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Kavanagh lamented McGregor vs Gaethje collapsing – so who would win?

Conor McGregor vs Justin Gaethje was described by John Kavanagh as ‘the best fight he could imagine’… so who would have come out on top if the pair locked horns?

  • Conor McGregor was in negotiations to fight Justin Gaethje but since retired 
  • American went on to beat Tony Ferguson and has now earned title shot  
  • McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh lamented deal for Gaethje clash collapsing 
  • He said it was ‘best fight he could imagine’, so how do they match up on paper?

Conor McGregor’s coach described a potential showdown with Justin Gaethje as ‘the best fight he could imagine’ and lamented the deal collapsing. 

McGregor was in talks to face Gaethje earlier this year but they broke down. The American then went on to beat Tony Ferguson and set up a title shot against Khabib Nurmagomedov. 

Meanwhile, McGregor announced his retirement from the sport for a third time, with many sceptical that he genuinely means it. 

Conor McGregor was in talks earlier this year to face Justin Gaethje next in the octagon

Gaethje went on to beat Tony Ferguson (right) and now has a title shot to look forward to 

Kavanagh said: ‘It was close to being done. It’s kind of sad now that it didn’t happen. I think we could’ve been getting ready for that fight any week now if things hadn’t happened the way they did. 

‘I think the Gaethje fight is probably the best fight I could imagine because he has the style that really matches well with Conor.

‘Gaethje likes to march forward. He sits down on his shots, he throws heavy shots. He doesn’t seem to care about being hit. 

‘And he likes coming forward. Conor’s always done very well as a counter fighter. Although he does walk forward, he responds to people’s attacks very well.’

So is McGregor’s long-time coach accurate with his analysis, and if the pair had have locked horns in his fantasy match-up, how might it have played out?  

McGregor is of course an elite athlete but Gaethje is among the most relentless fighters in MMA. 

His engine is regarded as one of his finest qualities whereas there have been doubts about McGregor’s ability to stay the course in previous encounters. 

In fact, the interim champion said as much recently when pondering how a fight with the Irishman would look. 

‘I think he’s got about three rounds, and then it’s hell, and he doesn’t want to go to hell, so I think he’s good for now,’ Gathje told ESPN. 

Gaethje prides himself on an ability to break opponents by pushing a relentless pace 

It was in the first fight against Nate Diaz when McGregor’s endurance was first seriously questioned. 

Once Diaz absorbed some of the usually concussive punches and shook them off, his opponent had little left in the tank. 

McGregor was so exhausted that he shot for a takedown and rapidly ended up being submitted on the ground. 

Fatigue was also a factor in McGregor’s defeat by Khabib when he tapped out in the fourth round having been battling off his back for large parts of the fight. 

Nate Diaz choked out McGregor after the Irishman tired and shot for a takedown 

Gaethje on the other hand puts on a blinding pace and prides himself on the ability to break opponents. Tony Ferguson is renowned for arguably the best cardio in the UFC but Gaethje went into the fifth round of their encounter looking sensational.

The other important factor to consider here is which weight this would take place at. 

McGregor looked in prime condition at welterweight in his 40-second victory over Donald Cerrone in January but would have to cut back down to 155-pounds, shedding some muscle mass. A tough cut would also reduce his ability to go five rounds at a frenetic pace. 

Stand-up  

When you look back through McGregor’s CV, it is hard to argue against him in this category. 

The picture perfect dismissal of Eddie Alvarez, the 13-second KO of Jose Aldo and the not inconsiderable experience of 10 rounds in the ring with Floyd Mayweather are all feathers in his cap. 

His left hand remains one of the most potent weapons the UFC has seen and usually he finds a home for it. 

The 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo remains one of the most memorable moments in the UFC

Gaethje’s approach often looks chaotic and wild which doesn’t quite do justice to his technique. He’s spoken out in annoyance at being pigeonholed as a frenzied striker and is adamant there is real calculation in the madness. 

He also has a rock solid chin which is a trait he’d no doubt need against McGregor. But even in the one-sided win over Ferguson, Gaethje was hit by 118 significant strikes. 

There’s no way he could afford to do the same against McGregor. 

Gaethje has also suffered stoppage defeats by both Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, two men McGregor beat. 

Gaethje has real power but his technique is perhaps not as polished or clean as McGregor

As Kavanagh said, Gaethje’s style is to be the aggressor, marching forward and imposing his will. 

This would appear to suit McGregor down to the ground as he is a sensational counter puncher. The one caveat to this would be Gaethje’s leg kicks. They are brutal and he lands them with such ferocious regularity that they can completely destabilise opponents. 

In this match-up much would depend on whether McGregor could evade the leg kicks and find a way to control the distance effectively. 

Ground game 

On paper, this is a crowd-pleasing fight with fireworks from the off and a grappling match would not be in the script. 

Gaethje’s background is in wrestling but he’s a stand-up fighter in the octagon. 

Sometimes it is a surprise he doesn’t use his wrestling more but like McGregor, he thrives off the mano-a-mano combat. 

McGregor’s coaches and training partners are always very complimentary of the Irishman’s ground game but we have rarely had a chance to see it in action, at least from an attacking perspective.

All of McGregor’s losses have come by submission, including this by Khabib Nurmagomedov 

All four of McGregor’s professional defeats have come on the ground so it would perhaps be a wise gameplan for Gaethje to deploy, but it all likelihood, this scrap would remain on the feet possibly until desperation gripped one of the competitors. 

