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Rashad Evans has said it before, and he said it again on UFC Tonight - he thinks that a great return fight for him is a bout with Ryan Bader. This time though, the feeling appears to be mutual. Managers of both men confirmed interest in the fight, and they're targeting UFC 192 in Houston as the place for it to go down.

Evans (19-3-1, 14-3-1 UFC) has been out with injuries since December 2013, where he defeated Chael Sonnen in the first round at UFC 167. Bader (19-4, 12-4 UFC) is one of the few light heavyweights on a winning streak, which he raised to four with a split decision win over Phil Davis in January.

Bader had been eyeing a title fight with new champion Daniel Cormier, but the UFC opted to give that shot to Alexander Gustafsson instead.

LINK to full story: Ryan Bader and Rashad Evans want to fight at UFC 192 - Bloody Elbow
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Rory MacDonald admits his passion for competition had fizzled prior to his first encounter with Robbie Lawler at UFC 167. The Canadian wasn’t the first to make that claim and there’s a good chance he’s not the last, either.

Unfortunately for MacDonald (18-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC), his low point came at a crucial time. A time in which had not lost to Lawler (24-10 MMA, 10-4 UFC) by split decision at the November 2013 event, he would have earned a UFC welterweight championship fight.

MacDonald will finally get his title shot nearly 19 months later in a rematch with now-champion Lawler at UFC 189 on July 11. Although he experienced stumbles along the way, MacDonald believes that sometimes the longer and more difficult road is ultimately the best one.

The 25-year-old said he wasn’t in the proper physical or mental state for the first meeting with “Ruthless.” MacDonald claims he went into the fight with a lingering injury and did not have the “fire” needed to defeat an opponent of Lawler’s caliber.

“I had a couple things in training and my body wasn’t feeling good; I just lost motivation,” MacDonald told MMAjunkie. “I couldn’t train as hard as I usually did and the injury kind of made me not focused. It just made me not into it. I think it was just my hunger was not there. I wasn’t really into the fight at that point.

“Before that fight I was like, ‘Oh, I just kind of want this to be over.’ I wasn’t really interested in fighting. I just wanted to get it over and done with and just relax.”

MacDonald said the severity of the ankle injury raised questions about whether he should compete. Injuries have forced MacDonald to withdraw from five UFC fights during his career and he said he wasn’t interested in pulling out again.

“I had people telling me I shouldn’t fight, but I did it anyways,” MacDonald said. “I said that I was going to do it. I don’t think the fight was signed, but I said I was going to do it. I had got injured like two or three fights in a row and I was just sick of it. I kind of came to the conclusion that you can’t be perfect in every fight.”

Despite the training camp hindrances and a lack of motivation, MacDonald put up a solid, and arguably even winning, effort against Lawler. It was a closely contested three-round fight, but the most significant moment came in the third round when Lawler connected with a left hook that briefly dropped MacDonald.

One judge thought MacDonald won the fight, the other two sided with Lawler, who got the win then captured the UFC belt just a few fights later.

MacDonald said he expects the complexion of the rematch to be entirely different. Injuries and mental focus are non-issues, MacDonald said, and the 25-minute time period provides “Red King” with more time and freedom to implement his tactics. The first fight was closely contested and MacDonald believes only minor adjustments are necessary to get the edge.

“My skills come a long way; my focus has changed since that fight and I’m just a little more determined to get in there and actually fight,” MacDonald said. “I don’t think I was focused on the actual fighting. I was a little distracted, a little less motivated to actually do martial arts at that point in my life.

“It was a close fight. Technical. My heart wasn’t in it and I just wasn’t there. That’s how I felt anyway. … I have a lot more techniques (now). I have a lot more skills to show in this fight than what we had last time. I’ll be better prepared mentally and physically. That’s going to show itself.”

LINK to full story: UFC 189’s Rory MacDonald: ‘My hunger was not there’ in first fight with Lawler | MMAjunkie
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Though Chad Mendes only received official word that he’ll be facing Conor McGregor for the featherweight interim title on Tuesday evening, he’s already mentally playing out what’s going to happen on July 11.

And reiterating what he said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, the division’s No. 1 contender said during Wednesday’s UFC 189 media call that he won’t let emotion dictate how he performs. Even if McGregor lit a fire under Mendes last fall by insulting him during a spot on BT Sport just before his rematch with current champion Jose Aldo atUFC 179.

McGregor has also disparaged Mendes for his height (he is 5-foot-6) and for being a career runner-up. Yet asked what specific thing it was that created the bad blood between he and McGregor on Wednesday, Mendes said it all goes back to that episode ahead of the Aldo fight, which caught him unawares.

