Helwani's MMA Show: Adesanya on his dance; Dern on return as a mom

Israel Adesanya put his star power on display in Saturday's title-winning knockout -- and before and after it as well. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Monday's edition of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show featured two UFC champions, one of them crowned on Saturday night. Israel Adesanya became middleweight champ with a second-round knockout of Robert Whittaker, which was even more sensational than his inventive walkout. And men's featherweight titlist Max Holloway was on with Helwani to talk about his Dec. 14 defense against Alexander Volkanovski.

Check out a full replay of the show, as well as the biggest highlights, which follow.

Adesanya on dancing and eating pressure for breakfast

Adesanya knew the consequences of choreographing such an elaborate walkout dance for his UFC 243 main event, and it wasn't that he would get tired.

"If I didn't [win], if I came off like that, super confident, and didn't pull it off, I'm going to be the butt of all jokes. I'm going to be the laughingstock of the world," Adesanya said Monday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "I'm going to be on all these meme websites."

But if the dance put any pressure on Adesanya, the performance in the Octagon proved he enjoys the spotlight. Adesanya hurt Whittaker at the end of the first round and knocked him out in the second to unify the title and further establish his budding superstardom.

"And I said it all week: Pressure is an acquired taste, and I eat that s--- for breakfast," he said. "It's delicious."

Adesanya said he wanted to do a walkout dance before his UFC 234 fight against Anderson Silva, but the UFC refused. The New Zealand resident wouldn't be denied on Saturday as the biggest crowd in UFC history gathered in Melbourne, Australia.

"I was like, 'This is my f---ing show, it's a stadium show,'" Adesanya said. "There's going to be 50,000-plus. I'm going to do this my way or no way. I already knew I had to get this done my way or I'm not going to stay true to myself. It's not going to be me authentically expressing myself, so on Wednesday, I told [lifelong friends] Jesse and Jay, 'Let's get this done,' and we made it happen.

"It's cool that for me to launch into the cage, I have people who have known me for years who know [at] my core that I'm an entertainer, and they helped me set the tone and have fun."

And the results prove opponents don't want Adesanya to have fun.

"Like I said, when I'm having fun, I'm the best in the world," he said.

Adesanya's approach to this fight and his career in general has been tremendously entertaining, and so it should come as no surprise that Adesanya has studied entertainers such as The Rock and other professional wrestlers.

"The Rock was probably my favorite, him and John Cena, and Stone Cold," he said. "But The Rock was always the best. He made me laugh when he rapped on the mic and did his promos. He was always the one, the Brahman bull. ... I'm sure I've taken some stuff from The Rock over the years, seeing the way he works. And the way he takes over a crowd, his presence, his mic control. So, definitely things like that I soaked up as a kid. It's cool."

Holloway on Volkanovski, Hawaii ... and maybe McGregor

Max Holloway has a featherweight title defense on his dance card -- against Alexander Volkanovski on Dec. 14 in Las Vegas -- and also has his sights set on a couple of other things: a UFC fight at home in Hawaii and (maybe) a rematch against the last 145-pounder to beat him, Conor McGregor.

On Volkanovski: "He just beat the No. 1 contender in Jose Aldo. He went there and fought the King of Rio in Rio [de Janeiro], and pulled off that win. ... Alex presents a new challenge. ... I'm taller than the dude, but the dude's got longer reach. He has more power than me, and his pressure and stuff is another thing that I'm excited about. ... I can't wait for the challenge. In order to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, these are the kinds of guys you have to go through."

On Hawaii: "Everyone knows Hawaii has a rich tradition in martial arts, but we're not investing any money to show that right now. ... Stylebender [Israel Adesanya] fought this past weekend, and he talked about how he was sitting in the nosebleeds [at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia, in 2015] and now he's mainstage. I want to give some kid that. ... I want to be that guy that inspires the next generation. What are we here for? That's why I want to come home."

On McGregor, who has called out not just him but practically every main-event winner in the UFC in recent months: "I don't see that same focus [that made McGregor a champion]. If you're going after everything, you're not focused on anything. He called out like 20 guys in that interview [with Helwani]. Am I interested in the fight? Sure, Ariel. But I'm really not interested in competing with him if he's not at his best. And he doesn't seem healthy. He didn't sound right. If he comes back and he says, 'Hey, I beat Max when he was a kid, but I want to beat him in his prime to prove I'm the best ever,' then yeah, I want that champ, I want that 2015-2016 champ mentality and that focus. Right now it's just not interesting to me, you know?"


Dern details return from childbirth

After giving birth in June, Mackenzie Dern describes her journey back to fighting ahead of her bout on Saturday at UFC Fight Night.

Dern is back, four months after becoming a mom

Undefeated UFC strawweight Mackenzie Dern has not fought since May 2018. But she has a good excuse for her absence: Within four months of that win over Amanda Cooper, which ran the 26-year-old's record to 8-0, Dern was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter, Moa, on June 9.

Four months later, Dern is set to return to the Octagon on Saturday, facing Amanda Ribas in Tampa, Florida.

Too soon? The UFC thought so.

