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  • Sheymon Moraes requests his release from WSOF, ‘disrespectful’ Ray Sefo

    Sheymon Moraes hasn’t fought since June 2016, but that’s not his fault.

    Coming off wins over Luis Palomino and Robbie Peralta, the Brazilian featherweight completed his four-fight deal with World Series of Fighting, and wants to sign with another promotion and move on with his career, but says that WSOF won’t let him go.

    "My contract ended in November, but there’s this negotiation period until July,” Moraes told MMA Fighting. "They wanted me to re-sign and fight at the event in New York and I said OK. I needed to fight. We agreed to money I liked and I waited for the contract to sign.

    "They sent me the contact three weeks later saying that it wouldn't be possible to fight at the New York card, and the money was not what we had agreed to. I wasn’t interested, I asked to be released, and they won’t let me go. I’m stuck there, I can’t fight anywhere and do anything. My child will be born in April, and I have to work, to bring money home."

    Moraes asked to be released, but says WSOF president Ray Sefo gave him a disrespectful response.

    "He asked if in addition to letting me go, if I wanted him to bend over,” Moraes said. "I didn’t like this answer. He was disrespectful to me. That made me upset. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to re-sign with this organization.

    "They said they won’t release me, and I want to understand why,” he continued. "They let every champion go except the featherweight champion (Lance Palmer). They let Marlon (Moraes) go, Justin (Gaethje), the two-division champion (David Branch), and I can’t understand why I’m more important than those champions.

    "The last guy I fought, Luis Palomino, was also let go, so I can’t understand that. I only fought four times in more than 30 months, and when they offered to re-sign me they said they could only promise me one fight a year. Why would I sign a contract to fight once a year? I’m young, I have to fight."

    MMA Fighting reached out to Ray Sefo for a comment on the situation, however, he did not respond.

    Moraes signed with WSOF after scoring six straight victories in the Brazilian circuit between 2012 and 2014, and earned a shot at the WSOF bantamweight championship after one win in the promotion. Moraes lost to then 135-pound champ Marlon Moraes in August 2015, and decided to move up to the featherweight division.

    "When I signed the contract, (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) ‘Minotauro’ was my manager, and they promised us a lot of things,” Moraes said. "They guaranteed I’d fight every five months, that they would let me go if the UFC wanted to sign me. I didn’t speak English back then, ‘Minotauro' gave me all the information, and I said OK and signed.

    "When I moved to the United States, I saw that it was way different than what they told me. I asked talked to them, and they said they couldn’t do anything because I already signed it. It was a big mistake.”

    Eight months after his last fight, and about to become a father, Moraes looked for other jobs as a way to bring money home. After delivering food, the Brazilian fighter started to drive for Lyft a couple of weeks ago. That’s how he’s paying his bills now, but that is not helping his MMA career.

    "I train in the morning and drive the rest of the day,” he said. "On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, I drive all day.

    "I train since I was four years old. That’s the only thing I know. I mean, I know how to do other things, but what I love doing is fighting and that’s a big problem. Driving all day hurts my arms and my back.

    "I can fight any featherweight in the world. I just need to fight. I want to work and move on with my career, but I’m stuck here."

  • The latest chapter in Alberto Del Rio’s life is being an MMA executive

    The wrestler formerly known as Alberto Del Rio has gone from nephew of a cultural icon, to an Olympic hopeful in wrestling, to an unlikely MMA fighter, to a pro wrestling superstar. His next act is being the public face of an MMA company.

    Alberto Rodriguez, who fought in MMA as Dos Caras Jr. — best known for a 2003 Pride fight with Mirko Cro Cop, and later gained international fame as Alberto Del Rio with the World Wrestling Entertainment — is transitioning out of the business that defined his family, and into an executive role in MMA.

