UFC interested in Yoshihiro Akiyama
Korean MMA superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama appears to be a free agent and is reportedly no longer on good terms with his former promotional company, FEG, which operates both K-1 and DREAM in Japan.
During a press conference in Japan earlier this week to promote FEG’s annual “Dynamite!” event on New Year’s Eve, Akiyama was a notable omission from a list of possible participants for the show, according to a report on Sherdog.
The Sherdog report indicates that Akiyama is not longer contractually obligated to FEG and could be looking to sign a deal with FEG’s primary MMA rival in Japan, World Victory Road’s Sengoku promotion.
Akiyama has already reportedly expressed an interest in fighting Japanese MMA superstar Hidehiko Yoshida, who is one of Sengoku’s top draws.
However, it is believed that the UFC is also expected to make a play for Akiyama’s services, as it has long-term plans to promote shows in South Korea and a deal with Akiyama would bolster the U.S.-based promotion’s marketing potential in Korea.
UFC 89: JARDINE WORKING BACK INTO THE MIX
When you think of fighters with topsy-turvy careers in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it's hard not to think about Keith Jardine, product of the Greg Jackson Submission Fighting Camp in Albuquerque, N.M. He has developed well through the camp and has compiled some extremely impressive wins in his career. However, he has also had some deterring losses in his tenure in the UFC.
Jardine was a product of the Ultimate Fighter in season two. He made it to the semi-finals in the show, losing to his current teammate Rashad Evans. His first two victories in the UFC were against Kerry Schall and Mike Whitehead. His next fight would be against the extremely popular Ultimate Fighter season one runner up Stephan Bonnar. Jardine controlled a lot of the fight landing some very strong leg kicks. However, the judges didn't rule in his favor, much to the chagrin of many fans.
In his next bout, he would out-point Wilson Gouveia and move on to take on current UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. Jardine shocked Griffin, hurting him badly with strikes and finishing him off on the ground. That fight put Jardine on the road to the light heavyweight title. Unfortunately, that road would hit a major stopping point at Houston Alexander. A relative unknown at the time, he stunned and knocked out Jardine in just 48 seconds of the first round.
SOKOUDJOU STILL OUT TO PROVE HE'S NOT A FLUKE
Few fighters have had a better burst onto the mixed martial arts scene than Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. He had just three professional fights before debuting at Pride 33 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Nogueira was a heavy favorite coming into that bout. Sokoudjou at that time was 2-1 and had just lost his first bout to Glover Teixeira at WEC 24.
In less than a minute, after a brief exchange, Sokoudjou landed a left that knocked down Nogueira. “The African Assassin” jumped on the opportunity and knocked him out cold with a follow up punch. Instantly, everyone was very excited to see him fight again. Fans wanted to see if this was simply a “lucky punch” or if he was the real deal.
Fans would soon find out as Sokoudjou was slated to fight Ricardo Arona - another Top 10 light heavyweight at the time. Once again, to the surprise of everyone, Sokoudjou finished Arona in less than a round.
All of a sudden, with two straight wins over Top 10 opponents, Sokoudjou found himself in everyone’s Top 1 rankings. After knocking out the aforementioned fighters, Pride dissolved and was purchased by the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Negotiations progressed and Sokoudjou signed with the UFC to add more depth to their already stacked 205-pound division.
Dana White: BJ Penn vs Anderson Silva ‘aint gonna happen’
“If GSP beats BJ then you’ll see Silva v GSP — possibly at a catch weight. But if Penn beats GSP there’s no way I’d let him move up to 185lbs, no way. He’ll f***ing fight, argue and cry about it but there’s no way – it ain’t gonna happen, I can tell you that right now – it ain’t gonna happen.”
UFC President Dana White is all about a superfight between welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and middleweight champion Anderson Silva sometime in 2009. Of course, St. Pierre — who next fights lightweight champion BJ Penn at UFC 94 on January 31 — and Silva — who fights Patrick Cote next week — both more than likely need to win their next bouts for that to happen. Great idea and a colossal moneymaker. But here’s where it gets a little weird — White says he will not let Penn — a former welterweight champion who has competed against light heavyweights in the past — fight “The Spider” if he bests “Rush.” Penn has said numerous times that he would like to hold every belt in the UFC, but according to an emphatic White, it’s not going to happen. White is right in that Penn will more than likely raise a stink if he is not allowed to fight Silva … as he should be. It doesn’t make much sense, especially since Penn would have to vacate at least one title for it to happen. Hopefully, White will elaborate on the thought process in the near future.
UFC 89: PAUL TAYLOR WANTS WAR WITH CHRIS LYTLE
BIRMINGHAM, England – MMAWeekly.com caught up with a surprisingly chilled Paul Taylor on the eve of his encounter with tough MMA veteran Chris Lytle at UFC 89. For the Briton this fight is business like any other and he knows that Lytle has the same mindset. They are both hard chargers who love to throw leather, both have seen their fare shares of wars, and that’s what he is banking on.
