“We’re going to keep him here,” White told reporters after Saturday’s pay-per-view at UFC APEX in Las Vegas. “He’s not going to fly back to Brazil. We’re going to turn him right around.”
Champions often fight only once or twice a year in the modern UFC. Rarely do they make quick turnarounds, and performances in consecutive months is unheard of when they must make weight and potentially fight for five, five-minute rounds.
Figueiredo has already missed weight in one title fight, coming in heavy for a meeting with Joseph Benavidez for the belt left vacant by former champ Henry Cejudo. Figueiredo won by knockout but was booked for an immediate rematch, where he made weight and won the rematch by first-round submission.
The champ isn’t the only one who has to make weight, of course. Moreno would also need to make a quick turnaround to shed pounds to make sure he didn’t take the title off the table by coming in heavy. Moreno called out Figueiredo after an impressive win over Brandon Royval on the UFC 255 preliminary card.
Asked whether he’s concerned about weight being an issue, White smiled and said, “Yeah.” He added he hadn’t decided on which card Figueiredo vs. Moreno will take place; championship fights are most often booked on pay-per-view cards to take promotional advantage of the gold on the line, though former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, who currently holds the UFC record for most title defenses with 11, frequently found himself slotted on Fight Night cards.
White, though, believes he’s got a different type of attraction on his hands.
“This kid (Figueiredo) is so much different,” he said. “He’s mean. This kid’s mean. He comes in with bad intentions, and he looks like he’s got bad intentions, and I think people gravitate toward those type of fighters more. Let’s see if he can go on a run that can make you a legend.”
Johnson’s run ended with his 12th title defense, a split decision loss to Cejudo, who defended the flyweight title before moving up to bantamweight and capturing gold there. After defending the bantamweight belt, Cejudo vacated it and opened up both divisions.
It was Cejudo that reportedly saved the flyweight division after White threatened to scrap it during a contentious period with Johnson as champion. Much has been written about the difficulty of promoting smaller fighters in combat sports where the “baddest man on the planet” carries the most prestige, and gate receipts during Johnson’s reign did little to dispel that notion.
White frequently derided Johnson’s critics as fans who didn’t really love the sport and should stop watching it. After Figueiredo submitted Alex Perez in half the time he used to tap out Benavidez, the UFC executive did the same.
“If you don’t like this guy, stop watching fights,” White said. “You need to find a new hobby if you don’t like watching him.”
UFC 256 is scheduled to take place on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas. The next UFC card this year is scheduled for Dec. 19, and its fight card has filled rapidly. Whatever date is ultimately decided, if White intends to make a new flyweight title fight, the champ and challenger are going to have to start preparing extremely soon.
Asked about having a backup fighter at the ready in case there are any issues, White said, “I don’t know.”
New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job
The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.
A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.
Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.
He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.
He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.
The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.
Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.
–Field Level Media
NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon
The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.
“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”
Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.
Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.
The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.
In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.
–Field Level Media
Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.
As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.
Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.
The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.
Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.
Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.
As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.
“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.
“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”
-Field Level Media
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