Names in the Game from the Magazine

Names in the Game from the Magazine

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Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.

Joanne Calderwood

Record: 7-0
Key Victories: Norma Rueda Center, Ashley Cummins
Weight Class: 115 lbs.
Age: 26
Country: Scotland
Nickname: JoJo
Twitter: @badmofo_jojo

image desc2013 is falling right in line with female flyweight Joanne “Jojo” Calderwood’s 2012—she’s still undefeated and is becoming one of the premier fighters in her weight class. This year, Calderwood has had one fight on her home turf in Glasgow, Scotland, fighting for Cage Warriors, and two fights for Invicta.

“My first fight this year, I went three rounds in Invicta, and it was pretty much one-sided,” she says. “The second one, I won in the second round with a TKO, and that’s even better because I like ending the fight early and not letting it go to the judges.”

Calderwood’s third bout of the year was a folly of frustrations, having to go through several opponent changes before finally settling on Greg Jackson-trained talent Norma Rueda Center. Despite stepping in as a late replacement, Center was no pushover. She had a spotless 5-0 record as an amateur and was 2-0 as a pro. Calderwood’s approach to the fight, however, was steadfast. Last-minute changes in opponent frequently happen in mixed martial arts, and the Scottish standout didn’t let it get to her.

“I just like to fight—the opponent doesn’t really matter,” says Calderwood. “Switching opponents happens in this sport. It wasn’t the first time it happened to me, and it won’t be the last time, so it doesn’t really bother me. What matters is that I’m still fighting on the card and getting to use what I worked on during fight camp. I just make sure I’m the best person I can be when I step into the cage.”

That approach has certainly worked well for her, as Calderwood is undefeated in seven professional fights, putting her in sight of the Invicta 115-pound title currently wrapped around Carla Esparza’s waist.
“I look at all my opponents knowing that I have to beat them if I want to get the Invicta title,” she says. “That’s my goal, and I need to beat everyone, whether they’re from a great camp or not. I need to fight them as a fighter. As long as I keep winning and performing, the title will come to me.”

Matt Hobar

Record: 8-1
Key Victory: Angel Huerta
Weight Class: 135 lbs.
Age: 26
Country: United States
Nickname: The Crowbar
Twitter: @CrowbarHobar

Following his first loss in September 2012, Legacy FC bantamweight Matt “Crowbar” Hobar has rebounded with three straight victories, the last of which earned him the Legacy FC Bantamweight Title. His professional record now stands at 8-1, and he’s already avenged his lone loss.

Hobar lost to Steven Peterson in August 2012 when he injured his arm in the fight, but he recovered quickly and avenged the loss in December.
“In my rematch with Peterson, I decided to keep it standing because I knew I had better stand-up, so it was a different gameplan than what I’m used to, but it worked out to my advantage,” says Hobar, who is better known for his strong ground game. “In my next fight against Nelson Salas, I was sure it was going to be a ground fight, because I felt like my ground game was superior, but he was a tough guy, hard to finish. Those fights were tough for me and a definite step up in competition, but I got the wins.”

Those fights, especially the bout with Salas, set him up for the greatest success thus far in a young career that began in 2011. Building off the experiences of his two previous victories, Hobar knew he had the recipe for success heading into the battle with Angel Huerta for the Legacy FC Bantamweight Title.

Hobar knew Huerta’s striking game was top notch, but he also knew Huerta’s ground game was suspect and open to attack. Hobar wasted no time exploiting this fact, taking the fight to Huerta by putting him on the mat and submitting him in the first round.

Hobar has had numerous successes in his first two years in the sport, to the tune of eight victories, but none were as noteworthy as winning the Legacy FC belt.

“Winning the title will definitely open up a lot opportunities to further my career in MMA,” says Hobar. “I’m excited to see what comes next.”

Vaughn Anderson

Record: 16-1-1
Key Victories: Hae Jun Yang, Dongxing Wu
Weight Class: 170 lbs.
Age: 35
Country: Canada
Nickname: Blud
Twitter: @BludAnderson

Vaughn Anderson is a well-respected figure on the Asian MMA scene, but despite holding an outstanding 16-1-1 record, he remains relatively unknown to the Western MMA world, even in his native Canada. That could all change soon, as the 35-year-old is making his way to Bellator this fall.

Anderson’s career has seen him compete in Taiwan, China, Macau, Singapore, Australia, and Abu Dhabi, but never on mainland U.S. or Canada. While his list of previous opponents might be unfamiliar to an American audience, he’s fought many of the best fighters in Asia.
Anderson’s sole loss came in 2007 when he was submitted by Chinese legend Hailin Ao. The only other blemish on his record is a 2009 draw with Dong Hyun Kim, who, while not as famous as his UFC namesake, is still one of the top welterweights in Korea.

Anderson made headlines in 2011 when he stopped three much larger fighters in a single night to win the Pro FC Heavyweight Tournament in Taipei. His most recent fight was in Australia in 2012 when he beat Korean Hae Jun Yang by majority decision.

Canadian by nationality, Anderson was actually born in Manila and spent the early years of his life there. While his MMA record is impressive, he is better known in Asia for his work as a coach and a commentator.
“I came to Asia in 2001 thinking I would travel to the places I lived for a year when I was a kid, but I never left,” he says. “I’ve lived and trained in Taiwan, Beijing, Ubon Ratchatani, Hong Kong, Xian, and had shorter stints in Bangkok, Boracay, and Singapore.”

Anderson is currently employed as the MMA coach at the Xian Sports University, which is home to some of Asia’s top fighters, including 14-0 Tuerxun Jumabieke (who is rumored to have signed with the UFC) and RUFF Champions Wang Guan and Meixuan Zhang.

He’ll be fighting for Bellator in the U.S. in his promotional debut, which will be somewhat of a North American homecoming for Anderson. After more than a decade of training, coaching, and competing in Asia, he relishes the chance to make a name for himself in the West and hopes to finally win some fans from his own country.

“Like any fighter, I have had my share of ups and downs, but it does feel good to come home in the best shape of my life and be thirsty for victory,” says Anderson.

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MMA in Australia and New Zealand hasn’t quite reached the same heights as its counterparts in the U.S. and Brazil, but it’s getting there. Since 2010, the UFC has traveled to Australia to promote four events, with a return scheduled in December. Couple that return with the UFC’s announced September filming of The Ultimate Fighter: Nations—which will pit Canada vs. Australia—and it’s a good time to be a fighting bloke. Here are eight Men at Work that will make you run and take cover.

Mark Hunt
Nickname: The Super Samoan
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Fighting Out Of: Sydney, Australia
Gym: Oceania Super Fighter Gym/ATT
Record: 9-8

Mark Hunt’s professional MMA record is a fairly pedestrian 9-8, but the former K-1 World Champion’s career is about more than just wins and losses. When the UFC purchased PRIDE and absorbed Hunt’s contract in 2010, the New Zealander was riding a five-fight losing streak. He didn’t fare any better in his UFC debut, suffering a submission loss in 63 seconds. However, Hunt got back on track and steamrolled his next four foes, defeating Chris Tuchscherer, Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo, and Stefan Struve, before falling to Junior dos Santos at UFC 160. Despite a loss for Hunt, the brutal battle won Fight of the Night honors and has been labeled one of the greatest heavyweight fights in history.

