Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
LAS VEGAS -- Thursday's UFC 156 media day was a first for the UFC in practice, as the six fighters in the top three bouts on the card fielded questions for upwards of one hour apiece. As you can imagine, after several weeks of interviews leading up to the fight, answering many of the same questions again isn't exactly an exciting prospect for them, and let's just say that some of them handled it better than others.
Rashad Evans, the personable and affable former light-heavyweight champion, seemed to enjoy the process the most, offering his thoughts on multiple topics, including candidly discussing his interest in fighting Anderson Silva. Looking ahead to what might come is something fighters routinely resist out of a caution for maintaining focus. But let's be real: talk is talk, and Evans gets it. It doesn't mean that anything can or will happen. It's just what could. And in a sport where "next" is a magic word, at least Evans is interested in charting a plan for himself, which as we have seen is something the UFC seems to like.
Athletes who bang their own drum often generate the most headlines and interest, and the company notices that. It seems clear that if Evans wins impressively over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, he will be approached about a title bout with Silva (which by the way, is something I advocated right after Michael Bisping's loss).
And for the record, Evans said he saw a second-round ground and pound win in his future.
Media day was filled with news and notes. Here's a list of some other things we learned.
Everyone's a winner on TUF
In the early days of The Ultimate Fighter, it seemed that everyone got a real chance to make it in the UFC. Winners certainly got precedence, but even losers would routinely find themselves placed on the roster with another chance to live out their dream. Among the list of those who failed to win the show but still found a path to the octagon includes Kenny Florian, Chris Leben, Keith Jardine, Matt Hamill and Gray Maynard.
In recent years, those numbers have waned as the ballooning size of the UFC roster has made it more difficult for the promotion to offer such opportunities. But according to UFC president Dana White, this season's fights are so good and so competitive, he couldn't bring himself to cut a single competitor. Not one. When the season finishes airing on FX, each man will get at least one more chance to compete in the UFC.
"This season is so f------ good, and I was so happy with the guys, I told them, every one of you guys are going to fight. You're going to get one more chance in the UFC," White said. "Every guy here is going to get one more chance in the UFC. [Matchmaker] Joe Silva wants to f------ kill me. 'It's impossible. It mathematically doesn't work.' I said, 'Mathematically make it work.'"
White said whatever the UFC would have to do to make it happen, they would do, including adding one extra fight on each card until each contestant gets his opportunity.
So while that make take away some of the drama of the show, at least it's one sign that the finished product is indeed better than last season's version.
Quote of the day
Frankie Edgar in talking about taking away Jose Aldo's kicking game: "If you're a carpenter and I say you can't use a hammer, you're going to be in trouble."
Quote of the day, part II
Alistair Overeem on his detractors: "A lion doesn't bother about the pain of sheep."
UFC closing in on deal with Josh Barnett
The relationship that was fractured for years seems to continue on the path to total repair. UFC president Dana White said talks remain ongoing with the longtime heavyweight star, and even though he's not involved, he's hopeful of getting a deal done.
"Joe Silva is doing it," he said. "From what I hear, we're close. We'll see what happens."
Anderson Silva's 10-fight extension still not yet completed
There are still a few details to be ironed out before the ink hits the paper, but White said he was confident that it would be completed very soon. One good sign in his favor? Silva's manager Ed Soares sat around waiting to speak to White yesterday afternoon.
"We'll get it done," White said.
Alistair Overeem is guaranteed a title shot if he beats Antonio Silva on Saturday night. If he doesn't, there is no backup plan in place.
The next highest-ranked heavyweight contenders are Junior dos Santos, who obviously just lost the belt to Cain Velasquez and is likely not in line for an immediate rematch, and Daniel Cormier, who is scheduled to fight Frank Mir in April, and who happens to be Velasquez's teammate, so that is a no go. So if Silva manages the upset, the UFC may be stuck to find a worthy challenger.
Overeem did not seem to enjoy the new media day format as much as some others, at one point getting off his chair and beginning to walk off until changing his mind and continuing on. During his session, the former Strikeforce champion was asked by Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Segura about his recent suspension for elevated testosterone levels, and he refused to answer the questions, saying, "next interview, please." Since this is his first fight back since then, it's a question he probably should have been expecting. In a more candid moment, he did say that he had some work to do to repair his image.
"A clean slate? Let me just get through a couple fights without any issues," he said. "Things go away in time. But I think still it's kind of fresh to talk about a clean slate."
White still struggling after ear surgery
Just about two weeks out of surgery to treat a case of Meniere's Disease, an ear disorder that causes episodes of vertigo and other issues, Dana White is still on the mend, and expects to be so for the foreseeable future.
White said he was actually feeling worse than he was before he had surgery, but said that was to be expected because of the trauma done to the ear during the invasive surgery. White said it often feels like he's underwater, but plans to work his way through the pain.
"It's tough to hear," he said. "It's been a pain in the ass, but I've got to deal with it."
Super Bowl predictions
Frankie Edgar: Ravens
Jose Aldo: Ravens
Rashad Evans: Ravens
Yves Edwards: 49ers
Dana White: 49ers
And speaking of the Super Bowl, this might be the end of the UFC's Las Vegas Super Bowl streak, which began in 2004. The tentative plan for 2014 is to do the Super Bowl weekend show in the New York area. The UFC's broadcast partner FOX has television rights to the championship game next year, and the plan is to blow up a huge sports weekend with a major UFC event and the NFL's big game on back-to-back nights in the same market.
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