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USA Today

It’s easy to feel sorry for a guy like Ryan Bader.

OK—scratch that—more accurately, I suspect it’s easy for fight fans to feel absolutely nothing for a guy like Bader.

As he approaches his Saturday showdown with Ovince Saint Preux at UFC Fight Night 47, the former The Ultimate Fighter winner is likely viewed by most as an athlete whose best days have come and gone without him ever reaching his full potential.

We’ve already seen Bader tested against the best in his division and come up wanting. At 31 years old and 15 fights into his UFC career, he’s a fully known commodity—eternally kicking around the outskirts of the 205-pound top 10, with a fleet of A-listers like Alexander Gustafsson, Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson between him and anything resembling top contender status.

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Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today

Being an MMA fan isn't always easy. Nice things are few and far between. For every truly compelling fight such as like light heavyweight champion Jon Jones vs. Olympian Daniel Cormier, we get our share of random and pointless dreck, a culture informed by the grossest misogyny imaginable and a dark cloud of steroid abuse that continues to linger over the entire sport.  

The fights keep us coming back for more, making the rest of it manageable. At its best MMA is about the triumph of the human will—about science and tactics combining with strength and courage in the most beautiful ways.

Top-level MMA contests between the most gifted and stubborn fighters on the planet represent competition in its purest form. It's primal, ugly and magnificently regal, often in the span of just seconds. Nothing else comes close.

That's why the announcement that an injured Jones has pulled out of his bout with Cormier hurt so much. There are a lot of MMA fights on television. Most of them are random displays of violence between anonymous competitors that either end spectacularly or drone on for a seemingly endless 15 minutes.

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Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Michelle Waterson, the Invicta Fighting Championships 105-pound champion, is already reaping the benefits of Invicta's recent broadcast deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Beginning September 6, Invicta events will stream live on Fight Pass, the UFC's digital subscription service. Previous Invicta events aired mostly via Internet pay-per-view, with mixed results; purchasing problems with their pay-per-view partner forced Invicta founder Shannon Knapp to give away her last two events for free. So Knapp signed a deal with the UFC that gives the promotion access to her complete library and allows any subscriber to the Fight Pass service to view Invicta's live events.

Waterson will headline the inaugural Fight Pass event when she defends her championship against Yasuko Tamada at InvictaFC 8. She has been out of action since beating Jessica Penne in April 2013 to capture the Invicta belt, and so the UFC public-relations team has flown Waterson to Las Vegas to begin promotional efforts. She visited the UFC's headquarters on Sahara Avenue, where a makeup artist gave her a once-over before she began a series of video interviews designed to promote her fight.

"They're pampering me," Waterson says with a laugh.

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AP Images

For my money, the best part of last week’s instantly infamous off-air SportsCenter squabble between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier comes before either of them even utters a word.

The death threats and trash talk are fine—to borrow a phrase from Nick Diaz, it’s whatever—but the truly golden moment of this exchange emerges the instant Jones decides he’s going to go in on Cormier. You can see it as he fiddles his earpiece into place, a little grin creeping across his face before he opens his mouth and says: “Hey p---y, are you still there?”

And for a moment even Cormier has to laugh.

Whether Jones knew this recording would eventually become public or not, that one mischievous half smile tells us everything we need to know about how the light heavyweight champion is approaching this fight. With their mega-bout looming at UFC 178 on Sept. 27, it’s no accident the notoriously aloof Jones is picking this moment to abruptly lose his cool.

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USA Today

If there were any lingering doubts in your mind that Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier might be putting on a show for the sole purpose of filling their pockets with your hard-earned cash, well, those fears should be firmly put to rest.

It was difficult to imagine the heat between the pair elevating any more after their Monday lobby brawl at the MGM Grand. But there were those who believed that Jones and Cormier staged the entire thing, possibly with the help of the UFC, in order to boost sales for September's UFC 178 even further through the roof.

It's not out of the realm of possibility; we've seen countless "feuds'' between fighters end with both parties hugging in the Octagon and discussing their need to sell the fight.

Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me 100 times? Just call me a fan of mixed martial arts.

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USA Today

LAS VEGAS—A lawyer for Chael Sonnen has twice responded to an official letter from the Nevada State Athletic Commission that attempted to prevent Sonnen from competing on Saturday's Metamoris event in Los Angeles. As of Wednesday morning, the commission has yet to reply.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 1:16 a.m. ET

On Wednesday afternoon, Sonnen lawyer Ross Goodman sent what he described as "one final shot across the bow" to Francisco Aguilar, the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The letter marks one final attempt to get some sort of official comment from the commission regarding Sonnen's participation in Metamoris 4 on Saturday.

Despite the commission's threats, Sonnen has elected to compete at Metamoris and will be traveling to Los Angeles on Thursday morning. 

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USA Today

LAS VEGAS — On Monday morning, Daniel Cormier denied that he and Jones had any intentions of staging mock conflicts in order to sell their September 27 fight.

"I don't talk to Jon. The fight sells itself. We don't have to say anything," Cormier told Bleacher Report. "You have two of the best fighters in the world fighting each other. I think it sells itself. But no, I have not spoken to him."

While it may be true that Cormier and Jones have no current agreement to work in concert in an effort to boost the buyrate for UFC 178, it is a certainty that it will do astronomical numbers. Anticipation for the fight was sent skyrocketing on Monday after a heated staredown between Jones and Cormier escalated into a wild brawl that collapsed a temporary stage and sent fans in attendance into raptures.

When the staredown began, Jones marched up to Cormier and got directly in his face. It was a little too close for comfort for Cormier, who responded by pushing Jones backward. Jones then lunged at Cormier in an attempt to punch him. The pair fell off the back of the stage and continued fighting while UFC officials and MGM Grand security attempted to restore order.

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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.

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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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USA Today

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."