James Te Huna
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Fighting Out Of: Sydney, Australia
Gym: Elite Fight Gym
Record: 16-6

Riding a 5-1 mark since joining the UFC in 2010, James Te Huna asked for a top-level fight in May, and he got it. There weren’t many people raising their hand to fight Glover Teixeira after Ryan Bader got injured and had to withdraw from his UFC 160 bout, but Te Huna took the chance against a man who hadn’t lost a fight since 2005. Te Huna may have been forced to tap, but the Australian (by way of New Zealand) showed his fighting spirit by accepting a fight that more than a few fighters walked away from. The former Cage Fighting Championship Light Heavyweight Champion will have redemption on his mind when he steps back into the Octagon later this year.

Soa Palelei
Nickname: The Hulk
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Fighting Out Of: Perth, Australia
Gym: Hulk MMA
Record: 18-3

Since a 2011 loss to undefeated Daniel Cormier, Soa Palelei has gone on a tear, winning his next eight fights by (T)KO. That was enough to get the UFC interested again (Palelei made his lone UFC appearance in 2007, loosing to Eddie Sanchez), and he was scheduled to face Stipe Miocic at UFC 161 in June before the UFC replaced him with Roy Nelson to beef up an injury plagued card. Palelei didn’t have to wait long for a new opponent—he’ll return to the Octagon at UFC 164 later this month to take on undefeated newcomer Nikita Krylov.

Benny Alloway
Nickname: The Aussie Gangsta
Weight Class: Welterweight
Fighting Out Of: Gold Coast, Australia
Gym: Potential Unlimited MMA/Fiore MMA
Record: 12-4

Taking home a “Fight of the Season” award from his time on The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes and then backing it up with a “Knockout of the Night” of Manuel Rodriguez at UFC on FX 6, Benny Alloway started off his UFC career with a bang. A newborn son and a contract with the sport’s biggest promotion in 2012 capped off a banner year for the fighter with only three years of cage experience. However, Alloway went into his sophomore effort at UFC on Fuel TV 9 in April with a bum knee and suffered a decision loss to Ryan La Flare. Now on the mend, Alloway is awaiting his next assignment.

Dylan Andrews
Nickname: The Villain
Weight Class: Middleweight
Fighting Out Of: Gold Coast, Australia
Gym: Potential Unlimited MMA/Heartbreak Conditioning
Record: 16-4-1

After being turned away three times for a chance to take part in The Ultimate Fighter, Dylan Andrews finally met the mark on the 17th season of the show. Although he was picked last in team selections, the 33-year-old striker made it to the semifinals by earning a unanimous decision and knockout. Andrews demonstrated his take-no-prisoners attitude when he walked away from the reality show with a “Fight of the Season” bonus and a highlight-reel TKO over Jimmy Quinlan in the TUF Finale. Now riding a five-fight winning streak, the native New Zealander is scheduled to fight Papy Abedi at UFC Fight Night on August 28.

Corey Nelson
Nickname: Major
Weight Class: Welterweight
Fighting Out Of: Liverpool, Australia
Gym: KMA Top Team
Record: 12-4-1

Corey Nelson is one of the most talented fighters from Australia who is not currently signed to the UFC. In fact, three of his four career losses have come at the hands of UFC vets. With the welterweight division being contested on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations, Nelson would be an ideal candidate to lead the Aussie team. Riding a five-fight winning streak, Nelson fights Walber Brito de Barros at Australian Fighting Championships 6 at the end of August.

Robert Whittaker
Weight Class: Welterweight
Fighting Out Of: Sydney, Australia
Gym: PMA Martial Arts
Record: 11-2

After winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, Robert Whittaker hasn’t slowed down a step. A KO win over TUF 16 counterpart Colton Smith at UFC 160 proved that Whittaker belongs on the big stage. In preparation for his fight against Smith, Whittaker spent part of his training camp at Tristar in Montreal, shoring up his wrestling with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald. The work paid dividends, and Whittaker will face TUF 11 winner Court McGee at UFC on Fox Sports 1: 2 on August 28.

Kyle Noke
Nickname: KO
Weight Class: Welterweight
Fighting Out Of: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Gym: Jackson’s MMA/Integrated MMA
Record: 20-6-1

TUF 11 alum and a former bodyguard for the “The Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, Kyle Noke has had mixed success inside the Octagon. He won his first three fights in the UFC—all finishes—but back-to-back losses saw him cut down to welterweight, where he starched Charlie Brenneman at UFC 152. Noke’s next assignment will be showcasing his skills as the coach of Team Australia on the upcoming TUF: Nations series. Going full-circle with the TUF franchise is not something that many fighters get to do, but the Greg Jackson trained fighter is embracing the opportunity and looking forward to his stint against Canadian coach Patrick Cote.

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Despite losing a small fortune in bonus money for a failed drug test at UFC 159, lightweight Pat Healy manned-up and moved forward.

Following the biggest victory of his career in April, UFC lightweight Pat Healy was suddenly transformed into a teenager who had worked hard all summer and couldn’t wait for his first, fat paycheck to arrive in the mail.

“I was going to my mailbox every day, waiting for that big check to finally come” says Healy. “Then one day I got a letter from the NJ Athletic Commission instead.” It may as well have been a letter from Mr. Buzzkillington.

Making his UFC debut, Healy had just pulled off a major upset at UFC 159 in New Jersey, submitting perennial contender Jim Miller in his own backyard and earning the Team Quest fighter both “Submission of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” bonuses totaling $130,000. It was the breakout performance of his career and by far the biggest payday for the hard-nosed Irishman from Salem, Oregon.

“I got very nervous and thought to myself, this is not good,” Healy says. “I opened the letter up and it said that I’d failed the post-fight drug test and was suspended for 90 days. I then realized I wasn’t going to get any of the bonus money.”

He was right. Healy’s victory was overturned to a no-contest, he had to forfeit his $5,000 win bonus, and he lost out on the $130,000 award bonuses after his post-fight drug test relieved marijuana in his system. Yes, marijuana, which is now legal in two states. While pot continues to gain acceptance in society, it is still a banned substance by athletic commissions regulating MMA, including the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, which oversaw his fight against Miller.

While other fighters are receiving fines of a couple thousand dollars for having elevated testosterone levels or PEDs in their system, you could argue this was much too severe of a penalty for a non-performance-enhancing drug, but not Healy, who admitted that he used marijuana, accepted the UFC and commission’s disciplinary measures, and took responsibility for his actions.

“It certainly was a bummer losing out on all that money, but it was my own fault, I had to be a man about it,” says Healy. “I didn’t want to be one of those guys who lied about it and said it was secondhand smoke or anything like that. I wanted to address the issue right away because I didn’t want people to think I used PEDs—that is very important to me—so I guess I just had to man-up.”

The decision to smoke weed with some old friends would prove to be a very costly decision for the veteran fighter.

“I smoked like three or four weeks out,” he says. “I didn’t really think it would be an issue when it came to the drug test. I knew the rules and never should have done it, but I never thought it would be an issue. I’m sure there are many things I could have done to make sure my system was clean, but I didn’t really even think about it and was very surprised when it came up in my system.”

Surprised may be the understatement of the year.

While the loss of thousands of dollars could prove to be the breaking point for some, Healy has used the unfortunate situation to rededicate himself to mixed martial arts. He has a new four-fight deal with the UFC, is scheduled to face undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov September 21 at UFC 165 in Toronto, and is looking to build off his performance against Miller to get into title contention.

