Israel Adesanya, Dustin Poirier get warm welcomes in hometowns

Dustin Poirier and Israel Adesanya both captured interim titles at UFC 236, defeating Max Holloway and Kelvin Gastelum respectively. Now proud owners of some flashy new UFC belts, the UFC 236 winners Poirier and Adesanya both recently returned to home to hero’s welcomes.

The UFC documented Israel Adesanya and Dustin Poirier’s homecomings on Instagram.

The two interim champions went into greater detail about their respective trips home on their personal Instagram accounts.

“Such an honor to receive the key to Lafayette Louisiana yesterday,” Dustin Poirier wrote in a post on his Instagram account. “I love my city. I’m blown away by the love and support from Acadiana. Thank you all! Im very grateful and will continue to represent us the best I can.”

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My heart today was like 😭😭😭 …so much emotion as I returned back to my old primary school. Everything felt so small to me as I strolled my former stomping grounds cuz I'm a big boy now, but I was filled with a different sence of wonder, pride and joy. I saw myself as each of those kids and I couldn't help but return to my child mind (not hard for me to do) and remember how I looked at the world at their ages. So many memories that I hadn't even thought of in over 20 years came flooding back like flashbacks. It was a surreal, crazy and wonderful experience. I'll remember this feeling forever💖💕 Shoutout to all the kids at #chrislandschool 🇳🇬🦅 📸: @jeffsainlar aka Oluwajeff

A post shared by Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) on

“My heart today was like 😭😭😭…so much emotion as I returned back to my old primary school,” Israel Adesanya wrote in an Instagram post documenting his visit to his former home in Nigeria. “Everything felt so small to me as I strolled my former stomping grounds cuz I’m a big boy now, but I was filled with a different sence of wonder, pride and joy. I saw myself as each of those kids and I couldn’t help but return to my child mind (not hard for me to do) and remember how I looked at the world at their ages. So many memories that I hadn’t even thought of in over 20 years came flooding back like flashbacks.
It was a surreal, crazy and wonderful experience. I’ll remember this feeling forever💖💕
Shoutout to all the kids at #chrislandschool.”

Needless to say, both Dustin Poirier and Israel Adesanya are heroes to the people in the places they come from.

Poirier is expected to unify his interim belt with the undisputed title owned by Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 in early September. Adesanya, meanwhile, is expected to meet undisputed champion Robert Whittaker at a pay-per-view in Australia in the fall.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 5/19/2019.

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Twitter Mailbag: On Jon Jones’ latest heavyweight refusal, the legality of various slams, and more

Is Jon Jones’ latest heavyweight brush-off his true position, or is it tactics? Why does a submission attempt suddenly make dangerous spike slams just fine? And what chance are we giving Frankie Edgar against UFC featherweight champ Max Holloway?

That and other pressing questions in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

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First reaction? I don’t believe him. It strikes me as a negotiating tactic.

Jon Jones has said in the past that the UFC would need to up his pay in order to go up to heavyweight, but he’d do it if the dollar figures were right. I believe that. I do not believe that Jones is especially concerned about Daniel Cormier’s power at heavyweight. Even if maybe he should be, I just don’t think his mind would ever go there.

I also wonder if it’s an attempt to bait Cormier back down to light heavyweight. All that stuff about how devastating it would be for Cormier to lose the weight and then get beat again? It’s hard to hear that and not wonder if it’s Jones’ way of goading him. And you know what else? It almost seems like it could work.

You are not alone there. It’s hard to know for sure exactly what was going on with Tony Ferguson and what might have brought it on, which makes it impossible (and irresponsible) for us to speculate too specifically at his mental state from afar.

You’d hope the UFC took it seriously and made sure he was in a good place before offering him a big fight like this, just like you’d hope Ferguson’s team would speak up if they had serious concerns.

But see, the fight game is not known for prioritizing the mental or physical health of its athletes. Instead it’s known for doing whatever it takes to keep the machine running. So yeah, that worries me. I hope Ferguson knows what he’s doing. I also hope those around him are looking out for him, and not just for themselves.