Gaethje has never lost by submission and only won once by forcing the tap, eight years ago now. 

Both of these fighters build their approaches around the stand-up game and the changes of a rounded fight would be slim. 

That said, you would have to give the edge to Gaethje given the way McGregor has suffered on the mat before and the American’s collegiate wrestling pedigree.  

Fight IQ 

Even more subjective a category than those above but an important one to consider nonetheless. 

McGregor is a deep thinker, an obsessive about the minutiae of techniques and in Kavanagh and his striking coach Owen Roddy, has two superb coaches in his corner. 

He was seen repeating the same movements over and over again on the pads in the dressing room before mirroring them exactly in the cage to beat Aldo and win the featherweight title. 

McGregor learned from his mistakes and came back to beat Diaz in their second encounter

He also showed he learned a great deal from losing the first Diaz fight, adapting his training and resting at appropriate points in their bloody rematch. 

Gaethje may not come across in the same manner but is also a student of the game and is happy to share his insights. 

On a clash with McGregor he said: ‘Distance control is the No 1 factor in any fight.

‘It’s established in the first 30 seconds. It’s not visible, but it’s established, and that would be a huge factor in our fight. Who can control the distance?

‘I think the best thing about me is I can kick the (expletive) out of people, so when they are trying to control distance or maybe they are winning at that, I can kick them in the leg and try to reset that. So I think I would knock him out to be honest.

Gaethje’s mentality is rock solid and he put on a career-best display to beat Ferguson

This might not fall under the ‘Fight IQ’ bracket but mentality is also a crucial component. 

McGregor loves to start fast but the longer a fight goes on, the more his opponents feel like they have a chance. 

Gaethje, like many wrestlers, has an iron will and capacity to endure great physical exhaustion but keep going. He would also be heartened by the fact that McGregor has been seen to tire dramatically before.  

Verdict

I have a sneaking suspicion this fight is not just a fantasy match-up for Kavanagh. It still feels unlikely that McGregor will stay on the sidelines for good so perhaps one day it will happen. 

Of course myriad factors would have to be considered, such as the weight class and frame of mind McGregor is in. 

The Irishman’s cardio over five rounds is still up for debate and perhaps the ground game would be inferior to Gaethje but his striking is on a different level and there’s little chance of a grappling match anyway.   

If, and it’s a big if, he could find a way to avoid too many of Gaethje’s scything leg kicks, then I would tip him to land a huge counter at some stage and win by knockout.

Some doubt that McGregor is gone for good and fans could yet see him fight in the UFC again




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Amir Khan mourns tragic death of newborn nephew with emotional tribute

Boxer Amir Khan has been left mourning the death of his nephew alongside his family.

The newborn child passed away on July 1 with the Olympic medalist posting an emotional message from the burial plot for Abdul, the son of Amir's brother Haroon.

He said: "Tough day for the family. My nephew, son of my brother Haroon Khan passed away yesterday. The new born didn’t make it.

"May Allah make it easy for the family, especially the mother and father, please keep us in your prayers."

Abdul had been born on July 1 but was tragically stillborn.

There had been no issues during pregnancy for Haroon's wife, Arifa, however doctors found issues with the umbilical cord during labour.

Haroon and his wife also have a two-year-old son. Arifa remains in hospital, while the family were able to have a socially-distanced funeral.

Khan says that he has been humbled by the messages of support from fans and well-wishers.

Amir, who has three children himself with wife Faryal Makhdoom, is close with Haroon, 29, who has also been a successful boxer in his own regard.

He has fought seven times as a pro, winning all seven, three by way of knockout.

And like his elder brother he starred as an amateur fighter, taking the bronze medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi at Flyweight – losing out to the eventual gold medalist, Suranjoy Singh.

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He had controversially been overlooked by GB selectors in the build up to 2010, and was banned from representing Pakistan at the 2012 Olympics because he had represented England during his youth.

An appeal to have the ban lifted failed.

His most recent professional fight came in Wigan in 2017, defeating Gyula Dodu via a second round KO.

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Boxer Amir Khan mourns the death of his new born nephew

Boxer Amir Khan mourns the tragic death of his new born nephew as he asks his followers to ‘keep us in your prayers’ in an emotional tribute on social media

  • Boxer Amir Khan is mourning the tragic death of his new born nephew
  • Abdul, the son of Amir’s brother Haroon, passed away after being born on July 1 
  • Khan asked for his followers on social medial to ‘keep us in your prayers’ 

Boxer Amir Khan is mourning the tragic death of his new born nephew.

He posted a picture of himself by the burial plot for Abdul, the son of Amir’s brother Haroon,

Khan wrote on Instagram: ‘Tough day for the family. My nephew, son of my brother Haroon khan passed away yesterday. The new born didn’t make it. 

Amir Khan posted an emotional tribute on social media after his new born nephew died

‘May Allah make it easy for the family, especially the mother and father, please keep us in your prayers.’

Abdul was born on July 1 but tragically passed away on the same day.  

Haroon Khan is also a boxer, who has won all seven of his professional fights. He won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

He married Arifa Janjua in Pakistan in 2016. They had their first child together, a baby boy, in 2018. 

The newborn baby who tragically died was the son of Amir Khan’s brother Haroon (right)

Amir Khan married Faryal Makhdoom in 2013. They have three children together – a son, Muhammad, and daughters Alayna and Lamaisah. 

Recently, Khan stressed that he doesn’t want to fight again until fans are allowed to attend.

