Marina Shafir — video of first two amateur fights

MMA fighter Marina Shafir will be making her third appearance as an amateur tonight when she faces Danielle Mack (0-2) in a 150-pound fight at Tuff-N-Uff: Mayhem in Mesquite II in Mesquite, Nev.

Shafir, who became good friends with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey when they were teenagers competing for the United States in judo competitions, moved from Albany, N.Y., in December to live and train in Southern California with Rousey.

(See our story about Shafir from earlier in the week here)

Shafir did manage to get two amateur fights under belt before making the move though.

In her MMA debut, Shafir needed just 44 seconds to defeat Denise Goddard via armbar submission at Premier FC 9 – Battle to the Belt in May:

Then in November, Shafir showed an active guard and triumphed again with an armbar over Becky Lewis in 2:03 at Premier FC 12 – Premier Fighting Championship 12:

Hmmm … an elite judoka getting armbar submissions in the first round. Where have we seen that before?

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UFC champion Ronda Rousey signs deal with insureon

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has signed to become a spokeswoman for insureon, the nation’s leading online insurance agency for small businesses with more than 30,000 clients.

Plans are already underway for Rousey, who is managed by Darin Harvey, to appear in videos on insureon’s YouTube channel and on the insureon website.

“We believe Ronda’s mindset is the embodiment of what insureon’s products do for our small-business customers,” said Ted Devine, CEO of insureon, on prweb.com. “Nobody can defeat Ronda, and nobody can defeat a small business with appropriate insurance coverage. At insureon, we are committed to providing small businesses with the insurance products that protect their businesses from whatever risks they face. Our clients are fighting to support their families every day. Ronda embodies this fighting spirit.”

Rousey’s star continues to shine after she successfully defended her 135-pound title against Liz Carmouche in the first women’s fight in UFC history last month at UFC 157 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The UFC recently announced Rousey (7-0) would serve as one of the coaches on the upcoming Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which for the first time will feature female coaches and male and female 135-pound fighters.

The opposing “TUF” coach will be determined April 13 as Miesha Tate (13-3) faces Cat Zingano (7-0) on the main card (live on FX) of “The Ultimate Fighter 17″ finale at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

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UFC champion Ronda Rousey talks Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano

We caught up with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey to talk about the April 13 fight between Miesha “Cupcake” Tate and Cat “Alpha” Zingano.

Not only will the winner of the Tate-Zingano contest get a shot at Rousey’s 135-pound belt, but she will coach against Rousey on “The Ultimate Fighter 18.” It will be a season that features female coaches for the first time, as well as men and women 135-pounders living in the house during the UFC reality show.

Here’s Rousey talking about Tate (13-3) vs. Zingano (7-0), which is on the main card (live on FX) of “The Ultimate Fighter 17″ finale at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.:

“I haven’t really seen much of Cat’s stuff yet. I watched some of her fights but haven’t really gone in depth into them. Miesha’s last fight was very entertaining but it wasn’t her best performance. I’d be interested to see how they match up against each other. I’d always like to fight Miesha again, but Cat’s undefeated and that’s awesome. So it’d be pretty good to see an undefeated contender. I think that’d be fantastic. So either way, I’m keeping my mind open and I’m just waiting to see what happens.”

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ICYMI: UFC champion Ronda Rousey to coach on ‘The Ultimate Fighter 18′

The big news and breaking of barriers continue for UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

UFC President Dana White announced during Saturday’s UFC 158 event in Montreal that Rousey will coach “The Ultimate Fighter 18″ against the winner of the Miesha Tate-Cat Zingano fight.

Not only will the UFC reality show have female coaches for the first time, but Season 18 will feature male and female 135-pound fighters.

“I’m going to announce tonight the coaches of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ for the next season,” White said during the pay-per-view broadcast. “It will be Ronda Rousey vs. the winner of Tate and Zingano, who are fighting in the ‘TUF’ finale on April 13. For the first time ever, two women coaches, and we will have 135-pound men and 135-pound women living and training in the house together.”

The Tate-Zingano contest, only the second women’s fight in UFC history, takes place on the main card (live on FX) of “The Ultimate Fighter 17″ finale at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Rousey won the first women’s fight in the UFC by defending her 135-pound belt with a first-round armbar submission victory over Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 last month at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Open tryouts for “TUF 18″ are April 15 in Las Vegas.

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AP: New York Gov. Cuomo not opposed to legalized MMA

This is fairly important as the UFC pushes for the legalization and regulation of mixed martial arts in New York, which along with Connecticut and Montana are the only states in which the sport is illegal. MMA is legal in Alaska, but it does not have a regulatory body to oversee and regulate the sport.

