Alex Pereira to Fight UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 281

Alex Pereira is taking on a champion…

Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against the 35-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and former kickboxer, his old rival, in the headliner of UFC 281 on November 12 in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Alex Pereira

Pereira owns two wins over Adesanya in kickboxing, including one via knockout. ESPN has Adesanya ranked tied for third on its pound-for-pound MMA list. At middleweight, Adesanya is No. 1 and Pereira is No. 7.

Pereira, a former two-division Glory Kickboxing champion, beat Adesanya in kickboxing once by decision in 2016 and then again a year later via knockout.

Adesanya (23-1) is undefeated in his career at middleweight. The Nigerian-born New Zealand resident has won three straight since falling in a light heavyweight title bout to Jan Blachowicz in March 2021. Adesanya, 33, owns five successful title defenses at middleweight, holding the undisputed title since October 2019.

Pereira (6-1) is coming off a first-round knockout of Sean Strickland at UFC 276 last month, the same card in which Adesanya defended his title successfully against Jared Cannonier. The Brazilian slugger has five finishes in six career pro MMA victories since coming over from kickboxing.

Pereira, 35, is 3-0 in the UFC with a pair of $50,000 Performance of the Night bonuses to his name.

Marina Rodriguez to Fight Amanda Lemos at UFC 280

Marina Rodriguez has lined up her next opponent…

The 35-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist will face Amanda Lemos at UFC 280 on October 22 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Marina RodriguezRodriguez and Lemos, two of the top women’s strawweight fighters in the world, form part of one of the UFC‘s deepest cards of the year.

The winner of the bout could have the inside track on a title shot. Rodriguez is the No. 4 women’s strawweight in ESPN‘s rankings, while Lemos is No. 9.

In addition, sources told ESPN that Rodriguez and former UFC women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade have left manager Tiago Okamura to sign with Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA, who represents the likes of welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and former pound-for-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Rodriguez (16-1-2 overall, 6-1-2 UFC) has won four straight and is coming off a split decision win over Yan Xiaonan at UFC 272 in March. The Brazilian fighter’s only career loss was a close split decision defeat to current UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza in 2020.

Lemos (12-2-1), also 35, has won six of her past seven fights, including a second-round submission victory over Michelle Waterson this past weekend at UFC Long Island. The Brazilian fighter’s only loss since 2017 came to Andrade in April. Lemos has finished four of her six wins inside the UFC Octagon.

UFC 280 will be headlined by a fight between former champion Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev for the vacant lightweight title. Also on the card, lightweight standouts Beneil Dariush and Mateusz Gamrot will meet in a potential title eliminator.

UFC Finalizing Plans for Nate Diaz-Khamzat Chimaev Fight in September

Nate Diaz is thisclose to his next fight…

The UFC is finalizing a welterweight fight between the Mexican-American mixed martial artist and Khamzat Chimaev.

Nate DiazThe Diaz-Chimaev fight would headline UFC 279 on September 10, UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell tells ESPN.

Contracts haven’t been signed, but both fighters have verbally agreed to the matchup and date according to Campbell. UFC 279 will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Zach Rosenfield, Diaz’s representative, confirmed the date and opponent of Diaz’s next fight.

“This is a fight Nate has been asking for since the middle of April,” Rosenfield told ESPN on Tuesday.

Diaz (20-13) has been vocal in 2022 about wishing to fight out his current UFC contract, which has one fight remaining. According to sources, Diaz’s camp and the UFC were involved in discussions around a new contract, however Diaz recently made it very clear he wished to fight out the deal.

One of the most popular fighters on the roster, Diaz hasn’t fought since a decision loss to current UFC welterweight title challenger Leon Edwards in June 2021.

Chimaev (11-0) is coming off a decision victory over Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 in April. It was the most competitive fight of Chiamev’s professional career, but it also came against a former UFC title challenger.

Chimaev, who was born in Chechnya and now fights out of Stockholm, is one of the fastest-rising title contenders in UFC history. He is 5-0 since signing with the promotion in 2020.

“I am going to handle Nate Diaz’s funeral with the UFC,” said Chimaev, in a statement he provided in Swedish to his representatives.