    Rodriguez, 39, who still does pro wrestling on occasion as Alberto El Patron (the WWE owns the rights to the name Alberto Del Rio), is now "El Presidente," the public face of Combate Americas. The promotion recently scored a major coup getting on TV Azteca in Mexico, one of the country’s major networks, on Friday nights. The events also air live on UFC Fight Pass in English, as well as on Azteca America in the U.S. in Spanish.

    "My main focus is Combate Americas," said Rodriguez on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. "It's very different from what I did before. I was a competitor. I was a fighter, an amateur wrestler, and an MMA fighter. That's why Campbell McLaren (who founded the company, aimed at promoting MMA and focusing on the Hispanic audience) invited me to Combate Americas. With me being a competitor, I know how they (the other fighters) feel, what they feel, and all the things you have to go through in this sport."

    After Rodriguez left WWE for the first time, in 2014, he was contacted by McLaren about being a fighter. The money offer was huge, said to be around $500,000 or more per fight. That was his best offer, but he also got offers from Glory to do kickboxing, and Bellator to do MMA. Rodriguez had fought in MMA while being a pro wrestler from 2001 to 2010, compiling a 9-5 record, but he quickly realized his days as a fighter were over.

    "I'm completely done competing in the cage or the ring," he said. "That's the way we started our friendship. He wanted me to fight. The offer was amazing. I wanted to do it, but I didn't know if had that passion, that hunger for fighting. I went back to the gym for two or three weeks at a boxing gym in San Antonio. After the third round one day, I took my gloves off and said, ‘no mas,' I'm not hungry anymore. I can't do it."

    Now the goal is to grow his organization, starting with Mexico, where his family's fame and his own fame made him perfect to be the public face of the organization.

    "We know it'll be difficult to beat the UFC in the United States, but we're doing a good job in Mexico and Latin America. In Mexico, we have more than three million viewers every single week for our weekly program. In the United States and the rest of the world, it's going to be different. We have the opportunity with UFC Fight Pass to be seen all over the world, for anyone who wants to watch."

    But his life around pro wrestling, being in dressing rooms with his father since childhood and becoming a star all over the world, he thinks helps greatly in an MMA executive position.

    "I can teach those kids to sell themselves, to add personality that the audience will remember," he said, citing Conor McGregor as the model of a fighter who uses his personality to become a pay-per-view superstar.

    The funny thing is that while Rodriguez says he loves watching fights, he also doesn't watch pro wrestling, the business he's loved his entire life.

    "I don't watch pro wrestling at all," he said. "It's banned from my house. When I was working for WWE, I was doing 220 or 230 matches per year. I was living on the road. It was the last thing I wanted to see at home. Everyone knows I'm a big fan of MMA, UFC, Bellator, Combate, it's my main focus."

    He also swore that he'd never date someone in the business, but now he's engaged to Saraya Jade-Bevis, better known as Paige in WWE, and noted that unlike him, Paige is interested in becoming a fighter, although right now she's injured and is still under contract to WWE.

    Rodriguez was fired by WWE in 2014 for slapping a social media employee with the company after the guy had made what he perceived as a racist joke. When the employee hadn't cleaned off his plate at catering, and it was brought up to him, he said, "That's what we have Del Rio for." The word got back to Rodriguez, and when he didn't get an apology, he allegedly slapped the employee. When he was told he would be fired, but brought back in a few months after it blew over, he allegedly said that he told WWE that if he wasn't reinstated by the end of the phone call, he wasn't coming back.

    At the time he was loaded with pro wrestling opportunities. The story of how he got fired resonated in the Latino community where he became a big hero. He became a bigger star than ever, in Mexico in particular. He eventually did come back to WWE, miscast as a heel because the reason he was fired made him even more popular in the Hispanic community, although he admits that he liked playing the heel role more. After a year of things not working out, he quit the promotion again.

