The UFC is already starting 2019 off strong with their record showing on ESPN+. Now looking forward to the UFC 235 card in March, they’re coming off the heels of the first official press conference for the big event.
This highly anticipated card will feature two championship fights, returns, debuts, and more – and the fireworks are already flying, at least when it comes to verbiage. The competitors for the upcoming card have already had words on occasion, so it should come as no surprise the conference had some memorable exchanges.
Jon Jones will be defending his light heavyweight championship against Anthony Smith. Jones remained confident but ensured he was not looking past Smith, despite being a heavy favorite. As for Smith, he didn’t seem bothered about being the underdog, and claimed Jones had holes in his game to be exploited just like any other opponent.
The light heavyweight showdown isn’t the only title clash on this card. Defending welterweight king Tyron Woodley is coming off a successful defense against Darren Till, and he’s now ready to take on Kamaru Usman. The Nigerian Nightmare has been on a tear through the division, besting the likes of former title challenger Demian Maia and former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
Usman and Woodley were at one another, with Usman seeming confident: “This is one thing you’ve never seen from me, I ain’t backing up,” he said. “You hit me, I’m still coming. And I’m coming all night long, T-Wood. Don’t back up. Don’t back up, my man.”
Woodley questioned whether Usman really thought he could get the job done, claiming even the challenger didn’t buy into his own claims. Usman countered by saying Woodley believed it, and their title clash has gained a bit more interest.
The stage was also graced by the charismatic presence of Ben Askren, the undefeated star recently acquired from ONE FC. He and Usman apparently had words backstage before the event. Usman explained it simply by saying Askren was aggressive on social media, and he wanted him to bring that same energy when the two met in person.
Woodley and Askren are teammates, so they could never fight one another. But Askren did say if Woodley “slipped on a banana peel” and lost to Usman, he’d step up to fight for the championship. Askren will first have to get past the former titleholder, Robbie Lawler.
This card will also feature the return of Cody Garbrandt. After an unsuccessful bid to reclaim the bantamweight title from TJ Dillashaw, Garbrandt, who is now a father, seemed like a man with a new purpose. He was brimming with confidence as he headed into his bout with Pedro Munhoz.
There was one downer during the conference – those in attendance were informed the bout between Holly Holm and Aspen Ladd was canceled. Neither woman was on the stage for questioning, and UFC president Dana White only said that the promotion was working on new fights for both women.