It’s almost 2018, and with the new year comes some interesting storylines and moments that we’re looking to follow. And in the worlds of MMA, boxing, and kickboxing, there is a lot to look forward to in the new year. Here are five things we at FIGHT SPORTS are looking forward to heading into 2018.
- Floyd Mayweather and the UFC
One of the biggest storylines in the world of boxing and MMA in 2017 was the feud between UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. It all culminated in the Money Fight in August, when Mayweather beat McGregor via 10th-round TKO to improve to 50-0 in his legendary career.
Many thought once the hoopla surrounding the Money Fight ended, that was going to be it. But it seems the hype, words and moments from that may have just been the beginning of Floyd Mayweather and Dana White. The UFC President announced earlier this month that the promotion was in negotiations with Mayweather; however, Mayweather denied the claim, stating that he only said he could make a billion dollars in the UFC if he so chose to do so — not that he would actually do it.
But maybe the potential for a Money Fight rematch in the UFC is there? Would Mayweather have success in the Octagon? Considering boxer James Toney once tried his luck and was dominated on the ground and submitted by Randy Couture, Mayweather better bring a ground game if he’s stepping inside the cage.
- Rico Verhoeven
When it comes to GLORY Kickboxing, the year 2017 showed that GLORY Heavyweight Champion Rico Verhoeven may just truly be the king of kickboxing. In May, at GLORY 41, Verhoeven scored a unanimous decision win over Ismael Lazaar. He followed this up with a win over UFC veteran Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at GLORY 46 and then a fifth-round TKO win over Jamal Ben Saddik in the main event of GLORY: Redemption earlier this month.
With Verhoeven’s continued dominance over the heavyweight kickboxing scene, we wonder what Verhoeven has in store when it comes to 2018.
- GSP’s comeback and disappearance (again)
It was a long time coming, and this past spring, it was announced that former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre would be returning to the UFC. Rumors swirled about a UFC Middleweight Title bout with Michael Bisping, and negotiations happened, but the fight was originally canceled after GSP suffered an eye injury. GSP was then rumored to face UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. But after Woodley’s disappointing title match with Demian Maia at UFC 214 in July, GSP vs. Bisping was back on, signed for UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden, and St-Pierre became just the fourth man in UFC history to win two divisions’ weight titles.
But the title run came to a quick end for GSP. After being diagnosed with colitis, he vacated the title, and interim champion Robert Whittaker was promoted to full-time champion. GSP’s future is quite uncertain. Will he retire? Will he come back for “big money” fights with the likes of Woodley, Conor McGregor, and Nate Diaz? We are anticipating to find out ourselves.
- Bellator Heavyweight Championship Grand Prix
In 2016, Bellator Heavyweight Champion Vitaly Minakov was stripped of his title — approximately two years since he last defended the title inside the promotion’s cage. Throughout 2017, we waited to see what would happen with the heavyweight title, but nothing official came. Then, President Scott Coker and Bellator MMA announced the creation of a heavyweight tournament — featuring four heavyweights and four light heavyweights that would be stepping up a weight class. The tournament will feature Matt Mitrione, Fedor Emelianenko, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, “King Mo” Muhammad Lawal, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Chael Sonnen and Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader.
Jackson and Sonnen will kick off the tournament’s first round on Jan. 20 at Bellator 192. The tournament is expected to end by the end of 2018. We await to see Bellator’s first champion at the +205 pound weight class in a long time.
- Boxing’s Heavyweight Title Unification
The year 2018 will feature a lot of title unification, and one of the most anticipated unifications comes in the boxing heavyweight scene. There are three champions right now — WBA/IBF/IBA Champion Anthony Joshua, WBC Champion Deontay Wilder, and WBO Champion Joseph Parker. Joshua and Parker are currently in negotiations for a title unification bout, while Wilder is likely to face Luis Ortiz.
The year 2017 saw Terence Crawford become the undisputed junior welterweight champion, becoming the first unified champion in a boxing weight class in over 10 years. Will we see this happen in 2018 when it comes to boxing’s heavyweights?