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The bad blood between retired boxer Paulie Malignaggi and former UFC fighter Artem Lobov will finally boil over this weekend at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships (BKFC) 6 from Florida.

The long simmering feud originated with Malignaggi and Lobov’s close friend and teammate Conor McGregor after they were sparring partners for a very brief period of time in the lead up too the Irishman’s fight against Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

A lone sparring session where McGregor reportedly got the better of Malignaggi has led to one of combat sports’ most heated rivalries. Now it will result in Malignaggi facing McGregor’s proxy in Lobov in a bare knuckle brawl this weekend on pay-per-view.

While Lobov will be the one swinging punches in the ring, Malignaggi has made it clear that his ire starts with McGregor but it’s not likely he’ll ever get a chance to face him unless the former two-division UFC champion opts out of mixed martial arts and decides to try his hand at boxing again.

As much as the attention has shifted towards Malignaggi facing Lobov this weekend, the one question remaining ahead of the fight is whether or not McGregor will be in attendance to support his friend and teammate?

“They won’t give confirmation yet but if I’m a betting man, I’m betting he’s coming,” BKFC president David Feldman told MMAFighting when asked about McGregor’s attendance at the event. “They’re not going to give confirmation and if they are, they’re not going to tell us so we put it out there ‘hey Conor McGregor’s coming to the fight’ and then he’s mobbed.

“So it’s not going to happen like that but from the conversations I’m having, if I was going to bet on it, he’ll be there but who knows.”

McGregor is known as a master of head games and there might not be a better way to distract Malignaggi in the lead up to his fight against Lobov than having the former UFC champion taunting him from ringside.

“I think if Conor shows up, it’s a huge advantage for Artem,” Feldman added.

Whether McGregor makes an appearance or not, Feldman promises that BKFC is taking every necessary step to ensure Malignaggi and Lobov don’t come to blows before they meet in the ring on Saturday night.

There have already been two physical altercations in the past including the press conference to announce the event where Malignaggi spat at Lobov following a heated face off.

“I talked to Paulie about the spitting. I think the spitting took it a step too far and our company definitely doesn’t condone that,” Feldman said. “The verbal whatever, pushing a guy in the heat [of the battle], that’s all part of face offs and press conferences but spitting took it to a new level.

“We don’t condone that and we really wish it didn’t happen but it did create a lot of hype for the fight.”

As far as a third incident in the days leading to BKFC 6, Feldman says that the company is doing everything possible to keep Malignaggi and Lobov separated so they can finally settle the score in the arena where they are being paid to do it rather than a press conference stage instead.

“We’re going to have ample security at the press conference and the weigh-ins,” Feldman revealed. “They’re staying at different hotels so that’s not going to be an issue but definitely as the press conference and weigh-in where we know they will see each other. I don’t think if they see each other, they’re going to just jump in but when they get in each other’s face and they’re that close and then they start talking, that’s when the problems arise.

“So we’re definitely going to have ample security, more than ample security and I don’t see anything arising. I don’t think either of them want to blow the opportunity for this event and they don’t want to blow their pay either.”

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Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann has been forced out of her upcoming fight against former UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano due to injury.

In her place, former “Ultimate Fighter” winner Julianna Pena is expected to make her long-awaited return to action to face Montano on July 13 at the UFC Fight Night card in Sacramento.

Multiple sources close to the situation confirmed that verbal agreements are in place for the new fight, although no contracts have been issued at this time. The fight won’t be made official until bout agreements have been signed and the UFC makes an official announcement regarding the matchup.

McMann initially announced that she was out of the fight in an Instagram post as she looked to return to action after taking a break in her career to have a child.

“Welp, I’m pretty bummed to announce that I won’t be fighting on the July card in Sacramento,” McMann wrote. “MMA training demands so much from the body and it pains me to concede that I just wasn’t able to get it properly prepared for the fight.

“So after learning the hard way (getting injured) I am taking a short time to focus on getting my body healthy and strong enough to withstand the brutal toll that must be paid to be in this sport.”

Ironically, Pena will also be returning after she gave birth to her first child last January. The veteran bantamweight contender hasn’t fought since 2017 when she fell by submission to Valentina Shevchenko, which brought to an end a four-fight win streak that including victories over Cat Zingano and Jessica Eye.

