As Stipe Miocic landed the final crushing blow to Daniel Cormier’s reign as UFC heavyweight champion on Saturday at UFC 241, former title challenger Francis Ngannou was watching intently. His eyes were fixated on the screen, and his thoughts immediately turned to his next fight.
Was he ready for another chance at the belt?
“(Miocic and I) still have to do what has to be done,” Ngannou told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Monday. “I think I’m in the spot now that I deserve the title shot.”
Ngannou, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound heavyweight, has won three straight fights, all by first-round knockout. The results were so vicious that he was even recently cast in the upcoming Fast and the Furious movie. But while film officials know exactly what they want out of the Cameroon native, the UFC decision-makers aren’t so certain.
And it irritates the 32-year-old Ngannou.
“I don’t know exactly what is happening for the UFC executives. I don’t know what their mindset is,” he said. “They are not really clear on the answer of me deserving a title shot or me fighting next or not. I don’t understand why it’s not clear for them. It’s a very frustrating situation right now.”
The UFC’s return to China features a strawweight division championship fight, one that fans in Shenzhen have been anticipating for several months.
Zhang Weili, who is 19-1 and fights out of Beijing, will look to take the title from Jessica Andrade in the main event next Saturday night.
UFC Fight Night: Andrade vs. Zhang
• Saturday, Aug. 31, Shenzhen, China
• Prelims: ESPN, 3 a.m. ET
• Main card: ESPN+, 6 a.m. ET
Subscribe to ESPN+ to get exclusive live UFC events, weigh-ins and more; Ariel and the Bad Guy; Dana White’s Contender Series; and more exclusive MMA content.
Ngannou and Miocic fought on one prior occasion for the heavyweight title, at UFC 220 in 2018. Miocic was able to avoid power shots from his opponent and took him down at will — and Ngannou struggled on the ground. Miocic won the fight by unanimous decision to retain the title.
Ngannou has since responded with three wins in four fights. Asked by Helwani if he would be okay with Miocic taking on UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones next, Ngannou immediately shot that down.
“Because I think I’m next in line, it should be me,” he said. “Yes, I would be upset about that.”
Miocic, who also appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on Monday, would not give a hint as to which opponent he was leaning for his first title defense since reclaiming the belt.
“Let me heal up, rest up and I’ll figure it out,” he said.
Paulo Costa is ready to fight for the UFC middleweight title
Paulo Costa fought a brutal battle against Yoel Romero at UFC 241 — he claims he’s never been hit harder in his life — and on a night with a handful of standout contenders, the bout won fight of the night honors.
What’s more, the unanimous decision victory set Costa up as the fighter most likely to be next in line to challenge either Robert Whittaker or Israel Adesanya for the UFC middleweight title after they do battle at UFC 243.
Costa will be front row in Melbourne, Australia to see it happen in October, taking full advantage of an opportunity to scout both of his potential opponents up close.
“I want to be there to watch my next opponent live,” he said. “I want to be there to pressure him. I think Whittaker will beat Adesanya.”
While he believes Whittaker will get the job done, Costa hopes he gets a chance to get into the Octagon against Adesanya, who has antagonized him on several occasions, including a social media message immediately after Costa’s fight at UFC 241.
“I’m rooting for Adesanya to win this fight,” Costa said. “I will definitely erase him — he doesn’t have a chance. He doesn’t have a chin. He doesn’t have confidence. I saw it against Anderson Silva… Israel is afraid. Israel is a fake champion.”
Nick Newell: ‘People can relate to me’
“Everyone has problems. Everyone has things going on in their lives that people can’t see,” Nick Newell told Helwani. “Mine, you can see it. It’s obvious what I’m going through, and I feel like a lot of people can relate to me.”
Newell (15-2), who makes his Bellator debut on Saturday on a one-fight contract, is a congenital amputee with a left arm that ends just below his elbow. The former World Series of Fighting lightweight, who competed last season on Dana White’s Contender Series, faces Corey Browning at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut — 10 minutes from his home.
Growing up in southern Connecticut, Newell made other kids aware early on that he was not one to be pushed around.
“I didn’t really allow myself to be bullied,” he said, “I always kinda had a little bit of dog in me. I was always tough. It wasn’t until I became a popular fighter that, on the internet, people started bullying me. Man, people are mean!”
Nick Newell knows there are people who appreciate his skills, but he knows he has haters who are waiting on him to lose.
Mike Perry: ‘Am I going to die?’
Mike Perry earned a fight of the night bonus at UFC Fight Night: Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2 in Uruguay against Vicente Luque, but he paid the price late in a bout that he’d ultimately drop by split decision.
The aftermath of a shot to the face was clear in the aftermath, with Perry’s badly broken nose pushed all the way to one side. Perry had to stay in Uruguay long enough to get his nose surgically repaired, and discussed the immediate aftermath on Monday’s show.
As the adrenaline started to wear off post-fight, Perry felt the full effect of the damage done.
“I knew he caused some damage. I caught the leg and [afterwards] I was like damn,” Perry told Helwani. “You don’t really feel it ’til later… Later I felt the pain from them, whatever they did in the back sticking metal rods up my nose and cranking my face around trying to get my nose back in place — I felt that later. That gave me headaches.
“With the recent deaths in boxing, I was like, ‘Damn, is my brain bleeding? Am I going to die?’ Those were real thoughts.”
“Platinum” Mike Perry says when he broke his nose, the pain in his head was so bad he thought he was going to die in the hospital.
Kurt Angle gave Colby Covington his blessing to use WWE entrance music
When you get an entire arena to shout “you suck!” in unison and in time to music, it’s clear you’ve made a big impression on them. Such was the case with Colby Covington, who entered the Prudential Center in Newark to “Medal,” the WWE entrance theme music originally used by WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle.
At one point in Angle’s career, when he portrayed a villain, fans began to shout “you suck” in time to the song, and Covington, ever the antagonist, wanted the same reaction from the crowd before he fought Robbie Lawler. Covington reached out to Angle through a mutual friend — Bellator MMA fighter and active WWE star Bobby Lashley — and got Angle’s blessing to use the song.
“I think it’s extraordinary. I think he has something that nobody else has,” Angle said of Covington’s ability to incite those types of reactions. “He gets the entertainment factor of it… he has that mind for it, just like Conor McGregor.”
WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle explains to Ariel Helwani why he gave Colby Covington permission to use his music and what he thinks of Covington’s character.
Eddie Alvarez believes fans following him to ONE
Eddie Alvarez might be gone from the North American MMA scene, he says, but he has not disappeared for true fight fans.
After spending a decade competing in the United States, Canada and Mexico in prime time at UFC and Bellator events, “The Underground King” joined ONE Championship earlier this year, and his last two fights have been in the Philippines and Japan, available in online streams at odd hours.
During an appearance on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, Alvarez spoke of his own fandom, citing boxers Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.
“I’ll watch these guys fight in any platform,” he told Helwani. “I don’t care who the opponent is, who the promotion is. I love watching them fight. So I expected the same out of my fans.”
As it turns out, Alvarez fans on this continent will get to see their man on live TV in prime time on Oct. 12, when he faces Saygig Arslanaliev in the final of ONE’s lightweight grand prix. The Tokyo event, which also will feature former UFC champ Demetrious Johnson against Danny Kingad in the flyweight grand prix finale, will be on TNT — a first for ONE.
To those not familiar with Arslanaliev and Kingad, Alvarez says, “The best fighters in the world are virtually unknowns, They’re in the jungles of Brazil. They’re in the foothills of Dagestan. They’re all over the world.”