“I am really looking forward to this fight with Chris. I respect him, he’s a great fighter, but I want a war. I don’t like to go out there and have a quick fight. Win, lose or draw I want to feel like I have been in war at the end of it,” he stated emphatically.
For many in the U.K., Taylor has been a staple of the welterweight division since joining the promotion, but things may not always stay that way. He sees this fight as being a benchmark for himself and the results will dictate if he makes a move to the 155-pound division or continues campaigning at 170 pounds. “I feel comfortable at 170, but if I get my arse handed to me I may consider the cut to 155. It all depends on how I show, but ultimately it’s a mixed bag. I am probably one of the tall guys in this division, but I am not necessarily a big guy here. My body type prevents that as I find it hard to pack on the muscle. This means I compensate on technical ability, speed, and movement.”
Pros Pick: Bisping vs. Leben
The Octagon returns to the UK for another round of caged-in, hand-to-hand combat at UFC 89 “Bisping vs. Leben” this Saturday at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England. The event will be carried on tape delay by Spike TV and should provide a solid night of action. The featured bout pits local hero Michael Bisping against Chris Leben in what promises to be a memorable middleweight duel.
Who wins? Sherdog.com polled a number of professional fighters and trainers, seeking their opinions on the UFC 89 main event.
Keith Jardine says he has a gameplan for Brandon Vera
While a middleweight matchup between Michael Bisping and Chris Leben is the marquee attraction for Saturday’s UFC 89 event at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England, the televised portion (SPIKE TV, 9 P.M. ET) of the show will also feature a light heavyweight battle between Keith Jardine and Brandon Vera.
Tomorrow’s bout is crucial for both fighters, as neither can afford a loss at this point. For Jardine, he has recorded major victories over the likes of Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell. However, he has been unable to convert those victories into a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title due to the fact that both wins were proceeded by tough losses to Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva.
After losing to Silva in quick fashion this past May at UFC 84, Jardine needs to deliver at UFC 89 in order to avoid suffering consecutive losses in a UFC light heavyweight division that seemingly gets deeper on a monthly basis.
Josh Koscheck confirms plans to fight at both UFC 90 and UFN 16
During a conference call to promote UFC 90, Josh Koscheck confirmed that he plans to fight twice in the next sixty days. First, Koscheck takes on Thiago Alves in the co-main event on October 25th. Then, If Koscheck comes out unscathed, he will have a six week turnaround to prepare for Yoshiyuki Yoshida on December 10.
There are some very interesting sub-plots going on though. One of the main reasons Koscheck took the short-notice fight with Alves is that Koscheck believes the winner will be the number one contender for welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. However, Koscheck will be fighting Yoshida in the interim. Should Koscheck lose to Yoshida, it would seem highly unlikely that he would still receive the title shot.
Next, Alves is a very good fighter who has already had a huge 2008 that included victories over both Matt Hughes and Karo Parisyan. The odds of Koscheck coming out of the fight without injury in order to make such a quick turn-around would seem unlikely. That brings the next question as to who would the UFC replace him with in a TV main event match? Former Ultimate Fighter alums Diego Sanchez and Mike Swick are out due to injury. Typically, Spike likes to feature former TUF competitors on their shows, but that doesn’t seem possible in this case. That would leave Parisyan as a possibility since he and Yoshida have been rumored as opponents in the past. However, it’s hard to believe a Parisyan - Yoshida bout would be of that much interest to Spike, but Spike hopes that is not an issue. They want Koscheck. If Koscheck makes both fights, it will be a very impressive feat.
TUF 9: Bisping Definate, Vs Franklin/Hendo
Michael Bisping will be the UK team captain on season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC president Dana White has confirmed.
Speaking to Fighters Only at the UFC 89 weight-ins earlier, he said that Bisping would be the UK captain regardless of the result against Chris Leben tomorrow night.
“Win, lose or draw, he will coach the British team,” White revealed.
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, standing nearby interjected: “Although if Bisping walks through Leben like he has his other opponents, that is going to be interesting.”
When then revealed that Bisping’s opposite number on TUF 9 will be either Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson.
“We’re looking for the right fight,” he said, explaining that the chosen coach would have to be a “step up” from Bisping’s previous opponents.
Asked if Henderson and Franklin were the two names on the shortlist, he confirmed: “That is who we are looking at.”
Franklin is a former UFC middleweight champion, while Henderson held both the middleweight and light-heavyweight belts in PRIDE FC.
UFC 89 Official Weigh-In Results
Michael Bisping and Chris Leben were deemed fit for battle at the official weigh-in for UFC 89 on Friday at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England.
The two middleweights will collide in the main event Saturday, as the UFC makes its final 2008 visit to the UK.
UFC 89 Press Conference Notes
Today the UFC held a press conference ahead of UFC 89 this Saturday at the Birmingham National Indoor Arena.
The press conference was chaired by UFC UK division president Marshall Zelaznik, who was accompanied by Paul Kelly, Keith Jardine, Michael Bisping, Chris Leben, Brandon Vera and Marcus Davis.
One thing that has been noticeable about the build-up to this event is that animosity is conspicuous by its absence.
