Impa Kasanganay earns top seed after victory in PFL light heavyweight playoffs

Impa Kasanganay earns top seed after victory in PFL light heavyweight playoffs
Impa Kasanganay on his way to victory against Jakob Nedoh at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. (PFL)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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Impa Kasanganay earns top seed after victory in PFL light heavyweight playoffs

Impa Kasanganay earns top seed after victory in PFL light heavyweight playoffs
  • Kasanganay will face Josh Silveira in the 2024 PFL light heavyweight semifinals
  • The 2024 PFL Global Season action continues Friday, June 28 from Sioux Falls, South Dakota

SALT LAKE CITY: Impa Kasanganay emerged victorious on Friday night as the 2024 PFL Global Season resumed from the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The 12-fight Professional Fighters League event card featured the lightweight and light heavyweight divisions.

The evening’s co-main event featured 2023 PFL light heavyweight champion Kasanganay squaring off with Jakob Nedoh. The two battled back and forth until Kasanganay landed a flurry of devastating punches leading to a doctor’s stoppage after the second round. Kasanganay continues his million-dollar journey with a berth in the 2024 PFL Global Season playoffs.

In the night’s other main event, Clay Collard and Mads Burnell went the three-round distance. Burnell took control of the action with a superior ground game, nullifying Collard’s striking advantage. Burnell earned a unanimous decision, playing the spoiler in Collard’s hometown return.

Former lightweight champion Patricky Pitbull faced Bruno Miranda in a lightweight global season bout with Miranda defeating Pitbull by split decision. Unfortunately for both fighters, Miranda and Pitbull were eliminated from the PFL playoffs due to points.

The 2022 PFL light heavyweight champion Rob Wilkinson met 2023 runner-up Josh Silveira in Global Season action. The two battled for three rounds, showcasing their technical acumen. In the end, it was Wilkinson taking the razor-thin, split-decision victory. Both competitors clinched 2024 PFL playoffs berths.

Turkmenistan’s Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov squared off with Cameroon’s Simon Biyong in a light heavyweight PFL Global Season matchup. After three intense rounds, Yagshimuradov was judged as the superior fighter, winning by unanimous decision. As a result, Yagshimuradov clinched a spot in the 2024 PFL playoffs.

“The Professional Fighters League’s debut in Salt Lake City was an unforgettable event featuring the best athletes in MMA as they continued their million-dollar journey,” said PFL CEO Peter Murray. “The PFL season format makes every fight a must-win, giving us an unparalleled connection to the fans while providing unrivaled action with the highest stakes in the sport.”

“Salt Lake City saw eight athletes qualify for the 2024 PFL Global Season playoffs in a night of non-stop PFL action,” said Ray Sefo, president of fighter operations at PFL. “We look forward to next week’s 2024 PFL regular season finale in Sioux Falls.”

Antonio Carlos Jr. and Alex Polizzi met in Global Season light heavyweight action. Polizzi earned a hard-fought unanimous decision. The decision ended both fighters’ hopes of moving on to the 2024 PFL playoffs.

Brent Primus defeated Solomon Renfro by submission in the third round in a lightweight PFL Global Season matchup. Primus clinched a 2024 PFL playoff berth with the victory.

Sadibou Sy faced off against Andrew Sanchez in a light heavyweight Global Season bout. In an action-packed fight, both men traded strikes until Sy ended the affair in the third round by TKO.

In a lightweight Global Season matchup, it was win-or-go-home time for Gadzhi Rabadanov and Elvin Espinoza. The fight went the distance, with both fighters trading shots for three rounds. In the end it was Rabadanov who left the PFL smartcage victorious after a unanimous decision, earning a spot in the 2024 PFL playoffs.

In lightweight PFL Global Season action, Adam Piccolotti defeated Michael Dufort by split decision in a hard-fought matchup. The victory was not enough to put Piccolotti into the postseason, Dufort however, did eventually earn his first trip to the PFL playoffs.

