**We are one week out from UFC 223 and it feels like a show that is going to build throughout the week with anticipation. The lull in the UFC’s schedule has been an asset to this card, which on paper is one of the better shows the UFC has put on in months. The pay-per-view number is going to reveal what impact Khabib Nurmagomedov has as there were many that credited Nurmagomedov as a factor with the UFC 219 number doing so well in December, which was headlined by Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm and featured Nurmagomedov annihilating Edson Barboza on the main card.
Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov have signed to fight each other three times in the past and everyone is knocking on wood that they remain healthy throughout fight week. They are two of the brightest stars the UFC has on the horizon and it’s also a fight with Conor McGregor’s presence looming large as they will be fighting for some version of the UFC lightweight title, which McGregor is still recognized as the division’s champion. There is a good chance McGregor could even attend the card because of training partner Artem Lobov fighting on the Fight Pass portion. McGregor is ultra media savvy, and it would behoove him to be all over this event and get the talk going of what is next for McGregor, even if he has his sights set beyond the winner of Saturday’s main event.
The card also features a rematch between strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk following Namajunas’ big upset at UFC 217 last November at Madison Square Garden.
**Earlier this week, it was announced that Endeavor (parent company of the UFC) was purchasing streaming company NeuLion for a reported figure of $250 million. On the surface, Endeavor is bringing the streaming company in-house as it already has existing relationships with Endeavor properties such as the UFC and the Professional Bull Riders. Variety reported on the story this past Monday and noted that the idea of Endeavor taking the UFC’s television rights in-house and streaming directly to the consumer is a possibility. The belief is that the UFC has not been able to acquire the level of increase for their domestic television rights as initially hoped for the streaming option could be a leverage play with Endeavor willing to walk away from a television rights deal. This would have an enormous impact on the promotion as a television rights fee increase was one of the key reasons the UFC was such a valuable entity when Endeavor spent close to $4 billion to buy the company in July 2016. The reports that have come out speculate that the UFC had previously been offered a $200 million per year deal from Fox and was below what the UFC was expecting. That is an enormous figure to try and make up through streaming directly to consumers on top of taking your product off traditional television in the United States and becoming an online streaming product to build up pay-per-views. The UFC’s deal with Fox expires at the end of 2018, and as we have written previously, the WWE and the UFC’s television deals are the biggest stories to monitor this year.
**Combate Americas has signed a television distribution deal with Univision to air their cards on both the main network and Univision Deportes in the United States. The deal will begin with their upcoming card on April 13th with a 90-minute card with 16 events scheduled for 2018. The Univision Deportes cable network is in approximately 40 million homes in the United States.
**The main event for the UFC’s debut card in Liverpool, England was made earlier this week with Stephen Thompson announced as the opponent for Darren Till. Till is fighting in his hometown on this card and is 4-0-1 since entering the UFC with an overall record of 16-0-1 with lots of star potential. He is coming off the biggest win of his career when he stopped Donald Cerrone in the first round of their bout last October in Poland. This is easily the toughest opponent of Till’s career as Thompson has fought twice for the welterweight title over the past two years with a draw and a decision loss to Tyron Woodley. Thompson last fought in November at UFC 217 and defeated Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision. On paper, this looks like an excellent fight and the atmosphere could be incredible with Till fighting in Liverpool. The only downside is that a Thompson victory, and he will be favored, stalls a possible future contender and won’t put Thompson closer to a title fight as long as Woodley is champion.
**The Countdown to UFC 223 special will air on Sunday night at 10 pm Eastern on FS1.
**Jake Ellenberger is now scheduled to fight Ben Saunders in a welterweight bout at the UFC Fight Night card in Utica, New York on June 1st.
**MMA Fighting reported this week that female flyweights Jessica Eye and Jessica Rose-Clark are scheduled to fight on June 23rd when the UFC returns to Singapore. The promotion has yet to announce the event. It will be the UFC’s third card held in the country, with their last event taking place last June where Holly Holm defeated Bethe Correia.
**Below is the audio of this past week’s UFC media call with Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov:
ASK-A-WAI: Ask Us Anything! (April 2018)
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NJPW Strong Style Evolved Review w/ Dan Lovranski
John Pollock & Wai Ting review the Strong Style Evolved card and chat with Dan Lovranski, who attended the card in Long Beach as well as the PWG show on Friday night.
REWIND-A-WAI – WWF Coliseum Video: Smack ‘Em, Whack ‘Em (Patreon-only)
John Pollock and Wai Ting review this 1993 Coliseum Home video release, featuring Bret Hart winning the WWF title from Ric Flair and the first WWF ladder match between Hart and Shawn Michaels. We also are joined by Espresso Executive Producer Jay Hunter from OSW Review.
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