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Daniel Cormier, Israel Adesanya, among fighters nominated for Best MMA Fighter ESPY

Daniel Cormier
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It pays to be a “champ champ.”

On Wednesday, ESPN announced its nominees for the 2019 ESPY Awards ceremony, which takes place July 10 in Los Angeles. Traditionally, MMA fighters have gone head-to-head with boxers for the Best Fighter award, but this year the committee has split the two into their own categories.

Nominated in the new Best MMA Fighter category this year are UFC athletes Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, Henry Cejudo, and Israel Adesanya. Of the four, Adesanya is the only one to not have held two UFC titles simultaneously in the last year. Adesanya currently holds the interim middleweight title.

Cormier won the UFC heavyweight title last June with a first-round knockout of Stipe Miocic. At the time, Cormier was also the light heavyweight champion. He would later successfully defend the heavyweight title with a submission of Derrick Lewis at UFC 230. Though he still holds that belt, Cormier voluntarily relinquished the light heavyweight championship when officials announced it would be vacated and given to the winner of the UFC 232 main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.

Nunes cemented her legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time, successfully defending her bantamweight title in May and then moving up to 145 pounds to take the featherweight title from Cris Cyborg. She needed just 51 seconds to finish Cyborg with strikes and snap Cyborg’s 13-year unbeaten streak.

In June, Cejudo joined the dual-division champion club with a third-round TKO of Marlon Moraes. That made Cejudo the owner of a bantamweight title that was vacated by T.J. Dillashaw due to Dillashaw failing a USADA test. Cejudo also won a split decision over Demetrious Johnson last August to win the flyweight title and end a streak of 11 consecutive successful defenses for Johnson. Additionally, Cejudo stopped Dillashaw in 32 seconds this past January when Dillashaw dropped down to 125 pounds to challenge for the flyweight strap.

Adesanya became a UFC interim champion after winning a five-round classic by unanimous decision against Kelvin Gastelum. “The Last Stylebender” is 6-0 inside the Octagon and undefeated in 17 pro MMA bouts.

Johnson was the last MMA representative to win the Best Fighter ESPY award, which he did back in 2017. Boxer Terence “Bud” Crawford won the award last year.

Other MMA fighters to win the now defunct award include Conor McGregor (2016) and Ronda Rousey (2015). Rousey also took home the award for Best Female Athlete in 2014 and Holly Holm won the 2016 Upset award for her head kick KO of Rousey at UFC 193.

Fans can vote for the winners here.

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