After UFC Vancouver, Donald Cerrone gives no excuses, thanks ref and vows to win belt

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – As his son toyed with media microphones, perennial UFC contender Donald Cerrone was all smiles after a lost to Justin Gaethje.

Gone was the scowl across Cerrone’s face after referee Jerin Valel stopped Gaethje from bludgeoning him on his knee. It was a weird ending to an otherwise exciting fight.

But Cerrone’s mindset was win some, lose some.

“I’m not making any excuses,” Cerrone told reporters, including MMA Junkie, following his loss to Gaethje in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 16, which took place Saturday at Rogers Center. “The ref clearly thought I couldn’t continue.

“That’s the way this game is. Sometimes, you get the ref that lets you get pounded in. Sometimes, the one that won’t. I got the one that wouldn’t. So maybe it’s better for the longevity for me and my boy here. Maybe he didn’t beat me retarded, so that’s good.”

A second straight loss didn’t shake Cerrone’s love for the sport, or his title prospects after another setback. In fact, he doubled down on his plans to continue toward 50 wins.

“Fifty is the number I want, so I’ve got new for my coaches and corners: There’s going to be a lot more ups and downs and sideways-es,” Cerrone said. “When you’re winning, everyone wants to know, ‘What are you doing so special that you win?’ And then when you lose, everyone’s like, ‘What didn’t you do?’ Nothing, man. I trained hard. I trained my ass off. It just didn’t work out.”

Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) floored Cerrone (38-13 MMA, 23-10 UFC) with a right hand and then finished him off with a series of follow-up punches. Prior to the fight, Cerrone pined for a spot on a December card that would bring his 2019 total to five bouts.

Saturday’s TKO likely jeopardized that goal, but Cerrone was still optimistic.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to get on the airplane and call Dana and say, ‘What’s next,’” Cerrone said. “And they’re gonna say, ‘You got knocked out, I think you have a medical suspension.’ (And I’ll say), ‘Yeah, but after that, what can we do?’

“I would love to fight next weekend, but I don’t know how long of a suspension I got. I don’t know what getting your ass knocked out in 30 seconds looks like on paper, but I think it’s pretty long.”

Whether it’s 60 or 90 days, Cerrone isn’t going to make big promises to change like other fighters. He’s just going to dust himself off and keep going. And though the UFC lightweight title might be further away after Saturday night, he’s not letting anyone see him down.

That is, unless the prospect of a third loss is broached.

“Three in a row? Holy moly,” Cerrone told MMA Junkie. “You can’t talk like that in front of my boy.

“Yeah, next fight, hopefully I don’t go three in a row again. That really hurts the bank account. At the rate I spend my money, I need those wins just to sustain life, guys.

“I’m going to get the belt. It’s going to happen. I guess I just slid down the rung a little bit, but I’m going to come back, I’m going to train hard, and I’m going to get it. It’s the last thing I’ve got to do with my legacy.”

Already, Cerrone will be remembered as of the most talented, game and active fighters to have competed in the UFC. He’s taken on more top-tier fighters than almost anyone in the industry-leading promotion, and he continues to make incredible comebacks well into his thirties.

Saturday’s bout wasn’t one of those, but Cerrone said he won’t stop until he caps his career with the ultimate legacy-builder. And if he doesn’t?

“I tried,” he said. “It’s something I can teach my boy. I gave it hell.”

Punching Conor McGregor is Justin Gaethje’s desire, but UFC title fight beckons

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Only two fights interest Justin Gaethje, and for different reasons.

First and foremost, Gaethje wants to prove he’s the best fighter in the world at 155 pounds, and there’s no other matchup to fulfill that wish than a meeting with champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Then there’s a fight with former two-division champ Conor McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC), who personally offends Gaethje to the point where inflicting damage would make him happy.

“He punched an old man in the face,” Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) said after stopping Donald Cerrone (38-13 MMA, 23-10 UFC) in the first round at UFC on ESPN+ 16. “I want to (expletive) him up for that.”

