MMA: Dana White
BOSTON -- Irish featherweight Conor McGregor will not fight Jose Aldo for the UFC title on Dublin soil -- but he could defend it there someday.
McGregor (17-2) is expected to challenge Aldo (25-1) for the featherweight title at UFC 187 on May 23 in Las Vegas. The promotion had reserved that date at 80,000-plus-seat Croke Park in Dublin, but logistics ultimately prevented the venue from hosting the title fight.
Among the reasons UFC will not visit Croke Park in May is that the company was unable to obtain the proper permits to start the fight in the early morning in Dublin.
The promotion alters the local start time of many international shows to allow them to air in prime time in the U.S. A UFC on Fox card next weekend in Stockholm will start at 2 a.m. local time.
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta told ESPN.com that he remains optimistic the Dublin City Council might allow such an event in the future. If not, Fertitta said the UFC could explore other options.
"If Conor wins the title, we will bring him back there for a pay-per-view or maybe on Fox," Fertitta said. "We're not constrained as much at that point. But for this fight [Aldo vs. McGregor] -- believe me, as much as we wanted to go break that record over there and do 80,000 people, which there's no doubt in my mind we would do -- we just felt this fight would do better in Vegas."
McGregor has long expressed a dream of fighting for a UFC title in an Irish stadium such as Croke Park, which was built in 1884 and hosted a Muhammad Ali boxing match in July 1972.
Hosting pay-per-view events in international markets represents a major challenge for combat sports in general. UFC president Dana White estimated a 20 to 30 percent drop in buy rate when cards travel overseas.
He also said that, even with a massive Irish audience at Croke Park, UFC would profit more in Las Vegas due to overhead costs.
"At 91,000 [people] there, you actually do a bigger gate in Las Vegas," White said. "When you're in a stadium that big, you have big production costs you have to pay. Big screens. We'd definitely have to build something over the Octagon, because it will rain."
McGregor, 26, headlined a UFC Fight Night event at Dublin's O2 Arena on July 19. The sellout event drew an attendance of 9,500 for a live gate of $1.4 million U.S.
The day UFC president Dana White is telling you NOT to take a fight, is the day you've become a crazy person.
That day has come for Donald Cerrone. Less than 48 hours after a win over Myles Jury at UFC 182 on Saturday, Cerrone (25-6) accepted a short-notice fight against Ben Henderson on Jan. 18 in Boston. He replaces Eddie Alvarez, who was forced to withdraw at the last minute.
Thanks a to a six-fight winning streak, Cerrone is on the cusp of a lightweight title shot. A fight against Henderson -- a man who has defeated him twice -- on less than two weeks' notice is a major risk.
Even White -- promoter, maker of big fights -- felt inclined to tell "Cowboy" to maybe think about this one before saying yes.
"I was midway home [from Las Vegas], driving in the RV [when White called]," Cerrone said. "He said, 'Hey man, I don't really want you to take this fight, but I've got an opportunity.'
"It's just a dangerous fight. Dana's like, 'I think you should take some time off, but I'm not telling you to take time off.' He talked to me like a friend."
There was nothing to think about for Cerrone, though. He doesn't demand fights every month to create headlines, he says. He does it because he actually wants to fight every month (or in this case, twice a month).
"My best friend was driving the RV and said, 'F--- yeah, we're taking that fight,'" Cerrone said. "And I said, 'Yeah.' That's how it went.
"I tried to take a Jim Miller fight in the same amount of time. When I fought in Orlando [in April], we drove the RV to Baltimore [the next week]. Miller fought somebody [on short notice] but I was like, 'I'll fight Jim Miller. I'm good.' My mentality is the same."
Cerrone, 31, says he will keep his prefight ritual of driving his RV to the event -- despite the crunched schedule. He said during a conference call on Tuesday that the drive from New Mexico to Boston would take "one day, nine hours."
He fought Henderson (21-4) twice when they were both in the WEC. Henderson won the first meeting by unanimous decision in October 2009. They fought again for the WEC lightweight title six months later. Henderson submitted Cerrone in less than two minutes.
"It's been a long time coming," said Cerrone, on the third meeting. "Whether people were talking about it or not, in my mind, we were going to cross paths again. I thought it was going to be for a belt, but here it is on 10 days' notice. Even better. No time to think. No time to worry. Just let reactions take over and fight."
LAS VEGAS -- If Donald Cerrone ever gets his hands on a UFC lightweight title, the whole game better be ready for a radical change.
While the majority of UFC champions typically want to fight (at most) three times per year, Cerrone sets his yearly target of appearances at about twice that. Having a belt around his waist wouldn't change that.
"Let me get the belt, because I'm changing the organization completely," Cerrone said. "All the 155-ers would be like, 'Holy s---, we got to go! We got to fight! This sumb---- is calling out all of us.'
"Let me get that belt and I'm [fighting] every couple months."
Cerrone (25-6) doesn't know what works for other fighters, nor does he care. He finally seems to know what works for him -- a convenience that has eluded through much of his career.
The 31-year-old "Cowboy," who fights Myles Jury at UFC 182 at MGM Grand Garden Arena, has long searched for the most effective approach to martial arts.
In his early days, Cerrone says he'd take a fight in -- wherever, Japan say -- walk off the plane straight into a bar, drink for days, make weight and fight. Later in his mixed martial arts career, he went through a phase of serious self-doubt, wondering before fights if he even belonged in the same cage as his opponent.
In 2013, he was involved in a rock-climbing accident, which (briefly) had him swearing off an extreme-sport lifestyle outside the cage. It didn't last. Last week, with a major fight on the horizon, he was tearing through Colorado backcountry on a snowmobile.
