The latest episode of Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on Monday featured arguably the greatest fighter ever, two UFC title challengers and a new Bellator champion.
Here’s what you might have missed:
Jon Jones doesn’t hold back
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, less than two weeks from his UFC 239 main event fight against Thiago Santos, appeared on Monday’s show. The titleholder, whom some consider the greatest fighter in mixed martial arts history, hit on a variety of topics, including his rivalry with Daniel Cormier, WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar, interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and a potential move to heavyweight.
Here’s how Jones feels about …
His fight with Thiago Santos: “I’m not worried about it at all. A lot of people hit hard. A lot of people have the power to knock someone out. But it’s about being smart enough to land that punch. I’m not worried about heavy hitters. Everyone hits hard. The fighters that concern me are the most intelligent fighters, the guys that can set up those punches with a solid game plan.
“I’m not too worried about Thiago. I’ve fought many guys with big muscles and big knockout power. I’ve been doing that since I was one of the youngest guys in the division at 23 years old. I’m not worried about anything. I just have to go out there, have faith in my abilities and intelligence in the game, and everything else will fall into place.”
Daniel Cormier: “He won’t [go back to light heavyweight]. I think it takes a lot out of him to make that weight cut. I haven’t seen him in person, but I hear that he’s bigger than ever, and to lose all that weight and come up short a third time, it just takes a lot of courage, I would imagine. I don’t think he has the balls to do it. I think he knows what to say to the people to appear not afraid of me, but I think deep down inside, he knows what it’s like after losing to me twice, going home, crying. I just doubt that he’s going to do that to himself again.
“I’ve been done with him. Daniel Cormier is not my toughest opponent. [Alexander] Gustafsson was my toughest opponent. [Cormier] is not this rival the world wants him to be to me. He’s a guy I beat twice.”
Brock Lesnar: “There’s a lot of big fights at heavyweight with or without Brock Lesnar.”
A move to the heavyweight division: “I am thinking of heavyweight. But it’s not in the forefront. I’m making weight just fine. People are assuming I’m a lot bigger than I am. I’m a full-sized light heavyweight. Grown-man strength. I feel like I’m getting stronger. Heavyweight will come. But things are going so well where I’m at, there’s no reason to change anything.”
Alexander Gustafsson retiring: “It was surprising, yes. I feel bad because I feel like he has more fight left in him. He beats 80% of the division, maybe 85% of the division. I hope it’s just a little mental thing he’s going through, that he’s going to get over and come back. Him being out of the game is doing the sport [an injustice]. … I would imagine he’s going to get back on his feet, brush himself off and come back.”
Israel Adesanya: “Israel is light in the ass. He’s light. He’s skinny. I put my hands on him, I’ll teach him a whole different world of hurt. For him to be so frail and to not have a ground game? Bro, you don’t want to do it. Then to talk about my standup against Anthony Smith with his face all bubbled up against a short wrestler that just did that to him? It was just hilarious. I barely get touched when I fight. For Israel, to talk about his striking skills being so much further than mine, it’s hilarious. Just to sum up: He’s a little too light in the ass. He needs to eat a little more jerk chicken come the holidays.”
Dillon Danis: “He knows I’m the type to respond, and it gets his following up. At the end of the day, I don’t come out and talk trash about these guys that just come out of nowhere. I’ve been super relevant for over 10 years now. Some guys like to bring up my name because it looks cool. I wouldn’t grapple [against Danis], but I would put my foot in his mouth.”
Henry Cejudo calling himself the pound-for-pound champion: “He is. Absolutely. He calls himself it, so I’ll give it to him. I feel like I don’t have to say these things. People should say that for you. So if Henry claims it, more power to you. He wants to be the man, so he’s taking a page out of [Muhammad] Ali’s book, and it worked for Ali. I’m not in competition with anyone. Everyone is in a competition with me.”
His fighting future: “I’d like to fight in December and then pick it up and fight three times in 2020.”
New Bellator middleweight champion
“I dreamed it so many times,” he told ESPN, reflecting on going through a fight postponement several months ago after Mousasi was injured in training. “Then, for it to actually be here, it’s like — you’d think because I saw it so many times in my dreams, it’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, I was ready for this.’ But not really. I’m just riding this amazing wave of momentum and energy and love right now.”
Lovato is 36, his late start in MMA a byproduct of his long, successful run in jiu-jitsu. The native of Cincinnati was the second American (BJ Penn is the other) to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship as a black belt. He has multiple medals, many of them gold, in world jiu-jitsu competition.
On Saturday in London, Lovato won a majority decision — one judge scored the fight a draw — to remain unbeaten in MMA by taking down a fighter he referred to as “a legend.” He’d love to take on another legend next. Lovato has his eye on former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, who last week knocked out and retired Chael Sonnen.
“It’d be awesome to fight Machida, another legend, and get that experience,” he said. “I just spent seven months thinking about Mousasi pretty much every day because of the postponement. So it would be nice to be able to put my mind somewhere else and think about someone else for a little bit and get a chance to face another legend.”
Carmouche revisits first fight with Shevchenko
UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko looks nearly unstoppable. But she isn’t unbeatable. Just ask Liz Carmouche, who will face Shevchenko on Aug. 10 for the belt. Carmouche is one of only three fighters who have defeated Shevchenko, doing so by second-round TKO in 2010. Let’s let her walk us down memory lane …
�� WILD STORY ALERT: @iamgirlrilla was supposed to fight Antonina Shevchenko before the promotion pulled a switcheroo, leading to Carmouche handing sister Valentina her first pro loss (via @arielhelwani) pic.twitter.com/FY7ODaw06G
– ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 24, 2019
Rousey paves way for UFC title challenger
“Ronda Rousey was really my initial inspiration. She just really inspired me. I had other jobs back then. When I saw her fight in the Octagon, I thought, man, you know what? Women can also do really well or even [outdo] men in the Octagon. So I want to chase my dream, and I want to become someone in the Octagon like Ronda Rousey. She really inspired me. She was my motivation. I loved her a lot.”
“As soon as I felt all that blood splattering all over me, I felt amazing. I felt that crimson cover my body and coat it. I could feel it in my hair. It felt amazing.”
Luis Pena on having opponent Matt Wiman’s blood on him during their fight