiteJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesUFC president Dana White is in Vitor Belfort's corner when it comes to TRT usage.

White made headlines this week when he backed a stance taken by the Association of Ringside Physicians to ban testosterone replacement therapy in combat sports.

Despite that support, however, White shot down claims that he was publicly hoping the Nevada State Athletic Commission denies Vitor Belfort a therapeutic-use exemption for TRT for an upcoming title fight in Las Vegas.

Belfort (24-10) is expected to fight UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman in either May or July, and has said he will apply for a TUE. The Brazilian has legally used TRT during his past three fights, all of which took place in Brazil.

Different members of the NSAC have expressed doubt over whether Belfort will be granted a TUE, thanks to a positive drug test he submitted to the commission in 2006.

White defended Belfort’s use on Thursday. He added that if the NSAC denies Belfort’s use of TRT, he’s unsure of how it would affect Belfort's ability to use it in Brazil.

“I honestly don’t know the answer to that,” White said. “I don’t know how we would handle that. Hopefully this thing comes out soon and they just ban it. I’d rather seem them ban it -- do away with it. Then there’s no confusion.

“If you allow people to take TRT [though], why would you not allow Vitor to take TRT? You know what I mean? That’s my thing. If you allow it, then you allow it.”

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