“There were a few days where I stared at a wall in a dark room and was very angry with myself,” says Healy. “But I just tried to be a man about it, took responsibility, and leaned on family and friends to help me get over it. The fight with Nurmagomedov is exactly what I need. He’s tough, has impressive wrestling skills, and is undefeated. If I can get another win against him, I feel I’ll be right back in the mix.”

Even with his win over Miller officially being overturned to a no-contest, “Bam Bam” is doing some of the best fighting of his career recently and is 9-1 in his past 10 fights. The veteran of 45 professional bouts has recorded victories over Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, and Dan Hardy.

Although Healy has received some much needed support during this difficult time, it doesn’t mean he didn’t get an earful from those closest to him.

“My brother Ryan didn’t let me have it too bad, but his wife certainly had some choice words,” he says. “She wasn’t happy because we have a business plan that we are working on to invest in a UFC gym where my brother currently works as an assistant general manager and is taking over as full GM. So she was pretty upset with me because that would have been the rest of the money to complete the investment. I got reamed pretty hard by her for that.”

While the UFC has pleaded with athletic commissions to reduce the penalty for marijuana and increase the allowable threshold of the drug being in a fighters’ system, Healy, for now, is the poster-boy for being busted for smoking marijuana. It was a hard lesson to learn.

“You just can’t take things for granted,” says Healy. “I took things too lightly by doing something against the rules. I really appreciate my job and being with the UFC and am happy they stood behind me and really thankful for all I still have. I’m officially finished with pot.”
Although it may have been the “high road” that got him into this mess in the first place, the 30-year-old continues to travel down that path.

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UFC middleweight Mark Munoz was tricked into MMA by a “Kid”…was heel-hooked by a “Gangster” while wrestling in college…and found himself slamming “The Natural” in the most unnatural way.

In late July, just a couple of weeks after he came back from a year-long dark period to beat Tim Boetsch at UFC 162, Mark Munoz is in his element coaching wrestling. He has two camps occurring simultaneously at his base in Southern California—one a 10-day general camp, the other a five-day advanced technique course. It’s so busy that he has to keep a strict schedule on a dry-erase board to help marshal through his long days…days that begin at 6 a.m. and end 17 hours later at 11 p.m. It’s so busy he has to pencil in shower times.

The thing is, Munoz loves it like this because his ability to multitask is on par with his ability to annihilate people via ground-and-pound. The more punishing, the better.

In fact, in the midst of what sounds like utter chaos—in which he excuses himself twice, once to introduce his special guest wrestling coach, Joe Heskett, who now coaches at Army, and once to help somebody having an asthma attack—Munoz can tell a story about how he was dragged kicking and screaming into MMA by a pesky assistant coach he worked with at UC Davis back in the day.

Think it was some alpha-urge to conquer the fiercest combatants in the cage that lured Munoz into four-ounce gloves? Nope, it was none other than Urijah Faber. It was the Spicoli-like “California Kid” who created the barrel-crashing monstrosity that is known as “The Filipino Wrecking Machine.”

“Urijah came up to me and said, ‘You should learn how to fight, you’d be really good,’” Munoz says. “I said, ‘No man, I’m good—I’m not going to fight.’ But you know how he talks, he’s like, ‘Bro, come on, bro. Give it a try. Come on, bro.’”

At the time, Munoz was coaching wrestling and working on his master’s degree. He already had a wife and four children and was closing in on 30 years old. He was feeling a little long in the tooth to be contemplating a new career path. But as he was cornering Faber early years ago, he admitted there was a “void” left after coming up short of making the Olympic team. As a lifelong competitor and standout wrestler from his days at Oklahoma State, Munoz had a readily transferrable base to the mixed martial arts. The writing was on the wall. Faber, knowing this better than Munoz, started getting in his ear.

“Actually, you know what? Urijah tricked me into getting into it,” Munoz says. “He brought in Randy Couture, Brandon Vera, Rampage Jackson, Frank Trigg, and a bunch of other guys. And he asked if it would be cool if I came in and taught some wrestling? I said, ‘Yeah man, of course—I can do that with my eyes closed.’ So I came in, and noticed everybody was wrapping their hands. I was like, ‘Wait, why is everybody wrapping their hands?’”

That red flag wouldn’t be the last. After teaching some inside trips and throws to everyone per the agreement, he was paired off to spar with Couture, who was the UFC Heavyweight Champion at the time. When Munoz was asked to step in with “The Natural,” he did what any rational person would do in that situation—he protested.

“But then Urijah comes up to me and was like, ‘Dude, no worries—just double-jab, double-leg, and you’ll be fine, man, once you get him on the ground your instincts will take control.’ They peer pressured me, and here I always tell my kids never succumb to peer pressure. I double-jabbed and double-legged the first time, then the second time, then got in the third time—picked him up and slammed him on his back, and everyone was screaming, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I just took down Randy Couture!’ And then I’m just going Donkey Kong on him, just boom, boom, boom, 100 percent. And Randy was like, ‘Hey man, calm down. We’re not trying to kill each other—we’re sparring. I have to defend my belt, I can’t get injured.’ I was like, ‘Oh, sorry, I thought that was how we were supposed to do it.’ So after that, in classic Randy Couture style, he gets me against the cage and starts kneeing me and dirty boxing. I was like, ‘Hold on, I thought this is what we weren’t supposed to be doing?’”

In other words, Munoz was duped into a second career that he has all but flourished in, sporting a 13-3 professional MMA record. All it took to get here was Faber, a terrifying experience with Couture, and a Donkey Kong impression that he gets to try out on a whole crop of 185-pound guinea pigs. It looked like Munoz was right there in line for a title shot before he suffered a setback against the newly crowned UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman in 2012.

Since then, it’s been a lot of ups and downs—he had to endure a year-long layoff where he recovered from a broken foot, ended up depressed, and, in his words, “fat”…only to lose all that weight, get right in his head, and rediscover his mojo. Out of the public eye for the most part, it’s been a fairly private restoration project. It seems he’s back, though. The Munoz that showed up against Boetsch at UFC 162 looks like the one that pummeled CB Dolloway and Chris Leben. Now, Munoz will travel to England to face Michael Bisping in October, in what will potentially serve as a catalyst for that title shot.

Not that he’s thinking too deeply about that stuff, as he trains the kids in his summer wrestling camp. As you may know by now, Munoz is a man of a million stories. In fact, while wrestling for the Cowboys on the collegiate mat, he came up against some unexpected pieces of jiu-jitsu in a match against an Oregon Duck.

“Man was I livid,” he says. “I can joke about it now, but at the time, I was really mad at Chael Sonnen. In the match, it was kind of close in the first period, we got into a scramble. So Chael—and he’d been fighting for quite some time and was actually studying jiu-jitsu and MMA when he was wrestling at Oregon—scrambled into a knee bar. I didn’t know what was happening, but I defended the knee bar, and then he went for a heel hook. And this is in a wrestling match! I ended up tapping, and the ref gave me one point for an illegal hold. But my ankle popped. All my trainers came out, and they were taping my foot. I was so mad that happened, so mad that I just turned into the Incredible Hulk. After that, I was just on him. I ended up scoring a lot of points on him and winning the match.”