In an exciting PFL Global Season lightweight alternate bout, Sergio Cossio defeated Anthony Romero by unanimous decision in his PFL debut. The win extends former lightweight champion Cossio’s winning streak to nine.

The first fight of the night, a featherweight showcase bout between undefeated fighters Brahyan Zurcher and Julian Ruiz, resulted in a second-round KO by Zurcher. Zurcher improves to 9-0 as a pro with seven stoppage wins.

The 2024 PFL Global Season continues on Friday, June 28 from Sioux Falls, South Dakota with featherweight and welterweight action.


FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants

FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants
Updated 3 sec ago
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FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants

FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants
  • The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults
PARIS: FIFA said on Wednesday it was opening an investigation into racist chants by Argentina players after they won the Copa America.
“FIFA is aware of a video circulating on social media and the incident is being looked into,” a spokesperson for world football’s governing body said.
They added: “FIFA strongly condemns any form of discrimination by anyone including players, fans and officials.”
The chants were heard during a live video posted on social media by Chelsea and Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez from the team bus in the wake of the Copa victory over Colombia in Miami on Sunday.
Some players, including 23-year-old Fernandez, sing a chant dating back to the 2022 World Cup final in which Argentina beat France.
The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults.
Chelsea had earlier announced they had launched an internal disciplinary procedure against Fernandez over the incident.
Fernandez has apologized and the club said in a statement it had launched an “internal disciplinary procedure.”
“Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behavior completely unacceptable,” it added.
“We acknowledge and appreciate our player’s public apology and will use this as an opportunity to educate.”
Fernandez, who joined Chelsea from Benfica for a Premier League record fee of £105 million ($136.8 million) in 2023, said in his apology: “The song includes highly offensive language and there is absolutely no excuse for these words.
“I stand against discrimination in all forms and apologize for getting caught up in the euphoria of our Copa America celebrations.”
The French Football Federation (FFF) complained to FIFA about the chants on Monday.
FFF president Philippe Diallo “condemned with the greatest firmness the unacceptable racist and discriminatory remarks made against players of the France team.”
France beat Argentina in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup.

Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards

Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards
Updated 17 July 2024
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Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards

Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards
  • Muhammad sees the upcoming fight as a defining moment in his career trajectory
  • His Palestinian heritage serves as a profound source of motivation and pride ‘that means everything to me’

Riyadh: In the lead-up to UFC 304, slated for July 27 in Manchester, UK, Belal Muhammad, the formidable Palestinian-American welterweight contender, has honing his skills with a series  of rigorous training camps which have inluded sessions with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Mackachev in Dagestan.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, the 36-year-old reflected on his preparations and the profound significance of his upcoming bout against champion Leon Edwards.

“My training camp has been very good,” Muhammad said, detailing the final stages of his preparation. “It’s about being safe, staying uninjured, and making it to the fight week. It’s been a hard camp, but I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I can’t wait to get to Manchester and fight,” he added with palpable enthusiasm.

Ranked second in the welterweight division, Muhammad sees the upcoming fight as a defining moment in his career trajectory. “This is everything,” he stressed. “When I got into the UFC, all I wanted was to be the champion. Now, I see the finish line. I’m knocking on the door. All I’ve got to do is walk through it.”

Acknowledging the competitive landscape of the welterweight division, Muhammad assessed his opponents with a keen eye. “I see weaknesses in a lot of these guys,” he said. “I don’t think there are going to be easy fights, but looking at this division, Leon (Edwards) is my easiest fight,” he added.

Muhammad’s journey in mixed martial arts is deeply intertwined with his Palestinian heritage, which he views as a source of profound motivation and pride. “That means everything to me,” he said. “I wake up every day knowing I’m fighting for something bigger — to have my flag raised with the title, to give my people a voice.”

He highlighted the resilience and determination of his Palestinian community as a driving force in his career. “I can’t sleep. I can’t take any days off. I can’t be soft, because these people are hard. These people are so resilient. They push me every day to work harder. I’ve never seen a stronger people in my life.”

Addressing his Palestinian fans directly, Muhammad expressed solidarity and admiration. “Keep fighting. Keep staying strong. Keep being resilient because you’re changing the world,” he said, stressing the inspiration he draws from their unwavering support.

With the recent surge of MMA interest in the Middle East, Muhammad praised the region’s growing prominence in the sport. “It’s amazing to see the Middle East becoming a huge market for fighters and the UFC,” he said. “When you look at Arabs and Muslims, we’re not the tallest we’re not the biggest so you’re not gonna see a lot of us in the NBA. But now we have a different sport that we can take over. We can all be fighters,” he added optimistically, envisioning a future where Arab fighters continue to make significant strides in the sport.

Reflecting on his career’s evolution, Muhammad emphasized the lessons learned from both victories and setbacks. “I’ve had the highest highs and the lowest lows,” he said. “After every fight, I analyze what I did wrong. I train year-round to be a better fighter,” he added, attributing his continuous growth to a relentless pursuit of improvement.

Muhammad started his MMA journey at 23, unlike many fighters who start at a much younger age, a factor that has always played on his mind as he trains, he said.

“I really think I’m behind a lot of these guys. So I’ve always had that mentality that I’m behind and have to keep learning, growing, and getting better. And I think that’s what separates me from the rest. Every single fight, I come as a different fighter.”

Maintaining mental focus and motivation amid the stakes of UFC 304, Muhammad revealed a deeply personal motivation. “I love to win and I hate to lose,” he admitted. “I never want to see my mom disappointed in me. I keep winning so she keeps a smile on her face,” he added, highlighting the familial support that fuels his drive.

As the countdown to UFC 304 progresses, Muhammad stands poised to seize the welterweight crown, driven by skill, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to his goals. With Manchester on the horizon, Muhammad’s journey to championship glory promises to captivate fans worldwide and inspire a new generation of fighters from the Middle East and beyond.


‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup

‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup
Updated 17 July 2024
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‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup

‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup
  • 3 tournaments taking centerstage at Boulevard Riyadh City with high-stakes drama in store until Sunday  

RIYADH: The Esports World Cup has three major competitions taking place this week at Boulevard Riyadh City, promising further entertainment after a fortnight of action.

Running for eight weeks until Aug. 25, the Esports World Cup has a record-breaking $60 million prize pool on offer across 22 competitions and 21 games.

Sixteen clubs are vying to reach the latter stages of the $5 million “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” with hometown heroes Team Falcons flying the flag for Saudi Arabia.

Having topped the Group A standings with four wins and two draws from seven matches, Team Falcons have emerged as top contenders for the $1.5 million first prize and are certain to receive incredible home support this week.

Also, two other tournaments make their highly anticipated Esports World Cup debuts. The $1 million “Counter-Strike 2” competition will see some of the world’s best clubs competing.

Working together in five-versus-five format, players must display exemplary tactics to eliminate opponents and reign supreme in this ultra-realistic team-based shooter game.

Also sharing the spotlight is “PUBG Mobile,” with 24 teams battling for the $3 million prize on Friday.


Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick

Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick
Updated 17 July 2024
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Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick

Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick
  • The Saudi Arabia team have already claimed top places in the ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ and ‘Free Fire’ competitions

RIYADH: Team Falcons remain on course for a historic hat trick of Esports World Cup titles after the hometown heroes reached the semifinals of the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” competition on Tuesday.

One of the front-runners for the $1.5 million first prize, the Saudi Arabia club entered the knockout stages in scintillating form, topping Group A with four wins and two draws.

This form continued with the support of a capacity crowd inside the SEF Arena.

A 2-1 victory against China’s WBG.XG set up a semifinal showdown with Canadian outfit Gaimin Gladiators.

This moves Team Falcons closer to their dream of winning the competition and adding to Esports World Cup victories in “Call of Duty: Warzone” and “Free Fire.”