Now it appears Pena is ready to resume her fighting career with a showdown against Montano in July.

Montano will also be making her first appearance in the UFC since the end of 2017 when she won the inaugural women’s flyweight title. Montano dealt with a foot injury that kept her out for the majority of 2018 and then she was stripped of her title after she suffered through a brutal weight cut that knocked her out of her fight against Shevchenko last September.

Montano will now move to bantamweight where she’s expected to face Pena in July.

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Brave Combat Federation’s debut in English soil will be headlined by featherweight champion Bubba Jenkins and Lucas Martins, multiple sources told MMA Fighting.

Brave CF 24 is scheduled to take place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London on July 25. The show marks Brave’s second-ever trip to United Kingdom following a show in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2018.

The promotion considered booking Jenkins in a superfight with bantamweight king Stephen Loman at either 135 or 145 pounds next, sources said, but ultimately opted for “Bad Man” vs. “Mineiro” instead.

Jenkins (13-4) competed most of his career under the Bellator banner between 2013 and 2016, scoring wins over the likes of Goiti Yamauchi and Jordan Parsons. The 31-year-old fighter captured the Brave CF belt with a five-round decision victory over Elias Boudegzdame last September.

Martins (20-4), who competed in three different weight classes in the UFC, became the Brave interim lightweight champion with a victory over Luan Santiago in April 2018, but lost the belt after injuring his knee in the first round against Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady in November. The Brazilian was riding a four-fight winning streak as a featherweight before moving up to 155 pounds.

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With 12 wins in a row in arguably the deepest division in the sport, Tony Ferguson should probably have already fought for the UFC lightweight title but it still hasn’t happened yet.

Ferguson won an interim lightweight title back in 2017 with a submission against Kevin Lee but then a freak knee injury a few months later prevented him from a shot at the undisputed belt in a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov.

When Ferguson returned six months later, he was matched up with Anthony Pettis while Nurmagomedov engaged in a rivalry fight against former champion Conor McGregor with the title on the line.

Ferguson was then dealing with some personal issues that prevented him from fighting for another interim title earlier this year, although he claimed he was absolutely ready to compete. In the end, Ferguson finally returned at UFC 238 in June where he picked up a second round TKO against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone to once again cement his spot as the top contender in the lightweight division.

In the aftermath of that latest win, UFC president Dana White couldn’t make any guarantees about what came next for Ferguson because the lightweight title is already up for grabs in September when Nurmagomedov faces Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi. Despite uncertainty surrounding Ferguson’s next fight, White fired back at the notion that he’s somehow prevented the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner from competing for the title when really it’s been a series of unfortunate incidents that have constantly stood in his way.

“When did I say that this guy doesn’t deserve anything? I mean if you do your homework on the Tony Ferguson thing, how many times have Tony Ferguson and Khabib [Nurmagomedov] been lined up to fight? It didn’t work out,” White responded when asked about Ferguson during an Instagram Live session on Tuesday. “He was the interim champion, blew his knee out, he had to have ACL surgery. He was out. We just offered him the fight with [Dustin] Poirier to fight Khabib next, he turned the fight down. Then he came back a few weeks later and was ready to fight again.

“Everybody’s acting like I’ve denied Tony his shot at the title. It’s just that he’s had a bad string of luck and things haven’t gone his way.”

Following his fight against Cerrone at UFC 238, Ferguson said that it only made sense that 12 wins in a row should earn him the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier but he also doesn’t expect a contract to come across his table any time soon.

There has been plenty of recent chatter about McGregor returning before the end of the year and he has been calling for a rematch against Nurmagomedov ever since the former two-division champion fell to him the first time around.

As the biggest draw in the sport, McGregor definitely commands more attention when he steps to the negotiating table for his fights, which is why his requests are immediately taken so seriously.

McGregor’s shadow definitely looms large over the division but White says that nothing will be decided regarding the next contender in line for the lightweight title until after UFC 242 in September and that conversation will certainly include Ferguson as well.

“He just looked phenomenal in the fight [against Donald Cerrone]. I just posted something the other day about his last seven opponents. The guy’s a stud and he’s in a good place right now mentally and physically and we’ll see how this thing plays out in September and then we’ll go from there,” White said about Ferguson.