The two were scheduled to fight each other in the cage in early 2012 before an elbow injury tabled Munoz, so the “rematch” never materialized. But these days, Sonnen and Munoz have become good friends and teammates together at Reign Training Center in Lake Forrest, where Munoz coaches.

“We can joke about the college match today, and he always goes, ‘Hey man, can you blame me? Can you blame me?’ I guess if the ‘If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying’ motto is true with him, then I can’t blame him—but I blame him anyway.”

Munoz, the coach, has been making headway of late. He not only has Sonnen in his stable, but Jake Ellenberger and an ever-growing list of brand names in the sport. He says he thinks he’s a better coach than he is an athlete, which is saying something when you consider his résumé. Munoz’s first love is wrestling, and that’s why he spends part of the summer running camps and broadening the talent levels of his teammates. It might also be the fundamental reason that the Weidman loss from the summer of 2012 sticks so sorely in his craw.

In that fight, in which he says he was out of sorts as the result of an “adversity stricken camp,” he just didn’t look right. He didn’t look right because, among other things, the wrestler was nowhere in sight. Munoz got knocked out via a wicked counter elbow in the second round in a bout he failed to land even one significant strike.

That fight launched Weidman toward history, while it sent Munoz off into a process of rediscovery. These days he can appreciate that silver lining, and after beating Boetsch the way he did, the first hurdle is cleared—Munoz is no longer the forgotten man in the 185-pound division.
“I made it apparent that me fighting Weidman that night last year and the guy who fought Boetsch this year are two totally different people,” he says. “I made that very apparent. I made sure the world saw that in my performance. I feel strongly about my wrestling, and I wasn’t able to showcase that during my fight because of some of the injuries I had.
I’ve always had a wrestling mentality, and it took me a whole year to sit out and change my perspective about training, and about injuries. I’m a wrestler—if I have an injury, I’m just going to tape it up, tough it out, and train. That’s who I was, and I needed this year to change my perspective.”

And with that, he turns back his attention to 150 young wrestlers following in his stubborn footsteps. It’s only early afternoon, and at 35-years-old and with a new head of steam, Munoz has miles to go before he sleeps.

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Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.

Carlos Diego Ferreira
Record: 7-0
Key Victory: Carlo Prater
Weight Class: 155 lbs.
Age: 28
Country: United States
Twitter: @diegobjjtx

In just two short years, Carlos Diego Ferreira has become one of the top lightweight prospects in Texas. Most recently, Ferreira headlined Legacy FC 20 and outshined UFC veteran Carlo Prater en route to a unanimous-decision victory in the evening’s main event.

“I did what I was supposed to do,” says Ferreira. “I wanted to exchange a little bit and try out my stand-up, and I wanted to see if I had improved my game or if I needed to go to the ground. I did good with all of my skills, and I really liked my performance this time.”

Heading into his first major headlining spot on live television could have intimidated a fighter with just six career bouts, but not so for Ferreira.

“I really don’t think about it,” he says. “When I get inside the cage, I really don’t think about anything. I like to turn off everything and concentrate on the fight. I was excited to be on TV, but it wasn’t really any different than my previous fights.”

While his mindset might not have been different, Ferreira says that getting a chance to be part of Legacy has helped him expand greatly from his home base in southern Texas.

“I have a lot of fans here in the valley, but when I go to Corpus Christi, only a few guys I know go, but being on TV helps a lot with getting new fans,” he says. “It helps get me exposure, and I really like to be on TV and show my work.”

Even with enhanced exposure and a win over a well-known opponent, Ferreira refuses to let things go to his head. He knows he still has a lot of work to do to reach his goal.

“It feels pretty good, and I know Carlo is a really awesome fighter, but I know I have a lot more people I need to fight and beat,” says Ferreira. “I don’t think I’m the best. Right now, I don’t have anything planned. I have two more fights with Legacy, so when it comes time to fight again in Legacy, I’ll be ready. I really want to fight the best, and I know I have to fight better guys to get to the big show. I know I will get there one day.”

Rick Rainey
Record: 7-1
Key Victories: Reggie Pena, Joseph Corneroli
Weight Class: 170 lbs.
Age: 30
Country: United States
Nickname: The Sniper
Twitter: @RickyRaineyMMA

Ricky “The Sniper” Rainey is a fighter’s fighter and a promoter’s dream. He comes to fight—every time—and nothing keeps him out of the cage when he commits to a fight. His fight against Joseph Corneroli at XFC 22 in February was a perfect example. Rainey admittedly did not have the best performance, but it was for a good reason.

“I feel like I could have done better, but he was ready for battle,” says Rainey. “I definitely respect him for taking the fight and performing as well as he did. I had a fractured hand going into the fight, so I wasn’t at 100 percent, but I got the unanimous decision, so I was happy about it in the end.”

When asked why he would take a fight with such an injury, Rainey gave an old-school answer.

“I didn’t want to let the XFC down. I want to perform whenever they want me to perform. I’d already signed the contract, so I didn’t want to back out. You’re always going to have injuries going into a fight, so I just made sure I was prepared for it.”

Rainey followed up his win at XFC 22 with another unanimous-decision victory at Fight Lab 31, and then he took out Reggie Pena via TKO at XFC 24, making him one of the top contenders for the promotion’s welterweight championship.

“What I’m going to try to do is keep the ball rolling,” he says. “I know I want to keep going forward, keep winning, and be successful without any injuries. Whatever comes my way, I’ll gladly take it.”

Steve Carl
Record: 20-3
Key Victories: Tyson Steele, Tyler Stinson, Brett Cooper
Weight Class: 170 lbs.
Age: 28
Country: United States
Twitter: @Steve_Carl

After losing his second fight in three bouts and being released from Bellator, welterweight Steve Carl knew he had to make some changes if he was going to get back on track. Specifically, Carl felt his mindset needed to change if he was going to return to being a successful fighter.

“After the fight with Douglas [Lima], I took a step back and figured if I’m going to do this, I need to get in there and just let myself do it,” says Carl. “I was on a year break before I fought Douglas, and once I got in the cage, I was nervous, I was hesitant, and I thought I was going to lose that fight going into it—and I fought that way. Going forward, I knew if I was going to continue in this sport, I needed to just jump in there head-first and fight. That’s what I’ve been doing, and things have been going well.”

Having gotten his head back into the game, Carl (20-3) has won six fights in a row, including his first two bouts for the burgeoning World Series of Fighting promotion.

“I like the fact that the WSOF is bringing in known guys, because that gives me an opportunity to compete. If I fight them and beat them, that is a great opportunity to jump up in the fans’ minds.”

Carl is coming off a victory over Tyson Steele at World Series of Fighting 3 in June. That victory could propel him to contender status for the promotion’s first welterweight championship. Carl could soon be lined up to fight either UFC veteran Jon Fitch to earn his way into the title bout, or perhaps even step immediately into a battle for the belt against Josh Burkman.

Regardless of whether or not a title shot is the next stop for Carl, the victory over Steele, one of the promotion’s top rising stars, put him in the spotlight and on everyone’s radar.

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The night before Chris Weidman beat Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Title, Ray Longo saw things unfolding before his eyes.

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Photo: USA TODAY SPORTS

Heavyweight great Floyd Patterson wouldn’t have sex during his training camps before fights, because he believed it weakened the knees. This is a proud fight game deprivation that has been passed down through the centuries. It’s more scientific than a rabbit’s foot, but “Jersey” Joe Walcott carried around a miniature horseshoe just in case. Fighters always have been superstitious. Englishman Charlie Mitchell, it is said, avoided cross-eyed women before a bout. Phobias like that are a dime a dozen.

