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USA Today

Longtime welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has elected to take what he described as an indefinite absence from mixed martial arts. St-Pierre, who has served as one of the most dominant and popular champions in the history of the company, has also vacated his championship.

The French-Canadian fighter made the announcement on a Friday afternoon conference call with UFC President Dana White. The call was simulcasted live across Canada by nationwide cable sports network SportsNet.

"I've been in this sport for a long time," St-Pierre said. "I know the UFC is a business. But right now, I need to take a break. One day, when I feel like it, I might come back."

White announced that St-Pierre's now-vacant championship would be up for grabs on March 15 when Johny Hendricks takes on Robbie Lawler at UFC 171, and later confirmed via Twitter that the bout would serve as the card's main event.

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Courtesy Sherdog.com

Don’t be fooled by the fact that it continues to stagger aimlessly through the barren fields of cable television—The Ultimate Fighter has been dead for years.

Once the primary vehicle of the UFC’s drive toward the mainstream, the reality show has become something less than itself during its last handful of seasons. These days, it’s merely a zombie, shuffling awkwardly in pursuit of its goals but without the brains or the soul to carry them out.

Limping along only because no one has had the good sense to put it out of its misery.

This week, however, we got a glimmer of hope for a cure. With the UFC’s announcement on Wednesday that it’ll use TUF’s upcoming 20th season to introduce strawweights to the Octagon, there’s a sudden and unexpected note of optimism surrounding the flagging series.

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It appears the UFC's network television broadcasts on Fox have been designated as the official home of  the flyweight championship.

Oh. Excuse me. You probably aren't familiar with the term "flyweight," since not a shred of Fox's marketing efforts towards Saturday night's sublime tilt between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez even mentions their own 125-pound championship belt. No kidding. You've seen the television commercials (likely 150 times or more), so you know that there's nary a mention of the word flyweight. Johnson is simply the "world champion," and viewers are left to wonder if perhaps Johnson is the heavyweight champion.

And I blame this entirely on Fox, by the way, because the UFC has zero trouble promoting the flyweight championship. Back before Jon Jones canceled Christmas and UFC 151 in one fell swoop, the original fight between Benavidez and Johnson was scheduled to headline UFC 152. It was to determine the first flyweight title, and the UFC had no problems billing it as such. But then Jones McGrinch canceled Christmas and his main event was moved to UFC 152, and the lighter-weight guys were moved a notch down the card.

Still, this is the third consecutive appearance on Fox for Johnson after defenses against John Dodson and John Moraga. Perhaps someday he'll graduate back to pay-per-view. 

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USA Today

The week prior to a UFC fight card is a magical time. The fighters, like flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and his challenger Joseph Benavidez, prepare for two battles—one with the scale and the other with their opponent.

Fox's production team scurries to prepare for a fight of its own, one against chance and complacency, in pursuit of the perfect broadcast. 

On the Internet, MMA journalists compete to see who can score the biggest interviews or provide the hottest take. Here at Bleacher Report, not only do we have the main-eventers in the bag, but we've also got the most sizzling takes—and are willing to provide them on demand.

Even better?

Lead writers Chad Dundas and Jonathan Snowden go back and forth on the issues of the day, providing two takes for the price of one. And if you disagree with one or both, you can always chime in and join the conversation. 

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Photo courtesy of Fox Sports 1

The team of analysts for the UFC on Fox Sports 1 and Fox broadcasts has been providing the most in-depth coverage that mixed martial arts has seen in its 20 years of existence.

With a collection of seasoned fight veterans and a handful of well-versed hosts at the helm, the people working the pre- and post-fight shows for the UFC have consistently raised the bar.

For the next installment of "Dropping Knowledge," the current front-runner for MVP in the analyst game in 2013, Brian Stann, paid another visit to our column. The "All-American" has stopped by on several occasions in the past and with each visit has brought us closer to renaming his installments "Dropping Science" for the alchemy-like wizardry he brings to the table.

Since Stann's recent retirement from settling the opposition inside the Octagon, he has been busy working with the Fox broadcast teams in both MMA and college football. The former Navy linebacker did a knockout job covering ACC football during the regular season and has hit the phone booth just in time to get his cape back on to hit the action for this weekend's card at UFC on Fox 9 in Sacramento, Calif.

