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UFC Stars Avoid Union Designation, but Announce Fighter Association

A five-member board consisting of current UFC fighters announced on Wednesday the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA). The announcement was billed as industry “redefining.”

The board, made up of former champions Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, and TJ Dillashaw, as well as current contenders Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Tim Kennedy, are seeking a settlement for past fighters, an increase in revenue shares closer to that of other professional sports, and a benefits package that includes insurance and pensions, among other things.

Georges St-Pierre - Donald Cerrone - Cain Velasquez - Tim Kennedy - TJ DillashawThe five-member board claims that the revenue split for other professional sports is roughly 50/50, but only about 8 percent of UFC revenues go to the athletes. Kennedy called it “one-sided,” particularly considering that UFC was recently purchased by WME | IMG for roughly $4.2 billion.

Bellator MMA founder and former president Bjorn Rebney is acting in a “strategic advisor” position, utilizing his experience as a promoter and knowledge of the finances that drive a promotion to assist a board of directors that currently consists of Kennedy, St-Pierre, Cerrone, Velasquez, and Dillashaw.

“The board handling the decisions,” said Kennedy, making it clear that the fighters, not Rebney, were steering the ship.

The association is a work in progress and is only focused on the UFC at the moment because of the promotion’s status atop the industry. Eventually, “the dream is that we are going to be representative of the fighters as a whole,” according to Kennedy. It was a refrain echoed by the other fighters throughout a two-hour media conference call announcing the association.

TRENDING > Conor McGregor Wants a Piece of UFC Ownership

“Don’t forget, the UFC without fighters, it’s only three letters of the alphabet,” said St-Pierre, who has been mired in a battle with the UFC over his current contract. “It’s time to make our voice heard and make change happen, for the best of the UFC and for the fighters.”

The MMAAA is not a union. It is an association. It’s an important distinction because fighters are independent contractors. A union would have forced legal battles that the association is trying to avoid, with Rebney admitting that any attempt to form a union around independent contractors was doomed to fail in the courts.

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Tim Kennedy vs. Kelvin Gastelum is Finally Official for UFC 206

Wednesday was a good day for Tim Kennedy. Not only did he and his partners announce the new Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association, he also found out that his proposed UFC 206 bout with Kelvin Gastelum was approved.

The march to the Octagon has been a rough one for Kennedy. He hasn’t fought in more than two years, and had his UFC 205 bout with Rashad Evans nixed due to the New York State Athletic Commission’s concerns about irregularities on Evans’ MRI. UFC officials tried to reschedule the bout for UFC 206, but the Ontario commission declined to approve the bout. 

TRENDING > UFC 207 Video: Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey — She’s Back!

Tim KennedyWith the new match-up was proposed, Gastelum first had to find his way out of a six-month suspension by the NYSAC for failing to appear at the UFC 205 weigh-in. He eventually paid a fine to settle the suspension. On Wednesday, the Ontario commission approved the Kennedy vs. Gastelum bout, making the match-up official.

UFC 206 takes place on Dec. 10 in Toronto. The card is headlined by an interim UFC featherweight title fight between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis.

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UFC Stars and Former Champs Announce Fighter Association (Media Call Replay)

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A five-member board consisting of current UFC fighters announced on Wednesday the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA). The announcement was billed as industry “redefining.”

The board, made up of former champions Georges St-PierreCain Velasquez, and TJ Dillashaw, as well as current contenders Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Tim Kennedy, are seeking a settlement for past fighters, an increase in revenue shares closer to that of other professional sports, and a benefits package that includes insurance and pensions, among other things.

RELATED > UFC Stars Avoid Union Designation, but Announce Fighter Association

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Fabricio Werdum No Longer Happy Fighting for UFC

The rift between Fabricio Werdum and the UFC appears to be appears to be widening. The split between the two sides developed when Werdum publicly expressed his disapproval of the UFC’s apparel sponsorship deal with Reebok.

Werdum posted a photo of himself on social media wearing a UFC fighter uniform. Instead of the usual Reebok logo, however, the image had been altered to display the universally recognized Nike swoosh. He did so in a protest of the apparel deal, which forces fighters to wear the Reebok gear and not display other sponsors, a move which he and many others have said cost the fighters varying degrees of sponsorship income.

That didn’t sit well with company officials, who told MMAWeekly.com, “Due to Fabricio Werdum’s recent comments directed at a valued UFC partner, we will no longer utilize Werdum in a broadcast role on UFC Network in Latin America. While we respect an athlete’s right to voice his opinion, we deem the manner in which Werdum chose to do so unacceptable.”