The second matchup, Gaethje is pretty confident of the result should a fight happen. The first, he can’t be so sure. It’s that unknown and the accompanying stakes that drive a fight with Nurmagomedov.

“No idea,” he said of a fight with the champ. “I don’t know. He probably beats me if you put it on paper. But I hit so hard, I kick so hard, and I’m so athletic – the way you stop a takedown in wrestling is to meet force with force. You don’t try to go away.

“I won’t touch the cage. If he’s going to take me down, it’s going to be in the middle, and he’s going to get his leg kicked a few times before he even gets a shot off.”

Nurmagomedov (28-0 MMA, 12-0 UFC), who earlier this month unified the title with a submission of Dustin Poirier (25-6 MMA, 17-5 UFC), is expected to face ex-interim champ Tony Ferguson (25-3 MMA, 15-1 UFC) in a long-awaited fight, though UFC President Dana White has pinned the booking on whether Ferguson agrees to the offer.

In the meantime, Gaethje beckons as a ready-made contender that’s rattled off three straight wins against top-tier opposition. He expects Nurmagomedov to defend the title against Ferguson.

Gaethje repeatedly zapped Cerrone with low kicks to set up the punches that ended the fight with 42 seconds remaining in the first. Although more tactical than previous fights, his aggression made its mark before his power turned the tables.

Poirier, the last fighter to beat Gaethje, piped up on Twitter after Saturday’s fight to say he’d grant Gaethje’s previous wish for a rematch.

But Gaethje is only looking forward.

“I don’t owe him that, so no,” he said. “He got his shot – my turn.”

That is unless McGregor wants to come out of retirement. The promotion already has tried to book a fight between the Irish star and Gaethje, only to see it scuttled by an injury to McGregor.

“Far as I know, he’s retired,” Gaethje said. “He’s in the rankings, so he either fights or he gets out. I absolutely would love to fight him.”

Cody Garbrandt: I starch one more guy, I’m fighting Henry Cejudo

LAS VEGAS – Injuries are Cody Garbrandt’s biggest opponent right now. But the ex-UFC bantamweight champ is confident he’ll be back at the top soon.

Garbrandt is targeting a return to the cage in early 2020 after a pair of wrist injuries. And he believes a title shot against current champ Henry Cejudo isn’t far out of reach, he told MMA Junkie.

“I starch one more guy, I’m back to fighting Henry,” he said. “I’ve been up the mountain before, and I’m coming back.”

Although Garbrandt specifically mentioned current double-champ Cejudo, whose next title defense is expected at flyweight, he expressed no preference over who he fights for the title. Any comeback ending in a belt is good enough.

Garbrandt tore several ligaments and tendons in his wrist following a knockout loss to Pedro Munhoz in March. He was about to announce his next fight when he re-injured his wrist. He underwent stem cell therapy two weeks ago and received a six- to eight-week estimate for recovery time.

With a 2019 return dashed, Garbrandt said he’ll do whatever it takes to get back his title.

“I believe I am the best, and you’ve got to prove to yourself that you are the best,” he said. “It’s always me vs. me; it’s never about my adversary. If I’m good with myself, and I go in there at peace with myself, that guy across there is going to have a bad night.”

Garbrandt was in Las Vegas at the Olympia Weekend Expo to help promote the release of Limitless’ new line of health and fitness products. To hear more from “No Love,” check out the video above.

Tyron Woodley: I might get UFC welterweight title shot before Colby Covington

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – With all the drama surrounding Colby Covington and his planned title shot, Tyron Woodley estimates he could skip the line to face champ Kamaru Usman.

The former UFC welterweight champion took another shot at one of his favorite targets during a Q&A before fighters hit the scale on Friday for the UFC on ESPN+ 16 ceremonial weigh-ins.

“Colby does a good job of putting his own foot in his mouth,” Woodley said. “Enough people have said that about me, but he’s a complete dumbass.”