Yet, New York’s Jake LaMotta had no use for charms and no fear of crook-eyed women. Back in the day, he even laughed at Patterson’s forced celibacy on a televised roundtable with him. To a no-nonsense New Yorker, a fight hinges on getting in there and fighting. That’s it. And that’s the sort of cloth that Long Island’s Chris Weidman is cut from.

On the eve of his historic fight with the UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, Weidman was in bed. He had read some inspirational texts and was sleeping away the last Friday night before his life would change. For weeks leading up, he insisted the pressure that comes with fighting for the belt wouldn’t bog him down. He wouldn’t disappear in the moment, he said, wouldn’t let doubt creep in. He told FIGHT! two months prior in New York, “I have a refuse-to-lose attitude.” That sort of projection seemed admirable from a distance, but also increasingly unrealistic as the thing drew near. Even for a guy with a degree in psychology, as Weidman has, it’s hard to stay raveled when the boogieman of the division looms ahead—when posters of Silva and yourself are everywhere you look in Las Vegas. The immensity of that moment can do things to a man.

But by Friday night, he’d been hit with the worst of it already. He’d gotten through the weigh-ins and all the boom mics and recorders and the bombardment of familiar questions. He dealt with the doubts—all of them transferrable from the tone of the questions—and absorbed the “dead man walking” looks. He’d strolled by Silva and his monstrous entourage many times, coolly ignoring the archipelago of yellow and black shirts that moved through the throngs at the MGM to wild chants.

Even when he and Silva went lips-to-lips in the weigh-in stare down, he smiled and joked about the unexpected softness of the Champ’s sweet kiss. He had been a good sport.

Now, he was fast asleep in a town that doesn’t sleep, with only one thing left to do—get up tomorrow and take out the number one pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.

His trainer, Ray Longo, wasn’t sleeping, because it’s left to the closest people in a fighter’s camp to do the worrying. He came downstairs for a quick drink at the Rouge Bar in the MGM Grand, a little Grey Goose and grapefruit. He’d been with Weidman throughout the night…throughout the cut…throughout the week…throughout his entire run through the UFC…all the way back to when the young Hofstra wrestler was dragged into Longo’s by a friend that insisted Longo check him out.

“He’s homegrown,” Longo says. “He grew up with me.”

Now, here he was—here they were—on the cusp of greatness.
Again.

First, there was Matt Serra in Houston at UFC 69, knocking off Georges St-Pierre in what’s still considered the greatest upset in UFC history. Serra was a local boy from Longo’s, just like Weidman. Nobody thought Serra would beat St-Pierre, other than Longo and Serra. With Weidman, it was different. People were split. Some believed he had the tools to take out the UFC’s longest running champion, but others were convinced he’d get his ass handed to him. Silva was 16-0 in the UFC, after all, and “has a highlight reel as long as Long Island,” as Longo says. Weidman was green and hadn’t fought in more than a year. Even Longo had to consider both sides. “There’s a chance we go in there and he makes us look stupid,” he said. “We won’t know until we’re in there with him.”

“Do you like this feeling, the night before a title fight like this?” I ask him.

“I do love this feeling,” he says. “He’s ready. I really think he is. He’s so strong. I want to say, if he gets a hold of Anderson’s neck, it’s over, man. This kid is so strong.”

“What did you see on the tapes of the other guys fighting Anderson?”

“That they aren’t Chris,” he says. “Weidman’s not those guys—that’s the difference. He’s really not those guys.”

“What happens when Silva drops his hands and does that thing that Silva does, where he switches modes and goes berserker?”

“When he does that, he leaves his hips open and his body open, and I’ve told Chris to punch a hole in his chest,” Longo says. “That’s another way of saying, start at the body, finish at the head. I think Anderson doesn’t realize just how long this guy’s reach is. He did that to Forrest, and Forrest just couldn’t hit him.” Here he looks up with those glassy blue eyes. “This kid—this kid will put a tracking device on his head and he’ll catch him.”

Of course, days later, Longo admits he was a nervous wreck at the bar, and the rest of the night. And he’s nervous because he feels accountable for Weidman. Here’s a kid being scrutinized by every pundit and casual fan in the country. There’s a whole Fan Expo built around the event he is headlining.

But Longo knows what he knows, about Weidman’s strength, his stand-up ability, his wrestling, his grappling, his poise, and his desire. He knows he won’t break mentally. But knowing and hoping are interchangeable the night before the event. The possibilities are of all kinds, not just those you feel good contemplating. There’s a very real possibility that this moment is the closest Chris Weidman will ever get to the sun.

“I just really want to see this kid do good,” Longo says. “Not for me, but for him. If anything goes wrong, I’ll definitely take it personal. I know we put the work in and everything, but it’s MMA, and anything can happen. I really just want to see the best for him.”

The anticipation of the fight overrides everything. Longo talks about “the kiss,” and chuckles, and about how behind the curtain before coming out to weigh-in, Silva walked up behind Weidman right to the back of his head and stood there, as if to intimidate. “I thought, what is this, kindergarten?” he laughs. “Just playing head games.” With all the things going on, with Brazilian and American fans everywhere, and the UFC handing out towels of those countries to fans in attendance, Longo finishes his drink and says, “It really has a feel of Us against Them.”

On fight night, Longo will show up with his father’s ID bracelet from the Navy, just like he always does. “I’m a whack job,” he says. “I have some superstitions. Nothing that will make me stop what I’m going to do, but things that make me feel better.”

And somewhere, Silva had a couple of Big Macs (or maybe Whoppers now that he’s sponsored by Burger King). That has long been his ritual before a fight. Everybody has their thing.

*****

“I guarantee you the second time around Weidman’s going to beat him worse than the first time.”

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Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Twenty-four hours later, Weidman is the UFC Middleweight Champion. It’s one of the most memorable knockouts in UFC history, and for a variety of reasons.
Silva dropped his hands and tried the old Venus flytrap technique, where he invites his prey in, like he has so many times, mocking Weidman the whole way.

Just as Longo said, Weidman was ready for it. He took the invitation seriously and got in on Silva to land a fateful left hook. “The reason Weidman stood up is because he knew that I believed he could beat him standing,” Longo says two days later in Long Island. “I’ve watched the kid spar so many times against quality guys and we never had a problem. If Silva had starting mugging too much, the idea was the back out, to disengage, and to re-stalk him again.”

Didn’t need to. Silva clowned, and Weidman connected. In the second round of a fight that Weidman begged for and Silva only relented to take, he knocked out the greatest mixed martial arts we’ve known to date. For the second time in his life, Longo has helped a homegrown Long Island boy become a UFC Champion. And for the second time, he’ll now prepare that guy for a rematch with the man whose belt they took.

“Honestly, I feel like these are two totally separate entities when it comes to the rematch,” he says. “I guarantee you the second time around Weidman’s going to beat him worse than the first time. Matt really went into that second fight with two herniated discs. Matt’s a company man. He was going to take that fight if they wheeled him in on a wheelchair. He had canceled on Hughes, there was no way he was going to cancel on GSP.”