The 33-year-old hasn’t been in action since July 2019, when he beat Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia. 

He has won 21 of his 34 fights, and held the WBA title from 2009 to 2012 and the IBF title in 2011.




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Inside the building of UFC's VERY ambitious Fight Island

350 tonnes of metal used, 18km of electrical cables and COMPLETE lockdown from July 2… Inside the building of UFC’s VERY ambitious Fight Island including an octagon on the BEACH

  • Constructing Fight Island has been enormous logistical undertaking for the UFC 
  • There are 10 square miles for organisation to use on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi 
  • A new video has been released showing the sheer scale of the operation 
  • There are three separate medical facilities being used by fighters before events
  • Once work has finished, the whole area will be completely locked down  

The incredible magnitude of the UFC’s Fight Island project has been revealed ahead of four upcoming events in Abu Dhabi. 

Forced to take drastic action by the coronavirus crisis, the organisation launched their ambitious plan to hold events on Yas Island, where 10 square miles have been set aside to to stage the shows. There’s even an octagon on the beach. 

And now a video has been released by the UFC, exposing the gigantic logistical undertaking with the frantic rush to have everything in place for the first event on July 12. 

A 10 square mile complex has been set up on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for the UFC to use 

There is even an octagon on the beach as part of the UFC’s takeover of the Abu Dhabi hot spot

The massive logistical undertaking will be completed soon, according to local organisers 

FIGHT ISLAND EVENTS: 

UFC 251 – July 12 

UFC Fight Night 172 – July 16 

UFC Fight Night – Benevidez vs Figueiredo II – July 19 

UFC Fight Night 174 – July 26 

The clip shows employees in hazmat suits taking temperatures of those accessing the UFC’s private 10-mile bubble. 

There has been extensive testing for coronavirus with 2004 tests completed so far and the company have 17 medical staff on site across three separate facilities. 

The venue itself is still under construction with 740 workers racing to complete the structure. 

More than 400,000 man hours have already gone into the job, 18km worth of cables fitted and a staggering 350 tonnes of metal used on the facility. 

In total 640,000 square metres have been covered by the building that will be home to the world’s leading MMA promotion in the coming weeks. 

UFC president Dana White added a video of his own, showing time lapse videos of the construction of the octagon on the beach, police checkpoints and even roads being built especially for the complex.  

Fight Island is located in an area of Abu Dhabi which has been described as a billionaire’s playground. 

Yas Marina Circuit is a sprawling race track has hosted the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in since 2009 and there is also a world class golf course near the beach.

Ferrari World, Seaworld Abu Dhabi – which is a project still under construction – and a huge water park are other attractions.

And now the island is home to the UFC for four events. It seems unlikely that the octagon on the beach will be used for the fights themselves and is merely a promotional tool. 

The temperature is oppressive in July and can reach highs of 42 degrees, averaging around 35 degrees, so an air conditioned arena is far safer for fighters to perform in. 

Local organisers say the construction is almost complete for the July 12 start with the other shows taking place on the 16th, 19th and 26th of the same month.

There are 17 medical staff at three separate facilities ensuring a sterile environment 

There are 400,000 man hours that have already gone into construction of the venue 

UFC president Dana White is hosting the events on the island as a grand contingency plan

UFC Fight Island Part 2!! I can’t wait to get there. #YasIsland #InAbuDhabi

A post shared by Dana White (@danawhite) on

‘When the handover happens from the team currently working on the site for the UFC Fight Island ‘bubble’ on July 2, then Fight Island is basically secured – the barricades are up and no one’s in or out,’ Saeed Al Saeed, destination marketing director told the National. 

‘Then we’ll start receiving the first international guests that will also undergo their set of precautionary measures. So July 2, the island goes into lockdown fully, which means from then we’ll be completely prepared to host the UFC. 

‘This is currently the safest place in the world, bar none,’ he said. ‘This is the first Covid-19-free bubble in the world, and we’re very proud to announce that’s coming out of Abu Dhabi.

‘I can’t imagine anyone going to such extreme ends to make sure the people that are involved in a singular event are safe and taken care of.’ 

The four events will be broadcast to the world but no fans will be allowed in the arena 

The UFC 251 card will be topped by Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns for the welterweight title

The fight cards due to take place on the island are stacked full of entertaining match-ups with three title contests at UFC 251, the first event. 

Kamaru Usman defends his welterweight crown against Gilbert Burns in the headline act, and is preceded by Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway for the featherweight belt. 

There’s also a bantamweight title on the line with Petr Yan fighting Jose Aldo while British favourite Darren Till meets Robert Whittaker on July 26.  




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Prince Naseem Hamed’s son set to follow legendary dad into professional boxing

Prince Naseem Hamed's son Aadam looks set to follow his legendary dad into professional boxing.

Aadam Hamed – whose famous dad once tipped him as a future tennis – has posted pictures and videos of himself in the gym with his dad, putting himself through his pace with the skipping rope and speedball.

The pictures have sparked speculation that the 20-year-old lightweight is set to turn pro – like his dad Prince Naseem did at 18.

'Naz' is regarded as Britain's greatest ever featherweight, having won multiple world championships from 1995 through to 2003.

With his maverick style and 35 straight wins, he was hugely popular with boxing fans.

So his son has a tough act to follow – but he has been backed by promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren.

"I've not seen him fight but it's a great story," Hearn told Sky Sports.

