TNT Sports Reload - Episode 11Sep 26
Fight fans are in for a treat on BT Sport this weekend, as we bring you a monster card beginning at 5pm on Saturday evening.
With no late nights (or early starts) to worry about, you won’t want to be anywhere else as our exclusive primetime coverage of UFC 267: Blachowicz vs Teixeira begins on BT Sport 2HD.
As well as the main event, there’s a scintillating bantamweight interim championship contest to look forward to as two of the most entertaining men in the division in Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen meet.
And Khamzat Chimaev finally makes his long-awaited return to action following a nasty battle with Covid-19 when he battles Li Jingliang for welterweight honours.
There is also British representation on the card at the Etihad Arena in the UAE, with Manchester’s Lerone Murphy seeking to bolster his burgeoning reputation as an emerging lightweight threat.
Here are five reasons you can’t afford to miss UFC 267: Blachowicz vs Teixeira.
Arguably the crowning moment of Jan Blachowicz’s career came not against Dominick Reyes, whom he defeated to lift the 205lb crown in September 2020, but against Israel Adesanya earlier this year.
The Polish veteran was respected by most heading into that contest but unfancied in the minds of many, as he came up against one of the promotion’s bona fide superstars.
Adesanya, at the time undefeated and seemingly unstoppable, instead met his match against the imposing Pole who controlled the contest almost from start to finish in a professional display of dominance.
It brought validation to Blachowicz’s reign and confirmed the 38-year-old as a worthy successor to Jon Jones’ throne, not just the ‘next best guy’.
“It was really big because Izzy is a great sportsman and I beat him,” he explained during an interview with UFC.com this week.
“I proved that I’m a true champion — I defended my belt and people started to respect me.
I've got a bigger motivation now
- Jan Blachowicz
“Before that fight, a lot of people didn’t treat me like a true champion, but I showed them that I’m a real champion, a true champion, and that’s it. I was happy that I could prove not only to them, but also to myself that I can do something big.
“It was an amazing feeling after that fight; I celebrated for two weeks, maybe more.”
Following that victory at UFC 259, Blachowicz took some time away from competition to welcome a new addition to the family, his son Jan Jr.
Now back and ready to compete at the top level this weekend, the 6ft 2in slugger claims fatherhood has lit a new fire within him.
"I've got a bigger motivation now,” he told The Sun.
"I go to training with a bigger motivation, I train harder because it will make his life a lot easier.
"I want to make him happy, but I also want him to work hard. It's a big motivation for me."
Can Daddy Blachowicz pick up where he left off at UFC 267?
Now or never for Teixeira
The man hoping to end Blachowicz’s reign on Saturday night is one of the UFC’s most respect competitors, Glover Teixeira, who comes into the bout aiming to become the promotion’s second-oldest champion behind Randy Couture.
A mainstay of the light heavyweight rankings since he joined the UFC back in 2012, Teixeira first challenged for the title more than seven years ago - only to come up short against Jon Jones.
But after an unlikely resurgence at the ripe old age of 42, he has earned himself the chance to right the wrongs of that night and finally conquer the 205lb division with a win over Blachowicz.
He’s earned his second shot the hard way too, coming up against a killer’s row of contenders during a blazing five-fight win streak.
To be disciplined, you’ve got to change your whole lifestyle
- Glover Teixeira
Consecutive stoppage wins over Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos followed victories over Nikita Krylov and Ion Cutelaba as the Connecticut-based Brazilian enjoyed a thrilling revival to climb through the rankings.
Teixeira credits a change in attitude outside the Octagon with his successes in recent years, leaving behind a wild lifestyle of partying in favour of a more conservative routine of healthy dieting and smart training.
“It’s the price that you pay,” he said.
“To be disciplined, you’ve got to change your whole lifestyle. To be that disciplined is a little painful in the beginning. But it’s worth it.”
Now entering the final stages of his journey in mixed martial arts, Teixeira will be determined to ensure his sacrifices pay off as he goes for gold one last time this weekend.
Will his storied career end on a high?
Aljamain Sterling may sit atop the throne in the 135lb division but there are more than a few fight fans who would claim Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen are the top two bantamweights on the planet.