He's allowed emotions to get the best of him, most notably a decision loss to Nate Diaz in 2011. During the fight, Cerrone kicked Diaz's legs out several times but refused to follow him to the ground, which might have won him a round and changed the complexion of the fight. In September, Cerrone was different -- at times taking Eddie Alvarez to the floor to seal the deal on his fifth consecutive win.
"In the Diaz fight, I called him [back to his feet] every time because that was the arrangement [he] and I had behind stage -- 'Let's stand and fight,'" Cerrone said. "It was like a pride thing. When Alvarez went down, yeah, I should have called him up but the smart fighter said, 'Just go down and let's get this W.' I didn't let emotions take over."
He remains a truly unique character in MMA. Immediately after a win, Cerrone demands to schedule his next fight before UFC president Dana White leaves the building. If given the choice between waiting for a guaranteed title shot or taking a potentially risky fight against a no-name opponent, Cerrone will always choose the latter. He says he's willing to fight "smarter" now, but in the same breath, admits he's an entertainer and would never take a boring path to victory.
He says he relishes the opportunity to speak to media now, which is a major change. During his days with the WEC, Cerrone recalls dreading media obligations in various cities around the country.
"We were in Youngstown [Ohio], and I'm like, 'It's four in the morning and I'm going on TV after a dog,'" Cerrone said. "Literally, they had a dog doing tricks and me and Reed [Harris, WEC co-founder] are up next. [UFC director of communications Dave Sholler] said, 'Look, Cowboy -- this is what we've got to do. We've got to get people to know you.'"
People know Cerrone now, and a lot of that has to do with him embracing his Cowboy persona in and out of the cage. With a win over Jury, Cerrone could potentially play it safe and wait for a title shot against Anthony Pettis, but he's already discussing a future matchup against Khabib Nurmagomedov -- a grappling-heavy Russian, who some might argue is a bad matchup for Cerrone.
That's the Cowboy way, though. And in 2014 and beyond, Cerrone's game plan is let Cowboy be Cowboy. Can that lead to a UFC title? He believes so -- even has a place picked out for the occasion.
"[Pettis], main event in Denver, Colorado -- come on m-----f-----," Cerrone said. "That could be the name of the show."
On Dec. 16, a group of fighters filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Zuffa, parent company of the UFC.
It accuses the UFC of being a monopoly that forces out rival promotions and limits fighters earnings.
The lawsuit currently has three named plaintiffs: Jon Fitch, Cung Le and Nate Quarry. If it is certified as a class-action antitrust lawsuit, it could eventually involve hundreds. The UFC is in the process of lawyering up to defend itself in a legal battle that could take three to five years to play out.
I spoke to ESPN senior writer and legal analyst Lester Munson to obtain answers to questions I had while reading through the 63-page lawsuit.
Brett Okamoto: The next step regarding this lawsuit is for the California court to certify it as a class action, correct? What does that mean exactly, and is it more or less a rubber-stamp process in this case?
Munson: Certification of the class described in the lawsuit will be one of the steps. It might not happen right away, but it does appear that certification of the class should be easy and routine. The only possible obstacle to certification of the class would be differences in the contracts that fighters signed. If the plaintiffs all signed the same form contract, then certification should be a simple matter.
Okamoto: The UFC will then file a motion to dismiss. Do you see any chance of the promotion successfully dismissing this case?
Munson: Like all companies accused in antitrust cases, the UFC will file a motion to dismiss. It is almost automatic. The UFC will claim it is not a monopoly, not a monopsony, not a cartel and not subject to the liabilities of antitrust laws. If the statements made in the lawsuit are correct, the court will deny the motion to dismiss. The motion-to-dismiss process alone will consume five to six months.
Okamoto: As a private company, the UFC is historically protective of its financial records. Is it the likely the promotion will request a gag order during the discovery process, citing sensitive trade secrets? Would a court grant one?
Munson: The UFC is likely to demand a gag order that will prevent media from seeing the documents and financial statements that will be exchanged with the fighters as litigation progresses. The discovery process will allow fighters to strip-search UFC records. It would be terrific information for public. UFC lawyers will claim the material is proprietary -- owned by the UFC and qualified as trade secret. Most judges will agree to sign the gag order. If fighters object to the gag order, it would be a very good thing. It could lead to the lifting of the gag order later. It would be even better if ESPN and other news organizations fought the gag order. Some judges will respond favorably to media intervention on the issue.
Okamoto: This lawsuit defends two classes: A "bout class," which alleges the UFC has driven down fighter pay as a result of monopoly power, and an "identity class," which alleges the UFC has taken unfair ancillary rights of its fighters in perpetuity. Do you see this as one lawsuit, or is it possible it's eventually broken up into two?
Munson: The UFC may move to "sever" the two claims. It is a maneuver that would make things more difficult and expensive for the plaintiffs. They would be working on two cases instead of one. Antirust litigation is typically a war of attrition, so breaking this into two cases rather than one would be beneficial to the UFC. The judge may rule that the two claims will be treated as one for the discovery stage (depositions and exchanges of documents) and then sever them into two trials.
Okamoto: The crux of this lawsuit essentially argues the UFC has engaged in illegal schemes to eliminate its competition. What is your initial impression? Are the business practices listed in this lawsuit -- allegedly demanding venues and sponsors sign exclusive agreements, counterprogramming other promotions, acquiring rival promotions -- considered illegal or fair game?
Munson: The business practices described in the lawsuit are aggressive and qualify as "sharp practices," the kind of practices that are technically acceptable but difficult to defend in front of a jury. If the plaintiffs can survive the pretrial skirmishes and move the case to trial, the UFC would be forced to consider settlement rather than face the prospect of defending these cutthroat practices. The counterprogramming is particularly egregious. It demonstrates the power of the monopoly and it causes damage to smaller businesses of the kind antitrust laws were designed to protect. If I were one of the attorneys on the UFC side, I would be worried about the counterprogramming.