Woodley, of course, is no stranger to conflict with UFC brass. He’s repeatedly battled with UFC president Dana White behind the scenes and in public. But he said Covington outdid himself when his demands for a new contract got him scratched from a planned fight against Usman at UFC 244.

“He’s talked himself out of three world title fights,” Woodley said. “He was supposed to fight me before he fought (Darren) Till. He (expletive) out of that fight. He was supposed to fight me before I fought Usman. He (expletive) out of that fight. You guys can do the math on what he did in the Usman fight.”

Woodley said the way things are going, he could swoop in, beat Usman and then face Covington.

Then again, Woodley said, he could make his rival wait some more.

“After I get my belt and defend, if I fight Usman and beat him, I’ve got to give him that rubber match,” he said. “I can’t just say, nah-nah-nah, you can’t get me. I’ve got to give him a chance to get back out there and prove it. Then fighting Colby obviously. And then I’m looking at 185 after that.”

Woodley contemplated a move to middleweight after losing the belt to Usman in a lackluster performance. Ultimately, he decided it would be better to leave the division having reclaimed his belt and beaten his rival.

“My goal is to get the belt back, so obviously Usman is my top priority,” he said. “So if Colby wants to get that ass whipped, he can get it whipped up, too.”

Woodley plans to work with ex-welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald as he continues his comeback story; he once pined for a fight with the former and lost to the latter in an upset. He said he’s completely humble about learning from people who’ve beaten him and will take those lessons into his return fight.

But even now, Woodley said, he’s a different fighter than the one that appeared “less than flat” against Usman.

“When I tell you I’m back, I’m back,” he said. “I needed that loss, and I needed to take a step back, so I could look at what I was doing, clean my plate off with things I didn’t need to be doing and re-organize, and I’m just excited to be back.”

To hear more from Woodley, check out the video above.

UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock’s ‘Valor Bare Knuckle’ to feature fighting pit

Ken Shamrock is bringing back pitfighting, bare-knuckle style.

The UFC Hall of Famer wants to thrill the crowd by putting combatants in a pit when Valor Bare Knuckle holds its inaugural event on Sept. 21.

“You saw when it came to the cage when you saw UFC and no-holds barred era,” Shamrock told MMA Junkie. “It was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I think our design will have that same effect.”

Shamrock declined to go into details about the design but said VIP fans will get an unobstructed view for the bare-knuckle boxing fights at 4 Bears Casino & Lodge in New Town, N.D.

Valor isn’t the first promotion to stage fights in a pit. In 2008, former UFC chief Bob Meyrowitz unveiled the YAMMA pit, which added a slope to the bottom of a standard cage. The design was intended to limit long bouts of stalling as fighters grappled on the canvas. YAMMA held one show before folding up shop.

Shamrock wants to make the crowd fall in love with the pureness of bare-knuckle boxing, which has grown in popularity after the success of Bare Knuckle FC.

Initially green-lighted by the Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts, Bare Knuckle FC’s first effort brought a surge of attention featuring several UFC vets sans gloves. Several other states then moved to allow the events, including Florida and North Dakota.

Shamrock, 55, said he’s not interested in competing despite reports of a possible matchup with fellow UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman. UFC vets Rameau Thierry Sokodjou, Jack May, Marc Godbeer and Estevan Payan are scheduled to compete.

To hear from Shamrock, check out the video above.

Antonio Carlos Junior: Colby Covington the only one who’s going to lose

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Two years ago, UFC middleweight Antonio Carlos Junior did a solid for American Top Team co-founder Dan Lambert and helped Colby Covington.

Covington was preparing for a pivotal fight against Demian Maia and needed to brush up on his jiu-jitsu. Carlos Junior, a grappling specialist, was the right guy at the right time. Covington beat Maia to put himself in title contention – and alienated much of Brazil with his trashtalk.