First thing I do, obviously, is order a bottle of sarsaparilla. (Sioux City Sarsaparilla is a good one.) Then I twitch my bushy mustache, cock my head to the side, and peer out from under my cowboy hat at the visage of Dustin Poirier.

“You know what that Dagestani fella is gonna try to do to you, don’t ya?” I ask him.

Poirier nods and says nothing.

“My advice? Don’t get no closer to him than two awkward kids slow-dancing at the church social.”

Poirier scoffs. “Easier said than done,” he remarks.

Here I pause to sip knowingly from my sarsaparilla. “It is for a fact,” I say. “But that don’t make it wrong.”

He’s just about to get up and push away from the bar with a confused look on his face when I stop him.

“One other thing?” I say. “I wouldn’t say nothing bad about his homeland or his family or his religion if I was you. But have it your way.”

The way the “unified” rules explain it, the reason fighters can slam an opponent any way they want when the opponent is attempting a submission is “because they are not in control of their opponent’s body.”

In other words, the fighter going for a submission has a choice: release the hold and adjust your own body positioning or else hold onto it and take the ride wherever it leads.

You could argue that this assumes too much, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. Not all submissions or slams are created equally. And yes, it is dangerous to be out here spiking people on their heads, whether there’s a submission attempt involved or not. But danger alone is also in the job description, so it seems fair to me to put some of the onus on the slammee rather than the slammer in certain situations.

The alternative is, what, we outlaw slams of all kinds? We require any fighter attempting a throw or slam to take utmost care to prevent opponents from landing on their heads? We have a hard enough time enforcing the rules that are clear and obvious. Trying to get too officious with this one would be a nightmare.

Same. Max Holloway lost his lightweight (interim) title bid, but he’s still a force at featherweight, where his power and his pace typically overwhelms opponents in a way that just didn’t carry over into the next weight class. Frankie Edgar is terrifyingly tough. We know this. But I just don’t see that many paths to victory for him against a guy like Holloway.

Also, and maybe I’m just projecting here? But it seems like that was the assumption this fight was made under. Like, sure, we owe Edgar a title shot and we need something to bolster the summer lineup. But it’s fine because Holloway will win and Alexander Volkanovski can have his shot before the end of the year.

If you want to make the MMA gods laugh, though, go ahead and tell them your plans for a UFC title.

Has it really come to this? Really?? Fine. We’ve only seen Jake Hager fight twice and we have yet to see Greg Hardy against anyone who wasn’t chosen specifically because they seemed likely to lose, but I might actually have to go with Hager here. He has legit college wrestling experience and that’s where Hardy is probably weakest. You put that guy on his back, take him out of the first round, and suddenly he’s a lot more beatable.

For a little perspective, let’s remind ourselves that Kevin Lee’s two recent losses were to “El Cucuy” and “Raging Al,” both of whom are very good. If he loses to Rafael dos Anjos, that’s a former lightweight champ, which is also not exactly the bottom of the barrel.

But you’re right, if Lee wants to stay in the conversation at any weight, this is a fight he needs to win. The good news for him is that Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman already showed him how, and he’s a fighter who might be able to follow that blueprint.

On the flip side, if RDA hasn’t closed those gaps in his game by now? Sorry, it probably won’t ever happen.

Ben Fowlkes is MMA Junkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMA Junkie.

Dustin Poirier Receives the Key to the City of Lafayette

Sorry, Daniel Cormier. Dustin Poirier has been cemented as the “King of Lafayette,” it appears. The Diamond posted on his Instagram on Thursday to share that he received the key to Lafayette, LA.

“Such an honor to receive the key to Lafayette Louisiana yesterday!,” Poirier wrote. “I love my city. I’m blown away by the love and support from Acadiana. Thank you all! I’m very grateful and will continue to represent us the best I can.”

