The Lakers. The Raiders. The Padres. All of these names have one thing in common: they are all teams.
For being an individual sport, MMA really has a team-focused mentality as well. It’s the team that helps prepare the fighter for not just an upcoming fight, but for the rest of their respective careers. When the fighter is successful, it not only reflects on their work ethic and the dedication that they put into training, but it also reflects on the team and their success or lack thereof.
Teams like Jackson-Winkeljohn, American Top Team and American Kickboxing Academy are some of the largest and most successful teams out there. Most of the time, their fighters stay right where they are because of the success, training and family mentality that comes with being part of a team.
AKA is currently the team in the spotlight this year. Daniel Cormier is the reigning light heavyweight champion, Luke Rockhold was unsuccessful in capturing the interim middleweight championship, Khabib Nurmagomedov is taking on Tony Ferguson for the lightweight championship, and Cain Velasquez is working on recovery from injuries to get back inside the Octagon.
The next few months prove to be even more interesting for the team, as Cormier returns to the heavyweight division to take on Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight championship. But therein lies the problem. Cormier and Velasquez would both be in the division, and it’s entirely possible that the two friends would have to cross paths, right? Not necessarily.
DC and Velasquez recently teased on a social-media post talking about the future for the two men. This leads many to believe that while Cormier is going up in weight, Velasquez will be heading down to 205 pounds. This creates storylines for three out of the four members of AKA mentioned above. These are some of the possible match-ups that could come to fruition in the next year.
Heavyweight: Cormier vs. Fabricio Werdum
This has story written all over it. What better way for DC to avenge a loss to his teammate than by fighting the man who took Velasquez’s belt from him? If Cormier wins the heavyweight title, then look for the UFC to book this match, which has bad blood written all over it. It would be an exciting match-up that would show the versatility and skill set of each man, neither of whom are getting any younger.
Heavyweight: Cormier vs. Jon Jones
Yes — at heavyweight. What better way to settle the score once and for all than by having Cormier, at a more natural weight class, and Jones, free from performance-enhancing (or other) drugs. It could be that last chance DC gets to cement his own personal stamp on the division. It would seem only fitting to give Cormier a chance to defeat Jones and give DC the storybook ending he truly deserves.
Light Heavyweight: Velasquez vs. Jon Jones
OK, before the screaming begins: it is well understood that this is a longshot. Who knows if Jones will ever compete again? Who knows if Velasquez can stay healthy and make it to the lower weight? But think about it. It’s a match-up fans wanted to see long ago, and it could possibly make sense in a division that doesn’t have a long list of potential challengers with enough star power to carry the division. This fight would be a great vacant light heavyweight title bout, assuming Cormier relinquishes his belt upon moving up in weight.
Light Heavyweight: Rockhold vs. Velasquez
This is where the team mentality gets thrown by the wayside. Rockhold has already spent a good amount of time training in Florida with renowned coach Henri Hooft. It was a move on Rockhold’s part due to the amount of injuries sustained by his brothers at AKA. While this may have been the smartest move for Rockhold’s career, his recent comments about moving up in weight came right after Cormier planned the same move. This might be the best idea for both men, especially given Rockhold’s loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221. If Velasquez does come down in weight, then don’t be surprised to see Rockhold and Velasquez square off for the light heavyweight title.
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