UFC featherweight champ Max Holloway won’t rule out return to lightweight

LOS ANGELES – When UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway moved up to lightweight and lost to Dustin Poirier in an interim title fight at UFC 236, some considered it a sign Holloway should go back to 145 pounds and stay there.

Poirier looked much larger than Holloway (20-4 MMA, 16-4 UFC) after all. And while Holloway showed tenacity in going the distance, the fight wasn’t close as Holloway saw a 13-fight winning streak come to a close. 

But Holloway is not one of those who sized up the Poirier fight and came to the conclusion he should no longer fight at lightweight. Sure, he’s defending his 145-pound belt against former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 240 next week, but he’s not ruling out the idea of making another run one weight class up.

“(Lightweight) ain’t far off,” Holloway told reporters during a media luncheon Thursday. “That’s only 10 pounds, that’s all it is, is 10 pounds. We’ll get back there when we get back there. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later, and we’ll see what happens. If it takes a 10-fight win streak to fight for another belt up there, become the double champ, it takes a 10-fight streak. That’s what it is. I ain’t scared of no work, and you guys all know that. Put my nose down and get to work I guess.”

Holloway wants to remind folks that he accepted the bout with Poirier on relatively short notice. If he was given the benefit of a full camp, Holloway believes he’d have had the time to properly prepare for the jump up.

“That was seven weeks to fight day, so I only had six weeks. We were still coming off of the December thing and was figuring stuff out,” Holloway said. “We’ll see what happens when I make the move and decide to put on more muscle and this and that. There’s always a narrative that people try to explore like, ‘He had to be there. He had to weigh this and that.’ There’s no difference.”

With that in mind, Holloway says that, should he dispatch Edgar (23-6-1 MMA; 17-6-1 UFC) next week, he’ll fight at whatever weight class he feels most comfortable next.

“After this fight, if they call me out for August to fight (Daniel Cormier), guess what: I’m weighing around 210, 220 pounds, I’ll make that walk, and I’ll fight him. You know what I mean?” Holloway said. “There’s no time in this. If you want to be the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world, I don’t think you should use weight as an excuse or anything really as an excuse. You just show up to fight.”

But he’s never going to take his eyes off defending what he’s already earned.

“And I always said, champ is a champ, and a king is a king of someone who defends their land, who defends their belt,” Holloway said. “That’s what true kings are, that’s what true kings do, and I wanted to come back down.”

For more on UFC 240, check out our MMA schedule page.

A.J. McKee: I’m ‘a little mad at Bellator’ for giving Juan Archuleta my title shot vs. Patricio Freire

BURBANK, Calif. – A.J. McKee has been chirping at Bellator dual champion Patricio Freire for a while now.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, when the mercurial “Pitbull” nearly got into it with Darrion Caldwell at Wednesday’s Bellator media day, McKee (14-0 MMA, 14-0 BMMA) couldn’t resist inserting himself into the situation.

Freire defends his 145-pound title against Juan Archuleta in the main event of Bellator 228 on Sept. 28, which also serves as a first-round bout in the featherweight grand prix. McKee, meanwhile, will fight Georgi Karakhanyan in the tournament that same night. Caldwell faces Henry Corrales. The latter two are also tourney bouts.

But McKee believes he should be getting the crack at Freire’s belt, not Archuleta. And when the argument between “Pitbull” and Caldwell broke out during McKee’s interview with MMA Junkie, he felt the need to speak his peace to the champion.

“Can I have my belt? I want my belt,” McKee yelled over at Freire. “You fighting ’35 pounders, stop acting like you want to fight me. You fighting ’35 pounders. You don’t want no smoke. Wassup?

“Just don’t lose in the tournament because I’m coming for that ’55-pound belt next. I’m coming for them all, all of them. Bellator can’t protect you forever.”

The overall temperature in the room cooled from there, but McKee was still fired up afterward. McKee’s 14 wins are a Bellator record, and his last victory was a one-sided affair vs. former featherweight champ Pat Curran.

So while McKee is glad to be a part of the tournament, he’s irked that Archuelta, a bantamweight, is getting the opportunity to jump up a division and cut the line for a title shot.

“I was a little mad at Bellator, because I fought everyone, and a ’35 pounder gets my title shot before I do? Slap in my face,” McKee said. “But at the same time it’s like, ‘Hey, you got a job to do.’ They’ve watched me 14 fights build my whole career, my whole life, and now they know I’m ready, so I kind of guess it’s a revenge for them. I slapped them in the face when I was doing my stuff when I was a kid and wild and acting crazy, and they’re saying now you gotta go fight, but I’m not worrying about it. That’s jet fuel for the fire.”

