By Chris Huntemann, Columnist

People pursue martial arts for different reasons. They may not have much interest in organized team sports like football or basketball. They may have stress that they want to work off in a healthy way. For some, martial arts represent a way to boost yourself.

Sijara Eubanks, a flyweight fighter from Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, Md., started in martial arts as a child, but it was her progression as an adult from kickboxing to Brazilian jiu-jitsu that led her to a contract with Invicta FC. A Springfield, Mass. native, Eubanks was first introduced to mixed martial arts and the UFC as many (including myself) have – by multiple viewings of UFC programming. In this case, UFC Unleashed.

“I thought it was the coolest thing on TV,” Eubanks told me via email. “I would watch hours and hours at a time. So when I started training I never thought I’d compete professionally, but I fell so in love with the sport so I quit my job and started to pursue MMA and jiu-jitsu full time.”

MMA helped Eubanks overcome depression, and she has compiled a 2-0 record as an amateur fighter. While the date of her Invicta debut is still up in the air, her goal is the same as any other fighter – to be world champion. Eubanks credits her management team at SuckerPunch Entertainment for facilitating her deal with Invicta.

“It seems like not that long ago I was just a chubby kid from Springfield, and now I’m signed with the world’s premier women’s MMA promotion,” Eubanks said. “I’m so pumped up about this contract and I cannot wait to make my Invicta debut. I’m going to bring some intense, entertaining fights to the flyweight division.”

Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also shares his thoughts on the UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting. Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter: @mmamaryland.

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UFC and PEDs: Where do we go from here?

Photo Credit: Jayne Russell/Getty Images

By Chris Huntemann, Columnist

Usually when I ask that question, it’s in the wake of a pay-per-view and I’m wondering aloud at what’s next for the fighters who competed on it. This time around, I’m talking about something that affects ALL mixed martial artists in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The UFC announced this week that it will implement far stricter, far more comprehensive drug testing in the wake of fighters like Anderson Silva and Hector Lombard failing tests for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), while Jon Jones and Nick Diaz failed tests for cocaine and marijuana, respectively.

Increased drug testing and harsher penalties can only help the UFC, and mixed martial arts in general. But what brought on this increase in failed tests? PEDs have been a part of sports long before MMA fighters started taking them, and they have been a problem in MMA prior to the last month-and-a-half.

But more fighters seem to be getting caught. As in most sports, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to perform in MMA and in the UFC. If you don’t perform, you basically don’t get paid. The increased demand for UFC programming by virtue of its deal with FOX could also be a factor. They went from being on Spike TV – where they only broadcast “The Ultimate Fighter” once a year and two or three live fight cards annually – to practically having two live fight cards a month and airing “The Ultimate Fighter” twice a year on the FOX channels.

The increase in programming means a need of more bodies to fill that programming. It also means that more fighters are training for more fights, which can lead to more injuries. PEDs, in addition to giving you a competitive advantage over your opponent, allow you to recover from injuries more quickly. With the need for more fighters to fill more fight cards, I think it’s possible the apparent increase in failed drug tests can at least be partly attributed to that.

The UFC’s increased drug-testing measures take effect July 1. What can we expect once it does? Here are some of the guidelines the UFC presented.

Even UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta admitted during this week’s press conference that things “would get worse before they better” with the new testing. Plus, it remains to be seen how much of this will actually stick once July 1 rolls around. UFC previously considered expanding its drug-testing efforts before but pulled back, citing cost and a previously botched attempt at doing so.

However, with the rash of high-profile stars like Silva, Jones and Diaz failing tests, cost can’t be considered a hindrance and the UFC must be vigilant. Browsing my Twitter feed following the press conference, it was eerily quiet. Almost no fighters weighed in initially. It is likely that was just a byproduct of the press conference taking place on a Wednesday afternoon, when most people are working or presumably have other things to do besides post on Twitter. But it was still pretty telling. It seems like this has grabbed fighters’ attention, as it should.

What do I think will happen? There will be an increase in failed test once the new measures take effect July 1, I’m fairly confident. But given that the UFC is supporting harsh penalties for those who do fail – including a ban of up to four years – I expect the dirty fighters to eventually cycle themselves out and the ones who compete clean (which is most of them, presumably) to take a more prominent role.

Increased drug testing is long overdue in the UFC. The sport of mixed martial arts itself is still in its infancy, especially compared to other sports like football, basketball and baseball. But just like baseball is still recovering from its own crisis with PEDs, these recent failed drug tests have shaken the foundation of the UFC and have harkened back to the days when it was referred to as “human cockfighting.”