“But everybody’s terrorizing me like I’m not giving him what he deserves. If you’re a fan of the sport, you saw how this whole thing played out. That’s how we got where we are now.”

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It pays to be a “champ champ.”

On Wednesday, ESPN announced its nominees for the 2019 ESPY Awards ceremony, which takes place July 10 in Los Angeles. Traditionally, MMA fighters have gone head-to-head with boxers for the Best Fighter award, but this year the committee has split the two into their own categories.

Nominated in the new Best MMA Fighter category this year are UFC athletes Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, Henry Cejudo, and Israel Adesanya. Of the four, Adesanya is the only one to not have held two UFC titles simultaneously in the last year. Adesanya currently holds the interim middleweight title.

Cormier won the UFC heavyweight title last June with a first-round knockout of Stipe Miocic. At the time, Cormier was also the light heavyweight champion. He would later successfully defend the heavyweight title with a submission of Derrick Lewis at UFC 230. Though he still holds that belt, Cormier voluntarily relinquished the light heavyweight championship when officials announced it would be vacated and given to the winner of the UFC 232 main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.

Nunes cemented her legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time, successfully defending her bantamweight title in May and then moving up to 145 pounds to take the featherweight title from Cris Cyborg. She needed just 51 seconds to finish Cyborg with strikes and snap Cyborg’s 13-year unbeaten streak.

In June, Cejudo joined the dual-division champion club with a third-round TKO of Marlon Moraes. That made Cejudo the owner of a bantamweight title that was vacated by T.J. Dillashaw due to Dillashaw failing a USADA test. Cejudo also won a split decision over Demetrious Johnson last August to win the flyweight title and end a streak of 11 consecutive successful defenses for Johnson. Additionally, Cejudo stopped Dillashaw in 32 seconds this past January when Dillashaw dropped down to 125 pounds to challenge for the flyweight strap.

Adesanya became a UFC interim champion after winning a five-round classic by unanimous decision against Kelvin Gastelum. “The Last Stylebender” is 6-0 inside the Octagon and undefeated in 17 pro MMA bouts.

Johnson was the last MMA representative to win the Best Fighter ESPY award, which he did back in 2017. Boxer Terence “Bud” Crawford won the award last year.

Other MMA fighters to win the now defunct award include Conor McGregor (2016) and Ronda Rousey (2015). Rousey also took home the award for Best Female Athlete in 2014 and Holly Holm won the 2016 Upset award for her head kick KO of Rousey at UFC 193.

Fans can vote for the winners here.

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Less than two weeks after being hospitalized with bacterial infection in his knee and undergoing emergency surgery in Florida, UFC welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio had to return to the hospital.

The Argentine talent, who remained in hospital for a week earlier this month, was cleared from the hospital on Tuesday after spending eight more days under medical care, he told MMA Fighting.

According to Ponzinibbio, he had a reaction to the medication he was taking after the surgery and had to return to the hospital after experiencing pain and fever. The welterweight fighter has yet to be cleared to return to training and doesn’t have a timetable for a return to the Octagon.

“I’m focused on my recovery now,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting. “I want to fight soon, of course, but I have to get back to 100 percent first. I know I’ll come back better than ever and win the fights I have to win to win my title.”

Earlier this month, Ponzinibbio shared a video on social media revealing he had undergone emergency surgery.

Ponzinibbio (27-3) is currently riding a seven-fight winning streak that includes stoppages over Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson and decisions against names like Mike Perry and Nordine Taleb.

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This is The A-Side Live Chat on MMA Fighting.

Today, José Youngs will be joined by everyone’s favorite Irish journalist, Petesy Carroll.

The two will give their reaction to an eventful Bellator 222 show, where fans saw Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald successfully defend his title against Neiman Gracie. Should MacDonald be the favorite against Douglas Lima in the finals of the Welterweight Grand Prix? Did he erase the memories of his last few fights? What about Dillon Danis? How far can he climb up the Bellator rankings?

We’ll also look at the recent retirement of Chael Sonnen, who decided to hang up his gloves following his TKO loss to Lyoto Machida in the night’s co-main event. What is “The American Gangster’s” legacy inside the cage? Is he a future UFC Hall of Famer? What about the fact that he never won a world championship during his professional career? How will he be remembered by fans?

