Daily Debate results: Who should Conor McGregor fight when he returns to UFC?

There’s no telling when Conor McGregor will return to the cage, but UFC president Dana White is confident that he will.

Not that White knows whom McGregor will face, but he apparently has ruled out two options for the former UFC two-division champ.

On Wednesday, white told TMZ that McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) will not be facing either the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier or Jorge Masvidal, who has called for an “easy” payday by fighting McGregor.

And so, if that’s truly the case, and those options are off the table, then who should McGregor fight when he returns? That was the question we asked for our latest Daily Debate.

The results (via Twitter), which were super close:

It should be noted that our question went out before news broke of Donald Cerrone being booked to fight Justin Gaethje in September.

To hear the MMA Junkie Radio crew weigh in, watch the video above.

For more on upcoming UFC events, check out the UFC schedule.

MMA Junkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio. You can also check out www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmfightnation.

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.

How the quiet man of British MMA is starting to make noise

A glance back through UFC history shows how fighters have followed a well-trodden path to the top, through big performances and strong personalities, with a healthy dose of trash talk and outspokenness thrown in for good measure.

But this weekend in Texas, Brit Leon Edwards is looking to buck that trend as he takes center stage in a bid to prove that you can make it to the top of the UFC just by being a good fighter.

Edwards has quietly gone about his business on his journey from prospect to contender, with his achievements in the octagon flying under the radar to those outside of “Rocky’s” homeland the last few years. That’s because flying under the radar has almost been Edwards’ M.O. during his career.

On the domestic scene, he captured the BAMMA welterweight title, then successfully defended it, but never got the recognition or fan response afforded to his contemporary, the gorilla mask-wearing crowd-pleaser Tom “Kong” Watson.

When he exploded onto the European scene in his second UFC fight with a seven-second knockout of Seth Baczynski in Krakow, sure, he got some decent press. But it still didn’t get him over with fans.

And when he lost a decision to future welterweight champ Kamaru Usman in Orlando in 2015, some suggested Edwards had found his level. But the “Brits can’t wrestle” brigade on social media would later be silenced, as Edwards ignored the calls to move his training to the U.S. and instead went back to his hometown of Birmingham, went back to the drawing board and came back better, and more well rounded than ever. And he’s proud to have done it all at home.

“Growing up in the U.K. we were taught that you had to up and leave and go to America to get better training,” Edwards explained at UFC on ESPN 4 open workouts this week. “At one point I was believing it. But now I believe in my surroundings, believe in my hometown, believe in my coaches. And I’ve not lost since.”

Edwards’ decision win over Dominic Waters in Rotterdam showed a new willingness to not just go to the ground, but attack while he’s down there. And his evolving ground game was perfectly showcased when he submitted the dangerous Albert Tumenov at UFC 204 in Manchester.

Edwards then mixed up his game superbly to defeat another dangerous rising contender in the division – Brazilian Vicente Luque – in London, then returned to Rotterdam and proved that he had the fire in his belly and a gas tank to match as he defeated notorious prospect-killer Bryan Barberena.

A last-second finish of Peter Sobotta in London took his post-Usman win streak to five in a row, and earned him a main event clash with UFC royalty in Singapore. But still the doubters remained, and many believed that Donald Cerrone would prove a bridge too far. But, once again, the Brit surprised the uninitiated by defeating “Cowboy” over the full five-round duration.

And when he defeated Gunnar Nelson in London earlier this year willingly going to the mat to scramble with the Icelandic submission ace – it seemed as if Edwards’ performances were finally beginning to earn him some attention.

But what put him in the headlines, over and above anything he’s done in the cage to date, was the moment he interrupted Jorge Masvidal’s post-fight interview with Laura Sanko after UFC London. Masvidal delivered the now-infamous “three-piece and a soda,” and Edwards became the unwitting recipient of a piece of MMA folklore.

Ironically, that moment came immediately after Edwards did something he’s tended to shy away from so far in his career: He spoke up. Edwards isn’t confrontational, he isn’t disrespectful, and he certainly isn’t a natural trash talker. Those qualities, while admirable in someone you’d meet in everyday life, unfortunately don’t always help you as a prizefighter. You need people to care about your fights and unfortunately, despite his performances, not enough people have cared about Edwards.

However, the 27-year-old has kept plugging away, improving his game and producing increasingly impressive performances against increasingly difficult opposition. He’s also grown more comfortable in front of the cameras and has started to speak his mind a lot more. He made clear his annoyance at Masvidal getting the Darren Till fight in London, and he’s made clear his belief that he is good enough to earn his spot in a title fight and a rematch with the last man to defeat him.

