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MARCH 25, 2023
The East Coast’s Premier MMA Organization
The brain-child of John Rallo, Shogun fights regularly packs several of the largest venues in the region including Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, The Theater at MGM National Harbor and Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Ft Lauderdale. A hotbed for celebrities and UFC stars, Shogun events will continue to be a Baltimore mainstay for a time to come.
With a successful (albeit short) MMA career and stint as a celebrity bodyguard under his belt, working with the likes of Tommy Lee and Sylvester Stallone, Rallo focused on opening a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy after receiving his blackbelt from Renzo Gracie himself. During this time he worked towards legalizing MMA in the state of Maryland, eventually passing legalization in one session – an unheard of feat with new legislature. With the arena wide-open, Rallo has spent years promoting shows and building a roster of packed talent, with several fighters going to the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Dana White’s Contender Series and PFL amongst others.
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- UFC 284 Roundtable: Where does Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski rank among MMA’s best superfights?by Shaun Al-Shatti on February 7, 2023 at 2:00 pm
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC The UFC dips its toes back in the superfight waters for the first time in three years on Saturday night when featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski challenges lightweight kingpin Islam Makhachev for the 155-pound title at UFC 284. It’s a momentous contest with stakes galore, but where does UFC 284’s main event rank among MMA’s best superfights? MMA Fighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti, Damon Martin, and Jed Meshew sidle back up to the roundtable to debate where Makhachev vs. Volkanovski stands among superfights of yore. Al-Shatti: The answer to this one really depends on what the word superfight means to you. Some people seem to use the term as a synonym for any big fight in combat sports, but the generally accepted definition has always been pretty clear: Any bout pitting two champions of different divisions against one another. So let’s use that definition as our guide. Saturday’s main event marks the seventh instance in UFC history of a legitimate champion vs. champion contest. The other six: Georges St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn 2 (2009), Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez (2016), Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic 1 (2018), Amanda Nunes vs. Cris Cyborg (2018), Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillashaw (2019), and Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya (2021). Of those six, Makhachev vs. Volkanovski certainly feels like a bigger deal than Cejudo vs. Dillashaw and Blachowicz vs. Adesanya. Neither of those fights featured a longtime champ (even Dillashaw had only defended his belt against Cody Garbrandt), which automatically lessens the stakes in a bout of this rarity and significance. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images In some ways, though, the historical stakes for Volkanovski mirror what Cormier and Nunes experienced. Both were both already surefire Hall of Famers for their accomplishments in their own divisions, but by vaulting up a weight class and knocking out their heavier counterparts, they jumped a level in the pantheon and cemented themselves as legitimate all-timers. That is very much up for grabs for Volkanovski. Makhachev may be a new champion, but he’s still a known quantity at 155 pounds — the man’s been a dominant force for seven years now. Add in the allure of one of MMA’s rarest setups — the sport’s No. 1 and No. 2 pound-for-pound fighters colliding for all the marbles — and UFC 284 has unique set of circumstances that few champ vs. champ contests have ever been able to claim. St-Pierre vs. Penn 2 remains the gold standard for two all-time greats meeting at the peak of their powers, and McGregor vs. Alvarez falls in its own category as the climactic moment of an incomparable four-year journey from the biggest superstar MMA has ever seen. But strictly in terms of its merits, Makhachev vs. Volkanovski is every bit as good as that next tier of UFC superfights both Cormier vs. Miocic 1 and Nunes vs. Cyborg emboided. It’s just a shame the UFC seems totally disinterested in giving Makhachev vs. Volkanovski the marketing muscle it deserves. Martin: It’s all Conor McGregor’s fault. There was a time when the mere mention of “champion vs. champion” fights in the UFC were met with a loud chorus of guffaws, especially by Dana White, who almost always scoffed at the idea because in his eyes, nobody ever really cleared out their own division. That was his self-made prerequisite for allowing a champion to go up to another division to challenge for a second title. The unicorn was always Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre, but even that fight, which would have undoubtedly been one of the biggest matchups in the history of the sport, never came together because supposedly there was always another contender waiting in line. Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images But then McGregor came along with all of his star power, and after knocking out Jose Aldo with one punch, he decided he was going to move up in weight and challenge for a second title. It didn’t seem to matter much that he hadn’t defended the title he just won — McGregor was good for business, and what Conor wants, Conor usually gets. Fast forward seven years later and there have now been six total champion vs. champion fights in the UFC, and all but one — Georges St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn — happened in the wake of McGregor’s determination to become a “champ-champ.” The unique and special quality about these fights have almost universally been ruined because it feels like it happens all the time — or at the very least, one or more champions are constantly calling for it to happen. So in theory the UFC 284 main event between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski should feel far more special that it does just days away from the event. These are two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but there’s been no grand build up to this moment. No real interest that multiplied over time. It just doesn’t feel earned, and that diminishes the magnitude of the fight. Make no mistake, this is a great matchup between two amazing fighters and it’s certainly better than other “superfights” like Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya, which felt even more rushed at the time, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the anticipation that built up for St-Pierre vs. Penn. Sadly, this just doesn’t have that colossal showdown type of appeal — it feels like another pay-per-view that just so happens to feature two champions fighting each other. Meshew: Is it even a superfight? It’s hard to tell because, to be frank, this seems like just another fight for the UFC. Don’t get me wrong, this should be a superfight. It’s champion vs. champion, No. 1 vs. No. 2 pound-for-pound, two combined losses in 50 fights, the most recent of which happened during the Obama administration. And yet, as Makhachev pointed out last week, the UFC sure isn’t promoting this like it’s anything special. No, they’re spending all their time relentlessly pumping Dana White’s Power Slap nonsense. So here we sit, six days away from what should be a monumental occasion and bona fide fight fans probably forgot that’s coming up. Photo by Brett Hemmings/Zuffa LLC I’ve said it a bunch but I’ll say it again: The UFC are abysmal promoters. If it’s not a Conor McGregor fight, it’s not worth making a fuss about beyond normal fight week stuff in their eyes, which genuinely raises the question: Why have superfights to begin with? If something like this isn’t going to be made to feel like the biggest moment of the year, what the hell are we doing? Makhachev vs. Volkanovski is busying up two champions and it’s been promoted no different than the extremely dubious title fight between Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev. The UFC is completely checked out and it sucks. Think about the other legitimate superfights in UFC history. When Georges St-Pierre rematched B.J. Penn at UFC 94, the UFC pulled out all the stops. They did a 24/7 style show (that kicked ass) and made the whole thing feel like a truly historic moment. When Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo fought, there was a 10-day media tour! Rio, Vegas, Boston, New York, three (!) cities in Canada, London, Dublin! They put those men out there and had them talk and interact and answer questions and build interest BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT A PROMOTER IS SUPPOSED TO DO!! Do you think those events would have been as big if it was business as usual, five-day media push on fight week? Of course not. Because if the people whose job is to get you interested in something can’t even feign it themselves, then why the hell would you? And because the UFC isn’t treating it as such, this fight isn’t as big or as important or as good as the others in history. Sorry, but it’s true. Strictly on the merits, Makhachev vs. Volkanovski is a tremendous fight. Not the best we’ve ever seen, but it’s undeniably excellent and the stakes are massive. That’s two of the key ingredients for world-bending superfight, but they aren’t the most important factor. Interest is, and this fight, right now, appears to be generating the same buzz as any other lightweight title fight — arguably less, given the names who have fought for the lightweight belt recently. And so, while this fight may end up being amazing and career-defining and historic, it won’t join the pantheon of, “Hey, remember when Conor boxed Floyd?” and other superfights. Because it’s not a superfight at all; it’s just a damn good one.