Okamoto: The FTC Bureau of Competition opened an antitrust investigation on Zuffa in 2011, after its acquisition of Strikeforce. That investigation was closed in January 2012, with the FTC declining to take action. Does that investigation impact this lawsuit?
Munson: The impact of the FTC decision on the Strikeforce transaction is minimal. It gives the UFC some ammunition, but it is not conclusive. The FTC's standard for intervention in an acquisition is tougher than the standard the fighters must meet in their case. The fighters, moreover, are going well beyond the Strikeforce deal in their claims.
Okamoto: The lawsuit cites numerous boasts by UFC president Dana White regarding putting competitors out of business. Is this something that can actually be used against the UFC as proof of a monopoly, or is this fight-promoter hyperbole?
Munson: The plaintiffs will certainly try to use White's statements against him. His assertion of "We're the NFL, there is no other guy," can be powerful evidence in support of the plaintiffs' claims the UFC is a cartel. UFC lawyers will argue the statements were made as a marketing ploy and part of a macho sales campaign. In the O'Bannon vs. NCAA trial, admissions like this were instrumental in the players' victory. An NCAA official (Wally Renfro) admitted that "the notion that athletes are students is the great hypocrisy of intercollegiate sports."
Okamoto: Are there other parallels between this antitrust case and O'Bannon v. NCAA?
Munson: Yes. In the O'Bannon trial, the NCAA argued that its restrictions on players (no pay beyond a scholarship) were reasonable because they accomplished important goals of higher education. Its importance to higher education was supposed to lead to the conclusion that its restrictions on player compensation were acceptable. Among lawyers and judges, this is known as using the "rule of reason." The UFC will argue that its practices were designed to develop and nurture the MMA market and enhanced the incomes of fighters. The rule-of-reason approach, with its detailed preparation for a jury trial, prolongs litigation -- a clear benefit to the UFC.
Okamoto: In 2014, lightweight Gilbert Melendez had exhausted his UFC contract and, in February, accepted a multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA. The UFC exercised its right to match the offer, effectively showcasing that a fighter was able to leverage one company's interest in him against the other to increase his value. How many "Melendez" cases does the UFC need to demonstrate that a fair market exists?
Munson: One may be enough. The Melendez/Bellator deal is just what the UFC needs to answer the charges of these fighters. The fighters will have difficulty explaining away the Melendez situation. Melendez was able to do what they claim they cannot do.
Diaz, 29, returned to the UFC on Saturday for the first time since November 2013 -- and he did so injured, according to postfight comments.
The Stockton, California, native had held out most of 2014 in an effort to renegotiate an eight-fight contract he signed in late 2012. Those efforts eventually fell short, and Diaz agreed to return against Rafael dos Anjos at a UFC on Fox event inside US Airways Center.
Diaz (17-10) missed weight during Friday's official weigh-in, and then suffered a lopsided unanimous-decision loss. He forfeited 20 percent of his purse as a result of missing weight and was ineligible to receive any UFC Fight Night bonuses before the bout started.
In postfight comments made to the UFC, Diaz said he had experienced difficulties in training camp and came into the fight less than 100 percent.
"I ran into some issues in camp, and I wish I could've fought and won," Diaz stated. "I know what I can do. I had to come and get paid. I had some issues, and I was injured. I was not in the best type of shape I could be in. I'm here to fight, always. I'm here. You see me. I'm not like other guys pulling out of fights with injuries.
"Regardless, I'm going to be here and show up and show what I can do. I just wish I could've been in better shape and had better sparring. Next time. I'll be here next time. I want to get the job done and make it look right."
Diaz's relationship with the UFC remains unstable, and president Dana White said during Saturday's postfight conference he'd like to either see Diaz fully commit himself to a title run or retire. Diaz has four fights left on his current deal.
"Definitely an interesting week for him," White said. "He wants to make more money, yet he keeps doing things to lose money -- which doesn't make sense at all. I think Nate is in this position where he needs to heal up and decide what he wants to do. Does he want to get serious and come in here and try to make a title run, or does he want to retire?"
Describing the circumstances surrounding his return is a little more difficult.
Diaz, 29, is in Phoenix this week to do a job: promote his bout against Rafael dos Anjos at US Airways Center, make weight and fight. He's not there to enjoy himself and he won't.
Now in his 11th year of fighting professionally, Diaz makes that last part crystal clear.
"I don't really like doing this anymore," Diaz told ESPN.com. "I'm trying to get through a couple days of work, cut some weight, do media, fight this guy and go home.
"How would you feel if you were getting ready to fight somebody in a cage in front of everybody?"
How would you feel if you were getting ready to fight somebody in a cage in front of everybody?” -- UFC lightweight Nate Diaz
When Diaz, a Stockton, California, native, first started fighting professionally, he says the only emotion he really felt was nerves. When he made his pro debut in October 2004, he wasn't thinking about money and he didn't consider fighting a "job."
Years within the industry have changed that. Diaz says he's seen millions of dollars change hands directly related to his work, while he receives "quarters" for it. His displeasure came to a head this year, when Diaz essentially stopped accepting fights and told the UFC he wished to renegotiate an eight-fight contract he signed in late 2012.
According to Diaz and his manager, Mike Kogan, the eight-fight deal was signed with a verbal promise from the UFC that should Diaz ever be unhappy with the deal, the two sides would sit down and renegotiate.
After the signing, Diaz lost his next two fights, bounced back in November 2013 and went to the UFC to renegotiate. The company declined to do so.
UFC president Dana White has stated Diaz was happy with the deal when it was first signed and, with a 1-2 record in his past three fights, is not in a position to ask for a raise.
The holdout ends this weekend. Diaz (17-9) will fight for the first time in nearly 13 months. His return is not based, he says, on anything other than the fact he's "broke." He says he's doing what he has to, to "pay some bills and get some dinner."
