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Daniel Cormier’s Biggest Accomplishment

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Yet once he was exposed to kids who didn’t look like him, it was just like any other relationship in that he made it work. And once he began playing sports, it became crystal clear immediately that to be successful as part of a team, you had to be able to get along with everybody.

“Once I got into sports, I was surrounded by different races – White kids, Black kids – playing football together,” he said. “And through wrestling, you obviously see everybody, so I just learned to get along with people. If a guy was working hard, I respected him. It didn’t matter if he was White, Black, Mexican, Russian – was that guy like-minded, did he work hard? We were all trying to accomplish the same thing. Those are the things I always looked at as a kid and I took those same lessons to me growing older.”

For evidence, just look at the United Nations occupying the AKA gym that was Cormier’s home throughout his UFC career. Whether you were Cain Velasquez, Khabib Nurmagomedov or Luke Rockhold, if you worked hard and pulled your weight for the team, Cormier would have your back through any situation. And while that was his life on a day-to-day basis during his 11-year pro MMA career, early on, as he began to move up the ranks, he realized that he could also make a difference in the lives of kids around the country and the world, starting in Lafayette.

MORE UFC VEGAS 20: Rozenstruik’s Lesson | Fighters On The Rise | Fight By Fight Preview | Thiago Moises | Rise Of Ciryl Gane | Fantasy Stats | Kevin Croom | Alexis Davis | Sabina Mazo | Pedro Munhoz | Angela Hill | Watch On ESPN+

“I became more aware of what I was gonna leave behind as I got older,” he said. “When you’re young, you’re kinda flying by the seat of your pants. But then, as I got older, when I got to the UFC and the platform raised, I think one thing that really did change the way I perceived everything was once I was at my neighborhood convenience store and there was a picture from Bud Light of Rashad Evans. And my wife and I were just like, ‘Oh, there’s Rashad.’ And it was in the middle of Lafayette, Louisiana, where all these little, young black boys and girls would see Rashad Evans and could see that ‘wow, this guy looks like me.’ And I kind of thought at that point, man, if I can get to that point to where Rashad is, I could be on posters and I could be on advertisements in my own neighborhood, so I can motivate and show the kids that are from the same place that I am, that through hard work and commitment that you can become something special. So as I got older, I became way more aware of the opportunity to really motivate and inspire kids to know that things could be different.”

Those inspired kids included his own, and while the world was turned upside down in 2020, the Cormiers had to have some tough conversations with Daniel Jr. and Marquita.

Dustin Jacoby Is Prepared For Anything

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“I’ve been through it to get to it,” he said. “I tell the guys in the gym all the time, I hit the scene pretty quick right after turning pro. I got to the UFC and then getting cut so fast, I realized looking back that this whole time has been a journey I’ve come to enjoy. I really do enjoy it and I’ve been through it all, so I’m ready for anything and everything.”

That means not just the best light heavyweights the UFC can throw at him, but the teammates he has to battle it out with every Friday at the Factory X gym in Englewood, Colorado.

MORE UFC VEGAS 20: Rozenstruik’s Lesson | Fighters On The Rise | Fight By Fight Preview | Thiago Moises | Rise Of Ciryl Gane | Fantasy Stats | Kevin Croom | Alexis Davis | Sabina Mazo | Pedro Munhoz | Angela Hill | Watch On ESPN+

“It just sets the tone,” said Jacoby of the sparring matches growing in legend with each passing week thanks to the fight night atmosphere head coach Marc Montoya wants for the team members getting ready for battle. “Visualization is a big key to anybody’s success, but it especially helps the younger guys with the emotions that they’re feeling and the nerves they’re feeling, because sparring day, it is a different day of practice. Everybody’s a little bit more nervous. Me, as a veteran, I’ve been through it so many times, and the biggest thing to me is being able to see it happen before it happens. And then when it comes fight night, when I’m walking out, it’s like I’ve done this walk for seven, eight straight weeks leading up to this one moment. I know I’m prepared.”

Adding to the routine of training not just hard, but smart, the Factory X squad also has its own book club. No, the current favorites of Oprah or Reese Witherspoon aren’t on the menu, but for the athletes participating, the books selected are page turners of another sort.

Yves Edwards Was Raised To Believe In People

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“With that understanding is how I’ve approached a lot of situations where I could potentially get into a fight with a White kid or a bunch of White kids,” he said. “I’m gonna be the one that you look at first. I’m gonna be the troublemaker, defending myself or not. So there’s been too many times that I’ve walked away. I get angry about these things; I don’t like that feeling. And that’s a real thing.”

It’s draining, and almost hard to fathom if you’ve never lived it, but Edwards has. Thankfully, most of that negativity didn’t get into his professional life other than the usual nonsense through social media and message boards, giving him a sort of safe place in the midst of an opponent trying to punch him in the face.

