Morning Report: Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre targeting fall return

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

We have a mountain of goodness to navigate this morning, but before we can go outside and play, let's get down to business.

Two of the UFC's top draws, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, are both targeting an autumn climb back into the Octagon, according to dual reports made by MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani on Tuesday's edition of UFC Tonight.

Jones, still hampered by his once-gruesome toe injury, hoped to return to action this summer, however he's now eyeing an October title defense on the advice of his doctors. And yes, when the time comes, "Bones" still wants the lanky Swede, Alexander Gustafsson.

As for St-Pierre, the Canadian sensation is also aiming for an October return. UFC President Dana White told Sportsnet on Tuesday that he expects St-Pierre to defend his belt against Johny Hendricks, although nothing is set in stone at the present moment.

For his part, Hendricks repeated his claim that "it's looking like" St-Pierre is scared to fight him. However, Hendricks' words led UFC Tonight analyst Kenny Florian to drop this interesting little nugget, which was quickly agreed upon by Chael Sonnen.

"Yes, I do think he's scared. That's exactly why Georges St-Pierre performs so well. He is fueled by his fear, and that's why he trains so hard," Florian said, before ominously adding, "And number two, I think we [should] wait to see what's going to go on with Georges St-Pierre. I'm not sure he's going to fight Johny Hendricks because I think he's waiting to see what's going to happen with Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva."

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5 MUST-READ STORIES

Jones, St-Pierre update. UFC champions Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre are both eyeing a return to action in October, according to a report from UFC Tonight.

Evans out to rediscover fire. Rashad Evans was once on top of the world. Yet after consecutive "disconnected" performances, he now finds himself striving to rediscover the fire that once burned inside of him.

'Bigfoot' to visit doctor. In today's WTF story of the day, Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva -- who cuts to make the heavyweight limit -- told Fighters Only that he intends to seek physician clearance to see if he can healthily drop down to 205 pounds and fight Thiago Silva. "If can do it, I will drop weight to make this fight for sure," Silva added. "All I want to do is just fight him because words won't make him change. He's mentally sick, we're completely different people. I am a family guy. I respect my father, mother, wife, I treat my friends well, without pulling their legs, and I don't take drugs."

Bellator switches nights. Following season nine's debut episode, Bellator MMA will transition to a Friday night time slot from 9-11 p.m. ET, beginning September 13, 2013. SI.com first reported the move.

Daley booked. London-based fight promotion Cage Warriors reached a deal with Bellator to secure the services of welterweight slugger Paul Daley for a one-off bout against Lukasz Chlewicki at its next event, Cage Warriors 57, which takes place July 20, 2013 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.

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MEDIA STEW

Check out the Fightmaster crew (plus Matt Mitrione) calling their shot for UFC 161's main event.

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The lesson: Next time some computer nerds are giving you the runaround -- BLAM! -- kick to the balls. (For those interested, there's a behind-the-scenes feature for this clip.)

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Who didn't see this coming: 'Rampage Jackson signed by Bellator? Welp, better upload one of his most brutal losses.' Classy move, Zuffa.

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The Metamoris crew doesn't waste any time, folks. Check out the new trailer for Metamoris 3's featured match.

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Yep, of course this ridiculously lavish gym is located in Dubai. Where else would it be?

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I don't know what Cliff Thompson's most embarrassing post-fight interview was before this, but my guess is it didn't involve projectile vomit.

(HT: Reddit)

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THE CURSE OF 'WHAT IFS'

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JUST SO YOU KNOW

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MR. WHITE

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I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE

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WHAT A MESS

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EMBRACE IT

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Announced yesterday (Tuesday, June 11, 2013):

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FANPOST OF THE DAY

Today's Fanpost of the Day is the terrific conclusion to Steve Borchardt's two-part retrospective: A Dog's Life: A Look Back at the UFC Career of Forrest Griffin (Part 2 of 2)

There's an age old trope in the fight game that journalists and fighters alike are wont to fall back on whenever a recently crowned champion gears up to attempt his first title defense. Perhaps you've heard it? It's the one about how you aren't really a champion until you've successfully retained your belt.

By and large it's a bullshit line. Journalists desperate for an angle often pull it out of their repertoire of rhetorical cliches when faced with the uninspiring task of writing about a title match without any real promotional sizzle behind it. Fighters use it as a motivational tool, similar to how some long term champions claim to look at themselves as the challenger going into every title defense; the idea being it's a way to keep yourself hungry once you've already feasted on the richest prize in the sport.

