Conor McGregor may have a legal case pending following his Brooklyn blowout (see it again here), but that doesn’t mean his fighting career is at a complete standstill. According to his head trainer John Kavanagh, there are active negations taking place surrounding a “Notorious” comeback.
And to no one’s surprise, the man in talks to welcome him back is none other than current UFC Lightweight champion of the world, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I hope so. It’s no secret the headlines are out there. There is ongoing negotiations. Like I said, I have to be honest and I don’t know, I don’t involve myself in the management things,” revealed Kavanagh during a recent chat with ESPN.
“Him and Audi have that on lock down. They both know what they’re doing in that world and I’m okay on the coaching side of things. I hope so. I get regular updates and it is ongoing,” he added.
To hear the Straight Blast Gym head trainer tell it, Conor has been putting in some serious work in the gym, proving to him that there is a spark there and he’s ready to put all of his other business ventures to the side to resume his combat career.
“I really have seen the spark back lately,” Kavanagh said. “I think that was directed at other areas of his life for a while, building up his business world — which is completely justified. We all know the hard-luck stories of fighters retiring broke. They get pats on the back and they’re forgotten,” he said.
”I supported [McGregor focusing on other business] and I’m fully behind it, but I do see the spark back. I do see him very hungry, coming down to regular jiu-jitsu class and throwing a gi on. Strength and conditioning. There’s a real fire back.”
Regarding Conor’s legal issues and his rampage on a bus full of fighters in Brooklyn, John says one bad moment shouldn’t deter everyone from seeing the good side of the “Notorious” one.
“It is what it is. I don’t really have a comment on that,” Kavanagh said. “Conor is a man. He’s his own person. He’s very busy with what he’s doing outside the gym. I’m super busy with what I’m doing outside and inside the gym.
”I love him to bits. He’s been my kid brother for over 10 years. I am behind him 100 percent. Is he perfect? No. Are you? No. Am I? No. But I know he’s a good person. I’ve seen all the good stuff he’s done. He’s incredibly loyal. He’s a great teammate. What can I say? I support him.”
Conor is due in court on July 26, 2018 where he and his legal team are expected to make a case for a plea deal that will likely see McGregor get off with a slap on the wrist. After that, we will have to wait and see what kind of punishment UFC levies against Conor (don’t laugh) before the promotion can actually book him for a fight.
Misha Cirkunov is one again under UFC contract, having re-signed a deal with the promotion earlier this month. However, the road was not a smooth as he expected.
Cirkunov, a 30-year-old who is widely considered to be one of the most promising up-and-comers in the light heavyweight division, saw his negotiations hit the public eye in February when UFC president Dana White criticized Cirkunov for “flaking out” on a new deal with the organization. White added that the UFC was “not interested” in Cirkunov any longer and indicated that the 205-pounder was free to look elsewhere for employment.
Ultimately, the two sides came together on a new contract just weeks after White’s statements, but nonetheless, Cirkunov — a fighter who does not employ a manager and instead negotiated the deal himself — remains puzzled about his boss’ words.
“Honestly, I don’t really understand what ‘flake’ means, because I never really flake on anything,” Cirkunov said Monday on The MMA Hour. “If I say I’m going to show up, I always show up. If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do something. We were negotiating the contract, and I guess maybe I didn’t get back as fast as I should’ve, or I don’t know; I don’t know exactly why I kinda pissed off Dana, but I obviously don’t want to be on his bad side, because we all knew things can turn kinda south — or north, however you want to look at it — really quick, so I’m just happy that we had a really nice chat with (UFC matchmaker) Mick Maynard.
“We chatted for 15 or 20 minutes and then we came to an agreement. I’m just happy that it was easy to talk to him, because with Dana, it’s a little bit nerve-wracking talking with him, because you say something he doesn’t like and all of a sudden, I thought we were buddies and next thing, maybe we’re not buddies. I don’t know. I’m just happy that there’s a matchmaker, Mick Maynard, and I can just deal with him, and Dana, I can show him great fights.”