The “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” is running throughout week three at the Esports World Cup, concluding on Sunday, July 23.


Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought

Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought
Updated 17 July 2024
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Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought

Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought
  • The major championship season ends with the British Open, and Rahm has been a no-show
  • Rahm hopes he sorted out some issues with his driver by getting a new shaft, which he says has allowed him to swing a little more freely

TROON, Scotland: Jon Rahm felt like one of the most popular players when he arrived at Royal Troon, even if it had nothing to do with him or with his golf.

Spain is on quite the run at the moment. Carlos Alcaraz won Wimbledon on Sunday for his second Grand Slam title of the year, right before Spain defeated England in the European Championship final. It’s the latter that made the Scottish fans celebrate the Spaniard.

No one in these parts likes to see England win anything.

“Played all 18 holes, and I think I got more congratulations for something that I didn’t do than I ever have in my life,” Rahm said Tuesday. “I don’t know what they’ve done, but anytime anybody plays against the English national team, every other country in Europe just unifies against them.

“I think because we’ve heard ‘It’s Coming Home’ so many times the last few years that nobody wants to see it come home at this point.”

Throw in Sergio Garcia winning his first LIV Golf event at Valderrama, and Rahm would like nothing more than to extend Spain’s run of winners.

Mostly, he needs it for himself.

The major championship season ends with the British Open, and Rahm has been a no-show. He was the reigning Masters champion when he left for LIV Golf last December and he still hasn’t won. His last victory was the Masters some 15 months ago.

He barely made the cut at the Masters. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship. And he didn’t even get to play the US Open because of a foot infection.

“Last year from the Masters on I didn’t really play my best,” Rahm said. “Ryder Cup was the only resemblance to maybe the early part of the year. But Nashville and last week (LIV events), I felt closer to getting to a higher level of golf where maybe there isn’t as many thoughts on my process. Maybe I’m playing a little bit more freely and seeing the ball flight that I want to see more often.

“I’m getting much closer to what it might have been early last year.”

The foot infection, right before the US Open, summed up the frustrating year. Rahm was hopeful of playing Pinehurst No. 2 until seeking a specialist, who numbed his foot and thrust a swab into the infection to clean it out.

“Pretty much when I saw that go in I said, ‘OK, I’m not playing the Open,’” Rahm said. “Once I accepted the fact I couldn’t play, I think it was quite enjoyable. I think, as much as any other, I kind of enjoyed watching some of the best players in the world struggle.”

He can relate to a struggle these days, particularly in the majors.

Rahm hopes he sorted out some issues with his driver by getting a new shaft, which he says has allowed him to swing a little more freely. It was at Valhalla for the PGA Championship that he realized he needed a change.

The foot injury was a setback, but he contended at his next LIV event and then tied for 10th at Valderrama last week. He has top 10s in every LIV event he has played except for Houston, when he withdrew because of the foot injury.

Then again, LIV has the same 54 players every week, and only the top half would be considered among the elite in the game. Going the year without a win can be frustrating, much less the last 15 months.

Now it’s down to Royal Troon, a course that typically plays easy on the way out and turns into a beast — and into the wind — on the way back in.

Rahm had planned to only play nine holes on Monday, but the weather was probably as glorious as it’s going to be all week and he wanted to enjoy it. Wind or calm, rain or shine, it’s avoiding the pot bunkers and the gorse bushes that are key to this British Open.

And after this week, golf gets a little hazy. He still has a LIV calendar to finish out, but Rahm said his wife’s pregnancy with their third child is not going well and she is on bed rest. He doesn’t know if he will be able to play the Spanish Open this fall.

And it won’t be until next April that Rahm gets a chance to compete against the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele. The best players now only come together four times a year in the majors.

“It’s the decision I’ve made,” he said of joining LIV. “Hopefully at some point golf can figure itself out, and we have opportunities to play against each other more often.”