    Rodriguez is a third generation pro wrestler. His grandfather did pro wrestling but was not a major star. His uncle, Mil Mascaras, real name Aaron Rodriguez, was a cultural figure every bit as popular in Mexico in the 60s and 70s as Hulk Hogan was in his U.S. heyday. Mil Mascaras, The Man of 1,000 Masks, was a big enough star that the government a few years ago issued a postage stamp of him in his signature mask.

    His father, the original Dos Caras — real name Jose Rodriguez, meaning two faces — was probably the best heavyweight wrestler ever to come out of Mexico, actually better than his uncle. But his father, who also wore a mask his entire career, was not as famous, because Mil Mascaras was also a Mexican movie star with his colorful outfits and distinctive masks. Another uncle wrestled with a distinctive mask as El Sicodelico.

    His father, who is 67, and his uncle, who, depending on who you believe, is somewhere between 74 and 77, still wrestle on occasion. That's one thing Rodriguez doesn't want to emulate.

    "For my dad, it's very difficult to not be in the spotlight," he said. "I'm going to retire in two years. I really will. My Dad always gets mad, and goes, ‘How can you say that. Pro wrestling has given you everything.' But I've given everything to pro wrestling. I want to spend the time with my kids. That's the main reason why I left the company. My kids needed daddy."

    Rodriguez actually started as an amateur wrestler. While a teenager, he placed in his age group world championships in Greco-Roman wrestling and was the country's most accomplished wrestler at that style. He placed fourth in the 1997 Pan American Games when he was only 20. But Mexico didn't support its amateur national team, and he was unable to attend the qualifying meets to make it to the 2000 Olympics. He left the sport at that point and went into pro wrestling, where being 6-foot-4 and being Dos Caras Jr. meant he was going to be a featured star right away.

    "I didn't have the opportunity, but the talent was there," he said about his amateur days. "I was the best wrestler on the team, but there was no money. Every time I think about it, it makes me sad."

    The combination of his name and his father being a huge star in Japan led to him getting into MMA.

    MMA had just exploded in popularity in Japan with Kazushi Sakuaba's win over Royce Gracie, and promotions were trying to get pro wrestlers, particularly the son of a legend whose father would be in his corner, to fight.

    "I went into pro wrestling," he said about his next move after the Olympics fell through. "I was doing shows in Mexico and Japan. My former manager in Japan, he said ‘there's this promoter wanting to have you in a completely real fight, Vale Tudo.'"

    He was offered $20,000 by the Deep promotion to face Kengo Watanabe, a Japanese rugby star who gotten a lot of publicity in switching to MMA, but had a 3-5-2 record by that time. Watanabe desperately needed a name win. At the time, Rodriguez was wrestling in Mexico for $80 a match, but there was marketability for the rugby star facing the nephew of Mil Mascaras, who was a cartoon-like hero to Japanese children growing up in the 70s.

    "$20,000 for one night, tell me where I sign," Rodriguez said. "I'm an athlete. I went back to my amateur wrestling gym and got a boxing coach."

    "I'm 100 percent sure all the promoter wanted was to use me as a white meat (a pro wrestling term for a lamb being led to slaughter), to get killed. They were pushing the Japanese champion. Thank God for me, I kicked his ass and broke his arm and then my life changed. Then, all the important organizations paid me money to fight and do pro wrestling shows, and no more $80 a match."

    His most famous fight was with Cro Cop, on October 5, 2003, at the Saitama Super Arena. Because of his family tradition and the traditions of Lucha Libre, Rodriguez was still doing real fights wearing his mask, since he was Dos Caras Jr. and it was sacrilegious in his profession and to his family in those days to be in public with his face exposed. The scene of the masked man getting head kicked in 46 seconds was one of the iconic moments of the Pride era.

    "When they offered me the fight, my trainer, who was Marco Ruas, Marco said to be, `You can do it, you're fantastic.' My fight before the Mirko Cro Cop fight was with Brad Kohler. I completely destroyed him in two minutes (actually 85 seconds)."

    "Marco said, 'Your cardio is amazing. Why not? You have nothing to lose.'"