"Conor Benn, with us, has been fantastic and Chris Eubank Jr has been great entertainment over the years.

"Naz's son? Let's see what he's got. It's hard for anybody to follow in the footsteps of a successful father – I've had to do it, as well.

"You're always Barry Hearn's son or Nigel Benn's son or Chris Eubank's son until you do well and you make them become Eddie Hearn's dad or Conor Benn's dad.

"I wish him all the best."

Warren, who worked with Naz throughout his iconic featherweight reign, has high hopes for Hamed Jr.

"If he has his old man's ability, then he should be okay," said Warren.


"I hope it is. He's a nice lad. I spoke to Naz and I hope he does [repeat history].

"He was a promising tennis player at one stage!"

Hamed Snr held the WBO title from 1995 to 2000; the IBF title in 1997, and the WBC title from 1999 to 2000.

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He also reigned as lineal champion from 1998 to 2001; the IBO champion from 2002 to 2003; and held the European bantamweight title from 1994 to 1995.

He was finally beaten in 2001 by Mexican great Marco Antonio Barrera, and went on to fight once more before he retired, beating Manuel Calvo.

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Image shows UFC star’s ‘amazing sacrifice’

UFC fighter Dan Hooker has shared a heartbreaking image of himself in quarantine after returning home to New Zealand from a professional fight.

On Sunday, Hooker faced lightweight rival Dustin Poirier at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas in what has been described as the best fight of 2020 to date.

Poirier was awarded the victory via unanimous decision, but Hooker gained plenty of respect following the entertaining encounter.

Although the 30-year-old was permitted to return to New Zealand, he is required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks as per the country’s COVID-19 travel regulations.

On Tuesday, Hooker posted an image to social media of his daughter clenching at a metallic barrier approximately two metres from her father.

Hooker captioned the saddening photo: “So close yet so far!”

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ESPN journalist Ariel Helwani shared the image to Twitter, sympathising with the UFC star.

“Man. Can’t imagine how difficult this is for Hooker,” Helwani wrote.

“Because he flew (and fought) to Vegas, he now has to quarantine for 14 days back home in NZ at a hotel. This is the closest he can come to his family during that two-week period.”

MMA reporter Niall McGrath replied: “That sucks, amazing the sacrifice these guys make. Something that’s often taken for granted.”

Hooker was left with a battered face following Sunday’s brutal five-round slugfest. After he was rushed to hospital, the New Zealander posted a video online sporting a heavily bruised face.

Quick message for the people that support me. Credit to Poirier better man on the night, no regrets, no excuses. Minor setbacks ain't a major for me. 😉 #teamhangman #rideordieonly pic.twitter.com/oS7kpcFWAf

“Hey everyone, just back at the hotel with the lads,” he said.

“Having a feast, just got checked out of the hospital, everything is all good, just a couple of stitches on the eye.

“But hey, that’s the game the game we play no worries.

“Just a small setback and then I’ll be back.”

Currently sitting at No. 5 in the UFC lightweight rankings, Hooker’s professional record stands at 20 wins and nine losses following Sunday’s defeat.

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Hearn says no promoter will allow drugs cheat Miller to fight again

‘I feel sorry for him’: Eddie Hearn says Jarrell Miller has a ‘psychological problem’ and no ‘credible’ promoter will allow heavyweight to fight again after American heavyweight fails second drugs test in 12 months

  • Eddie Hearn says Jarrell Miller has ‘psychological problem’ after PEDS shock
  • Miller has tested positive for drug GW1516 in build up to Jerry Forrest fight 
  • It’s the second time in just over 12 months that Miller has failed a drugs test
  • Miller tested positive for three banned substances before Anthony Joshua bout
  • The heavyweight is now expected to be banned from the sport for several years

Eddie Hearn says heavyweight boxer Jarrell Miller must have a ‘psychological problem’ after failing his second drugs test in a little over 12 months. 

 Miller has tested positive for GW1516 in the build up to his fight with Jerry Forrest, which was scheduled to take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on July 9. 

The bout was set to be his first since he tested positive for three banned substances in the build up to his bout with Anthony Joshua in 2019 – which was then cancelled.

Eddie Hearn says Jarrell Miller has ‘psychological problem’ after second failed drugs test

Hearn says Miller’s career is ‘over’ and that ‘no credible promoter’ will allow him to fight again

Miller tested positive for three banned substances prior to Anthony Joshua bout in 2019

Remarkably, Miller didn’t receive an official ban for his failed test, and instead landed a lucrative deal with US promoter Bob Arum’s company Top Rank and had been linked with several huge fights in 2020.

But he is now expected to be banned for several years, with fans and critics calling for a lifetime ban for his second indiscretion, and Hearn says he doesn’t think he’ll fight at the top level again.

When asked for his reaction to the news, he told Behind the Gloves: ‘I couldn’t believe it to be honest. There’s been a lot of rumours about Jarrell Miller.

‘When he busted himself for that AJ fight with three substances, three tests, a lot of people said, ‘Oh, he’s been at it for years.’

Miller’s second failed test has come in build up to comeback fight against Jerry Forrest

‘You kinda hope that he wasn’t, but to come off that and be under such scrutiny, have what was really supposed to be a warm-up fight against Jerry Forrest and to do that again.

‘Actually, I feel sorry for him. Because I think he has a psychological problem and I don’t think he can bring himself to fight without taking PEDs.’

Hearn says Miller, 31, was fortunate to have been given a second chance and says no ‘credible promoter will allow him to fight again.

