By Mark Daniels
The UFC’s long-rumored return to Boston is finally official. UFC president Dana White made the announcement, via his Twitter account, Friday.
“We are FINALLY going back to Boston at the TD Garden on Aug. 17 for the launch of FOX Sports 1,” White wrote. “We are bringing a SICK card.”
The organization first came to the Garden with UFC 118 on Aug. 28, 2010. The show featured multiple local fighters including East Bridgewater’s Joe Lauzon and Dover’s Kenny Florian. The night was headlined by a rematch between the UFC’s then-lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, and B.J. Penn.
The event was considered a success as 14,168 fans filled the Garden for a gate of $2.8 million.
Earlier this year, Fox announced its plans to rebrand its Speed and Fuel TV channels as FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2, in hopes of competing with ESPN.
The Aug. 17 launch will include the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and then the UFC show from the Garden in prime time. Along with the UFC, the channel also has the rights to college football and basketball, NASCAR and soccer.
Neither the fight card nor the official name of the show has been announced.
It will be D-Day for Lawlor
After cutting 16 fighters last month, White said the organization could release as many as 100 more over the course of this year. With the addition of flyweights, women’s competitors and contracts from Strikeforce, White said the UFC roster is simply too big.
The news certainly put additional pressure on many fighters, especially those coming off a loss. In some cases, it might serve as motivation. But for Tom Lawlor, the news wasn’t earth-shattering.
The Fall River native is eccentric, fan-friendly and entertaining. But he’s also a realist. The 29-year-old is coming off a controversial split decision loss to Francis Carmont at November’s UFC 154. And at 4-4 in the UFC, he knows his job will be on the line Saturday when he fights Michael Kuiper in Sweden at “UFC on Fuel TV 9″ — regardless of the recent news.
“Even if they weren’t cutting guys, I feel like a loss would result in me getting cut anyway,” Lawlor said. “The fact that they cut all these guys, pretty much the only thing it meant to me was I was glad that I accepted this fight. Otherwise, I might have gotten cut regardless. The fact that I accepted it instead of saying, ‘Oh, I just got back in the country. I don’t really want to fight overseas.’ That would’ve came back and bitten me.”
Lawlor spent the month of January training in Singapore. He was brought there to help former Princeton wrestling standout Jake Butler get ready for his MMA debut. When the middleweight returned to his home in Providence, the UFC called asking Lawlor if he’d be interested in taking a fight in eight weeks.
After spending a month overseas, getting ready for a fight in Stockholm on relatively short notice was less than ideal, but Lawlor was just happy to get another opportunity to fight.
Though the fight at UFC 154 wasn’t Lawlor’s most entertaining affair, in the eyes of many observers he got robbed. He controlled the majority of the fight and threatened with several submissions. Lawlor was shocked when Carmont was named the winner.
“People see me screwing around and probably think I don’t train but that’s pretty far for the truth,” Lawlor said. “If anything, I’m on the verge of overtraining. . . . (but) to come off a fight like that where people still think you won and they read a different score on the judges’ score card — for a month or so I was down on the whole process of fighting.”
But as soon as he got the call for the fight, Lawlor hit the gym. He said he knows what he needs to do Saturday.
“I’m going to (expletive) him up, man,” Lawlor said. “I need to win.”
Gonzaga aim: ‘Perfect fight’
Last year, Gabriel Gonzaga (14-6) got a reprieve from the UFC.
After getting released and contemplating retirement, the heavyweight wanted to make the most of his second opportunity when he got re-signed. So far, he’s done just that, submitting Ednaldo Oliveira at UFC 142 and most recently Ben Rothwell in “UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping” on Jan. 19.
The 33-year-old, who trains with Team Link in Ludlow, hopes to add to his run when he takes on Travis Browne (13-1-1) on April 13 in “The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale.”
“I am much more prepared now because I have more years of experience behind me. The first time, I was new to the MMA world,” the Brazilian jiu jitsu expert said. “I am very focused on this fight. I want to do a perfect fight, and I will.”
Gonzaga said he’s aimed to improve every aspect of his game so he’s prepared for wherever this fight may go. A win over Browne, would undoubtedly vault him up the UFC heavyweight rankings.
The 30-year-old Browne is 4-1-1 in the UFC and coming off his first career loss, suffered against the UFC’s No. 1 heavyweight contender Antonio Silva. Browne has shown to have heavy hands, knocking out nine of his 13 opponents.
“I know he is a really tough and strong guy who is coming from a big win streak before his recent fight,” Gonzaga said. “I have to be prepared because he is a big athletic guy.”
No more for Morecraft
Hyannis native and promising heavyweight Christian Morecraft is stepping away from the UFC and the fight game.
The 26-year-old announced the news last week. In a statement, Morecraft (7-3) explained that working a full-time job and trying to compete in the UFC is difficult and he wants to find an easier way to make a living.
“There’s plenty of ‘ex-professional athletes’ out there who are lost, broke, and jobless when competing is over,” Morecraft wrote, adding, “with that being said, I’m saying goodbye to the fight business for right now. Nothing’s set in stone because we all know that nothing in life is, but for now I’ve got some other matters to take care of.”
Morecraft went 1-3 in the UFC and last lost to Pat Barry in at “UFC on FX 1″ on Jan. 20, 2012. Last fall, he was arrested in Barnstable on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol after refusing to take a breathalyzer test.
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