Ariel Helwani on Dominick Cruz’s future, the heavyweight title image and UFC 249

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Undecided in case you’ve heard, however there’s an precise UFC occasion occurring this weekend.

UFC 249 is the promotion’s first present in nearly two months, and it is the primary main sporting occasion to occur in the USA since mid-March.

Thrilling instances.

I feel the thrill for this card in Jacksonville, Florida, is two-fold:

1. It’s a actually good card on paper. High to backside, each battle has some intriguing storyline connected to it and that hasn’t all the time been the case.

2. Distance makes the guts develop fonder. I’ve lengthy advocated for the UFC to carry fewer occasions. Not as a result of I dislike watching MMA occasions — clearly, I do not — and never as a result of I dislike overlaying them, however as a result of in case you see the best way stick-and-ball-sports-league followers react when their workforce returns from the offseason, you’ll be able to’t assist however surprise how UFC followers would react after a two- or three-month break. It has been years because the UFC had a break like this, so we have not been capable of take a look at this idea. However now, I feel what the brass will understand is somewhat pause within the motion makes the fan lengthy for the product just a bit extra and allows you to inform tales somewhat higher.

Do I feel this turns into the norm transferring ahead? Clearly not. However it has been attention-grabbing to observe, and it has confirmed what I’ve all the time believed, which is {that a} break would serve everybody nicely.

In any occasion, that break is over. The UFC is again.

And meaning there are quite a lot of issues on my thoughts, so with out additional ado …

1. If Dominick Cruz loses this battle Saturday to Henry Cejudo, is there an opportunity he calls it a profession? He hasn’t advised me this, however I would not be stunned. Cruz has made no secret of the truth that he was enthusiastic about a title battle after his current lengthy layoff and nothing else, so if he loses to Cejudo, will he be motivated to climb that ladder once more? One wonders.

2. I have been requested a bunch of instances just lately, what is really at stake for the winner of Saturday’s most important occasion involving Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje? Is it actually Khabib Nurmagomedov? Or is it Conor McGregor? Does the loser get McGregor? Does McGregor need the loser? When will McGregor be capable of battle once more? How about Nurmagomedov?

So many questions connected to this one battle, proper?

How about this: Let’s simply take pleasure in what needs to be an exceptional matchup between two of essentially the most thrilling fighters of all time. Truthfully, apart from a freak accident like a low blow early or an eye fixed poke, are you able to foresee any state of affairs the place this battle does not ship? I am unable to. Let’s take pleasure in it, and fear about what’s subsequent for the winners and losers subsequent week, OK?

3. Talking of McGregor, there aren’t any actual talks relating to his return to motion simply but, however his head coach John Kavanagh advised me that their gymnasium, SBG Eire, will reopen on Aug. 10. So, some gentle emerges on the finish of the tunnel.

4. There’s an attention-grabbing dilemma brewing at heavyweight.

This is the place we stand:

Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic have been slated to battle on Aug. 1 in San Francisco.

Cormier was in, Miocic was doubtless in however had not totally agreed but due to his eye damage.

The coronavirus pandemic hits, and all the pieces will get delayed.

Cormier needs to go in August, Miocic is hesitant.

This can be a potential downside for the UFC. It has floated the concept of an interim title battle between Cormier and the winner of this weekend’s Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik battle or simply stripping Miocic.

I sincerely hope Miocic does not get stripped, and I additionally sincerely hope Cormier’s retirement battle is not an interim title battle. It must be the trilogy battle. No questions requested.

I sympathize with Miocic, very similar to I sympathized with Amanda Nunes’ choice to withdraw from this weekend’s card. The champ, particularly one who is not a large draw with out the belt, has to danger a lot extra combating throughout these less-than-ideal instances. Ought to they lose on account of poor coaching situations, they transfer all the best way down the ladder, each in pay and stature. The danger won’t outweigh the reward.

Now, Nunes wanted solely an additional month as a result of she is slated to return in June, so I’m curious to see how this performs out with Miocic.

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After Daniel Cormier known as out Stipe Miocic to “signal the contract” for a heavyweight title bout, Miocic explains his timeline for returning. For extra UFC, join right here for ESPN+ https://plus.espn.com/

5. A number of stress on Anthony Pettis’ shoulders going into this weekend, for my part. He has misplaced his previous two fights and is approaching the tip of his contract. We all know the place his opponent, Donald Cerrone, is correct now in his profession, however I feel there are lots of — together with myself — who nonetheless imagine Pettis can flip again the clock. A loss to Cerrone would critically derail his plans to money in on one other huge contract.

6. I would additionally argue that there is quite a lot of stress on Cejudo’s shoulders going into this weekend, too. He has talked quite a bit over the previous 12 months and if he loses this battle, hastily he’ll be title-less and that is a troublesome spot to be in for a man whose gimmick relies on having all of the gold.

7. I’m actually intrigued by the Fabricio Werdum vs. Aleksei Oleinik battle, if solely as a result of it is a dream matchup for followers of heavyweight grappling. This is perhaps the very best heavyweight grappling matchup ever on paper. I am additionally curious to see how Werdum seems coming off his USADA suspension and two-year layoff. His head coach, Rafael Cordeiro, advised me Monday that he thinks Werdum knocks out the Russian, and whereas that sounds nice, I kind of really feel like that will likely be a letdown. I need to see these guys grapple, and I would like the battle to finish through submission.

8. I used to be pleasantly stunned to see Cordeiro holding mitts for Mike Tyson in that viral video final week. Reality be advised, I did not discover it was him till somebody advised me three days later. I suppose I used to be simply so mesmerized by the sight of a 53-year-old Tyson hitting with that type of energy and pace. In case you do not know, Cordeiro is among the all-time nice coaches in MMA historical past. He was the top coach over on the famed Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil years in the past and groomed the likes of Anderson Silva, Shogun Rua and Wanderlei Silva. Then, he moved to the states to open Kings MMA and has been coaching champions like Werdum, Rafael dos Anjos and Cris Cyborg. A mutual good friend introduced them collectively, and I need to say it is fairly cool to see MMA and boxing collide in essentially the most unlikely method. Most superb is the truth that Cordeiro mentioned that video was taken throughout their first coaching session three weeks in the past and Tyson seems a lot better now. I am unable to think about what that should seem like.

9. Do I need to see Mike Tyson return to motion? Not likely. Do I must see him again? No. Would I watch? Completely. Sorry if that makes me a nasty individual, however I think you’re mendacity in case you say in any other case. He is Mike Tyson. Sufficient mentioned. And sure, I do know hitting mitts is completely different than being in an precise battle. I am conscious. However did you see that clip? That was exceptional.

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Mike Tyson reveals that even on the age of 53 he can nonetheless step contained in the ring.

10. How wild is that this? Zhang Weili left her residence in China to coach in Thailand on Feb. 1. Every week later, she was compelled to quarantine for 2 weeks in Abu Dhabi earlier than arriving in Las Vegas on Feb. 22 for her March 7 title battle at UFC 248. She then stayed in Vegas for six weeks after the battle to keep away from any dangers that might include touring again to China as the specter of the coronavirus elevated. She then left Las Vegas on April 19, needed to keep in strict quarantine in a resort for 2 weeks, and on Monday lastly obtained to return residence, greater than three months later. What a saga for the strawweight champ.

11. I reported Tuesday that the UFC is hoping their June 6 will be capable of happen on the Apex in Las Vegas, however that hasn’t been finalized but as a result of the Nevada State Athletic Fee is not up and operating. Nevada opening up can be a present from above for the UFC as a result of it will be simpler operating all of the occasions there, and I think each time Nevada opens for enterprise many occasions will happen. Amazingly, that card is a month away and we nonetheless do not know what the principle occasion will likely be. Will or not it’s Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer, or one thing greater? One battle that has been mentioned for that card is Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen, which is a possible No. 1 contender battle at 135, nevertheless it hasn’t been signed but.

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