The latest episode of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show featured a former champion discussing his rivalry with one of the UFC's most popular fighters, a top contender stating his case for a shot at the belt and a Bellator prospect defending a controversial submission.
Here's what you might have missed:
Anthony Pettis prefers to fight Nate Diaz over Conor McGregor: 'I can't wait to hurt this guy'
Anthony Pettis has fought a who's who of UFC competitors over the years: Stephen Thompson, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Cowboy Cerrone, Benson Henderson and more. But the one name that has been on his mind for years? Nate Diaz.
Pettis, the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion, told ESPN's Ariel Helwani the matchup is a long time coming -- so long, in fact, he cannot pinpoint the exact origin of their bad blood.
"We've just always had this drama," Pettis said. "Every time we saw each other, something was going to happen. He might have been jealous I was the champ. He wanted his shot at me. He got his [Conor] McGregor fight and then went MIA. That chapter never closed in my life, so to me, this is something that had to happen."
Pettis says some of the issues with Diaz started while he was coaching against a close friend of Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series in 2014. It also occurred backstage when they ran into each other after Melendez lost to Alvarez by split decision at UFC 188 in 2015.
"Nate is a tough dude, but he turns it on for the cameras," Pettis said. "For me, I'm past that drama stuff, but I'm definitely looking forward to whooping his ass."
Diaz was not always the plan, however. Pettis says the UFC was exploring the possibility of a fight with McGregor later this summer. It did not come together. But if he were to be asked to pick opponents between Diaz and McGregor, he would select the man from Stockton, California.
"I can't wait to hurt this guy. This is a personal fight for me," Pettis said. "This is one guy I just don't like. Me and Diaz got problems. Now we can solve them."
Q & A: Helwani talks title shot with Alexander Volkanovski
Helwani: I don't know if you know this, Alex, but I've been attacked over the past week or so. I don't even think I'm saying anything crazy. I don't think I'm defending your honor. I think I'm speaking in facts. In actual logical sense here. You're 20-1. You're 7-0 in the UFC. You just beat Jose Aldo in Rio. Since Frankie [Edgar] last fought 18 months ago, you're 3-0 in the UFC with wins over Darren Elkins, Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo.
I don't understand how this is even a debate. You're on a 17-fight win streak. He's on a one-fight win streak. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here. I'm legitimately worried that they are going to give it to Frankie.
I want to clear this up right here, right now. Frankie is a legend. He has done so many great things in this sport. He should fight for the belt again, I have no problem with that. My main point is your next fight has to be for the title. I don't want to see another Tony Ferguson situation. That is just completely unfair. You have done enough. If they are going to decide between the two of you, I don't understand how it's even a debate. ... How do you feel that this is even starting to become a debate?
Volkanovski: Is it a debate right now? I'm not sure. I'm still seeing a lot of people saying I'm definitely next. I have a lot of respect for him. I love the bloke as well. Frankie? I'm a big fan of him. I felt bad of him taking that risk [against Brian Ortega] and losing.
But as I've been saying all week, why do we call it a risk? If you're going to fight and lose and still get a title [shot], it's not really a risk. You're a legend for that. What a champion he is for taking that. But at the same time it's unfortunate you took that risk. It didn't end up well for you. I'm sorry, but I think I'm next. If you want to wait around for after me, then I'd be happy to fight you for the title.
'Boom! I don't have the belt anymore'
"Maybe I got a little more confident than I needed to. I didn't think he hit that hard, but it was right on the button. As lot of guys hit harder who I've fought. ... Look, I've been stopped before. It ain't nothing new. A lot of guys get stopped. It happens. I felt under control, I felt good, and it just didn't happen for me, didn't go my way. I let my guard down for a split second, had a lapse in my game plan and boom! I don't have the belt anymore. But now I get another crack at it, so we're good."
Hager explains choke that drew backlash
Jake Hager drew the ire of referee Mike Beltran -- and many fans in attendance -- after his victory at Bellator 221 last Saturday for failing to let go of his opponent while submitting him on the ground. Hager had T.J. Jones in an arm-triangle choke midway through the first round when Jones decided to tap. But rather than immediately let go, Hager hung on for an extra handful of seconds.