And while McKee is clearly going to take every opportunity to goad “Pitbull” into a title fight, he insists this remains all business.

“It’s not personal. I just want my belt,” McKee said. “You’re fighting 135 pounders, dawg. What you doing? What are you doing? There’s a million dollars in it. My weight class. This is not a 135er’s world. This is A.J.’s world. You’re going to be welcome to it. I’m telling you, after the first couple fights, they’re going to be like, ‘This is a different A.J. He’s aggressive, he’s mean, and he’s calm, and he’s patient, and he’s hurting people.’ I’ve been hurting people and been, like, leaving room for error. I’m not letting anyone in. No one is going to get close to me.”

To see McKee’s reaction to the Freire-Archuleta incident, watch the video above. For MMA Junkie’s full interview with McKee, watch the video below.

For more on Bellator 228, check out the MMA schedule.

Dual champ Ryan Bader plans to beat Cheick Kongo at Bellator 226, then stay at 205 for a while


BURBANK, Calif. –Ryan Bader finds himself in possession of two belts these days as the Bellator heavyweight and light heavyweight champion. Three, if you want to include the one he was awarded for winning the heavyweight grand prix tournament in January.

Bader (27-5 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) finds himself in a spot only a handful of other competitors in mixed martial arts history have faced: How to go about defending belts in both weight classes.

For the short-term, the answer is he’s staying at heavyweight as Bader will defend that championship against Cheick Kongo in the main event of Bellator 226 on Sept. 7.

“We didn’t know if it was going to be 205 or heavyweight. They wanted the heavyweight belt defended, so here we are,” Bader said at Wednesday’s Bellator media day.

After that? Bader wants to go back down to light heavyweight and defend that title twice before he thinks of going back up to heavyweight again.

“They wanted the heavyweight belt to be defended,” Bader said, “And from my understanding, after this fight, I’ll go back down and maybe defend the light heavyweight belt twice, defend it once, defend it again, and then go back up, kind of bounce around.”

Why twice? Well, Bader hasn’t needed to make the cut down to 205 since his last defense against Linton Vassell nearly two years ago.

Bader is 36 and not getting any younger, so if he’s going to return to 205 after two years away, he wants to stay close to that weight afterwards rather than have to yo-yo between divisions with each fight.

“I just don’t want to go from one to the other, one to the other. If my body is there at 205, and my weight is down there, I don’t want to have to put more weight on,” Bader said. “I might as well just get two in, get another win in, go back up. When this whole thing started, we got asked to come to the heavyweight tournament.

“My concern was, what’s going to happen to the light heavyweight belt?” Bader continued. “They said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Say you win it, we’re going to keep that for you, we’re not going to do an interim belt or anything like that.’ So, I felt confident being able to go up and doing that. I hadn’t defended it in a while, but that’s not my fault. I won that tournament, and I’m defending the title again. That’s on the promotion.”

Of course, all this talk is moot if Bader looks past Kongo (30-10-2 MMA, 12-2 BMMA), who brings an eight-fight winning streak into the bout.

“It’s not easy to go out and win eight fights in a row,” Bader said. “Now granted, a lot of them weren’t the best competition. A lot of them were a week’s notice, two weeks’ notice, whatever, but he went and beat Minakov out there in his last fight. And like I said, it’s not easy winning eight fights in a row. I know I have a tough task at hand. He’s a big, technically sound heavyweight, throws hard. His wrestling has got a lot better. Any guy you go out and fight, it’s going to be a tough fight at this level. If you’re going for a belt? There’s no gimmes.”

For more on Bellator 226, check out the MMA schedule.

Germaine de Randamie fine with Herb Dean’s stoppage, won’t wait around for title shot

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Germaine de Randamie’s had a little time to think about it, and she still feels the same way about Herb Dean’s stoppage of her UFC on ESPN+ 13 main event against Aspen Ladd as she did in the cage: The former UFC women’s featherweight champion believes it was a good call.

Many on social media questioned whether Dean should have waved off the bantamweight bout at Golden1 Center after just 16 seconds, but “The Iron Lady” said during the post-fight news conference that the referee made the correct call.