From Michael Virtanen of The Associated Press …

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he’s not opposed to mixed martial arts and he publicly invited its promoters to make the case that the state will get an economic boost from legalizing it.

“I think it’s something that should be pursued, definitely,” Cuomo said. “I want to understand it, basically. Let’s talk about the economics of the state. What’s the actual economic impact? What does it do for the state?”

The Senate last week approved a bill to legalize and regulate the combat sport that includes boxing, judo, wrestling and kickboxing. Most states allow it, with bouts sometimes broadcast on national television.

The Assembly has blocked the legislation for seven years. Opponents criticized the sport’s violence, calling it a bad example for children. However, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said last week he now expects it to be legalized, but he wasn’t sure when.

The issue for several years split a Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-dominated Assembly. However, the bill passed the Senate now ruled by a bipartisan coalition, and backers claim there is enough support among Assembly Democrats to pass it if their leaders permit the floor vote.

Cuomo said Tuesday that he wants to discuss its economics during the current legislative session, which runs through June, though he said it wasn’t part of the proposed state budget for the April 1 fiscal year because these questions still need to be answered. He said he has watched MMA but doesn’t follow it and doesn’t have an opinion about it as a sport.

“I don’t have a feeling towards the sport that says, ‘That sport should not happen in the state,” he said. “My question is: Why should we do it? The obvious answer is that it could be an economic impact to the state, and you could generate economic activity. That could be persuasive, if it’s true.”

Lobbyists from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport’s major brand, and some of its top fighters have come to Albany to try to persuade legislators to legalize it. One of their goals is access to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, a large venue they say they can fill with big fights.

Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for UFC, said the sport is legal in 48 states, actively regulated in 45, and it hasn’t been legalized in Connecticut, where they are also lobbying.

“What is MMA’s willingness to make a commitment to the state in terms of the events and where would the events be?” Cuomo said. “Now, if they said, ‘We’re doing a series of events, in upstate New York. We think that an event in upstate New York has the potential to draw people from the downstate area, from New England, bringing people for hotels, they’re going to have an economic impact, you know, that
would be persuasive.”

Cuomo said state economic development officials are looking at hosting sporting and other events as ways to draw crowds of visitors who spend money.

UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said later Tuesday that once the sport is legalized and regulated in New York, his group will hold at least four events a year for the next three years, more than half in cities across upstate New York.

“I have been to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany and would look forward to attending UFC events in all of those cities,” he said.

Fertitta said other promoters, including Bellator and World Series of Fighting, are also eager to mount shows in New York.

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UFC 160 just got heavy: Mark Hunt vs. Junior dos Santos

UFC 160 was already looking like a big card with heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez (11-1) taking on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (18-4) as the main event May 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Tack on a few more pounds because this card just got heavy.

Mark Hunt has agreed to fight former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos as the co-main event.

The news broke early Saturday morning courtesy of Ariel Helwani at mmafighting.com.

Hunt (9-7) is coming off an impressive third-round knockout of Stefan Struve last Saturday night at UFC on Fuel 8, breaking the 7-footer’s jaw in the process for his fourth consecutive victory.

Alistair Overeem was scheduled to take on dos Santos at UFC 160 before the Dutch kickboxer recently bowed out with a quad injury.

It will be the first time back in the Octagon for dos Santos (15-2) since losing his heavyweight championship to Velasquez in December at UFC 155. Velasquez recaptured the belt with an impressive five-round decision victory over dos Santos, who had beaten him for the title with a first-round knockout in November 2011 at UFC on FOX 1.

Also on the UFC 160 card are two highly anticipated fights: a light heavyweight battle between Glover Teixeira (20-2) and Ryan Bader (16-3) and a lightweight showdown between up-and-comers Khabib Nurmagomedov (19-0) and Abel Trujillo (10-4).

UFC 160 airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and Facebook.

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VIDEO: UFC champion Ronda Rousey and boxing great Mike Tyson

What’s badder than UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey?

How about Rousey AND Iron Mike Tyson? On the same set.

Here’s Rousey, who just got back from a promotional tour in New York to push for the legislation of MMA in the state, and Tyson from their segment on “Good Day L.A.” this morning. Tyson seems genuinely excited to have Rousey join in.

The two talk fighting, dealing with pain and being champion.

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ICYMI: UFC champion Ronda Rousey on ‘The Dan Patrick Show’

After visiting New York this week to speak to state legislators about legalizing MMA in the Big Apple, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey flew to Las Vegas last night and called in for a chat this morning on “The Dan Patrick Show.”

Rousey was affable and glib as always, entertaining Patrick with stories about preparing for a fight, training with her mom (a former judo world champion), whether MMA would ever become an Olympic sport and what exactly an armbar is.