With Sterling and top contender TJ Dillashaw sidelined through injury until next year, Yan and Sandhagen do battle for the interim bantamweight strap in an unmissable co-main event sure to bring the fireworks on Saturday night.
Yan had been set to face Sterling in a rematch of their infamous UFC 259 encounter, during which the Russian lost by disqualification due to an illegal knee, but with the champion still some way short of fight fitness, Sandhagen answered the call on a month’s notice.
The manner in which Yan surrendered his title has irked the 28-year-old ever since, interrupting a stunning 7-0 run that saw him conquer the 135lb division at a relative canter.
And speaking ahead of the fight this weekend, Yan told the MMA Hour that victory would confirm him as the undisputed number one in the division.
“I beat [Sandhagen] on Saturday, every guy will know who here is really champ,” Yan said.
“I don’t want to consider myself as a champion,” Yan said. “I don’t have a belt. Right now I’m the No. 1-ranked bantamweight in the division and I’m ready to prove that I’m the best in the division.
“The only thing I lost [after UFC 259] was maybe money, but everything else is still with me — desire to win the belt, desire to move forward to winning, and I’m still hungry. So everything else is the same.”
Frustration is also the fuel for Sandhagen heading into this bout, after he came up short in a razor-thin decision against Dillashaw last time out.
Defeat in that fight looked to have ended his immediate hopes at a title shot, despite a blistering 7-1 run in the promotion – but ironically, the 29-year-old now finds himself within touching distance of the world title with Dillashaw on the sidelines.
“It never feels real until it actually is real, and now that I’m fighting for a UFC belt, even though it’s an interim one, it would feel like I was the champ,” the Colorado native said.
“It would feel that way. I would know that I have some quieting of the voices maybe about the Sterling loss that I had and the T.J. [Dillashaw] loss that I had, but those will be very exciting rematches in the division also. I think I’m excited.
“It would feel like I was the champ if I do win against Yan.”
“I’m gonna smash everybody”
It’s been more than a year since Khamzat Chimaev stepped out of the Octagon for the second time in 10 days on Fight Island, unblemished and barely out of breath.
“Brother, it doesn’t matter who I fight,” he told Dan Hardy. “I’m gonna smash everybody!”
Two months later, the terrifying Russian prospect ended veteran Gerald Meerschaert’s night in just 17 seconds as excitement turned to fever pitch watching Chimaev emerge as a superstar in waiting.
But fate had other ideas for the Swedish-based fighter as he reckoned with a severe reaction to the Covid-19 virus throughout the months that followed.
Chimaev even briefly announced his retirement on social media, claiming his body could no longer handle the demands of training.
“The main thing is I do not know what this disease is but it is not easily outlived,” he wrote.
Thankfully, after an extended period of rest and recuperation, Chimaev appears to be on the mend and healthy enough to return to competition more than a year after his last appearance inside the Octagon.
“Some people die because of that disease, but I didn’t,” Chimaev said, reflecting on his battle with the virus.
“I am still here, unfortunately for my opponents.”
Relentless cardio and suffocating top-heavy pressure were the hallmarks of Chimaev’s early performances in the UFC.
Can the 28-year-old still rely on his endurance after the year from hell?
The Miracle Man
We could be hearing an awful lot more about Lerone Murphy over the next 12 months.
With two wins and a draw under his belt in three UFC fights so far – all in Abu Dhabi coincidentally – the 30-year-old Manchester man returns to his favourite hunting ground on Saturday night looking to build some momentum in the lightweight division.
The talented striker comes with the stamp of approval from BT Sport’s very own Nick Peet, who believes this weekend’s match up will bring the best out of Murphy on Fight Island.
“His hands are absolutely ridiculous, incredible kickboxing skills… the big question about Lerone is, where is his grappling at?” Peet said on the UFC 267 Preview Show.
“That’s the one question we need answering. He needs to be matched against a grappler and that’s what the UFC have done against Makwan Amirkhani.
“Lerone has got the eye of the tiger, that kid has got a big future in this sport.”
Currently perched just outside the 145lb rankings, it won't take too many more wins before we see Murphy with a number next to his name.
Will he take another leap towards the rankings on Saturday night?