UFC on FOX Press Conference

Leave Dana White alone! Please.

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Thanks, Jimmy, for putting this back on the menu. After all, what would we have done today if we didn’t have one of soccer’s ol’, chip-on-the-shoulder chestnuts to roast (only watch two of the most successful clubs in the world).

In case you hadn’t heard, MMA mogul Dana White isn’t a fan of soccer. If you hadn’t heard, you might not be that big a fan of soccer either, because brows were mightily furrowed last week when White’s views his the Twit-a-Blog-o-verse-a-`book.

White is one of the most successful men in modern sport. He’s helped the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)  squash its competition and become one of the most sought-after properties in the world. His accomplishments put him in the Mark Cuban-esque realm of modern sports executives, a description which may actually undersell what he’s achieved. White is truly unique.

One place where he is not unique, however, is in his view of soccer. Calling it “the least-talented sport on Earth” and asking “how untalented [do] you have to be to score three times when the net is that big,” White echoed the views we’ve heard over and over again. Soccer sucks.

If anything, White’s comments were tame, especially when we’ve become used to hearing far worse (link to utter train wreck). He didn’t use sexist language to characterize the sport. He didn’t use the words “sissy” or “cheater”. He doesn’t wrap it in red scare or break out xenophobic language. He, basically, said he didn’t appreciate soccer.

Full disclosure: I don’t appreciate NASCAR. I don’t appreciate cricket or a myriad of other sports that are really popular and have obvious virtues. I don’t appreciate golf or baseball, and I used to be good at those. And if you catch me at the wrong time and have a microphone (and prep me with a few beers), you can get me to say some hyperbolic stuff about those games. Of course, I’m not Dana White.

But beyond White’s celebrity, why is this a big deal? Well, we’re tired of hearing it, for one. It’s old and tired and unimaginative and really, if you can’t find a better way to say something that could have just as easily come out of your dad’s mouth, you don’t have much to contribute. All you’re doing is trolling a thread where the original post is over 100 years old. Good job.

We’re also tired media outlets being (seemingly) reticent to embrace soccer, and since we’re seeing MMA on our televisions more and more (be it on CBS, FOX, FX, or more exotic sources), there’s the subtext of mixed martial arts filling space created by baseball’s wane – space that could otherwise go to soccer. That White is the obvious face of MMA only helps us put two and two together.

But if you watch the video of his comments (some of which is in the clip, below), White isn’t at a podium giving some kind of UFC State of the Union on the organization’s soccer platform. He’s a guy – clearly sitting around a bunch of people who are more than willing to laugh at his jokes – that gives an opinion. It’s not a new opinion. It’s not put in a new context. It’s the same opinion that we’ve not only heard for years but one to which Dana White should be entitled.

Soccer doesn’t need to convert Dana White. Soccer is doing fine. It is, after all, the world’s most popular sport, even if it’s not the most popular sport here. Soccer has nothing to prove, and we certainly shouldn’t get our feelings hurt when Dana White doesn’t share our zeal. I never liked sharing my toys, anyway.

All of which is why I can’t get on board with latest offering from Jimmy Conrad at Kick TV:

First, props to Conrad for keeping the message largely positive, even if he’s calling a guy out. I wish I could always be as good-spirited about things.

But if I’m going to call White’s message unimaginative, I have to look at Conrad’s in the same light. Conrad’s comeback to the MMA mogul is, essentially, challenging White to a game. It’s the quarterback sneak of imaginative responses. Calling it an open letter doesn’t help, either. I think we’ve run the gambit on internet open letters (it’s the internet – everything’s an open letter).

Credit to White who – in a subtle backpedal from last week’s kerfuffle – happily embraced Conrad’s challenge, telling him on Twitter, “I’m in bro!!!” Three exclamation points, bro. That’s practically a signature on the USS Missouri.

But why the need for the challenge in the first place? Or, why the need to stir this up again, one week after boxers were bunched? And who really cares of White can play soccer? If he’s terrible, turns around and says, “Wow, you soccer guys really proved something to me,” does it mean anything? Not one person is going to say “well, Dana likes it, so I’ll give it a try,” in the same way not one person heard White’s original comments and said “oh, man. I guess can’t like soccer anymore.”

Dana White doesn’t like soccer. I’m OK with that, and in truth, I’m also OK with Jimmy Conrad getting an interesting video out of the material.

But for the rest of us, let’s just get used to it: Some people don’t like soccer. I’m sure we’ll be fine. We don’t need to blog it into the ground, and our Twitter timelines are better served talking about Mad Men’s return …

Or soccer. Leave Dana White alone.

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.