‘His career’s over. ‘I think when you look at it, his career only wasn’t over before because Top Rank gave him the opportunity to fight, and a big contract. 

He added: ”You may find a commission that in time will let him fight, but I don’t think any credible promoter will ever let him fight again.’ 




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Poirier told cornerman he was 'having a blast' in win over Hooker

‘Having a blast!’: Footage from Dustin Poirier’s bullish exchange with his cornerman goes viral after five-round UFC Fight of the Year contender victory over Dan Hooker in Las Vegas

  • An exchange between UFC star Dustin Poirier and his cornerman has gone viral 
  • The 31-year-old admitted he was ‘having a blast’ during his win over Dan Hooker 
  • Poirier recovered from a brutal second round to claim his first win since last year 
  • Both fighters went to hospital with gruesome injuries after the five-round epic  

Footage has emerged of Dustin Poirier sensationally admitting he was ‘having a blast’ during his UFC Fight of the Year contender with Dan Hooker on Saturday night.

The lightweight’s startling interaction with his cornerman has gone viral just days after Poirier had claimed his first win in the Octagon since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in September 2019.

Poirier was forced to endure a brutal second round but rallied superbly in the main event at UFC Fight Night: Austin to be crowned the victor by unanimous decision.  

Dustin Poirier told his cornerman he was ‘having a blast’ during his UFC bout with Dan Hooker

Poirier clinched his first win since late last year after beating Hooker by unanimous decision

An American Top Team coach asked the 31-year-old whether he was ‘having fun’ between the third and fourth rounds of the headline bout.

‘Having a blast, yeah,’ a bullish Poirier fired back while receiving treatment from his cutman. 

The cornerman then urged Poirier to ‘stay focused’ – and the powerful American duly responded after winning the final two rounds. 

Poirier had spent nine months out of the cage, the longest stretch of his career without a showdown, and was paired up with a tough competitor in Hooker.

The 31-year-old had endured a tough second round before rallying at UFC Fight Night: Austin

It went to scorecards and Poirier was declared the winner on the night after a five-round epic

The pair staged a spectacle at an empty Apex Center, and both were even taken to hospital sporting gruesome facial injuries. 

The newly-crowned winner Poirier later said: ‘It was a tough one, Dan came to fight. He’s a tough guy. He’s on the rise. He really thought he was going to get past me. I trusted in my team, in my skill and my work ethic.

‘Maybe I’ll fight at the end of the year. Maybe I’ll fight next year. 

‘Now that I’m a victor again, I want to get back to the drawing board. I just want to do it right and give it my all the right way.’ 

Poirier went to hospital in an ambulance after his victory on Saturday with gruesome injuries

And Hooker was also taken to hospital with a beaten and bloody face following the brutal fight

And, despite his defeat, Hooker also appeared in good spirits while addressing his followers in a social media video. The clip shows off his bruised face and bloody right eye after his treatment. 

‘Hey everyone, just back at the hotel with the lads,’ Hooker said. 

‘Having a feast, just got checked out of the hospital, everything is all good, just a couple of stitches on the eye. But hey, that’s the game the game we play no worries.

‘Just a small setback and then I’ll be back.’ 




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Dustin Poirier beats Dan Hooker in brutal and bloody UFC brawl dubbed ‘best fight ever’

Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker put on one of the best fights in recent memory at the UFC APEX on Saturday night as they fought five gruelling rounds in the lightweight division. Poirier came out on top after a thrilling back-and-forth battle in Las Vegas.

Poirier is now set to go on and fight for the UFC lighweight title once again after defeating Hooker.

He was made to work for his victory, however, as he was forced to dig deep in order to win a unanimous decision in the empty APEX.

Poirier came into the fight off the back of a submission defeat to Khabib Nurmagomeedov late last year, but will now look for a rematch with the champion.

He was left bloodied and bruised after the fight, having been taken into the trenches by the number five ranked Hooker.

The fight started off as it meant to go on, with both men going hell-for-leather trying to get a quick stoppage.

Onlookers compared the attitude both men took in the opening minute to that of a desperate fighter trying to get a hail mary knockout at the end of a fight.

Poirier and Hooker spent five gruelling rounds trading punches, kicks and submission attempts.

Both were hurt at multiple points, and it seemed impossible that the fight would go the full five rounds.

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At the end of the second, Hooker came within touching distance of gaining a stoppage, as he pinned Poirier back and flung a knee at the buzzer which just missed the American.

Poirier then rallied back and put the pressure on, and attempted to get a triangle with Hooker in full guard.

In the fourth, Poirier again attempted to get a submission, attempting an arm bar and a guillotine before hurling punches at the downed Hooker.

The fifth was a shoot-out from start to finish, just as the fight had been until that point.

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Poirier had Hooker stunned midway through the round and came close to getting a late stoppage, but spent the final moments of the fight in a dominant position on top of the New Zealand foe.

‘The Diamond’ was awarded the unanimous win with scorecards of 48-47, 48-47, 48-46 to put himself back in title contention.

UFC fans and fighters were stunned by the quality of the fight, and immediately took to Twitter to praise both men involved.

Former heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier posted: “Great job DustinPoirier!!! Diamonds are forever. Lafayette’s own. Parker’s dad, great job my brother.”

Former two-weight champion Henry Cejudo wrote: “I don’t know how to call it. We all won.”

One fight fan posted: “This fight is insane. Possibly best fight I have ever seen.”