"I mean, the short sh*t, I don’t give a sh*t about that kind of stuff, I’ve been short my whole life," Mendes said. "But, for me it was we had to do an interview right before my Aldo fight and he was talking about putting balls on my head and just being very unprofessional. This is something that, that made it personal. And for me, you don’t f*cking do that. This is the fight game, where somebody could get seriously injured, and that’s what I’m looking to do when I get in there against Conor McGregor."

It was made official by UFC president Dana White that Jose Aldo would be out of the fight on Tuesday night during an appearance on SportsCenter. During the spot, McGregor was asked how quickly he would finish the wrestler Mendes. The Irishman declared that by the four-minute mark of the first round, Mendes would be unconscious.

He said the same thing during Wednesday’s press call.

When Mendes was presented the same question, he said McGregor wouldn’t last the fight.

"Yeah, Conor I’m going to give you a little more respect buddy," he said. "I’m going to finish you within the first three."

The two argued with each other sporadically throughout the call. When asked how his striking would hold up against McGregor, Mendes said that his stand-up was just part of the tool-set that would ultimately doom arguably the UFC’s biggest star.

"I think my striking is going to be great," he said. "Conor’s never faced anybody like me before. I have the athleticism, the strength, the power, the speed, and I have wrestling to put him on his back to finish this fight. This fight is mine."

LINK: Chad Mendes says he’ll finish Conor McGregor ‘within the first three’
 rounds - MMA Fighting
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As Jose Aldo tried to battle through a rib injury ahead of his title defense against Conor McGregor at UFC 189, the contingency plan -- Chad Mendes -- began preparing himself as if Aldo were already out.

On Tuesday, as UFC president announced on SportsCenter, that became a reality. In what was one of the stranger situations heading into a big pay-per-view event, Mendes will now step in and fight McGregor for the interim featherweight title on July 11.

His leap of faith paid off.

"As soon as I got this call and they said get ready I basically just shut out any possibility that Aldo was coming back," Mendes said during an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, a full day before he got the news. "I’m basically treating this like I’m fighting Conor for the title. I have to get my weight down. I’m coming up with a game plan and going over it, fine-tuning cardio. I’m pretending like I’m getting in there, and I’m fighting. That’s my mindset. I wake up every morning, I sit there and game plan stuff while I’m laying in bed before I get out."

"And I’m excited, man. I think this is a great match-up for me. Conor’s a tough guy, but Conor’s a guy I know I can beat. He better pray that Aldo can go in there and fight because I’m going to mess that dude up."

Mendes said that part of the reason he was confident about stepping in was that he keeps himself in fight shape year-round. As of Monday he was walking around 163 to 164 pounds -- close to the weight he’s usually at two weeks before a fight.

Even when he was still uncertain as to whether or not he'd be facing McGregor at UFC 189, Mendes said he felt fortunate for the opportunity. Mendes was deadlocked with fellow featherweight Frankie Edgar to get the next shot, and he wasn't promised the winner should Aldo have fought McGregor as planned. To get the opportunity ahead of Edgar did make him feel for the former lightweight champ.

"I feel for him," he said of Edgar, who is coming off a victory over Mendes’ teammateUrijah Faber. "I have nothing against Frankie. Me and Frankie are right there in the same spot. Ultimately that was up to the UFC. Obviously I feel very honored that they chose me, but yeah, I feel like Frankie could make a case just as much as I could."

Mendes, who is coming off a huge TKO victory of his own over Ricardo Lamas in April, said that he’s been watching McGregor going back to his UFC debut against Marcus Brimage in 2013. Though this was an opportunity he said he couldn’t refuse, Mendes was very surprised that McGregor agreed to fight him -- a 5-foot-6 wrestler -- when the UFC came to him with the alternative plan.

"[McGregor] just went through an entire training camp for a guy that’s a Muay Thai fighter, and now he’s facing a guy that’s going to put him on his back," Mendes said. "It definitely changes the whole game plan but, I just heard his coach [John Kavanagh] talking. This is a fight that a lot of people from Ireland are coming to see, taking out big loans and stuff. So it would be pretty messed up on his part to have to back out now with all his friends and family coming. There’s a lot of pressure on that, a lot riding on him to keep that fight going. So I don’t think he has a choice."

As one of McGregor’s frequent targets in the media, Mendes and McGregor have had a contentious history together. Yet asked if the fight was personal to him, Mendes said he would present a stoical face once he stepped inside the Octagon.