Longo is hesitant to say too much about the Serra/St-Pierre fights, because these days, they’re all friends. But facts are facts, and Longo has some history on the right side of the facts. Serra shocked the world, but didn’t win the rematch. Weidman smashed the game’s greatest, and now awaits Silva’s return.

“With the antics, as far as that goes, it’s funny,” Longo says. “People are fickle. When he did it with Forrest, it was okay. When he did it with Bonnar, it was okay. All of a sudden, it’s not okay. Honestly, that’s the way the guy fights! And he paid the ultimate price for it. Weidman’s not those guys—that’s the difference. He’s really not those guys. Silva’s not going to get away with that crap, and that’s what happened. And, another thing, you give him confidence like that, I’m going to say there’s no stopping Weidman in a rematch. That’s all from knowing him versus a fan speculating from the outside. That’s just how he is. Once he gets it into his head that he can beat you—I don’t care if it’s golf, tennis, MMA, basketball, Tiddly Winks, croquet—I’m telling you, this guy’s going to be a problem.”

It was one hell of an exchange. Silva handed Weidman the belt, and in return, Weidman handed Silva the problem.

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ONE FC is the largest MMA organization in Asia and often draws comparisons to the much beloved PRIDE events—but what is ONE FC really?

Launched just two years ago on July 14, 2011, ONE Fighting Championship is now the most widely recognized MMA promotion in Asia and is gaining global steam. Holding sold-out events in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, and Singapore, ONE FC has expanded rapidly in popularity and has even landed a 10-year contract with ESPN/Star Sports to broadcast their events.

Now, I am as cynical as the rest of the MMA community when it comes to a new organization being hailed as “The Next Big Thing.” The canyon of MMA organization doom is wide, deep, and filled with millions of dollars in wasted funds, broken promises, and unrealized hype. We have seen the mighty fall. Is ONE FC really any different?

In my humble opinion, yes—and for a few key reasons.

1) The Rules for ONE FC create a slightly different product.

ONE FC has augmented the standard MMA Global Rule Set by utilizing both the PRIDE and Nevada Rules that allow for soccer kicks, as well as permitting the use of stomp kicks to the body and legs, and the use of elbows. The knees can be used at any time during the fight, but stomp kicks can never be used against the head.

PRIDE rules can be utilized at any point during the fight—a recent change made to ONE FC rules, which used to call for the referee to signal “Open Attack” before PRIDE rules would apply. The confusion in the application of PRIDE rules led to some controversy during the early ONE FC events, an issue that has now been rectified.

2) The people involved are tremendously knowledgeable.

Victor Cui, the CEO and owner of ONE FC, was also the man behind Martial Combat—another ESPN Star Sports fight promotion. In 2010, Martial Combat delivered 12 events on ESPN Star Sports, in what was described as a “small pilot test project” for what would become ONE FC, after effectively working out some of the kinks.

Another man at the ONE FC helm is MMA pioneer Matt Hume. Matt is the Executive VP of ONE FC and has been a catalyst in the brands success thus far.

3) The business model is unique.

ONE FC has taken a vastly different approach in building their organization—a factor that is key to their unparalleled success in short order. They are embracing the power of leverage and forging strong relationships with gyms, organizations, and sponsors. By creating summits and other efficient meetings of the minds, they have developed great synergies that have enabled them to grow their brand rapidly throughout Asia.

What’s Next?

The next ONE Fighting Championship event is scheduled for September 13, 2013, in Jakarta and features archrivals Yasuhiro Urushitani against Shinichi Kojima in a flyweight world title fight. The rivalry between the two Japanese men is well known, as they fought each other twice previously—both times ending in a draw—when they were part of the Shooto organization.

Given the previous success of ONE Fighting Championship events, the leadership of Victor Cui, and a significant 10-year contract with ESPN Star Sports, there is little doubt that the ONE FC will continue to enjoy success and growth in Asia, and perhaps even start reaching into competitive markets to expand their unique brand of fighting.

Is ONE FC the next PRIDE? No. There will never be another PRIDE. But taking lessons learned from their downfall and maintaining the current course may enable them to be more than PRIDE ever was. Time will tell.

The next ONE Fighting Championship event is scheduled for September 13, 2013, in Jakarta, Indonesia. For more information visit onefc.com

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Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.

image descStephanie Eggink
Record: 3-1
Key Victories: Heather Clark, Brianna Van Buren
Weight Class: 115 lbs.
Age: 24
Country: United States
Nickname: Snowflake
Twitter: 00Snowflake

Sometimes the best thing that can happen to a fighter is to get that first loss out of the way, retool, and come back stronger than ever. Following her first professional loss in March 2012 via brutal knockout to Kaline Medeiros, XFC 115-pound prospect Stephanie “Snowflake” Eggink was in bad shape in more ways than one.

“I got a pretty serious concussion from it, so I had to take some time off,” says Eggink. “I really wasn’t expecting to get knocked out by Kaline. I have a high-level background in boxing and she was a throw-from-the-hip kind of fighter, so it was kind of humbling and did some damage to me mentally.”

Following her physical recovery, Eggink took a big chance, stepping up to face veteran Heather Clark at XFC 21. It was a tough fight, but she managed to pull off the victory.

“It was my first fight back from my concussion, and it was more meaningful than just a win because I was honestly scared to get back in the cage after that,” says Eggink. “Even in my fight against Heather, I was afraid to pull the trigger, but I started letting go a little bit more in the third round. I wasn’t expected to win that fight. I won, so I think it shows that I’m a force in the 115 division.”

Eggink impressed the XFC enough with her unanimous decision win over Clark to earn a 115-pound title shot against Angela Magana at XFC 23. Unfortunately, Magana had to pull out of the fight and Eggink instead drew Brianna Van Buren in a non-title fight.

Van Buren gave Eggink a tough fight, but it only proved to be another plus for the XFC title contender, as she had to fight through the bullish striking attack of Van Buren to earn the unanimous-decision victory.

“I want that title fight against Angela,” says Eggink, who feels she has what it takes to make a solid run in the 115-pound division. “I feel good about being dominant at this weight class. I think my game definitely puts me up there, and I’m going to keep climbing up the rankings at 115 pounds.”

image descGeorge Sullivan
Record: 13-3
Key Victories: Brandon Becker, Julian Lane, Greg Soto
Weight Class: 170 lbs.
Age: 32
Country: United States
Twitter: @SullivanMMA

Seven years and 15 fights into his MMA career and Cage Fury Fighting Championships Welterweight Champion George Sullivan is feeling the best he’s ever felt. He won the CFFC Welterweight Championship with a victory over UFC veteran Greg Soto in 2012, and he has racked up three consecutive title defenses, getting sharper and more comfortable with each successive victory. Sullivan’s second-round TKO victory in February over former TUF 16 cast member Julian Lane is evidence of that.

“I was a little cautious because he was coming out real wild in the first round, and I think I played it smart,” says Sullivan. “Once I got down his timing in the second round, I hit him with some great shots and ended his day. I was in the best shape of my life, and I just felt like there was nothing he could do.”

Sullivan followed that victory with a similar performance against Brandon Becker in the CFFC headliner in May, once again defending his title with a TKO victory.

