First, win a fight. Second, call out MMA legend Wanderlei Silva.
Earlier this month, Brian Stann became the latest 185-pounder to request a booking with Silva, and at Friday’s “UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2″ Q&A session, UFC president Dana White admitted the promotion is currently trying to arrange just such a fight. There’s just one problem: “The Axe Murderer” isn’t exactly keen on playing the bad guy.
“We were actually trying to hook [Silva] up with Brian Stann,” White said. “He doesn’t want to fight Brian Stann. He’s like, ‘[Expletive] that. Everybody is going to hate me if I fight Brian Stann. Everybody loves Brian Stann.’ But that’s the fight we’re trying to make right now.”
A former WEC champion and decorated war hero, Stann’s stock has risen in recent months with a pair of impressive wins in the middleweight division. Following a UFC 125 win over Chris Leben (in a fight Stann also requested), the 30 year old again made his intentions clear.
“This is with the utmost respect,” Stann started. “I’m fighting in the house that guys like Chris Leben built. … I think I’d like to fight Wanderlei (Silva) next. He’s been a guy that I’ve watched for years before I ever put a glove on. He’s amazing. I want him.”
Silva long played the role of feared monster during his PRIDE days, but the Brazilian has undergone a renaissance of sorts during his second octagon run and is now considered among the most lovable, fan-friendly fighters in the promotion. White will now be assigned the task of talking Silva into taking on a respected American hero.
The good news? According to White, Silva’s knee injury is no longer an issue, and he has fully recovered from the 2010 procedure that repaired the joint.
“He’s recovered now and back in training,” White said.
“Rampage” next in line for title; Jones or Bader far behind?
Speaking of Silva opponents, a man the former PRIDE champion fought in three historical matchups, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, may soon find himself next in line for a shot at the UFC’s light heavyweight title, according to the UFC boss.
“There are so many guys at 205 (pounds),” White said. “‘Rampage’ is probably next in line. ‘Rampage’ is still in the mix.”
Jackson previously held the UFC’s 205-pound title in 2007, when he claimed the belt with a knockout win over Chuck Liddell and then defended the title with a decision over PRIDE champ Dan Henderson. Jackson then lost the belt to Forrest Griffin in July 2008 and has since been on a quest to retrieve it.
White said Jackson’s November 2010 over Lyoto Machida may have been enough to earn him a shot. Of course, White said a few other big names may very well be worthy of that chance, as well. The bottom line: the light heavyweight division is stacked, and with champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua finally back from knee surgery, there are several intriguing matchups on the horizon.
“We’ve got Jon Jones and Ryan Bader and the 5th, which is going to be a great fight and catapults one of those guys to the top five,” White said. “There’s so many great guys in the 205-pound division.
“The big problem has been ‘Shogun’s’ injury has been clogging up the division. Now he’s healthy and going to fight, and we’ll get everything rolling.”
Machida, Ortiz in must-win matches
While the talent-laden 205-pound division features several fighters on their way up the ladder, White also mentioned a few that are on the way down: former champion Lyoto Machida and Tito Ortiz.
The UFC boss, who also confirmed a long-rumored April matchup between Machida and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture at UFC 129, said both “The Dragon” and the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” are in desperate need of a win.
“I didn’t think [Machida] was ever going to lose,” White said. “‘Shogun beat him, and then he just lost to ‘Rampage,’ too. Now he’s fighting Randy Couture. It’s a must-win for him.”
It’s odd to consider a man that won his first 16 fights, including his first eight in the UFC, may be nearing the end of his octagon run, but at 0-2 in his past two fights, the reality of the situation is evident.
White said Ortiz, who faces Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the main event of UFC Fight Night 24, is in a strikingly similar situation. However, with Ortiz winless in his past five trips to the cage, the UFC boss said it’s not just a UFC release that the former champ could be facing with a loss in his March matchup – it’s retirement.
“Tito’s got to win this fight to stay in the UFC,” White said. “He loses this fight, he’ll probably retire.”
Could UFC Hall of Famer Gracie return to octagon?
Speaking of retired greats, White confirmed several swirling rumors that UFC Hall of Famer and the company’s first-ever champion Royce Gracie was indeed plotting a return to action.