UFC adopted the slogan “The Time Is Now” for 2015, and I couldn’t agree more. The time is now for them to take the lead in cleaning up the sport of mixed martial arts.

Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also shares his thoughts on the UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting. Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter: @mmamaryland.

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OFFICIAL WEIGHTS

MAIN CARD

Maro Perek, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Denis Smoldarev
(L-R) – Maro Perek, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Denis Smoldarev

HEAVYWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
MARO PERAK (23-4-1), Croatia, 216 lbs. (98.1 kg)
DENIS SMOLDAREV (9-1-0), Estonia, 266 ½ lbs. (121 kg)

Kenny Garner, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Aslambek Musaev
(L-R) — Kenny Garner, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Aslambek Musaev

HEAVYWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
KENNY “Deuce” GARNER (14-8-0), United States, 263 lbs. (119.5 kg)
ASLAMBEK “Titan” MUSAEV (5-1-0), Chechnya, 211 lbs. (95.8 kg)

Luigi Fioravanti, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Nodar Kudukhashvili
(L-R) – Luigi Fioravanti, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Nodar Kudukhashvili

MIDDLEWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
NODAR KUDUKHASHVILI (7-1-0), Georgia, 182 ½ lbs. (82.9 kg)
LUIGI “The Italian Tank” FIORAVANTI (25-12-0), United States, 184 ½ lbs. (83.9 kg)

Max Coga, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Pavel Vitruk
(L-R) – Max Coga, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Pavel Vitruk

FEATHERWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
PAVEL VITRUK (12-0-0), Ukraine, 145 lbs. (65.8 kg)
MAX COGA (10-3-0), Germany, 144 ½ lbs. (65.5 kg)

Arsen Abdulkerimov, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Levan Razmadze
(L-R) – Arsen Abdulkerimov, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Levan Razmadze

HEAVYWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
LEVAN “Zangrief” RAZMADZE (5-0-0), Georgia, 275 lbs. (124.9 kg)
ARSEN ABDULKERIMOV (7-2-0), Russia, 250 lbs. (113.6 kg)

Heydar Mamedaliyev, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Artiom Damkovsky
Heydar Mamedaliyev, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Artiom Damkovsky

LIGHTWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
ARTIOM DAMKOVSKY (19-0-0), Belarus, 154 lbs. (70.1 kg)
HEYDAR MAMEDALIYEV (7-0-0), Azerbaijan, 157 lbs. (71.3 kg)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
ENOC SOLVES TORRES (15-8-0), Spain *
IBRAGIM TIBILOS (7-2-0), Russia *

PRELIMINARY CARD

Raul Tutarauli, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Artur Aliev
(L-R) – Raul Tutarauli, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Artur Aliev

LIGHTWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
ARTUR ALIEV (1-0-0 ), Russia, 153 lbs. (69.7 kg)
RAUL TUTARAULI (2-1-0), Georgia, 155 lbs. (70.4 kg)

Shamil Alibekov, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Soso Nizhardaze
(L-R) – Shamil Alibekov, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Soso Nizhardaze

FEATHERWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
SHAMIL ALIBEKOV (1-0-0 ), Russia, 142 ½ lbs. (64.8 kg)
SOSO NIZHARADZE (pro debut), Georgia, 142 ½ lbs. (64.8 kg)

Batraz Agnaev, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Lukasz Borowski
(L-R) – Batraz Agnaev, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Lukasz Borowski

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
LUKASZ BOROWSKI (3-2-0), Poland, 200 ½ lbs. (91.1 kg)
BATRAZ AGNAEV (1-0-0), Russia, 204 lbs. (92.6 kg)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
ARTEM FROLOV (2-0-0), Russia, 183 ½ lbs. (83.4 kg)
ARTUR ODDILOBEKOV (2-3-0), Tajikistan *

Kurbananali Abdusalamov, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Archil Taziashvili
(L-R) – Kurbananali Abdusalamov, M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Archil Taziashvili

FEATHERWEIGHTS – 3 X 5
KURBANANALI ABDUSALAMOV (3-2-0), Russia, 145 lbs. (65.8 kg)
ARCHIL TAZIASHVILI (0-1-0), Georgia, 143 lbs. (65.1 kg)

*Fighters hadn’t arrived yet in Tbilisi due to bad weather

WHAT: M-1 Challenge 55: Guram Gugenishvili Memorial Show

WHEN: Saturday, February 21, 2015
10:00 a.m. (New York City), 6:00 p.m. (Moscow)

WHERE: Tbilisi, Georgia 1:30

PROMOTER: M-1 Global

LIVE STREAM: WWW.M1GLOBAL.TV

M-1 Challenge 55 will be streamed live from Georgia in high definition on www.M1Global.TV. Viewers will be able to watch the fights by logging on to register at www.M1Global.TV.Viewers will be able to watch the preliminary fights and main card by logging on to register at www.M1Global.TV. Fans may also watch all of the action on their computers, as well as on Andriod and Apple smart phones and tablets. The entire card will also be broadcast live, starting at 10:00 a.m. ET, on Fight Network via Cablevision’s Optimum TV, Grande Communications, Shentel Cable and Armstrong Cable in the U.S., nationwide in Canada, and on Roku devices across North America, and globally in more than 30 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Denis Smoldarev
Denis Smoldarev

Former M-1 Challenge heavyweight champion Kenny "Deuce" Garner
Former M-1 Challenge heavyweight champion Kenny “Deuce” Garner

M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Kenny "Deuce" Garner
(L-R) – M-1 Global promoter Vadim Finkelchtein and Kenny “Deuce” Garner

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Rob Sullivan Bellator
Credit: BellatorTitle

By Chris Huntemann, Columnist

With the last name Sullivan, you would think Method MMA and Baltimore BJJ’s Robert Sullivan would be popular with a certain sect of people. And you would be right.

Sullivan fought for the third time late last month for CES MMA, an organization based out of Providence, R.I. He notched his second win in the organization via unanimous decision and seems to have built a small following up there, if you ask Sullivan.

“Being it’s in Providence, they seem to like the Irish quite a bit,” Sullivan told me on Facebook recently. “My first time up there last year I beat a hometown hero, so I think that won me some respect. I got offered to come up there probably to be meat the first time. Now I’m 2-1 with the organization.”

Sullivan focused a lot on boxing during his training camp, by virtue of his opponent being a strong striker.Sullivan’s training camp was also a bit more arduous this time around.

“Training and coaching wrestling all day just had me a little overworked,” Sullivan said. “Also, some of mytraining partners coach wrestling at other schools so we were making what we could work.”

While Sullivan has also fought for organizations like Bellator, he found that promotion in mixed martial arts is pretty uniform.

“You sit around for a long time at weigh-ins – they are never ever on time,” Sullivan said. “You do all the doctor crap, make weight, fill back up, get some rest and fight.”

When it finally came time to fight, Sullivan felt the tone of the fight early, and hard.

“I got nailed early on with the hardest punch I’ve ever felt in a fight,” he said. “I was happy I ate it, but it messed my nose up pretty bad.”

Sullivan recovered to dominate the rest of the fight, despite feeling his gas tank empty toward the end.

“The last minute or so, I burned out,” he said. “My one regret from my last camp was not getting in the proper amount of running. So needless to say, that final round between my busted nose and lack of running, I was digging deep. I was happy with my performance overall, but I always want to improve on things. I never try to feel satisfied.”

Sullivan plans to fight again in April at Shogun Fights in Baltimore.

Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland.

He also contributes his thoughts to our site on the UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting.

Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter: @mmamaryland.

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“I am absolutely looking for the knockout. Any kind of win is a success, but I really want the knockout.” – Alexander Shlemenko

“He has stepped between me and my goal, and the goal is to become Bellator champion.” – Melvin Manhoef

FRESNO, Calif. – Feb. 12, 2015 – Fighters took to the scales and successfully hit their targeted weights Thursday afternoon at the Save Mart Center, the site of tomorrow’s highly anticipated “Bellator: Manhoef vs. Shlemenko” event, which airs LIVE and FREE on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.

“Bellator: Manhoef vs. Shlemenko” is headlined by an epic middleweight matchup between two of the most dangerous strikers in all of mixed martial arts with former Bellator MMA champ Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko (50-9) facing fellow knockout artist Melvin “No Mercy” Manhoef (29-12-1). The event also features a sure-to-be-thrilling featherweight co-main event between former champion Pat Curran (20-6) and tournament winner Daniel Weichel (34-8).

Melvin Manhoef vs. Alexander Shlemenko

Melvin Manhoef (186 lbs.) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186 lbs.)

Pat Curran vs. Daniel Weichel

Pat Curran (146 lbs.) vs. Daniel Weichel (145 lbs.)