    "Mirko was the man, he was killing everyone in Pride. Marco said, ‘You have nothing to lose. You go there and shock the world and you're set. If you lose, you'll continue your career.'''

    "I wasn't ready for Mirko. He was too fast for me. About that kick, I didn't see it coming. He knocked me out."

    "I was trying to stay away from his left leg," said Rodriguez. "That was the plan. I was a ten thousand times better wrestler than him. Marco said, ‘If you can take him down, he's done. You'll take him down and submit him.' But that didn't happen. I wasn't ready for that kick. That kick was so fast, I never saw it coming."

    Some people possibly because he was a pro wrestler, or because he was wearing a mask, thought the fight was a work. A few years later, when Pride ran a show in Los Angeles, Pride wanted to book Dos Caras Jr. on the show, which made sense, given his father was well known in that city and his uncle was the biggest wrestling star in that city for more than a decade. But Armando Garcia, who headed the California commission at the time, believed the fight was a work and he ended up not on the card.

    "It was a legit fight. I wasn't ready for him. He was too fast. Marco and I, when we were training, we were 100 percent sure I could take him down, but I couldn't. Once I grabbed him, he was super strong."

  • USADA grants Gian Villante retroactive exemption for inhaler after positive drug test

    Gian Villante failed a drug test last month, but will not be sanctioned.

    USADA granted the UFC light heavyweight a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for his use of an inhaler which had a prohibited substance as an active ingredient, the UFC’s anti-doping partner announced Friday. He will not face an anti-doping policy violation.

    Villante disclosed that he was using a Breo Ellipta, a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or asthma, during a Jan. 18 urine sample collection done by USADA, the release stated. The Breo Ellipta contains the banned substance vilanterol, which Villante ended up testing positive for. Vilanterol is prohibited at all times and is listed as a Beta-2 Agonist (drugs that cause smooth muscle relaxation) under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.

    After his disclosure of the inhaler, USADA told him that it contained a banned substance and would be prohibited without a TUE. Villante applied for an exemption, which documented that his doctor had prescribed him a 14-day course of the inhaler to treat conditions associated with asthma and airflow restriction.

    USADA said after an investigation it “determined that the athlete had an unequivocally diagnosed acute medical condition for which the use of vilanterol is consistent with the standard of care.” The investigation showed that the use of vilanterol was within the therapeutic recommendation and not intended to act as a performance enhancer. Plus, the release said, other permitted treatments were not successful in treating Villante’s condition.

    Villante is the second UFC athlete to apply for and be granted a TUE after Cris Cyborg got one for the use of a banned diuretic last week.

    USADA announced the TUE because it resolves a potential anti-doping policy violation, the release said. In other circumstances, USADA does not divulge TUEs due to medical privacy reasons.

    The UFC did not announce Villante was facing an anti-doping policy violation when the positive drug tests results came back, unlike in other cases. UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting that it was not announced previously because in speaking with Villante “it immediately appeared he had a legitimate medical use for the substance and UFC wanted the TUE process to play out in fairness to Villante before the public announcement.”

    In other cases where an athlete did not disclose the use of a prohibited substance and it was not readily ascertained that the fighter had a legitimate medical reason for usage, the UFC has announced a potential anti-doping violation, Novitzky said. But there is flexibility in when announcements are made in the UFC’s anti-doping policy.

    “Decisions on immediate UFC disclosures of potential violations are made on a case-by-case basis, balancing transparency and the fairness to the athlete in each case,” Novitzky said.

    Villante, 31, is slated to face Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum on March 11 in Fortaleza, Brazil. The failed drug test will not prevent him from competing due to the TUE. Villante (15-7) is coming off a second-round TKO win over Saparbek Safarov in December.

  • Bibiano Fernandes explains decision to re-sign with ONE Championship

    Bibiano Fernandes has decided to re-sign with ONE Championship, and he explains his reasoning behind the move.

