After Losing Nike Deal, Jon Jones Reportedly in Talks with Reebok

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who squandered a landmark endorsement deal with Nike earlier this year, is now in negotiations with Reebok for a new partnership.

That’s according to broadcaster Ariel Helwani, who reported the news Wednesday on UFC Tonight (h/t MMAFighting).

Jones and his management also are in talks with several other potential sponsors, Helwani reported, though Reebok is the team’s top target.

In 2012, Jones hooked up with Nike for a multi-year sponsorship agreement widely hailed as a trailblazer for the MMA community. That was thanks to its high visibility and international reach and for making him the first MMA fighter to have his own shoe line.

However, things started to unravel this summer after Jones brawled with rival Daniel Cormier at an Aug. 4 media event. It apparently didn’t help when Jones and Cormier exchanged public and semi-public verbal salvos during a series of subsequent appearances.

During a September hearing about the brawl in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Jones acknowledged that he had lost his Nike deal in the wake of the dust-up. 

The commission docked Jones $50,000 and 40 hours of community service for his role in the brawl. The exact amount of the Nike deal has never been disclosed, though sources close to the situation have placed its worth in the “six-figure” range.

Jones (20-1) is generally considered the best overall fighter in MMA right now and probably one of the greatest of all time. However, the 27-year-old has often run into problems outside the cage, seemingly of his own making

Though the scuffle with Cormier cost him his shoe deal, it did generate massive interest in their fight. Unfortunately for many involved, UFC announced on August 12 that an injury would keep Jones from competing in September at UFC 178. The bout is now scheduled to take place in early January.

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Ronda Rousey Becomes 1st Female Lifestyle-Brand Model for Buffalo David Bitton

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey seems determined on becoming a household name, assuming she isn’t one already, and a new high-profile fashion campaign certainly can’t hurt the cause. 

Lifestyle brand David Bitton announced Thursday that the “Rowdy” one will be the female face of Buffalo Pro—which will focus on the brand’s “sports-minded consumer,” as MMA Fighting first reported. 

In a prepared statement, Rousey voiced her excitement about the new opportunity: 

It’s such an amazing opportunity to be able to represent Buffalo Pro. Not only am I the first female they’ve ever had representing the campaign, but it’s the first time any MMA fighter has done any type of fashion thing at all. I feel really honored to be taking the first steps into this industry. I never had the confidence when I was younger to dress well, and avoided any type of fashion and femininity, and I’m enjoying the chance to embrace it at this point in my life.

Rousey certainly had no problem embracing her feminine side in her first Buffalo Pro photo shoot, where she posed for a few racy topless photos. 

“Today’s shoot, the concept is very like feminine and sexy, very different than a lot of the stuff that I do a lot of the time,” she explained in the behind-the-scenes video posted on YouTube one week ago. 

Rousey, who starred in this past summer’s Expendables 3, will have a bigger silver-screen presence in 2015 when she appears in Entourage and Fast & Furious 7.

Still, for the time being, the 27-year-old former Olympic-level Judoka’s full-time job is as a UFC fighter, with the unbeaten champion (10-0) still awaiting a true test inside the cage. 

After defending her title three times between December 2013 and July of this year, Rousey has earned a little more time off than usual before fighting Cat Zingano at UFC 184 in February. 

Given her growing level of success outside of fighting, how much longer will the UFC be able to keep Rousey on the roster?

 

John Heinis is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for eDraft.com.

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UFC 183 Gets Middleweight Contenders Thales Leites and Tim Boetsch

Riding seven straight wins, Thales Leites has been set up with a Top 15 middleweight contender. The Brazilian will meet Tim Boetsch at UFC 183 on January 31.

Sherdog.com reported the booking of the bout Wednesday.

After being released by the world’s top MMA promotion in August 2009, Leites posted a 6-1 record in smaller shows to earn his way back to the Octagon. Once a middleweight title challenger, Leites looks to be back on his way toward the top of the 185-pound class.

Since rejoining the UFC roster, Leites has beaten all four opponents he has faced. In his past two bouts, Leites unveiled new finishing ability by knocking out Francis Carmont and Trevor Smith. Although he was released following his loss to Leites, Carmont was a Top 15 middleweight not long ago.

Boetsch was also cut by the UFC brass in 2009, but he, too, earned his way back to the big show by stopping three straight foes. The Barbarian hasn’t been as flawless as Leites since returning, but he’s picked up some big wins against 185-pound contenders. Yushin Okami, Hector Lombard, CB Dollaway and more recently Brad Tavares have lost to Boetsch during his current UFC stint. However, losses to Luke Rockhold, Mark Munoz and Costas Philippou have prevented Boetch from reaching the next level.

Leites and Boetsch are both 33 years old right now. This is the time for them to make their most serious runs at the middleweight championship. This could be a decisive matchup in the careers of both men.

Headlined by a highly anticipated bout between former middleweight champion Anderson Silva and former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz, UFC 183 will be held in Las Vegas and will also feature a matchup between Jordan Mein and Thiago Alves as well as more contests to be determined.

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Marcus Brimage Talks Kangaroo Fights, Calls for Judges to ‘Kill Themselves’

Marcus Brimage won’t allow his Nov. 8 UFC Fight Night 55 bout against Jumabieke Tuerxun to go the distance. 

