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Stephen Thompson Set to Welcome Anthony Pettis to UFC Welterweight Division

Stephen Thompson UFC 217 Media Day

Ask and ye shall receive. That at least worked for former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.

Pettis asked for a fight with Thompson after losing to lightweight contender Tony Ferguson at UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor in October of last year. Thompson agreed and so did UFC officials. MMAWeekly.com’s Damon Martin confirmed the news with sources close to the bout on Tuesday, following an initial report by ESPN.

Pettis (21-8) has bounced around several times over the past few years. He quickly ascended to the championship after moving from the WEC to the UFC in 2011, but shifted down to featherweight after he lost the title and three consecutive bouts at 155 pounds. 

Though he quickly earned a featherweight title shot, Pettis missed weight for the bout with Max Holloway and lost the fight before returning to 155 pounds. He has since gone 2-2. 

With several other fighters moving to weight classes that are more naturally suited to their bodies, Pettis is now giving that approach a try and immediately taking aim for the top of the heap.

TRENDING > Joseph Benavidez Believes the Whole Flyweight Division is Rooting for Henry Cejudo Over TJ Dillashaw

Having been entrenched near the top of the UFC welterweight rankings for the past few years, but having twice failed to take the belt from Tyron Woodley, Thompson (14-3-1) should serve as a premium proving ground for Pettis to determine if his welterweight chops are up to the task.

Thompson has gone 1-2-1 in his past four fights, but the losses were to Woodley and fast-rising star Darren Till, and the draw was also with Woodley. That rough patch followed a seven-fight winning streak that rocketed him to the peak of the division.

The bout is expected to take place at UFC on ESPN+ 6, which doesn’t yet have a main event. Thompson vs. Pettis would be a solid choice to headline, especially since it is expected to take place on March 23 in Nashville, Tenn., and Thompson is from nearby South Carolina.

TJ Dillashaw: ‘I Am Being Greedy Jumping Down to 125 and Taking That Belt’

TJ Dillashaw - UFC Brooklyn Promo

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In the lead-up to the UFC’s first event of the ESPN era, bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw has made no secret of the idea that he wants to become a UFC belt collector. 

With his UFC on ESPN+ 1 bout with flyweight champion Henry Cejudo in Brooklyn, Dillashaw will be afforded his first opportunity at becoming a UFC dual-division champion. But that’s only the first step. He wants to keep going and eventually become the UFC’s first three-division titleholder.

TRENDING > Watch TJ Dillashaw Finish Cody Garbrandt a Second Time (UFC Brooklyn Free Fight)

Tune in to MMAWeekly.com on Saturday, Jan. 19, for full UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw Live Results and Fight Stats. The first bout is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT with Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw finishing out the night.

UFC’s ESPN Debut Undergoes Last-Minute Fight Card Shuffle

UFC on ESPN

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is poised to make its ESPN live event debut this week with UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event isn’t without a few pre-fight bumps and bruises, as the fight card has taken several notable hits this past week.

First up, John Lineker had to back out of his bout with Cory Sandhagen because of an injury. The UFC quickly replaced him with undefeated Octagon newbie Mario Bautista.

Following Lineker’s following, Ion Cutelaba withdrew from his UFC on ESPN+ 1 main card bout with Glover Teixeira and Randy Brown pulled out of his fight with Chance Rencountre. 

The UFC on Friday announced that Kyle Roberson had agreed to step in for Cutelaba to keep Teixeira on the main card.

Brown was initially replaced by Dwight Grant, but Grant was reportedly denied a spot of the fight card by the New York State Athletic Commission. Shortly after Grant was denied, UFC officials shifted to Kyle Stewart, another UFC newcomer to keep the 13-bout fight card intact.

TRENDING > Nate Diaz Slaps His Way into Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor Feud

UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw is headlined by a champion vs. champion superfight between current flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and bantamweight titleholder TJ Dillashaw. The battle for Cejudo’s belt could be the final UFC flyweight title with the division’s future smothered by a cloud of doubt.

Henry Cejudo Looking to Become ‘the Greatest Combat Athlete of All Time’

(Courtesy of UFC)

UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo has some strong words for bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw ahead of their showdown on Jan 19. Cejudo and Dillashaw headline the promotion’s first event on ESPN+ in a superfight.

Dillashaw is looking to become only the fourth fighter in history to hold two UFC belts simultaneously, while Cejudo is trying to save the featherweight division and forge his path to the top of the overall heap.

TRENDING >  Nate Diaz Slaps His Way into Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor Feud

Tune in to MMAWeekly.com on Saturday, Jan. 19, for full UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw Live Results and Fight Stats. The first bout is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT with Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw finishing out the night.

Josh Cavan ‘Very Ready’ for Return at LFA 57

While many fighters are looking to build off their 2018 campaigns for their first bouts of 2019, welterweight Josh Cavan hasn’t stepped into the cage in over a year.