Poirier recently became the UFC‘s interim lightweight champion. He earned a unanimous decision over featherweight champion Max Holloway to claim the interim lightweight title at UFC 236 in April. The win marked Poirier’s second over Holloway in as many fights. He is now 9-1 with a no contest in his last 11 bouts.

A Presence Outside of the Cage

In addition to representing Lafayette with his fighting prowess, Poirier has consistently helped the city with his fundraising efforts. He and his wife’s Good Fight Foundation has worked to achieve a certain goal in the build-up and aftermath of Poirier’s fights since they launched it.

The current goal is to build a playground for disabled children in honor of Aaron Hill, whose wish it was to have a playground he could use before he ended up passing away. Poirier auctioned off his fight gear, as usual, to help towards the goal. He even received help from his latest foe, Holloway. Alan Jouban and Eryk Anders also contributed their fight-worn gear to the cause.

On his run, Poirier has toppled the likes of Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis and Jim Miller, a list rife with current or former champions.

Poirier will likely attempt to unify the lightweight title in his favor in his next bout. That would be against lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov’s role in the infamous UFC 229 brawl earned him a lengthy suspension. The pair are likely to fight at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, September 9.

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ATT owner believes if Khabib Nurmagomedov gets tired against Dustin Poirier he ‘is in for a world of sh*t’

Dustin Poirier has had a crazy road to get to a title shot. The 30-year-old had fought the very best of both the featherweight and lightweight divisions before getting an interim lightweight title shot against Max Holloway at UFC 236.

Poirier would go on to defeat Holloway for the second time in his career that night in Atlanta. To see ‘The Diamond’ finally capture UFC gold was a surreal feeling for American Top Team owner, Dan Lambert.

“We liked the fight going in but I don’t blame the oddsmakers or anyone thinking Max was going to win,” Lambert said to BJPENN.com. “The run he has been on is incredible. When was the last time he lost a fight? He was only getting better and better. He was making it look easy against crazy good guys. We thought Dustin was the bigger hitter and people underestimated his cardio. We thought he could take the fight where he needed to take it.

“Not a lot of guys are that in the gym that I would be happier for. Poirier has been through a lot for a long period of time,” he added. “To take the path he took to keep chugging along and then to get what he got to beat a guy like Holloway was pretty cool.”

One of the biggest fight of the year

Now, with the win, the expectation is that Dustin Poirier will fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight title at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi. With both men holding titles, and the star power they both have, Lambert expects it to be one of the bigger fights the promotion puts on this year.

“It is a huge fight. Khabib has become a star. He has that monster win over Conor McGregor and he is a beast,” he said. “You have the number one fighter in the world, you have a guy with an interim title. They are going to go at it. It is a big fight for Dustin and a big fight for the UFC. We are excited about it.”

Although Nurmagomedov has only lost one round in his entire career and is 27-0, Lambert believes there is a clear path to victory for Poirier. And, that is taking the champ into the later rounds.

“Khabib hasn’t lost many rounds or many seconds of a fight,” Lambert explained. “If Dustin is standing in front of a tired Khabib in the fourth round like Al Iaquinta was, Khabib is in for a world of shit.”

Who do you think wins the fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 5/15/2019.

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Opinion: The Best Chance to Beat Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the most dominant fighters the UFC has ever seen. At 27-0, no one has been able to solve the Dagestani puzzle. Nurmagomedov arguably has only lost one round in his career and his relentless wrestling style consumes his opponents.

Following high profile fights in the lightweight division, the interim title fight at UFC 236, the main event of UFC Fight Night 151 and the announcement of Donald Cerrone vs Tony Ferguson at UFC 238, the MMASucka staff gave our thoughts on who, if anyone, could be the biggest threat to Nurmagomedov’s crown.

Staff Opinions

Frazer Krohn (@Frazer_Krohn)

There are two main threats to Nurmagomedov in the lightweight division. The first being Tony Ferguson.