Sullivan’s confidence has been boosted by his work at former UFC lightweight Kurt Pelligrino’s gym in New Jersey. Since joining Pelligrino MMA, Sullivan has posted an 8-1 record, as he continues to develop into an all-around fighter.
“I feel like I’m ready to go to the next level,” says Sullivan. “I feel unbeatable. I feel that wherever a fight goes, I can stop it. If I hit someone, they’re going to fall asleep. As my wrestling gets better, it allows me to strike more. I’m a striker, and anyone I’ve ever hit, I’ve knocked out. If I can keep a fight on the feet, there’s nobody that’s going to be able to stop me.”

Having felt the crush of putting too much pressure on his own shoulders to succeed as fast as possible, Sullivan has backed off of lately and now enjoys fighting for what it is. He’s comfortable letting the opportunities come his way more naturally. Now he’s just enjoying the journey as the victories mount.

“The goal used to be that I had to get to the UFC, but I put too much pressure on myself,” he says. “I like fighting for Cage Fury, and I’m enjoying fighting now. I’m in no rush to get fights. I’ll fight any time they need me to fight. I’m just enjoying it.”

image descAnthony Birchak
Record: 10-1
Key Victories: Ryan Benoit, Matt Leyva
Weight Class: 135 lbs.
Age: 27
Country: United States
Twitter: @abirchakMMA

Normally a busy fighter, Anthony Birchak is off to a slow start in 2013, not getting his first fight until May.

“I’m used to getting fights right off the bat in January or February to keep things rolling, but that was the second longest break I’ve had in my career,” says Birchak. “Six months was a long stretch for me.”

Birchak’s layoff wasn’t intentional, and in the end, it worked out well, as Canada’s Maximum Fighting Championship signed him.

“We went to Jackson’s MMA Series 10 and beat his top 135-pounder there. After that, we were just waiting in the wings to see if anyone called,” says Birchak. “We had talks with Mark Pavelich [MFC president] about being the face of their bantamweight division, and he’s the one that showed the most interest and pulled the trigger to sign me.”

The move paid off for both parties. Birchak moved up to the international ranks and got the exposure of fighting on AXS TV, while MFC got the new bantamweight star that it was looking for. Birchak even became one half of the MFC 37 main event when the card’s original headliner, a heavyweight title fight, fell apart at the last minute.

At MFC 37, Birchak and Ryan Benoit fought a back-and-forth battle that featured numerous submission attempts, strong striking displays, and a healthy dose of ground-and-pound. Birchak took a unanimous decision victory in the end, winning his MFC debut and earning a shot at the inaugural MFC Bantamweight Championship later this year.

“I feel like fighting for the MFC is where I’m supposed to be right now, and I plan on winning that title soon.”

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After bursting into the Octagon in February, the UFC women’s bantamweight division is showing no signs of cooling off. Anchored by the dominating presence of Ronda Rousey, this year’s fight calendar is packed with top-10 matchups, while a fresh crop of talent is set to emerge on the co-ed The Ultimate Fighter 18. Couple that with upstart female fight league Invicta FC, which is putting on its sixth show this month, and it’s a good time to be a bad girl…in the cage. Here are 10 female fighters who are bad to the core.

Ronda Rousey
Nickname: Rowdy
Division: Bantamweight
Hometown: Venice, CA
Record: 7-0

Two years ago, Rousey was a graveyard-shift receptionist at 24-Hour Fitness and a physical therapist to dogs, occasionally over-drafting her checking account for McDonald’s coffee. She was suffering from competitive burnout after winning the bronze medal in judo in the 2008 Olympics. In the last year, she’s quickly built a resume of gold: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champ, pay-per-view headliner, The Ultimate Fighter coach, and cover girl for ESPN The Magazine: Body Issue.

Replacing Gina Carano as the face of women’s MMA, the undefeated Rousey has turned the armbar into a signature move and become a cash cow for the UFC. A top-five PPV draw after her UFC 157 main-event against Liz Carmouche, she next fights Miesha Tate following their stint as coaches on TUF 18.

Cat Zingano
Nickname: Alpha
Division: Bantamweight
Hometown: Broomfield, CO
Record: 8-0

A regional champ at 125-135 pounds, undefeated Cat Zingano was scheduled to make her big-show debut last year at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy, but the event was canceled. Zuffa, however, kept her contract handy. Six months later, she awoke to a missed call from a Las Vegas-area number. It was UFC president Dana White, who told her she would win a title shot and coaching position opposite Rousey if she beat Miesha Tate at the TUF 17 Finale.

Although lesser-known than her ex-champion counterpart, Zingano grabbed the spotlight in April by smashing Tate with a flurry of knees in the second-ever women’s UFC bout. Unfortunately, a knee injury forced her to withdraw from TUF 18 and her title shot, but she is expected to face the winner of Rousey vs. Tate sometime next year.

Miesha Tate
Nickname: Cupcake
Division: Bantamweight
Hometown: Yakima, WA
Record: 13-4

Miesha Tate wrestled on the boys’ team in high school and joined an MMA club in college. She became a fixture of the bantamweight class in Strikeforce, where she posted a 4-1 record before submitting Marloes Coenen to win the promotion’s title.

Her rivalry with Ronda Rousey helped push women’s MMA back to headliner status in March 2012, but unfortunately, the star-making opportunity would again go to her opponent, as Rousey brutally dislocated her elbow with an armbar. Zingano’s injury now gives her another chance at redemption, and she’s set to rematch Rousey in late December after coaching TUF 18.

Marloes Coenen
Nickname: Rumina
Division: Featherweight
Hometown: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Record: 21-5

One of the most experienced female fighters in active competition, Coenen came to national prominence in Strikeforce, where she faltered against the ferocious Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino but came back to armbar Sarah Kaufman to win the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Title.

Coenen, who began training martial arts to guard against attackers during a daily bike ride through a forest in her hometown, had a short title reign, submitting future UFC contender Liz Carmouche but tapping out to Miesha Tate. One of four casualties in a business dispute between her MMA team Golden Glory and Zuffa, Coenen was cut from Strikeforce, but she found a home with Invicta FC, where she’ll get a chance at revenge against Cyborg this month.

Cristiane Justino
Nickname: Cyborg
Division: Featherweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 11-1

Discovered playing handball by legendary Chute Boxe trainer Rudimar Fedrigo, Christiane Justino was as fierce in the gym as she was on the court. Making her big-show debut in the defunct EliteXC, “Cyborg,” who took her nickname from her now-ex-husband Evangelista Santos, quickly made it clear that opponents couldn’t hang with her relentless output of violence. With a flurry of fists, knees, and ground-and-pound, she obliterated the scant competition in the featherweight division, including the face of women’s MMA, Gina Carano.

After a positive test for steroids that led to her ouster from Strikeforce, Santos spent almost two years on the bench, during which she developed a heated rivalry with Rousey that stoked the fire of a potential blockbuster PPV. It wasn’t to be, as Justino passed on a new UFC contract in favor of a deal with Invicta FC. Cyborg will rematch Marloes Coenen in July, but many believe a showdown with Rousey is inevitable.

Sarah Kaufman
Division: Bantamweight
Hometown: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Record: 16-2

Trading ballet slippers for MMA gloves as a teen, Kaufman proved to be as nimble inside the cage as on the dance floor, mowing down four straight top-tier opponents in Strikeforce—one by epic KO slam—and winning the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Title. She lost the belt to Coenen and became victim No. 9 of Rousey’s armbar, but she was one of the first signed to the UFC when the promotion opened up to women.

Kaufman, who has been working closely with Greg Jackson in recent years, now awaits her Octagon debut.

