BREAKING: Dana White announces UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is officially retired

The UFC lightweight division will officially crown a new champion in 2021. Dana White came out this evening and announced that lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), is officially retiring at 29-0.

Back in October at UFC 254, Khabib announced his retirement after he defeated Justin Gaethje. However, Dana White has insisted that he believed Khabib was feeling the emotions of the moment and he thought he’d come back to try for 30-0.

For months, we’ve been in this weird limbo with the lightweight division. White continued to say that the UFC lightweight champion wasn’t officially retired and they held a number of meetings to talk about his future.

Finally, Dana White has thrown in the towel. Khabib Nurmagomedov is staying retired and the lightweight division will move on. The UFC president announced the news on his Twitter account that Khabib is going to retire at 29-0.

Khabib’s UFC Legacy

In the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, it’s extremely rare to see someone retire undefeated. If you think about all of the greatest fighters to have ever fought in the UFC, nobody walked away with a perfect record.

Jon Jones is widely considered the greatest to ever do it. However, even Jones has a no contest and a DQ loss on his UFC record. Khabib Nurmagomedov has a clean 29-0 and nobody can say anything.

The UFC’s lightweight division has been the most exciting and dynamic division within the promotion over the last few years. Khabib has reigned supreme and he’s taken out all of the top challenges in dominating fashion.

Outside of Khabib, four men have held a piece of the UFC lightweight title since 2017. Those four men are Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje, and Tony Ferguson. Khabib dominated and finished the first three men on that list.

The fight that we never got to see was Khabib against Tony Ferguson. The UFC booked that fight five times, but all five times it fell through. It truly wasn’t meant to be, but considering the direction their careers have gone, I believe most people think Khabib would have won that one too.

Simply put, Khabib is one of the greatest to ever make the walk inside the UFC. His dominance was something truly special to watch and it’s easy to see why Dana White so badly wanted him to fight again.

Khabib is keeping the promise he made to his mother after his father passed away from COVID last year. The UFC’s lightweight champion promised his mother that the Gaethje fight would be the final one and despite White’s best pitches, The Eagle is keeping his promise.

BREAKING: UFC booking main event between TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen

The UFC has finalized a couple of massive main events in the bantamweight division this evening. First, we learned that the promotion has booked a main event on May 22nd between Cody Garbrandt and Rob Font. 

Just minutes later after that news broke, we learned of another UFC main event in the bantamweight division. And this one is going to be the title eliminator. Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, TJ Dillashaw (16-4) will be returning to take on Cory Sandhagen (14-2).

This fight has been rumored for a couple of weeks, but it has now been agreed to by all sides. Cory Sandhagen isn’t getting a UFC title shot, but he’s getting the next best thing in this shot against TJ Dillashaw. He’s getting to fight the former champion with a title shot on the line.

The Sandman has seen his stock rise a ton over the past few months. After a slipup against Aljamain Sterling back at UFC 250, Sandhagen scored highlight reel knockouts over Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar.

Knocking out the former UFC lightweight champion in the manner that he did really showed people how good Sandhagen is. Now, he’s going to get the fight that he wanted in taking on the returning TJ Dillashaw.

Dillashaw’s UFC return

After two and a half years away, TJ Dillashaw is finally returning to the octagon. The former UFC bantamweight champion just came off of a suspension that ended in January which kept him away since January 2019.

Dillashaw never lost his title inside the octagon. The former champion was forced to relinquish the title after he popped for EPO after his failed attempt to become a two-division UFC champion against Henry Cejudo.

Dillashaw said that he took it to assist with his energy levels as he was trying to make 125 pounds. He insists that he’s never taken it before, but there have been a lot of questions regarding Dillashaw’s potential use of EPO prior to the Cejudo fight.

With that, many are wondering just how good TJ Dillashaw is. Well, the former UFC champion gets the opportunity to show the world on May 8th. If he comes out and dominates Cory Sandhagen while passing all drug tests, that will say a lot about how good TJ Dillashaw really is.

BREAKING: UFC booking main event between Cody Garbrandt and Rob Font

Some late breaking news in the world of the UFC tonight. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to break the news tonight that the promotion has finalized a main event for their Fight Night on May 22nd.