Saturday will mark Diaz's 20th fight in the UFC. He has no idea how many more there will be. He potentially has plenty of years left to his career, but heading into this weekend, Diaz doesn't have much optimism anything will significantly change.
He made a disclosed $50,000 for a UFC lightweight title fight against Ben Henderson in 2012. In his last fight, his disclosed pay was $30,000.
Those figures do not represent the total figure Diaz made in those fights, but it's far less than the disclosed $200,000 his teammate, Gilbert Melendez, made last weekend in a failed title bid against Anthony Pettis at UFC 181 in Las Vegas.
That discrepancy likely had something to do with Diaz's holdout. After the holdout didn't work, it now has him wondering where exactly his career is taking him -- if anywhere.
"I have a job to get done this week but at the same time, I don't know what I'm doing here," Diaz said. "I just feel like a company and a fighter should treat each other mutually. Instead, I feel like I put in a hell of a lot more than I get back and when I ask for more, I get trashed.
"I don't think I'll ever get the work and damage I've done to myself back -- and if I keep going, it's just going to get worse. So, what the f--- am I doing it for?"
He says his relationship with the UFC has reached a point he actually believes the promotion is rooting against him this weekend.
"I think they want me to lose," Diaz said. "They put me in a co-main event so it would be a three-round fight instead of a five-round fight. I don't think anyone is on my side here. I think this is all set up to see me go down."
Of course, there are two sides to every story. Anyone can make the argument that Diaz, under his own free will, signed the eight-fight contract in 2012 and White told ESPN.com the promotion obviously doesn't have a say in the outcome of fights.
"I have liked Nate since the day I met him," White said. "We don't determine who wins and loses. The fighters do. I think Nate has to motivate himself by thinking the world is against him."
And Diaz says he does like the matchup with Dos Anjos (22-7), who has won seven of his past eight fights. Should he defeat Dos Anjos, the only fight that would interest him at 155 pounds would be against the champion, Pettis (18-2).
"F--- the title, I just want to beat that guy," Diaz said.
It's an awkward set of circumstances to be under, heading into a cage fight. Diaz is disgruntled, unsure of what his fighting future holds and looking forward to getting it over with so he can go home.
At the same time, he understands exactly what he's signed up to do this weekend -- and the dangers it presents. He says disgruntled or not, he's prepared for what's coming.
"I don't know what I'm doing here, but at the same time I know exactly what I'm doing here," Diaz said.
"I've been representing the UFC for years. I'm like a walking UFC sign. Everywhere I go, they're like, 'UFC's in the house.' But there's no love back. That's how I feel about the situation, but I came to fight. I train to win -- always. Whatever happens with this s--- has nothing to do with the fight. In [the Octagon], it's kill or be killed."
LAS VEGAS -- Love it, hate it, be indifferent about it, whatever -- veteran pro wrestler CM Punk will fight in UFC.
CM Punk, birth name Phil Brooks, has never professionally competed in mixed martial arts. His martial arts training has been limited at best. He has trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu off and on under Rener Gracie in Southern California for years, but his experience remains limited and he has never been awarded a belt.
The 36-year-old Brooks believes he will fight at 185 pounds but isn't positive. He will make his UFC debut -- with a clean 0-0 record -- sometime in 2015.
Brooks, who received full legal freedom from WWE in October, was frank with media members during an impromptu news conference at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday. He acknowledged that his presence in the UFC is thanks to the entertainment side of MMA, rather than the sport aspect of it.
He also said he is fully committed to being successful in the cage and plans to earn respect by the time he is finished with the Octagon.
Here's what the longtime entertainer had to say on a multitude of topics relating to his signing.
On how the deal came together: I said something in passing to [UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta] and then he said something half-ass joking back, and I think that's when the seed was planted. I didn't have to beg. They didn't have to beg. I honestly think it's a perfect match because of guys like [WWE star and former UFC heavyweight champion] Brock Lesnar who have laid all the ground work. [UFC president Dana White] already told me somebody asked him, "Oh, I thought you don't do freak show fights." I wear that like a badge. I was a huge [Pride Fighting Championships] fan. So if anybody out there considers me a freak show fight, I think that's kind of funny.
On fighting at 185 pounds: The first legitimate conversation I had with Dana and Lorenzo, I was 215 [pounds] and I ate so much food in front of them. In hindsight, I thought maybe I shouldn't have done that. Since then, I've already lost 15 pounds and been training my ass off already, anticipating this. It's exciting for me. I think I could -- I don't want to say "easily" get to 185 -- I'm going to do a test weight cut. I'm going to use all the contacts I already have to get the best nutritionist and see how I feel. I'm not ruling out 170. I've got to test my body, but 185 is my most likely target.
On initial social media reaction to the announcement: Oh, I'm staying the f--- off Twitter right now. I've got friends and family texting me, patting me on the back, congratulations. I'm staying away from the negativity for the night.
On what he hopes to accomplish at 36 years old: I'm not going to try and give some inspirational message or anything like that. I just -- there are a lot of kids that look up to me, maybe, I don't know, and I always tell them, "Don't let anybody tell you you can't do something. If you want to do something and it doesn't harm anybody else, do it. Choose a path and work toward it to the best of your ability." That's all I'm doing here. I'm 36 years young. I'm going to give it 100 percent, and I don't let anybody tell me I can't do something.
On inevitable comparisons to Lesnar: You hear positive and negative things about Brock. "Oh, Brock was just a wrestler and he got knocked out." No, dude. Brock was the heavyweight champion. If somebody is going to compare me to Brock, I'll take that.