- Morning Report: Michael Bisping: Conor McGregor ‘100 percent’ gets a title shot with win over Michael Chandlerby Drake Riggs on February 7, 2023 at 1:00 pm
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images Conor McGregor always feels one win away from a title shot. “The Notorious” former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion hasn’t fought since July 2021 when suffering a nasty broken leg opposite Dustin Poirier. Seemingly all healed up and good to go, McGregor’s return is set for the second half of 2023, coming at the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter 31’s finale. Standing across from McGregor will be one-time UFC title challenger and three-time Bellator lightweight titleholder Michael Chandler. While both enter the bout on losses, Michael Bisping believes a title shot for either fan favorite is in the cards. “If McGregor gets it done, will we see him fight for the title next? That is a given,” Bisping said on his YouTube channel. “That is 100 percent. Just prepare yourself mentally for that. Regardless of whatever you think, he’s the biggest star in the sport. He’s a former two-weight division champion, and he’s a person that people want to see fight. “So, if he goes out there and beats Michael Chandler, who’s one of the top-ranked lightweights on the planet, and he does it in exciting fashion, I’ll be honest, I’d have no problem with him fighting for the belt. McGregor vs. Chandler, I’m excited. Take my money already.” Chandler has been targeting a McGregor showdown since his arrival in the promotion in Jan. 2021, whether at 155 or 170 pounds. It looked like “Iron” was again out of luck as just a few weeks ago, his past foe Tony Ferguson was the one most linked to being McGregor’s next dance partner. In terms of danger and current divisional status, Chandler outweighs Ferguson at this stage and is on the list of people to set “El Cucuy” back. Ferguson is currently riding a five-fight losing streak and because of his believed decline, the former middleweight champ in Bisping can’t help but heap praise onto the Irishman for any say he may have had in the matchmaking. “I respect him for taking this fight,” Bisping said of McGregor. “There were easier fights for him to take. There was a rumor that McGregor was going to go up against Tony Ferguson. “Tony Ferguson would’ve been — with respect to Tony — a kind of more winnable fight … It’s a tough fight for McGregor. He’s been away for a while. He’s getting older. He’s been partying a bit. He snapped his leg. He’s got up to 170 [pounds], 185, 205, whatever he weighs. Now, if the fight takes place at 155, he’s gotta lose all that mass. He’s gotta come off all the supplements he’s been taking, he’s gotta get fit, get in shape, and he’s gotta stay focused.” There is no official date for McGregor vs. Chandler as of yet. McGregor still needs to re-enter the USADA testing pool after exiting in 2022. TOP STORIES Clarity. Ryan Bader scoffs at disclosed Bellator 290 pay, says he makes ‘8, 9 times more’ than he did in UFC Reflection. Dana White: Fedor Emelianenko not ‘one of the greatest of all-time,’ should have retired ‘a few years ago’ Hopeful. Michael Chandler believes Conor McGregor fight could earn 2 million PPV buys: ‘It’s very achievable’ Promotion. Jorge Masvidal’s Gamebred Boxing 4 event on April 1 headlined by Anthony Pettis vs. Roy Jones Jr., also features Jose Aldo, Vitor Belfort Comeback. Chris Weidman targets summer UFC return: ‘I’m coming back to try and get back what is mine’ VIDEO STEW The MMA Hour. UFC 284 Embedded 1. Michael Chandler on Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski. Conor McGregor’s perfect opponent? SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE This guy is just too good. After seconds of grueling research I am here with another Unprofessional Breakdown of this weekends PPV card #UFC284 pic.twitter.com/twQiidLaOZ— Sodiq Yusuff (@Super_Sodiq) February 6, 2023 Who? Decisions pic.twitter.com/96OSS65rGW— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) February 6, 2023 Lunge. ランジ pic.twitter.com/zcv8CT0acR— Kana Watanabe×渡辺華奈 (@kanawatanabe821) February 6, 2023 He hit him with a Lincoln. Only thing I wish is that people actually wanting to see you fight!!! You don’t had a belt never have and while I’m here you never will!!! Chubby will turn you into a meme earn the fight and will gladly free these free on yo Abe Lincoln lookin ass!!! #Sincerely #YourKING https://t.co/PXaXZlcBmH— Jamahal Hill (@JamahalH) February 6, 2023 It’s true. I was there. A few moments after this photo was taken, Fedor Emelianenko gifted me his fight week track suit. This gesture means a lot to me and I'll cherish it