The UFC middleweight championship will be on the line when Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier collide in the main event of UFC 276 on July 2, and it appears that the next 185-pound contender will be defined earlier that night in Las Vegas.
Speaking on last week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, longtime MMA manager Jorge Guimarães, the agent for kickboxing star Alex Pereira, said that it’s been agreed that the winner of “Poatan” vs. Sean Strickland will received a shot at whoever is victorious in Adesanya versus Cannonier.
“It’s already agreed, the decision has been made,” Guimarães said. “Whoever wins the fight between Sean Strickland and Alex will face the winner of Jared Cannonier and ‘Izzy,’ Israel Adesanya. It’s a deal.”
Pereira, who beat Adesanya twice in kickboxing, is a former two-division champion in GLORY who won two in a row inside the octagon since making the transition to MMA. Strickland is on a six-fight winning streak, capped off by decisions over Uriah Hall and Jack Hermansson.
According to Guimarães, “it was hard at first, as incredible as it sounds,” to find opponent for Pereira in the UFC, “because many people didn’t want to fight [him].”
“There were like 12 fighters turning down fights,” he said. “And fights there would be interesting. Big names, too. It reached a point that I had to go talk to the boss [laughs].
“But when you get to the top of the pyramid, people are forced to accept a fight. It’s super interesting for Sean Strickland. He’s very tough, fun, brave, and I think it’s going to be a great fight. Both [match-ups] on the same night, it starts to build something already.”
Check below what Guimarães said about the future of several other MMA fighters managed by his company.
Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull regained the throne with a decision over A.J. McKee this past April, and a trilogy match was on the table. Yet, the company might go a different direction going forward. Adam Borics, 18-1 in the sport, could be next in line for Bellator gold.
“There are some talks about a rematch with A.J.,” Guimarães said. “Patricio isn’t opposed to this, but Adam Borics might jump the line since A.J. is a little hesitant. He’s suffering to make the weight, he’s a lengthy guy, and he might move up to Patricky’s division.”
Patricky Pitbull, who sits at the top of the lightweight mountain in Bellator, was expected to face Sidney Outlaw in his first title defense earlier this year but an injury forced him to sit on the sidelines for some time. Guimarães said that fight “is in the making” and “will happen soon.”
“We have a date in mind,” he said, “but the deal will be finalized soon.”
The current plan is to book it for July or August, MMA Fighting has learned.
Juliana Velasquez entered her second defense of the Bellator flyweight gold in April, and was ahead in the scorecards before referee Mike Beltran called for the stop with 13 seconds left in the fourth round due to elbows from crucifix position, crowning Liz Carmouche the new champion.
Velasquez’s team immediately filed an appeal with the Hawaii State Boxing Commission after Bellator 278, and is still waiting for an answer. They are keeping their hopes high, though, considering that the Hawaiian commission is more flexible than commissions like Nevada.
“Mike Beltran admitted his mistake, and John McCarthy even wrote a letter saying that Beltran admitted his mistake,” Guimarães said. “But it’s very hard to overturn a result. We’re hoping for a no-contest, but it takes time. But the rematch will happen. That’s the most important.”
Alexander Volkov scored a quick finish over Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the main event of a UFC Vegas card earlier this month, another stoppage that sparked debate online. Rozenstruik complained that referee Herb Dean stopped it too quickly, and Guimarães, Volkov’s manager, agrees to a degree. That said, “there’s no reason” to run it back.
“I was super confident [for this fight],” Guimarães said. “Rozenstruik doesn’t have enough volume for Volkov. Volkov marched forward and gave him no respect. His mouthpiece went flying, [Rozenstruik] had already turned it back and ran. Would I let it go a bit longer? Yes. Herb Dean stopped it a bit soon, but it wasn’t… In the end, Jairzinho thanked him [for stopping it].”
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida recently entered free agency, but not the way he was planning. “The Dragon” lost his last four bouts in Bellator, but his longtime manager said Machida “wants to continue” fighting under MMA rules.
“Lyoto trains at the highest level and believes in himself,” he said. “These fights in Bellator — not the last one — were at light heavyweight because there were no fights for him at middleweight, and it were split decisions. Against [Gegard] Mousasi and Phil Davis, decisions that could have gone either way. But he’s super confident and doesn’t want to retire yet.”
Guimarães said he hasn’t started talking to other MMA promotions yet, but has an idea in mind.
“I’d love to create something [cool],” Guimarães said. “[Mauricio Rua] ‘Shogun’ will retire, so maybe do a fight with ‘Shogun’. Everything is possible. I just don’t want to take him from the world’s biggest promotions. It doesn’t make sense for him to fight elsewhere.”
Even with Machida currently on a four-fight skid, Guimarães said that doing “The Dragon” vs. Rua 3 inside the octagon “is an option.” The Brazilian stars met twice under the UFC banner in the past, going 1-1 in title fights.
Former RFA featherweight titleholder Raoni Barcelos, who impressed in a 5-0 start in the UFC with victories over the like of Said Nurmagomedov and Khalid Taha, is waiting for a call to return to the octagon after dropping back-to-back decisions to Timur Valiev and Victor Henry. Yet, Guimarães said he’s recently “re-signed his contract and is very happy.”