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UFC 160 spotlight on heavyweights
The heavyweights — much like last Memorial Day weekend here — were the focus of Thursday's Ultimate Media Day.
Saturday’s UFC 160 features a title bout between champ Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva. Junior dos Santos takes on Mark Hunt.
But as UFC president Dana White took to the stage for his usual pre-fight scrum, the talk was mostly about the future. White detailed the following in his nearly hour-long chat with reporters:
- Irish featherweight Conor McGregor will fight on UFC’s debut on FC on FOX 1 on Aug. 17. White declined to disclose the opponent.
- Former UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett will soon make his return to the UFC after more than a decade away. White said Barnett has asked to be able to take part in a full training camp, so it looks like his return is a couple of months off still.
- Longtime UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva signed his 10-fight contract.
- Welterweight Dan Hardy has agreed to seek a second opinion on his heart condition that has interrupted his MMA career.
- Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Yushin Okami will fight in the near future.
And here are the five rounds from the UFC 160 media day:
Round 1: Hunt ‘not a threat to America’
Hunt was present, something that seemed in question just a few days ago.
He sat for more than an hour, mostly fielding questions about his visa issue that nearly prevented him from entering the U.S.
“I’ve got no animosity toward anybody,” Hunt said. “It was my problem that happened a long time ago. You have to do what you got to do to be safe, whatever it is. I’m not a threat to America. Look at me. I’m a nice guy.”
Before he was finally allowed on a flight from New Zeeland on Monday, Hunt got as far as the gate before U.S. Customs and Border agents prevented him from boarding. The problems are traced back to an assault arrest in 2002.
“With the Boston bombings, it’s crazy to get into this country,” White said. “It’s something that’s definitely going to be on the radar moving forward.”
Round 2: Sticking to the code
The UFC’s code of conduct is about fourth months old, and it has already ensnared two UFC fighters: Matt Mitrione and Nate Diaz.
Both fighters were suspended and fined for homophobic remarks.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” White said of the code. “I like the direction we’re going. Everybody was all pissed off after the Mitrione thing. I said, ‘Believe me, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.’ When you start getting fined and it costs you money, you stop and think before you do this stuff.”
Mitrone was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended three weeks after verbally attacking transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox during an online interview in April. Diaz was suspended last week for 90 days and fined $20,000 for using a homophobic slur on Twitter.
“I’m fed up with the (expletive),” White said. “One thing I noticed is that money makes people react really quick. A ‘sorry’ is great. I love a ‘sorry’ here and there. ‘Sorries’ are always good, but when you have to start forking out the cash, you start remembering.”
White also said it isn’t fair to compare Diaz’s use of the derogatory word to the time White dropped it in a web video in 2009.
“You think that I didn’t pay in a million different ways for saying that word?” White said. “The difference is that I’m really sorry for saying it. I am not a homophobe whatsoever.”
Round 3: Hunt schooled on testosterone
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has been one of the most discussed issues in MMA of late.
Hunt, however, had no idea what it was — and at 39 you’d think he’d be a prime candidate.
“What is TRT?” Hunt said.
“Testosterone,” FOXSports.com replied.
“Maybe I should get some of that,” Hunt said with a smirk. “How do I get it?”
“A doctor. You need a prescription,” FOXSports.com said.
“It’s allowed? Damn,” Hunt said.
That’s been the reaction by many anti-doping officials. TRT is meant to bring flagging testosterone levels in men (usually middle-aged and older men) to normal levels. At higher doses, it can lead to muscle growth and aid in recovery.
Pharmaceutical companies have spent millions advertising TRT via television commercials and other media in recent years.
The use of TRT in professional sports requires a therapeutic-use exemption, something that’s usually all but impossible to get. In MMA, it’s been much easier. Vitor Belfort, for example, was granted a TRT exemption before his fight last week at UFC on FOX 8 -- a bout he won as he knocked out Luke Rockhold.
“Vitor Belfor followed the rules,” White said. “I don’t like it, but it’s legal right now.”
White said Belfort was tested leading up to the fight to ensure his testosterone levels stayed within the range of an average male. White has advocated that state and national sports commissions — who carry out the testing for performance-enhancing drugs — ban TRT altogether.
“And you’re allowed to us this?” Hunt said with amazement. “I should get some of this stuff, shouldn’t I?”
Round 4: TUF set to begin filming
UFC women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey and challenger Cat Zingano will get to see the talent — both men and women — they’ll be dealing with when the Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter begins filming next week.
“I’m always excited when we start TUF,” White said. “I love it. It’s fun. This year is going to be interesting because it’s the first time we’ve ever done the women. Men and women living in the house together. It’s going to be exciting.”
As far as how the two coaches will get along, White said he thinks it’ll be cordial.
“They’re obviously competitors, but they respect each other,” White said. “It’s not like Miesha (Tate) and Ronda. That’s about as bad of a relationship as you can get. I think it’s going to a like (last season’s TUF with Chael) Sonnen and (Jon) Jones.”
TUF will debut on FOX Sports 1 on Sept. 4.
Round 5: Cigano calls his shot
Dos Santos is typically one of the more reserved fighters in UFC, a guy with an easygoing demeanor who isn’t usually about self-promotion.
He stepped outside of that shell some on Thursday.
“I’m going to knock him out,” dos Santos said of Hunt.
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