“We’re actually doing a fight in Brazil on Aug. 29,” White said. “It’s our first time ever going to Rio de Janeiro.
“We went down there to do a big press conference. [Gracie] came with us and was part of the press conference. He’s still very close to the UFC, and we talk to him all the time. He still wants to fight one more time.”
The 44-year-old Gracie hasn’t fought since a 2007 decision win over fellow MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba. His last octagon appearance was a 2006 loss to Matt Hughes.
White declined to comment further on the potential for Gracie to fight at the UFC’s Brazilian event, but he had nothing but kind words for the man whose victories revolutionized combat sports.
“He’s retired right now,” White said. “He’s a good guy, though.
“We look at him as the father of this whole thing. We’ve got nothing but respect for him, and he’s still very much involved with us.”
Nate Diaz fights in Toronto; Nick Diaz welcome to return to UFC
In addition to the Couture vs. Machida matchup at UFC 129, White also revealed another previously reported Toronto participant: Nate Diaz, who is expected to face Rory McDonald.
“Nate Diaz is on the Toronto card, too,” White said. “I’m a big Nate Diaz fan. I like him a lot – him and his brother.”
Nate looks to bounce back from a UFC 125 loss to Dong Hyun Kim.
Nick Diaz, of course, is Strikeforce’s current welterweight champion and a 10-time UFC veteran.
While Nick’s often-controversial antics can prove both entertaining and maddening, White said the door isn’t closed to a potential return to the octagon – provided the California native is willing to make a few minor changes.
“The problem with Nick Diaz is Nick won’t play the game even [a little],” White said. “You can’t [flip off] the athletic commission. You can’t tell people – you have to play the game a little bit.
“When Nick Diaz he wants to play just a little bit – and nobody’s telling him not to be who he is and not to act the way he wants, but you’ve got to play a little – when he does, we’d love to have him back in the UFC.”
Roy Nelson vs. Frank Mir set for May
In White’s final booking update of the afternoon, the UFC boss confirmed a previously reported heavyweight matchup for UFC 130, which takes place May 28 in Las Vegas.
“We’ve also got ‘Big Country’ (Roy Nelson) fighting Frank Mir,” White said. “That fight’s going to happen, too. That’s a fun one.”
“TUF” to get lighter-weight fighters; flyweights to UFC in 2012
The upcoming 13th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” looks on paper to be a sure-fire hit with coaches Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos set to tangle.
In the weeks leading up to the official coaching announcement, speculation ran rampant as to who would ultimately earn the gig, and many MMA fans and pundits suggested the Spike TV series would prove an excellent stage for recent WEC imports like Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber to earn national recognition.
Ultimately, the UFC decided against that, but White said future editions of the longrunning series will undoubtedly feature lighter-weight fighters as both coaches and contestants.
“It’s going to happen,” White said. “We do two of these things a year. We’ll end up having those guys in one of these seasons of ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’”
And just how low will the UFC go? Well, White said featherweight and bantamweight are enough for now, but fans should expect the long-awaited debut of the flyweight class sometime in 2012.
“We just added the weightclasses from the WEC,” White said. “[Flyweight] will be the next one.
“The reason we didn’t have it before was that we didn’t have enough fights. We weren’t putting on enough fights to get all these fights on in these different weightclasses. Now that we’re going all over the world, it’s going to happen – next year.”
More outdoor events possible, Hawaii targeted
Speaking of worldwide destinations, the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi looks to be on hold for now, though to promotion will unquestionably hold another event there at some point. While the 2010 event made history as the UFC’s first-ever outdoor show, White (albeit a bit reluctantly) said Abu Dhabi may someday earn a bit company.
“We’ve talked about it a few times,” White said. “To be honest, it scares me to death, doing it outdoors. Look how beautiful it is today. Yesterday was freezing cold with wind. You never know.
“This is a tough sport to do outside. You can play a football game in this kind of weather, but fighting is a whole different ballgame. I guess if we really decided to do it, Hawaii would probably be the best place to do it. We’d do it in the Aloha Bowl.”
Hawaii began officially regulating MMA in 2009. Since that time, White has often mentioned Aloha Stadium as a potential host site for a historic outdoor event. However, serious negotiations for such an event have yet to take place.
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