On his potential drawing power in UFC: If I was just Phil Brooks, I'm coming into the biggest fight organization in the world with an 0-0 record. I understand that people are going to throw that in my face. That's the reality of it, and I embrace that reality. Can CM Punk fight? Yeah. I think everybody on some level can fight. I think it's in our DNA. I intend to take this seriously. I respect everybody who has ever stepped foot in the cage, and before I'm done here, everybody will respect me.
On whether he would have fought elsewhere had UFC not signed him: Absolutely. People close to me know how long I've talked about doing this. It isn't so much about the UFC; it's about being what I know I have inside of me. I want to prove not only to the world but more importantly myself. This is something I've thought about for a long time that I haven't been able to do. Once the opportunity presented itself, I would be a fool to say no.
On why he didn't take a fight outside UFC first: I just think that's where Dana and Lorenzo come in and say the big business is your first fight. So, win, lose or draw, if I fought somewhere else, maybe a little luster would have gotten knocked off. Make no mistake: This is very much a business as well as fighting. There are both sides of it, and I think they kind of merge perfectly. I was willing [to fight outside UFC]. It's weird. This is something I'm doing for myself, to test myself. It's certainly not all about the money, but it's also nice to get paid.
On where he'll train for his first fight: That's an interesting question. Rener is always going to be my guy, but when we get closer to figuring out when I'm ready -- when I have a [fight] date -- I don't know if I want to piecemeal a camp together. I definitely need to find a place that's best for me and my needs. I don't want to be somebody who will cherry-pick guys that I'm comfortable with. I need to go to a place that breeds champions and trains the best. I'm not saying I have the pick of the litter, but I have a lot of friends who have said, open arms, "Come here." I'm fortunate in that respect. I don't have a crystal ball. I would love to see Rener walk into the cage with me, but I'm not sure.
LAS VEGAS -- Expect UFC bantamweight Urijah Faber to read any and all documents associated with the recently announced deal between the UFC and Reebok carefully.
The impact of the deal, Faber says, will be in the fine print.
Faber, 35, occupies a unique space in the sport. He is an 11-year veteran and perennially top-ranked athlete. He's embraced the business side of the sport in ways few fighters have, including investments in apparel companies. As someone who has even sponsored other fighters with his brands, Faber has seen sponsorship issues in mixed martial arts through several lenses.
Speaking to ESPN.com on Wednesday, Faber said it's difficult to be "a skeptic or a fan" of the six-year uniform deal the UFC announced on Tuesday because he hasn't been informed of concrete numbers yet. No financial terms of the deal have been publicly disclosed by the UFC or Reebok.
UFC president Dana White has stated all the money associated with the rights fees will go to the fighters on the UFC roster, based on a tiered ranking system. Additionally, fighters will receive 20 percent on merchandise sold with their likeness.
Outside sponsorships, which fighters have obtained independently for years to supplement income, will no longer be allowed in the UFC's Octagon as part of the Reebok deal.
Faber, who co-owns the clothing brand Torque, said the weirdest thing about the announcement is that he will now, essentially, be competing with his own brand -- which obviously already sells Faber-specific merchandise.
"For me, I've always felt like the sponsorship money was not enough," Faber said. "I've had some great sponsors throughout the years but I've also worked on wearing my own companies. I own a clothing line, so this is going to be kind of weird now. I'll basically be competing against my own company, with the custom Reebok signature line. But I can see why the UFC would move in this direction.
"As a business person, my first question is: Is the 20 percent from merchandise sold out of the UFC's percent or is that directly out of what's sold? Is it gross? Is it net? Is it after they pay for advertising or if a shirt is sold, you get 20 percent from that number? I know in some deals, the UFC licenses itself to a clothing brand and gets 10 percent or whatever, you get 20 percent from that. It could be really good or really crappy from a business perspective.
"As far as the other details, I don't know because everything has been real vague. The conversations I've had with Dana is that it will be good for the guys at the top level and all the money is going to the fighters, but I have no clue what that is."
Faber, who will enter his 11th UFC fight this weekend in Las Vegas, admitted he didn't ask White specific questions about the deal when they spoke for two reasons. One is that he expects to speak to UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta on the subject.
The second represents a potentially glaring problem in the situation, and that is Faber acknowledges there will be no discussion regarding numbers anyway. Due to the absence of any collective fighter association, there is no negotiating table in a situation like this.
"It doesn't matter because it's not like I can negotiate it," Faber said. "I'll just ask and hope everything works out and it's a fair deal.
"I feel the UFC genuinely has fighters' best interest at heart, though. I've been a skeptic of that in the past. I've been on both sides of it. I really feel like Dana and Lorenzo will figure it out."
Faber said he does agree a corporate sponsorship from Reebok elevates the sport in general. The UFC has seen its share of awkward moments regarding fighter attire -- and not all date back to its primitive beginnings.
Faber brought up two examples. In 2013, lightweight Mac Danzig wore shorts to the Octagon that read "Not for sale," stating he was tired of companies using athletes as "billboards." On the same night, lightweight Cody McKenzie forgot his fight apparel at a hotel and entered the cage wearing a hastily bought pair of trunks with the price tag still dangling from the side. Referee Herb Dean pulled the tag mid-fight.
"The NBA and NFL, etc., all have corporate sponsors," Faber said. "That is the world we live in. It's a business world. The UFC is making decisions and I have to adapt."
In regard to the tiered system, which currently relies on UFC rankings voted on by assorted media outlets (ESPN.com does not vote in UFC rankings), Faber did not express much outrage but said a better system might exist.
"I mean, no," Faber said, when asked if he trusted the UFC rankings to be accurate. "But who do you trust in that regard? I do like what I read in one article is how they pay a lot of these guys in other leagues is by how long you've been in the league. That's something to consider. And not just because I've been in the league for a long time. If you pay your dues, you should be rewarded in this program."
This city will always represent something of a crossroads in his life. He moved here in 2009 as an undefeated 24-year-old prospect, coming off a seven-second knockout in his UFC debut.