His awkward style could make it difficult for Nurmagomedov to land traditional takedowns, meaning he will have to chain wrestle. If Nurmagomedov does get Ferguson to the ground, Ferguson is extremely effective off his back. Training with Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, Ferguson rarely takes heavy damage off his back. He’s also effective in submitting opponents off his back. Ferguson wrapped Kevin Lee up with a triangle choke in their interim title bout at UFC 216. He also has a great D’Arce choke, meaning Nurmagomedov will have to watch his neck when he shoots in on Ferguson. This fight has been in the works four times previously yet, never come to fruition. Hopefully, if scheduled again, all these questions will be answered.

The second person who could challenge Nurmagomedov is Justin Gaethje. Former WSOF champion Gaethje is on a two-fight winning streak and showed improvements in both fights. His ‘walk forward, take one to land one’ style could make it hard to Nurmagomedov to get a read. His strong leg kicks could also hinder Nurmagomedov’s striking game, leading to his takedowns being set up less effectively. Gaethje also has a solid wrestling game. Although we haven’t seen it in his UFC career, don’t let this fool you. He stated his interest in getting the Nurmagomedov fight after his win over Edson Barboza. If he continues to win and do so in style, it will be hard to deny him a shot.

Ed Gallo (@EdwardGalloMMA)

I had faith in either Dustin Poirier or Max Holloway to wear down and finish Nurmagomedov, but I felt a bit better about Holloway. After seeing how effective Holloway was in the clinch against Poirier, I am doubling down on that.

Outside of those two, I love Justin Gaethje as a pick to beat the champion. Contrary to popular belief, Gaethje has become a very smart pressure fighter. He’s certainly not going to be frozen by the threat of grappling, he’ll be reliably generating offense. I expect him to get taken down a few times, but if he can keep creating scrambles and making life difficult for Nurmagomedov, it will pay off. After failing on a pair of takedown attempts against Al Iaquinta, Nurmagomedov stopped trying altogether for several rounds. We’ve seen him gas before, but typically his opponents are more beaten down and tired than he is.

Ash Camyab (@CamyabMMA)

Conor McGregor has the ability to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov. His performance in the first fight was incredibly disappointing having not established his striking. With the necessary adjustments, he could be the man to give the Dagestani his first loss.

McGregor grappling was not awful in the first fight. Although being obviously outclassed in the wrestling and on the ground, he managed to avoid many powerful strikes and some submission attempts. The level of grappling on display was enough to give him a few chances to dispatch of Nurmagomedov on the feet, and this is where he let himself down.

McGregor showed none of his usual fluidity, which could be attributed to a potentially broken foot, but this isn’t necessarily a valid excuse. Comparing it to his last fight against Eddie Alvarez, McGregor showed minimal movement. He didn’t move in and out in his usual snake-like style. This was probably due to worrying about Nurmagomedov’s offense far too much, limiting his own game.

If McGregor suitably used the boxing skills he obtained in the Floyd Mayweather super fight to complement his usual striking prowess he could truly win the rematch. It all depends on if he is truly shot and if he can ever regain the hunger that led him to be the biggest superstar in MMA history. Even if the stars align, there’s no certainty that he lands the magic shot. He’s done it before so it’s hard to doubt him.

Connor Deitrich (@CDeitrich22)

I don’t think any current lightweights could beat Nurmagomedov. But, there are a few guys that I think would have the potential to give him some trouble. One whom I consider a worthy challenge to Nurmagomedov is Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje is the only lightweight fighter that has the combination of pressure and takedown defense needed to give Nurmagomedov trouble. Gaethje is unlikely to get backed up against the cage or taken down at will. Like most of Nurmagomedov’s previous opponents.

Nurmagomedov isn’t the striker that Eddie Alvarez or Dustin Poirier are. As both of these men knocked out Gaethje out on the feet. With his inferior striking, I’m not sure Nurmagomedov could do the same. With Nurmagomedov dishing out as much damage as he does, and Gaethje being able to absorb as much damage as he does, it would make for a very interesting battle of attrition.