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What Fox Sports 1 means for UFC fans

FOX Sports Media Group unveiled plans Tuesday to launch FOX Sports 1, which is being branded as a new, national multi-sport network that is being talked about as a potential competitor for ESPN.

The network will debut Aug. 17, and be available in more than 90 million homes. FS1 is touting nearly 5,000 hours of live event, news and original programming annually.

Among the programming are big plans for the UFC:

  • 12 UFC “Fight Nights,” starting Saturday, Aug. 17 with the awkwardly dubbed “UFC on FS1 1,” then airing on Wednesdays — but not weekly — through the end of the year. Bouts will air from 8-11 p.m.
  • The studio show “UFC Tonight” from 7:30-8 p.m. ET every Wednesday.
  • 14 Saturday preliminary cards to pay-per-view events.
  • Hundreds of hours of library programs and events.

FOX announced earlier this year that SPEED and FUEL TV would be rebranded as FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2.

For more about FOX Sports 1′s programming, which includes college football, college basketball, NASCAR and soccer, check Tom Hoffarth’s blog Farther Off The Wall.

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UFC on FUEL TV 8 predictions

After last week’s successful UFC 157 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, the UFC takes its act to Saitama, Japan, for UFC on FUEL TV 8: Stann vs. Silva.

Unfortunately, we’re not there for the event at the Saitama Super Arena. But that won’t stop us from making our picks on today’s main card (7 p.m., FUEL TV; prelims at 4:30 p.m., Facebook).

Dong Hyun Kim (16-2-1, 1 NC) vs. Siyar Bahadurzada (21-4-1): Kim is 2-2 in his past four fights — both wins by unanimous decision (Paulo Thiago, Sean Pierson) and both losses by first-round TKO (Demian Maia, Carlos Condit).  Bahadurzada made his UFC debut in April by showing off his power with a first-round TKO of Thiago. Kim needs to avoid it and tie up ‘The Super’ on the mat.  We like the Korean’s chances. Edge: Kim

Mizuto Hirota (14-5-1) vs. Rani Yahya (17-7): Hirota has good standup and doesn’t mind banging. In his last fight, Yahya put a slick choke on Josh Crispi in August at Staples Center. The Brazilian is a slight underdog, and while this is essentially a coin flip, we’ll go with him. Edge: Yahya

Hector Lombard (32-3-1, 1 NC) vs. Yushin Okami (29-7): A middleweight storm is brewing. Fighting in front of his countrymen, ‘Thunder’ looks to take out ‘Lightning’ and make him his third consecutive victim. Lombard rebounded from a split-decision loss to Tim Boetsch in his long-awaited UFC debut at UFC 149 in July by scoring an impressive first-round TKO over Rousimar Palhares  in December. Lombard’s quickness might be too much here. Edge: Lombard

Takanori Gomi (34-8-0, 1 NC) vs. Diego Sanchez (25-5): This is a big home fight for the 2005 PRIDE Grand Prix champion. ‘The Fireball Kid’ has won his last two, knocking out Eijo Mitsuoka and getting a split-decision win over Mac Danzig. Sanchez, who is favored, did not make weight. He weighed 158 pounds and has been fined 20 percent of his purse. He hasn’t fought in more than a year but is still one of the most intense and focused fighters in the UFC. Edge: Sanchez

Mark Hunt (8-7) vs. Stefan Struve (29-5): This heavyweight battle doesn’t get more different in terms of size, but gets points for pairing two resilient fighters. At 5 feet 10 and 266 pounds, Hunt possesses tremendous firepower. ‘The Super Samoan’ by way of New Zealand and former PRIDE fighter has consecutive UFC wins over Chris Tuchscherer (TKO), Ben Rothwell (UD) and Cheick Kongo (TKO). He has a tall task in 7-footer Stefan Struve. Only 25, ‘The Skyscraper’ has finished his last four opponents: Pat Barry (triangle choke), Dave Herman (TKO), Lavar Johnson (armbar) and Stipe Miocic (TKO). Look for Hunt to get inside the Dutchman’s reach and blast away. Edge: Hunt

Wanderlei Silva (34-12-1, 1 NC) vs. Brian Stann (12-5): Another former PRIDE legend returns to Japan as ‘The Axe Murderer’ takes on ‘The All American.’ Silva hasn’t pieced together two straight wins since his PRIDE days in 2006. While his skills and chin aren’t what they used to be, Silva is still a dangerous brawler who relishes a toe-to-toe war. Stann will be smarter that that. The former U.S. Marine will need to utilize his footwork and kicks and stay outside, picking his shots and knowing when to exchange. Worth noting: Both fighters recently flirted with dropping weight and fighting at middleweight, but this one will be at 205. Edge: Stann

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