UFC 238: Henry Cejudo is double champ, wins for Ferguson and Shevchenko

Dan Owen 9/06/2019
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Henry 'Two Belts' Cejudo

Henry Cejudo added to his impressive fight-CV by becoming just the fourth person in UFC history to be a consecutive two-weight world champion.

His third-round stoppage of Brazilian Marlon Moraes added the bantamweight strap to the flyweight belt already in his possession.

With a wrestling gold medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Cejudo’s latest win had many suggesting his now takes his place among the greatest fighters of all time.

Cejudo didn’t have things his all his own way though, the Brazilian looked strong in the first round using his kicks to keep the grappler at a safe distance.

It was a similar story going into the early knockings of the second, but Cejudo upped his work rate and managed to close the distance finding real joy with knees in the clinch.

As Moraes tired into the third, The Messenger was able to take control, eventually taking proceedings to the mat. A choke attempt was stunted, but Cejudo’s dominant ground game could not be quelled as he finished the fight with a flurry of punches and elbows to make history. Cejudo now stands at 15-2, Moraes slips to a 22-6 record.

Elsewhere, the highly anticipated lightweight clash between Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone ended in something of a disappointment.

Doctors called a halt to Donald Cerrone's match with Tony Ferguson

Doctors called a halt to Donald Cerrone’s match with Tony Ferguson

Going into the fight both men knew a win would secure a fight with the winner of UFC 242’s headliner in Abu Dhabi – Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier – but after an electrifying first two rounds, which still garnered the Fight of the Night accolade, it would be the doctor who would bring a premature end to the contest.

Cerrone, now 36-12, had taken the first round with an accurate and varied attack targeting the whole of Ferguson’s body. The fight stayed upright for much of the second stanza, but it was Ferguson now doing the damage.

He drew blood early in the round, landing heavily to the face of the Cowboy, who was visibly marked around both eyes, thanks mainly to vicious jabs from Ferguson.

The round ended in controversy as El Cucuy landed a shot after the bell, but there was no point deduction.

Just as the third period was about to start, Cerrone appeared to blow his nose, causing a rush of air and blood to the already-damaged right eye causing it to practically close from the swelling.

After a brief consultation doctors declared him unfit to continue, handing Ferguson the win, a 25-3 record, and a title shot in the not-too-distant future.

Women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defended her crown in devastating fashion against number-one contender Jessica Eye.

Valentina Shevchenko dominated Jessica Eye

Valentina Shevchenko dominated Jessica Eye

After dominating the first round on the ground, The Bullet landed a devastating head-kick in the opening seconds of round two rendering Eye unconscious before she even hit the canvas.

It was one of the most brutal knockout in the history of the women’s game, and took Shevchenko to 17-3, while Eye dropped to 14-7.

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UFC 242: Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier showdown is set for Abu Dhabi card

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Khabib Nurmagomedov

Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will face interim belt holder Dustin Poirier for undisputed status at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, the promotion has confirmed.

The Muslim fighter will be competing for the first time since a dominant fourth-round submission victory over Conor McGregor at UFC 229 last October.

Nurmagomedov was suspended for nine months following his involvement in the post-fight melee between his team and rival McGregor’s team but will look to defend his belt for a second time on September 7.

Poirier, who is unbeaten in his last six fights, elevated himself into interim-champ status after a deeply impressive victory over the reigning featherweight king Max Holloway at UFC 236.

UFC president Dana White confirmed after that triumph he would be next in line to challenge Nurmagomedov and the two will now headline the blockbuster event.

It will mark the first pay-per-view card the promotion has hosted in Abu Dhabi since UFC 112 back in 2010 having held a Fight Night event in 2014.

The venue is still to be decided but it will most likely require a bespoke built indoor arena with a capacity of up to 16,000.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, last month said: “Although we don’t yet have an arena that accommodates the capacity of such a mega event and its huge number of spectators, DCT Abu Dhabi is committed to building an arena for this event which can give the international event experience to UAE’s spectators.

“We are regularly contacting and meeting the UFC team from Las Vegas to review the technical requirements and to integrate them into our plans.

“Our flagship arena development is on-track and we are set to hand it over to the UFC’s team in August, ahead of the event.”

UFC 242 will air live on pay-per-view exclusively through the ESPN+ streaming service. Tickets will go on sale on Ticketmaster from noon on Friday.

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UFC 242 and the promotion's blockbuster return to Abu Dhabi is a jewel for the region

Alex Rea 26/05/2019
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Khabib Nurmagomedov

A lot has changed in nine years. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes a long-awaited return to the UAE this year with the world’s premier mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion once again showcasing its finest talents in Abu Dhabi on September 7.