“MMA at its finest. Striking Grappling always looking to finish,” another said.

“Keep doubting this man. What a legend,” one Tweeted.

Another called for Poirier to fight Tony Ferguson, posting: “Poirier vs Ferguson. Please and thank you.”

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UFC Fight Night results, analysis — No coach, no problem for Mike Perry

LAS VEGAS — Mike Perry wasn’t trolling after all. True to his word, Perry went into Saturday’s welterweight contest against Mickey Gall without a true corner — licensing only his girlfriend instead. At the end of the day, it worked out.

Perry (14-6) defeated Gall (6-3) via unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night inside the UFC’s Apex facility. All three judges scored the bout 29-28.

Prefight headlines were dominated by the fact Perry, 28, built his own camp and served as his own head coach for the fight. He told ESPN prior to the bout he intends to find a new camp in the future, but wanted to prove he could be successful on his own. His girlfriend, Latory Gonzalez, does not have any MMA experience.

The decision appeared to work just fine for Perry, as he walked Gall down throughout the bout and out-wrestled him when he needed to. Gall, a talented submission artist, failed to convert a single takedown attempt. Perry hurt him with a right hand in the second round, and cruised to a decision victory in the third from top position.

Gall’s best moments were all in the opening round. He caught Perry walking forward with counter right hands and left hooks, but there was no sting in his punches compared to Perry’s offense. Perry showed no respect for his punching power and just continued moving forward. Gall never looked the same after a knockdown in the second frame.

According to UFC Stats, Perry out-landed Gall in total strikes 103 to 59.

Perry said he intends to look for a camp in south Florida. He snapped a two-fight skid, although both of those losses came against highly touted, young contenders in Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal. Gall falls to 5-3 in the UFC.

— Brett Okamoto

Fight in progress

Lightweight: Dustin Poirier (25-6, 1 NC; 17-5, 1 NC UFC, -220) vs. Dan Hooker (20-8; 10-4 UFC, +185)

Results

Heavyweight: Maurice Greene (9-5, 4-2 UFC) defeats Gian Villante (17-12, 7-9 UFC) by third-round submission

Greene had just been decked by Villante and had withstood a furious flurry of ground-and-pound. Greene took some damage, but Villante appeared to run out of gas and was just maintaining top control while getting his wind back. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Villante tapped.

Greene had wrapped his arms around Villante’s head and neck and was holding on, but what appeared in the moment to be no more than a maneuver to keep his opponent close and under control turned into an arm triangle that ended the fight at 3:44 of Round 3.

The fight was primarily a kicking contest for much of its duration. Green delivered far more shots and distributed them well, from legs to body to head. But Villante landed the heavier kicks, and eventually they took their toll on Greene, making him less mobile and within range of Villante’s big punches.

And when Villante landed a big one that put Greene down, he pounced with a flurry of punches. But he could not put his opponent away, and in the end it was Villante who was finished.

With the win, Greene ended a two-fight losing streak, which had halted the momentum he’d built by winning his first three UFC fights.

Villante, who had not fought since a first-round TKO loss in February 2019, was in his 16th UFC fight, his first as a heavyweight. He had competed in that division earlier in his career, but not in nearly a decade.

— Jeff Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

Middleweight: Brendan Allen (15-3, 3-0 UFC) vs. Kyle Daukaus (9-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

Who said exciting scraps have to be fought exclusively on the feet?

Allen and Daukaus had one of the best pure grappling fights in recent UFC memory, a back-and-forth war that included slicing elbows, submission attempts and dynamic sweeps. In the end, Allen was able to earn a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-27).

Allen did the only real damage on the feet, landing a nice knee in the first round that dropped Daukaus. Once on top on the ground, Allen and his old-school ground-and-pound game took over. Allen landed big elbows that opened up a nasty, bloody cut over Daukaus’ right eye.

In the second, Daukaus landed a takedown and seemed to regain momentum. But Allen used a guillotine choke attempt to sweep into top position. Daukaus got on top again when Allen got greedy going for a guillotine, but Allen soon found his way on top and landed ground-and-pound again. Daukaus made his way to his feet, but right at the end of the round Allen dropped him with a left hand.

Daukaus’ best round was the third. He got Allen down and did damage to Allen’s left eye with his own elbows. Daukaus got Allen’s back and looked for a choke for a significant amount of time. Allen, at the end, was able to get up and land big shots with Daukaus bent over. The flurry seemed to seal things for the judges.

Afterward, Allen called out fellow middleweight Ian Heinisch for a future fight.

“He can’t run from me forever,” Allen said.

Allen (15-3) has won seven in a row, including his first three UFC fights. The Louisiana native, who trains at Roufusport in Wisconsin, had finished three in a row coming into this bout. Allen, 24, is a legitimate prospect at 185 pounds, known for his excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Daukaus (9-1) was making his UFC debut as an undefeated prospect. The 27-year-old Pennsylvania native had eight submissions in his nine pro wins coming in.

— Marc Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

Welterweight: Takashi Sato (16-3, 2-1 UFC) defeats Jason Witt (17-6, 0-1 UFC) by first-round TKO

Japan’s Soto made sure Witt’s first UFC fight was a short one.

Sato dropped Witt with a straight left hand in the opening minute of their welterweight bout, and then finished him with follow-up hammerfists on the ground at just the 48-second mark. Witt took the fight on extremely short notice, after Sato’s original opponent, Ramiz Brahimaj, was forced to withdraw after one of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

The 30-year-old Sato improved to 2-1 in the UFC. He knocked out Ben Saunders in his Octagon debut in April 2019, before dropping a submission loss to Belal Muhammad. The 48-second finish is the second fastest of Sato’s professional career. All but three of his professional wins have come via stoppage.

