Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300

Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300
Max Holloway after defeating Justin Gaethje via a last-second knockout during UFC 300 at T-Mobile Arena Saturday night. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 14 April 2024
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Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300

Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300
  • Holloway-Gaethje was arguably the most anticipated fight on the loaded card, and it not only lived up to expectations, but surpassed them before a sellout crowd of 20,067
  • In the evening’s final fight, Pereira dropped Hill to the canvas with a straight left hand and then pounded him

LAS VEGAS: Alex Pereira left no doubt he was the true light heavyweight champion in the main event, knocking out Jamahal Hill 3:14 of the first round Saturday night.

But the lasting image of UFC 300, one that likely will resonate for years to come, was Max Holloway’s last-second knockout of Justin Gaethje for the ceremonial BMF title belt.

Holloway-Gaethje was arguably the most anticipated fight on the loaded card, and it not only lived up to expectations, but surpassed them before a sellout crowd of 20,067 that roared over the final seconds and its stunning conclusion.

“That fight sucked the life out of everybody tonight,” UFC President Dana White said. “People ask me what I do. I sell holy (stuff) moments. That was the ultimate holy (stuff) moment. Let’s just talk about his fight for the rest of the press conference.”

The UFC — which had its third-highest gate at $16.5 million — awarded Holloway a $600,000 bonus for his performance.

Even though Holloway (26-7) was well on his way to a victory by decision — two judges had him ahead 39-37 — the former featherweight champion could have run out the clock.

He instead pointed to the floor in the final seconds and then traded blows with Gaethje (25-5). It was a tremendous combination of punches from both fighters before the one that sent the now ex-BMF champ to the mat with just one second remaining in the five-round fight.

“This is the moment,” Holloway said about going for the KO. “This is what the BMF is known for. If that’s not a BMF moment, I don’t know what is. If Justin was up, he would’ve given me those 10 seconds.”

“That’s why Max Holloway is beloved,” White said. “He’s got the fight won and in there with one of the most dangerous fighters in the business. That’s like movie (stuff). It’s the fight of the year. If something beats that as fight of the year, holy (stuff).”

Holloway, who also used a spinning kick at the end of the first round to bloody Gaethje’s nose, was in control throughout most of the fight.

“I think it broke his nose. ... Any less of a man couldn’t do what Justin Gaethje does,” Holloway said.

In the evening’s final fight, Pereira dropped Hill to the canvas with a straight left hand and then pounded him. Referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight, giving the Brazilian the victory.

Pereira, 36, was a minus-132 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“I see myself as the champion. I didn’t want to let the belt go to my head,” Pereira said through an interpreter. “I had to step in and win the championship.”

Hill, 32, was the previous title holder, but a torn Achilles tendon forced him to vacate the championship last July. That put the belt in Pereira’s hands, eventually setting up this matchup and his fourth pay-per-view event in 16 months.

As would be expected from a milestone card number, this was a strong lineup that included 12 current or former champions, and 11 who have headlined UFC pay-per-view events.

Zhang Weili (25-3) retained her women’s strawweight championship in the co-main event, beating No. 1 challenger Yan Xiaonan (18-4) by unanimous decision. Each judge scored the fight 49-45.

Zhang nearly choked out Yan to end the first round. Yan, however, found a way to take the fight the five-round distance.

“She bounced back very quickly,” Zhang said through an interpreter.

No. 4 lightweight challenger Arman Tsarukyan (22-3) won by split decision over top-ranked challenger and former champion Charles Oliveira (34-10). Each scorecard was 29-28, two in favor of Tsarukyan.

“I thought all (the) judges were going to give me the decision,” Tsarukyan said.

Three-time NCAA wrestling champion Bo Nickal (6-0) led off the five-fight main card by submitting Cody Brundage (10-6) by rear-naked choke hold at 3:38 of the second round.

“I’m a little bit embarrassed with that performance because I expected to go in there and completely dominate,” Nickal said.

One of the more notable matchups on the undercard was between two-time US Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison and International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Holly Holm.

Harrison (17-1), who made her UFC debut, dominated Holm (15-7). She won the bantamweight bout by submission with a rear-naked choke at 1:47 of the second round.

Retired champion Amanda Nunes posted a video of herself on social media listening to Harrison in the cage and wondering why she didn’t mention her by name.

“I didn’t call Amanda’s name because Amanda’s not the UFC champion,” Harrison said. “I thought she was happily retired. I would love to win the UFC title, and if Amanda wants to come back, I would welcome her with open arms.”

White said he hopes to see Nunes return.

“I think she retired too soon,” White said.

Also on the undercard, second-ranked challenger Jiri Prochazka (30-4) put himself on track to reclaim the light heavyweight championship with a technical knockout at 3:17 of the second round of fifth-ranked Aleksandar Rakic (14-4). Prochazka lost his belt to Pereira in November on a second-round TKO.

