We keep you up to date on the week’s MMA highlights including the latest from Conor McGregor, a new Irish UFC star and the end of an era for Ariel Helwani.
After the insanity that came with the buildup to one of the year’s finest fight-cards, UFC 225, the MMA world can be forgiven for taking a breather in the last seven days. Not to say that there wasn’t anything of note, but with the aftermath of UFC 225 and UFC 226 just around the corner – enjoy these quiet times while you can because things are about to kick off.
Conor McGregor comes in first after his recent day in court amounted to little more than a brief appearance that lasted under a minute, something that was followed by the announcement of a rescheduled date for July 26.
McGregor made a short statement to the media outside the courtroom in which he voiced his regret over the incidents of the UFC 223 media day but the overall feeling among those who were waiting for some progress in his case was one of frustration.
“I regret my actions that led me here today.
“I understand the seriousness of this matter and I’m hopeful to get it resolved soon.”
Stephen Thompson found himself in the news for several reasons this week. Firstly, he made his wish to fight the former-champion Robbie Lawler known. Both men had flirted with the idea just after the Ruthless one lost his belt to the current-champ Tyron Woodley, but Wonderboy found himself in a title-fight instead.
The UFC’s next stop in Madison Square Garden, New York, was the date put forward and with both men free from having an opponent on the horizon, it could well be the fight to make.
Thompson also found himself in the news as he spoke out against the usage of side-kicks to the knee in MMA. It’s a divisive topic in the sport and after his UFC Liverpool matchup with Darren Till, he felt as though its presence in the game put many fighters at a serious risk of injury.
It was the end of an era for MMA journalism as we know it this week as the legendary reporter Ariel Helwani brought his iconic show The MMA Hour to a close on Monday evening.
Helwani’s program was one that he used as a platform to interview pretty much every mixed martial artist of note to ever compete and while he will no doubt enjoy a similar success when he teams up with Chael Sonnen on ESPN, there was a real bittersweet feeling amongst the community as he finished things up.
Chael Sonnen wasn’t too far from the headlines this weekend himself as he slammed Joe Rogan’s commentary work at UFC 225 the weekend before, citing his decision to ‘out’ Colby Covington’s persona as a gimmick as something that was unfair to both the fighter and the fans who paid for the PPV.
That show’s main-event headliner Yoel Romero is clearly unhappy about the way in which the Illinois State Athletic Commission handled his weight-cut and as a result, is now in the process of preparing to sue them.
Claiming that he was on course to make weight with an hour left, the ISAC cut his time short – citing concerns over his health and as a result, he lost both his opportunity to fight for the title and a massive chunk of his paycheque.
Michael ‘Venom’ Page made his triumphant – albeit uncompetitive – return to the boxing ring over the weekend, beating his completely outmatched and undersized opponent Michal Ciach by a KO in the second round.
Again, he’s not fighting anyone remotely good but at the same time, he’s building a profile for himself that will stand to him when the big fights inevitably come around.
A big clash for the bantamweight title picture has been pegged for UFC 228 on Sept 8 as the two-time challenger John Dodson takes on Jimmie Rivera, a man who up until recently was looking like a future champ at 135lbs. Marlon Moraes shut him down early when they met last time around but with the veteran Dodson in front of him, we could well see him get his title-aspirations back on track.
A legend of the bantamweight ranks, Brad Pickett, also announced that he will make his return to action at the grand old age of 39. While his opponent is not known yet, a date in London for August 11 has been set for ‘One Punch’.
And finally, in what is a huge development for Irish MMA, Richie Smullen will make his UFC debut on July 6 on the TUF 27 finale card, an event that falls the night before the eagerly anticipated UFC 226 on July 7.
Smullen had his fair share of bad luck after being signed to compete on what could well be the final (or at least penultimate) series of the show. He was forced to drop out of his scheduled matchup with Allan Zuniga and for a while, it seemed as though his UFC dream would have to come to an end.
Thankfully, he was matched up against Luis Pena for the July 6 card, another man who was forced to quit this season of TUF due to injury.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena