Ben Askren told Ariel Helwani his time in MMA has come to an end. Askren retires with a record of 19-2, with one no-contest, and said he will undergo hip surgery.
"I'm retiring from the sport of mixed martial arts, and frankly, I'm retiring from everything," said Askren. "I've been having hip problems, and I finally had the discussion with my doctor ... and I need a [left] hip replacement. So, man, that's it for me. I've been thinking about this for a week and what I was going to say, and I'm filled with gratitude for how great of a career I've been able to have, even though, obviously, in the end it did not turn out to go my way."
Yoel Romero sends a message to Israel Adensanya
Israel Adesanya made a definitive statement in October when he defeated Robert Whittaker for the UFC middleweight championship and had a clear picture of his first title defense, as potential challenger Paulo Costa sat ringside in Melbourne. But then Costa went down with a biceps injury, leaving the future at the top of the division unclear.
Enter Yoel Romero. The former middleweight title challenger has had something of a rough time of late, dropping three of his past four, but context is key. Those losses were by unanimous decision and a split decision in a pair of fights against Whittaker, and a tight decision to Costa in August -- a fight Romero still contests he won.
With Whittaker cleanly dispatched and Costa down, Romero is still the No. 3 contender in the world -- and he has already drawn Adesanya's attention. During his appearance on Monday's Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, Romero made it clear he's ready to sign on the dotted line the second an official offer is made.
"I have the pen in my hand. Give me the contract," said Romero. "If Israel wants to fight me, you don't need to call me. You need to say [to] the president, the big boss of the UFC, 'I want this guy.'"
Though weight-cutting issues turned one of the Whittaker fights and a victory over Luke Rockhold into non-title fights, Romero is confident he can line everything up and capture the middleweight title -- a championship he believes he deserves.
Romero also has a vision for the type of champion he would be -- and the type of champion he hopes Adesanya will turn out to be, one who couldn't help but offer Romero the next title challenge.
"The day is coming. The day when I have the belt on my waist, I don't want anybody saying to me, 'Hey, you need to fight this guy' ... no, no, no. Give me the number one. Give me the best in the line. I don't want to be a puppet guy."
Romero's final words for Adesanya were simple, laying down the gauntlet for the new champion.
"You have the belt, but I am the best of the middleweights," Romero said.
Junior dos Santos recovering from surgeries due to bacterial infection
Junior dos Santos was in the gym one Friday last month training for a fight when he had to stop. While kicking the heavy bag, he started feeling pain in his lower left leg. He decided it would be best to call it a day.
The next morning, dos Santos noticed an area of redness on the leg. He didn't think much of it. "It's normal for us," he said. "We are kicking and getting these bruises all the time."
But one day later, his leg was even redder, more painful and feeling hot. The former UFC heavyweight champion called his doctor, who told him to get right to a hospital.
What followed was a nine-day hospital stay during which dos Santos underwent three surgeries to address a bacterial infection -- "a very bad one," he said. "The doctor said that if I waited just a little bit more [before going to the hospital], like one day or two days more, maybe I could lose my leg or even die."
Obviously, his Nov. 9 fight against Alexander Volkov had to be canceled.
But now, dos Santos is feeling better, is back to training -- minus kicking with his left leg, for now -- and is back on the UFC schedule, with a fight against Curtis Blaydes slated for Jan. 25.
"I am a lucky guy," said dos Santos. "I was wondering [after this ordeal] about how fragile we are. Because, man, I was feeling great."
But does he feel great about switching opponents from a striker (Volkov) to a wrestler (Blaydes)?
"I really don't care about who's my opponent, who's in front of me," said dos Santos. "I am coming to give the best of myself."
Mick Foley on the relationship between MMA and professional wrestling
Mick Foley wouldn't be the first pro wrestler who comes to mind when considering the crossover potential between MMA and professional wrestling; not when former UFC champions such as Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and Ronda Rousey and fighters such as Shayna Baszler or Matt Riddle are currently under contract with the WWE.
But as Helwani was discussing with Foley all of the elements of pro wrestling that have found their way into MMA, from fight promotion to broadcast presentation, the WWE Hall of Famer turned the conversation around, explaining what MMA has given back to wrestling -- beyond building up the roster.
"I think we borrow from each other," said Foley. "The popularity of MMA has allowed our world to embrace submission wrestling in a way that wasn't possible, unless you were wrestling in Japan."
Foley rose to prominence in the United States during his time in WCW, ECW and, eventually, WWE but built his reputation, in part, by wrestling in Japan. While submission wrestling is stylistically divergent from Foley's daredevil, unconventional approach, as a student and fan of the business, he has enjoyed the way it's been embraced by an American audience in recent years.
"The Japanese [fans] had a better appreciation for what and what does not hurt. In wrestling, you just couldn't emphasize the pain," recalled Foley. "[American fans wouldn't appreciate the] real pain that you can't register facially, something hurts so much that you can't actually sell it, as we say in our trade."