Bill Richardson to Travel to Russia for Talks to Free Detained WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Bill Richardson is hoping to help free Brittney Griner.

The 74-year-old Mexican-American politician and former New Mexico governor is planning to travel to Russia for talks aimed at finding a deal to free the detained WNBA star, according to ABC News.

Bill Richardson,He’s expected to go to Moscow in the next couple of weeks, the source said.

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson has a long history of working to free Americans wrongfully detained overseas. He most recently played a role in a prisoner exchange that saw Russia release former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed after nearly two and a half years in captivity.

Richardson is currently representing the Griner family, as well as the family of Paul Whelan, another former Marine held by Russia for three and a half years.

Griner has been in detention in Russia since mid-February, when she was stopped at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport and accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Griner pleaded guilty to bringing hashish oil into Russia earlier this week, telling a judge that she had done so “inadvertently” while asking the court for mercy.

ESPN sources say the guilty plea was a strategy to help facilitate a prisoner swap that could bring Griner home, and it also was recognition that there was no way she was going to be acquitted. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

The State Department issued a statement on Thursday saying it continues to work for Griner’s release. Asked to comment on Richardson’s potential visit, the White House National Security Council told ABC it was in contact with Richardson and valued his efforts, but declined to say more.

Richardson does not represent the White House. In Reed’s case, he approached Russia’s government and the Biden administration separately to try to feel out what both sides might accept as any possible deal. He then relayed what he had heard back to both sides.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said she had requested the Richardson team’s help and would support a trip if it took place.

“We asked the Richardson Center to help and I’m encouraged that he might be going,” Cherelle Griner said in a statement to ABC through Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas.

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez Defeats Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to Retain WBC Junior Bantamweight Title

Jesse Bam Rodriguez is keeping his title…

Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez“This is the youngest champ in boxing and he already might be a pound-for-pound great,” said Rodriguez’s promoter, Eddie Hearn. “He’s here for legacy; he’s here to be remembered.”

It was a dazzling display from Rodriguez, who headlined in his hometown for the first time. He used an excellent southpaw jab, beautiful footwork and plenty of angles to keep Rungvisai off-rhythm and at the end of his power shots.

Rungvisai (50-6-1, 43 KOs) owns victories over a pair of future Hall of Famers in their primes — Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada — so it was particularly impressive the way Rodriguez was able to pick off his heavy shots and win every round in dominant fashion.

The plodding 35-year-old from Thailand needs to set his feet to deliver his power shots, but Rodriguez never allowed him to do so. He presented a moving target, and on the rare occasion Rungvisai did close distance, “Bam” turned him around.

“In the third round I felt his power wasn’t the same,” said Rodriguez, who entered the fight rated No. 5 by ESPN at 115 pounds. ” … That’s when I decided to take over. … Having Robert Garcia in my corner is a huge advantage.”

Rodriguez, whose brother Joshua Franco holds a secondary title at 115 pounds, said he could campaign at 112 pounds before returning to the weight class.

“He’s a very underrated fighter and it’s a matter of time until he gets his shot,” Rodriguez said of Franco, who is ESPN’s No. 6 junior bantamweight.

Rungvisai, ESPN’s No. 3 boxer at 115 pounds, lost for just the second time since a 2014 technical decision defeat to Carlos Cuadras. And it was Cuadras whom Rodriguez defeated in February to announce his arrival and pick up his first world title, though Estrada remains the WBC’s franchise champion in the weight class.

Manchester City Agrees to Transfer Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal

Gabriel Jesus is switching sides…

Manchester City and Arsenal have agreed terms over the transfer of the 25-year-old Brazilian professional footballer, according to ESPN.

Gabriel JesusArsenal will pay £45 million plus a further £10m in add-ons for the Brazil international striker with only paperwork and a medical standing in the way of a deal being completed.

The Gunners had already agreed a five-year contract with Jesus.

Arsenal, who have already signed midfielder Fabio Vieira from Porto this summer, are looking to strengthen their squad after missing out on Champions League football.