“I believe it was a good stoppage,” de Randamie told reporters, including MMA Junkie. “It was a clean shot. She dropped, she turned 360 degrees the other side when I hit her, so, it was a clean shot.”

De Randamie (9-3 MMA, 6-1 UFC) said that she had a feeling Ladd (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who went through what appeared to be a horrific weight cut on Friday, wasn’t going to be able to handle her power. But the Netherlands native admits she wasn’t expecting to more or less finish the job with the first punch.

“I honestly believed, and my team also believed, that Aspen is young, very hungry, she was very dangerous, but we knew she never felt the power that I was going to bring to her,” de Randamie said. “It’s a dream scenario when you hit someone that clean with the first punch.”

And regardless whether the stoppage was fast, de Randamie believes she was a mere matter of seconds from finishing the fight regardless.

“The thing is, the referee stops the fight, you know?” de Randamie said. “And I understand that the audience might not agree, but it was a clean, clean shot. I landed another one, just because she was on her knees, and Herb was on his way to stop it, and I landed another one. If he didn’t step in, the fight was going to be over anyway because I was going to jump on top of her and finish the fight.”

The next natural question is what is next from here for de Randamie. She’s won five fights in a row, and her last loss was to current women’s featherweight and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, who doesn’t have many other obvious contenders at 135 pounds at the moment.

Much rides on the upcoming bout between Cris Cyborg and Felicia Spencer at UFC 241 later this month. A Cyborg win would lead to a potentially lucrative rematch with Nunes, who defeated her for the featherweight crown, should Cyborg re-sign with the UFC.

So the veteran de Randamie is content to continue on, whether or not a crack at Nunes’ bantamweight belt is in the cards.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” de Randamie said. “If the champ wants to defend her 145 belt, I completely understand and respect that, you know? And I’m not going to wait. As soon as I feel ready to go again, I’m ready.

“I’m going to go on a nice vacation and then I’m ready to go. I heard the UFC is going to New Zealand. I love traveling, my team loves traveling. If Amanda is going to fight and defend her 145 belt first, I say let’s go to New Zealand and fight before that. I’m not going to sit and wait for a title fight.”

For complete coverage UFC on ESPN+ 13, check out the UFC results.

UFC on ESPN+ 13 results: Germaine de Randamie stops Aspen Ladd in 16 seconds

Germaine de Randamiedropped Aspen Ladd with a hellacious right hand for the first strike of their UFC on ESPN+ 13 main event on Saturday night.

After that? Well, there wasn’t much else. De Randamie (9-3 MMA, 6-1 UFC) landed one more punch on the downed Ladd (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who was dazed but otherwise appeared to be attempting to get back up, and referee Herb Dean stopped the bout at the 16-second mark of the opening round.

Although there’s no immediate indication this factored into Dean’s decision-making, Ladd looked terrible at Friday morning’s weigh-ins, trembling and shaking as she took the scale.

For her part, de Randamie, the first holder of the UFC women’s featherweight title, won her fifth consecutive bout, with the last loss coming to current UFC featherweight and bantamweight titleholder Amanda Nunes.

For her part, the Netherlands native said she was only doing her job.

“I mean, I hit her on the button and Herb Dean called it – and I mean hit her with the second shot,” de Randamie said after the fight.

The women’s bantamweight bout was the UFC on ESPN+ 13 main event at Golden1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. The event streamed on ESPN+.

Up-to-the-minute UFC on ESPN+ 13 results include:

Germaine de Randamie def. Aspen Ladd via TKO (punch) – Round 1, 0:16
Urijah Faber def. Ricky Simon via KO (punches) – Round 1, 0:46
Josh Emmett def. Mirsad Bektic via TKO (punches)  — Round 1, 4:25
Karl Roberson def. Wellington Turman via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Marvin Vettori def. Cezar Ferreira via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Julianna Pena def. Nicco Montano via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Ryan Hall def. Darren Elkins via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Jonathan Martinez def. Liu Pingyuan via knockout (knee) – Round 3, 3:54
Brianna Van Buren def. Livinha Souza via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Benito Lopez def. Vince Morales via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

For complete coverage of UFC on ESPN+ 13, check out the MMA Results.

UFC on ESPN+ 13 results: Urijah Faber scores electrifying finish of Ricky Simon

For one night, at least, Urijah Faber turned the clock back to the WEC days.

