After a long Labor Day weekend, a special Tuesday edition of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show set the tone for a massive week in the world of MMA.
Dominick Cruz, Paul Felder and Joanne Calderwood all checked in from Abu Dhabi ahead of UFC 242, but the biggest news of the day arrived just after 4 p.m. ET, as Bellator announced it had come to terms on a multi-year, multi-fight agreement with one of the hottest free agents in MMA, Cris Cyborg. Scott Coker joined Helwani to talk about the signing, as well as the upcoming Bellator men's featherweight Grand Prix and Ryan Bader's heavyweight title defense against Cheick Kongo on Saturday night.
Tony Ferguson made a return to the spotlight after a long absence, Carlos Condit discussed his upcoming fight against Mickey Gall, Darren Till talked about his move up in weight to face Kelvin Gastelum, and Kevin Lee checked in as well.
Oh, and it all started with the brand new UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili, checking in from China in the wee morning hours.
Here's the best from Tuesday's show.
Cyborg signs with Bellator
After an acrimonious split with the UFC, Cyborg had the chance to test out her market value and quickly landed with Bellator. No fights or dates have been set, but it's a multi-year, multi-fight agreement, according to Coker, that will also allow Cyborg to have a boxing fight.
Zhang ready to fight anyone, even Shevchenko
Zhang Weili had barely finished celebrating winning the strawweight belt on Saturday when the questions started coming: Who's next for the UFC's first champion from China?
Will Zhang defend against former champ Rose Namajunas? Will unbeaten Tatiana Suarez get the call? Or will it be the winner of next month's meeting between another ex-champ, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Michelle Waterson?
"I will fight with anyone who the UFC will arrange for me to fight," Zhang said through a translator during an appearance on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "Even with someone from other categories, I also can fight with them."
Was that a reference to women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko?
That would be quite the Asian superfight, with Shevchenko being from Kyrgyzstan.
Aside from looking ahead, Zhang also looked back at her title-winning bout against Jessica Andrade, particularly the 42-second finish of the aggressive Brazilian.
"I saw that other girls were running away from her when she was starting so aggressively," Zhang said. "And I decided to move in a different direction. I decided to not run away and to just respond to her punches and go forward."
And go forward she did, resulting in a huge advance for Chinese MMA.
Dominick Cruz pulls no punches with Henry Cejudo
Cruz reacts to Cejudo calling him out
Dominick Cruz tells Ariel Helwani he doesn't know what Henry Cejudo is doing and Cruz would love to "tune him up" in a fight.
Henry Cejudo has mentioned Dominick Cruz's name on a regular basis when talking about his next potential challenger, and during Cruz's appearance with Ariel Helwani on Tuesday, the former UFC and WEC bantamweight champion had a lot to say.
Cruz started with his observations of Cejudo when both were coming up in the amateur wrestling ranks in Arizona.
"This man has been catered to his entire life, because coaches his whole life have seen him as a super athlete, and so they always pulled him out from the masses and took care of him and coddled him and babied him," Cruz said. Cejudo came straight out of high school to the Olympic training center to compete in wrestling. "Straight out of high school, they locked him away and they threw him on the wrestling mats to win a gold medal. Henry Cejudo is the gold medal -- that's all he knows. So that's why you'll only hear from him [about] what he's earned. If you take away the gold medal, take away the UFC belts, what would you hear Henry Cejudo say that he is?"
When asked about whether or not he deserves to get a title shot after a three-year layoff, Cruz was quick to counter.
"Who says who deserves what, first of all? Who makes that rule?" Cruz asked. "And second of all, Nate Diaz just was out for three years, and I came back after three years and won a world title. Diaz came back and beat somebody after three years, too. Three years, what is that? That's a good rest.
"Here's an example: I was out for three years with injuries. USADA gave TJ Dillashaw a two-year ban for taking an illegal substance. What the heck is a two-year ban?" Cruz continued. "That's not even a punishment. You give me two years to just rest my body and relax and spend all the money that I made as a prizefighter while I was cheating? That's an easy way to come back.
"Now what I've gone through, you're dealing with rebuilding the body and chopping it down several times. I broke my ulna, then everything shrinks down because you can't train. My whole arm was just like one big bone; I had to rebuild all the atrophy. Then I blew out my shoulder, that sinks down to nothing and I had to rebuild all the muscle back in this, which I'm still doing, which should be back by the beginning of next year. When I really look at who's done what after long layoffs, I wrote the book on it."
Ferguson focuses on title fight vs. ... someone
Tony Ferguson knows what he wants. He's just not sure who he wants.
"Double knockout," he said when asked for a prediction on Saturday's UFC lightweight title fight between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champ Dustin Poirier. Ferguson, winner of 12 in a row, has been assured by the promotion that he's next in line, so it would stand to reason that he might have an opinion about the UFC 242 main event.
He offered more than one opinion, actually, during his appearance with Helwani. In keeping with his fighting style, Ferguson was all over the place.
"Fight Khabib in December?" he said, reacting to the champ's assertion that he wants to defend the belt again before the year is over. "Old boy has got to win first."
Moments later, however, Ferguson was singing a different tune about Saturday's fight. "Hopefully Dustin gets a piece of him and throws him on his back and puts him away," he said, "so we can have a good old American f---ing battle, a battle royale."
On one thing Ferguson did not waver: One half of the next UFC lightweight championship fight has to be "El Cucuy."
Ferguson: Conor is not my concern
Tony Ferguson tells Ariel Helwani that he no longer concerns himself with Conor McGregor because he believes he is irrelevant. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Felder recalls fallout from loss to Barboza
In July 2015, Paul Felder was riding high. He had a 10-0 professional record with two UFC wins in his pocket, and Felder was poised to show out in his first UFC main card fight against Edson Barboza.
A stray kick to the groin from Barboza early in the fight knocked Felder off his trajectory, and despite standing tough on the way to a close decision loss, Felder suffered the first loss of his career.
"I've made it very clear that there's no bad blood between me and Barboza, but the way we both fight is very violent and it's very aggressive," Felder said. "I want to get that one back, and I would feel really, really good about myself and where I stand as a lightweight fighter in this division if I can go in there and get that one back. That one in particular, because it was the first loss, it was definitely the hardest pill to swallow."
Then, in an impulsive moment, Felder elected to compound that decision by trying to immediately wipe the taste of that defeat out of his mouth.
"Unfortunately, I did it all wrong," Felder said. "I lost, and instead of taking time and adjusting things in my training camp and healing up properly, I decided I'm just going to jump right back in the cage and go fight Ross Pearson in four weeks. I remember taking an ice bath to get the swelling out of my legs, because I booked the fight with Ross and I still was limping when I took that fight. I still had bruises on my legs. I had gained probably 30 pounds already, eating and drinking beer, not thinking I was going to fight for months after that Edson fight.
"I was stupid and I wanted to avenge that loss right away and get back in there," Felder continued. "And I took that fight and then lost that one, too. I did just about the worst thing that you could do after taking your first loss like that."