The Friday Five: March 2nd, 2018

1. Brock Lesnar Returning to UFC?:

For the majority of his career, Paul Heyman has been known to shock the system of whatever entity he works for. And as the WWE heads towards its biggest event of the year, featuring the man Heyman advocates for in the main event, Heyman set off a firestorm of rumors regarding Brock Lesnar’s future.

It all began late last week, when Heyman was interviewed by TMZ regarding Lesnar’s future, and claiming if Lesnar returned to the UFC, the former heavyweight champion would be the healthiest fighter on the roster.

Those comments sparked a ton of speculation surrounding whether or not Lesnar would re-up his deal with the WWE after Wrestlemania, or return to the UFC.

Dana White, who is also known to make tsunami like waves, posted a photo of he and Brock Lesnar together during WWE’s Elimination Chamber event on Sunday evening.

On Monday, the WWE integrated that photo into its storyline for Lesnar’s Wrestlemania match, as his opponent Roman Reigns referenced it and called out Lesnar for skipping the live RAW broadcast in Anaheim and being a “part timer.”

White poured kerosene on the flame this week, as appearing on Kevin Harvick’s Sirius-XM show, claimed that he expects to see Lesnar back in the Octagon, and that the odds were “very, very good.”

2. Deontay Wilder Has Something To Prove:

Both Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz have something to prove. While Wilder may be brash, boastful, and the most self-confident fighter in the sport, Ortiz has stayed low-key, letting his manager Jay Jimenez do the talking. Yet, both men admit that there is more than the WBC world heavyweight championship at stake.

For Wilder, it is about recognition. Wilder has knocked out every contender in his way throughout his career, including Bermaine Stiverne in their second matchup in November, after being his only blemish in an otherwise perfect 39-0 record with 38 KOs.  Wilder boasted about this at Thursday’s press conference:

“Everyone knows what I’m expecting Saturday night. I can’t say it enough. I have knocked every opponent out for a reason. I plan on continuing my knockout streak. That’s what I do and that’s what I’m best at…. There are a lot of good, up-and-coming heavyweights out there, but I wasn’t interested in them. This fight is how I prove that I’m the baddest man on the planet.”

This fight could be a stepping stone to the fight that Wilder has been clamoring for, a unification fight against Anthony Joshua, who faces Joseph Parker on March 31st in Cardiff, Wales. And while Wilder has had laser like focus on Joshua, the Alabama native knows not to take Ortiz lightly.

“The reason I wanted this fight is not only do I think Ortiz is one of the best technical fighters in the division, but he’s the boogeyman that everyone is running from. Champions have avoided him and I’ve always said I was the best and this is my chance to prove it.”

3. Sergey Kovalev Looks For New Chapter After Ward:

oing into his light heavyweight title defense against Igor Mikhalkin Saturday night, Sergey Kovalev’s recent losses to Andre Ward are at the center of the narrative. Sure, he rebounded against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy to capture the vacant WBO and IBA titles in November, but Kovalev himself is making it clear that this is a “new chapter” in his career.

“You know, I’m happy for everything that I have,” he told FIGHT SPORTS. “What’s happened, has happened. What happened has made me better, and it’s in the past. What has happened with me, it’s a lesson for life. God sent me this test, the Ward fights … It left big questions. I understand for myself now, the main thing that I should do is maintain my body and my boxing career.”

At 35, maintaining his body comes down to changes in his training. Before, Kovalev was a full-time fighter, training year-round. This deep into his career, though, there’s less of a need for that, less of a need to spend that much time in the gym to pick up new skills.

“Between the fights before this point, before the losses, I didn’t use any boxing gym, I didn’t do any workouts,” he said. “I spent the time with my family, with my friends, and just two months before the fight, I started working. It’s not right. But I was young, younger. Right now, I am a little bit older, and right now, my body should be maintained everyday. Day by day, building my best shape for my next fights.”

Laughing, he added that this consisted of “Less parties, more workouts.”

 

4. Is Badr Hari Still The Bad Boy Of Kickboxing:

Throughout his kickboxing career, Badr Hari (106-13) has always been known as a ticking time bomb. An enigma of a personality with the ability to explode at a moment’s notice. The former K-1 heavyweight champion has beaten some of the best fighters in the world during his career but has also beaten himself. His name has been linked to arrests, assaults and jail time outside of the kickboxing ring, and is synonymous with two disqualifications inside of it. Despite his checkered past of unpredictable and troublesome behavior, which has cost him thousands of dollars over the years, and at times his freedom, Hari still remains one of the most popular kickboxers on the planet.

Hari, 33, proved his fanbase is as enamored with him as ever when he returned to the big stage and made his GLORY debut in December 2016 against Rico Verhoeven at GLORY: COLLISION. The fans inside Konig Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany went berzerk, climbing the apron of the ring just to get a glimpse of their favorite fighter. Some clutching cell phones to record the historic moment they became part of.

“I’ve heard crowds as loud or louder and I’ve seen WWE fireworks displays at Wrestlemania and everything that has just been crazy,” GLORY play-by-play commentator Todd Grisham told FIGHT SPORTS.

“But as far as fans getting involved like that, outside of Murthel Groenhart getting punched in the face by fans [at GLORY 42], it was one of the most intense atmospheres I’ve ever been in. Obviously, it turned out great and everybody had a laugh and they were all in a good mood. But who’s to say it didn’t start a riot and we had Andrew Golota and Riddick Bowe all over again.”

 

 

5. Pacquiao Pulls Out Of Alvarado Fight:

Credit: Twitter. Manny Pacquiao

Even though it seemed that Manny Pacquiao would be returning to the ring on April 14th against Mike Alvarado,  a new report from Boxing Scene claims the former world champion has pulled himself from consideration from the Top Rank and ESPN Pay-Per-View Card.

Pacquiao last fought in the summer of 2017, when he would fall to Jeff Horn in Brisbane, Australia via a controversial unanimous decision call.

Per the report from Boxing Scene, rumors of Pacquiao  pulling out started earlier this week, as it came out that he had not started training camp and that the Filipino fighter and politician had not communicated or began prepping with longtime trainer Freddie Roach.

Pacquiao felt insulted at the idea of being lower on the card than Horn, who will be facing arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer, Terence Crawford in the main event. Pacquiao told confidants that he would be the biggest ticket selling fighter of the card, and that he still believes he was the rightful winner of his fight with Horn.

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