Renan Barao: The Best is Yet to Come
Monday, February 11th - while the majority of the people living in Brazil are partying for the popular Carnival, one man is hitting pads in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro in preparation to defend his interim bantamweight title on Saturday in London. That man is Renan Barão.
Of course, Barão is a UFC fighter who is aware of his responsibilities, and he doesn't complain about that fact. He knows the job he needs to do against number one contender Michael McDonald in the main event of UFC on FUEL TV 7 at Wembley Arena. Seeing his teammates celebrating during the popular Brazilian party was a bit tough to deal with though.
"It’s hard to explain to outsiders what Carnival is here in Brazil," he says. "The party is great and is such a national party. I'm okay with the fact that I'm not involved, but seeing my friends and teammates leaving the training sessions and going straight to these parties around Rio de Janeiro is funny. I hope my party will be after I defend my belt successfully against McDonald."
Even though Barão is 100% focused on his job, it seems that with his Nova União peers enjoying the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, his training can't be explored to its maximum. But Barão says he's not alone on his quest, and the friends that are partying are just a small part of the crew.
"The great part of being a Nova União member is that you've got several of the guys preparing themselves for MMA shows," he said, assuring his fans that he will be ready for battle. "So while there can be one guy who doesn’t have a fight scheduled, so his routine is less tough, we've got six or seven guys ready to give you a full hand at training sessions because they're going to fight soon and can't take it easy.
Michael McDonald: Man on a Mission
If Michael McDonald defeats interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao this Saturday in London and becomes the youngest titleholder in UFC history, many people may ask to see the Californian’s birth certificate, because it’s hard to believe that he’s only 22 years old.
And that’s not just a reflection on his fighting ability, which has resulted in 15 wins out of 16 pro fights, four of them coming in the UFC, but on his maturity outside the Octagon and his approach to the sport. Truth be told though, while he’s just 22 chronologically, in fight years, he’s a grizzled vet.
“I think now I have about 10-12 years invested into this sport,” said McDonald, who turned pro in 2007 at the age of 16. “A lot of people ask me about my age, and it’s not really a factor. It’s more of a factor when you’re 16 or something like that. But once you reach around 18 to 20, all it is is how much time your mind has had to progress in martial arts and just whether your body can carry out your knowledge. And my knowledge of martial arts is vast, and now at 22, my body is as capable as anybody else’s is, whether they’re 25, 30, or 35, or whatever. My body is just as capable as theirs, and my knowledge is just as much as theirs as well.”
Setting The Record Straight: Dana White on the removal of wrestling from the Olympics
Earlier today, BJPenn.com posted a quote from UFC president Dana White, in regards to wrestling being removed from the Olympics starting in 2020. The quote from White stated, “this sport draws, wrestling doesn’t”. While he did in fact say those words, it’s important to see all of what he said in the way it was intended. Besides immediately calling it’s removal “crazy”, he talked about how great the sport is, skill wise for MMA, and how life changing it’s been for many wrestlers. He also spoke about how this could be the natural evolution of MMA, and that it could be the beginning of MMA in the Olympics. All of this was in regards to being television friendly, selling tickets, and from an entertainment perspective. How the whole statement actually reads is, ”The problem is nobody wants to watch it. Any sport especially these days, it’s about selling tickets, and eyeballs, and viewers and all these other things.” ”What this could be is the evolution of mixed martial arts becoming an Olympic sport,” White said. “We bring spectators, eyeballs, whether it’s on TV or whatever it is this sport draws, wrestling doesn’t.”
Sonnen tips McDonald to cause upset in London
Chael Sonnen has made his picks for Saturday's UFC London event, and he is backing Michael McDonald to stun Renan Barao in the main event.
McDonald, at 22 years of age, steps into the Octagon at Wembley Arena hoping to become the UFC's youngest champion by snatching Barao's interim bantamweight belt.
Barao is the favourite and boasts slick striking skills allied to a dangerous ground game. He has won his last 29 fights and recently told ESPN he will finish McDonald via submission.
However, Sonnen is backing the challenger who arguably has greater knockout power. McDonald is utterly unpredictable inside the Octagon, telling ESPN he has "no strategy whatsoever", and is yet to lose in the UFC.
Tom Watson: Never a Dull Moment
“It’s a bit of a strange story.”
When those words come out of the mouth of globetrotting middleweight Tom Watson, you know it’s got to be good, and as the Southampton native describes his experience with camel wrestling last December, he doesn’t disappoint.
“It wasn’t at a high level, but they had something going on like this when I was in Egypt,” said Watson. “I saw it and it’s not like wrestling in MMA. The premise of what it is is that they have two bull camels, which are the males. And they have a female nearby that’s in heat. So the camels are basically fighting each other for the female. Since I started looking into it, they’ve had the world championships in Turkey, and it’s quite surprising – they had like 20,000 people there. It’s pretty fun.”
Yes, camel wrestling. But the best part of the description is Watson’s admittance that the bouts he saw weren’t at a high level. So should we assume that there is an Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre of camel wrestling out there?
Dustin Poirier: An American Businessman in London
Valentine’s Day will have to wait for the Poiriers, Dustin and Jolie, this year. For now, Dustin Poirier is on a business trip in London, dealing in fists and kicks, not stocks and bonds, and when it’s over he intends on heading back home to his bride in Florida with a victory that will get 2013 off to a start that no chocolates or flowers can match.