In the main event, we will see a matchup of top five bantamweights. Former UFC champion, Cody Garbrandt (12-3), will be taking on the surging contender, Rob Font (18-4). This matchup is huge for the bantamweight division.

Rob Font has risen all the way to the third spot in the rankings at bantamweight. Font did this on the heels of his tremendous knockout win over former UFC title challenger, Marlon Moraes. That fight took place back in December.

For Rob Font, the biggest issue has been his activity level. Font has three very impressive wins in his last three fights against Sergio Pettis, Ricky Simon, and Moraes. The problem is that those have been his only fights since December of 2018.

For Font to challenge for a UFC title, he has to stay healthy and active. This is a big step in the right direction and a huge opportunity for him. He’s getting to fight one of the biggest names in the division and a former UFC champion in a main event.

Change of plans for the former UFC champion

Cody Garbrandt returned at UFC 250 after taking more than a year off to get healthy. Garbrandt looked better than ever and scored one of the knockouts of the year against Raphael Assuncao.

However, after the fight, Garbrandt expressed interest in dropping to flyweight. In fact, the UFC booked him for a title fight in November at 125 pounds. However, Garbrandt sustained an injury and dealt with issues from COVID which forced him to pull out.

After sitting back and watching the end of the year unfold, Garbrandt decided to stay at bantamweight for now. He recently said that he still has visions of being the UFC flyweight champion, but with all the action at 135, he’s happy to stay at bantamweight. This is going to be a fantastic matchup and I think fans are going to be pumped.

New York Giants land hard-hitting LB Reggie Ragland, what to know

The New York Giants have made a few low-key signings this off-season, including the likes of John Ross and Ifeadi Odenigbo. On Thursday evening, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported that Big Blue signed linebacker Reggie Ragland to a one-year deal, formerly of the Detroit Lions.

After cutting David Mayo and letting Devante Downs walk in free agency, the Giants need to find another hard-hitting middle linebacker that can fill a role if need be. He is essentially Blake Martinez’s back-up and could potentially find himself competing with Tae Crowder for starting reps.

The Giants recently hired former executive from the Lions Kyle O’Brien, and his extensive knowledge regarding Detroit’s roster likely spurred a connection. The former Alabama product started in six games last year, posting 52 combine tackles, four tackles for a loss, and a positive 3.7% missed tackle rate. While he was only targeted 17 times in coverage, he only allowed a 58.8% completion rate. He did allow two touchdowns, showing that opposing teams target him in the red zone.

Ragland will earn the veteran’s salary for the 2021 season, which will count just about 987K against the cap. This is a good depth move for the Giants, who could find a potential starter in Ragland coming off his rookie deal.

The clip below shows a nice play by Ragland, stuffing a running lane and forcing a fumble against the Carolina Panthers.

 

New York Jets to sign safety Lamarcus Joyner (Report)

The New York Jets are signing safety Lamarcus Joyner to a one-year deal worth up to $4.5 million, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Joyner, who was formerly with the Rams and Raiders, has played both safety and cornerback during his time in the league. This offers some versatility for new head coach Robert Saleh and the defense.

During his seven-year career thus far, he has totaled four interceptions, five sacks, 33 passes defended and 420 combined tackles. He will bring his experience and versatility to a new-look Jets defense this upcoming season.

Joyner now becomes the fourth new addition to the Jets defense during free agency.

New York Giants: Coaching staff credited with Leonard Williams improvement

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams has had an up and down past few years. He managed only half a sack during the season he was traded to the Giants, and many expected him to fall flat, but he was able to turn thing around to have a career high in sacks. There’s some reasons why that might have happened. Change of scenery, being with the team from the start of the year instead of arriving in a trade, and all that.

However, there’s another link in this story that played a role in getting Williams back as a Giant on a huge three year deal. That link is the coaching staff, which changed entirely from the one that was in charge at the time of the original trade.

“I do well under a coach that pushes you and tries to get their best out of you. And that’s definitely what this coaching staff does,” Williams recently confirmed to reporters.

The biggest change for Williams was Patrick Graham taking over the defense, and it was Graham’s system that was able to get him open often enough to register 11.5 sacks. Considering how the offseason led to a big deal, Williams has plenty of reasons to be thankful for Graham’s coaching.