"He’s definitely said things to make this personal…the guy just loves talking crap, though, I mean, that’s Conor," he said. "He’s an actor, he’s a guy that’s selling fights. I’m not going to get in there and fight emotionally. I’m going to love to beat the crap out of this guy, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing that dude’s going to say to take me out of my game, push me too far or make me fight emotionally. I’m going to get in there and do what I do every single time. I’m going to put the pace on him, I’m going to put him on his back and I’m going to make him uncomfortable and I’m going to beat the crap out of him. Bottom line is this is what I was born to do, and it’s time."

As for how he foresees beating the Irish firebrand McGregor, Mendes said it could go a variety of ways.

"If I could go out there and knock this dude out, I definitely think that’s a possibility," he said. "He takes a lot of punches in fights and comes in with his hands down a lot and he gets cocky in there a little bit. I feel like I have the power and the speed to put this guy out. If not I can see myself taking this dude out by taking him down and submitting him. I’ve seen past fights where he’s lost, got submitted. The guy, he’ll tap. He’s got that give up, that quit in him.

LINK to full story: Chad Mendes on Conor McGregor: ‘I'm going to mess this dude up' - MMA Fighting

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Let the fun begin!!
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UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo has withdrawn from a scheduled title defense against Conor McGregor at UFC 189 on July 11 in Las Vegas due to a rib injury.

Chad Mendes will step into Aldo's place and fight McGregor (17-2) for the interim featherweight title. UFC president Dana White announced Aldo's withdrawal on ESPN's SportsCenter on Tuesday.

Aldo (25-1) suffered the injury while training last week in Rio de Janeiro. The seven-time defending champion had attempted to recover in time to still compete on the pay-per-view card, but was ultimately forced to pull out.

"Aldo's rib is too painful and he will not be fighting," White said. "Chad Mendes will fight Conor McGregor for the interim belt. It's (Aldo's) decision. I don't feel great about it. We've spent a lot of money promoting this fight and a lot of people were excited. It's definitely disappointing."

Reports have conflicted regarding the severity of Aldo's injury. His coach, Andre Pederneiras, has stated Brazilian physicians have diagnosed a fractured rib. The UFC released a statement last week that Aldo suffered from a rib contusion and damaged cartilage.

With the Conor McGregor-Chad Mendes fight at UFC 189 now official after Jose Aldo had to withdraw, ESPN Insider Reed Kuhn breaks down the odds of the McGregor-Chad Mendes matchup.

McGregor, who fights out of Dublin but has spent the last eight weeks training in Las Vegas, said he couldn't force another man to fight him.

"If a man is scared for his life, we can not force him to step inside and fight me," McGregor said. "Doctors have cleared him to fight -- it's a bruise -- but he still pulled out. Rightfully so, the belt should be taken from him and we will contest for the interim belt or, in my opinion, the real belt."

The Irishman went on to predict a four-minute knockout over Mendes. McGregor is 5-0 in the UFC with four knockouts.

Mendes (17-2) is coming off a TKO victory over Ricardo Lamas in April. A former NCAA All American wrestler at Cal Poly, Mendes' only two professional losses have come against Aldo in UFC title fights.

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Told you this fight wouldn't happen. Sucks for ticket holders & folks traveling to Vegas.
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When discussing his recent signing with Bellator, welterweight Josh Koscheck had a certain pep in his voice that he admitted was missing for a long time.

Koscheck (17-10 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) said he’s more excited to compete in MMA than in “three or four” years. He doesn’t fault the UFC entirely for his waning interest in the sport. However, now that he’s no longer with the organization, he said he feels “free” to air his grievances regarding the company’s operations.

“Finally, I get to take off my handcuffs and I don’t have to be tied to the UFC rules, restrictions and underground rules,” Koscheck told MMAjunkie. “Like, ‘Oh, we’ll take care of you if you do what we say.’ Yeah, I went along with the game just like all these fighters are now. I got some good bonuses, absolutely, but some fights I thought I deserved a bigger bonus, or a better bonus for stepping up on short notice. Sometimes those bonuses were sh-t. I can finally just say what I want and not have any repercussions because they don’t own me anymore.

“It’s kind of nice to have that feeling and that weight lifted off my shoulders.”

After 25 UFC fights spanning from his April 2005 debut to his departure, Koscheck completed his UFC contract in March following a first-round submission loss to Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night 62. The defeat marked Koscheck’s fifth loss in a row, which for most fighters would fade the UFC’s interest in a contract renewal.

Koscheck said he was offered a new deal by the organization. However, he said the terms did not stack up with what Bellator presented soon after. In fact, Koscheck joked he would have made more money working as a bartender than re-signing with the UFC.

