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Mark Hunt couldn’t wait to get out of there.

That’s the impression you got on Wednesday if you sat through all of Hunt’s long, uncomfortable interview with MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani. Just a few days prior to taking on 4-1 favorite—via Odds Shark—Fabricio Werdum for the interim heavyweight championship at UFC 180, Hunt appeared distracted, displeased with his situation and deeply ambivalent about this weekend’s outcome.

In other words, he didn’t sound like he was about to pull off the upset.

Hunt began the interview by stoically stating he had “other things” on his mind, and after 21 minutes of questioning admitted he “doesn’t care” what happens when he meets Werdum in the cage. In between, he confessed he had to lose more weight than he anticipated for this bout, didn’t know that Mexico City’s altitude would affect him so much and dropped hints that there might be trouble at home.

Jeremy Botter

It is 1:10 p.m. in a banquet room of this San Diego Dave & Busters. Outside, throngs of fans play Skeeball and shoot hoops and play video games that are far larger and brighter than the arcade games of my youth.

At the front of the room, Tito Ortiz sits, alone, at a long table that will soon play host to most of the main card competitors for Saturday's Bellator 131 event. Ortiz is wearing sunglasses indoors. He has headphones jammed deep in his ear canals, and I imagine he is playing Angry Birds or perhaps Star Wars Commander. Perhaps he is thinking about Stephan Bonnar, his opponent for Saturday night.

Or perhaps he is thinking of nothing at all.

Ortiz has arrived an hour early for the press conference. This, especially the part where it is taking place in a Dave & Busters, has a distinct Strikeforce feel. Because this is where Strikeforce used to run its events. And now that Scott Coker is in charge of the Bellator traveling circus, it is back to the D&B, where good times are had by all.

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One thing we can say in UFC 180’s favor: There is no shortage of intrigue.

As the UFC prepares to make its first trek to Mexico City on Saturday, the future of injured heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez casts a large shadow. If all goes smoothly, either Mark Hunt or Fabricio Werdum will emerge from that gloom with an interim title and a date with Velasquez some time in 2015.

We just don’t know who it will be. Or when Velasquez will return. Or where they’ll fight, though the early plan is for the Octagon to return to Mexico. Best laid plans, as they say.

In addition to that, Kelvin Gastelum tries to make his case as a top-10 welterweight, and Dennis Bermudez attempts to keep his eight-fight win streak alive at featherweight.

Photo by Lucas Noonan courtesy of WSOF

Jessica Aguilar (18-4), who defends her strawweight championship against Kalindra Faria (15-3) in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday, has two messages to the women's MMA world.

First, she's happy where she is, fighting for the World Series of Fighting and flying the flag for women's MMA on NBC sports. 

"They've given me this opportunity" Aguilar told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "They believe in me. They are treating me like a champion. They are just two years in, and they've come so far. I'm really grateful to them."


She's the best in the world. And don't you forget it.

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Is it too dramatic to say that on Saturday Melvin Guillard and Justin Gaethje will battle over World Series of Fighting’s very soul?

Yeah, OK, that’s probably a little bit over the top.

Still, when Gaethje defends his lightweight title against the longtime UFC veteran this weekend—on a night when America’s three largest MMA promotions all simultaneously vie for our affections—the stakes will seem fairly high.

If Gaethje wins, it’ll constitute a nice feather in the cap of WSOF’s highest-profile champion. As arguably the mid-major company’s only real homegrown star, it’ll advance his undefeated professional record to 13-0 and provide further justification of the flattering things people are already writing about him.

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Luke Rockhold and Ovince St. Preux more than earned their keep last weekend.

During back-to-back UFC events that featured some 21 fights, Rockhold and St. Preux turned in the only truly impactful performances. Rockhold thumped Michael Bisping en route to a second-round submission, while St. Preux shocked Mauricio “Shogun” Rua with a 34-second TKO.

In fact, if last Friday and Saturday nights proved anything, it’s that—now more than ever—guys like Rockhold and OSP have tremendous significance for the UFC. For all the talk of oversaturation, their fine showings reminded us that when the fighters are recognizable and the stakes clear, the product in the Octagon is still better than ever.

Too often when we talk about the value of fighters, we use narrow and perhaps increasingly outdated metrics. Traditionally, we’ve concerned ourselves exclusively with pay-per-view buys, meaning that only those at the very top of the food chain were regarded as having any value at all.

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Dear Mauricio,

May I call you Mauricio? Calling you by your first name seems a little weird because I have spent years referring to you by your last name and your nickname, pretty much exclusively. Calling you by your first name seems a little too personal, doesn't it? But what I have to tell you today is quite personal, and so I suppose it is only fitting. Let's go with Mauricio.

You don't know me. I mean, we've seen each other many times over the years. I have interviewed you through various translators more times than I can count. I remember sitting down with you once, in Los Angeles, for a pre-fight interview. You were getting ready to challenge Lyoto Machida for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

I sat there in UFC's makeshift media center and asked you questions. And while you waited for me to finish speaking, you smiled constantly and nodded your head in that way people who are nice tend to do when they do not understand the language someone is using. You answered my questions patiently. You were friendly. You were always friendly.

USA Today

Moments after scoring the biggest win of his MMA career on Saturday night, Ovince St. Preux stood in the cage addressing an arena full of empty seats.

St. Preux had just knocked out MMA royalty, finishing Mauricio “Shogun” Rua via TKO just 34 seconds into the main event of UFC Fight Night 56. Replays showed the counter left hook he used to drop the former champion was a thing of beauty and that the stoppage was purely justified after a barrage of punches on the ground.

But time and place are everything—and OSP had already conceded this fight was an away game for him.

It was creeping up on 4 a.m. local time in Uberlandia, Brazil, and those who’d turned out and stayed up through four judges’ decisions in five main-card bouts did so in hopes of seeing some old-school Rua heroics. Perhaps the only thing more astonishing than St. Preux’s swift victory was how quickly the joint cleared out when fans didn’t get what they wanted.

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We already knew the UFC middleweight division was shaping up to have one of 2015’s most intriguing ensemble casts.

With Luke Rockhold now perhaps leading the charge, it figures to be nothing short of a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

Rockhold took center stage among the 185-pound class’ motley crew of title hopefuls on Friday at UFC Fight Night 55. His second-round submission victory over Michael Bisping in the evening’s main event was compelling but not nearly as interesting as whatever will come next for him.

The win boosted the former Strikeforce champion’s record to 3-1 in the Octagon and put additional distance between him and the stunning knockout he suffered to a testosterone-infused Vitor Belfort in May 2013. It also likely set him on the fast track toward Chris Weidman’s middleweight championship, though he’ll surely have to take another fight while the champ settles his own long-standing business with Belfort in late February.

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It turns out Al Iaquinta (10-3-1) knew something the rest of us didn't. 

When he boldly proclaimed he would be better than Ross Pearson standing, knowledgeable fans and insiders scoffed. Pearson, after all, was one of the lightweight division's most technical strikers, a smooth operator capable of making the less savvy look lost.

"He ain't gonna stand in the pocket and throw leather with me," Pearson told Fox Sports before the fight. "He's gonna try to take me down 100 percent. As soon as he feels my power, he ain't gonna stand there. He knows if I touch him once, he's going out."

Iaquinta, for all his bravado, was a grappler first. A former wrestler at Nassau Community College, his striking game was still very much a work in progress.