forever! pic.twitter.com/Zm8BvlrX47— . (@kidceej) February 6, 2023 History. The Satoko Shinashi vs. Hisae Watanabe rivalry is one of the more important ones between unheralded pioneers and legends in MMA. It's officially a Shinashi fight week for the first time since 2019... and a rubber match is actually still a possibility in 2023... #DEEP112Impact pic.twitter.com/3oJi3UFRZR— Drake Riggs (@DrakeRiggs_) February 7, 2023 Birthday time. Happy 5th birthday our beautiful princess Lilliana ❤️ pic.twitter.com/fmcDUwIeun— Robert Whittaker (@robwhittakermma) February 7, 2023 So Fremdly. One year ago today I took a chance and realized a dream I had since I was 10 years old. Signed to the UFC. Still got a lot of work and a lot of proving still to do ! pic.twitter.com/vlG0kuoD1Q— Fremd (@joshfremd) February 7, 2023 LA. Walking around Los Angeles pic.twitter.com/wrFx2dbA4N— Diana Avsaragova (@pantera_57_) February 7, 2023 Growth. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tatiana Suarez (@tatianasuarezufc) Down under. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Dominick Cruz (@dominickcruz) Just dance. #UFC284 fighters join in on a traditional aboriginal dance in Perth pic.twitter.com/vKM5HBaH9K— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) February 7, 2023 FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS Abubakar Nurmagomedov (17-3-1) vs. Carlston Harris (17-5); UFC Vegas 71, March 11 FINAL THOUGHTS I sure hope Bisping is wrong, but you have to imagine that he’s probably right. It would be too hard for the UFC to resist. Thanks for reading! POLL POSITION Last Week’s Results: Friday: 56% of 475 total votes answered “Jiri Prochazka” when asked, “Who is Jon Jones’ biggest threat at 205 pounds?” Thursday: 55% of 471 total votes answered “Derrick Lewis” when asked, “Who wins?” Sergey Spivac def. Lewis via first-round submission (arm-triangle choke) in UFC Vegas 68’s main event. Wednesday: 42% of 771 total votes answered “Tony Ferguson” when asked, “Who would be the more entertaining fighter for Conor McGregor to coach The Ultimate Fighter against?” Michael Chandler was recently announced as McGregor’s next opponent and rival coach on TUF 31. Tuesday: 47% of 392 total votes answered “Lower” when asked, “Where does Jake Paul rank amongst all-time great combat sports marketers and promoters?” Monday: 71% of 642 total votes answered “No” when asked, “Will Raul Rosas Jr. win a UFC title?” Today’s exit poll: If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @DrakeRiggs_ on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and like us on Facebook.
- Kevin Lee, one-time interim UFC lightweight title challenger, re-signs with promotionby MMA Fighting Newswire on February 7, 2023 at 2:07 am
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC One-time interim lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee is once again a UFC fighter. Lee, 30, has re-signed with the promotion one year after being released from contract, a person with knowledge of his new deal confirmed to MMA Fighting after an initial report from ESPN.com. In a statement to ESPN.com, Lee said his new contract came after a meeting with UFC President Dana White and UFC COO Hunter Campbell: “I feel like I’m going back home. I’m grateful for them welcoming me back and looking forward to the next chapter of my career.” Lee hinted at turning over a new leaf with the promotion this past weekend, posting on social media a photo with the UFC execs. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Kevin Lee (@motownphenom) Things weren’t so warm between Lee and UFC brass in December 2021. The veteran lightweight, once a fast-rising contender in the division, bristled at the way he was released from his contract eight years into his relationship with the promotion. According to Lee, no one from the UFC executive team initially reached out to let him know what happened. “I’ve done all this s*** for y’all,” he said. “I’ve put myself and my body on the line just to end up with an alcohol problem and a tax problem, and at the end of the day, you take my respect away from me, too? It’s like OK, well s***. I’m going to stop right there.” After hitting the open market, Lee signed with the upstart Eagle FC promotion and fought UFC Hall of Famer Diego Sanchez, who’d also recently been released by the UFC. He won a decision in a “super lightweight” bout at 165 pounds to snap a 1-4 slump in the octagon that included losses to now-former champs Charles Oliveira and Rafael dos Anjos. Lee also signed with longtime manager Ali Abdelaziz, who is well known behind the scenes for patching relationships between aggrieved fighters and UFC management. According to Lee, he expects to make his octagon return in spring.
- UFC San Antonio poster released featuring Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagenby MMA Fighting Newswire on February 7, 2023 at 1:00 am
Marlon “Chito” Vera | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagen have a new site for their highly anticipated clash and that means a new official poster. On Monday, the UFC released the poster for UFC San Antonio, which takes place March 25 at AT&T Center is headlined by a contenders’ clash between “Chito” and Sandhagen, currently Nos. 6 and No. 4 respectively in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings. Check out the poster here: Your official poster for #UFCSanAntonio has arrived [ Sat. Mar 25 | @ATTCenter | Tix On Sale Feb 10 ] pic.twitter.com/hm4jZuu4eG— UFC (@ufc) February 5, 2023 The two were originally set to fight at UFC APEX on Feb. 18, but were recently rescheduled to headline the upcoming San Antonio event. Vera is one of the hottest fighters at 135 pounds, having won four straight fights and five of his past six. Along the way, he has racked up Fight of the Night bonuses, including for his most recent outing, a fourth-round head kick knockout of Dominick Cruz at UFC San Diego. Sandhagen is working his way back to a title shot after falling short of an interim bid against Petr Yan at UFC 267. He rebounded with a cut stoppage victory against Song Yadong this past September. Also expected to take place on the March 25 card, Holly Holm welcomes Yana Santos back to the octagon, Andrea Lee fights Maycee Barber in a flyweight bout, and featherweight veterans Alex Caceres and Nate Landwehr go head to head.
- Chris Weidman targets summer UFC return: ‘I’m coming back to try and get back what is mine’by Jed Meshew on February 7, 2023 at 12:00 am
Chris Weidman | Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC Chris Weidman is almost ready to return to the cage. Weidman, a former UFC middleweight champ, has been away from competition for nearly two years following the catastrophic leg injury he suffered against Uriah Hall at UFC 261. In January, the former UFC middleweight champion announced he will return to action in March, where he faces Owen Livesey in a grappling superfight at Polaris 23. Speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday, Weidman explained that his leg is still not quite 100 percent, and so he viewed grappling as a good way to ease himself back into competition. “It’s been a long road,” Weidman said on The MMA Hour. “I’ve been enduring this injury and recovery. It’s been four surgeries, I’ve had infections, it’s pretty much been hell. I’ve been asked a few times to do grappling events over the years and it just never really works out time-wise. I did the Abu Dhabi [Combat Club] back in 2009, I did the trials and then I got to go to the Abu Dhabis in Barcelona, Spain, and it was a great opportunity for me. I really enjoyed it and I always felt like I’d do grappling more often because I like doing it, but obviously MMA took over and that was what I’ve been focused on. “But because my leg is still kind of healing, there are still some things standup-wise that I’m still dealing with, some issues with pain, and I was offered this Polaris grappling match, so I go, ‘You know what, this might be a good opportunity to get into a competition, get used to competing again, not just come in with complete ring rust in my next fight when I come back to the UFC’ I just thought it was great timing.” As Weidman noted, he’s no novice when it comes to elite grappling. He was a two-time All-American wrestler in college and won the ADCC North American trials in 2009, where he went on to have a competitive match with grappling legend Andre Galvao. Still, Weidman’s first priority is returning to his MMA career, and after testing himself out in this grappling match, “The All-American” hopes to return to the cage this summer. “I think probably June-ish, something like that,” he said. “Somewhere in June. I’m going to wait until after this grappling match. Get that win, focus on that, and then after that I’m going to hit up the UFC and figure it out. I still have stuff I have to figure out in my leg.” Weidman is one of the most accomplished middleweights in UFC history, having held the title for over two years. Pushing 39 and coming off one of the worst injuries in UFC history, it’s fair to wonder why he is coming back to MMA at all. But for the former champion, it’s simple: He believes he can be the best in the world again, and he wants to prove it, meaning when he does come back, he wants to be thrown right in the deep end. “I would say someone in the top 15,” Weidman said. “Anyone from 10-15. I was like, 12 or something when I left, so somewhere in there. I’m not coming back to be a B-rated fighter or a gatekeeper or anything like that. I went through all this hell not just to come back and be like that. I’m coming back to try and get back what is mine, try to get that belt. After analyzing all these guys and watching the middleweight division these last two years, with everybody at the top of the division, I don’t think there’s any reason I can’t beat those guys. So I’m excited to work my way up and get there. ... “I think my skillset matches up really great with the top guys, and I’m excited to get there. I think there is a road to that. Beat someone in the top-15, and then maybe someone in the top-5 and boom, I’m there. But I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m excited for the challenge. I’m not putting myself through this crap to fight some guys I know I can beat or just have a big-name fight, I’m trying to shock the world again. I know there’s not going to be too many people who are going to be thinking I can come back and that excites me, when I’m being counted out like this.” Weidman’s grappling match with Livesey takes place on March 11 at Doncaster Dome in Doncaster, England, and streams exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.
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