“I spoke with them briefly, for like two seconds on the phone; they offered something and I said, ‘No thanks,'” Koscheck said. “I could make more money being a bartender somewhere basically. At the end of the day it’s a business. Bellator and (President) Scott Coker put an offer together that I couldn’t resist, and we sent it over to the UFC to match and they couldn’t match it, so here I am – signed with Bellator, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

The 37-year-old said there were multiple layers behind his decision aside from fight purse. The UFC’s fighter apparel and sponsorship partnership with Reebok, which was largely unveiled at a media event today in New York City, influenced Koscheck to go with Bellator, he said. He feels the deal is unfair to fighters and prevents them from learning their true value in the sport.

Koscheck said he got a firm grasp on his worth as an athlete during his free agency period. He encouraged other fighters to do the same nearing the end of their contracts to do the same.

“Reebok deal had a big part to do with it; this Reebok deal is not good for the fighters and the media knows it, the fans know it, and the fighters know it,” Koscheck said. “The only thing this Reebok deal is good for, in my opinion, is the UFC. I don’t even know if it’s going to be good for them. I saw them posting stuff today regarding the Reebok deal and showing some of the designs. I left at the right time, that’s for sure, because those designs are hideous. That Reebok deal, in my opinion, is bad.

“I don’t think it supports the fighters and the fighters need to stand up and say, ‘Sorry, we’re out. We’re going to fight our contracts out and get the hell out of this.’ Or at least be able to negotiate. My suggestion for all fighters, all these UFC fighters out there and all fighters in general – fight your fights out, fight your contracts out, because you’re never going to know your market value until you fight your fights out and become a free agent.”

Another aspect of Koscheck’s decision, he said, was the opportunity to work closely with Coker. Coker has been at the helm of Bellator for a little more than a year, and during that time he’s made significant changes to the organization’s image and promotional tactics.

Koscheck had notable run-ins with UFC President Dana White over the course of his career. He said he better relates to Coker’s image for the future and holds tremendous faith in the potential of the Viacom-owned company.

“I couldn’t be more excited to get the opportunity to have a boss like Scott Coker,” Koscheck said. “The guy is a guy that you can work with, pick up the phone and call and have a good conversation with, a guy that isn’t going to cuss you out, a guy that’s going to treat you with respect. Scott Coker, I’ve always had a great relationship with him. Finally I get an awesome boss that’s going to be a fun time to work for.

“The major factor is, Scott Coker and I have become friends over the years. I started my career on Spike TV, and what a better way to end it. I’m going to end fighting on Spike TV with Josh Koscheck and having a cool boss like Scott Coker. I haven’t been this excited for a long time about mixed martial arts. Twenty-seven fights, 12 years, is a long time of fighting and training. I haven’t been excited for the past three or four years about fighting. I got that hunger back and I’m pretty excited about it.”

One of the key aspects to the way in which Coker and Bellator promote fights is to focus on major events. Koscheck said UFC is unable to properly promote events because of the amount of shows it runs every year. Koscheck feels it’s the responsibility of the promoter to make the public aware of fights and said the UFC’s broadcast partnership with FOX prevents it from doing that.

“With their contract they have with FOX TV, it’s a circus; they don’t promote fights anymore –there’s not enough time,” Koscheck said. “They have four or five fights a month, so there’s not enough time to promote fighters. They’re just time slots. They’re only filling time slots. Now this opportunity with Bellator you’re going to know when guys are fighting because they’ll have time to build the fight cards and get fans excited.

“It’s not just a corporate scale of putting fights on week after week. Get the corporate sh-t out of here and go back to the grass roots of MMA when it was cool. Back in the days of big, big fights. That’s what Scott Coker is going to do. He’s going to put on big fights and this is only the beginning of what he’s going to do with mixed martial arts.”

Koscheck made it clear when discussing his decision to sign with Bellator that’s he’s not bitter toward the UFC. However, he has strong feelings about certain subjects he felt could only be broached after he signed elsewhere.

Koscheck said he doesn’t know when his Bellator debut will take place, but he’s “excited” for the fresh start to his career. Despite not earning a victory since February 2012, Koscheck said he looks at the situation as a new chapter, and while he appreciates what the UFC did for him, he now feels “free.”

“I’ve had my fair share of good days in the UFC, and I’ve had my fair share of bad days in the UFC; that’s just part of it,” Koscheck said. “I appreciate the UFC and what they did for me. It was time for me to move on. It was time for me to grow as a fighter, grow more into business and by no means am I going to talk sh-t about them. They were good at times, they were bad at times. There were times where I had to bite my tongue and just eat it. At this point in my career I’m happy I get a new chance in life with Bellator, Spike TV and Scott Coker.

LINK to full story here: Josh Koscheck: Signing with Bellator means ‘I get to take off my handcuffs’ | MMAjunkie