“The story is already made for me and Usman,” Edwards said. “He’s the last guy to beat me three or four years ago. It’s a perfect story to go undefeated since that, win everything, beat everybody, then get a rematch and beat him for the world title. That’s like a perfect fairytale story, so why not?”

All the stars appear to be aligning for Edwards to finally get the exposure and respect his abilities and performances deserve. Thanks to Masvidal he now has a name people are starting to recognize. Thanks to UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby he now has an opponent who is as legitimate as they come at 170 pounds in Rafael dos Anjos. And thanks to ESPN he now has a platform on which to show the world just how good he is. The task at hand for Edwards is clear: Defeat dos Anjos, then call his shot – either a title fight with Usman or a No. 1 contender grudge match with Masvidal.

“This is a fight to prove my case, that I’m one of the best fighters in the world,” Edwards said. “He’s a former world champion – ranked third in the world – and to go out there and put on the performance that I’m thinking of putting on, I’ll deserve a title shot or at least a No. 1 contender (fight).”

It’s taken him four years to fine-tune his skills and build up momentum, but the quiet man of British MMA is now beginning to make some noise. Victory on Saturday night will go a long way to ensure that the MMA world finally starts to take notice.

For more on upcoming UFC on ESPN 4, check out the UFC schedule.

UFC’s Kevin Lee turns to Firas Zahabi, Tristar Gym in effort to turn things around

Kevin Lee has gone slightly off the grid since his last loss to Rafael dos Anjos, and it appears he has made a major change.

Speaking to Submission Radio, Lee (17-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC) revealed that after visiting several gyms, he has decided to make the move to Tristar Gym.

“I went to L.A., I went to Phoenix, I went to Denver, I went to Montreal, and I’m back in Vegas now,” Lee said. “But you know, (I went) to try and find that guy out there, that somebody who would really speak to me. And to be honest, I feel like I did in Montreal with Tristar and Firas Zahabi. And just having him and being around him and getting to pick his brain and his mind and seeing how it works, I feel like that’s what I’ve been missing.

“I know that’s what I’ve been missing a little bit ever since my coach, Robert Follis, passed. I haven’t had that guy to really guide me and show me the correct way of what to do, and I’ve just been kind of trying to listen to myself and figure I got it enough. But it’s been a real growing process for me to understand I gotta listen to other people sometimes.”

Lee is 1-3 in his last four fights, and his last loss to dos Anjos at UFC on ESPN+ 10 finally prompted him to make a change. He has decided to leave Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas where he used to train, and head over to Montreal.

“Even though this is an individual sport, even though I am the only one stepping in there, it’s such a team effort of being able to rely on somebody else’s experience,” Lee said. “So, working with Firas, who’s going to be the biggest addition to my camps, going up and training with Tristar with all these guys, is gonna be a big one for me. So, I’m taking it one step at a time, and that’s the only thing I’m focused on.”

Despite having called out Montreal staple and former two-division champion Georges St. Pierre on numerous occasions, Lee is excited for the opportunity to train with a man considered by many to be the greatest of all time.

“Yeah, I mean, me and Georges are cool,” Lee said. “We pretty much hung out the whole time. He showed me around Montreal. He showed me all his little spots. We cool. You know, at the end of the day, he understands it. We’re martial artists, we’re competitors. If I’m not trying to push myself to the limit, and I’m not trying to fight the best that’s out there, then I feel like he wouldn’t understand me as much. I think he’s got the same kind of fire in him. So, he gets it. I mean, I’m a competitor. I’m gonna try and fight the best of the best. So, I think that’s like the biggest compliment that I could pay to you, is by trying to fight you.”

With no fight currently lined up, Lee is targeting a return before the end of the year. He knows the transition to a new gym can be challenging as he looks to get back to his winning ways.

“October is where it’s at,” Lee said. “That’s where we’d be looking at. We trying to right now figure out location and what card. I think a pay-per-view makes a lot of sense. I think there’s one here in Vegas. So, a homecoming in Vegas always sounds good. But then again, there’s the San Francisco card in October. There’s a lot going on. So, October is where I’m looking at. There’s a growing process every time you work with a different camp and working with different training partners and having that communication with a different coach. But we’ll get it together, and that will be the next road in the comeback.”

For more on upcoming UFC events, check out the UFC schedule.

DA: Ex-UFC fighter Abel Trujillo sent genitalia photos, masturbation videos to 16-year-old girl

Former UFC fighter Abel Trujillo is accused of sending explicit text messages and videos to a female he knew was underage.

Trujillo, 35, is alleged to have sent pictures of his genitalia and videos of him masturbating after friending a 16-year-old on Instagram and Snapchat in March 2018, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by MMA Junkie.

The alleged victim told police that she asked Trujillo to stop multiple times and blocked him. But seven months later, after she refreshed her social media accounts, he started sending more nude photos, and she went to the police.