Jesus, who had only one year remaining on his contract at Man City, scored 13 goals and gave 12 assists in all competitions for the Premier League champions last season and can play in all attacking positions.

He also excels at pressing and counter-pressing, which are key aspects of Mikel Arteta‘s playing style.

Meanwhile, Arsenal continue to pursue a deal for Leeds United winger Raphinha and remain confident of adding him to their ranks.

They are also keen to sign 24-year-old Ajax and Argentina centerback Lisandro Martinez.

WBA Strawweight Champion Seniesa Estrada to Fight Anabel Ortiz in Rematch

Seniesa Estrada is returning to the ring…

After months out of the ring waiting for a fight, the 29-year-old Mexican American boxer and WBA strawweight champion will take on 35-year-old Mexican professional boxer Anabel Ortiz on August 6.

Seniesa EstradaEstrada announced her return on Twitter and will be on the undercard of the Vergil Ortiz Jr.-Michael McKinson fight in Texas.

The fight against Ortiz will be a rematch of her fight on March 20, 2021, when she won the strawweight title in a unanimous decision win over Ortiz in which she knocked the former champion down in the first round and dominated the fight.

Estrada (22-0, 9 KO), ESPN‘s No. 6 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, last fought in December, when she knocked out Maria Micheo Santizo in the fourth round.

This will be Estrada’s second defense of her title.

Ortiz (31-5, 4 KO) has lost her past two fights — by unanimous decision to Estrada, where she lost her title, and then last December to Marlen Esparza in a fight for the WBC flyweight title.

Before her loss to Estrada, Ortiz had a 21-fight win streak dating back to 2012, when she was defeated by Yesica Yolanda Bopp. Four of Ortiz’s five career losses came in world title fights.

Andy Ruiz Returning to Ring to Fight Luis Ortiz in September

Andy Ruiz is returning to the ring…

The 32-year-old Mexican American boxer, a former heavyweight champion, will fight Luis Ortiz on September 4 in Los Angeles, according to ESPN.

Andy RuizThe fight, which ESPN reported was signed in April, will be a PBC on Fox PPV event, sources said.

The fight will be Ruiz’s first in 15 months, and he’ll enter it with a new trainer for the second time in two fights. Ruiz is now training with Alfredo Osuna after he parted ways with Eddy Reynoso, sources said. Reynoso is best known as the trainer of boxing’s top star, Canelo Alvarez.

Ruiz (34-2, 22 KOs) became the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent when he defeated Anthony Joshua via seventh-round TKO in June 2019, in a bout that was named ESPN‘s 2019 Upset of the Year. Six months later, Joshua regained his three heavyweight titles with a unanimous-decision victory over Ruiz in Saudi Arabia.

Ruiz admitted he was not in shape when he fought Joshua in the rematch. He weighed a career-high 283.5 pounds and was lethargic during the fight, in stark contrast to the first bout, when he weighed 268 and consistently beat Joshua to the punch with his lightning-quick hands.

The Southern Californian has fought just once since the rematch, a May 2021 decision win over Chris Arreola. Ruiz weighed 256 pounds for that bout but was surprisingly dropped in Round 2 and struggled at times during the first half before he took control.

Ruiz, ESPN’s No. 5 heavyweight, underwent surgery on his right knee in August and will now prepare for just his second fight since he lost his three titles to Joshua.

Ortiz, ESPN’s No. 8 heavyweight, has twice challenged for the WBC heavyweight title, and both times he was knocked out by Deontay Wilder. The 43-year-old was ahead on the scorecards in the November 2019 rematch when Wider scored the spectacular KO.

Since the setback, Ortiz (33-2, 28 KOs) has fought twice. The 43-year-old scored a first-round KO of journeyman Alexander Flores before he met Charles Martin on New Year’s Day 2022.

Ortiz was floored in the opening round and again in the fourth but rallied for a brutal stoppage in Round 6.

The winner of Ruiz-Ortiz will be in prime position for another heavyweight title shot next year. Tyson Fury holds one title, while Oleksandr Usyk and Joshua will meet in a rematch for three belts on August 20 in Saudi Arabia.

