UFC 285: The big fight might be Jones vs Gane but Ottawa is cheering for Barriault!
ABOVE: Gatineau's Marc-André Barriault at Friday's weigh-in for UFC285.
The build-up for UFC 285 has been a mix of intense and fun. Intense because the men and women entering the Octagon Saturday night have incredible pressure on them to perform well and win. For some competitors, a victory means rising in their respective divisions, and potential title shot aspirations. For some, a loss will see them being removed from the UFC roster.
This entire event centres around the much-anticipated return of former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. He is moving up to the heavyweight division to challenge former interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane for the vacant title.
Many regard Jones as the greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all time. While that is open for debate, Jones' resume isn't. Jones has defeated a who’s who of the UFC, and while he has one loss on his record, many dispute that loss.
Over the past several days, the UFC hosted a media day (for accredited press), a press conference open to the public. On Friday, the ceremonial weigh-ins were also open to the public.
ABOVE: Valentina Shevchenko during her media day appearance ahead of UFC 285.
Media members, mainly mixed martial arts journalists, were invited to the UFC headquarters to participate. For the majority of the day, fighters, who would be featured on the card, were brought in, one at a time, and questions were asked of them.
These events can be a bit of a mixed bag. Fighters have stated that they don’t like the distraction before their fights, while others relish the opportunity to talk to the media.
Fourteen of the 28 fighters competing Saturday night came into the press room, one by one, to answer questions from the media.
Of the three events, this was the calmest. No fans were cheering or booing the competitors. Each fighter was asked questions about their preparation and upcoming opponent.
What stood out was the composure of the fighters. Many of them have been training in mixed martial arts for years, and to be fighting in the UFC is the goal.
Jon Jones was something of a problem child at times. He had legal issues, drug testing issues and wasn’t the most reliable person in the company. The Jon Jones present at media day appeared to be more mature. He gave credit to his opponents, the company, and the fans. He seemed more appreciative for being in this moment and then stated that his opponent was the most incomplete fighter in the top five of their weight class — I suppose you need a bit of trash talk.
The Press Conference
The press conference was held at the KA Theatre inside the MGM Grand — The Cirque du Soleil lent its space to the competitors of UFC 285.
The ten fighters on the main card were in attendance, all sitting at a table resembling a head table at a wedding. For some, it was the first time they were face-to-face with their opponents this week.
The fans in attendance for this event were very vocal. So loud at one point that you couldn’t hear the fighter's answers.
Jones was by far the most popular fighter on the stage. Many fans have been anticipating his return and were sure to let him know.
Compared to press conferences in the past, this was pretty tame. Nothing was thrown. Opponents didn't push each. It was very professional. While this card boasts an outstanding lineup, there is no apparent animosity between the competitors.
After 30 minutes or so, the athletes faced off before the event concluded.
ABOVE: The UFC 285 ceremonial weigh-in ended with a quick scene that was shot for an upcoming movie starring Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, which UFC superstar Conor McGregor is producing.
The Ceremonial Weigh In
On Friday morning, all the fighters took part in the official weigh-in. These fighters compete in different weight divisions, and there are strict rules in place for the fighters to make weight. For instance, Shavkat Rahkmonov has a welterweight fight against Geoff Neal on the card. The desired weight is 170 lbs. Neal weighed in at 175 pounds, and due to missing weight, he will forfeit 30 percent of his purse.
Later in the day, the Ceremonial Weigh In took place at the MGM Garden Grand Arena. It’s just that, ceremonial. It’s basically for the fans as the fighters approach the stage, get on the scale, and have one more stare-down with their opponents.
There are several interesting stories to follow outside of the main event. Schevchenko, the longest current reigning UFC champion, faces a formidable opponent in Grasso, known primarily for her striking.
Bo Nickal, a collegiate wrestling phenom, makes his pay-per-view debut. Nickal has had three fights, and none have gone past 90 seconds. How will he fare under the bright lights of the T-Mobile arena?
Shavkat Rakhmonov is 16-0. 8 submissions and 8 knockouts. Will he continue his streak?
UFC 285 is available on pay-per-view, and it should be a great night of MMA.
ABOVE: Jon Jones is moving up a weight class to take on Ciryl Gane.
UFC 285 Main Card
Vacant Heavyweight Title
Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane
Women’s Flyweight Title
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso
Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
Mateus Gamrot vs Jalin Turner
Bo Nichal vs Jamie Pickett
The lone Canadian on the card is Marc-André Barriault, who will face Julian Marquez. Check out my interview with Marc-André Barriault by clicking here.