Having last fought in October of 2017, Cavan spent much of 2018 preparing others for bouts, while staying as busy as he could in the gym should any opportunities pop up.

“It’s definitely been a while since my last fight,” Cavan told MMAWeekly.com. “Honestly, I’ve been staying ready. I’ve had a couple of short-notice calls that did not come to fruition.

“I’d been staying ready this whole entire time and have been working hard. I’ve been helping guys out with their training camps and getting them ready for their fights and whatnot.”

Outside of MMA, Cavan worked on growing his financial advising business. Having a job outside of fighting that requires a lot of mental fortitude; Cavan was asked his thoughts on the possibilities of brain injuries in combat sports could affect what he does outside the cage.

“My background is hockey, and I felt it a lot more in hockey than I do in fighting,” said Cavan. “I’m glad they have these CT procedures and all this. It is something that people are being cognitive right now.

“I rely on my coaches and family if they do see anything, but after fights I give myself plenty of time to recover. It’s actually very important to stay sharp in financial advising. I’ve been able to do both and it’s been a blessing.”

On January 18 in Broomfield, Colorado, Cavan (15-7) will have his first fight in over a year when he faces Anthony Adams (7-1) in a main card 170-pound bout at LFA 57.

TRENDING > VIDEO: Chael Sonnen Berates Tito Ortiz in Heated Response to Potential Bellator Rematch

“I have a lot of respect for Anthony,” Cavan said. “It’s a good opportunity with the LFA for me to showcase my talents and take that next step for my family.

“I think ring rust would be a thing for people who don’t stay ready and don’t train. I’ve been training six times a week against top level guys. I definitely feel ready and have been ready for the last year. I feel very ready going into this.”

When it comes to 2019, Cavan is looking to have a productive return to fighting and work his way to the next level sooner than later if possible.

“I take things one fight at a time because you don’t want to overlook anything,” said Cavan.

“My focus is going in there, getting my hand raised, and then after that we’re having our baby a few weeks afterwards, so that’s where my focus will shift. I would like to have my baby as a fighter under the UFC roster.”

Check Out Ryan Bader and Fedor Emelianenko Highlights Before Their Bellator 214 Showdown

(Courtesy of Bellator MMA)

The Bellator MMA Heavyweight Grand Prix Finals are set! Fedor Emelianenko and Ryan Bader will meet at Bellator 214 and one will walkout as the Heavyweight World Champion.

TRENDING > Ryan Bader: If They Fought, Cain Velasquez Beats Fedor Emelianenko ‘Every Time’

Daniel Cormier Previews UFC Fight Night Brooklyn: Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw

(Courtesy of UFC)

Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier previews the UFC Fight Night Brooklyn main event match-up between flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. The two will battle in the UFC’s first event on ESPN+ for the flyweight title that Cejudo recently took from longtime champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.

TRENDING > Conor McGregor Blasts Khabib Nurmagomedov, Paulie Malignaggi; UFC Champ Fires Back

Tune in to MMAWeekly.com on Saturday, Jan. 19, for full UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw Live Results and Fight Stats. The first bout is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT with Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw finishing out the night.

Jon Jones’ Coach Says He Has a Scary Level of Motivation Heading into 2019

Jon Jones had a statement to make in his rematch against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232.

Five years earlier, Gustafsson had pushed Jones further than any other opponent in history and nearly came away with a victory. Add to that, Jones had been out for over a year while trying to sort out a positive drug test that cost him a knockout victory against Daniel Cormier at UFC 214.

Between the controversy about the drug tests and Gustafsson’s near win over him, Jones had a lot of questions posed to him leading up to that fight that helped close the door on 2018.

It took Jones less than 15 minutes to give everybody the answers they wanted as he dismantled Gustafsson with surgical precision before finishing the fight by third round knockout. Jones reclaimed the light heavyweight title and silenced many of his most ardent critics thanks to an eye-opening performance.

As it turns out that single win wasn’t going to be nearly enough to satiate Jones’ thirst as he prepared for the New Year ahead. In fact, Jones was barely a week removed from his fight when he booked his next matchup against Anthony Smith at UFC 235 on March 2 in Las Vegas.

Jones has said he wants to fight and defend his title at least three times in 2019 and his striking coach Brandon Gibson says this is anything but lip service from arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

“Jon was already in the gym this week, which was unheard of back in the day after a big win,” Gibson revealed when speaking to MMAWeekly. “Jon would take a sabbatical, he’d be on a beach thinking of anything but fighting. For him to be not only talking to the team after a big win, already trying to strategize for the next fight but he’s already in the gym.

“I’m actually going to go work out with him in a few hours. Jon owes it to himself, he owes it to his family, he owes it to the fans, to the UFC, to the team, to keep this momentum going.”

Working with the coaching staff at the Jackson-Winkeljohn Academy in New Mexico, Jones has a team that is dedicated to only wanting the best for him.

That’s why no one has ever rushed Jones into a fight unless he was truly ready.

Gibson is one of the many voices on that coaching staff offering advice but he says Jones is more than capable of fighting three times this year because he’s seeing a whole new level of motivation from the longest reigning light heavyweight champion in UFC history.

“We’re never going to rush anything that we’re not prepared for and I think it’s been clear from our history in the past that we don’t mind hitting the brakes on something that we don’t feel matches our timeline,” Gibson explained. “But I really do believe Jon is going to fight three times this year and we’re going to have some tough challenges. Some young guys with nothing to lose. It’s going to be our job to go make a statement with every single one of those performances.

“I think the year leading up to when he won the title or the year he broke into the UFC, he had a lot of lot of quick turn around performances. I told Jon, sometimes by default you get a year and a half long camp but you know you can perform on a short turn around just as well, especially coming off the Gustafsson fight where there was no injuries. Let’s just keep this momentum going.”

TRENDING > Jon Jones UFC 232 Fight Night Drug Tests Were Clean, ‘No Jet Fuel’

Jones wasn’t alone in his desire to build off the Gustafsson win by staying busy in 2019.

Gibson says the entire coaching staff was bursting with excitement to get back into the gym to begin preparing Jones for the next battle ahead.

Throughout the course of his career, Jones can count on one hand the number of rounds he’s lost, which speaks to the level of dominance he’s showcased over the years.

According to Gibson, Jones is still peeking in the prime of his career right now and that should absolutely frighten anybody about to step into his path in 2019.

“Everybody’s hungry to get right back to work,” Gibson said. “Nobody wants to sit back and revel in the victory. We want to get right back to work because I agree if Jon really chooses to set this schedule as he’s envisioned, he’s going to separate himself from everybody else on this GOAT (greatest of all time) discussion if he chooses to.”

“I hope it brings fear to all these contenders who want to come get some.”

Jon Jones Talks UFC 232 Win, Time Off from MMA, and His Future

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Tony Gravely Wants to Make a Statement in CES 54 Title Fight

While 2018 might not have started out on a good note for bantamweight Tony Gravely, he was able to put things together over the second half of the year and end it on the best streak of his career.

After waiting until May for his first fight of 2018, Gravely suffered a loss Patrick Mix, but then rebounded with four straight finish victories.

“Starting out, my first fight of the year was in May and ended up with a guillotine loss,” Gravely told MMAweekly.com. “Obviously that didn’t feel too good. That one was one of the ones that hurt the most for me.

“Although it sucked really bad, it really helped me as a fighter and a person to think differently about the way I approach fighting. It helped me re-focus everything. I’m happy with the way (the year) ended with a four fight winning streak and four finishes, and I’m looking to keep the ball rolling and keep winning and picking up finishes.”

As Gravely stated, his loss forced him to change his mentality and now he works to ensure he’s in the best possible position to pick up a win every fight out.

“I’m smarter about way I approach fights,” said Gravely. “Every opponent is different. Every opponent is dangerous in different ways. Not necessarily having too much respect for somebody for the fact that you don’t implement your game plan.

“Why put yourself in a situation where the stakes for the other person a little higher? My game plan is always the same; I’m going in to win and dominate regardless; but there are different ways to do that. There’s different ways to keep yourself where you’re better off winning.”

On January 19 in Lincoln, Rhode Island, Gravely (16-5) will face Kris Moutinho (7-2) in a 135-pound championship defense co-main event at CES 54.

TRENDING > UFC 235 Odds: Jon Jones a Massive Favorite Over Anthony Smith and Divide Widening

“I don’t quite think he’s had as many tough opponents as I had,” Gravely said of Moutinho. “I think realistically I’ll be his toughest fight to date. I’ve fought a lot of tough people in the past. Either way it’s fight, regardless of who we fought in the past, anything can happen.

“I’m more than willing to trade with him, to wrestle, to ground ‘n’ pound – it doesn’t matter. I’m looking to get finishes now. It’s not just about winning. I’m looking to be dominant and make a statement that it’s my belt and I’m keeping it.”

With over 20 bouts in three years fighting, and a championship to his credit, Gravely feels like 2019 could finally be the year he makes his move up to the next level.

“My dead-set goal in 2019 is to be signed to the UFC,” said Gravely. “I’ve worked hard. I’ve put the time in. I’ve done everything I can to make that happen. I think I deserve it. There’s more I can do than to continue to do what I’m doing and make a statement that I deserve to be in the big show.”

Get to Know Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo

(Courtesy of UFC)

Get to know flyweight champion Henry Cejudo away from the Octagon as he answers questions on a wide variety of topics. Cejudo potentially holds the flyweight division’s future in his hands, as bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw moves down a weight class in the main event of UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ 1 on Jan. 19 in Brooklyn, New York.

TRENDING > Dominick Cruz Has Successful Surgery, but May Have to Sit Out 2019

Tune in to MMAWeekly.com on Saturday, Jan. 19, for full UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw Live Results and Fight Stats. The first bout is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT with Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw finishing out the night.