UFC news, rumors: Rockhold calls out Gustafsson, Paige VanZant injury update

UFC 224 in Brazil finally has a main event. Two of the top women’s bantamweights will collide in Rio de Janeiro with the 135-pound title on the line. Plus, former Strikeforce and UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is ready to make his move to 205 pounds. Let’s take a look at who he’s calling out as well as another fighter looking to make a name for himself in a big way with the latest news and rumors for Thursday, March 8.

Nunes-Pennington set for UFC 224

Women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes is set to defend her title against top contender Raquel Pennington, the company announced on Thursday.

Nunes (15-4, 10 KOs) is coming off back-to-back title defenses over Valentina Shevchenko and Ronda Rousey. This will be her first fight since September 2017 and is hoping that a win here will put her in line for a shot at featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. Pennington (9-5) is on a four-fight win streak including victories over Jessica Andrade, Bethe Correia and Miesha Tate.

Rockhold calls for Gustafsson

Rockhold has made it clear he won’t be fighting at 185 pounds again after losing his interim title bout to Yoel Romero at UFC 221. During Monday’s edition of “The MMA Hour,” Rockhold noted again he’s leaving the division behind. As for opponents he could face, a name that’s been circulating of late is former title contender Alexander Gustafsson. With his most recent win coming nearly a year ago over Glover Teixiera , Gustafsson said a fight with Rockhold would “keep me warm” as he waits for a title shot against Daniel Cormier.

Rockhold wasn’t exactly pleased with those remarks.

“I like it,” Rockhold said via MMAFighting.com. “I think it was petty coming after me so early (after the knockout loss). I don’t know if he was trying to get under DC’s skin, but I’ll be coming. I’ll be coming to 205. I’m gonna handle my business and you better be sure I’m coming for that ass, too.”

Neither fighter is currently scheduled to fight.

More UFC news, rumors

  • Welterweight prospect Darren Till continues to make waves in the company. Till (16-0-1) is coming off the biggest victory of his career when he knocked out Donald Cerrone in the first round last October. Now, he has his sights set on the top contender in the division. Speaking with Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com, Till said he wants to take on Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 224 in Brazil in two months.”Just because of his fan base there,” Till said, “and I’ve obviously lived there. I’ve got a lot of fans there, and I can speak the language. It would be a good sell in Brazil, if he’s willing to do it. I know he’s waiting for [Tyron] Woodley but Woodley doesn’t seem to want to come back.”
  • Strawweight prospect Paige VanZant is still recovering from a broken arm suffered in her flyweight debut in January. VanZant (7-4) spoke with TMZ on Wednesday and said she is still three months away from being able to punch with her right arm and six months from being able to get back in the Octagon.
  • Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir believes Frankie Edgar made a mistake by accepting his fight with Brian Ortega at UFC 222. Mir, speaking on his Phone Booth Fighting podcast, said Edgar should have waited for Holloway. “If I was Frankie Edgar’s manager and he wants to take this fight, I’d be like ‘No, Frankie, we’re not taking this fight,” Mir said. “Why? Because this is a dangerous fight. This guy is big, he hits hard, he’s knocked out everybody he’s fought so far in the UFC, and if you go out there and just barely beat him, it makes us look worse going into our Max Holloway fight.” Edgar suffered his first career stoppage in the loss to Ortega.
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