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Even as the UFC light heavyweight champion finds himself mired in the flat spin of a drug scandal, the division rolls on around him.

Saturday's UFC on Fox 14 features two potentially meaningful 205-pound scraps. Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson battle for likely No. 1 contender status, while perennial contenders Ryan Bader and Phil Davis continue to search for the signature win that will put them on the fast track.

In addition, all-time great Dan Henderson returns to the middleweight division, looking to break out of a 1-4 slump dating back to Feb. 2013.

The fact that it all goes down inside a stadium-sized arena in Stockholm, Sweden and will air live on network television in the U.S. only adds to the grandeur.


Bleacher Report lead mixed martial arts writers Jonathan Snowden and Jeremy Botter have banded together—much like a modern-day version of the Justice Leagueto take on the most important questions facing the MMA world. Welcome to The Question

Now that Conor McGregor has proven he's got legitimate star power, setting ratings records on Fox Sports 1, a new question comes to the fore. Will he prove to be equally as devastating in the cage as he is at the box office? He's established himself as a legitimate contender—but can McGregor beat featherweight world champion Jose Aldo?

Jonathan: Well, Jeremy, it's official. Although a few naysayers will continue to lurk in comments sections everywhere, it's clear to everyone with a functional cortex that Conor McGregor is the real thing. He didn't just beat a tough fringe contender in Dennis Siver—he demolished him. 

We've always suspected McGregor had the potential to be a box office sensation. His record-breaking performance on Fox Sports 1 proves there is fire alongside that smoke. And that success came before he had established himself as a legitimate contender. Now that he's officially the top contender, and looks like he'll be competitive against Aldo at the very least, I'm hopeful MMA, at long last, has a new star on its hands.


Anthony Johnson is a night owl these days.

The UFC’s No. 3-ranked light heavyweight arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, late last week to prepare for Saturday’s title eliminator against Alexander Gustafsson. At least some of that prep work involves keeping late hours.

To stay acclimated for an event scheduled to kick off at 2 a.m. local time, Johnson told Bleacher Report he’s keeping his body clock on Florida time. That means he’s staying up all night, starting his hotel training sessions at 2:30-3:00 a.m. and getting what little sleep he can—he says he doesn’t need more than a few hours each day—during normal business hours.

Oh yeah, and for a native of Georgia who now makes his professional home with the Boca Raton-based Blackzilian fight teamStockholm in January? Not necessarily his choice for the best weather.

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Our enduring memory from UFC Fight Night 59 will be Conor McGregor, moments removed from his easy destruction of Dennis Siver, leaping over the Octagon in search of his next foe.

McGregor found him. Jose Aldo, located in the second row—next to McGregor's stunning girlfriend, no less—stood with a smile on his face. McGregor, held back by a security detail that included Dana White's massive personal bodyguard, Kea (no last name needed), screamed at Aldo. In return, the UFC featherweight champion simply smiled. Aldo's daughter, standing in front of him, beamed at McGregor as well. Aldo continued smiling as McGregor climbed back on the cage and made the classic pro-wrestling "I'm taking the belt" motion with his hands.

It was an interesting moment. In McGregor, Aldo must see a chance to finally make the kind of big money he has watched other famous Brazilians bring home but has never quite obtained himself. The loudmouthed Irishman has been selling a fight with Aldo for what seems like ages now. He has constantly ensured that his current opponent was not overlooked but continually reminded fans of the ultimate goal: a championship fight with Aldo.

And now that moment is here—or at least it will be in a few months—and I wonder if Aldo will hold up his end of the deal. He has complained about his pay on a regular basis for quite some time. And there are signs that Aldo understands that he needs to be a little more vocal when it comes to McGregor; he took a photo of himself wearing a robe, crown and scepter while holding a drawing of McGregor as a court jester. 

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The narrative on Donald Cerrone is that there is no narrative.

Honestly, it’s getting to the point where there just isn’t a lot left to say about the guy.

Cerrone did his “Cowboy” thing again on Sunday at UFC Fight Night 59, showing up on impossibly short notice to eke out a close but unanimous-decision win over his friend and frequent foe, Benson Henderson.

