Too much love in MMA

CHRIS DOUCETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

TORONTO - The octagon is not for the feint of heart -- nor is it a place to make friends.

But as the sport of mixed martial arts evolves, many fighters seem to be trading in their kill-or-be-killed mentality for a love-thy-neighbour motto.

There's nothing wrong with having a healthy respect for your opponent, but when two combatants are singing each other's praises for months leading up to their bout it's tough for fans to get excited about their fight.

Is it really so wrong to expect a little animosity between two gladiators as they get set to do battle?

After all, MMA is a sport that pits two warriors against each other, trading blows until one is knocked out or snapping limbs until one taps out.

But you likely wouldn't know that by listening to B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch talk about their upcoming welterweight bout at UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia.

"To be a legend, you have to beat a legend, and B.J.'s definitely a legend," Fitch said in a recent conference call.

It a little premature, not to mention an oxymoron, to be calling "the Prodigy" a legend. He's only 32. Granted Penn has won a lot of fights in the UFC over the last decade, but he has also lost a bunch.

However, he has held titles in two weight classes, lightweight and welterweight, a feat accomplished by only one other fighter, Randy Couture. Speaking of Couture, he's 47 and still going strong. That's a legendary fighter!

Not long ago, Penn was making headlines as one of the biggest trash-talkers in the UFC. He caused quite a stir by saying he was going to try to kill George St-Pierre during their fight in January 2009, a comment he later explained that he had only meant figuratively.

Fast forward two years and he has nothing but compliments for his latest opponent.

"I'm just happy to fight an opponent of Jon Fitch's level and stature," Penn said in the same phone interview.

Penn's relationship with his last opponent also took a strange turn recently.

After knocking Matt Hughes out in 21 seconds in November, Penn recently asked for his help training for the Fitch fight.

"I had a great time training photo of B.J. PENN with Matt," Penn told ufc.com last week. "It really upped my confidence."

It is during training where many fighters are becoming pals.

Fighters have to keep up with the evolution of their sport. And to be competitive in MMA these days you must be a well-rounded fighter.

Working out with others who each specialize in different disciplines -- such as boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu -- is a great way to accomplish that.

However, while improving their skills the fighters inevitably end up bonding. That can't help but be problematic when the time comes for them to fight each other.

At least one fighter has apparently refused to square off with one of his training partners.

Rashad Evans was suppose to get a title shot with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, the current light heavyweight champ, at UFC 128 in New Jersey next month. But he was sidelined by a knee injury, so he was replaced by Jon "Bones" Jones, a teammate.

When the UFC boss Dana White was in Toronto recently, he was asked whether Evans would still be in line for a title shot once he heals. White said that Evans has stated he won't fight Jones because they're friends and teammates.

So if Jones beats Shogun, Evans plans to either move up to heavyweight or down to the middleweight division.

"Dude, you have way too many friends ... you need to keep the friends thing down and stop training with people," a frustrated White said.

INJURY KOs ORTIZ

Former UFC light heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz has been shelved once again due to an injury.

after a lengthy lay-off, the Huntington beach bad boy was scheduled to fight next month. but company president Dana White was forced to replace Ortiz on the UFC Fight night 24 card.

"Tito has pulled out of fight night due to getting stitches," White Tweeted Tuesday, adding "8-0 Phil Davis will be fighting L'il Nog now and is pumped for this fight!"

Ortiz suffered a headbutt in training. He was cut for 22 stitches above his eye and is concussed.

"sorry, I'll be back," he said to his fans on Twitter.

Ortiz is expected to be okay within two to three months. and he may fight at UFC 131, which is unofficially slated for Vancouver.

Ortiz, who has been plagued by injuries in his career, hasn't won a fight since he beat Ken Shamrock in 2006. but Ortiz had been doing interviews recently, boasting about how good he was finally feeling after recovering from back surgery.

He was suppose to fight in seattle on March 26 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who also goes by "Lil nog."

WILL VAN GET ITS SECOND UFC KICK?

It's not official yet but it looks like Vancouver will finally get its second Ultimate Fighting Championship card this summer.

Rumours swirling online suggest UFC 131 will take place at Rogers Arena on June 11, one year after the city's first event.

And if these 'net reports prove to be true, Vancouver residents are in for quite a night.

The card is expected to contain a fight between the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter 13, Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos.

The winner will get a shot at the heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez.

TUF 13, the UFC's reality show, airs starting in March. The winner of the show gets signed to a six-figure UFC contract.

Also tentatively on a UFC 131 card, featherweight Diego Nunes takes on Kenny Florian.

