UFC

UFC 159: Five rounds

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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The fact that the UFC 159 media gathering took place at Madison Square Garden on Thursday wasn’t by chance.

MSG remains a target — even if the chances have dimmed — to host the UFC 20th anniversary. First, the state needs to finally legalize professional mixed martial arts.

A bill that would pave the way for the fight targeted for later this year has passed the senate and has the backing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but has been stalled in the state assembly.

Thus, Saturday's event, much like a potential 20th anniversary card, has been forced just over the Hudson River to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

Here are the five rounds from the media session:

Round 1: Not street legal

UFC president Dana White took the same bleak tone when it came to whether New York would legalize professional MMA as he did last week at UFC on FOX 7.

“It is what it is now,” White said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s pathetic. What are you going to do?”

UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta and former UFC welterweight champ Matt Hughes, who now serves as the UFC’s vice president of athlete development and government relations, were in Albany in recent days lobbying for passage of the bill.

The bill has been opposed by a culinary union, which has been able to get enough influential legislators to delay — if not outright kill — the most recent attempt to lift the state’s ban.

“New York needs us,” said Chael Sonnen, who faces light heavyweight champ Jon Jones on Saturday. “We don’t need them.”

Round 2: Super Fight or Hendricks for GSP

UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre could fight top contender Johny Hendricks as soon as August, unless GSP agrees to a "Super Fight" against Anderson Silva.

“He’s going to have to get his head into it,” White said. “That’s who he’s going to fight. If he doesn’t wasn’t to do a Super Fight, nobody is going to pressure him. It’s up to him. But if he doesn’t, Johny Hendricks is next and soon.”

White said he has yet to talk GSP, who mentioned earlier this week on the "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast that a move down to lightweight (155 pounds) would be easier than moving up to middleweight (185).

Round 3: No ink

Alan Belcher first bet a tattoo and then a Rolls Royce.

Michael Bisping, Belcher’s opponent at UFC 159, didn’t take either bet — and even mocked Belcher.

“All the tea in China couldn’t make me get that tattoo on my arm,” Bisping said of Belcher’s Johnny Cash tattoo. “Have you seen that tattoo he has? Never in a million years. And then he sat in the back of a Rolls-Royce Phantom asking me to bet something like that. That’s not what I’m about.”

Belcher said the bets were just his way of responding to Bisping’s promise of victory.

“If someone says they are going to knock you out in the first round, they should bet whatever they have on it,” Belcher said.

Round 4: ‘Personal’ trip to Boston

White, who once called Boston home, told reporters that he’s contributing money along with the UFC and FOX to victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“It’s just really personal,” White said. “It impacted me big time. I’m going to fly there after the fight.”

White said he talked to a friend of Bill Richard, whose 8-year-old son, Martin, was killed in the attacks. Richard’s daughter and wife were also injured. White said he planned on visiting the family and Boston mayor Thomas Menino.

Boston is scheduled to host the first UFC event on FOX Sports 1 on Aug. 17, the same day the nationwide sports network launches.

Round 5: Martial arts ‘not a sport’

Sonnen said there’s nothing martial or artful about MMA.

“Martial arts isn’t a sport,” Sonnen said. “Martial arts is a bunch of crap. This is a fistfight. Martial arts is a legal term. The legislature in Nevada in 2001, when we were trying to get a bill passed, needed to call it something to regulate it. It isn’t martial arts. This is a fistfight in a steel cage on Saturday night.”

If it was called “fistfight in a steel cage,” New York certainly wouldn’t be allowing the sport into the state anytime soon.

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