The alleged victim told police she believed Trujillo knew she was a high school student at the time of the exchanges.

The Douglas County (Colo.) district attorney’s office has charged Trujilo with sexual exploitation of a child and obscenity to a minor, both Class 6 felonies that carry a potential sentence of 12 to 18 months in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000. Trujillo on Wednesday posted a $10,000 bond and was released from Douglas County jail, where he had been since June 16.

Trujillo was due in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing, but a judge ruled the charges were not eligible. The case was bound over to district court without a preliminary hearing. Trujillo’s arraignment is set for Sept 6., which is when he can enter a plea.

Trujillo was apprehended in Florida on May 24 during an apparent traffic stop and extradited to Colorado on a warrant that had been issued for his arrest.

In an interview with an investigator from the Castle Rock Police Department, the alleged victim said she initially welcomed the exchanges with Trujillo and liked the attention because he was “a celebrity,” according to the affidavit. But she became uncomfortable after he started discussing sex and sending explicit messages, and she asked him multiple times to stop.

Abel Trujillo at UFC on FOX 26 weigh-ins.

The alleged victim said she had several pictures of her at school and in her cheerleading outfit on Instagram. Trujillo implied he wanted to see nude photos and asked her to delete the explicit photos he’d sent, according to the affidavit.

The police investigator obtained several graphic images via email, but “due to the poor quality of the pictures” he “was unable to review them in detail.” He eventually recovered the alleged victim’s phone through her mother and were unable to find any explicit photos on Snapchat, which usually deletes messages automatically.

The alleged victim then began cooperating with police by sending Trujillo multiple text messages where she reminded him of her age. Trujillo responded that he didn’t know her age and then stopped responding. Days later, she reported another explicit image sent to her on Snapchat.

Police obtained login information on Trujillo’s Snapchat and Instagram accounts and traced it back to his residence in Thornton, Colo., which an apartment manager said was shared with Bellator fighter Carrington Banks. The investigator noted Banks did not resemble the suspect.

Snapchat declined to provide messages between Trujillo and the alleged victim, the affidavit said, and Trujillo’s identity was not “100 percent certain” from his Instagram account alone. But the investigator believed he’d matched Trujillo by comparing social media images to the messages sent to the alleged victim, and the fighter’s residence from a traffic ticket he’d received in Thornton.

After obtaining a search warrant, police entered Trujillo’s apartment on Jan. 19. The affidavit states Trujillo admitted to “multiple conversations with females under the age of 18” and admitted he knew the alleged victim was under 18. Trujillo denied Banks was involved and admitted requesting nudes from the alleged victim, as well as sending her explicit photos.

Police seized Trujillo’s phone during the search. Dozens of photographs of “nude young women” were discovered in Trujillo’s iPhone gallery, according to the affidavit. The ages of the women could not be verified, but several photos also appeared to match the nudes Trujillo allegedly sent to the victim.

In early 2019, Trujillo’s exit from the UFC was confirmed with a booking opposite against former UFC and Bellator veteran Will Brooks in Macau. He was replaced by UFC veteran Gleison Tibau for an undisclosed reason.

Trujillo twice previously has pleaded guilty to domestic abuse charges against the mother of his child in 2007 and 2009.

Gegard Mousasi on Rafael Lovato Jr. doping allegations: ‘People say I’m a bad loser. Whatever.’

BURBANK, Calif – Less than one month after he lost the Bellator middleweight title to Rafael Lovato Jr., Gegard Mousasi is already rebooked.

At a Bellator 228 media day held Wednesday, Mousasi (45-7-2 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) told MMA Junkie he had no reason not to come back on short notice to face Lyoto Machida.

“They gave me money,” Mousasi said. “They said ‘come fight.’ It’s not rocket science. I’m a fighter. If they’re paying me, I fight. (Lyoto) Machida is a big name anyways. I’m going to face him now or later. Lovato is injured. That’s what I’ve heard, so we’re just going to move on,”

Because he walked away from the five-round bout relatively unscathed, Mousasi wanted to get back on track as soon as possible. His palate is still dirty with the taste of his recent loss, and he made it clear Wednesday he wants to begin the ascent back into a championship fight.

“It still hurts, but I’m healthy,” Mousasi said. “I’m not injured. When you’re injured, you’re out for eight months or nine months sometimes. Now, I can come back and set everything right in three months, get a title shot again. It hurts, but nothing to do but to look at what we did wrong and come back.”

Shortly after the loss, Mousasi accused Lovato of doping. Mousasi did not back down from his comments but did say much of his vintage post-loss trash talk is from being a sore loser.

