With the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rolling into New York City for their second go round - UFC 217 is coming to you hot and fast this Saturday night, November 4th 2017 - your intrepid local man on the scene was able to attend the first portion of the UFC Media day. And while none of the championship-bout participants were in place, there were nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from the men fighting on the undercard for this historic 3-championship-bout fight card.
James Vick vs Joe Duffy - I asked both men how they felt they stacked up in their division, which is one of, if not the deepest in the sport. James got a bit fired up on this subject as he’s a bit annoyed that “fighters in the top15 are ducking me and I have the texts to prove it”.
I can’t pass up bait like that, so when I asked him to name names, without hesitation, he tells me that he has a “text from [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby offering him Evan Dunham, who was ranked around 12 at the time. I responded back yes, don’t hear from him for a few days only to have Sean text me back the next week that Evan refused the fight and would sit out if need be.”
He also went on to call out Dustin Poirier, stating the Shelby offered him that fight as well, but Poirier went ahead and fought Pettis instead. In fairness from my point of view, a fight with Pettis is something pretty much every fighter should take. He’s a lot higher profile and a win over him is a lot better for one’s career marketability than one over Vick.
Duffy, on the other hand, is a much more... shall we say professional athlete? When I said to him what Vick told me about higher ranked fighters “ducking” him and asked if he had any similar issues, he stated that he has no idea if that ever happened because he has his manager handle those sorts of things.
Both men felt they’re right on the cusp, and a couple of statement wins meant they would be right there in the proverbial mix.
Also, as it turns out, Duffy really has no interest in moving back to Ireland to train. He’s up at Tri-Star with Zahabi - one of the best camps in the world - and feels that he would have nowhere to train back home. After all, the only major gym there is SBG. He’s got a win over McGregor and they’ve had words occasionally throughout the years, so he probably wouldn’t be accepted.
Ion Cutelaba vs Michal Oleksiejczuk - With this one, it’s always hard to tell what the translator might be working with here, so take these all with some grains of salt, but there were a few things worth mentioning. I asked Oleksiejczuk if he felt he was at an advantage coming into this fight because he had plenty of tape on his opponent and it would be harder for Cutelaba to see what he’s done. The Polish fighter agreed that might help, but only a little.
Dovetailing on that question, I wondered if there had been anything he’d seen that he felt worked well for him, and if they saw anything that might pose a problem. “Obviously he’s a power puncher”, replied the translator after brief moments of Polish, but other than that, they felt unconcerned about what Cutelaba had to offer.
Conversely, Cutelaba seemed unconcerned about the inability to study his opponent in detail. He felt his opponent was adequate everywhere, but knew that his coaches had enough to exploit some holes. Neither fighter, for obvious reasons, obliged to elaborate on what the holes they saw in their opponent’s games were. Cutelaba went on to say that he mostly just focused on his own stuff.
Quick Hits - Corey Anderson, no longer of the worst nickname in the sport, says he’s switched his entire camp so that it’s no longer fighter-specific and only focused on his own training. He felt with the Manuwa fight, he focused a lot on his wrestling, as that would be his opponent’s weakness. As we all know, Manuwa fended off the first takedown and ended up ruining Anderson with a monster left hook that shut his lights off. On another note, he says the hardest opponent in his division (barring Jon Jones, who’s suspended) is Alexander Gustafsson.
Walt Harris, a 34-year old heavyweight born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, is actually a huge hockey fan for “as long as [he] can remember.” His favorite team isn’t what you’d expect, either - not Carolina or Atlanta/Winnipeg, but the Pittsburgh Penguins. Harris, a former college basketball player, doesn’t have a particular NBA team that he goes for - he’s mostly a fan of Dwyane Wade, so he’s rooting for the Cavaliers this year.