We’ll also preview the upcoming UFC Greenville card, headlined by a featherweight clash between Renato Moicano and Chan Sung Jung. Which fighter is in more need of a victory inside the Octagon? Where does a loss put them in their careers? Can “The Korean Zombie” pick up yet another Performance of the Night bonus? Oh yeah, and what about the flyweight fight in the co-main event between Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga? Does the winner deserve a shot at Henry Cejudo’s 125-pound title?

Also on tap, we’ll look ahead to the bare-knuckle fight between Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov? What should fans expect from these two rivals inside the ring? Does Lobov have a shot against a former boxing champion? What happens if Lobov wins? And can we expect Conor McGregor to make an appearance?

There is plenty to discuss, so join us to rap on all of the above and much more. As we always say, this is your show, so we will talk about whatever it is you want us to talk about. The chat will start at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT.

As usual, we’ll post the video window as the event draws near and answer any questions you might have if you post them in the comments below. For the comments you deem the most deserving, please click the “rec” button. Comments in green will get first priority.

Please link this page and use the hashtags #TheASide or #ChatWrappers on Twitter when you’re watching to tell everyone you’re taking part with us.

Audio-only versions of the podcast can be found on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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MMA Fighting by Jose Youngs - 5h ago

The UFC Apex officially opened its doors Tuesday, and MMA Fighting got a guided tour of the 130,000 square-foot production facility. Check it out above.

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It all started simply enough. With a Tweet.

World-renowned superstar Justin Bieber - The Biebs - called out A-list icon Tom Cruise for a fight.

I wanna challenge Tom Cruise to fight in the octagon. Tom if you dont take this fight your scared and you will never live it down. Who is willing to put on the fight? @danawhite ?

— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) June 10, 2019

Fights are started for less of a reason everyday, albeit not usually amongst the super wealthy, non-fighting folk. But since this was between two such parties, and there was no underlying beef to substantiate Bieber’s callout most, assumed it would be a passing fancy. Of course, most thought MMA would be a passing fancy too and now look at it. Perhaps that’s what Dana White was thinking when, speaking with TMZ Sports yesterday, he said the UFC would be willing to oblige Bieber and Cruise, and that he had already gotten at least one serious phone call about it.

“So I’m gonna tell you something interesting,” White said. “Obviously, this thing came out - lots of people will talk about fighting somebody in the UFC, things like that. Whether it’s NFL players, or celebrities or whatever, it happens a lot. So obviously I saw it like everybody else did and I didn’t pay much attention to it. It picked up a lot of steam and was everywhere. I’m not gonna say any names but I’m just gonna tell you that I got a phone call from a couple of real guys that said that they really do want to do this fight and they believe that Tom Cruise would do the fight. And I told them, ‘Well, I’ll tell you this, if that’s true, if that’s true and everybody involved in this thing really wants to do it, we can talk.’”

Bieber’s call out was the talk of the internet streets all of last week. 224,000 people liked the Tweet. Conor McGregor offered to put on the bout with his production company. CNN wrote about it. Oddsmakers set a betting line (with Cruise as the healthy favorite). So it makes sense that White would be interested in promoting the fight. It would be the easiest promotion of his life, and White said as much.

“Let me tell you what, I’d be an idiot not to make this fight,” White said. “That would be the easiest fight to ever promote in the history of my career.”

Of course it would be. Cruise and Bieber would be two competitors in a different galaxy of star power than White has ever dealt with before. The closest corollary White has would be his inclusion in the Floyd Maywether vs. Conor McGregor crossover fight that went on to become the second highest grossing PPV of all time. It appears White learned a great deal from that experience. At first he was adamant the fight would never happen, before ultimately realizing the financial gain in making it happen. Now, he’s not ready to write anything off, especially when there is so much money to be made.

“I didn’t think that Floyd and Conor was gonna happen and it did,” White said. “Anything is possible these days. Anything is possible.”

Hope everyone is ready for the return of Celebrity Deathmatch.

MUST-READ STORIES

DWTNCS. Yorgan De Castro, Punahele Soriano earn UFC contracts at Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.

Get paid. Dana White: Brock Lesnar ‘made the right decision’ to not return to the UFC.

Contender. Ben Askren believes he could jump over Colby Covington with win at UFC 239.

Blackmail. Paulo Costa says ex-trainer attempted to blackmail him with IV video.