Cirkunov (13-2) said he chooses not to employ a manager because he has yet to find one that brings something worthwhile to the table. He explained that he used a manger once in the past, but ultimately he felt as though he wasn’t getting enough out of the relationship to justify the expense.
Cirkunov also repeatedly credited new UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard for helping to restart negotiations with the UFC after White’s public salvo.
“I e-mailed Mick and then he called me and we had a nice chat,” Cirkunov said. “I always wanted to fight in the UFC, I just asked for maybe a little bit more money, and I guess Dana got pissed off at that. It’s not a big deal. I’m just happy that everything kinda got smoothed out and there’s no kinda bad feelings.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking couple of weeks, just in terms of when they said I flaked out and everything, because I knew I didn’t. And it was kinda like for two weeks I didn’t have a job. … I want to fight and there’s a lot of great up-and-comers at the 205 division now, and I don’t want to be wasting time. I don’t want to be taking a long, long break. I want to always in action, and not fighting for awhile, you can get rusty. So I don’t want to get rusty. I want be in the mix.”
With the ink dried on his new UFC contract, Cirkunov isn’t wasting any time. He is slated to face No. 8-ranked light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir on May 28 at UFC Fight Night 109 in Stockholm, Sweden. The UFC announced the bout Monday, and Cirkunov said he is content to simply get back on track under the terms of his new deal.
“It’s a nice deal,” Cirkunov said. “It’s a six-fight deal, a bunch of fights, and I’m happy. I’m happy to be part of the show. I’ve been getting a couple of other deals (offered), but I was not able to look into joining any other shows or anything. Like I said, I wanted some time, some air to clear out, and then just to talk with the UFC. I already put in four good performances and I just want to keep that going and just be part of the most respected show.”
Cirkunov added that he has not spoken with White about his comments since re-signing with the UFC.
“It’s nothing personal with Dana,” Cirkunov said. “I know he’s like a great businessman and all of that. It’s just, in my case, I think it’s a little bit easier for me to deal with Mick Maynard, because with Dana, sometimes he’s a little bit harsh in a way. I don’t want to be burning bridges with him, especially because I’m negotiating for Misha Cirkunov as a manager. So it’s kind of just a weird situation, and I’m just happy all of that has passed. Now it’s kinda like, oh, I have to concentrate just on the fights themselves and that’s kinda how I feel.”
Considering the dearth of viable prospects rising up the ranks at 205 pounds, Cirkunov could be in prime position for a big fight with a win at UFC Fight Night 109. The Toronto resident is a perfect 4-0 inside the Octagon, with a highlight reel of impressive finishes over Daniel Jolly, Alex Nicholson, Ion Cutelaba, and Nikita Krylov. One more victory over Oezdemir and Cirkunov may very well be in line for a shot against one of the division’s best.
But that is a conversation to be had after UFC Fight Night 109. For now, Cirkunov is just looking forward to being back in the mix and putting this chapter of his career behind him.
“I got a little bit more (money than the UFC initially offered), closer to kinda what I wanted,” Cirkunov said. “So, I think things worked out for me. Of course, you can always get something better and better and better. But given the position that I was in, and the things that I’ve done, I think it was a fair deal and I’m happy with it. And now I can leave all that behind and just kinda concentrate on just fighting.”
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The goal is to procure a massive settlement from UFC.
“The night that we launched the association we received a letter,” St-Pierre told TSN (via MMA Fighting). “Rodolphe [Beaulieu] received a letter – my agent – from the UFC lawyer saying that they want to renew the negotiation with me because at the point where I was before the negotiation, the communication was cut. So we didn’t have any kind of communication.”‘
St-Pierre — whose last appearance inside the Octagon was a split decision win over Johny Hendricks in Nov. 2013 — was admittedly on a positive path toward a comeback. But, then UFC sold to WME | IMG for $ 4 billion over the summer and negotiations stalled.
Nothing like the threat of a fighter’s association to get them going again.