“I’ve had those instances, but I’ve never had those instances within the sport except hearing inside the cage, ‘Kick his black ass’ or s**t like that, but nothing to my face, and that’s probably because I was a fighter. A lot of the time it was outside of the sport. Most of the racial things that I got were emails, DMs, messages on message boards. There was very rarely something to my face around the mixed martial arts scene. So, for me, most of those interactions came outside of the sport. And you make a choice in those moments because there’s gonna be consequences for you, him and / or both.” 

These days, the retired prizefighter is a proud grandpa and a new father, and if that’s not enough (good) work, he’s also staying busy outside the home with a number of projects.

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“I’ve been training a lot, thinking about competing again – just grappling tournaments,” he said. “That seems like that’s a whole lot of fun. I am building another podcast that’s gonna be a lot of fun and I’m excited about that. And I’m doing a little bit more acting. I just filmed a short with Din Thomas, so we’re both dabbling in that acting world and we’re gonna take the same drive that we brought to MMA to getting in front of the camera.”

It’s two of the good guys of the game getting together while making a smooth transition to life after fighting. And in the process, letting a new generation know that it’s a good thing to be proud of who you are.

“I remember seeing Apartheid on the news as a kid in the Bahamas,” Edwards said. “I remember being angry about it because I could imagine what it would be like to be in a place and be threatened just because of the color of my skin, to be looked at as less than just because of the color of my skin. But I never thought somebody was in a better position than me because of the color of their skin because of where I came from. I was raised to believe in my value and go for what I wanted.”

Vince Cachero Wants To Be Memorable

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“I would say that it’s shadow work,” Cachero said. “Carl Jung, the great psychologist, talks about the shadow, the kind of repressed emotions and feelings inside of you, and for me, I’ve always been a competitor. On the outside, I’m a guy who’s never even been in a streetfight. I’m not a violent person, I’m pretty passive, and I love exploring weird, existential ideas and stuff, yet there’s always something deep inside of me that’s this desire to compete and this desire to almost fight and do violence since they’re the furthest things from my personality on the outside. So as soon as I start getting into the cage, it all starts to get expressed. I love fighting, I love being in there, I love throwing down. I walk forward and I’m looking to throw down and looking to be violent in there. I don’t know what it is other than just a pure love of the fight game.”

If you didn’t already know from the description of him as an artist, referring to Carl Jung in an interview should cement your opinion of Cachero as the unicorn of the fight business.

“Listen, man, my nickname’s ‘The Anomaly’ for that reason,” he laughs. “That’s just how it is. I’ve always been a weird kid and I’ve always been a fly on the wall – I love observing, I love thinking, and yeah, I definitely think I’m a different personality in this game and it’s been a fun rise, for sure, but I want to show the people out there that it’s cool to be your own person and it’s all right to be your own person.”

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For even more insight into Vince Cachero the person, look no further than the film he made, entitled “Art on Lockdown.” It’s 32 minutes best described by the man who created it, but just know that watching it can be an emotional ride, especially when the film touches on his brother Charlie, who bravely battled cystic fibrosis until his tragic death at the age of eight in 2005.

“That (the creation of the film) actually started when quarantine happened and they completely shut down the whole country,” said Cachero. “And especially since I was living in LA at the time, we were in lockdown-lockdown. But I’ve been a creator for a long time. I used to shoot photos and videos at Blackhouse – Anderson (Silva), Lyoto (Machida) and all those guys – and that’s really when I dove into photography and videography. Specifically, the ‘Art on Lockdown’ project was a swell of emotions and thoughts and ideas that have always been rumbling through my head. I wanted to put it together into a piece. So basically, I was pumping out those videos almost every single day in a row. It was kind of designed in the idea of Joseph Campbell’s ‘A Hero’s Journey’ and taking people through this guided trip, showing all these influences that have affected me. It was an expression of what I love, what I think about, and my whole purpose is to help create and inspire growth. That’s my own mission statement, so with that project, I feel like that’s the biggest and best thing I’ve done so far in my life to help create and inspire growth, not just in myself, but in others as well.”

Alexander Hernandez Keeps It Rolling

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In other words, Hernandez had seemingly made it to the UFC on raw talent, and after a couple wins in the big show, he assumed that was enough. It wasn’t, and he soon found out the levels to the game against Cerrone in January 2019, and it wasn’t going to get any easier. That’s scary.