“[The coaching staff] doesn’t care if you’re a rookie just now coming in or you’re a guy that’s been in the league for a long time. They’re going to try to get the best out of you. And you know, I think I thrive well under an environment that, that pushes you,” Williams continued.

It’s not the only similar praise Joe Judge and his staff have gotten, and it seems to be true enough. At least in thee case of Williams. We can see his increase on the field since the team cleaned up its coaching staff with our own eyes, after all.

He compared it to older days and playing in high school when things weren’t all about the money and the media narratives.

However, Williams ironically did take the money to stay when he agreed on a long term deal with the Giants, which will leave everyone within the fanbase hoping that his performances this year are on par with 2020. With how things look roster wise, the Giants can’t afford to swing and miss on this big time contract.

Feldman says BKFC 16 already sold out, Elmore hopes to make it 3 in a row

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) president David Feldman announced that the BKFC-16 is already sold out.

The BKFC 16, which is slated on Friday night at the Biloxi Civic Center in Biloxi, Mississippi, promises to be a fitting follow-up to the smashing success of KnuckleMania last February in Florida.

“From top to bottom this is one of the strongest cards we’ve put together,” Feldman said. “Biloxi is truly our second home with this being our seventh event in front of the supportive legion of BKFC fans there. It’s going to be a night of the world’s best bare-knuckle action inside the Civic Center and for fans watching at home on the BKFC Digital App.”

Headlining BKFC-16 is a lightweight match between veterans Leonard ‘Bad Boy’ Garcia (1-1), fighting out of Lubbock, TX, and Joe ‘The Hitman’ Elmore (2-0), of Atlanta, GA.

‘I am the legend killer’

Elmore has been on a tear, winning his first two BKFC fights. He stopped Will Chope in the first round at BKFC-11 last July, then returned two months later to pull off a unanimous decision victory over Tom Shoaff at BKFC-12. He’s hoping he could make it three in a row.

“I’m excited,” Elmore said about the shot he has been given. “I’m where I deserve to be. I’ve been fighting for this for a long time. I’ve got 40 pro fights and I’ve been the main event for about 30 of them. I just needed a promotion with the proper ability to make me shine. I told David Feldman (BKFC President), ‘it’s my talent, my hard work, and my viciousness that was designed for this sport, but it’s your platform.’ I’m just excited to have this platform and do what I’m gonna do.

While Elmore has high respect for Garcia, he vows to stop the former UFC fighter on Friday night.

“I love Leonard Garcia,” Elmore said. “I’m a huge fan of his. He’s a legend, but with all of my heart, I believe I am the legend killer. I’m coming out here to knock him out. I’ve never been dropped in 40 fights. I’m not nervous at all. I’m excited. The more I have on my shoulders, the more I’m driven with adrenaline just to fight. The big crowds don’t make me nervous. They make me happy nervous. It’s what I crave.”

After his UFC and LFC stints, Garcia made a sensational debut in bare-knuckle fighting in 2019 with a second-round knockout of Julian Lane. Garcia, however, lost his second fight later that year against Jim Alers at BKFC-7. He is hoping to bounce back against Almore.

Co-featured and making his BKFC debut, Former Boxing World Champion DeMarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley of Washington, D.C. clashes with BKFC veteran Reggie ‘Eaz-E’ Barnett Jr. of Virginia Beach, VA in a bantamweight bout.

Exciting undercard fights

Leading off the undercard in the heavyweight division, BKFC’s first-ever Heavyweight World Champion and the First Heavyweight Police Gazette Champion Arnold Adams (3-1), of Oak Forrest, IL, battles fan-favorite Bobo O’Bannon, (1-1) of Mobile, AL.

Adams will be making his return from a long hiatus. His last fight was in August of 2019 at BKFC-7. Among his three victories include huge wins over current BKFC Heavyweight World Champion Joey Beltran and Sam Shewmaker. O’Bannon returns to the Biloxi squared circle following a memorable one-round slugfest against Shewmaker last December at BKFC-15.

Hometown hero

In an outstanding middleweight matchup, Biloxi, MS’s hometown favorite, Tyler ‘The Zombie’ Hill, clashes with ‘Z Man’ Zion Tomlinson (1-0) of Roanoke, VA. The 21-year-old Tomlinson returns to BKFC following his first-round stoppage of Harrison Aiken last October at ‘Toe the Line 2.’

