With UFC 159, which takes place at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., right around the corner (Sat., April 27, 2013), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- as always -- began to shift its promotional machine into high gear.
And the media day today, which took place at Madison Square Garden (MSG) Theater in New York, N.Y., was an important part of the process.
Jon Jones (more on his media day here), Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, Alan Belcher, Roy Nelson, Cheick Kongo and UFC President Dana White were at MSG Theater this afternoon, fielding questions from a group of people who "Bones" labelled (erroneously) as an intelligent bunch of people:
Mixed martial arts (MMA) media!
Anyway, check out several notable news, notes and quotes below. And to watch full video of White's media scrum afterward, during which he touches on several hot topics in the sport today, click here.
Roy Nelson: Kongo's evolved a little in MMA, and he seems to fight a bit according to what opponents want to do, so he expects Cheick to be on his bike a bit this fight. He doesn't think we'll see the clinching version of Kongo that we've seen in some fights because that would play into his strengths and not Kongo's. Nelson might have to resort to Diaz tactics and flip him the bird. He refuses, however, to do the running man, as what happened with Nate Quarry and Kaleb Starnes years ago.
"I didn't train for a track meet, I trained for a fight."
I came close to pleading with him for a running man, but he said it wasn't happening.
Also he feels that Kongo is definitely a bit of a dirty fighter with knees to the groin and shorts grabbing and he expects that the referee for that fight will talk to him ahead of time.
He'd also love rematches against people who have handed him defeats in the past because "he know he has their numbers. And If they haven't evolved, they're going down."
Other people don't want to rematch him.
"My phone hasn't been ringing daily because I'm fighting some retard from Mississippi."
The trash talk isn't an act, it's just getting himself ready mentally for being locked inside a cage and fighting a guy. He feels he performs much better when he is angry. He wasn't happy about the video that Belcher did mocking him for the Henderson loss. He's certainly not planning to go overboard the way he did against Jorge Rivera, but he's happy for the extra motivation.
"I've definitely got into his head ... when we were on the conference call with each other, he was a little schoolboy."
He thinks that Belcher's really bad on fighting off his back foot, and you can't kick very well off it, so he feels very confident in using pressure as part of his gameplan.
Belcher's level of competition and some of his losses to admittedly shaky competition (Kendall Grove, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jason Day) aren't anywhere near the level of the Rashad Evans', Dan Henderson's and Vitor Belfort's of the world.
Ironically, Belcher's had too many mental missteps regarding handling pressure and stepping up in the moment. I use the word irony, because "The Count" himself noted that people could say the same thing about him, but the levels are different.
Cheick Kongo: Kongo refused to name a fighter who he thought had the best stand up in his division. His opinion was that it was very dependent on who was fighting who at the time.
There have been issues with MMA getting regulated in France and Italy, but it's progressing in Italy depending on which state you go. France is still under restricted MMA (no elbows, grappling only on the ground), which he thinks is actually safer. Similar to what's happening in New York, it's mostly just politics and he's looking forward to the sport progressing.
Kongo isn't a big believer in ring rust. He was a bit upset because he has been hurt and he can't just ignore the injuries anymore. He cited the torn knee ligament he had against Cain Velasquez in a big, important fight when he claimed he was "one more win away from the title shot".
He just can't pass up on those opportunities anymore when he's not ready and capable. Kongo then reminisced fondly about the few months he spent training in Brooklyn, N.Y., a while ago, too.
Dana White: Matt Mitrione was fined -- forget the suspension, that kind of means nothing, as this isn't a season sport. The fine was big enough to elicit dozens of phone calls from "Meathead" and he knows better now. The money will be used for White to "go to dinner" (watch more here).