More than 800 miles separate the Canadian cities of Winnipeg and Calgary. Regardless, UFC’s director of operations for Canada, Tom Wright, assured the press Tuesday afternoon UFC 161 in Winnipeg would be far and away from last summer’s Calgary card — a card UFC boss Dana White famously said, “sucked.” Like it’s Calgary counterpart, Winnipeg’s UFC 161, scheduled for June 15, has been beset by injuries, including injuries to Renan Barao and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, that forced the cancellation of two headline bouts.
“Injuries are part of any sport and they’re certainly part of this sport,” Wright said. “But when you take a look at this you’ll see the 161 card has two Ultimate Fighter champions, you’ve got two former Strikeforce champions, you’ve got a former light heavyweight champion in Rashad [Evans] and a former Pride champion. . . Winnipeg, Manitoba is not going to be disappointed.”
Other quick hits from the call:
· Evans will be returning to the Octagon for the first time since his listless unanimous decision loss to Nogueira last February at UFC 156. Earlier this year, the 33-year-old Evans talked about worries of being cut by the UFC with another bad outing. But now, it seems, Evans is only looking forward. “You definitely want to get the monkey off your back when you stink up the joint,” Evans said. “I’m going to go out there and put on a show but not only to shut all the naysayers up but for myself. I felt like I let myself down more than anything and I can live with disappointing anyone else but I can’t live with disappointing myself.”
· Evans’s opponent in the main event, Dan Henderson, is also seeking redemption. Henderson dropped a split decision to Brazilian Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 last February. It’s a loss that obviously still irks Henderson. “I know I didn’t perform to my best and I could have done some things differently, but it’s hard to fight a guy that doesn’t really want to fight you.” But Machida, Henderson admits, isn’t the only fight from the past that irritates him. He said he still has “unfinished business” with Jon Jones. Henderson and Jones were scheduled to fight last September before a knee injury forced Henderson to withdraw. UFC matchmakers then leapfrogged Henderson and paired Jones with Chael Sonnen.
· After dropping Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 last April with his trademark knockout punch, fifth-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson jumped atop the Octagon and rubbed his hands around his ample belly in celebration. When asked about his “everyman” physique, Nelson didn’t mince words. “People who tend to be in our sport tend to abuse PEDs or performance-enhancing drugs, so that’s the reason why I probably don’t look like the typical UFC fighter,” he said. Nelson accepted a bout with Stipe Miocic on short notice after he said Daniel Cormier declined to fight him.
– Melissa Segura