Chris Gutierrez will stroll to and compete within the octagon at Madison Sq. Backyard as one in every of greatest betting favorites and possibly the smallest fan favourite. That has little to do with him and every little thing to do together with his opponent, Frankie Edgar.
Edgar, a former light-weight champion and as revered a fighter the UFC has ever had, will face the bantamweight Gutierrez in his retirement combat.
“I respect Frankie for what he has accomplished,” Gutierrez mentioned Wednesday at UFC 281 media day in Manhattan. “He is a pioneer. He has paved the way in which for lots of us developing.”
Gutierrez (18-3-2) fights out of Jersey Metropolis, so he figures to have a pleasant quantity of native followers within the crowd. However sufficient to drown out the remainder of the sold-out MSG crowd all presumably cheering and making an attempt to will Edgar (from Toms River, New Jersey) to at least one extra legendary combat and win?
“My job is to go in there and win. It’s not going to be bittersweet. He’s had his run,” Gutierrez mentioned. “I am positive he’ll have a variety of love right here. However on the finish of the day, I am not combating the group, I’m combating him. So whether or not I get booed or not, I don’t give a [expletive].”
Edgar figured on having “a bunch” of individuals there, however what stood out extra to him is the group that’s run with him since he was combating in underground fights within the metropolis earlier than MMA was even authorized in New York. He mentioned he offered 16 tickets to that combat and earned $10 per particular person.
“Lots of people that had been within the crowd for that Bronx combat may also be within the crowd right here,” Edgar mentioned. “That’s what means extra.”
Michael Chandler’s light-weight bout in opposition to Dustin Poirier marks the third combat at MSG for Chandler. He’s 1-1 in these fights, however he has a extra distinctive two-fight streak he’d wish to see come to an finish.
“I’ve taken an ambulance journey from Madison Sq. Backyard twice,” Chandler mentioned. “The final one was simply precautionary clearly as a result of it was such a battle. The primary one was an damage. However that is the combat sport.
“I plan on going on the market and truly with the ability to not spend 5 hours within the ER right here in New York Metropolis on combat evening. I wish to get in, get out, kiss my spouse, gather my paycheck after which go have a good time with some family and friends.”
From the Little Apple to the Huge Apple
Huntington’s Matt Frevola has fought at Madison Sq. Backyard earlier than. And Saturday’s hometown combat issues simply as a lot to him now because it did 4 years in the past at UFC 230.
“Simply strolling round, going to my bagel spot, Bagels on Most important, and so they go, ‘When’s your subsequent combat?’ after which I am going ‘I’m combating on the Backyard.’ After which their eyes gentle up,” Frevola mentioned. “It is a massive deal for a child from Lengthy Island to be combating at Madison Sq. Backyard.”
The trustworthy lies of Dan Hooker
Each fighter feels nice earlier than a combat. Or so they are saying. It’s often not till after the combat once they reveal any important accidents suffered within the camp that they fought by means of in the course of the bout.
Dan Hooker, the New Zealand light-weight who faces Claudio Puelles within the pay-per-view open, make it clear how he feels now that he moved up a weight class and has 10 much less kilos to chop earlier than weigh-ins.
“This near a combat, I might be strolling out on the street and might hit by a automobile and break my arm, I am nonetheless going to inform you that I really feel unimaginable,” Hooker mentioned. “However I really do really feel unimaginable this time.”
A New York second for ‘Meatball’
That is the sixth UFC card at Madison Sq. Backyard since New York legalized MMA in 2016. Fighters nonetheless are requested concerning the magnitude of combating at “The World’s Most Well-known Enviornment” situated within the greatest media market on the earth. For some, it’s simply one other combat. For others, it’s an opportunity to compete in entrance of the house crowd. For “Meatball” Molly McCann, a flyweight from Liverpool, England, it means a bit extra.
“I believe each single one in every of you realize precisely how exhausting I’ve labored for this second, for this occasion. I really feel like a child on Christmas,” McCann mentioned. “It is like your final Christmas you imagine in Father Christmas. Whenever you get up on Christmas Day and get to open your presents. I am simply that excited to get in there and expertise the venue, the world, the followers, the Irish, the English, even the People. I am right here for it in any respect.”
McCann (13-4), coming off a pair of knockouts by way of spinning again elbow, faces Erin Blanchfield (9-1) in a prelim bout. Would possibly the New York second be overwhelming come combat evening for her?
“I do not really feel any stress of the place we’re,” McCann mentioned. “It is going to all the time be the stress of the combat. The identical as each combat. You get the little butterflies, you get the moments of doubt.”
Poirier’s seven streaks of 1
With a combat resume 13 years and 36 fights deep and affected by present and former champions, maybe there’s one factor that stands out essentially the most for Dustin Poirier: He has by no means misplaced back-to-back fights.
That’s a testomony to his expertise, his drive and psychological power. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Poirier, both.
“It is one thing that is at the back of my head,” Poirier mentioned. “I would like to maintain that pattern going clearly and bounce again and present that I can overcome and enhance. I believe even after wins, I’ve are available in and proven new wrinkles within the sport and enhancements. However that is simply one other a type of moments the place I can present development and present my dedication to the game by placing on efficiency.”
What may Carla Esparza, making the primary title protection of her second reign as girls’s strawweight champion, current that Zhang Weili, a former champion, could be involved about of their co-main occasion? Her grappling? Her hanging? Her setting of traps?
“I don’t worry something from Carla Esparza,” Zhang mentioned.
Esparza didn’t seem offended by the previous champion’s characterization of the present champion.
“I believe in all probability lots of people have felt that about my sport,” Esparza mentioned. “However it doesn’t actually matter what she thinks or what she says. I’m moving into there with my greatest sport and that is in all probability the most effective camps I’ve had. So I’m simply able to go in there as the very best me and show the world flawed.”
Return of ‘The Devastator’
Dominick Reyes hasn’t fought since Might 1, 2021, the longest layoff of his eight-year profession. Reyes, a former defensive again on Stony Brook College’s soccer group, hasn’t gained a combat since Oct. 18, 2019, a run of three bouts in opposition to three of the final 4 gentle heavyweight champions.
“I’m Dom 2.0,” Reyes mentioned. “My protection is closely upgraded. My offense is even higher than it’s earlier than.”
The seventh-ranked Reyes left his residence in California to coach with former gentle heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira’s camp in Connecticut for this combat in opposition to No. 12 Ryan Spann. Additionally in that camp coaching with Reyes was Alex Pereira, who fights Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title on Saturday.
Reyes (12-3) credited Teixeira for serving to him reset his sport and his mindset.
“He helped me rather a lot with residing within the now, simply residing proper now and appreciating every little thing you’ve got,” Reyes mentioned. “Nothing’s assured. So it doesn’t matter what, quarter-hour or much less, that is my present.”