    Undefeated in nine fights under the ONE Championship banner between 2012 and 2016, “The Flash” became a free agent after defending the bantamweight title with a decision win over Reece McLaren in December. According to Fernandes, he got offers from M-1 Global, Rizin FF and Bellator earlier this year, but neither beat ONE’s deal.

    "I’m in this fighting business for a long time, and I will stop fighting soon. That’s the truth,” Fernandes told MMA Fighting. "If I stop fighting, I have to think about my future and my kids’ future. Thinking long term, it was the best decision I made. And ONE still has a lot of challenges for me as well."

    Fernandes (20-3) says that Bellator’s offer was great, but, in the end, ONE’s post-fight deal made the difference.

    "After I stop fighting, I’ll be an ambassador for ONE Championship and I’ll be able to help a lot of talented people,” Fernandes said. "People fight their entire lives and when it’s over he has nothing? I’ll continue in the sport, training, helping other people, and that made the difference for me. I believe it was the best decision.

    "M-1 and Rizin reached out to me, but the one that tried hard to sign me was Bellator,” he continued. "They tried really hard. But I’m a professional fighter and have to think longterm, and longterm the best option was from ONE. Bellator came close, they made a great offer, but ONE made a better one and I decided to stay.”

    The Brazilian bantamweight, who came close to signing with the UFC in 2012, is not surprised he didn’t get any offer from the company this time.

    "The UFC is releasing a lot of fighters, so they are not thinking about spending money right now,” Fernandes said. "The new owners want to save money for the company. Bellator and ONE are growing, so they are looking to sign more athletes."

    Fernandes’ sixth title defense is not set yet, but the bantamweight talent expects to be back in action around May or June.

  • Liam McGeary says ‘boring’ Phil Davis is a competitor, not a fighter: ‘There’s a difference’

    Liam McGeary waited 14 long months between his triumph over Tito Ortiz and his Nov. 2016 fight against Phil Davis. That’s an eternity for a man who likes to fight as often as possible, and for the former Bellator light heavyweight champion, who dropped his belt in an uneventful contest against Davis at Bellator 163, the performance left McGeary wanting for all of the wrong reasons.

    “Look, I’m glad I got a cut over my head, right, because if I’d have lost my belt and I didn’t have a scratch on my face, I’ll have been a little bit pissed off,” McGeary told MMA Fighting ahead of his main event tilt against Brett McDermott on Friday at Bellator 173.

    “So I’m glad he (Davis) cut me. But I was trying to give him an arm triangle, I was just trying to give him something to try and finish me off, because at least if he went for something, I could’ve had a chance to get out of it. But he didn’t. I mean, everybody knows he’s a good wrestler. Everybody knows I’m English and wrestling isn’t my top point. But that was his game. He did what he does. I’m not taking anything away from him being who he is, but nobody wants to see that.”

    McGeary, 34, suffered his first professional loss against Davis, falling on the wrong side of a lopsided unanimous decision in a wrestling-heavy fight that was roundly booed by the crowd in Uncasville’s Mohegan Sun Arena. The result cut short an otherwise sterling 8-0 start for McGeary under the Bellator umbrella — a run in which the Englishman established himself as one of the most exciting fighters at 205 pounds outside of the UFC, largely on the strength of a slew of impressive first-round finishes.

    But if McGeary built his reputation on the unpredictability of his fights, his meeting against Davis was the antithesis of that. Inevitably, in each round of the five-round contest, Davis took McGeary down to the mat and smothered him under a methodical combination of top control and positional dominance.

    “Boring” is a label that Davis had battled in the past, and McGeary is only the latest Davis opponent to join his voice into that chorus. But while the strategy may not have been pretty, it was certainly effective. And McGeary also left the arena that night at Bellator 163 determined never to let it happen ever again.