“It’s extremely daunting,” Hernandez said. “And the worst feeling in the world is being in there and realizing, ‘F**k, maybe we didn’t prepare.’ You’re getting caught with a hook and a straight and there’s that kick, and you’re like, ‘You know, I don’t remember our guys throwing something like that.’ (Laughs) Or they didn’t get up off the mat nearly this quick. So there was definitely that learning curve and definitely some lows in between. After the Dober fight, I had a real sobering conversation with everybody. I said, ‘Is this right for me, because I don’t think I have it in me to perform. I know I’m good, I know I’m better than that, but I’m going in there and I’m feeling completely lost and I’m not performing.’ That last loss, I didn’t even really expect to win after the first 15 seconds just because I wasn’t feeling it. I had no sense of direction, and that was really tough, and then going in with top 15 competition every fight is a really difficult path to figure s**t out on. When it works out, you think you’ve got something going, and then you get another completely different body, a completely different test, but again a Top 15 opponent, and you’re like, ‘Well s**t, maybe I didn’t figure it out.’ It was really difficult.”

Convinced by his manager, Jason House, that he didn’t need to walk away from the sport, but instead needed a change in scenery, Hernandez linked up with Montoya and Factory X, and he found exactly what he needed, while still keeping his relationships with his team in Texas strong.

“I need that mastermind because we were playing catch up with rudimentary tools,” he said. “We didn’t have the resources we needed. Coming over here, having a veteran coach with loads of experience, loads of training partners with high IQs and experience, you start to piece together those missing blocks, you get all the looks you need and it really bridges the gap quickly. But you need the oversight to do that. You just can’t do it on your own.”

That’s not to say it was all sunshine and roses in Colorado, because he still had to get used to Fridays at Factory X. Those who know, know. Those who don’t, find out quick.

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“We have heated Fridays,” said Hernandez of the sparring days in Englewood. “We write up fight cards, and guys with fights will have to get in the cage and you could sell that fight card on pay-per-view. We have so many UFC guys and talented guys in there, and so we build it up to be a big deal, and you get used to weathering those storms. And the way that I was approaching those and the way I was fighting, it looked just like my fights. I would smoke a dude in the first round. The second round, I’d get a new body, it got a little iffy, and if I had to do three, I was f**ked. (Laughs) But it was that overzealous style and the mind state behind it that would crumble, and where my head was at going into it was too serious, too strict, too high expectation. And then I was able to switch all that leading up to his last fight, and now I’ve been maintaining that.”

Rozenstruik Promises “Lessons Will Be Learned”

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“You never know what’s gonna happen when I enter the Octagon. I always bring fighters something special every time.”

While Rozenstruik promises “lessons will be learned” in this matchup of four versus seven, he’s not looking to fight anyone ranked below him moving forward; his only focus is working toward a title shot.

“Right now it’s really important to win this fight, and after this one, I’m looking for one more,” he said. “Then, of course, I’m looking for the title shot.”

He knows he’d be joining a waitlist, likely behind former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but that doesn’t bother Rozenstruik. While he believes Jones “has earned the right” to skip the line to challenge for a seat on the heavyweight throne, Rozenstruik knows he’ll get there eventually. And when he does, he doesn’t care who he’s facing, only that he gets his hand raised in the end.

“For me, I don’t care what’s going to happen. Who sits on the throne is what matters. Whoever has the belt — that’s the person we’re after.”

But before he can get there, Rozenstruik knows he has to first get through the opponent that stands directly in front of him; an opponent with the exact same goal, no less.

“I see it, I respect it, but I’m a different type of fighter, and we’re going to see Saturday night.”

Jairzinho Rozenstruik Is On The Hunt For More

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Don’t Miss Rozenstruik vs Gane Saturday On ESPN+

Rozenstruik spent little time licking his wounds, as he was back in the gym shortly after his loss to impending heavyweight title challenger Francis Ngannou, preparing for his next fight, which would come just three months later.

But the next opponent to stand opposite of Rozenstruik in the Octagon was no less formidable, with former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos looking to snap his own two-fight losing streak.

The bout was a technical chess match on the feet until Rozenstruik landed a combination that knocked Dos Santos to the ground, followed by a ravenous flurry of punches that led to a stoppage before the end of the second round. 

And just like that, redemption.

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There was no big celebration or chest pounding. Instead, a few deep breaths and a lap around the Octagon before taking a seat next to Dos Santos while he was being examined post-stoppage. The two American Top Team products shared a moment of mutual respect following a fight that was equally critical for both fighters.

“There’s a moment when you’re no longer opponents,” Rozenstruik recalled of his post-victory reaction. “I respect all of my opponents, and that was a moment where I felt I had to give him my respect.”

The return to the win column helped placate the sting Rozenstruik felt in his ego, but also proved his ability to handle the pressure of redemption.

“There’s always pressure, but you have to keep your head cool and fight and do what you’re told,” Rozenstruik said. “I’m capable of knocking people out, so I went and did my job.”

Pressure isn’t a foreign concept to the Suriname native, who enters the Octagon this Saturday in his second UFC main event in a little more than a year.

