On Jan. 3 in Las Vegas, Nev., two highly regarded Albuquerque-based MMA fighters will have scores to settle.
One’s a mini-feud, the other a maxi-feud.
Jon Jones made it clear Tuesday that his and Daniel Cormier’s mutual antipathy is no publicity stunt. In August, the two engaged in a news-conference brawl that got both fighters sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission – but also heightened anticipation for their light heavyweight showdown at the MGM Grand Garden.
“There is a genuine dislike for Daniel Cormier,” Jones said after a workout at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA. “We had our beef. He talked a little trash to me. In some situations, I’ve talked trash to him. So there is a very genuine dislike.”
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, in contrast, doesn’t have a major beef with Myles Jury. The fight itself is motivation enough, given the opportunity it presents for Cerrone to advance in the UFC’s 155-pound division.
Still, a minor beef never hurts. Cerrone wasn’t happy with some of Jury’s comments after the latter’s victory over Jackson-Wink’s Diego Sanchez in March.
“That Diego fight is actually one of the reasons I asked (to fight Jury),” said Cerrone, who found some of Jury’s post-fight comments disrespectful.
“I talk to Diego about it all the time,” Cerrone said. “‘I got you, brother.'”
Jones (20-1), the UFC light heavyweight champion, is wrapping up his preparation for Cormier (15-0), a 2008 U.S. Olympic wrestler. He has worked with Ed Ruth, a three-time NCAA champion wrestler at Penn State, and on Tuesday sparred five rounds with Jackson-Wink middleweight Phil Hawes.
“I’ve had a great training camp,” Jones said. “.. We have a room full of great athletes, and I’m just really fortunate to be around such amazing individuals.”
Cormier’s a fairly amazing individual as well, said Greg Jackson, Jones’ co-head coach with Mike Winkeljohn.
“I think it’s gonna be an epic fight,” Jackson said. “I feel like it’s an Ali-Frazier kind of deal.”
Jackson said he has no doubts that Jones, despite his antipathy toward Cormier, will be totally focused come fight night – as he was in defeating Rashad Evans, a former Jackson-Wink teammate with whom he feuded.
“This isn’t his first rodeo,” Jackson said. “. … He’s been through it; he knows what to expect.
“But, man, these guys do not like each other.”
Cerrone did most of his training for Jury (15-0) not at Jackson-Wink but at his ranch, just outside Albuquerque.
“I’m sore, beat up, nicks and bruises everywhere, so I’m ready,” he said.
Cerrone (25-6) has won his last five fights after going 3-3 in his previous six. He attributes the win streak largely to a steady diet of beer and fruit roll-ups.
Don’t be deceived, Jackson said. “Cowboy,” he said, is all business when it counts.
“Cowboy is something special,” Jackson said. “He’s really turning the corner, and he’s performing extremely well.
“I feel like, finally, Cowboy has kind of figured it out.”
REEBOK DEAL: Jones and Ronda Rousey have signed endorsement contracts with Reebok, it was announced Tuesday.
Reebok next summer will become the exclusive apparel provider for all UFC events. Jones and Rousey, according to reports, will help develop the clothing and gear UFC fighters will wear and carry once that deal kicks in.
Jones had an endorsement deal with Nike, but lost it in the wake of the dust-up with Cormier. He’s almost universally considered the No. 1 men’s MMA fighter in the world pound for pound. Rousey holds that status among the women.
MALDONADO’S FIGHT: Reaching 20 victories has long been a goal for college basketball teams.
It’s a major goal in boxing, too – at least for Albuquerque junior welterweight Fidel Maldonado Jr.
Maldonado (19-2, 16 knockouts) on Saturday will face journeyman Fernando Silva (11-9, four KOs) in Cancun, Mexico.
Much bigger things are in store for Maldonado next year, said his father and trainer, Fidel Sr., provided he gets that 20th win.
“We’ve got an HBO fight coming up,” the elder Maldonado said, adding that he wasn’t at liberty to provide details.
The main event for Saturday’s card in Cancun is a junior lightweight bout between Bryan Vasquez and Sergio Thompson for the WBA interim title at 130 pounds.It is unclear whether the card will be televised, but information online suggests there’s streaming available.