TRENDING > Jose Aldo Calls Conor McGregor a Coward, UFC Title Loss a Fluke

That was in October. Werdum encountered another uncomfortable situation with UFC officials when he was denied status as a guest fighter at the recent UFC 205 blockbuster event at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“I feel embarrassed to say that, but I was there in New York to talk to sponsors and asked to be a guest fighter, but they denied me,” Werdum said on the Resenha Black Belt podcast, as translated by AgFight. “My manager needed to buy me a ticket for the event. I did not like it. Imagine, a former champion without a ticket.

Fabricio-Werdum_Strikeforce-450x260I’m not happy, I do not have that thing anymore at the biggest MMA event in the world. I felt excluded, I’m not happy.”

It’s unclear if the incident at UFC 205 had anything to do with Werdum’s status within the organization or if it was simply a matter of not having enough availability at an event of such magnitude. 

Either way, Werdum isn’t pleased with his current status within the organization.

“Once my contract is up, I don’t know if I’ll renew it. Many things can happen, but I’ll say this. I’m 100-percent a company man, be it a sponsor or an organization, I’m the kind of guy people can always count on. However, when it’s not reciprocal, there’s no way I can be the company man,” Werdum said in a recent interview with Combate. “When I’m happy, I do everything for things to turn out the best way they can, but when I’m unhappy, and I’m not happy at all with the UFC, at the moment, it’s hard to be like that.”

Werdum is currently slated to face fellow former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in a rematch at UFC 207 on Dec. 30. in Las Vegas. It’s unclear what his plans are beyond that fight, but Werdum doesn’t appear ready to stop fighting anytime soon, even if that means he may eventually have to fight elsewhere.

“I intend to fight for two or three more years, we always say that, but we can never really stop. I can’t confirm anything about the contract. I just want to do the right thing, maybe I’ll get a better proposal from another company once my contract is up, I don’t know. I haven’t gotten any for now. Who knows? Maybe in the future, if I start being happy again in the organization I work for, maybe I’ll stay, or maybe I’ll leave, or maybe I’ll just stop.”

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Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis Address Conor McGregor, Interim Title (UFC 206 Media Call Replay)

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Listen in as UFC 206 headliners Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis field questions about their upcoming fight, the potential to fight Jose Aldo, and Conor McGregor relinquishing the featherweight belt.

TRENDING > Jose Aldo Calls Conor McGregor a Coward, UFC Title Loss a Fluke

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Justin Lawrence Plans to ‘Take John Teixeira’s Head Off’ at Bellator 167

For his only fight of 2016 so far, Bellator featherweight Justin Lawrence believes things could not have gone better when he defeated Isao Kobayashi in June by second-round TKO.

Lawrence believes the seven months between his previous fight and his win over Kobayashi ultimately helped in the end.

“The fight went really well,” Lawrence told MMAWeekly.com. “I imposed my game plan. I imposed my will right from the get-go. It really panned the fight out in my favor.

“You always have to be ready. It helps you work on your game. I’m always in the gym. Whether I’m in the gym or not, I’m always honing and sharpening my tools. It definitely helps out.”

Following a six month layoff, Lawrence (9-3) steps in on late notice for his return at Bellator 167 on Saturday in Thackerville, Okla., to take on John Teixeira (20-1-2) in a main card 145-pound bout.

TRENDING > Luke Rockhold Predicts Yoel Romero Will Take Michael Bisping’s Belt

Being a late replacement for Pat Curran allows Lawrence to step into the fight with Teixeira without any expectations that would come from a longer build-up to the bout.

“I’ve got to go in there, relax, and (treat it like) it’s another day in the gym, another sparring day in the gym – it’s no pressure added, nothing on my shoulders, just go out there and perform to the best of my abilities and have a blast,” said Lawrence.

As for Teixeira himself, Lawrence sees a clash in styles, and will have do all he can to keep the bout to his own strengths.

“I feel like he’s got decent hands, he’s heavy handed, he’s a good grappler and looks like he’s most comfortable on the ground, so just avoid going to the ground as much as possible and take his head off,” Lawrence said of Teixeira.

TRENDING > Jose Aldo Calls Conor McGregor a Coward, UFC Title Loss a Fluke

“I know John is ready, he’s going to come in hard, and he’s been training for a high level guy (in Curran). But I don’t feel like he’s fought anyone like me. I’m going to go in there and exploit that.”

Though 2016 hasn’t been as busy of a year as Lawrence would have liked, he views his opportunity against Teixeira as the gateway to a potentially career year in 2017.