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USA Today

You'll find Ultimate Fitness on a tree-lined street in one of the older parts of Sacramento, the part that resembles the fading main street area of your hometown more so than the bustling cities many old American towns eventually gave way to. 

At first glance, it appears to be part warehouse and part abandoned Winn Dixie, or whatever ancient grocery store chain substitutes for Winn Dixie in California. It is gray and metal and not at all modern, but it fits in its surroundings and is part of the fabric of the neighborhood. It is part of Sacramento.

Inside this building with the metal front and the trees on every side, you'll discover another part of the Sacramento tapestry. For though the minuscule blue sign on the front of the building says Ultimate Fitness, it's what is not on the sign that's important. 

This is Urijah Faber's Ultimate Fitness, better known as the home of Team Alpha Male, and they are as much Sacramento as the Kings or any other local heroes, sporting or otherwise.

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USA Today

It's hard for UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to stand out in a crowd. Challenger Joseph Benavidez, who will look to take Johnson's title belt Saturday on Fox, has the same problem. Standing just a shade over 5 feet tall and weighing a mere 125 pounds, both are smaller than not just the average American man but the average woman, too.

Getting lost in the shuffle isn't just a possibility. It's a fact. The box office tells us so, and money, some say, never lies.

But why? Benavidez took a shot at answering what, for a pro fighter, can literally be a million-dollar question. Why haven't UFC fans embraced smaller fighters, rewarding technique and style over brawn and brawling?

"The only issue is the names, the recognition and the popularity," Benavidez said. "Because the division's so new. There's no lack of skill in the division at all. Our guys are just as good as any other division, they just aren't as known. They haven't been on TV as much. But there's amazing talent at flyweight. It's just time with these things, man."

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Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

As fighters continue to find success under the bright lights of the UFC and their profiles rise in the realm of public perception, it's easy to lose things in the shuffle. For recently turned, yet ever-scrappy, welterweight Court McGee, the potential to be led astray by the chaos is tempered by his ability take things one step at a time.

If that sounds simplistic, that's because it is. And that is the only way it can be for McGee as he moves forward through his career in mixed martial arts.

"The most important thing for me is to not look too far ahead," McGee told Bleacher Report. "Sometimes you get caught up in what could happen or what may happen. But if it hasn't happened yet, then I'm wasting energy just thinking about it. What I can do is show every day and do my best and that ensures the next day I'll be ready to go. People ask me all the time what I want to do next or who I want to fight, but the most important thing for me is right now. I keep things simple and look at it one day at a time because you never know what is going to happen.

"I was cornering somebody on a card once and during the weight cut, a guy slipped and hit his head while cutting weight in the sauna. You never know, man. If I'm sitting here thinking about fighting a top-10 guy then I'm not focused on what I have directly in front of me. I can't be thinking about what is potentially down the road when I haven't even fought this fight yet. I haven't even made weight yet and I have so much on my plate that needs my attention that I can't waste energy on thinking about what could happen down the line."

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USA Today

Perhaps, the most telling statement that Urijah Faber ever made about his own position in life came at WEC 26, as he prepared to fight a little known 21-year-old named Dominick Cruz.

“I’m not the type of person who’s ever been beat up or picked on or—you know—the underdog,” Faber said during pre-fight interviews. “I’ve been the man since I was a little kid, and I’m still going to be the man.”

That confidence was well-earned. At the time, Faber was the undisputed king of MMA's lightest weight classes. He was the WEC’s featherweight champion who was undefeated for more than two years and was consistently capable of making the rest of the best fighters in his division appear decidedly less than.

For lack of better terminology, he was indeed the man.

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USA Today

At first glance, the UFC on Fox title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez doesn't offer all that much to analyze.

Johnson has been the flyweight champion since defeating Benavidez for the belt in the first-ever flyweight title fight. Since then, the two have remained the best flyweights in the world. Benavidez has won three fights since his title fight loss, and Johnson has turned back two challengers to his belt. 

If they're still the two best flyweights in the world, why would we expect the rematch to go any differently than it did the first time around?

Two words: Duane Ludwig.

In a feature over at CagePotato.com, noted mixed martial arts statistical guru Reed Kuhn broke down exactly what Ludwig has done for Team Alpha Male since becoming their head coach. They've improved in literally every single striking metric Kuhn tracks. As a team, they were always good with grappling. I'm not saying they were not good strikers, but it was clearly the second asset in their toolbox.