That simply cannot happen, not after what happened in his most recent fight, a split-decision loss to Russell Doane at UFC 175. In that matchup, Brimage said he felt he clearly won Round 2 and took a 10-8 in Round 3, making him the clear winner. 

The judges did not see it that way, and the UFC bantamweight is not happy about it. 

“You can definitely quote me on this: The Las Vegas, Nevada, Athletic Commission’s MMA judges should do everyone a favor and kill themselves and invite everyone to the funeral,” Brimage told Bleacher Report. “The fight against Russell Doane, that was blasphemy, man! I watched that fight so many times, and I just cannot see how I lost that fight.” 

Questionable judges’ decisions aside, Brimage now has a job to do on Nov. 8. After suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, Brimage‘s future inside the Octagon may depend on him defeating Tuerxun in Australia. 

Despite the high stakes, Brimage is pleased with his recent progress heading into the bout. Due to family issues, he moved his camp from South Florida’s American Top Team (ATT) back home to Spartan Fitness in Birmingham, Alabama, a decision that has helped his mentality immensely. 

“Instead of me having to constantly worry if everything’s OK, I know for a fact that everything’s OK. It’s just a lot more stress off my mind before camp,” Brimage said. “I’m going back to the roots, man, back to what got me into the UFC in the first place.”

The choice has paid off so far, Brimage said. While Spartan Fitness doesn’t boast the high-profile names and facilities of ATT, it carries a certain aura and mystique that the South Florida camp couldn’t offer him. 

“I’m not gonna lie: My skill and my MMA knowledge has grown a lot since leaving Alabama and going to ATT, but my coach, he looked at me and he said, ‘Boy, you ain’t ‘Bama tough no more,’” Brimage said. “We ain’t got all the fancy facilities and everything that South Florida has, but it’s just hardcore grit, you know? Just like Alabama football.”

Now, Brimage will get the chance to show Sydney what “‘Bama Tough” is all about when he takes on Tuerxun, a fighter who has also lost his last two fights. 

But even this fight did not come without its setbacks and switch-ups. Brimage was originally scheduled to face Erik Perez at UFC 180 in Mexico City before his opponent had to pull out of the fight with an injury, per MMAFighting.com. While most fighters would view falling off the UFC’s inaugural Mexico card as a disappointment, Brimage views it as a positive. 

“To be honest with you, I view this as an upgrade, because when I’m in Rome, I do what the Romans do,” Brimage said. “In Mexico, I wasn’t going to leave until I saw some cock fights, and now I’m in Australia—I’m not leaving until I see two kangaroos fight. So I think that’s an upgrade in my situation.” 

UFC Fight Night 55 will also mark Brimage‘s second fight at bantamweight, and he said the weight cut will be less of an issue this time around. He now has that part of the game down to a science, and that knowledge will allow him to enjoy himself more leading up to, during and after the fight. 

“I’m down to 152 right now, so I’m ahead of the game,” Brimage said. “With that, I have a little extra energy, so I’m actually going to sightsee. Going to Australia, especially this time of year, I hear it’s very beautiful. So I’m going to go enjoy myself, and like I said, I’m not leaving until I see two kangaroos fight. I don’t know where I can find it, but I’m going to watch two kangaroos fight.”

Once the lights dim and it’s showtime in Australia, Brimage knows that nothing else will matter. His letdown against Doane will fade into obscurity. Australia might as well be Nebraska. Two straight losses will be forgotten with a win. 

And he will violently pursue that “W.” 

“I’m going to leave the judges out of this one,” Brimage said. “Obviously, they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, so we’re going to leave the judges out of this one. I’m going for the kill, and I’m thinking more of a bonus on this one.”

 

Note: All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

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Donald Cerrone vs. Myles Jury Set for Early January at UFC 182

Donald Cerrone won’t quite fulfill his wish of fighting six times in 2014, but five times in a calendar year is still pretty good.

On January 3, Cowboy will take on up-and-coming lightweight Myles Jury at UFC 182. That’s according to a Tuesday post from UFC president Dana White on his Instagram account. UFC 182 is currently scheduled to be headlined by a light heavyweight title defense from Jon Jones against challenger Daniel Cormier.

“The co-main for Jones vs. Cormier is #4 Cowboy Cerrone vs. #8 Myles Jury,” the Instagram post read.

Cerrone is one of the hottest fighters in the UFC, having won five straight dating back to November 2013. He won all four of his contests in 2014, knocking off Adriano Martins, Edson Barboza, Jim Miller and former Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez in succession. 

The wins have Cerrone (25-6-1) poised atop the 155-pound rankings. However, he’ll have a tricky test in the 25-year-old Jury (15-0). Though he is ranked lower and not as well known as most of his opponents (Cerrone included), Jury is a very well-rounded fighter who has yet to lose in his pro career, including in six chances in the UFC Octagon.

He had a pretty good 2014 of his own, earning a unanimous decision win over Diego Sanchez in March at UFC 171 and then knocking out Takanori Gomi in the first round of their September bout at UFC Fight Night 52.

Jury has also only gone the distance three times as a pro. That should be a good fit for Cerrone, whose muay thai-based style has earned him no less than three post-fight bonuses in 2014. 

As a result, there is a good chance this fight will end in a stoppage and perhaps earn one or both men a performance bonus check.

Earlier in the year, Cerrone said in an interview with Majority Draw Radio (h/t Examiner.com) he was “broke” because of his extensive buying habits and that he was hoping to fight six times in 2014 to earn more money.

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