“I’m focused on the fight,” said Poirier, who faces Cub Swanson in a highly-anticipated UFC on FUEL TV co-main event at Wembley Arena. “When I fight in Vegas, my wife usually comes and we can afford to do all that (sightseeing, etc.), but I’m going out here with my training partners, we’re on a business trip and I’ll see everybody when I get back from work.”
For James Te Huna, the Stakes are higher than Ever
Explosive striker James Te Huna, who fights Ryan Jimmo at UFC on FUEL TV 7 this Saturday at London's Wembley Arena, wasn't always an impressive athlete. But the self-described uncoordinated kid found his niche in combat, saying in 2010, "When I finished school I took up boxing, put a lot of hours in the gym, just worked hard at it, became good at it, and yeah - the fighting game was good for me."
Te Huna made his MMA debut in Australia in 2003 at age 21, losing his first fight by armbar. Winning more than he lost, his early career was nonetheless dogged by a chronic shoulder injury. At its worst, Te Huna was forced to consider quitting fighting when it dislocated in a 2007 loss to Hector Lombard. In one of the many small miracles that make up his triumph from over injury, however, Te Huna's shoulder recovered and he beat his next two opponents to earn a spot in an Australian light heavyweight tournament.
White: It's time to bring the big fights to the UK
UFC president Dana White has outlined his plan for the future of UK MMA, revealing he wants to stage events in the same venues at the same time and date every year.
White spoke confidently about the UFC's intention to drive the UK market forward on Wednesday, labelling EMEA CEO Garry Cook "a stud" who will deliver a higher volume of events in the near future.
This weekend's Wembley Arena card brings the UK's first UFC title fight for half a decade, and it comes earlier enough in the year to create the possibility for multiple visits in 2013. Certainly that is what White and Cook are hoping for.
"Here's what we are working on - dates in London, Manchester, Dublin and several other places in the UK," he told the media. "We do them every year, the same date every year, and we bring big fights over here.
"[The plan is] we work out a deal for three years - hopefully it would be 30 years - but we work out a deal and we see how it goes, and build big events in these places same time every year.
Riddle targets future as Maximus Deep Waters
Matt Riddle concedes there may not be a room big enough to contain the egos of he and Chael Sonnen, but the American insists he would love a future as "Maximus Deep Waters" in pro wrestling.
Riddle prepares to take on Che Mills at Wembley Arena this weekend, and he was in the mood to entertain at Wednesday's press conference, prompting ESPN to ask if he had met fellow enigma Sonnen before.
"Our egos would clash!" Riddle told ESPN. "He seems like he's nicer in person, we've only spoken once, but when he talks on camera he lets people have it! He's pretty intense."
McDonald: I have no strategy whatsoever
Interim bantamweight title contender Michael McDonald offered a fascinating insight into his mindset on Wednesday, telling ESPN he has no idea what he is going to do when he enters the Octagon.
McDonald takes on Renan Barao in Saturday's main event at London Arena, and he carries the tag of underdog due to Barao's impressive 29-fight win streak.
The 22-year-old, who can become the youngest UFC champion with victory, is not like most other fighters though, insisting he has no game plan. For McDonald, everything he does is natural instinct.
Mir turns to Greg Jackson for Cormier fight
A new face will appear in Frank Mir's corner when he takes on Daniel Cormier at a UFC on Fox event in April: Greg Jackson.
Mir, 33, plans to join Jackson in Albuquerque for an eight-week camp beginning later this month. It's the first time the Las Vegas native will train for a fight outside his hometown.
Following a second-round TKO loss to Junior Dos Santos for the UFC title in May, Mir says he felt a need to modify his standard routine.
"I've always felt I have great trainers so there was no reason to leave, but my wife and I were talking about how I needed to change things up," Mir told ESPN.com. "One of the things was maybe I should get out of town and get more focused.
Phil Harris: A Pioneer of UK MMA Returns
Before there was Michael Bisping, there was Phil Harris. Before Dan Hardy introduced “The Outlaw” to UFC fans both at home and abroad, Phil Harris was plying his trade in an England that wasn’t exactly ready for mixed martial arts.
“No one really took much interest in it,” said Portsmouth’s Harris, a pro since 2003. “People just thought you were fighting and that it wasn’t really a sport. It wasn’t until a few years later when I already had 10-12 fights that people started recognizing it and knowing it wasn’t a thug’s game, but a proper sport.”
By the time that 12th fight rolled around, the UFC explosion that was kick started by the first season of The Ultimate Fighter was going on, and Harris was building a name for himself on the local circuit, submitting opponents left and right. He even opted to take on a young Brazilian that was rolling through town named Jose Aldo in September of 2005.
Jimi Manuwa: No Sleep 'Til Wembley
Jimi Manuwa’s world changed the second he left the Octagon after his UFC debut win over Kyle Kingsbury last September, but he hardly realized it.
“I haven’t really been out of the gym,” laughed Manuwa when asked about life after one of the most compelling UFC debuts seen last year. “Maybe on the internet I get a bit more recognition, and when I go to fight shows people congratulate me on being in the UFC and tell me that they watched the fight. But I just try to stay humble and stay grounded and just keep doing what I’m doing because I’m not satisfied with just getting to the UFC. That’s just the beginning for me.”
White hopes Cruz won't have to retire
UFC president Dana White expressed the serious scenario facing Dominick Cruz, admitting the bantamweight champion may have to retire if he suffers another bad injury.
Cruz is currently sidelined after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last year. Since then Renan Barao has become interim champion and will fight Michael McDonald in London this weekend.
Cruz has not had much luck with injuries during his career, and White hopes he will be fit to return to action in the summer of 2013. However, that scenario is by no means a guarantee.