The event – widely anticipated to be headlined by a lightweight unification clash between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim-champ Dustin Poirier – marks the beginning of a new era for MMA in the UAE as UFC 242 kicks off a five-year deal with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

Much has changed for both country and company. Granted, a smaller-scale Fight Night card was hosted in 2014, but it has been nearly a decade since a championship fight was held in the region following the middleweight and lightweight title contest double header of UFC 112.

And since the last and only pay-per view card to be hosted here back in April 2010, the promotion was sold for $4 billion, has witnessed the emergence and subsequent retirements of iconic superstars plus has created new divisions, championship belts and fighter kits.

TV rights were recently sold to the prestigious ESPN and thanks to the exponential growth of the UFC, MMA is now one of the biggest players in world sport.

It has entered new markets across the globe and is re-entering others, which is where Abu Dhabi comes in.

Similar to the UFC, the UAE capital has also developed, matured and expanded its portfolio of events.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is an enormous success story and has become the jewel of the Formula One calendar. The FIFA Club World Cup and Red Bull Air Race are two other diamonds which have sparkled on these shores and there are a myriad more.

BeFunky-collage - 2019-05-26T194715.239

Indeed, Abu Dhabi is now firmly established as a unique tourist destination which offers a diverse mix of activities and initiatives that cater to all audiences and visitors.

In a bid to further enhance Abu Dhabi’s reputation as a hub for sport, the Advantage Abu Dhabi Events Fund was created last year to boost the events sector.

Soon after its creation, the Abu Dhabi Events Bureau negotiated and then sealed a five-year deal with the UFC in Q1 for 2019.

And so the capital gets ready to once again host a world class event. The venue is still to be decided but it will most likely require a bespoke built indoor arena with a capacity of up to 16,000.

“Although we don’t yet have an arena that accommodates the capacity of such a mega event and its huge number of spectators, DCT Abu Dhabi is committed to building an arena for this event which can give the international event experience to UAE’s spectators,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi.

“We are regularly contacting and meeting the UFC team from Las Vegas to review the technical requirements and to integrate them into our plans.

“Our flagship arena development is on-track and we are set to hand it over to the UFC’s team in August, ahead of the event.”

Currently there is just one active Emirati professional MMA fighter, Mohammad Yahya. But there is huge hope and expectation that the UFC’s fresh footprint can create a path for more to follow.

Add in the natural transition from one of the country’s most loved and treasured sports – jiu-jitsu – and it makes sense to imagine a pool of talent soon emerging from the UAE.

“In the past few years, martial arts, and jiu-jitsu in particular, have become an official government project in Abu Dhabi, advocated by members of the Ruling Family, and led passionately by Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is an advocate of the sport and a professional jiu-jitsu athlete,” added Al Mubarak.

“Sheikh Tahnoun fell in love with jiu-jitsu during the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, held in the US city of Denver in 1993. By 1998, he had established the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC), a competitive circuit that has highlighted the art of submission combat.

“Bringing such global events to the UAE and incorporating community-based activities will definitely increase the profile of MMA, and UFC in particular, which in turn will inspire the younger generation and amateur fighters to take up the sport, meaning some will turn professional in the near future.”

To swell interest, there will be more than just a showstopping MMA card on offer with a week-long series of specialised events lined up in September.

Al Mubarak explained: “We will be bringing an international convention to Abu Dhabi to highlight the latest trends in martial arts, allowing local and international exhibitors to showcase their products and services to businesses and consumers.

“On top of this, we plan to host one or two concerts with world-class performers to celebrate UFC and its new home in Abu Dhabi.”

It’s clear Abu Dhabi is invested in the UFC and the reasoning is clear.

“Our industry research shows that 12 percent of the UAE population are UFC fans. Regionally, there are 1.5 million UFC fans in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and 2.2 million in Egypt,” said Al Mubarak.

“As a sport, UFC is growing in the region, reflected in the increase in fan numbers and interest in the sport. On April 30, when we announced our event, this news quickly became the most trending topic on Instagram in the UAE.”

One of the reasons is the expected appearance of Nurmagomedov. The 30-year-old is arguably the most popular Muslim fighter in the world after his stunning victory over Conor McGregor last October launched him into the mainstream consciousness.

The Dagestan native was a big attraction when he made an appearance at Al Wahda’s Al Nahyan Stadium shortly after that title win.

And ‘The Eagle’ all-but confirmed his attendance for September after suspensions handed to his team-mates following the infamous UFC 229 post-fight brawl were reduced last week, meaning they will be eligible to compete in Abu Dhabi.

Through an Instagram post (translated) he wrote: “The Nevada State Athletic Commission has rendered their judgement on Zubaira Tukhugov and Abubakar Nurmagomedov.

“The Commission has reduced the suspension of both fighters by 35 days, so Zubaira and Abubakar can fight on UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.

“We are ready and we coming Inshallah.”

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