He moved to Las Vegas to accomplish two things: climb the heavyweight rankings in the UFC and earn a degree at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Five years later, neither has happened for Duffee -- but heading into what will be his fourth UFC fight against Anthony Hamilton (13-3) at UFC 181 at Mandalay Bay Events Center, the 28-year-old believes he's finally ready to change that.
"Nostalgia is a weird emotion," Duffee told ESPN.com. "You're happy but there's that sad part, too, you know what I mean? It's a weird emotion. It's positive for me to feel that, though, because it's a reminder that I have been through the MMA scene, man. I have done and experienced everything, and that gives me a boost."
Duffee (8-2) isn't kidding when he says he's been through everything.
Following that seven-second knockout over Tim Hague in August 2009, Duffee was pegged a rising star in the UFC. Upon his arrival in Las Vegas, he shared a training room (and coaches) with a living legend in Randy Couture.
On top of his fighting talent, the kid showed maturity by enrolling at UNLV. Invest in the future. Good head on his shoulders, as they say.
But Duffee's luck went south in Vegas. He realized he couldn't juggle professional fighting and full-time studies and dropped out of classes weeks after the move.
He lost his second fight in the UFC in stunning fashion to Mike Russow in May 2010. Shortly after, he drew the ire of UFC president Dana White, who questioned his attitude and ultimately cut him from the roster.
In December 2010, Duffee fought Alistair Overeem at a K-1 event and lost via knockout in 19 seconds. He wouldn't fight again for 16 months and changed camps multiple times. In MMA circles, the term "head case" started to follow him.
Looking back, Duffee doesn't feel he was ever difficult to work with and believes he's generally been misunderstood, but he admits his mental state wasn't right.
One way to put it is he sabotaged his own success by wanting it too much. He weighed himself down with internal pressure, and it disrupted every aspect of his career.
"I was pretty insecure," Duffee said. "I've always been dedicated to athletics. I've sold my soul to sports. I was in the gym every day, overtraining. [After the Hague knockout] my mentality was, 'Don't f--- this up.' It wasn't a Conor McGregor, 'I've got this.' It was always, 'Don't f--- this up.' ... I was tense. I was tight. It showed in my interviews and it showed in my personality. Everybody thought I was this giant d---.
"[My career] has been hell, hell, hell -- because of my mindset. I've wanted it so bad. I had a lot of good times, but I could never really be there for them because I was so focused. I've been like that since I was 13. Like, 'Oh you guys are going out tonight? I'm going to run sprints.' I don't say that to make everyone think I'm a hard worker. It was crazy. It was stupid. It's been detrimental for me."
In 2012, Duffee nearly called it quits in MMA. He says he was one day away from signing a contract to compete in kickboxing overseas -- a career change he wasn't enthusiastic about, but felt backed into.
And then, by chance, the UFC needed a last-minute replacement at UFC 155 and Duffee got the call. He re-signed with the promotion and, just as he did in August 2009, knocked out his opponent in the first round, creating plenty of buzz in doing so.
Duffee was back. He was training with top-tier heavyweights at American Kickboxing Academy, and he says he'd reached an understanding of himself as "a man and a fighter." Mentally, he'd never been better.
One month later, though, Duffee woke up with a stabbing pain in his back. He lost strength in one arm. He told the UFC he'd need time to figure out what was going on.
Several evaluations and consultations later, Duffee was diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner syndrome, a rare nerve disorder which can cause pain, numbness and loss of motor function, among other symptoms.
Long story short, Duffee overcame the disorder enough to return to the Octagon this weekend, but not before it stole two years of his athletic prime. He also left AKA to run a group fitness program in Florida.
Today, you might say he's come full circle. He's rejoined American Top Team -- the same team he parted ways with when he moved to Las Vegas in 2009.
He's five years older, but his place in the sport remains eerily similar to what it once was: A very, very scary heavyweight prospect.
The biggest difference in Duffee now is that he believes that. He's got that stability he desperately wanted earlier in his career and he's focused on enjoying the fight in front of him.
"I feel stable," Duffee said. "I'm not huge, but I have enough people who are interested in me for some reason. I'm that anomaly, where I can hide under the table for two years like I just did and people are still interested enough for me to get on the main card of UFC 181. No disrespect to Anthony, but I don't think he's the reason we're on the main card. My honest perspective is that I'm the reason.
"I've got this one opportunity in front of me, and that's all I'm thinking about. This is it."
You had footage of the greatest fighter in the world today, Jones, throwing his UFC belt to the floor and going after Cormier with full-force punches right before a crowd of fans and media. Clips of the brawl exploded on mainstream media. Jones and Cormier appeared on "SportsCenter" to speak about the matter immediately after it happened. Predictions were made that the fight would eclipse 1 million pay-per-views. Nobody could wait for the fight on Sept. 27.
The following week, Jones, 27, was forced out of the fight due to a knee injury. It was immediately rescheduled for UFC 182 on Jan. 3.
The postponement meant that nearly five months will have passed between the MGM lobby brawl and the actual fight. At a news conference last week in Las Vegas, both fighters admitted that's a long time in today's world.
"It's definitely lost a lot of steam," said Jones, on the promotion of the fight. "People were fired up. They were ready to see blood. Now they have to wait. The way the world works is everything is now."
Cormier, 35, added, "I don't know what [the brawl] means anymore. I think people have moved on. It has faded to the back."
That said, both champion and challenger are confident the fire can be rekindled before Jan. 3. The two were cordial during a staredown last week, but Jones admitted he tried to push the envelope as much as he could. It was difficult, though, as UFC president Dana White was on high alert between the two to prevent any funny business.
