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Conor McGregor a no-show, and off of UFC 200

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LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor’s seat was vacant, and so now is his spot headlining the big UFC 200 card this summer.

The Irish fighter was a no-show at a press conference Friday promoting the card, and UFC President Dana White said he would not meet Nate Diaz in a rematch on top of the July 9 card in Las Vegas.

“You have to show up to promote the fight,” White said. “It’s part of the job. It’s what we do here.”

Not to be outdone, McGregor tweeted that he respected the fact other fighters traveled to the press conference “but not everyone up there made the company ($)400 million the last 8 months.”

The dispute over promotional duties means UFC’s biggest card of the year will be without McGregor, the wildly popular fighter who lost to Diaz last month in a major upset. Diaz indicated he might not fight, either, though White said he was looking for an opponent for him.

“If it doesn’t happen I’m going on vacation,” Diaz said.

White left a seat on the dais vacant at a press conference at the MGM Grand, though McGregor made it clear earlier this week that he wouldn’t be attending. McGregor posted on Facebook that he couldn’t afford the time he would need to leave his training camp in Iceland for a series of promotional appearances for the card.

But White noted the fight was nearly three months away, and that UFC is spending $10 million to promote the card and needed McGregor to participate in the promotion.

“People (other fighters on the card) came from Poland and Brazil. Is that fair?” White asked. “It sets a bad precedent. These guys came in from all over the world and they’re here.”

McGregor had asked for a quick rematch with Diaz, after moving up in weight to lose to him in a fight he dominated early. The two signed contracts, but McGregor disrupted plans when he refused to travel to Las Vegas from Iceland to promote the bout.

White said he is not angry with McGregor and expects him to fight again, just not on the landmark UFC 200 card that will be held at the new T-Mobile arena on the Las Vegas Strip. He said McGregor could fight the winner of the bout between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar, which is on the UFC 200 card.

Also on the card is Miesha Tate, who upset Holly Holm last month and will meet Brazil’s Amanda Nunes. White said it is also possible that light heavyweight Jon Jones could meet Daniel Cormier on the card if Jones wins his fight Saturday against Ovince Saint Preux.

McGregor is the biggest pay-per-view attraction the UFC has, but White said the card will have plenty of attractive fights. He said he understands fans want to see McGregor on UFC 200, but that he had to take a stand.

“It’s an unpopular decision, but it’s the right decision,” White said.

The press conference took place before the weigh-in for UFC 197, which features Jones vs. Saint Preux for the light heavyweight title and Demetrious Johnson against Henry Cejudo in a flyweight title bout.

Nunes, Pennington carry conflicting betting trends into UFC 224

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All of Amanda Nunes’ wins in her homeland have ended early, but challenger Raquel Pennington has a history of going the distance.

Women’s bantamweight champion Nunes is a -900 favorite on the UFC 224 odds with Pennington coming back at +550, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.  The card is set for Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday.

Nunes is 7-1 when she fights in Brazil, while Pennington is fighting in the country for the first time. Although Pennington has only been stopped once in 22 pro and amateur fights, Nunes’ home-soil advantage could be crucial. Nunes did require a decision during her most recent title defense against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 215 in September 2017.

Bettors looking for value in method-of-victory props will have to decide whether they believe Pennington can duplicate and improve on the techniques Shevchenko employed, or whether Nunes learned some lessons from that fight about being the aggressor with her powerful striking game. If the latter theory pans out, there’s a good chance of a Nunes knockout.

In the co-main event, Ronaldo (Jacaré) Souza (-135) has a three-inch reach advantage over Kevin Gastelum (+130) in a matchup of Top 5 middleweights, as well as home-soil advantage. Souza rates the edge in power and versatility, which might make him too much for Gastelum to handle, setting the table for a submission.

That said, Gastelum’s speed and accurate striking does make it tempting to back him for the win, knowing full well that it’s not the percentage play.

Up-and-coming Mackenzie Dern (-265) takes on Amanda Cooper (+225) in a grappler vs. striker matchup between two women’s strawweight competitors who are each somewhat experienced. Dern has had three of her six wins via submission, which is coincidentally how Cooper has sustained all three of her losses.

Those trends should carry over, presuming that Dern has continued to upgrade her technique in order to get the match to the ground.

John Lineker (-250) is favored against Brian Kelleher (+195) in a bantamweight bout between high-volume strikers. Six of Lineker’s last nine fights have gone to a decision and that trend could continue if he focuses on using his punching power to wear Kelleher down early and get a lead on the judges’ cards. For Kelleher, the matchup might be too big of a step up in caliber.

And Lyoto Machida (-260) is favored against Vitor Belfort (+200) in a middleweight bout between two aging Brazilian fighters, the latter of whom has said this will be his last fight. Stylistically, Machida likely has the edge due to his abilities as a counter-striker, which should enable him to weather the anticipated early onslaught from Belfort, who is 0-4 in his last four fights as the underdog. Machida’s most likely path to victory is through a decision.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

 

Floyd Mayweather to start MMA training ‘soon’

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Floyd Mayweather beat Conor McGregor in the boxing ring back in August. Now, Mayweather is eyeing a turn in the octagon.

The 41-year-old Mayweather, who retired from boxing following his win over McGregor, confirmed to TMZ Sports that he would “soon” begin training with UFC welterweight champ Tyron Woodley.

Mayweather thinks it will take him less than a year to acclimate to MMA.

“Even if it takes six-to-eight months, whatever it takes, we want to make sure that everything is done correctly, is done the right way,” Mayweather said.

Mayweather doesn’t believe his skill-set will require extensive improvement. He graded his wrestling skills as “probably a seven” out of 10, but he could “take it up to a nine if possible.” His real weakness is kicking, which Mayweather graded as just a four. But his hand game? “On a scale of 1-10, it’s 100.”

Mayweather was hesitant to say who he would face in his MMA debut, though he was asked directly about a rematch with McGregor.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “We can’t say. That’s why I pause, you know?  I can’t really say, you know? I have to talk to my team, speak with my father and then see how it’s gonna play out.”

Like his boxing match with McGregor, Mayweather and his team want “the right numbers and we would make it happen.”