The UFC Hall of Famer nicknamed “The California Kid,” whose popularity and charisma as the WEC featherweight champion more than a decade ago helped pave the way for the 145-pound-and-under set to burst on to the main stage and thrive in the biggest MMA events, returned from retirement Saturday night and gave his fans a moment to remember.

Fighting in front of an adoring hometown crowd in Sacramento, Calif., the 40-year-old Faber (34-10 MMA, 10-6 UFC) electrified the crowd with the fastest finish of his career at UFC on ESPN+ 13. Faber finished Ricky Simon just 46 seconds into the opening round.

“This felt amazing. I love fighting for Sacramento,” the Team Alpha Male founder said. “Props to Ricky Simon. That kid has the right mentality. It takes time – he’s just not there yet.”

Simon (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) came out pushing a fast pace. A little too fast, as it turned out, as Faber blasted Simon with a wicked overhand right that dropped him. One of Faber’s follow-up shots on the ground appeared to briefly put Simon out, which was all referee Mike Beltran had to see to wave the fight off.

It was Faber’s second straight win, the last coming in his retirement fight over Brad Pickett on Dec. 17, 2016, also in Sacramento. It was also Faber’s win by strikes since Joe Pearson tapped to ground-and-pound in a WEC featherweight title fight in 2007.

Lest anyone think this is a one-and-done, Faber called out UFC bantamweight and flyweight Henry Cejudo after the bout.

“The think Henry Cejudo called me out a little while ago,” Faber said. “And then I heard Dana said I was old. I know Dana White was old when he was 40 but I was a young man. Dana was old when he was 28, C’mon Dana.”

The bantamweight bout was the UFC on ESPN+ 13 co-main event at Golden1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. The event streamed on ESPN+.

Up-to-the-minute UFC on ESPN+ 13 results include:

Josh Emmett def. Mirsad Bektic via TKO (punches)  — Round 1, 4:25
Karl Roberson def. Wellington Turman via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Marvin Vettori def. Cezar Ferreira via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Julianna Pena def. Nicco Montano via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Ryan Hall def. Darren Elkins via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Jonathan Martinez def. Liu Pingyuan via knockout (knee) – Round 3, 3:54
Brianna Van Buren def. Livinha Souza via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Benito Lopez def. Vince Morales via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

For complete coverage of UFC on ESPN+ 13, check out the MMA Results.

UFC on ESPN+ 13 results: Josh Emmett finishes Mirsad Bektic in opening round

Don’t sleep for a second when you’re standing in front of Josh Emmett, or he just might put you to sleep.

The Team Alpha Male featherweight took a patient approach in his UFC on ESPN+ 13 main-card bout against Mirsad Bektic.

Then, when Bektic (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC)  blinked, Emmett (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) struck, using a crisp left to the face to drop Bektic, then finish him.

The time of the TKO stoppage for the hometown favorite at Golden1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. was 4:25 of the opening round.

The bout opened with Emmett staying patient as TriStar’s Bektic pushed the pace and initiated most of the contact over the first half of the round, with Emmett content to throw the occasional counter.

Emmett started to look more comfortable as the round progressed, though, and he stepped up and dropped his foe. Emmett started unleashing punches as Bektic turtled. Then after a brief scramble, Emmett ended up in top position before he finally finished the job.

“I possess a lot of power,” Emmett said. “Any strike, I’m throwing it with bad intentions. Mirsad is a tough competitor. I just had to get in there for myself. I’m a different beast. I have to fuel myself. I felt his strength and knew I had more. I’m coming into my own, I’ve never lost a fight in Sacramento and I was not starting tonight. It was a great night.”

With sixth career KO/TKO victory, Emmett has now won three straight and five of six. Bektic had a four-fight win streak snapped.

The featherweight bout was part of the UFC on ESPN+ 13 main card at Golden1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. The event streamed on ESPN+.

Up-to-the-minute UFC on ESPN+ 13 results include:

Josh Emmett def. Mirsad Bektic via TKO (punches)  — Round 1, 4:25
Karl Roberson def. Wellington Turman via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Marvin Vettori def. Cezar Ferreira via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Julianna Pena def. Nicco Montano via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Ryan Hall def. Darren Elkins via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Jonathan Martinez def. Liu Pingyuan via knockout (knee) – Round 3, 3:54
Brianna Van Buren def. Livinha Souza via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Benito Lopez def. Vince Morales via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

For complete coverage of UFC on ESPN+ 13, check out the MMA Results.