Instead, an air of professional courtesy has prevailed, although some of the fights on this card are hugely important for their participants.
Top of the bill is Mike Bisping, one of six British fighters on the card. He faces tough-chinned – and heavy-handed – middleweight brawler Chris Leben.
MARCUS DAVIS: 2 SURGERIES DOWN, KELLY TO GO
Following an 11-fight win streak, Marcus Davis suffered his first loss in almost three years in his last bout against Mike Swick, but after two surgeries and an amazing training camp, he is back for the attack getting ready for Paul Kelly on Saturday night at UFC 89 in England.
The fight with Swick was supposed to be Davis' toughest test to date, but while he would never talk about it before or immediately after the fight, he was fighting with a bum shoulder that kept him down for much of the match.
After the fight with Swick was over, Davis decided to get some things fixed. First he had shoulder surgery to repair tears and then also went forward with plastic surgery to help repair scar damage he had endured from his many years of fighting.
According to Davis, doctors were able to file down bones to smooth them out to prevent cuts while also imputing collagen pads that will eventually dissolve and help make his skin thicker.
Shogun vs Coleman and Franklin vs Henderson set for UFC 93 in Dublin
In the light heavyweight main event, former two-division world champion Dan Henderson will collide with former UFC middleweight king Rich Franklin in three-round war which will set the tone for the 205lbs division in 2009.
Then, 2005 PRIDE® Grand Prix Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua returns to the Octagon™ to throw down with UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman in a rematch MMA fans thought they would never see. The pair last met in Japan in 2006, with the legendary Coleman pulling off a stunning upset by breaking Rua’s arm in the first round.
The Ten Greatest Fights in UFC History
Blood streaming from his eye down across his face, his tooth already projected into the stunned audience, sumo wrestler Teila Tuli became the crimson canvas to which the brutality of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was first conveyed.
On the devastating end of a vicious kick to the face via Gerard Gordeau, Tuli's misfortune concluded the first bout in the roller coaster that has been the UFC. Through all the ups and downs of brutal controversy, financial woes, epic showdowns and the maturation of the world's fastest growing sport, there has been one constant as it relates to the UFC - great fights.
Dana White: Brandon Vera is ‘not the same fighter’
As soon as he had a few wins and all the money got involved and his new contract and his ex-manager and all that bullshit, he’s changed. He’s not the same fighter he was. He needs to put all that shit behind him and he’s needs to come back and be the cocky, crazy Brandon Vera that I met a few years ago. That kid needs to come back. It seems that now the money’s involved, he doesn’t take chances like he used to, he doesn’t let his hands go like he used to. He’s got to come back and be the old Brandon Vera.”
UFC President Dana White hopes to see the old Brandon Vera return against Keith Jardine at UFC 89: “Bisping vs. Leben” at The National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England, this weekend. “The Truth” was undefeated before getting mired in an ugly contract dispute with the promotion and former manager Mark Dion, which kept him on the sidelines for more than a year. He returned to action only to lose to Tim Sylvia via unanimous decision and then Fabricio Werdum via controversial first round technical knockout stoppage. After the two losses at heavyweight, Vera took a 205-pound fight against Reese Andy at UFC Fight Night 14 back in July. He won the bout with a decision but didn’t look very sharp while doing it, attributing the lackluster performance to the weight cut. Broken Hand, bad stoppage and weight cut: All reasons (and not saying they aren’t valid) Vera has used to explain his three most recent performances … none of which include money. Let’s see which Brandon Vera shows up on October 18 and whether or not White may be onto something or Vera has indeed been the victim of misfortune.
UFC 89: CAN BARON KEEP BIG WINS COMING?
Most fighters will tell you that a win’s a win. That one could be indistinguishable from another in the grand scheme of things.
That is, however, not always the case.
There are certain instances where a win is more than just another notch in someone’s record column. For instance, a first win is always special, as would be winning a title, and following title defenses; but from some perspectives, there’s nothing quite like coming out of nowhere to topple a giant.
Such is the case for David Baron, a veteran French fighter who built a solid career for himself, but fell short against top caliber opposition, until he knocked off perennial top ranked lightweight/welterweight superstar Hayoto “Mach” Sakurai in May.
“Sakurai is an excellent fighter, so to beat him it means that I can compete at that level,” said Baron of his career setting victory over the Japanese hero.
“(It) reassures me for my upcoming fight and my future.”
Chris Leben: From Jail Cell to Main Event
Chris Leben sat in a Clackamas County jail in northwestern Oregon for three weeks and pondered his past, present and future. Arrested on a probation violation related to a previous DUI conviction, Leben forfeited his chance to fight Michael Bisping at UFC 85 in June. As bad career moves go, few could have been worse.
“Obviously, things came up,” Leben says. “It was a huge letdown.”
Fortunately for the 28-year-old middleweight, UFC officials were in a forgiving mood. Given a reprieve by matchmakers, Leben (18-4) will challenge the once-beaten Bisping in the featured bout at UFC 89 this Saturday at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England.