THIS is your weekly round-up on all things happening in the world of MMA.
- Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov could finally clash at UFC 223 on April 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. However which version of the lightweight title remains very much up in the air at the moment. UFC President Dana White confirmed in a press conference it will be for the undisputed title, however still hasn’t stripped Conor McGregor, who won the belt back in November 2016 and hasn’t fought since. Ferguson holds the Interim title, whilst Khabib dominated Edson Barboza in December. They have been scheduled to meet three times before, but it has always fallen apart for various reasons. Fingers crossed it does actually happen in April.
- Also taking place on the same card will be a huge rematch for the UFC’s women’s strawweight title as Rose Namajunas will look to prove lightning can strike twice and beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk for a second time. Namajunas stunned the MMA masses with a first round stoppage of Joanna at UFC 217 last November and then won their hearts with her post fight interview in the Octagon after. Perhaps, Joanna will concentrate on fighting this time and ignore trying to get into the “Thug’s” head. She was embarrassed last time out and will be desperate to prove it was just a one-off.
- Bellator kicked off it’s year at the Forum in Inglewood, with Rory MacDonald becoming welterweight champion with a unanimous decision victory over Douglas Lima. MacDonald came through to win, despite suffering a gruesome shin injury and finally got his hands on a major title after a failed challenge for the UFC title against Robbie Lawler back in 2015 in one of the greatest fight’s in history. Long Live The Red King!
- On the same card, Chael Sonnen is the first man through in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, defeating Quinton “Rampage” Jackson by unanimous decision to advance and face the winner of April’s fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir. Sonnen won 29-28 on all three scorecards and also pocketed an extra $30k from Jackson after he took him down three times. The pair had agreed on the media tour that Jackson would pay Sonnen $10k every time he took him down, as he was so confident he wouldn’t. A pretty bad night all round for “Rampage”.
- It has been all change in the commentary booths for both the UFC and Bellator. Long time Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith is heading to the UFC, perhaps signalling the beginning of Joe Rogan’s departure, whilst referee “Big” John McCarthy will be replacing him in Bellator alongside Mike Goldberg, who was previously the long time voice alongside Rogan for all the UFC cards and Mauro Ranallo. Jay Glazer will also become the new host for Bellator.
- The UFC rolls into Charlotte this weekend, however the planned co-main event between light-heavyweight’s Ovince Saint Preux and Ilir Latifi is off after Latifi suffered an injury. They will now meet on February 24th in Orlando, Florida on a card headlined by Josh Emmett, who flattened Ricardo Lamas last December in a huge shock and Jeremy Stephens fresh off his win over “Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi. Middleweight David Branch was due to face Yoel Romero on the card, however Romero will now challenge Luke Rockhold for the Interim middleweight title on February 11th in Perth, Australia.
- Finally, to round up the rest of the action, lightweight’s Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier will meet in the main event of a card on April 14th. Where hasn’t been determined yet. Paul Daley has put Bellator on blast and will see out the final two fights of his deal before moving to pastures new. I doubt the UFC will go back on their word on “Semtex” so don’t count on him showing up there again. UFC bantamweight Francisco Rivera has been banned by USADA for four years after a failed test for Clenbuterol. The suspension has been backdated, but don’t expect to see him in the Octagon until 2020.
- Uriah Hall confirmed he suffered a “mini-seizure and slight heart attack” during his weight cut which saw him withdrawn from a fight with Vitor Belfort at UFC St Louis back on January 14. Hall was accused by President Dana White off partying in LA during the build-up and had stopped taking his training seriously, accusations he denies.