Competing at a weight limit of 165lb., Hattiesburg, MS native Brad ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, (1-0) collides with Elvin ‘El Bandido’ Brito, (2-2) of Puerto Rico. Kelly quickly impressed the Biloxi faithful last December with a stunning first-round knockout of Kaine Tomlinson, Sr. at BKFC-15. Brito hopes to follow up his action-packed win over Kaleb Harris last July at BKFC-11.

Looking to bounce back

In a welterweight cross-state showdown, Melvin ‘The Young Assassin’ Guillard, (0-1), of Kenner, LA hits the squared circle against BKFC debuting Scott ‘The Irish Spartan’ O’Shaughnessy, of Slidell, LA. In his BKFC debut, Guillard suffered an unfortunate hand injury that stopped his fight against Isaac-Valle Flagg at BKFC-7 almost two years ago.

Also fighting in the welterweight division, Adrian ‘Guard Yo Grill’ Miles of Birmingham, AL battles Saginaw, MI MMA veteran Jason ‘J Hook Em’ Fish (1-0)

Fighting at 165lb. Forrest, MS native Kaleb ‘The Lionheart’ Harris, sporting a BKFC record of 2-3, looks to even his record against battle-tested veteran Noah Cutter of Defuniak Springs, FL.

Making their debuts

In a bantamweight matchup of Los Angeles, CA-based BKFC fighters, David Diaz faces off against Spencer Ruggeri. Both fighters were selected from the BKFC Fighter Tryouts and will be making their promotional debuts.

Rounding out the card in the middleweight division, Louisiana’s Ryan Jones clashes with Eric ‘The Genetic Freak’ Thompson of Slidell, LA.

BKFC-16 main card starts at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. Two preliminary bouts will be streamed free on the BKFC YouTube Page @BareKnuckleFightingChampionship starting at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo 

UFC: Gilbert Burns wants Colby Covington or Michael Chiesa next

UFC 258 was the night that Gilbert Burns (19-4) had been waiting for. Burns finally got his chance to become welterweight champion and he got to face off against his former teammate, Kamaru Usman (17-1).

Originally, the two men were supposed to fight at UFC 251. However, a week before the fight, Burns tested positive for COVID and the fight was cancelled. Jorge Masvidal (35-14) ended up getting the shot against Usman.

After Usman won at UFC 251, the fight between him and Burns was tentatively scheduled for December. However, Usman needed additional training time due to some lingering injuries and Burns was asked again to wait.

Finally, last month, Burns got his shot. The fight couldn’t have started any better for Burns. Burns landed a massive shot that briefly put down and hurt the welterweight champion. It looked like it was going to be the crowning moment for Burns.

However, after that big shot, the fight drastically changed. Usman regained his composure and Burns looked uncharacteristically tired. The UFC champion started peppering Burns with power shots and ultimately put him down for good in the third round.

UFC return for Gilbert Burns

Gilbert Burns laid in the cage and cried after the referee called a stop to the action at UFC 258. All of the waiting just to get off to a fast start before gassing and having Usman put him away in the third round.

It’s no surprise that Gilbert Burns is ready to get back into the octagon. Burns’ manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto today that he’s ready to go. The Burns camp has asked the UFC for a fight against either Colby Covington (16-2) or Michael Chiesa (18-4) next.

Covington said this week that he’s wanting a UFC title shot next. However, Abdelaziz (who also reps Kamaru Usman) said that Covington needs to win again before getting a rematch. Of course, this should sit well with Covington considering that Jorge Masvidal is getting an immediate rematch. 

I don’t see Covington being likely for Burns. I do really like the idea of fighting Michael Chiesa. Since moving to the UFC’s welterweight division, Chiesa is 4-0. Chiesa, like Gilbert Burns, used to struggle to make lightweight and has turned his career around at 170 pounds.

Chiesa just defeated Neil Magny back in January and has been nursing some injuries. However, he should be ready to go for his next matchup soon. I think this is likely going to be where the UFC goes. The fight makes perfect sense given where both men currently are.