Sympathy. James Gallagher sympathizes with Aaron Pico: ‘You can’t kick a man while he’s down’.

VIDEO STEW

DWTNCS contracts.

Dana White Announces Contender Series Contract Winners - Week 1 | Season 3 - YouTube

Dana White Scrum.

The story of UFC feuds.

BAD BLOOD, GOOD BUSINESS: The Story of Rivalries Fueling the Biggest Fights - YouTube

Bellator 222 highlights

Fight Night Rory.

Fight Night | Rory Macdonald - Bellator 222 - YouTube

Anatomy of Ryan Bader.

Anatomy of Ryan "Darth" Bader - Chapter One (Sacrifice) | All-Access - YouTube
LISTEN UP

Eurobash. Interviews with Rafael Lovato Jr., James Gallagher, and Fabian Edwards.

Mookie & Crookie. What is Chael Sonnen’s MMA legacy?

SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Legend.

Not to be picky Kevster
But
I wasn't one of the WORST drug cheats of my era
I was the BEST

— Chael Sonnen (@ChaelSonnen) June 18, 2019

Confusing.

When you hear @Brendan264 didn’t get a contract. pic.twitter.com/DquS8TKqXR

— Bec Rawlings (@RowdyBec) June 19, 2019

Damn.

Back to a neurology this am to get cleared to train . don’t get head kicked ... take my word for it .

— Jessica Eye (@jessicaevileye) June 18, 2019

Hard to argue.

Defensive football players make the best transition into mma. Change my mind

— Eryk Anders (@erykanders) June 19, 2019

Class.

Dagnabbit. Oh well, congrats on your opportunity, Liz @iamgirlrilla Maybe we'll fight in the future! https://t.co/qMOXzR3vgg

— Roxanne Modafferi (@Roxyfighter) June 19, 2019

I mean, it sucks for Roxy but great for Carmouche.

HMMM I truly dislike when this happens. A contract has been signed and you shouldn't get bumped. I don't even understand how this is a thing https://t.co/fGhoO5AWia

— Sarah Kaufman (@mmasarah) June 19, 2019

Conor.

The new office is looking great Dana, congrats on the re-up!
I’ll catch ye soon and we’ll lock stock.
For two smoking barrels. pic.twitter.com/xR8cc4Mfjd

— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) June 18, 2019

Which one?

Yessir. 1 of these 2 is a cutie! pic.twitter.com/Yrc9Cyp7rI

— Matt Mitrione (@mattmitrione) June 19, 2019

Izzy.

Looking like a couple’a fresh bricks outta Pablo’s stash #macheteclan #july13th #ontherark #mashallahmafia pic.twitter.com/mUF6kFIc6A

— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) June 19, 2019
FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Ricardo Ramos (12-2) vs. Journey Newson (9-1); UFC Minneapolis, June 29.

Jordan Griffin (17-6) vs. Vince Murdock (12-3, 1 NC); UFC Minneapolis, June 29.

Karl Roberson (7-2) vs. Wellington Turman (15-2); UFC Sacramento, July 13.

FINAL THOUGHTS

To be fair, it can’t be any worse than CM Punk fighting. Plus, Cruise used to wrestle. I’d definitely watch him merc Bieber.

Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.

EXIT POLL

If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram, add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting, and like us on Facebook.

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Looks like Jessica Andrade won’t be the only fighter from Parana Vale Tudo to compete at UFC Shenzhen on Aug. 31.

Karolline Rosa, a 24-year-old bantamweight who holds an 11-3 record since her professional MMA debut in 2012, has signed a deal with the promotion and is expected to make her debut in China, sources confirmed to MMA Fighting following a report by Psicoticos por Vale Tudo.

UFC’s upcoming event in China will have her teammate “Bate Estaca” Andrade defending the strawweight championship against rising Chinese prospect Weili Zhang in the main event.

The UFC is still looking for an opponent for Rosa, sources said. The PRVT fighter was originally booked to face longtime MMA veteran Jan Finney at Battlefield FC 2 in Macau, China, on July 27.

Rosa competed for the last time in April, avenging the first defeat of her career with a third-round TKO over Gisele Moreira at Future FC 4. The Brazilian fighter scored six of her 11 MMA wins by either knockout or submission.

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