In a recent interview with TSN, St-Pierre reaffirmed that his intention was still to fight again and that the UFC reached back out to him on the day he announced the formation of the MMAAA.
“No, no it doesn’t mean I’m done with the UFC. Like other members, like Cain Velasquez, Tim Kennedy, Cowboy Cerrone, they’re all seasoned fighters. Doesn’t mean I’m done. Actually, the night that we launched the association we received a letter, Rodolphe [Beaulieu] received a letter – my agent – from the UFC lawyer saying that they want to renew the negotiation with me because at the point where I was before the negotiation, the communication was cut. So we didn’t have any kind of communication.”
St-Pierre has been vocal about his intent to return the UFC for many months and was hoping to fight on UFC 206 this weekend in Toronto, even enrolling in the USADA testing program back in August to ensure his eligibility to fight. But when his team and the UFC couldn’t reach a satisfactory agreement for his return, the talks died and GSP was left in limbo. St-Pierre says that even a few weeks ago he still thought he might sneak onto the card and was training in preparation but the call never came, not even when Daniel Cormier withdrew from the main event due to injury causing a minor seismic shift in the MMA world.
Cormier’s injury forced the UFC to promote the co-main event – a featherweight scrap between Max Holloway and former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis – to the main event and, as a corollary, to strip Conor McGregor of his featherweight belt so they could make that fight for an interim belt (ostensibly to increase visibility and marketing for a now floundering event) and promote current interim featherweight champion Jose Aldo to undisputed champion. And according to him, St-Pierre was never considered as an alternate option to that ordeal despite being ready to go.
“The thing is, I was training until a very recent point. I was fighting, I was training to get ready for a fight in Toronto. I really thought it would have worked out and in case someone got hurt, they would have maybe called me or I thought maybe they would have called me at the last minute, just to take me off guard. I didn’t know. But one or two weeks ago I pulled the plug, I knew it was not happening.
“I was hoping earlier to get on the card for Toronto but it’s not happening and now I guess they’ll keep talking and we’ll see if they can come to an agreement. Same story as before but now I have more options. I’m [a] free agent. I don’t have to be in the UFC. I could go somewhere else.”
The UFC disputes St-Pierre’s claim, saying he’s still under contract and that it “reserves its rights under the law” to have him honor the contract. The UFC seems to want to retain St-Pierre under his old contract from before his retirement three years ago and St-Pierre maintains the offer by the UFC is unfair strong-arming. The two parties being at loggerheads is even keeping St-Pierre from attending the event in Toronto to support his teammates fighting on the card.
“I will not be there but I remain a big fan. I’m gonna watch some of my teammates fighting on TV from my home but I won’t be there unfortunately. I wish I would have been there. The best place would be in the cage. I was hoping to get it done against Michael Bisping and he was hoping it too but unfortunately the conditions that they were offering me for the contract were unacceptable. Any smart person would not have accepted it. A person who would have accepted it is scared and has no choice but I’m healthy, I’m wealthy, I have the choice. I don’t have to take something that is not advantageous for me. I mean equitable. Because now I was taking all the risk and it was not equitable.”
To further complicate matters, St-Pierre says he’s not just negotiating for himself anymore, but for all the fighters. As the most famous member of the MMAAA, everything St-Pierre does will carry with it deeper connotations. It seems likely that St-Pierre will be even more incentivized to get his “fair share” meaning the UFC likely won’t be a fan of losing that extra equity. However these new negotiations play out though, St-Pierre says he’s okay with it because to accept lesser would be hypocritical and wouldn’t help the fighters that he’s ultimately trying to fight for.
“Who or what kind of person would I be if I’m taking a fight under conditions that are not equitable and I’m fighting for the other person that is trying to make their condition of work better. So if I do something, it’s smart to do it for myself first and then I try to do it for the other person. That’s my mentality.
“The truth is, I’ve met a lot of guys that when they finish their career they’re broken physically, mentally, financially and they have a family to feed and they have no insurance to care [for them]. This is unacceptable and that’s what we’re fighting for. I’m an exception because I’m very lucky. Even though I didn’t really have my fair share I ended up healthy and wealthy which is very rare in this business. Trust me, it is very rare. And I’m very happy, I feel very blessed to be in this situation and be able to fight for these guys that don’t have the same condition.”
I’m now going to say that we never see GSP back in the octagon. Whatever terms he believes to be fair, the UFC surely won’t agree to.
Almost time for a big fight weekend, y’all. See you tomorrow.
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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) expected to pay a pretty penny for the services of Conor McGregor, who will headline the UFC 205 pay-per-view (PPV) event against Eddie Alvarez a week from Saturday night (Nov. 12, 2016) in New York City.
Unless, of course, there was certain Dagestani variable thrown into the mix.
Prior to signing on the dotted line, “Notorious” had stiff competition from No. 1 ranked contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, who not only signed a contract to fight Alvarez at UFC 205, but also at 206 should the lightweight champ not be ready in time for the “Big Apple” bash.
Not surprisingly, American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) head coach Javier Mendez has a problem with that sort of bait-and-switch.
“By all rights, people want to see Conor fight, no problem,” Mendez told Champions.co (via MMA Junkie). “But don’t give a guy a contract if you’re not intending to give him a fight.”
“I was disappointed,” he continued. “Not disappointed that (Conor) got the title shot, just disappointed that Khabib was used as a pawn, in my opinion. Why give a guy a contract to fight and actually not give him the fight?”
After revealing that contract negotiations for his next fight weren’t going so smoothly with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brass, nobody knew for sure when former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold would make his return to the Octagon following his UFC 199 title loss to Michael Bisping. Rockhold even acknowledged that a budding modeling career could keep him away from action even longer.
But like the true fighter he is, Rockhold decided to sign the dotted line for a comeback fight opposite Ronaldo Souza at UFC 101 on Nov. 27 from Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. The two met once before for the Strikeforce title back in 2011, which saw Rockhold win a unanimous decision. According to Rockhold, he had to fight UFC tooth-and-nail for every penny he thought he was worth.
“They restructured the deal for the time being, and so we got a new contract,” said Rockhold during a recent appearance on Extra Rounds podcast (transcribed by MMA Fighting). “We got a new contract upping the money, and we got the right fight so I think this will be the best fight for me right now to get me back to the title. I think we’re clearly the best two guys in the division, so this will solidify myself to going back and getting my gold back.”
The former 185-pound champion further detailed his previous contract with UFC and why it’s important to get as much money as possible for his violent services.
“I signed my contract with the UFC back before I fought Machida,” explained Rockhold. “I had confidence in myself to win the title and I thought that I’d find myself in a better situation but the contract fell back – before I was able to restructure it – to a place where I wasn’t really happy with it. Seeing what I fell back to and knowing what I’ve accomplished and my credibility in the sport, I wasn’t happy with what they were offering. It’s gonna take more than that to get me to fight. I’ve got other avenues outside the sport, and I’m not gonna go fight when it’s not worth it. I gotta get my due, I’ve gotta get my worth. No matter how much I love fight, and what I’m doing out here, I need to get f*cking paid.”
With guys like Conor McGregor making millions per appearance and inexperienced circus attractions like CM Punk raking in $ 500,000 for his first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) bout, other fighters have begun to voice their need for more money. Current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson joined the list when he recently demanded $ 2 million for a superfight with bantamweight king Dominick Cruz.
“I think we’re in a transition period,” added Rockhold. “I think there’s definitely positive change in the sport and people are starting to realize it’s about leverage in the right situation and understanding your worth… These guys are trying to keep you down on these paychecks, keep you hungry, keep you needing more.”
While MMA fans are happy that one of the best middleweights in the world will make another appearance in 2016, it wasn’t easy for Rockhold to pull the trigger. Unfortunately for UFC and the hand that writes the checks, Rockhold won’t be the last fighter to demand his presumed worth.