"Ben is one hell of a guy," the ever-honest, ever-plainspoken Cerrone told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan in the cage when it was over. "Fighting him on short notice, he's a stud man. My hat's off to him."

USA Today

It was a night designed for one thing, and for one thing only: To cement Conor McGregor as a superstar and to set up the biggest featherweight championship fight in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

McGregor received unprecedented promotional hype leading up to the fight. His visage dominated UFC airwaves, with very little mention of opponent Dennis Siver. He was all over Sunday's NFC Championship game on Fox, which is pretty much the kind of advertising you cannot buy. His face plastered billboards all over Boston.

UFC events are, on occasion, known as one-fight cards. UFC 182 earlier in January was the perfect example: People purchased the pay-per-view to see Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, and that is the only reason they tuned in.

UFC Fight Night 59 felt more like a one-man show, and for good reason. McGregor has taken the UFC by storm since his debut just under two years ago. He has talked a very big game, but has backed it up in the cage. He is one of the most marketable fighters to hit the UFC in recent years. And after his destruction of Dennis Siver in the UFC Fight Night 59 main event, it's probably time to start asking a big question: Is McGregor the UFC's biggest current star?

Gregory Payan/AP Images

O'Connell Street in Dublin, Ireland, is one of the world's iconic thruways. Reborn in the late 1990s, it's a beautiful testament to Ireland itself, celebrating the past while also looking forward to a promising future.

Lining the street are statues representing great Irishmen from years gone by. Most people look at these great men and reminisce, recalling the Eire's many contributions to the world.

But Conor McGregor is not "most people." The budding UFC star, who headlines the UFC's card on Fox Sports 1 Sunday against Dennis Siver, walks O'Connell Street, the signature pedestrian area of his hometown, and sees not just forgotten icons and the dust of history—he sees opportunity.

"I look at that and now I want a statue," he told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "Now I can't wait to get my own statue up there...we will bring Jose Aldo over to Dublin, we will fill out a 90,000-seat football stadium in Croke Park.

USA Today

The Conor McGregor hyperbole may finally have gotten out of hand this week.

Frightening, considering it feels like we're just getting started.

With a few days left before McGregor meets Dennis Siver in the main event of Sunday’s Fight Night 59, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta has already—somewhat apologetically—compared him to The Greatest.

“I hate even saying this, but with his gift of gab and his athletic ability and fighting ability, it’s almost like the Irish Muhammad Ali in a way,” Fertitta told MMA Junkie’s John Morgan.

USA Today

LAS VEGAS — Yesterday, I published an exclusive, detailed look at a document governing the UFC's new Athlete Outfitting Policy.

The partnership with Reebok—which goes into effect in July—is extensive, and is in every respect a game-changer for the UFC and the fighters who make their living by fighting for the promotion. No longer will fighters be allowed to secure their own sponsorships and display outside logos on their shorts, hats and banners. Instead, it will be all Reebok, all the time, and sponsor banners are a thing of the past.

From a monetary perspective, we still do not know what this will mean for the fighters. The document states that fighters will be paid on a tiered system based on their ranking at the time of weigh-ins, and that they will be paid within 10 business days of the fight's conclusion. But it does not offer any specifics on what kind of pay each tier will provide. That part remains a mystery for now.

Because it is a mystery, we don't know how this deal will ultimately affect the fighters. Will they make a dollar amount equivalent to the amount they were paid by their old sponsors? For some, the idea of not having to chase down payments from delinquent sponsors—long a prevalent thing in mixed martial arts—will be a godsend. For others who take a financial hit, things will not be so rosy.

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LAS VEGAS — On Wednesday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship outlined its new Athlete Outfitting Policy in a document sent to managers of all fighters currently on the roster.

The document, obtained by Bleacher Report, details nearly every aspect of the new policy with the exception of what each fighter can expect to be paid from the new UFC partnership with Reebok. But while the monetary details remain a mystery, the document answers many questions posed after the announcement of the deal—first reported by Bleacher Report last February—late last year.

The document opens with a letter from UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC President Dana White explaining some of the reasoning behind the partnership.

"The iconic look that will be created by the outfitting policy will elevate the message we communicate as the leaders in the sport," White and Fertitta said in the letter. "The apparel is built for MMA training and MMA fighting, bringing the newest technology available to our sport."