New York Jets to sign offensive lineman Dan Feeney (Report)

New York Jets

The New York Jets are expected to sign offensive lineman Dan Feeney to a one-year deal, per NFL insider Adam Caplan.

Feeney, a former 3rd-round pick, has started 57 games across his four seasons in the league and all 16 each of the last three. He was called for zero holding or false start penalties last sason.

The ex-Charger has spent most of his time at left guard but has played center as well. His exact role with the Jets is not yet determined.

*This story will be updated

John Hollinger suggests how Knicks can land Lonzo Ball, Victor Oladipo

The New York Knicks point guard woes is nearing the red alert level with Immanuel Quickley (sore ankle) joining Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) at the sidelines entering Thursday’s game against the visiting Orlando Magic.

The Knicks are left with Frank Ntilikina and two-way player Jared Harper as the only point guards. New York coach Tom Thibodeau would only break the emergency glass and reach for Harper when push comes to shove. But against the Magic, who are also without their top two point guards, Thibodeau can survive with Ntilikina in the starting lineup. RJ Barrett and point-forward Julius Randle will be helping in playmaking. Alec Burks will again be the Knicks’ part-time point guard.

But this band-aid solution won’t get the Knicks over the hump in their playoff push.

John Hollinger, the former Memphis Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations and now a front office insider for The Athletic, suggested two trades that could help the Knicks immediately and set them up for the future.

Solving Knicks PG woes

In a trade deadline talk with William Guillory, The Athletic’s New Orleans Pelicans beat writer, Hollinger threw a wild trade scenario that would land Lonzo Ball in New York.

Hollinger’s trade proposal:

Knicks will acquire

  • Lonzo Ball
  • JJ Redick
  • Jaxson Hayes

Pelicans will acquire

  • Mitchell Robinson
  • Elfrid Payton
  • Austin Rivers
  • Ignas Brazdeikis
  • Dallas’ 2021 first-round pick
  • lightly protected 2021 Knicks first-round pick

Hollinger noted that it’s an overpay, but it’s the only way the Pelicans should be tempted to part ways with Ball, who has turned the corner after a slow start to this season.

Ball is coming off a career-high 17 assists and 11 points in the Pelican’s one-point loss to Portland Trail Blazers the other night. His shooting, which has been his game’s perceived weakness, is coming along well this year. He’s a reliable 39 percent three-point shooter on 7.7 attempts this season. More importantly, he’s shooting 47 percent of his corner 3s, per Cleaning the Glass.

This trade, according to Hollinger, will help the Knicks’ playoff push with Ball and Redick. It would also be easier for the Knicks to retain Ball’s services in the offseason as they could match any offer sheet he can get in the market.

It should be noted that the Mavericks have now entered the Western Conference’s playoff picture after a slow start. They have now won seven of their last 10 games. If the Mavericks continue their upward trend, the 2021 first-round pick they owe to the Knicks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade will land outside the lottery.

Firepower help

The other deal Hollinger proposed in his column today is for Houston Rockets’ Victor Oladipo.

Hollinger’s trade proposal:

Knicks will acquire

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Sterling Brown

Rockets will acquire

  • Frank Ntilikina
  • Kevin Knox
  • Detroit’s 2021 second-round pick
  • Minnesota’s 2021 second-round pick
  • $5.2 million cash

Hollinger noted that Oladipo’s Bird Rights would give the Knicks some wiggle room in roster construction next season as they could retain him without using the cap room.

Oladipo is coming off his best game in Houston uniform against his former coach Nate McMillan and the soaring Atlanta Hawks. Oladipo played like an All-Star in that 109-117 loss last Tuesday, leading the Rockets with a season-high 34 points on 13-for-20 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3. He also handed out five assists and grabbed three rebounds in 41 minutes.

Before the game, McMillan provided clues as to why he believes Oladipo could soon return to the elite level he once was.

“I was with him last season,” McMillan said. “I know what he has done to commit to getting his body back to as close to what he was before the injury. He has invested in making sure he has everything he needs as far as trainers and doctors and putting in the work to get to that point.”

Oladipo proved McMillan right on the court that night.

Now, it’s up to the Knicks whether they believe that Oladipo can get back to that level consistently under Thibodeau.

If yes, cashing in on the Mavericks’ pick, as Hollinger suggested, could do the trick.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo