UFC begins ESPN era with Brooklyn super-fight
by Bryan Fonseca
Jan 16, 2019 | 1105 views | 0 0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TJ Dillashaw
TJ Dillashaw
slideshow
Henry Cejudo
Henry Cejudo
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TJ Dillashaw, the UFC’s Bantamweight Champion, and Henry Cejudo, the promotion’s Flyweight Champion, are set to be the main event at the third ever UFC card at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

It will also be the UFC’s first of their new five-year, $1.5 billion deal with ESPN after a previous seven-year deal with FOX ran its course. The event will air on ESPN+ on Saturday night.

Dillashaw (16-3) and Cejudo (13-2) legitimately hate each other, having publicly traded insults on multiple occasions leading to Brooklyn.

“You’re the most boring fighter on the roster,” Dillashaw directed at Cejudo on ESPN during New Year’s Eve.

“I’m going to get in there on the 19th and I’m going to destroy this dork,” he added, as Cejudo laughed maniacally. “He’s walking around talking about himself in the third person, carrying his belt everywhere.”

Cejudo’s immensely proud of himself. He scored a shocking upset over Demetrious Johnson – widely considered the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time – on August 4 of last year, 10 years nearly to the date where he won the 2008 Freestyle Wrestling Olympic Gold Medal.

The win over “Mighty Mouse” also came 28 months after losing to Johnson by opening round TKO in their first encounter. Johnson brought a UFC record-run of 11 straight successful title defenses into his rematch with Cejudo, where he lost a tight split decision.

He has since left the promotion to One Championship in exchange for Ben Askren as part of MMA’s first ever “trade.”

Still, Cejudo’s only been in this particular spotlight for a few months, while Dillashaw has been champion since November of 2017, in what is now his second reign. He was also Bantamweight Champion from May 2014 to January 2016, making two successful defenses before losing to Dominick Cruz.

The fight will also unify the two titles, a growing trend in the UFC, which began with then-Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor defeating former Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden in November of 2016.

Since then, there have been two other unifications, courtesy of Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes, both in the second half of 2018.

Elsewhere on the card, former NFL defensive lineman Greg Hardy (3-0) will co-main event against journeyman heavyweight Allen Crowder (9-3) in his first major bout under the UFC banner.

Hardy’s acquisition doesn’t arrive without controversy, as he infamously departed from the NFL after being found guilty of assaulting an ex-girlfriend in July of 2014.

The former Carolina Panther and Dallas Cowboy edge rusher was sentenced to 18 months probation and suspended for 10 games by the NFL.

The charges and suspension were subsequently dropped after the victim failed to appear in court to testify, even though graphic images did surface online of the alleged confrontation in November of 2015.

Hardy, who competes at heavyweight, will fight shortly after popular flyweight Paige VanZant (7-4) faces Rachel Ostovich (4-4), which has also overtaken the news stream due to a recent domestic dispute involving the latter.

Ostovich’s husband Arnold Berdon assaulted her last year, and photos surfaced online in November.

The timing of Hardy’s and Ostovich’s separate incidents shined a dark light over the UFC Brooklyn card, but Ostovich insists she believes in second chances, and decided to continue with the fight, despite the controversy.

“UFC President Dana White was very caring and nice about it,” she said last month.

White had also said publicly on multiple occasions that he consulted Ostovich before booking Hardy.

“I know he gets a lot of heat, but there’s no fishiness surrounding that thing,” Ostovich added. “He was very concerned with my situation from the very beginning. He didn’t even want me to fight, actually. I had to convince and beg him to let me fight.

“I’m glad he’s making a turnaround,” she added. “I hope the same can happen to my husband and anyone else who has made a wrong choice.”
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