When asked about the choke by Helwani, Hager said he did not purposely hold longer than he should have.
"When you flip the switch to go into that cage, you don't just unflip that switch," Hager, a former WWE wrestler, said. "Adrenaline is pumping. If you at the video back, he actually grabbed his hand and stopped tapping altogether. Then it felt like a rocking motion, almost like T.J. was trying to squirm out from underneath me.
"I really couldn't hear any verbal commands. I had my head buried and really focused. I meant no disrespect to T.J. I did not try to hurt him at all. I need to know it's the referee. And I do not have the luxury to think it was over because that's where I'll get hurt."
Did fans overshadow Cannonier beating a legend?
The final leg kick thrown in Anderson Silva's direction Saturday night basically destroyed his leg. The 44-year-old legend collapsed to the mat, writhing and grabbing his right knee, and had to be helped to his feet and out of the Octagon.
How did the kick feel to Jared Cannonier, the man who threw it?
"It felt light."
"He didn't want to take the kick, so he took the weight off of that leg," Cannonier explained on the Helwani Show. "But it was too little, too late."
It was too little, indeed, for the fans in Rio de Janeiro, who did not appreciate seeing the show end early for Silva, who had not fought in his native Brazil in nearly seven years. His previous time in Rio, in fact, was the final victory of Silva's 17-fight win streak, and came nine months before Chris Weidman took away the middleweight championship.
So as Cannonier was being announced as the winner, the arena filled with boos. And Cannonier just stood in the center of the cage, silently soaking it all in.
"I felt the energy, and I wasn't going to let that negative energy overwhelm me or make me react in any sort of way," he said of the fans. "If anything, the egg is on their face. I won, fair and square. It was a beautiful performance."
Cannonier does acknowledge that, to an extent, the fans overshadowed his glorious moment.
"A lot of people are talking about the booing, talking about the crowd, as if they were the MVP of that match, when that match was all me, all day," he said. "That was just pure, high-level mixed martial arts is what that was."
In the end, though, Cannonier understands the reaction of the Brazilian fans.
"It's a different culture, and they operate in a different frequency than what a lot of us here in the U.S. are used to," he said. "I completely understand their passion for their athletes and their role models, because when we're kids we all have role models that we aspire to be like. That's big in our lifetimes. That can affect what we do.
"For them, there's a big disparity between those who have and those who don't, and that includes money, opportunities and education, all that type of stuff. So to see people succeed -- people who they feel are 'just like me' -- makes them feel like they have an opportunity to succeed. It gives them energy."
Kevin Lee ready for RDA, move to welterweight
Lima on KO of MVP: 'He got comfortable'
Douglas Lima handed prospect Michael "Venom" Page his first career loss with a spectacular one-punch knockout in Saturday's Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix semifinal. The Brazilian former champion's thoughts ...
On sharing the cage with the unorthodox Brit: "Man, he's a very tricky fighter. I knew in the beginning he was going to be very fast. So I just tried to stay patient that whole time, tried to land a few leg kicks here and there. But I knew he was ready for it, waiting for it, to counterattack. He hit me a couple of times there."
On MVP's in-cage antics, such as mimicking dribbling a basketball between his legs: "He's been doing that his whole career. I think that's part of his game plan. He throws everybody off when he does that. People get mad. That's when they run into something, you know?"
- ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 12, 2019
On how he avoided being thrown off by the antics: "The whole goal going into this fight was not to let that go to my head. Because if you get mad in there, and you kind of lose yourself, lose the game plan, you're going to get caught against a guy like that. For me, I had to stay focused, don't let that bug me."
On getting rocked by a Page punch: "I was pretty hurt. I was trying to find myself after, and my legs got a little shaky. But I stayed composed. ... It landed right behind the ear -- I think I ducked, trying to hide the chin, and my hands dropped at the same time. So he connected really good."
On the finish, which came after a "dazed" Lima knocked MVP off balance with a leg kick: "I think he got comfortable. He put his hand on his knee and he just stayed there. I felt like, 'All right, he's going to come now. This is the moment.' So I just timed that kick really good, kind of took the legs from under him. And he came up right at the same time that I threw that uppercut. And it was lights out."