“Whoever will win tonight in the main event, I want to take (him on),” Prochazka said.

CONOR MCGREGOR IS BACK

White said Conor McGregor will fight in UFC 303 against Michael Chandler on June 29 in Las Vegas. Also, Islam Makhachev will fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 on June 1 in Newark, New Jersey.


Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’

Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’
Updated 58 min 43 sec ago
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Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’

Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’
  • “I think it’s normal that you feel a little bit of pressure before a tournament and before important games like these,” the 36-year-old told reporters
  • “We will work out the pressure and we will work out Scotland“

MUNICH: Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said his side needed to use the pressure of hosting Euro 2024 to their advantage ahead of Friday’s tournament opener against Scotland in Munich.
This summer’s hosts are three-time winners of the European Championship but have endured a poor time since reaching the semifinals at Euro 2016.
Since that tournament, the Germans were eliminated twice at the group stage of the World Cup, and lost to England in the last 16 at the Euros in 2021.
Admitting to being a “little nervous” ahead of his first game coaching Germany at a major tournament, Nagelsmann said he told his players to embrace the pressure in front of their home fans.
“I think it’s normal that you feel a little bit of pressure before a tournament and before important games like these,” the 36-year-old told reporters on Thursday.
“Ultimately for me it’s the most important theme, when I speak with my players, that pressure is a form of privilege.
“We need to simply enjoy being on the pitch. That’s very important. Our players started playing when they were young. They love it (football).
“If you do it that way, you’re doing it right.”
“We will work out the pressure and we will work out Scotland,” he added.
Nagelsmann shed light on the process of bringing veteran midfielder Toni Kroos, who retired from international duty in 2021, back into the squad. Nagelsmann revealed it took a while to convince the 2014 World Cup winner to return.
“It took a period of time to convince him because he wanted to know what we’ll change in the future,” explained Nagelsmann.
“He said he’ll only be part of the team when he feels we can win, so he wanted to know how we’ll change the team.
“Then he said he’ll be part of it and ‘let’s rock’.”
Nagelsmann was wary of Scotland, saying Steve Clarke’s side were not the “kick and rush” team of the past.
“They have flair and good physicality. They may not be full of superstars, but that can make them dangerous.”


Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home

Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home
Updated 13 June 2024
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Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home

Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home
  • “We need to talk about this,” coach Serhiy Rebrov said
  • This tournament is “100 percent” different and special, Zinchenko said

WIESBADEN, Germany: With patriotic songs broadcast and thousands of exiled Ukrainians in the stadium, the men’s national team was made to feel at home at their first training in Germany for the European Championship.
After the national anthem played, and before the warmups began, there was a vivid reminder of the war at home that is a constant and uniting force for this Ukraine squad.
Each player had a ball to give to a fan and Oleksandr Zinchenko presented his to a military veteran who had prosthetic legs below each knee.
Near the downtown stadium of Wehen Wiesbaden is the United States military headquarters in Germany which is coordinating the delivery of weapons and other aid from Ukraine’s allies to fight against the Russian invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Wiesbaden six months ago.
It is a subject the Ukraine team want to address, and hope Euro 2024 watched worldwide will help put on center stage.
“We need to talk about this,” coach Serhiy Rebrov said. “I know that some people are tired about the news of the war, but we are continuing to fight, and we need your support.”
“It’s very important that Ukraine is represented in the Euro because we, all Ukrainians, we want to be in (the) European family,” said the former national team star who also played in England and Russia, and coached in Hungary. “On the war we are fighting for all Europe.”
Zinchenko was in the Ukraine team that reached the quarterfinals of Euro 2021, the pandemic-delayed tournament. That was the last European summer before the Russians attacked.
This tournament is “100 percent” different and special, Zinchenko said.
“There are still people dying for no reason and we have to stick together,” said the Arsenal player, stressing that what the players have lived through does not compare to fighters on the front lines and their families.
“For them it is super difficult, for us it’s obviously extra motivation. We all know who is behind us. We need to show our best performance,” Zinchenko said.
Ukraine first play on Monday against Romania in Munich. Four days later, Ukraine play Slovakia in Duesseldorf then finish in Group F against favored Belgium on June 26 in Stuttgart.
Preparation for those games started in earnest on Thursday morning after a formal welcome on the field by politicians from the region where Wiesbaden is the state capital.
The 4,000 fans in the stadium gave standing ovations to greet different groups of players as they passed by doing light warmup runs in laps of the field.
“In Germany, the Ukrainian community is everywhere. We were very happy with everything here,” said Rebrov, one day after the squad arrived.
At home, the country is under constant threat of Russian bombs targeting the people and essential infrastructure for daily life like the power grid.
“I hope when we play the games,” midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi said, “people in Ukraine have lights to watch the games on TV.”
For the past 10 years, Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk has been unable to play games in its home city because of the conflict in the country’s east involving Russian-backed separatists.
Ukraine midfielder Taras Stepanenko has stayed with Shakhtar through the whole decade, including playing Champions League ‘home’ games this season in Germany. He said on Thursday, “We deserve to be here for our people.
“Every day people die, cities destroyed. Every day when we wake up, we read the news about what the situation is in Ukraine,” said the 34-year-old player appearing at his third straight Euros.
“Every day, I see on my phone screen, messages about air (raids). So, every morning I phone my parents to ask if everything is OK,” Stepanenko added. “We live in this condition almost three years. It’s so difficult.”


Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024

Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024
Updated 13 June 2024
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Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024

Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024
  • “And I just had to pack my stuff as quickly as possible and come,” said Maatsen
  • Bologna forward Zirkzee posted a photo of himself smiling broadly on Instagram with the text: “When you get the call to leave Disney for the Euros”

DORTMUND: One of the players was on a boat on a Greek island. The other was in Disney World in Florida.
Yet neither Ian Maatsen nor Joshua Zirkzee had any hesitation answering the emergency call from the Netherlands at the European Championship.
“It’s a childhood dream to be here — it’s definitely worth the return trip,” said Maatsen, the left back who was on vacation in Mykonos with his girlfriend when he was summoned by Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman to replace Frenkie de Jong.
“I suddenly received a call,” he added on Thursday. “And I just had to pack my stuff as quickly as possible and come.”
Maatsen was on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Chelsea in the recently completed season and helped the German club reach the Champions League final, where they lost to Real Madrid on June 1.
He was named in UEFA’s Champions League team of the season and will give Koeman an extra option on the left flank, where he is set to challenge Daley Blind for a starting spot.
“I did enjoy my holiday and processed everything well, including the disappointment of the Champions League final,” he said.
As for Zirkzee, he cut short his postseason vacation in Florida to head to the Netherlands’ base in Wolfsburg after another striker in the squad, Brian Brobbey, hurt a hamstring in training.
After hearing of his call-up, Bologna forward Zirkzee posted a photo of himself smiling broadly on Instagram with the text: “When you get the call to leave Disney for the Euros.”
Zirkzee has never played an international for the Netherlands’ senior team. He joined the Bayern Munich youth academy and played a handful of games for the German powerhouse before moving on loan to Parma then Anderlecht before signing for Bologna in 2022.
The Netherlands open their Euro 2024 campaign on Sunday against Poland in Hamburg.


Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament
Updated 13 June 2024
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Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament
  • “Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said
  • Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament

BERLIN: Germany welcomed police officers from across Europe on Thursday to bolster its defenses against potential threats at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament, with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser promising vigilance on the eve of the opening match.
“Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said at a ceremony for around 350 foreign police officers dispatched for the event.
Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament, which begins with the host country’s Group A opener against Scotland on Friday.
“Our security authorities therefore have the Islamist scene firmly in their sights,” Faeser said, while adding that authorities were not currently aware of any specific plots.
Germany expects 2.7 million people to attend matches in stadiums across the country and some 12 million in its fan zones for outdoor viewing, including on a long stretch of turf laid out in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
The fan zones were popular during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but it remains to be seen whether the public mood at this event can rise above simmering tensions at a time of conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East, and as the far right sees its support surge in Europe.
“Some people are trying to bring these conflicts into our country,” the minister warned, adding that propaganda and hate speech on German streets would not be tolerated.
Some 22,000 police officers will be working each day at the tournament.
German security authorities are also working with international partners to identify potential threats and the country has ramped up its border controls.


Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup
Updated 13 June 2024
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Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup
  • Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26

MIAMI: Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has confirmed in an interview with US broadcaster ESPN that he will not attempt to win a second gold medal with Argentina at the Paris Olympics this summer.
“I spoke with (Argentinian Olympic coach Javier) Mascherano, and we immediately agreed on the situation,” Inter Miami forward Messi said in the interview broadcast on Wednesday.
“It’s a difficult moment, because there’s the Copa America, and that would mean two or three consecutive months away from my club.
“At my age, I don’t want to play everything and I need to make the right choices,” added the former Barcelona star who was a member of Argentina’s 2008 Olympic gold medal winning team.
Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26.
Messi, however, has not closed the door on taking part in a record-breaking sixth World Cup, to be held in 2026 between the US, Canada and Mexico.
“It’s great to have records and continue to achieve things but I won’t take part in a World Cup just to say I’ve done six,” said Messi.
“If I feel good and everything is in place for me to be there, fine, but I won’t go just to go.”
“It’s very difficult to imagine what can happen because it’s still two years away. I don’t need to commit right now to whether or not I’ll be there.”