Witt, 33, managed to cling on to Sato’s leg after the initial left hand, but he did not last long, as Sato calmly stood over him and delivered the finishing strikes. It’s the first time Witt has been finished in more than two years.

“I was confident that I do have knockout power,” Sato said. “I was able to show that and prove that in the Octagon tonight. But I always have so many things that I have to work on in my game and I was able to show what I worked on in my fight camp. I hope everyone can value me as someone who can knock out fighters.”

— Okamoto

Catchweight (150 pounds): Julian Erosa (24-9, 2-4 UFC) defeats Sean Woodson (7-1, 1-1 UFC) by third-round submission

Woodson entered the night as the biggest favorite on the card, at 5-1. Erosa, who twice before had been cut by the UFC, was brought in on three days’ notice. And he surely will keep his job after getting the job done so stunningly.

Erosa ate left hand after left hand for nearly the entirety of the fight. But as crisply as they landed, not one of them stopped him in his tracks. Erosa kept coming.

Woodson had the footwork advantage and faster hands, but by the second round Erosa had found ways to close the distance, and he was landing, too. His attacks to the body slowed down Woodson just enough for Erosa to have a more hittable target.

In the first minute of Round 3, Woodson landed a left hook that floored Erosa, but he got right back up and went back on pursuit. He eventually scored a takedown, and while Woodson escaped once, he soon was grounded again, and this time there was no escape. Erosa sank in a D’Arce choke and elicited the tapout at 2:44.

Erosa, an alum of both Dana White’s Contender Series and “The Ultimate Fighter,” had lost all but one of his five UFC fights during two previous stints with the promotion. After dropping three in a row, he was cut by the UFC last year and got a win in February in the CageSport promotion. He received a call from the UFC this week to replace Kyle Nelson, who was forced out of the Woodson fight because of visa issues.

Woodson, who was coming off a win in his UFC debut last October, had made it to the UFC via a win on the Contender Series last summer. He is 28, just two years younger than his opponent. But Erosa was in his 32nd pro fight.

“This means everything to me,” Erosa said. “It was my shot to get back to where I wanted to be. Fighting regionally is not a career, it’s a hobby. This is where it’s a career. So it means everything to me. I moved here to Vegas three years ago and thought it was working out, but I kept getting cut from the UFC. I finally got the win tonight, so hopefully this is the beginning of a good journey here.

“I felt he was really starting to fade. One thing I really work on is my conditioning. I ride my bike to practice and was getting ready for a fight I didn’t even have scheduled over the last six weeks. Stepping in on short notice, I was in just as good of shape as if I had a fight camp. I felt the momentum was shifting, but he dropped me and then I turned the tables. I had to do something big. In my head I told myself I had to put him on the ground and at least put an exclamation point on the round. I was able to get the finish.”

Wagenheim

Lightweight: Khama Worthy (16-6, 2-0 UFC) defeats Luis Pena (8-3, 4-3 UFC) by third-round guillotine

Pena had a ton of success with his wrestling, but in the end, Worthy latched onto a decisive guillotine choke as Pena was attempting a single-leg takedown. The technique only tightened when both men hit the mat. Pena had no choice but to tap, giving Worthy a submission victory at 2:53 of the third round.

The guillotine was unique. Worthy snaked his right hand all the way across Pena’s neck with the crook of his elbow right on Pena’s throat. Worthy used his left hand to tighten up the modified choke. As the two landed on the canvas, Pena was totally trapped.

“That’s a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, guillotine,” Worthy said. “… It’s the things I do, because most people don’t want to [stand and] bang with me.”

Worthy was successful with his striking in the first round. In the second, Pena switched it up. He took Worthy down and dominated on the ground, getting into mount and slipping to Worthy’s back multiple times. Worthy survived without being submitted, but the momentum of the fight had definitely shifted.

Pena went back to his wrestling in the third round. Worthy clearly saw it coming. With Pena reaching for a single-leg takedown, Worthy sprawled, flattened him out and landed elbows. Pena kept penetrating for the takedown. So Worthy slipped on that sublime choke and it was quickly over.

“I got that dad strength, man,” Worthy said. “I turn 34 in October. It’s just a different story when you’re in here with me.”

Worthy (16-6) has won seven in a row, including his first two UFC fights via finish. The Pittsburgh resident had a highlight-reel knockout of Devonte Smith in his UFC debut at UFC 241 last August. Worthy, 33, has not lost since 2017.

Per ESPN Stats & Information, Worthy is only the third fighter in the UFC since 2007 to win his first two UFC fights as a 2-to-1 underdog or greater. Worthy was +200 against Pena, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

Pena (8-3) has dropped two of his past three bouts. The 26-year-old Arkansas resident sports a 4-3 UFC record.

“I wanted to come out there and not just get another fast win. I wanted a hard fight,” Worthy said. “I wanted it to be even, or even be down two rounds, and then pull it off to show I’m official. It took me a minute to get here, but I’m a threat to any 155er in this weight class. I can go out there and handle anyone. I don’t have to punch you in the face. I can choke you out, as well.

“He had my back, but never got anything solid. I figured he was just trying to contain me, like most people. I fought out of Pennsylvania and Ohio, where there’s some of the top wrestlers in the world and I’m a striker. So my entire career has been people trying to contain me — trying to keep me in one place and not let me hit them. I’ve built up a style for that.”

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

Heavyweight: Tanner Boser (18-6-1, 2-1 UFC) defeats Philipe Lins (14-5, 0-2 UFC) by first-round KO

Quarantine life has apparently treated Boser pretty well.

Boser, of Alberta, Canada, scored a stunning first-round knockout just 2:41 into the bout. Boser came into the bout noticeably trim, weighing in at just 235 pounds, compared with 246 his last time out. Boser said he has placed a lot of focus on strength and conditioning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boser’s lighter frame appeared to have a positive effect on his speed. He surprised Lins with a piston, overhand right to the temple, and followed that up with an extended flurry that put the Brazilian away. It was Boser’s first finish inside the first round since 2015.

Lins, 34, has had a tough go in the UFC thus far. A former season winner in the PFL format in 2018, Lins has gone 0-2 in the Octagon, with losses to Boser and Andrei Arlovski.

“I actually felt great,” Boser said. “I did a lot of strength and conditioning. I had to make compromises in my training camp, but I felt genuinely good coming into this. I’m glad it paid off.

“I’m not one of the big power punching heavyweights. I’m fast and precise. The game plan worked. The leg kicks made him want to charge in and I made him pay for it. I didn’t think it was going to be a brawl. I thought it was going to be a technical, but arduous night. I thought I’d win by decision because Philipe is a hard guy to put away. I thought we would put together a very technical striking battle.”

— Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

Strawweight: Kay Hansen (7-3, 1-0 UFC) defeats Jinh Yu Frey (9-5, 0-1 UFC) by third-round armbar

Hansen was headed toward an Ivy League college softball career until, as a teen, she saw Ronda Rousey operating inside the Octagon and changed her sports focus to mixed martial arts. Making her UFC debut at age 20, Hansen put that inspiration on display with a Rousey-style finish, catching Frey in an armbar at 2:26 of the third round.

“I know I need like one takedown,” said Hansen, “and that’s all I need.”

She actually landed more than that. Two takedowns in the second round changed the course of a fight that was not going her way. Frey, a former Invicta FC champion also making her promotional debut, had fended off three takedown tries in the first round and figured out Hansen’s timing on the feet. As a result, Frey was landing sharp counter left hands.

That continued early in the second round, but a minute and a half in, Hansen finally got the fight to the canvas, where she kept it for all but the final seconds of the round.

Frey also landed good shots early in Round 3, but when she was again taken to the mat, she found herself in a Hansen armbar attempt. Hansen switched to a triangle briefly, then went back to the armbar and got the tapout.

Frey, an Arkansas native who lives and trains in Texas, is 35. She has been fighting as a pro since 2013, making her pro debut when Hansen was 13.

Frey is a former Invicta FC atomweight (105-pound) champion. She won the belt in 2018 and defended it once before she was stripped of the title in February because she missed weight prior to her fight with Ashley Cummins. Frey won the bout, leaving the title vacant.

Hansen is also an alum of Invicta, where she competed at both strawweight and flyweight. At age 20, Hansen is the second-youngest fighter on the UFC roster. She is a month older than featherweight Chase Hooper.

“I was the youngest woman to fight in Invicta, as well. So now that I’m here, it’s the same label that has stuck to me,” Hansen said. “I’m used to people saying, ‘She’s too young,’ or, ‘She doesn’t have enough experience.’ I’m also used to people saying, ‘She’s a great prospect.’ I’m just going to focus on me, listen to my team and try to get better. I have a lot of heart and determination. I’m excited to tap into the best fighter I can be.

“I was trying to do my best to not get overwhelmed. It was an amazing experience and I’m proud to be a part of the UFC.”

— Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

Featherweight: Youssef Zalal (9-2, 2-0 UFC) defeats Jordan Griffin (18-8, 1-3 UFC)

Zalal dealt with some challenges. He had a hard time keeping Griffin from taking him down. He spent too much time with Griffin pressing him against the cage.

But when the fight was standing at distance, Zalal was the clearly better fighter. The judges felt the same, giving Zalal a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) win.

Griffin took Zalal down several times in the first round and had his back twice, briefly. It seemed like a fight in which Griffin would bully Zalal. That didn’t happen. Zalal rallied in the second round with a perfect straight right to the body that all but folded Griffin. Griffin fell to the canvas and Zalal followed up with hammer fists to the head before Griffin scrambled to his feet.

In the third, Zalal got off even more with his strikes. Once he pushed Griffin back off the cage, Zalal landed a nice knee to the body, an elbow and a punching combination. Griffin, clearly tired by that time due to energy spent and shots to the body, wasn’t able to dominate on the ground as he had earlier.

Zalal (9-2) has won three straight, including his first two UFC fights. The Morocco native, who lives and trains in Colorado, made his UFC debut with a unanimous decision win over Austin Lingo at UFC 247 in February. Zalal, just 23 years old, appears to be someone to watch in the featherweight division.

Griffin (18-8), a 30-year-old Wisconsin resident, has dropped three of his past four.

“It’s a blessing to be 23 years old and 2-0 in the UFC,” Hansen said. “My coaches said, ‘Enjoy the experience and let everything just come to you.’ I’m not rushing anything. I’m just taking it fight by fight.

“I’m young and just trying to learn. You’re not going to get any easy fights. That’s just how this career goes. You got to be ready and willing to accept challenges and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

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