Since then, Carlos Junior has watched his training partner’s words alienate more and more people at ATT, including longtime friend Jorge Masvidal. There’s been so much drama, he hasn’t even been able to keep up with all of it as he nears a UFC on ESPN+ 16 fight with Uriah Hall.

“I don’t know what’s happened, and I don’t really want to know now,” Junior said with a laugh.

Carlos Junior said he doesn’t have any problems with Covington, personally. But if he had to give the ex-interim champ some advice, it would be to pull back the reins – a lot.

“I think it’s bad for him,” Junior told told reporters, including MMA Junkie, after an open workout for his bout Saturday at Rogers Arena. “I think we should be a team. We should train together and everybody respect each other. That’s what we should do, and he’s not doing that. He’s the only one that’s going to lose.”

A few hours before Junior stepped in front of microphones, Masvidal appeared on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” to address the Covington saga. He said he was hurt his former training partner would trash-talk him and said their fallout came after Covington stiffed one of his coaches.

Masvidal added if the two ever cross paths, Covington will avoid him.

Carlos Junior’s schedule hasn’t been disrupted by the polarizing fighter, at least not yet. He believes Covington’s grudges are part real and part manufactured. He’s got his own battles to worry about.

Covington, meanwhile, has lost a guaranteed title shot against champ Kamaru Usman amid another contractual squabble with the UFC. He’s currently unscheduled for his next fight.

“He’s fighting with everybody; he talks about everybody,” Carlos Junior said. “I don’t really have a problem with him. I’m a Brazilian; he talked (expletive) about Brazil, but I don’t really care. I know about my country; I know about our problems, and the good things we have. I think this is bad for him, because he’s not going to find many training partners.”

Carlos Junior (10-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) faces Uriah Hall (14-9 MMA, 7-7 UFC) at Saturday’s event, which streams in its entirety on ESPN+.

To hear more from Carlos Junior, check out the video above.

UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes settles tractor dispute with twin brother Mark

UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes is no longer suing his twin brother over a tractor.

Attorneys for Hughes and his twin brother, Mark, confirmed to MMA Junkie a private settlement that resolves the lawsuit and protects both from physical contact.

“Any disputes about property – there was more than a tractor – have been resolved by a comprehensive agreement between the parties,” Mark Hughes attorney Thomas G. DeVore said.

The Hughes brothers went to court after Mark Hughes failed to honor a restraining order against his twin brother, alleging the UFC Hall of Famer assaulted his 15-year-old son and then damaged a tractor they shared. Two months later, Matt Hughes’ estranged wife also filed a restraining order alleging abuse and infidelity.

Matt Hughes denied wrongdoing in both cases and said his domestic troubles linked to the physical effects of a well-publicized train accident in 2017. He stressed he would “never, ever” hurt his family.

On Aug. 22, the Hughes brothers agreed to an injunction between their families. The injunction requires that they stay away from each other under threat of additional legal action. Mark Hughes’ order of protection, which allowed him to call the police in the event of a violation, was subsequently dismissed.

“The injunction is reciprocal, and Mark Hughes is likewise ordered to stay away from Matt Hughes, his wife, and his children,” said Matt Hughes attorney Chris Sherer.

Via DeVore, Mark Hughes said he agrees with his twin brother’s public statement and said his twin brother would never hurt him.

“Mark is sensitive to the fact that his brother had this accident, and these behaviors we’ve seen are a product of that,” DeVore said. “But you still have to protect your family.”

DeVore said despite the legal tussle, Mark Hughes hopes to reconcile someday with his twin brother.

“He’s hoping that down the road him and his brother may be able to have some sort of a relationship at some point and time,” said DeVore.

Hughes, who retired from fighting in 2013, made a surprise appearance to a UFC event in May and received a hero’s welcome. He found himself at the center of headlines in August when ex-interim welterweight champion Colby Covington attacked him following a win over his former teammate Robbie Lawler. Hughes questioned Covington’s tactics of using his accident “as fuel for his post-fight trash talk.”