With a client roster that totals in the hundreds, regardless of what is going on in the MMA world, there’s a good chance manager Ali Abdelaziz is in the thick of things.
On Monday, the Dominance MMA founder stopped by The MMA Hour to offer a host of updates on his clientele, covering topics such as how Frankie Edgar’s title shot against Max Holloway came together, what’s next for UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, the latest on Cody Garbrandt, and much more. Excerpts from that wide-ranging conversation can be read below.
Frankie Edgar, who fights UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 240: “Alex Volkanovski is an amazing fighter, great kid. You can’t say anything bad about him. But listen, Frankie has been in this company for 10 years, he got passed over so many times, he got a lot of title shots. He put his title shot on the line versus (Brian) Ortega — and that was part of the deal. He said, ‘You know what, guys? I’m going to go ahead, I’m going to fight. I need to fight.’ And he saved the main event. Ortega was in the same position to fight Jeremy Stephens for the interim belt [at UFC 226] and he turned it down, right? And all I have to say is I spoke to the UFC brass, Dana (White) and Sean (Shelby) and Hunter (Campbell), all of these guys. I said, ‘Guys, listen. This is the deal. Frankie went out there and got a win. He’s been such a great guy and he deserves this title shot.’
“Dana White is a very emotional guy. He likes Frankie a lot, and that was a big factor of this. But he understands, he looked at Frankie’s career and what he has done. And I know this business is how good have you done for me lately — this is the type of business we’re in — but I really went [to that meeting], and everybody thought I was going to talk about Khabib, this or this. I said, ‘Listen, I’m not here to talk about nothing else. I only here to talk about Frankie.’ And I talked and I made my case, and they said, ‘For the first time, you are right. We’re in.’ It’s a bigger fight. I think, also timing, the UFC is talking about going to Australia, right? When you save this fight card for Australia [at UFC 243], you have Max or Frankie fighting Alex. It’s timing too. From a business standpoint, it’s better for the UFC to have Alex to fight later if they still can have the Australia card, right? Because if they have Adesanya vs. Whittaker, Frankie vs. Alex or Max vs. Alex, the winner, in a business way it works out.”
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is likely fighting interim champion Dustin Poirier at UFC 242: “We’re working on it. We’re going through a couple things, I think it’s going well. But the fight is not finalized yet. That would be a good date for Khabib to come back. Khabib, he gave me — he wants to fight September, December, and April. These are the three dates he gave me. I let the UFC know. Poirier is a great opponent. You have a lot of lightweight fights coming up. You have (Donald) Cerrone and (Tony) Ferguson coming up. You have this guy Conor (McGregor) — but it’s funny, because if Conor went out there and got a win, he might over-leap all these guys again.
“It’s a promotion, right? At the end of the day, [McGregor] wanted a rematch. We said no. Khabib said no, he said it publicly: ‘No, he’s not getting a rematch. You’ve got to go out there and just get a win.’ … Everybody knows that’s the biggest money fight you can make, and the UFC’s a company to make money. Conor got a rematch every time he lost, right, outside Floyd. But in a way, I don’t think he deserves it.
“But there’s levels to this. I like Poirier a lot as a person. I know him, I trained with him before. I know him personally, we stayed together for almost a month, trained the whole month. He’s a great guy, he’s a great opponent. He’s dangerous, he has a lot of volume. But listen, 27 people tried, 27 failed. You’re going to get put on your back, you’re going to panic, you’re going to get outworked, and you’re probably going to get finished.”
Kayla Harrison, who was emotional after fighting to her first career decision in PFL’s women’s lightweight tournament: “The first thing I told her, you saw me walking toward her after the [fight], I said, ‘Listen to me, that’s the best thing that ever happened to you. We got three rounds of experience. We know there’s no question you can go a hard three rounds. Your gas tank is there. Your confidence is there. That’s the best thing that can happen to you.’ Let me tell you something, you remember when Ronda Rousey was around and Dana White said Ronda Rousey will beat up guys, and this and this and that. I’m telling you, Kayla will beat some guys up. I train with her, she knows what she’s doing. But experience is everything in MMA. You have to have mat-time, right? And I think that was the best thing that could happen to her. I believe, pound-for-pound she will be the greatest woman we ever see of all-time. But she’s growing.
“You always question yourself when you go to a new sport. Judo is a five-minute match; I’m doing three five-minute [rounds] now. Now we understand Kayla Harrison is not a frontrunner. She can go three rounds. And she doesn’t go three rounds — she can go a hard three rounds. Because she, a little bit, fights like Khabib. Right? She doesn’t stop, she’s ground-and-pounding, she’s trying to pass, she’s trying to mount, she’s trying to take your back. You don’t see Kayla Harrison holding you down. You don’t. She’s got the it factor, man. A lot of people don’t have it. A lot of people don’t have it. She has what it takes to be the greatest, and I think she will be the greatest.”
Cody Garbrandt, who turned down an offer to return on July 13 at UFC Sacramento: “At the end of the day, when you get knocked out like that, I don’t think you should be fighting [without taking some time off]. The UFC is doing their job, they’re going to Sacramento, they offered Cody a main event spot — and this is the right thing to do for the UFC, but it’s our job to be like, ‘You know what, guys? We’re going to go back [and take some time].’ Cody’s been having problems with his hand. Especially getting knocked out like that, I think your brain needs a break. And I talked to him, I said, ‘Cody, listen. That’s the deal.’ The kid is a born fighter and I think he’s one of the best bantamweights we’ve ever seen.
“Believe me, he is. But in a way he’s too much of a fighter. When you touch this kid, punch him, he wants to come and kill you, right? He’s too much of a fighter and I think he needs to get himself right, physically and mentally. And I think we’re going to see a lot of changes coming up, the way he’s going to fight. He’s got to go back to the Dominick Cruz era, when he was having fun, when he was enjoying it, when he was embracing it.
“Cody, what he needs right now is somebody to say, ‘Hey, shut up, move on. You need to do this and do this and do this and do this.’ Right? And I think it’s more mental for Cody than anything else, than skill level. Cody has unbelievable jiu-jitsu, he has unbelievable grappling, unbelievable wrestling. But we don’t see it, right? You will see Cody come again, but he’s going to come right. And I told him, ‘I will not allow you to fight.’ And Cody respects me enough to listen to me, believe me. [I said,] ‘I’m going to make sure your hand is good, your head is good, and you have 10 weeks of hard training camp, healthy.’”
Henry Cejudo, the UFC flyweight champion who challenges Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight title at UFC 238: “I think that was the UFC, they promised Henry: ‘You beat [T.J. Dillashaw], you’re going to go up to ’35.’ That was part of the deal. This is why I said, when people said, ‘aw, you kiss Dana White’s ass’ — I don’t kiss nobody’s ass. That was part of the deal. I said, ‘We’ll fight T.J. for the 125 [title],’ but that was part of the agreement. There was a verbal agreement, and when these guys give me a verbal agreement, they don’t go back on it.
“Because the question was: ‘We want you to fight T.J. at ’35.’ [Dillashaw] said, ‘No, I want to fight at ’25.’ I said, ‘No problem. Pay me this much money, come down [to 125 pounds]. If I beat you, you have to guarantee me a title shot at 135.’ And that was part of the deal. The money was different, structured different, everything was different. And Henry, the UFC did that because they promised something and he went out there and knocked T.J. out, a guy who was roided out. Right? He went there and knocked him out. Now, how are you going to tell Henry, ‘I’m not going to give you a title shot?’ You can’t, because you promised him.”