"If you noticed, I tried to put my forehead on him," Jones said. "He backed up. He said though, 'If anybody ever puts their forehead on me, I'll do it again.' Well, I tried to do it again to see what he'd do but he backed up."
The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined Jones and Cormier 10 percent of the fight purses they will receive on Jan. 3 (Jones was fined $50,000, Cormier $9,000) for the incident. The two were also ordered to perform community service (40 hours for Jones, 20 for Cormier). Jones maintains he shouldn't have gotten the worst of it and that it was Cormier who triggered the incident, but says he has moved past it.
While the excitement generated by the brawl has arguably worn off, the rivalry remains between the two. Cormier (15-0) said he nearly confronted Jones in Las Vegas last week after he was told Jones had been asking, "Why don't we do it today?"
"For the UFC to capitalize on what they had, they've got to remind people why it was so big by having opportunities like this," Cormier said. "Give us opportunities to be with each other because it's not hard. You put us together, he hears my voice [and] it annoys him. I hear his voice it annoys the s--- out of me. I had to contain myself earlier. Someone told me he said, 'Why don't we do it today?' My girl said, 'Just relax.' I wanted to call his ass out."
Jones (20-1) said, "A lot of people -- especially the hard-cores -- they don't forget. They didn't forget what happened. If you know me and you know DC, you're not going to miss this fight. So yeah, the steam has gone down a little bit but I think it will still be one of the biggest selling fights of the year."
By and large, the impact of mixed martial arts on Stephan Bonnar's life has been extremely positive.
It's paid some of his bills (not all of them, but he's made a living). It's made him a professional athlete, despite his open admission he was never considered particularly athletic. Of course, it's given him joy, too. He once compared the feeling of speaking to UFC commentator Joe Rogan after winning a fight to "heaven."
In November 2012, however, the sport had a different impact on Bonnar and his family.
On the same day Bonnar's wife went into labor with the couple's first child, news broke he had tested positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone following a loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 153 the previous month. It was the second failed drug test of his career and the weight of social media judgment fell swiftly on him. There wasn't much in the way of escaping it.
"The first baby picture we posted (online) -- my wife's still in the hospital -- you've got people calling me a piece of s--- cheater," Bonnar told ESPN.com. "It just made her so embarrassed. It was really hard for her to forgive me for that."
Bonnar, 37, refrained from speaking publicly about the failed test until March 2013. He admitted to taking steroids prior to the Silva fight, but said he did so before accepting the bout, while he was under the impression he was retired. A short notice offer to fight an all-time great like Silva was too good to pass up, the longtime UFC veteran said, and he thought the steroid would be out of his body by the time he was tested.
On Saturday, Bonnar will fight for the first time since UFC 153. He will do so under the Bellator MMA banner opposite his sudden rival, Tito Ortiz. The bout headlines Bellator 131 at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.
I don't give a damn. I don't care if I break anything. I just want to take it to this guy and have a brawl.” -- Stephan Bonnar, on his attitude going into Saturday's Bellator showdown against Tito Ortiz
Bonnar's return has been met with mixed reviews. He remains something of a fan favorite and his epic fight against Forrest Griffin in April 2005 will always be considered a catalyst to the growth of the sport. At the same time, he's a twice proven drug user and a professional wrestling-type confrontation between he and Ortiz in September to promote their fight had many in the sport rolling their eyes.
The beauty of this return for Bonnar, however, is that he no longer cares about things he used to. His legacy, his image -- event his safety and the result of the actual fight -- Bonnar says he does not care.
"I think that last experience is kind of what brought this me out," Bonnar said. "F--- trying to get people to like me. If you don't like me, then f------ root for Tito and kiss my ass.
"Usually when you're fighting, you want to make sure you get that win. You can't take too much damage. You don't want to have to have surgery and be on the shelf. I don't give a damn. I don't care if I break anything. I just want to take it to this guy and have a brawl."
It was this exact situation Bonnar repeatedly asked for in UFC offices when he was still active in 2012. Despite putting together a three-fight winning streak in late 2011, he had no interest in a title run. He wanted fights based on names and "brawl" potential. He wanted gigs like a coaching job on The Ultimate Fighter reality series, opposite another aging fighter in Griffin (who is now retired).
The UFC did not share his vision, so in mid-2012, Bonnar unofficially retired. He took a cycle of steroids, he says, because he wasn't planning on being drug tested. He wasn't expecting to fight.
"I went into the UFC offices, begging for big-name fights, promising to put on a barn burner," Bonnar said. "Dana would say, 'Whoever is next in line for the title run, that's how it works here. If you're not interested in the title, then hang them up. We only want guys who are hungry for that title.' I was like, 'Well, I'm kind of past that. (UFC champion Jon) Jones already whooped my ass. I just want to put on a show with someone like Forrest, go that route.
"As a consolation, they offered me a job with the UFC. Paycheck, health insurance, getting to go around and talk to people about being awesome, basically. Charity, outreach programs. That's where I was with my life."
Then the Silva opportunity came. And the failed drug test. And the loss of certain UFC perks due to the failed drug test. Official retirement and a day job. Now, suddenly in late 2014, Tito Ortiz.
The build-up to the fight has been interesting, involving a masked man, friends-turned-enemies, allegations of double-crossing coaches and so on.
From the time it was announced, for Bonnar, it's been an opportunity to fight one an individual that's rubbed him wrong for years. It's the kind of fight he also thought was well behind him during the last year, during which he embraced the life of a day trader and basically stopped watching fights altogether.
The possibility of the fight was brought up awhile ago to Bonnar, but he didn't hold his breath. He was still under UFC contract and even if he got a release, his assumption was that former Bellator president Bjorn Rebney would want him to go through the promotion's tournament format before booking an Ortiz fight. When Scott Coker replaced Rebney at the helm this summer, Bonnar actually believed the fight was even less likely.
