Heidi Fang, MMA Fight Corner

Poor Dave Sholler. What started as a prime gig for the UFC's director of publicity, running the UFC 178 media day at the MGM Grand while president Dana White enjoyed a rare vacation, ended in chaos with the set in ruins, Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones scrambling on the ground and even a single shoe flying through the air.

There's a lot to digest here. It was a moment that was bad for the sport yet good for business, one likely to enrage critics and galvanize interest in equal measure.

But first, before Cormier walked away with a single shoe, before Jones cut an Instagram video (since removed) proclaiming his challenger was "weak" and before the UFC prepared its Las Vegas offices for what will certainly be a fleet of Brink's trucks filled with cash, there was Sholler's moment of heroism.

On one side was Cormier. Olympian. Citizen. Gifted in the fistic arts. Fast approaching on the other side was Jones, the world light heavyweight champion, hate in his eyes and violence in his heart.

The beginning of the brawl.
Photo courtesy Heidi Fang, MMA Fight Corner

LAS VEGAS  The pre-fight festivities between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier went to a new level on Monday morning when a staredown between the pair ended up resulting in a brawl that destroyed the stage and sent security officers scrambling to contain both fighters.

Here's a video of the melee:

UpdateKirk Hendrick, Chief Legal Officer for the UFC, issued a statement via the UFC website insinuating that there will be consequences for both Jones and Cormier. 

Jones and Cormier, with UFC representative Dave Sholler in the middle, met in the center of a small stage set up for media interviews. They immediately went face to face, and Cormier shoved Jones backwards. Jones surged forward and threw a punch over Sholler, attempting to land on Cormier. He continued lunging after Cormier, and both fighters fell through a backdrop and onto the floor of the MGM Grand lobby.

UFC security forces attempted to pull the men apart, but Jones continued throwing punches at Cormier. The challenger, arms held behind his back by security, flailed with his legs and tried to kick Jones in the head. 

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Business as usual.

That is the theme for Brazilian middleweight fighter Anderson Silva, though the truth is that life is anything but business as usual. Silva, who suffered a horrendous leg break last December in a fight against current middleweight champion Chris Weidman, is now in the early throes of preparing for return to the cage he dominated for so many years.

Silva's much-anticipated fight against Nick Diaz won't happen until late January. But given the way he went out against Weidman—on his back, clutching his leg and screaming—questions regarding his health are of paramount importance. Silva addressed the questions during a Friday conference call with myself and reporters and said he's not back to full strength just yet but will be once he steps in the cage.

"My leg is at 95 percent," Silva said. "It will be 100 percent by the time I fight Nick Diaz."

AP Images

On day two, reality started to set in.

Tuesday’s confirmation that Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz will fight next January at UFC 183 was pure joy, pure wonder. Despite the fact MMA fans had already been buzzing about the possibility for nearly five days, hearing UFC President Dana White actually say the words during an afternoon edition of SportsCenter set off a kind of punch-drunk bliss in fight circles.

Did that just happen? Could this be real life?

It was a nice feeling.



But we move pretty fast around here.

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Nick Diaz has always been a little bit different from everyone else in mixed martial arts, and that's why the fans love him.

While others are respectful, Diaz is brash and insulting. Others tell you they'll fight anyone the UFC asks them to; Diaz says he'll only fight the biggest opponents available.

Others say they enjoy fighting simply for the love of competition. Diaz? He hates it.

"Fighting is not something I enjoy doing. Fighting is something I feel I have to do, and that's just the way it is," Diaz said during a special media conference call on Wednesday. "I don't get excited to fight. I don't use that word in this sport. I use that word [excited] like maybe I'm starving and food is showing up. That's the kind of excitement I get. I get excited to have a couple of days off.

Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today

Most fight announcements, even the big ones, have the feel of carefully scripted routine. They're words on paper or a listless television announcement, a token of gratitude dealt from the bottom of the deck to major media players who trade in favors and secrets.

Like all big-time combat-sports promoters, the UFC has done more than their fair share, even on premium outlets like ESPN's SportsCenter. A guy is fighting another guy. On pay-per-view. Buy it— with your money.

In fact, the UFC, in hardcore circles, has developed a bit of a reputation for promising a big announcement and delivering something about as exciting as paint drying. Come for a super fight that will make history, leave with a toy line that will sit on store pegs for an eternity. You can imagine my skepticism, then, as UFC Director of Publicity Dave Sholler spread the word that major news was coming. 

Tuesday's announcement, however, was different. There was a delightfully madcap energy cascading through the MMA universe that doesn't flow on a daily basis. It was the kind of energy that surrounds an extravaganza, the crackle you feel in the air as the lights dim and a superstar prepares to make their long trek to the cage.

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It's hard to imagine a better comeback story than the one Anthony Johnson wrote for himself during the last four months.

Roughly two-and-a-half years after Johnson was fired for a chronic failure to make weight, his ascension into the UFC's light heavyweight elite is arguably 2014's biggest revelation so far. He cruised through back-to-back appearances against 205-pound stalwarts Phil Davis and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and now sits poised to play a big part in what the fight company hopes is a red-hot second half.

In fact, perhaps Johnson has been a little too good since rising from the ashes of his previous career. At this point, it's going to be tough for matchmakers to find him a third fight that doesn't feel like a step backward.

By flummoxing Davis over 15 minutes at UFC 172 and exterminating Nogueira in fewer than 45 seconds at last weekend's UFC on Fox 12, Johnson already looks like a worthy No. 1 contender. Yet with champion Jon Jones set to defend against Daniel Cormier in September and the injured Alexander Gustafsson waiting in the wings, Johnson is about to learn the unofficial motto of UFC title hopefuls:

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On July 11, I wrote a story detailing my wishes for the UFC to return to stacked pay-per-view events.

The story was written in the wake of the cancellation of UFC 176. I wanted the UFC to return to the good old days, when ordering a pay-per-view at home meant getting more than one or two fights you wanted to see. This used to be standard operating procedure, back in the days before the promotion began running one or two events almost every weekend.

There is hope peeking over the horizon. If the slate of upcoming UFC pay-per-view events is any sign, the promotion has heard our cries. After a dismal season of PPV events (at least from a monetary perspective), the world's biggest MMA promotion is loading up for bear hunting season.

First, there is UFC 177. Though it's short on real name value, there are two championship fights. There is also the debut of former Olympic medalist Henry Cejudo, who faces Scott Jorgensen. Bethe Correia continues her quest up the Four Horsewomen ladder with a bout against Shayna Baszler. And lightweights Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo will attempt to continue their winning ways.

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There were times last week when it felt like MMA’s love affair with Matt Brown was on the ropes.

It’s no secret that Brown did some pretty dumb stuff leading up to his UFC on Fox 12 main event against Robbie Lawler. First, he put his foot in his mouth—again. Then, he committed professional fighting’s cardinal sin, missing weight for the biggest bout of his life.

At Thursday’s open workouts, a careless quip Brown made about his own underdog status—telling a reporter he’d probably never be a betting favorite until the UFC booked him against “some retard”—caused copious eye-rolling and facepalming on social media.

A day later he weighed in at 172.5 pounds, a full 1.5 over the limit for this fight. Afterward, Brown tried to shrug it off, telling Fox’s Ariel Helwani his “scale was wrong (or) whatever” and deadpanning that the key to beating Lawler would still be to “punch him before he punches me.”

Kyle Terada/AP Images

Robbie Lawler's slow burn toward the UFC welterweight title smolders on.

After pulling the plug on Matt Brown's Cinderella story via unanimous decision Saturday in the main event of UFC on Fox 12, Lawler once again finds himself the top contender for the company's 170-pound title.

He's now assured a second bite at the apple against champion Johny Hendricks, but as is often the case for UFC title hopefuls these days, he'll have to wait a bit to get it.

Hendricks is still healing from a torn bicep suffered while claiming the vacant championship with a decision win over Lawler at UFC 171. Though it was initially believed he'd return in the fall, reports now indicate the UFC may push the rematch back until 2015: