From wrestling bears to beating the best in the world: The journey that took Khabib to MMA greatness

With the belt vacated by an absent, boxing McGregor, Nurmagomedov was set to take on interim champion Ferguson, but the hugely-anticipated bout fell through – not for the first time, and not for the last. Then-featherweight titleholder Max Holloway was briefly a replacement for Ferguson, but UFC doctors would not let the Hawaiian compete due to issues around his weight cut, so Iaquinta became the most unlikely of reserves.

In truth, Nurmagomedov played with the New Yorker in Brooklyn, seemingly spending more time on his feet than he had done in any of his previous contests in an attempt to test out the tools he had been trying to sharpen since his last performance. While not exactly lascerating, Khabib’s striking was better than in prior outings, a stiff jab the most notable addition – in the long run, another means of pressuring the opponent to the fence.

Nurmagomedov eased to a decision victory, but the most talked about moment of the weekend was McGregor’s unexpected arrival, which saw the not-as-absent-as-previously-mentioned Irishman launch a railing at a UFC bus with numerous fighters onboard, injuring more than one of them. His target was Khabib, who had previously confronted McGregor’s team-mate Artem Lobov at a hotel.

The rivalry intensified from that moment, leading to a title bout between the two in October of that year. Nurmagomedov’s religion and politics were among the topics on which McGregor chose to spit in his efforts to rile up the Russian, but Khabib remained composed in the Octagon come fight night, dominating McGregor for periods of the main event – though McGregor became the first man ever to take a round from Nurmagomedov – before finishing ‘Notorious’ in the fourth round with a rear naked choke.

Nurmagomedov’s composure did not endure beyond the final buzzer, however, with ‘The Eagle’ taking flight as he launched himself over the Octagon fence and into the crowd to confront another of McGregor’s team-mates, Dillon Danis, igniting a mass brawl in the process.

Although the victory set up a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Khabib was scolded by his father for the example he set with such an assaultive post-fight action – one that led to a nine-month ban and hefty fine – and has since doubled down on his emphasis on respect. The champion even insisted on sitting out for a further three months until his team-mates’ year-long bans – administered for their roles in the ruckus – had been served.

Twelve months on, Nurmagomedov handily defeated interim champion Poirier in Abu Dhabi to retain his belt, and another 12 months on, he is again set to fight an interim champion in Abu Dhabi.

Standing across from him this weekend will be Gaethje, a former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion with a professional MMA record of 22-2.

Gaethje has finished 20 of the 22 men he has defeated, knocking out 19 of them. In his last fight, he stunned fans of the sport by dismantling Tony Ferguson for the best part of five rounds, leading the referee to step in and proving that ‘The Highlight’s transition from a masochistic brawler to a refined, intelligent striker was complete.

And while Gaethje’s legitimate wrestling credentials are shockingly underused – the American still enjoys striking too much to use his wrestling for anything other than defence, though that might be all that is required against Khabib – make no mistake, they will be with him on Yas Island, as will Trevor Wittman, one of the best coaches around.

Gaethje undoubtedly marks the sternest test that Nurmagomedov has faced in his MMA career, and – while the above text goes some way to explaining who Khabib is – beating ‘The Highlight’ would further define ‘The Eagle’ and his place in the sport: as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all time.

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Notable injuries, news from Sunday's Week 6 games

Injuries and news we’re monitoring around the league on this Week 6 Sunday:

  • Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is questionable to return against the Colts with a right foot injury.
  • Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes suffered a neck injury and is doubtful to return against the Falcons.
  • Washington offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles suffered a knee injury and is questionable to return against the Giants. Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars guard A.J. Cann is questionable to return against the Lions with a shoulder injury. Tight end Tyler Eifert (neck) is also questionable.
  • New England Patriots guard Jermaine Eluemunor suffered an ankle injury and has been ruled out against the Broncos. Defensive lineman Adam Butler (elbow) is questionable.
  • New York Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes is questionable to return against Washington with a neck injury.
  • Philadelphia Eagles safety K’Von Wallace is questionable to return against the Ravens with a shoulder injury.
  • Baltimore Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett is questionable to return against the Eagles because of a shoulder injury.
  • Detroit Lions offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby are questionable to return because of dehydration.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush is questionable to return against the Browns with a knee injury.

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South Africa withdraw from this year's Rugby Championship

South Africa in danger of going into next year’s Lions tour without playing a game for TWENTY MONTHS after withdrawing from the Rugby Championship due to player welfare concerns

  • South Africa withdrew from this year’s Rugby Championship on Friday
  • World champions cited complications over welfare and covid-19 protocols 
  • The Springboks could now go into Lions tour without playing for 20 months 

South Africa could go into next year’s Lions tour without playing a game for 20 months after they withdrew from the Rugby Championship.

The world champions pulled out of the competition on Friday citing complications over Covid-19 protocols and fears about player welfare.

They have not played a Test since last year’s World Cup final victory over England and it is too late for them to join the northern hemisphere’s Autumn Cup.

South Africa have withdrawn from the Rugby Championship due to player welfare concerns

‘We worked out that the players needed a minimum of 400 minutes of game time before they could be ready for a Test match,’ said South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.

‘The overseas-based players had started playing before us and they would have been getting close to that time by 7 November.

‘But many of those have completed their programmes or have had COVID outbreaks which has interrupted the planning. The Japanese based players haven’t played any rugby at all, while the home-based players would be well short of 400 minutes by the time of kick off.’

The Springboks now face the prospect of not playing a game for 20 months before Lions Tour

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux added: ‘With time essentially having run out, it left us with no option. This is a hugely disappointing outcome for our supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations means we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare.’

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Kieran Trippier withdraws from England vs Denmark to attend betting charge hearing; Ben Chilwell also out with injury

Kieran Trippier has withdrawn from the England squad ahead of Wednesday’s game against Denmark to attend a personal FA hearing in relation to betting charges.

Chelsea left-back Ben Chilwell, who missed Sunday’s win over Belgium, has also left England’s training camp due to a pre-existing foot injury.

Atletico Madrid defender Trippier was given leave to attend a disciplinary hearing over an FA betting charge, Gareth Southgate confirmed at his pre-match press conference.

  • Why Southgate prefers Mount over Grealish
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“There is not a lot I can say about that really, it is not something which is in my control,” the England manager said when asked about the issue.

“I have got to focus on preparing the team with the players I have got available. We always find solutions, it is an opportunity for somebody else.


“If I lose focus on the job in hand – there is a million distractions, frankly – so this is another distraction, but it is something I have got to plough on through.”

Trippier was charged in May with misconduct relating to alleged betting around his £21.7m transfer from Tottenham to Atletico Madrid in July 2019.

The 29-year-old, however, has insisted he has never profited from betting on football, or from others doing so on his behalf.

The duo’s withdrawals leave 28 players for consideration for Southgate’s 23-man matchday squad.

With both missing, it is likely Southgate will turn to one of two Arsenal players at his disposal with Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles both adept down the left.

Captain Harry Kane is set to be fit to start having been a second-half substitute at the weekend as England go in search of the win that will leave qualification to the Nations League finals in their own hands.

Trippier captained England in their 3-0 friendly win over Wales last week and also started the 2-1 victory against Belgium.

Chilwell did not feature in either match having breached coronavirus guidelines when he reportedly attended a surprise birthday party for Chelsea team-mate Tammy Abraham last weekend.

He will return to Chelsea and the club have confirmed an update on his fitness will be provided by head coach Frank Lampard in his pre-match press conference from Cobham on Friday afternoon, ahead of Saturday’s Premier League game against Southampton.

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Tight Five: More to come from a Wallabies side who should have won

1. Dave Rennie did what we knew he would: The Wallabies did what Dave Rennie sides do: they were purposeful, aggressive with their carries, fit, skilful and organised. Forget about those last hectic minutes: the Wallabies were the better side and should have won. Of course, there is a backlash coming. Of course, the All Blacks will be better at Eden Park next week. But Rennie will probably tinker with his line-up and add a few more elements too. Allow yourselves to feel good, Wallabies fans, because there is more to come.

Hunter Paisami was sensational on debut for the Wallabies in Wellington.Credit:Getty

3. The new boys were excellent: Filipo Daugunu was simply outstanding on the right wing, slipping past tackles at will and picking up a well deserved try. When both of your wingers score tries in filthy Wellington conditions, you know that they've had a good day and the attack had some good shape. Hunter Paisami was also strong, but the Reds connection of big Harry Wilson and Daugunu down the right side caused the All Blacks some genuine problems. It was a good day for the debutants, and a good one for the 'old boys' Nic White, Matt To'omua and Michael Hooper.

4. The lineout: So, to the downsides. Hooker Folau Fainga'a struggled with his throws and it was enormously costly. Three went astray and in a game of such fine margins that is too many. There might be calls for the Wallabies to go for a taller back row, but they would be wrong. Pete Samu is one of the most athletic leapers in the country, which is why the Wallabies used Wilson as a midfield carrier from some lineouts.

Taniela Tupou found himself in the playmaker’s role too often for it to be a coincidence.Credit:Getty

The problem starts at No.2, and it is something we saw for most of Super Rugby AU. Yet, although they lost a number of lineouts, it didn't seem to affect Matt Philip and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto around the paddock. The two big men put in proper shifts, getting the Wallabies some front-foot ball and raising questions about the steel in the All Blacks' pack.

5. Taniela Tupou's new role: The Wallabies seem to have found a new role for the big man with the delicate skills – the world's biggest No. 10. Tupou popped up in that position far too many times for it to be accidental, and he invariably made a good decision to carry or pass. He fully justified his selection ahead of Allan Alaalatoa and was the game's best player in the opening quarter. It was great to see such innovative thinking around how to use him, because he can throw a left-to-right pass with ease or simply bash his way over the gain line. His year of growth continues, while Alaalatoa reacted to his demotion by injecting some real energy off the bench.

Team of the Week

1. James Slipper

2. Codie Taylor

3. Taniela Tupou

4. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

5. Matt Philip

6. Harry Wilson

7. Sam Cane

8. Ardie Savea

9. Nic White

10. James O’Connor

11. George Bridge

12. Matt To’omua

13. Hunter Paisami

14. Filipo Daugunu

15. Tom Banks

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Edinson Cavani: From farming and ballet to the Man United spotlight

Edinson Cavani has gone from shearing sheep and learning ballet to Manchester United’s new No 7… after nearly quitting for life on a farm and months without kicking a ball, he’s back in the big time

  • Striker Edinson Cavani had the option to settle for a quiet life in the countryside 
  • Instead he has joined one of the biggest clubs in world by signing for Man United
  • His last goal was 230 days ago when he was in France at Paris Saint-Germain
  • He’s been farming and honing ballet skills in Uruguay amid Covid-19 pandemic 

Edinson Cavani had the option to settle for a quiet life in the countryside. After a staggering 200 goals for Paris Saint-Germain and 50 goals for his beloved Uruguay no one would’ve blamed him.  

Instead the 33-year-old has decided to take on a new challenge. He has spent the last few months shearing sheep, labouring on the land and honing his ballet skills  – now he has decided to swap a peaceful time for the intense spotlight at Manchester United. 

Instead of spending time with his family he will fall under the microscope alongside his new family at one of the biggest clubs in world football.

Edinson Cavani scored 200 goals for Paris Saint-Germain before leaving the club this summer

The striker has not played since March but posted clip of workout in Man United gear this week

Following the shutdown of football due to Covid-19, Cavani moved back home to Uruguay

Cavani made the surprise move to Manchester United this week after leaving PSG at the end of last season. His contract was up in the French capital but linking up with the Red Devils did not appear to be initially on the cards.

Not least because United failed in their attempts to sign other transfer targets but because Cavani himself considered hanging up his boots for good.

Cavani revealed on Tuesday that he and his girlfriend contracted coronavirus over a month ago, following a holiday in Ibiza with former PSG team-mates Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes.

The striker and Jocelyn Burgardt went on to make full recoveries before saying he nearly considered quitting football.

‘Your family’s health comes first,’ Cavani told Argentine radio program Dos de Punta

‘Of course I considered the idea of ​​quitting football. 

‘It is true that I managed that option and that possibility to stop playing and stay in the countryside, dedicate myself to my life in the countryside. 

‘We have suffered through the coronavirus with my family and with my girlfriend. The truth is that it was bad because of the fear that it awakens. Thank God we recovered well and evolved well and here we are.’ 

The 33-year-old Uruguayan and model girlfriend  Jocelyn Burgardt contracted coronavirus

Cavani has been working on a farm in his homeland amid the coronavirus pandemic

From Salto, striker has roots in rural surroundings – video was posted of him shearing sheep

Cavani started to get used to life without football following the shutdown of the sport. His last game was seven months ago – PSG’s 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 of the Champions League on March 11. By the end of that month he was back home in Uruguay.

From Salto, the striker has his roots in rural surroundings. ‘It’s always been football first, then hunting for Edi. He loves it and he’s a good shot at both!’ Father Luis told The Telegraph in 2014.

‘We always did it when he was a kid and we still do. He came here from the camp in Montevideo and everything he hadn’t done in a whole year while he’s been in Paris, he has to cram in over two days.

‘So we spent them fishing and hunting, getting only three hours sleep both nights. It was crazy but he did it.

Cavani left PSG in June – giving him more time pursue his other passions, including ballet

Sporting a Nike top and leggings while wearing hair in a bun, Cavani featured in a dance advert

‘Edi’s not going to stop doing it! As for fishing, he always says it calms him. This has always been a way of life for us.’

Cavani has been working on a farm in his homeland amid the coronavirus pandemic with the Uruguay star posting several videos of himself out in the field, as opposed to on it. 

After the Ligue 1 campaign was cancelled due to Covid-19 Cavani did not sign a short-term contract extension to play in the French Cup and Champions League finals in the summer, giving him more time pursue his other passions, including ballet.

Sporting a Nike top and leggings while wearing his hair in a bun, Cavani featured in an advert, complete with pirouette, for a national dance school in Montevideo just last month.

Despite being away from game for seven months Cavani has also been working hard at home

‘Football and dance are much more alike than people imagine,’ he said.

‘Both begin as practice, but over time they can become a source of work or a career that can develop in many ways.

‘In both you have to be 100 per cent professional. You have to train, you have to eat well, rest and listen to those who have more experience.’ 

It’s been 230 days since his last goal but Cavani has heeded his own advice, getting down to work on the pitch and in the gym during his brief spell away from the game.

Old Trafford is crying out for a new star to perform following a disappointing start to season

He posted a clip of himself running on a treadmill in his United training kit on Thursday with the caption: ‘Time does not stop.’ Despite not having match fitness United are keen for him to enter the stage right away.

The Red Devils are reportedly in the process of trying to clarify whether Cavani has to quarantine for 14 days. Due to not being in an elite athlete’s bubble and living among the general public, the Uruguayan has to self-isolate for two weeks – meaning he will miss United’s Premier League clash against Newcastle next Saturday. 

Around 47,000 fans witnessed Cavani’s final game for PSG while none will watch his United bow. Old Trafford is crying out for a new star to perform but only time will tell if Cavani should have stuck to his untroubled life in the country.

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Jets sent home from team facility after player received presumed positive COVID-19 test

The New York Jets are the latest NFL team to have their practice schedule disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jets players and personnel were sent home from the team facility Friday after a player received a presumed positive COVID-19 test result, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported. The team will work virtually for remainder of the day and the player will be re-tested, Garafolo added.

Pro Football Talk first reported the news.

Sending home players and coaches who were in the building when the positive test result came back was done out of an abundance of caution.

Garafolo added that the Jets are confident protocols have been followed, so the hope is that if the test is a confirmed positive, it would be an isolated circumstance.

The results of the retest will provide further clarity on the situation at Florham Park.

The Jets are scheduled to host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The Cards were scheduled to travel to New York on Friday. Those plans are currently in a holding pattern as the Jets figure out their next steps, but at this stage, there is nothing to indicate the status of the game is in jeopardy, per Garafolo.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told AZ Sports 98.7 the two teams have spoken and Arizona still plans to make its scheduled trip east Friday and practice.

“All plans are the same unless someone tells us to change,” Keim said. “… As long as it follows all league protocols, I’m for playing the game on time.”

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