"Tito's manager, Dave Thomas, actually called seeing if I could fight for Bellator," Bonnar said. "He asked if I had interest in fighting Tito and I said, 'Good luck with that.' I figured they weren't giving me Tito right off the bat. When Bjorn Rebney was out, I said, 'Coker will never go for that.' I thought it was something they got close with on Bjorn but would give up on with Coker. I actually thought Coker would be the harder egg to crack, but turned out he was on the same page.
Ortiz, who has said his share leading up to the bout, offered one final take on it coming together: "Bonnar got hired in Bellator to be my warmup to a title fight. That's 100 percent the truth."
Bonnar doesn't care one way or another if that's accurate.
This month marks the 13-year anniversary of his first professional MMA fight. He carved out a fan base for himself one 15-minute brawl at a time, only to think he'd have to leave the sport with his tail between his legs after UFC 153. He has his share of regrets about that, but when it comes to moving forward, it's changed the way he looks at a return to cage fighting. He's here to enjoy himself and ignore the critics.
"I'm doing this because this is what I went into Dana's office asking for (in 2012) and it's a chance to fight somebody I really don't like as a person."
"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.
For a third consecutive time, Kelvin Gastelum will attempt to execute his fight week weight cut without the services of nutritionist Mike Dolce,
Gastelum (9-0) will meet Jake Ellenberger (29-8) in the co-main event of UFC 180 on Nov. 15 in Mexico City. One day prior to that fight, his appearance at the official weigh-in is sure to draw plenty of attention.
The 23-year-old dropped to 170 pounds after winning "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series as a middleweight last year. With Dolce in his corner, Gastelum hit 170 pounds with no issues for a fight against Brian Melancon in August 2013.
After the Melancon fight, Gastelum split from Dolce citing financial reasons. His next two weight cuts did not go well. He required three attempts to make the 171-pound weight limit for a fight in March and then missed weight altogether ahead of his last bout in June in San Antonio. He forfeited 20 percent of his fight purse as a result.
Later that month, UFC president Dana White told reporters in Mexico that Gastelum had agreed to hire back Dolce for his first UFC pay-per-view co-main event.
Those plans fell through, however, due to scheduling conflicts. Dolce confirmed to ESPN.com on Monday he was contacted by Gastelum's camp, but is unavailable to travel to Mexico next week.
Gastelum said he failed to make weight last time mostly due to unforeseen circumstances and promised it would not be an issue this time.
"A lot of things went wrong that fight week," Gastelum told ESPN.com. "My weight was good. It was low. But things went south, starting with my flights getting canceled. One of my flights had to turn around and go back to my original airport. I didn't get into San Antonio until the next day at 2 a.m. A lot of little things went wrong, timing-wise. I had to check in pretty early for the UFC the day of the weigh-in and they didn't allow me to continue sweating off those pounds.
"We're going to make sure we do everything right this time. This should be the easiest weight cut I've had."
Count Duane Ludwig amongst those who did not hear a bell go off after the first round of Saturday's UFC featherweight title fight.
Jose Aldo (25-1) defended the title a seventh time on Saturday, defeating Chad Mendes (16-2) via unanimous decision at UFC 179 at Maracanazinho Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro.
The five-round fight was one of the best of the year, but included a moment of controversy when Aldo dropped Mendes with a right hand well after the bell went off to end the first round.
At the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White said he hadn't heard the bell, due to the noise of the 11,415 fans in attendance. Referee Marc Goddard echoed that statement, as did Aldo, who said he thought the fight was actually being stopped when Goddard separated him from Mendes. The bell could be heard clearly on the pay-per-view broadcast.
If you're looking for someone to blame for that, it's [referee Marc Goddard]. He should have been on point, knowing there was only 10 seconds left. There wasn't much action at the 10-second mark, so we all heard that. Once Aldo heard it, I think he started unloading.” -- Duane Ludwig, trainer to Chad Mendes
Ludwig, who helped Mendes to his stool after the first round, said he was completely unaware the punches were late until after the fight.
"The crowd was so loud I didn't hear it myself," Ludwig told ESPN.com. "I heard the 10-second clacker and knew the end of the round was close, but I didn't actually hear a bell.
"I found out after the fight during interviews, actually. I heard Dana talking about. He was the one who pointed it out. I was like, 'Wow, there were two punches after the bell.'"
Ludwig said his initial reaction was Goddard should have deducted a point from Aldo, but admitted since no one heard the bell and the referee was late to step in, docking a point would not have been appropriate.
"If you're looking for someone to blame for that, it's the referee," Ludwig said. "He should have been on point, knowing there was only 10 seconds left. There wasn't much action at the 10-second mark, so we all heard that. Once Aldo heard it, I think he started unloading."
White has said the UFC will look into measures to prevent a similar situation in the future. Ludwig said that had a point been taken away, he doesn't feel it would have impacted either fighter's strategy the next four rounds. All three judges scored the bout 49-46 (or four rounds to one) in favor of Aldo.
"It was a close fight," Ludwig said. "Those two punches didn't help. He was almost out from that. He didn't know what corner he was in and was on wobbly legs the whole time in between rounds."
Ludwig said he was worried the judges would be enamored by Aldo's advantage in knockdowns when the fight went to decision, but said overall he didn't have an issue with the outcome.
"I think some judges, if they see a knockdown, they don't care about the rest of the round," he said. "They're going to give it to the guy who got the knockdown. I don't know if the judges were a little in Aldo's favor but it was a close fight. I'm not b------- about the decision.
"Chad was most effective when he was moving his feet and doing what we worked on. When he stood in the pocket and exchanged he did well too, but those were the times when he also got caught. If we would have moved our feet a little more, we might have been ahead on points but I'm not going to tell Chad how to fight every second. If he's in the moment and feel like he needs to do something, he needs to do that."
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.