Golden Boy Promotions Reschedules Welterweight Bout Between Vergil Ortiz Jr. & Michael McKinson

Vergil Ortiz Jr.’s next bout is officially (re)scheduled

The 24-year-old Mexican American boxer will fight Michael McKinson in a rescheduled welterweight bout on August 6 in Fort Worth, Texas, according to Golden Boy Promotions.

Vergil Ortiz Jr.It was previously reported that Ortiz and David Avanesyan had agreed to a deal for a fight on the same date, but according to Ortiz’s manager, Rick Mirigian, Avanesyan reneged.

“[Avanesyan] agreed to the contract in writing, both by text and email,” Mirigian, who also manages former champions Jose Ramirez and Joseph Diaz Jr., told ESPN. “Golden Boy accommodated all of his needs to get this done, and then more frivolous demands followed and he backed out. Golden Boy bent over backwards to accommodate him.”

Mirigian said Avanesyan’s team informed Golden Boy they would return the signed contract but never did. That’s when GBP turned its attention back to McKinson.

The Englishman was set to fight Ortiz on March 19 before Ortiz was hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases the damaging protein myoglobin into the blood.

McKinson (22-0, 2 KOs) fought a replacement opponent, Alex Martin, on that same date, and won a unanimous decision to remain undefeated.

“I’m getting what I deserve,” said McKinson. “I was prepared to fight Ortiz Jr. before; now, I have been given the opportunity again to prove I am the best in this division.”

Avanesyan, 33, a hard-punching Russian who now resides in the U.K., appeared to present a far more formidable challenge for Ortiz. Avanesyan scored six straight stoppages since a TKO loss to Egidijus Kavaliauskas in 2018. Most notably, Avanesyan stopped Josh Kelly last year, ending his run as a top prospect.

“There was never a deal signed,” a spokesperson for Queensberry Promotions, which promotes Avanesyan, told ESPN. “It was in discussions but didn’t get that far. The terms offered were not acceptable and changed without agreement in the redraft. We never dealt with his manager, we were dealing with Golden Boy. And we notified the WBC that purse offers were preferable. Avanesyan has never run or avoided anyone and for anyone to suggest that is laughable.”

Ortiz, (18-0, 18 KOs), a Dallas native, is one of boxing’s fastest-rising stars. He’s coming off his best win yet, an eighth-round TKO of Kavaliauskas in August. Ortiz was hurt in Round 2 but rallied to score five knockdowns en route to the finish. The nine-month layoff will be the longest of Ortiz’s career.

“I am very happy to be stepping back into the ring again,” said Ortiz, ESPN‘s No. 4 welterweight. “I’m ready to show the world once again why I’m ready for a world title.”

Liverpool Agrees on Transfer Deal for Benfica Forward Darwin Nunez 

It’s official… Darwin Nunez is Liverpool bound.

Liverpool has agreed on a deal to sign the 22-year-old Uruguayan professional footballer and Benfica forward in a transfer worth up to €100 million, according to ESPN.

Darwin NunezIt was previously reported that both clubs were in advanced talks over a deal, and sources confirmed that Liverpool is set to break the team’s transfer record to sign the striker.

Nunez will sign a five-year contract at Anfield, according to sources, and he has left the Uruguay national team to travel to England to undergo a medical.

Sources have told ESPN that an agreement was reached on Saturday between the two clubs worth €75 million, plus €25 million in add-ons.

Liverpool have seen off competition from Manchester United and Arsenal to land the striker.

According to ESPN sources, Nunez is keen for regular Champions League football, which put Liverpool ahead in the race to sign him.

Nunez, who joined Benfica in September 2020, was the top scorer in Portugal’s top flight last season and added some stellar performances in the Champions League, ending the year with 34 goals in 41 appearances.

The striker began his career at Uruguayan side Penarol before moving to Spanish second-division side Almeria in 2019, where he scored 16 goals in 32 games. Almeria will receive 20% of the profit from Nunez’s transfer.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp praised Nunez after his team’s Champions League quarterfinal clash against Benfica in April, saying that Nunez is “really good and has a big career ahead of him.”