“I feel beating a guy like John is knocking on the door for a title shot,” said Lawrence. “He’s Top 3 in the division, and beating a guy like that gets some new blood up there fighting for the title. I feel like 2017 will be my year to win the gold.”

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Conor McGregor’s Coach Criticizes UFC for Stripping Featherweight Title

When the UFC announced that Conor McGregor had “relinquished” his UFC featherweight title, it was no surprise that many people were skeptical of that characterization.

The skepticism was for good reason. UFC president Dana White consistently stated that McGregor would have to give up one of his titles if and when he won the lightweight belt, thus putting both the featherweight and lightweight straps in his possession. McGregor steadfastly said it would “take an army” to get one of the belts away from him. 

Conor McGregorMcGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, shed a little light on the relinquishing of the belt in a Tuesday interview with Red FM, per a transcription by SevereMMA.

“It was more the UFC,” Kavanagh said when asked about McGregor giving up the belt.

“For me personally, I was very disappointed with how they went about doing it. It was a very messy set of circumstances which led to doing it. They lost a main event (at UFC 206) and then they haphazardly threw together a new main event.”

Kavanagh was referring to Daniel Cormier suffering an injury that forced the cancellation of his UFC 206 light heavyweight headlining title defense. He was set to put his light heavyweight belt on the line against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson on Dec. 10 in Toronto.

In stripping McGregor, the UFC removed the interim designation from Jose Aldo’s title, making him the undisputed featherweight champion. That cleared the way for the UFC to elevate the UFC 206 co-main event between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis to headliner status, as well as declaring the fight would name a new interim featherweight champion.

TRENDING > Jose Aldo Calls Conor McGregor a Coward, UFC Title Loss a Fluke

“They felt they had to make this for a title in order for it to sell so they brought in another interim title that Jose Aldo already has and then bumped Jose Aldo up to the current undisputed champion. Which just seems ridiculous to me,” added Kavanagh.

“Conor has only been 11 months since he won that title. There have been many, many examples of fighters waiting 15 months, 18 months before defending it. He’s 11 months and they stripped him of it.

“I thought it was very shortsighted by the UFC how they went about doing it.”

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Jose Aldo Calls Conor McGregor a Coward, UFC Title Loss a Fluke

Many fans shook their heads in disbelief as the UFC announced that Conor McGregor had relinquished the featherweight title and noted that Jose Aldo would now be recognized as the champion. 

UFC officials made the move when light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier fell out of his UFC 206 title fight with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and needed a new headliner. Without a suitable replacement to keep Johnson in the main event and no champions available on short-notice for the Dec. 10 event, they decided to elevate the UFC 206 co-main event between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis to headliner status with the interim featherweight title on the line.

Despite all the doubts about the sensibility of the move, Aldo on Monday told UFC.com Brazil that he wasn’t surprised at all. He knew all along that, one way or another, the belt would be returned to his waist.

TRENDING > With Conor McGregor Taking a Break, Khabib Nurmagomedov Demands Interim Lightweight Title

“I knew this would happen,” Aldo said. “To me, I have always been the champion. I lost that fight because of a (fluke).

UFC 142: Aldo v Mendes - Press Conference“I know I could win in a rematch. I knew I would be champion again. It’s not my fault that (McGregor) is a coward, that he was never champion. I don’t see myself losing to anyone in this weight class, or any other.”

Though Aldo’s can’t deny his 13-second knockout loss to McGregor, his record backs his confidence. Prior to the quick defeat, Aldo had lost just one time in his previous 26 fights. He was riding an 18-fight win streak, having never previously lost during his WEC and UFC tenures. 

Aldo bounced back strong after the McGregor loss defeating Frankie Edgar for a second time at UFC 200 in July. That victory earned him the interim championship designation.

Now, as champion, Aldo is expected to face the winner of Holloway vs. Pettis in his first title defense sometime in early 2017, but that doesn’t mean he’s letting McGregor slip away into the night.

He wants that fight back, and he fully intends to get it.

“Of course, I think about (the McGregor) fight,” Aldo said, “and it certainly will happen. I want to defend my belt first, and then I’ll plan on this (McGregor) fight.”

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Listen In on the UFC 206: Holloway vs. Pettis Media Conference Call at 6 PM ET

(Stream Courtesy of UFC)

Listen to the media call with the main event stars of UFC 206, Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis, streaming live on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET.

TRENDING > Miesha Tate Believes Cris Cyborg’s Optimal Option is 135 Pounds

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RFA-Legacy FC Merger Launches with Champion vs. Champion at LFA 1

Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) CEO Ed Soares announced on Tuesday that the inaugural LFA event will kick off the new year in Texas. This will be the inaugural LFA event after the strategic merger between leading developmental organizations Legacy Fighting Championship (Legacy FC) and Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA). In the main event, Legacy FC bantamweight champion Steven “Ocho” Peterson will battle RFA bantamweight champion Leandro “Pitbull” Higo for the inaugural LFA bantamweight world title. LFA 1 – Peterson vs. Higo will take place Friday, January 13th at The Bomb Factory in Dallas, Texas. The entire main card will be televised live and nationwide on AXS TV at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.

TRENDING > With Conor McGregor Taking a Break, Khabib Nurmagomedov Demands Interim Title

LFA 1 Fight Poster“I’m excited to kick off 2017 with the inaugural LFA event in Texas,” stated Soares. “Legacy FC and RFA have helped launch the careers of over 100 fighters that have reached the UFC. On Friday, January 13th, the two promotions merge to form the leading developmental organization in MMA. In the main event of LFA 1, we will crown our first LFA champion with a bantamweight title unification bout between Legacy FC champion Steven ‘Ocho’ Peterson and RFA champion Leandro ‘Pitbull’ Higo.”

Former Legacy FC President Mick Maynard shared similar sentiments to those of RFA President Ed Soares about the merger of their two promotions heading into the debut event of the newly minted LFA.

“I am extremely excited to see this historic first event of the world’s largest and premiere developmental league for MMA,” stated Maynard. “Our very first LFA unification bout features two bantamweight title holders that haven’t lost in 4-5 years and they have very aggressive submission games. Both are young, exciting prospects, and a perfect representation of LFA.”

Tickets for LFA 1 – Peterson vs. Higo are available for purchase NOW through TheBombFactory.com. Tickets start at $40 for General Admission. Priority seating is also available at $60, $80, $100, and $150.

TRENDING > Jose Aldo Calls Conor McGregor a Coward, UFC Title Loss a Fluke

In September, Legacy FC and RFA officials announced that they would be merging to form the premier developmental organization in MMA starting in January 2017. Legacy FC and RFA have launched the careers of over 100 athletes that have reached the pinnacle of MMA by competing in the UFC. The two promotions now officially join forces with the inaugural LFA event on Friday, January 13th.

The main event of LFA 1 will feature a highly-anticipated title unification bout. Legacy FC bantamweight champion Steven “Ocho” Peterson (14-4) and RFA bantamweight champion Leandro “Pitbull” Higo (16-2) have established themselves as the premier 135-pound prospects in the sport. The two proud champions will battle for the inaugural LFA bantamweight title and the undisputed claim of being the division’s top prospect.

Peterson is one of MMA’s top prospects to hail from the talent-rich state of Texas. “Ocho” is also one of the most popular fighters in the history of Legacy FC as he has competed for the promotion 10 times over the past five years. The dynamic Texan punisher put a stamp on the division with a jaw-dropping submission of the reigning bantamweight champion Manny Vazquez this past June. Peterson rendered the champion unconscious with a Rear Naked Choke in the main event of Legacy FC 56 to take his rightful place atop the division’s throne. He was then set to rule over his domain with his first title defense in October, but his challenger Mark De La Rosa decided not to test the fearsome Legacy FC kingpin and was a no-show on the day of the fight despite weighing-in the day before.

Higo is one of the sport’s most scintillating prospects to come from the country of Brazil, the birthplace of MMA. The Pitbull Brothers trained fighter has finished three highly-regarded prospects during his reign of terror over the RFA bantamweight division. This culminated in April, when he fought the surging powerhouse Joey Miolla for the vacant RFA bantamweight title with UFC President Dana White sitting cageside filming his hit television show Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight. Higo pulled off the comeback victory with a Rear Naked Choke in a title bout that saw him survive two brutal slams. Higo’s title winning performance at RFA 37 is in the running for “Fight of the Year” and rivals the Kentucky Derby claim of being “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”.

The full LFA 1 fight card and further information regarding this event will be announced soon. LFA 1 will be the first LFA event to take place since Legacy FC and RFA announced that they will merge into one promotion. Legacy FC and RFA hosted 110 combined MMA events, which includes the historic RFA vs. Legacy event that took place in May 2015. The entire main card of LFA 1 will be televised live and nationwide on AXS TV at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT on Friday, January 13th, 2017.

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