UFC TO RUMBLE IN CLOTHING BIZ RING

In what appears to be a case of better late than never, the UFC has finally launched its own clothing line in the hopes of tapping into a highly lucrative market.

Other companies such as Affliction and Tapout have already been in the MMA clothing business for years earning hundreds of millions of dollars annually selling mixed martial arts apparel.

It only makes sense that the UFC, the biggest dog in the pound when it comes to the MMA world, would want to grab a piece of that pie.

"It's a lifestyle," company president Dana White said recently at the launch party, explaining the new clothing line is sort of a skate-and-snowboarder style.

In other words, he said it's comfortable clothing that people actually wear.

"I'm excited with the way that it turned out," White said of the UFC gear.

"Our team did a great job and I think people are going to really like it."

Tapout, the first apparel company to target the MMA community, was founded back in 1997.

Affliction joined the fray in 2005 and some of its clothing is even sold in Wal- Mart. Both Californian companies rake in revenues well over $100 million annually, according to online reports.

The UFC is getting into the game late, but it seems anything connected to their brand ends up being a home run. Time will tell, of course.

WHITE NOT SWEET ON SUGA-RAMPAGE

UFC President Dana White has ended two weeks of speculation by shooting down any notion of a rematch between Rashad "Suga" Evans and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

Jackson's original opponent, Thiago Silva, was forced to withdraw from UFC 128 in new Jersey next month, so he was hoping for a chance to redeem himself for the loss last year to his former TUF student

But White made it clear in a message on Twitter that he has no interest in such a fight.

"Talking's fun before the fight, but if you do all this talking and then you go in there and don't fight, who wants to see that (crap) again?" the UFC boss tweeted.

"Rampage-Rashad, the (freaking) snoozefest? I don't want to see that (freaking) fight again."

The two men had some sort of personal grudge to settle when they stepped into the octagon last October.

The fight went the distance and at the end of the three rounds evans was deemed the winner.

but White was obviously less than impressed by their show.

He has chosen instead to have Matt Hamill, who fans may remember as the deaf wrestler from TUF 3, fight rampage.

"Matt Hamill and rampage might not talk a bunch of (crap) about each other before the fight, but when have you not seen Matt Hamill fight?" White wondered.

"Matt Hamill's going to go in there and try to beat him."

The fight had to be re-jigged because of a problem with a random urine sample provided by Silva after UFC 125. It's still unclear if the Brazilian has tested positive for a banned substance because there has been no official statement.

TRASH-TALKIN' LIKE TEENAGED GIRLS

Most MMA fighters seem to be best pals these days, but there are a few who have a hate on for each other.

Unfortunately their trash-talk is more reminiscent of teenage girls though because it's being done on-line through social networking.

One incident involves a rather funny video posted on YouTube by Jorge Rivera in which he has a laugh at the expense of Michael Bisping. In the video, a crazy-eyed man impersonates Bisping with a lame British accent talking about himself in third person and looking silly as he works out with a shake weight.

"I really wanted a bigger opponent, like Nate Marquardt, or King Neptune, or Zeus, or Zeus and Fedor, or Fedor on Zeus' shoulders and they can both punch but only Zeus can kick ... ," the character rambles.

The mocking video cuts back and forth from the dim-witted man to Rivera, who seems to be acting oddly intellectual.

"Did you know that the average human head weighs between four and 10 pounds?" he opines.

Bisping is slated to go toe to toe in the octagon with Rivera in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday night at UFC 127.

He is outraged and has talked about the video in several interviews.

"I want to make him pay ... ," Bisping told ufc.com. "I'm going to make an example of him."

The Brit's verbal jabs go deeper in an MMA News story.

"He's an old man and I'm in my prime," Bisping said. "He can try and make himself relevant by talking (trash) and doing stupid videos ... I had to Google his previous opponents to find out who they even were."

Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin also have been caught in a virtual war of words, hurling insults at each other on Twitter recently.

THIS AND THAT

Back to Fitch vs. Penn -- Penn tells ufc.com he's "looking forward" to locking horns with Fitch Saturday night in Sydney. "This is the biggest test of my career so far," he said. "I think it's going to be a real barn-burner." Fitch tells ufc.com that Penn has a "strong" right hand, but it's the left he'll be keeping an eye out for because his lead hand is "technically superior." "Everything he does sets up that jab," Fitch said ... Strikeforce has announced its next big ticket will be held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, at 10 p.m. on March 5. ... At 40 years old, former UFC champ and two-time U.S. Olympic wrestler Dan "Hendo" Henderson, who has an MMA record of 26-8, will challenge 29-year-old Rafael "Feijao'' Cavalcante, who is 10-2 MMA fights, for his Strikeforce light heavyweight title.


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