    “Fight fans want to see exciting fights,” McGeary said. “Fight fans want to see people at least going for a finish. If you’re in top mount and you’re in a dominant position, f*cking finish the fight. Fighters only really want to finish the fight. Throw your punches, throw your elbows, and continue to rain down your dominance. But to just sit there, do a couple hits, move position, do a couple more hits, it’s like, man, that’s why I was annoyed underneath.

    “Just f*cking finish it. Don’t drag this out for five rounds. If you have this fifth round, you’ve obviously won the fight, then try and attempt to finish me. But he didn’t, and that was the annoying part. The next time I get in there with him, I will not let him do this, and I will not let him do that, and I f*cking fight him until he begs me to stop. And I will finish the fight. That’s what I do. I fight to finish, and I enjoy finishing fights because it makes everybody else happy, you know? That’s why you put on a show for all the fans, you want to finish it.”

    Ultimately, the Davis fight served as a worst-case ending for a worst-case scenario that stretched over a year as McGeary recovered from a nasty knee injury that sidelined him from all but the most basic sort of physical activity.

    McGeary said he spent most of 2016 stuck on the couch, unable to walk much, while struggling to pay his rent and feed himself due a lack of a paycheck — and things could have been far worse if not for help from his sponsors. By the time he was finally healthy enough to train, McGeary said he threw himself into a frenzied training regimen hoping to make up for lost time, rather than easing himself back into the gym like he should have. And those mistakes ultimately betrayed him on fight night.

    “I was training up to four times a day, just trying to cram [everything] in,” McGeary said. “I knew I had to wrestle, I knew I had to strike, I knew I had to do jiu-jitsu, I knew I had to do strength and conditioning — he does a lot of strength and conditioning — so I was trying to cram everything in every day, and it just wore me out, mate, to be honest with you. I got into the fight and I felt fatigued, and as soon as the round started, I started to throw a couple of punches and I’m like, here we go.

    “I was on the phone to my manager the next day (after the loss), and I was like, ‘listen, I don’t want to be messing around. Let’s do this. Let’s get back in there as soon as possible.’ The 14-month layoff was way too much. You spend 14 months out, so let’s play catch-up and get some fights back in there. I believe my performance was just down to a lack of fighting over the last year and a bit, and then cramming everything into a fight camp, which, I freaked out and just did way too much.”

    McGeary compared the experience at Bellator 163 to a sparring session where his head just refused work in conjunction with his body from the very start of round one.

    “I try to throw a four- or five-punch combination, and only two punches come out,” he explained. “It’s like, oh, it’s going to be one of these ones. It was a long, frustrating night.”

    But while McGeary faults only himself for the lackluster performance he put up against Davis, he remains uninspired when he sees the way Davis handles himself in the cage. The Englishman has only watched the fight back “in spurts,” never the whole thing, simply because of the tediousness of the action. And when it comes down to it, McGeary wonders if Davis wants to be a fighter at all.

    “He’s a competitor,” McGeary said. “There’s a difference between a fighter and a competitor, right? Anyone can go into a competition and say, ‘I like to go into competitions and win competitions.’ Eh, f*cking everybody does, you know? I like to go into fights and I like to win fights. I’m pretty pissed off if I lose a fight because someone just wants to win on points. F*ck points.”

    Nonetheless, this time around, in advance of his fight against McDermott, McGeary has vowed to return to the formula that elevated him to the top of the Bellator light heavyweight division. He has worked diligently to avoid over-training, and is once again focusing on what he does best in the gym, rather than fixating on his opponent’s strengths like he did against Davis. And like many champions before him, McGeary hopes to use his first professional loss as a springboard upon which the next great chapter of his legacy can be written.

    “You make the best out of a bad situation,” McGeary said. “The best part, or the best thing that we can take out of this is, now that I’m hungry and I want my belt back, that I’m going to be putting on these exciting fights to get back at Phil Davis. So that’s the only thing, the best thing that’s going to come out of this.

    “That’s what we’ll have everyone talking about.”

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