Sara McMann
Division: Bantamweight
Hometown: Gaffney, S.C.
Record: 7-0

A standout wrestler in high school, Sara McMann medaled in three World Championships before winning a spot in the 2004 Olympics, where she became the first American women to win silver as a freestyle competitor.

After a failed bid for the 2008 Olympic team, she switched to MMA in 2011 and won four fights that year. After a brief stint in Invicta, McMann was signed by the UFC and made her debut at UFC 159, where she earned a first-round TKO over Shiela Gaff. With her stellar mat credentials and improving striking game, she’s consistently mentioned as a future contender to Rousey’s crown.

Alexis Davis
Nickname: Ally-Gator
Division: Bantamweight
Hometown: Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada
Record: 14-5

If you want to watch a display of grit and heart, pull up Davis’ fight against Sarah Kaufman at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey. A non-stop flurry of fists, she took everything Kaufman doled out and kept coming forward, blood and all. She lost the fight, but impressed UFC matchmakers after a pair of wins in Invicta. In her UFC debut, Davis defeated Rosi Sexton via unanimous decision.

A black-belt in jiu-jitsu, her nimbleness on the mat and raw heart make her a tough challenge for anyone in the bantamweight class.

Liz Carmouche
Nickname: Girl-Rilla
Division: Bantamweight
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Record: 8-3

Carmouche put fans on the edge of their seats at UFC 157 when she took Ronda Rousey’s back and cranked the champ’s face so hard she left the fight with bite marks on her forearm. Of course, her surge would be short-lived, as Rousey bucked and found her trademark armbar. But the impression she left wasn’t lost on the UFC.

Carmouche, who’s set to fight newcomer Jessica Andrade at UFC on FOX 8 on July 27, made headlines as a former Marine and openly gay fighter. But at 29 years old, her compelling backstory only complements what’s been a quick rise in the 135-pound division. So far, only champs and former champs have trumped her ground-and-pound skills.

Michelle Waterson
Nickname: Karate Hottie
Division: Atomweight
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Record: 11-3

The former Hooters girl, bikini model, and Wushu practitioner got her intro to MMA through UFC lightweight Donald Cerrone before eventually becoming a regular at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s MMA. After some initial struggles in her MMA transition, the 27-year-old earned her biggest win to date when she bested Jessica Penne to win the Invicta FC Atomweight Championship.
Although the 105-pound champ’s division is probably furthest from inclusion in the UFC’s ranks, Waterson could be a breakout star if Invicta is able to secure a TV deal this year.

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It’s every sports franchise worst nightmare—dealing with the gut-wrenching news that their All-Star player has been injured and is out for the season. Suddenly, the team’s championship dreams have all but disappeared and their die-hard fans are flooding suicide hotlines for support.

The only thing that could make this situation worse is if the savior of the organization was hurt while snowboarding at a premier mountain resort or racing his brand new Harley Davidson. Just ask the Chicago Bulls or Cleveland Browns, who lost their stud players Jay Williams and Kellen Winslow Jr. following motorcycle accidents.

No sport, including MMA, has been immune to players suffering injures off the field, or in the case of mixed martial arts, outside the gym or cage. When a fighter goes down, it can affect an entire event.

In an effort to prevent these misfortunes from taking place, the UFC has followed the lead of other major professional sporting leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB by creating a “dangerous activities” clause to a fighter’s bout agreement. Once the fight is made official and the athlete has signed the agreement, they are now contractually held to not participate in activities like snowboarding or water skiing. If they have not officially signed to fight, they’re free to participate in any hobbies they want to without repercussions.

“We have a code of conduct, and part of the code is the ‘dangerous activities’ clause,” says Marc Ratner, the UFC’s vice president of regulatory affairs. “We don’t want these fighters racing motorcycles, climbing mountains, doing rodeos…or anything else where they can get hurt. We’ve studied all the other sports when it comes to good conduct and moral clauses, and this one is in almost every other sport, so it was time for us to look into it.”

UFC president Dana White has been an advocate of the policy from day one. “We handle it situation by situation,” White says. “I get it, these are young, aggressive guys, but I would prefer MMA to be the only dangerous activity they do, but I can’t police everybody.”

Even the superstars are not exempt.

“If I hear Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre are doing something nutty,” White says, “I’m going to put in a phone call and say, ‘Come on, Georges.’”

After main events and entire cards were blown up or lost entirely in 2012, it makes sense that the UFC is trying to discourage their athletes from taking risks outside of the sport. After all, MMA is already hazardous enough. Although, it seems a bit ironic that men who fight in a cage for a living and are awarded bonuses for knocking out their opponents in emphatic fashion are prohibited from horseback riding or pick-up basketball games.

But when UFC Bantamweight Champion Jose Aldo was scratched from his UFC 153 title fight due to the serious injuries he suffered from crashing his motorcycle, it proved the exact point the UFC was making.

Extreme In & Out

UFC lightweight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone could be the poster boy for the UFC’s new policy. Known for his love of extreme sports, including wakeboarding, rock climbing, and bull riding, he was one of the first fighters to voice his displeasure with the new restrictions added to UFC contracts. image descHowever, the policy didn’t really deter him, as a video surfaced of him performing crazy wakeboard stunts. He also Tweeted pictures of his rock climbing adventures.

Then, like a devastating right hook to the head, a 40-foot fall woke him up.

“I was showing Leonard Garcia what would happen if you slipped, and as I did, I actually fell,” Cerrone says. “I didn’t set the gear up correctly, and then pop, pop, pop, pop. Four of my five anchors ripped out, and by that time I had so much slack in the rope that I basically bounced of a rock that flung me out, and I smashed into the ground.”

What would have happened if that last hook didn’t hold? “I would have been hurt pretty bad,” he says, in the understatement of the year.

News of his fall traveled quickly.

“We heard about a fighter who fell while rock climbing,” says Ratner. “That’s the exact stuff we don’t want our fighters doing. We don’t want them jeopardizing their careers for fun.”

Social media alerted Dana White to Cerrone’s accident.

“That’s pretty much what happened with Cerrone,” says White. “I saw something about him rock climbing on Twitter and hit him up and said, ‘Come on. Are you crazy, kid?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ laughing and joking about it. Then he had the rock climbing incident, and he hit me back and said, ‘You’re right, I’m wrong. I’m done.’”

“I told Dana, no more of that BS while I’m in training camp,” says Cerrone. “I realized I have to limit how hard I go with my activities.”

While the UFC can’t follow their fighters 24/7 and watch their every move, they have attempted to educate their athletes on the risks associated with participating in dangerous activities.

And not all sports are considered “dangerous.”

UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson routinely takes part in jiu-jitsu tournaments, and the UFC doesn’t seem to mind.
“The UFC has never given me any problems about participating in jiu-jitsu tournaments,” says Henderson. “I told them during my contract negotiations that I would be doing jiu-jitsu tournaments and asked if that was cool. They said as long as it’s not the day before the fight, you’re good to go.”

However, other activities like rock climbing, horseback riding, and motorcycle racing will result in a meeting with the big boss.

“If we hear about a fighter doing something crazy, we will bring them in to talk with Dana to see if a suspension is necessary,” says Ratner. “I believe he would give them a warning, but if a fighter continues to do dangerous activities, it would be cause for termination. It’s just that simple—but a talk with Dana is usually all it takes.”

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