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Donald Cerrone ready for Khabib vs. Poirier winner, would be ‘thoroughly disappointed’ by snub

OTTAWA, Ontario – Perennial UFC contender Donald Cerrone is optimistic he’ll be called if lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov or interim titleholder Dustin Poirier fall out of UFC 242.

“I should beat these guys, man,” Cerrone said after an impressive decision win over Al Iaquinta on Saturday night at UFC on ESPN+ 9. “I feel like I’m the best in the world. I feel like that’s where I belong.”

A place at the top of the division isn’t a guarantee, however, which is why Cerrone is a little wary of his future. Although he’s on a three-fight winning streak and just beat a top-ranked opponent, he knows his fortune could shift on a dime. But he’s hoping that won’t be the case.

“For the UFC not to give me a title shot, I would step back, and I would be thoroughly disappointed,” Cerrone told reporters, including MMA Junkie, backstage at Canadian Tire Centre. “I’d be like, ‘Wow, a guy who’s done all this in the sport. I don’t trash talk, I go in there, and I deliver every time, and you’re going to overlook me for somebody else?’ I’d be really upset. I’d be like, ‘Wow, that’s the company I look for?’ Which, I’m not saying is going to happen, by any means.”

Cerrone laughed at such a bleak thought after a huge win.

“I’m just saying, to me, I’d really be thrown back,” he added. Like, wow.”

Then again, missing out on a title fight could open the door to a coveted meeting against former two-division champ Conor McGregor. The two were in negotiations for a fight in April or July before McGregor apparently backed out. If Cerrone managed to rebook a date with the Irish star, all would be forgiven.

“On the flip side, if Conor wants to fight, (expletive) yeah,” Cerrone said. “Let’s go. Especially in July, I’m ready. Let’s turn and burn, baby, because (the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier) wont’ be ready until September.”

Cerrone also has enough self-awareness to know that his plans of holding out for any big fight could easily be cast aside by his own weakness.

“Who knows, man,” he said. “I’m going to be sitting at home in a couple of months, bored, like ‘Fine, (expletive), I’ll fight whoever.’ I already know it. But I love it.”

Whatever ends up happening, Cerrone is sure he’s in a better place than ever. With a family and a son, he’s got the focus he needs to finally win UFC gold. He’s come so close only to fall short. A blowout loss to Rafael dos Anjos marked his last attempt.

“I can only go up from that, right?” Cerrone joked.

For complete coverage UFC on ESPN+ 9, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Renato Moicano, ‘Korean Zombie’ set to headline UFC Fight Night 153

UFC featherweights Chan Sung Jung and Renato Moicano both seek wins as they are set to return at the UFC Greenville.

A win would fire both fighters back into title contention. The current champion Max Holloway is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Dustin Poirier, a fight for the lightweight strap at UFC 236.

Moicano, Jung set for UFC Fight Night 153

UFC Fight Night 153 will air live June 22, 2019, from the BoBon Secours Wellness Arena.

The ‘Korean Zombie’

Despite losing a potential 2018 ‘Fight of the Year’ bout to Yair Rodriguez, Jung’s stock is as high as ever in the UFC’s struggling featherweight division. Jung slipped to a number thirteen featherweight ranking and will be keen to remind fans of the knockout power he possesses, as he demonstrated against Dennis Bermudez at UFC Fight Night 104.

The ‘Korean Zombie’ is a fan favorite for his aggressive style and has four victories in his last six appearances.

Moicano’s comeback

Moicano looks to bounce back from a TKO defeat to former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo in impressive fashion. The Brazillian hopes to improve on his number 5 ranking against the tough South Korean.

He boasts a UFC record of 4 -2. His record includes notable victories against veterans Jeremy Stephens and Cub Swanson. A victory and good performance will do wonders for Moicano in a division where the current champion, Max Holloway, has cleaned out most viable contenders.

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