Julia Budd vs. Gabrielle Holloway

Julia Budd (145 lbs.) vs. Gabrielle Holloway (145.5 lbs.)

Chris Honeycutt vs. Clayton MacFarlane

Chris Honeycutt (170.5 lbs.) vs. Clayton MacFarlane (170.5 lbs.)

Art Arciniega (146 lbs.) vs. Emilio Chavez (146 lbs.)
Blake Watkins (185.5 lbs.) vs. George Zuniga (185 lbs.)
Paul Ruiz (135.5 lbs.) vs. Nicolas Sperling (133 lbs.)
Nick Bustamante (156 lbs.) vs. Luis Jauregui (154 lbs.)
John Paul Elias (205 lbs.) vs. Cody Sons (205 lbs.)
Jonathan Contrestano (155 lbs.) vs. Ryan Tobar (155 lbs.)
Andrew Ramm (160.5 lbs.) vs. Adam Piccolotti (160 lbs.)
Mason Fowler (169 lbs.) vs. Marko Damiani (170 lbs.)

PRE-FIGHT QUOTES:

Alexander Shlemenko:
“Melvin [Manhoef] is a fast and strong fighter. He’s the best kickboxer in all of MMA.

“I’m ready for this fight because I think I have great striking and grappling ability. In this training camp I sparred a lot with muay thai guys back home in Omsk, Russia and i also changed my diet to gain more muscle mass to feel much better and stronger.

“I am absolutely looking for the knockout. Any kind of win is a success, but I really want the knockout.”

Melvin Manhoef:
“I’m going to fight Alexander [Shlemenko] hard and aggressively. The accuracy of my punches is what will make me win this fight.

“I’m not looking for the knockout, I want to do three rounds of five minutes of hard fighting. If the knockout comes, then it will come.

“He [Shlemenko] has a lot of speed and back-kicks. He has very good agility and is very well-rounded, but so am I. I think my striking, speed and kicking is better than his.

“I don’t mind if he is too confident going into this fight. He has stepped between me and my goal, and the goal is to become Bellator champion.”

Pat Curran:
“A fights a fight. Everything can go out the window with one punch.

“I’m looking to getting back to being my old self. I am humbled and hungry, you are going to see the old Pat Curran in there with a couple new tricks up his sleeve.

“I’m always looking for the knockout or submission, but i’m ready to go three rounds. I’m prepared for any finish in any situation.

“He [Daniel Weichel] is very hungry right now. He’s a submission specialist and I have a feeling he’s going to come out hard and quick. I’m ready for anything and no matter what it’s going to be an exciting fight, I can’t wait to get back in there.

“I feel him out and bring him into my game. If he comes out strong I’m ready for that and we will match fire with fire.”

Daniel Weichel:
“This fight means a lot to me, like every fight here in Bellator. I will make a statement tomorrow night and will make everyone remember my name.

“I’m well-rounded and my biggest strength is that I can put the pressure for all 15 minutes.”

Main Card on Spike TV (9 p.m. ET)
Bellator Middleweight Main Event: Melvin Manhoef (29-12-1) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (50-9)
Bellator Featherweight Feature Fight: Pat Curran (20-6) vs. Daniel Weichel (34-8)
Bellator Women’s Featherweight Feature Fight: Julia Budd (6-2) vs. Gabrielle Holloway (4-1)
Bellator Welterweight Feature Fight: Chris Honeycutt (5-0) vs. Clayton MacFarlane (4-0)

Preliminary card on Spike.com (8 p.m. ET)
Bellator Featherweight Prelim Fight: Art Arciniega (14-4) vs. Emilio Chavez (7-5)
Bellator Middleweight Prelim Fight: Blake Watkins (4-0) vs. George Zuniga (3-0)
Bellator Flyweight Prelim Fight: Paul Ruiz (5-2) vs. Nicolas Sperling (3-2)

Preliminary card on Spike.com (Following Manhoef vs. Shlemenko)
Bellator Lightweight Prelim Fight: Nick Bustamante (2-0) vs. Luis Jauregui (2-1)
Bellator Light Heavyweight Prelim Fight: John Paul Elias (2-0) vs. Cody Sons (0-1)
Bellator Lightweight Prelim Fight: Jonathan Contrestano (4-0) vs. Ryan Tobar (3-1)
Bellator Bantamweight Prelim Fight: Ray Cervera (8-2) vs. Adam Piccolotti (4-0)
Bellator Welterweight Prelim Fight: Mason Fowler (1-0) vs. Marko Damiani (0-1)

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