Cory Sandhagen on his Jan. 25 opponent, former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar
"He is a legend. He's been around the sport forever. I think I heard the other day, his first fight was in 2005. I was 13 when that happened, which is crazy to think about. And it kind of got me thinking about the importance of a [championship] belt versus fighting guys that are at the level of Frankie. I would almost say that if I was offered to fight [Henry] Cejudo for a belt or fight Frankie Edgar before he retires, if would be really hard for me to convince myself that it wouldn't be cooler to fight Frankie. I'm really excited for it."
James Krause conflicted about whether he'll fight again
UFC welterweight James Krause said he wants to go out on top, but he's not sure what that looks like. Does it look like a four-fight win streak, which Krause secured Saturday with a third-round KO of Sergio Moraes in Brazil?
"When I get that itch to fight again, I'll ask for a fight. If that itch never comes back, I won't ask for one," Krause said on Helwani's show. "I just know when I'm done I would rather have people say, 'Man, he quit a little too early' than, 'He quit a little too late.'"
It's easy to understand the uncertainty. Krause said he has barely seen his 2-month-old son because of the travel involved with fighting and working the corners of other fighters as a top-flight coach.
"I'm sure I'll fight again, but I don't know when, I don't know who," he said. "That's always the X factor for me. I can't answer it until I get that feeling back."
Krause is a successful gym owner and said he doesn't need to fight to pay his bills.
"It's hard to retire on top, but that's something I'm very adamant about doing," he said. "The problem is, define what 'on top' means. I don't know what that means. I don't know. I wish I had that answer."
Cesar Gracie says the BMF belt should belong to Nick Diaz
Cesar Gracie said on Helwani's show that during a conversation Sunday, Nick Diaz sounded excited to fight, something that he hasn't done since 2015. Diaz hinted at wanting to return soon to face Jorge Masvidal, who defeated Nick's brother Nate for the "BMF" title at UFC 244.
Gracie said he's in support of Nick taking that fight -- and the title.
"That is Nick's belt," Gracie said. "Nick is the BMF."
Diaz began training with Gracie at 16.
Bo Nickal ready to focus on MMA
Bo Nickal, a three-time NCAA collegiate wrestling national champion at Penn State, is fresh off a U23 World gold medal and has aspirations of another gold medal -- at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
Once that journey is complete, it'll be on to a career in MMA, following in the footsteps of many collegiate standouts who made the transition before him. So how long has this plan been in the works?
"I've followed MMA as a sport for years, since I was in middle school," said Nickal. "I feel like I started giving it serious consideration about three years ago, my sophomore year in college. I started considering it as a serious career, and since then, when I made the decision to transition, for sure, was about a year ago."
Nickal sought advice from UFC standouts with wrestling backgrounds, including Askren, Daniel Cormier, Stipe Miocic, before locking in his plan. As he announced last week on "The Luke Thomas Show," he plans to launch an American Top Team affiliate gym near State College, Pennsylvania, where he still lives after graduating from Penn State.
Although Askren had glowing praise for Nickal and his potential earlier on in Helwani's show, he also warned that Nickal could have issues finding the best coaches and training partners without traveling to a major gym's home base. Nickal felt the ATT affiliation and the other benefits of working near Penn State would win out.
"I'm going to have great coaches out here with the ATT connection, and I'm also going to get great training partners with that same connection," said Nickal, "in addition to the fact that so many guys are going to want to come here to train wrestling. It's pretty clear that wrestling is the most dominant discipline in the sport, and so just having that hotbed of wrestling in the area is going to, I think, attract a lot of people."
Paul Craig on his fight with 'Shogun' Rua
Rua survives onslaught from Craig
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is trapped in the corner but survives a flurry of strikes from Paul Craig in the first round of their co-main event bout at UFC Fight Night. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
"I wanted to retire him. I wanted to be his last fight," said Paul Craig, reflecting on his split draw against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Saturday. "I believe we have some unfinished business, and I believe I could still be that last fight."
Craig spoke those words with no animosity for Rua, adding, "He's a pioneer in this sport. All I've got for him is respect."
But Craig wants to make his mark as a fighter, he said, and ending the career of such a pioneer would be quite the achievement.
"I want to be remembered," he said, "as that guy who put 'Shogun' Rua away."
Craig recognizes that the result he did get on Saturday was still an accomplishment.
"To come away with a draw against 'Shogun' Rua in Brazil is not to be sniffed at," he said.
And the Scotsman also got something else special from his trip to South America.
"My main discipline is Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and to be in the country where it originated is amazing," he said. "So, opportunities to fight in Brazil again, I would definitely take them."
But not for a "Shogun" rematch.
"I would love to have him come to Scotland to fight me."