“I’ve done always comments about losing to certain opponents,” Mousasi said. “I cry a little bit always. I’m a crybaby sometimes. Like Uriah Hall, I said ‘lucky.’ It was not lucky, but it got me the rematch. Machida, I said he cheated. I felt like he did. You can be honest about certain people. It is what it is. Machida, I lost because he was better. I’m a realistic guy. Lovato, I said it before. I don’t think I need to repeat it. People say I’m a bad loser. Whatever.”

Mousasi added, “You need to be a bad loser. Listen, if you lose a fight, you always try to blame on certain things. I get it. I’m not an idiot. I blame the loss (on) me because I (expletive) up. There are other certain things that I’m like, ‘Okay. What did go wrong about Lovato’s side?’ It is what it is. I’m not going to repeat it, but everyone knows what I said before.”

On Sept. 28, Mousasi will take on Lyoto Machida in the middleweight co-main event of Bellator 228 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The bout with Machida (26-8 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) will be a rematch of their Feb. 2014 clash at UFC Fight Night 36.

“He was a lot better than me, but I learned,” Mousasi said. “Sometimes with me, when I’m mentally there, I put flawless victories like ‘Mortal Kombat.’ I look really good. I look unbeatable. Like Rory (MacDonald), (Rafael) Carvalho, I beat them easy. We won Round 1 in a couple minutes. Machida, had a difficult fight with him.

“I know when I’m not in it, I (expletive) it up. This fight I’m in it. We’re going to go, and we’re going to fight him. We’re going to leave it all out there. If he’s better, he wins. I’m not going to cry about it. I’m going to go out and give it all.”

For more from Mousasi, watch the video above.

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

Robert Whittaker won’t get into trash talk with Israel Adesanya: ‘I’m not a part of that little game’

Robert Whittaker doesn’t generally engage in pre-fight antics, and he doesn’t plan to start with Israel Adesanya.

Going back and forth at the UFC summer news conference earlier this month, Adesanya mentioned how he believes Whittaker’s attitude has changed ahead of their middleweight title unification bout Oct. 5 at UFC 243.

Whittaker (20-4 MMA, 11-2 UFC) disagrees, as he believes Adesanya (17-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) is the one that has done all the talking leading up to their fight. He has no problem with Adesanya building the fight up, just as long as he doesn’t drag him into it.

“The thing is, I haven’t done anything differently. I haven’t changed,” Whittaker told Submission Radio. “Yeah, he’s just gotten mouthy. I guess he had to to get the title shot, which he got due to his performances in the octagon and the way he sells his fights. Which is all props to him. I think that’s great the way he did it. And that’s kind of how he sells fights and how he does stuff. But that’s him, though. I’m not playing like that. We’re not cool. Like, you can sell the fight, and I’m happy for you to sell the fight. Actually, I encourage it. But I’m not a part of that little game. Like, we’re not cool.”

“We’re not cool. Like, I’ll be civil. Like, what am I, an animal? Like, I’ll be civil with him, but I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to talk to him, and yeah, we’re not like, we’re not friends (laughs).”

The UFC summer news conference was the first time they faced off. Afterward, Adesanya said Whittaker looked like a “meth head”. Whittaker was all business, and he believes Adesanya knows it, regardless of what he says.

“He definitely saw it. He saw I’m not playing,” Whittaker said. “But he’s a smart guy. He’s a smart guy with a lot of experience. He already knew I’m not playing. He knew the stakes, and he knows how serious this fight is. He knows how hard I’m gonna come out regardless of what he says. That’s just how it is. You don’t get to where he is by underestimating everybody. He’s had a lot of experience. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot that I found out or what I saw, because I was ready for it all. I’m ready for this.”

Whittaker has gone through the trenches in the middleweight division, with wins over Jacare Souza and Yoel Romero twice. The usually soft spoken Aussie says he doesn’t need to try and get into his opponents’ heads, as he reiterates that this isn’t a game to him.

“Let me clear something up quickly: Just because I don’t talk trash, and I’m not mouthy, and I’m not mouthing off like I’m in the school yard, doesn’t mean I don’t take this for what it is,” Whittaker said. “I am doing everything in my power to break you, because we are going to go fight in an octagon. And I don’t play this. This isn’t a game to me. I treat this as if this would be my last fight ever, and I always have. And I don’t need to smack talk to get in that mind frame, I’m already there.

“Like, we’re gonna go fight to the death in so many months time, and I’m gonna give everything I have. I just don’t smack talk, though. But don’t misinterpret that for me not taking the fight seriously. You can see every one of my opponents when we have the first faceoff or when we come face to face after the fight’s been announced, they know. They know that, ‘OK, this guy isn’t playing.’ I’m not playing. Its not a game.”

For more on UFC 243, check out the UFC schedule.