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The Weekly Takedown: Jorge Masvidal claims innocence in alleged attack on Colby Covington

Leading up to Friday's Ikon FC 3, Masvidal shared his thoughts on a potential trial and the reason behind the delay in setting up a bout against Conor McGregor.
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Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated's in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Jorge Masvidal's Ikon Fighting Championship takes center stage Friday night, presenting a slate of bouts at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond. Ikon FC 3 will stream live on UFC Fight Pass, and it marks Masvidal's third MMA card.

But the focal point is not the fight card. The attention is centered squarely on Masvidal, who was arrested in March after on suspicion of punching Colby Covington twice in the face outside a restaurant in Miami. The trial date is set for Aug. 29, with a pretrial hearing Aug. 17 to determine whether the parties are prepared to take this all the way to trial.

Speaking in a careful manner ahead of a potential trial, Masvidal expresses optimism that his side of the story will eventually emerge.

"You can try to hide the light, but the light always shines through the darkness," Masvidal says. "I would love to answer all (your) questions relating to the topic, but I can't talk about it too much. I just did an interview where they bunched it all up together and made me say things out of context. So all I can say is that my faith is in God, and that I'm innocent."

Despite this appearing to be a case that favors the prosecution, Masvidal maintains that he will be found not guilty once all the facts are revealed.

"I am part of the justice system in Florida and I'm facing three felonies," Masvidal said. "But the truth is we're innocent until proven guilty. And I'm as innocent as there's ever been a man."

Masvidal's immediate future revolves around this Friday. He is hoping his star power will place a brighter spotlight on fighters like Bo Nickal and Hamdy Abdelwahab, who each compete on the Ikon 3 card.

A decorated amateur wrestler, Nickal fights in a middleweight bout against John Conner. Abdelwahab is another candidate to put on the performance of the night, as he meets fellow heavyweight Matt Kovacs.

"If you like fighting, you're seeing guys that are the future of this sport," Masvidal says. "As our sport shifts to guys that can grapple really well, or jiujitsu guys that can keep you up against the fence or put you in awkward spots, we have something different. Hamdi loves to knock people out. He knows how to wrestle too, but he wants to break your face.

"And Bo is a submission machine. He's going to be the kryptonite to the wrestlers who just want to hold you down. He's going to tear them apart. These are two guys that want to fight, and people have the chance to witness their whole journey."

Amid all the chaos in Masvidal's life, he has always found solace in and around the cage. That has certainly been the case over these past few months with his promotion, where he has tapped into the lessons learned while fighting professionally for nearly two decades.

"I'm learning every day," Masvidal says. "My goal is for my fighters to get more exposure and notoriety. I learned a lot from being in this sport over the past 20 years, and I know how amazing the fight game is but also how fragile it can be. The fight game is insane. It's a f-cking rollercoaster, but I love it.

"The next time I see Dana (White), maybe I'll ask him a few things. But I love this, and I have a plan. I want to showcase the regional guys and get a consistent batch of great fighters coming through my promotion."

A return to the cage is inevitable for Masvidal (35-16 MMA, 12-9 UFC). He still holds the ceremonial BMF title, and he was asked about defending it in a fight against Conor McGregor. The two have been trading insults on social media, with McGregor (22-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) referring to Masvidal as a "pigeon brain," and Masvidal returning in kind.

A Masvidal-McGregor bout would be major box office, and Masvidal claims there is only one reason it has yet to be signed.

"It's because of that little b-tch Conor," Masvidal says. "The UFC knows this is a cash cow. We'd break records in UFC, and we'd break records for ESPN. It's a no-brainer. But every time it's been offered to Conor, he's said no every time, except one time when he said he'd fight me if I came down to (155). What the f-ck is he talking about? I haven't been at that weight in years.

"He wants to keep his name relevant, but as far as fighting goes, no one gives a f-ck about this dude. Does he want to fight or not? He knows it's going to be straight striking with me. I'm going to knock him out, and that's going to look terrible for his brand. He just doesn't want to get in there with someone who'll kick his ass in the standup, and he knows he's not going to get inside my head. That's a problem for him."

Despite an ongoing flood of controversy over the past few months, Masvidal still has an extremely loyal fan base. And he believes fight fans will be heavily invested in the card he has assembled for this Friday.

"I want to bring as much attention as I can to my fighters," said Masvidal. "I'll do things just to bring eyes to them, and I'm so honored to give them this platform. This is their night to knock someone out and have the spotlight."

ATT's Dan Lambert on mixing MMA and pro wrestling: 'There are a lot more similarities between the businesses than most people realize'

American Top Team owner Dan Lambert continues to thrive in MMA, building one of the most successful gyms in the entire sport. Lambert is also making his mark in All Elite Wrestling, welcoming Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page into the ATT brand as he flourishes as an old-school, villainous manager.

A fan since the late 70's, Lambert was a presence at every house show that came through South Florida throughout his childhood. He was naturally inclined to follow the heels, so it is hardly a surprise to learn that his favorites were Arn Anderson, Roddy Piper, Barry Windham, Dick Slater, and Terry Funk. Lambert is also a collector, amassing a throng of ring used belts.

"I have about 100 of them dating back to the 1950s," Lambert said. "I have belts from just about any territory you can name."

AEW isn't Lambert's first foray into pro wrestling. He also had runs in Impact Wrestling and Major League Wrestling, but never had a platform as wide-reaching for his ATT stars as he does right now in AEW. Lambert is currently managing Paige VanZant, and he has also introduced Masvidal, Junior Dos Santos, Kayla Harrison and Andrei Arlovski to the pro wrestling community.

Despite a natural divide between MMA and pro wrestling, Lambert sees endless common ground between the two.

"There's a vocal minority of people in MMA who hate pro wrestling, and in pro wrestling who hate MMA – fans and wrestlers and fighters included," Lambert said. "But I've found there's a lot more who like and respect both. There are a lot more similarities between the businesses than most people realize."

Lambert is also focused on his fighters' pursuit of excellence in MMA. He extended his support for ATT's Masvidal, who is promoting his Ikon card Friday on UFC Fight Pass amid the controversy stemming from his legal battles with Covington.

"Life goes on," Lambert said. "Should he stop living and trying to earn money because he got arrested for getting into a fight? Doesn't seem like a big deal to me. Will Smith didn't even get kicked out of the show for doing the same thing. At least Colby deserved it."

Lambert added that there is potential for more crossover between MMA and pro wrestling, particularly with a vision that sees endless opportunity.

"Lots of fighters have expressed interest in pro wrestling, so I'd expect to see some more crossovers," Lambert said. "ATT is in the business of training people to win fights. Nothing more, nothing less. And we plan to keep doing that until we are too old to get ourselves to the gym."

The Pick 'Em Section:

UFC Fight Night main event: Alexander Volkov vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

  • Pick: Jairzinho Rozenstruik

UFC Fight Night featherweight bout: Dan Ige vs. Movsar Evloev

  • Pick: Movsar Evloev

UFC Fight Night women's flyweight bout: Poliana Botelho vs. Karine Silva

  • Pick: Poliana Botelho

UFC Fight Night light heavyweight bout: Alonzo Menifield vs. Askar Mozharov

  • Pick: Alonzo Menifield

UFC Fight Night women's strawweight bout: Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

  • Pick: Karolina Kowalkiewicz

2022 record: 62-32

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.