"The hardest part, honestly, was to get the UFC to let me fight," she told Helwani. "They were like, 'No, it's too soon. You can get injured.' ... But I was like, 'C'mon, guys, I can do it.'"

Dern was invited to the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas to have her weight monitored and tests performed. One concern was whether her breast feeding would be compromised by fight training and a weight cut. But Dern's own doctors back home in California signed off on her return.

Once Dern was back to training, she said, "Of course, the first couple of weeks, [I was] trying to punch and everything was slow and wiggling around. My body wasn't toned and everything. But it was the same as when I came back from knee surgery. ... I felt kind of like the same when I had my ACL surgery; it was four months, too, that I came back competing."

One thing that's different for Dern: her fan base. She said she lost around 20,000 fans on social media after she announced her pregnancy and stepped away from fighting. "And after Moa was born, I gained more than 20,000 back," she said. "I think it's a new, different kind of public. Maybe I have more moms following, or just people kind of inspired maybe by the story."

Cannonier finds clarity in crystals

Jared Cannonier has gone through a major transformation over the last few years, dropping from heavyweight down to light heavyweight and finally middleweight in the UFC -- and the results speak for themselves.

But in addition to his tremendous weight loss, Cannonier credits another major shift in perspective for putting him in the right head space to succeed in the UFC and in life. After discussing his positive trip to Denmark, and his victory there over Jack Hermansson, Cannonier discussed his approach to spirituality and the value he attributes to the use of crystals.

"There's a bunch of different things that it does, but I like to use it for clarity, to help cleanse and clear out my aura so I can think clearly, move and act clearly," Cannonier told Helwani, referring to a selenite crystal bracelet he was wearing.

Cannonier then pulled out a large silver sphere that he had brought with him to Denmark. "My favorite being, at this point in time, pyrite, the piece you saw me with over there," said Cannonier. "This one is a protection stone, helps with warding off negative energy, transforming negative energy into more positive energy. It also helps with will and courage, self-confidence, things of that nature. Wealth and abundance and prosperity are a few things I'd really like to expect from this."

Cannonier's push into spirituality instead of organized religion happened when he moved from Alaska to Phoenix, and it's been an intensely personal journey. "I got myself into this," Cannonier said of using crystals. "After moving down here, I had a lot of time to devote to myself. Just trying to find a better way to feel better about myself -- self-development, self-improvement, all of that stuff. I've really taken a liking to energy, chi, chakra, however you want to call it.

"Elevating my spirit -- feeling better spiritually -- is going to lead to a better mental disposition, which is going to translate to a better physical being."

Mike Tyson offers advice to Conor McGregor


Tyson offers advice to McGregor

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Tate talks about ONE's place in MMA

ONE Championship vice president (and former UFC women's bantamweight champion) Miesha Tate joined Helwani to talk about ONE Championship: Century, the promotion's 100th show and its first broadcast in prime time in the United States, which is on TNT on Oct. 13. Tate shared her thoughts on her long-term vision for MMA, and how she views ONE's place in the MMA ecosystem.

"I think there's plenty of room in the sea for many ships," said Tate. "I think there's lots of room for UFC to do their thing, and for ONE Championship to do their thing. It doesn't have to just be one top organization. I think there should be many. I think it's better for the athletes, I think it's better for the fighters to have more options. We've had Ben Askren cross over, we have [Demetrious Johnson] now with ONE Championship, Eddie Alvarez, Sage Northcutt. ... I just think it doesn't have to be a direct competition. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. We are all celebrating martial arts, and I think there's room for both."

Tito Ortiz on his MMA fight with former WWE star


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Tito Ortiz says he respects Alberto El Patron for calling him out, but that he's bitten off more than he can chew.

Hager on balancing Bellator and AEW pro wrestling

Jake Hager is less than three weeks away from his third professional MMA fight, but he still found the time to return to a familiar world last Wednesday.

In a week when former UFC champion Cain Velasquez and lineal heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury appeared on WWE TV, Hager might have made the biggest pro wrestling impact of any crossover star as he closed out the inaugural episode of All Elite Wrestling's Wednesday Night Dynamite on TNT by making a surprise appearance.

So how did Hager get involved with AEW, a newcomer into the pro wrestling space? Look no further than Chris Jericho, his former colleague in the WWE who also happens to train with the same guy -- Josh Rafferty -- in Tampa, Florida.

"The greatest wrestler in the world, Chris Jericho, started recruiting me heavily to come to AEW," Hager said, "And when Jericho comes calling, you don't say no."

Balance would seemingly be a major issue, with Hager set to fight Anthony Garrett at Bellator 231 on Oct. 25 at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. But as both the fight and his AEW debut drew near, it was simply a matter of shifting around his schedule.

"You just move your rest days around," he said. "We had rest days usually Saturday and Sunday, sometimes just Sunday, and so now we'll rest a little bit Wednesday and then the travel day home Thursday. We usually do a two-a-day Friday, and then a nice hard conditioning Saturday, hard wrestling Sunday, we just got done sparring today, and then we've got a lot of [jiu-]jitsu and a little bit of conditioning and lifting on Tuesday."