While the spotlight of being in the main event doesn’t seem to faze “Bigi Boy,” it doesn’t mean he doesn’t steer clear of it. In his relatively short UFC career, he’s defeated some of the best contenders the heavyweight division has to offer, compiling a highlight reel of nothing but knockouts on the big stage.

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He enters the Octagon Saturday against a fresh face in Ciryl Gane. And while the undefeated Frenchman is busy soaking up every moment of his first-ever main event, Rozenstruik isn’t going to be misled by the naivete of his opponent. 

“He’s the type of fighter who can do anything,” Rozenstruik said. “I wanted to fight this one because he has a big hype, and to stop him, the hype comes to my side. That’s what we need right now.”

The two share stoppages over Dos Santos and a background in kickboxing in common, although Rozenstruik’s 85 kickboxing matches overwhelmingly overshadow Gane’s seven. But a common style is not something the contender concerns himself with.

“I never train the way fighters fight, because then I’m going to be focusing on what he’s doing, and not what I’m capable of doing,” Rozenstruik said. He added that it doesn’t matter how “Bon Gamin” wants to fight, because he’ll be able to combat any style that’s brought to the canvas. 

“You never know what’s gonna happen when I enter the Octagon. I always bring fighters something special every time.”

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While Rozenstruik promises “lessons will be learned” in this matchup of four versus seven, he’s not looking to fight anyone ranked below him moving forward; his only focus is working toward a title shot.

“Right now it’s really important to win this fight, and after this one, I’m looking for one more,” he said. “Then, of course, I’m looking for the title shot.”

He knows he’d be joining a waitlist, likely behind former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but that doesn’t bother Rozenstruik. While he believes Jones “has earned the right” to skip the line to challenge for a seat on the heavyweight throne, Rozenstruik knows he’ll get there eventually. And when he does, he doesn’t care who he’s facing, only that he gets his hand raised in the end.

Updates to UFC FIGHT NIGHT: ROZENSTRUIK vs GANE

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Due to a positive COVID-19 test, the light heavyweight bout between William Knight and Alonzo Menifield is being rescheduled to UFC 260: MIOCIC vs. NGANNOU 2 on March 27.

UFC FIGHT NIGHT: ROZENSTRUIK vs. GANE will take place Saturday, February 27 from UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The entire card will be available on ESPN+ in English and Spanish.

Meet The ‘Whole New’ Alexis Davis

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“I haven’t had the ‘no crowd’ experience or been in the UFC APEX, but I’m definitely excited. I have been out for a while and I’m kind of feeling like it’s a whole new me in general,” said Davis. “I love that she’s young and she’s hungry. She has that personality that she kind of gives off that she’s not going to be intimidated. She’s going to push the pace and she’s going to challenge me and that’s exciting.”

Davis will enter the Octagon on Saturday as the betting underdog, a role that Davis has found herself playing multiple times in her career. And if she’s being honest, that’s where she feels the most comfortable.

“I love being the underdog,” said Davis as she cracked a smile. “This is my 12th fight in the UFC, and this is my first fight week since July of 2019, but I still feel at home. I’m comfortable in this position and I’m just so happy to be back.”

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Davis hopes that her 2021 is nothing like her 2020, and believes that with the incredible surge of talent in women’s MMA, it’s a perfect time for her comeback.

“Throughout my career there are those hiccups you have. I like to try to think of it in a positive way since,” said Davis. “I like to think things happen for reason. It’s crazy to think about the last time I fought at bantamweight I felt like it was so small, but now it has exploded. It’s a great experience for me and I look forward to new faces and new challenges.”

Tune into UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik Vs Davis on Saturday February 27th at 8pm/5pm ETPT to see Davis’ return to the Octagon. The fights will be exclusively shown on ESPN+.

UFC Unfiltered: Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Montana De La Rosa, and Co-host Comedian Ronny Cheing

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Stand-up comedian and Daily Show Correspondent Ronny Chieng joins Jim and Matt on today’s episode of UFC Unfiltered!

Jim, Matt, and Ronny kick off the show discussing how Ronny first got into UFC and his recent obsession with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  

Then, Jairzinho Rozenstruik joins the show ahead of his main event bout against Ciryl Gane this Saturday. He makes Matt very happy by professing his love for The Simpsons and video games, shares how Jon Jones moving to Heavyweight is added motivation for him, and details his experiences assembling his team of coaches and managers. 

Montana De La Rosa also calls in ahead of her bout against Mayra Bueno Silva at UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Gane. She geeks out with Matt about the show Peaky Blinders, reveals what it’s like to have a husband who is also an MMA fighter, talks about how she got into fighting at an early age and about the special bond she has with her younger daughter.

Jim, Matt, and Ronny close out the show with their pick for this Saturday’s Heavyweight clash between Rozenstruik and Gane.

Listen To The Previous Episode Of UFC Unfiltered With Ciryl Gane & Bruce Buffer

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