Evidently Forrest Griffin subscribed to this line of thinking after he earned the UFC light heavyweight championship by defeating Quinton "Rampage' Jackson. In fact, according to the UFC Countdown special hyping up his first title defense at UFC 92, Griffin's hesitance to define himself as the true champion went so far as him requesting the strap be kept in storage at UFC headquarters during his reign. One pictures a nervous Zuffa intern gingerly lifting the belt out of a treasure chest sitting in UFC President Dana White's personal office and hastily shuttling it to Griffin for promotional events and photo ops -- almost like the belt once worn by Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Tito Ortiz was a 12 pound golden library book Griffin was afraid to take home and enjoy lest he inadvertently spill coffee on it and get slapped with a fine.

"It's the best feeling there is," Griffin explained when talking to the Countdown production crew about winning the title. "And once you've had it, the only thing you can do is have it again. Now I have to figure out a way to get there again."

Standing in the way of Griffin getting there again was The Ultimate Fighter season two winner Rashad Evans. At the time Evans, a former NCAA Division I wrestler who had yet to taste defeat as a professional fighter, was riding high after knocking out erstwhile light heavyweight champ Liddell. Keep in mind this was in 2008, back when a victory over the once-dreaded Iceman still meant something. Based on Evans' recent performances in the Octagon, he looked like a solid test for Griffin. However, he was far from an insurmountable one for a fighter who had just defeated both Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Rampage Jackson in succession.

Griffin was the clear fan favorite on fight night. As he walked to the Octagon accompanied by the incongruous amalgamation of nineties skate punk and Celtic bag pipe music that is the Dropkick Murphy's "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," a packed MGM Grand gave the recently-minted champion an ovation worthy of a newly elected Pope giving his first public blessing to a throng of reverent admirers.

The challenger got a decidedly less enthusiastic welcome. Evans had been a heel to the UFC audience ever since former middleweight champ Matt Hughes called him out for showboating on an episode of TUF. It didn't matter that Evans was by all accounts an extremely nice guy; he was already typecast as an arrogant jerk in the minds of the fans.

The first round consisted of a protracted feeling out process where Griffin and Evans traded occasional combinations while working to slip into a comfortable rhythm. Griffin found his emphatically in the second and proceeded to light Evans up for the majority of the round while the crowd inside the MGM Grand broke into ecstatic chants of "Forrest, Forrest."

Then, in less than five minutes, everything fell apart. Griffin tried a low kick to open the round, but Evans caught it and used it as a lever to send him crashing to the mat. From there the challenger unloaded with a brutal series of hammer fists. It was a pugilistic storm Griffin was just barely able to weather, but eventually he recovered and closed up his guard. That would prove a fleeting respite for the defending champ. Evans postured up, broke Griffin's guard, and began unloading with a relentless barrage of punches for the TKO victory.

After three years spent fighting to get to the championship level in the UFC, Griffin lost the belt just three rounds into his first title defense. If he truly bought into the idea that he wasn't a real champion until he defended the belt, it might have almost felt like he was never champion at all; like the UFC light heavyweight title was a lover he was only able to hold close for one night before she slipped through his fingers and retreated from his present to a home forever in his past.

Although Griffin wasn't successful in the Octagon that night, ironically enough UFC 92 was his finest moment as a draw. The event did a monstrous 1.0 million buys on PPV thanks in large part to the allure of seeing Griffin as champion. We'll never know what kind of business a protracted Forrest Griffin title reign would have done, but it's entirely possible he may have ended up in the same league as the UFC's current pound for pound PPV king Georges St-Pierre.

That's the thing with idle speculation though. When it hits too close to home it can lead to all sorts of unresolvable "what ifs" that keep the best of us, even former champions, laying awake until early morning replaying in minute, excruciating detail how things went wrong. All it takes is one little "What if Rashad hadn't caught that lowkick?" for the vicious cycle of rumination and regret to start wrapping itself around one's mind with all the destructive power of a boa constrictor.

The reality is, Griffin never came close to title contention again. Losing the title was unquestionably the lowest moment in Griffin's career to that point, but things were about to get worse.

Much worse.

Follow me to the jump for more...

Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.

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