Jared Cannonier says UFC middleweight division similar to a circus: ‘Queue the clown music’

The upper echelon of the UFC’s middleweight division is a bit hectic right now, and Jared Cannonier feels that, being smack-dab in the middle of it.

Ahead of his UFC on ESPN 57 main event bout on Saturday, Cannonier (17-6 MMA, 10-6 UFC) admits the matchup vs. Nassourdine Imavov (13-4 MMA, 5-2 UFC) didn’t enthuse him when offered. However, with all of the other contenders matched up, it’s just what the state of the division had available.

What’s at stake, though, beyond a bounce-back fight from injury? Cannonier isn’t sure. With Sean Strickland coming off a win, Dricus Du Plessis likely to face Israel Adesanya yet, and a matchup between Robert Whittaker and Khamzat Chimaev impending, Cannonier doesn’t know what the future holds beyond the event Saturday at KFC Yum! Center in Lousiville, Ky.

“It’s a circus out there,” Cannonier told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “… Adesanya vs. Dricus. Sean Strickland has a good point when it comes to making that matchup. I think Sean deserves that rematch more than Whittaker deserves the matchup. But we all know why they’re doing it. Like I said, it’s a circus out there. Queue the clown music. Bring in the crowds with their peanuts and their popcorn, so they can have a good time. But I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not really spending too much time or energy thinking about what can happen. All I know is I’m going to be here, in shape, ready to whoop some ass. Whatever happens, wherever the chips may fall, I’ll be there to pick up the winnings.”

Days prior to his injury, Cannonier was booked against Roman Dolize, who was rising up the middleweight ranks. Then toward the end of his knee surgery recovery, he was offered Paulo Costa, but wasn’t physically ready to accept. The timeline of his return made Imavov the best viable option.

“When the time came (for me to book a fight), I was hoping maybe for a rematch with Strickland, maybe a rematch with Whittaker, a title fight, something better than a No. 8-ranked guy,” Cannonier said. “But these crumbs was all they had left for me. Instead of sitting on the shelf, I’m not inclined to waiting and stuff like that.

“So I took this fight, and I’m going to go in there and have another great performance, potentially a record-breaking performance, potentially another Fight of the Night or Performance of the Night performance, and keep marching forward toward that title because that’s the whole goal. I’m going to keep whooping these guys until there’s nobody else to whoop, and they have no choice to put that champ in front of me.”

Regardless of opponent, Cannonier is chomping at the bit for a fight. He tore his right MCL in October and subsequently had surgery. The recovery went smoothly, according to Cannonier, who has not competed since June 2023.

“I’m ready to go and get my hands on this man,” Cannonier said. “It would be almost a year by the time I get back in the octagon. I’m ready to get back in there and get back to work, put the work in and get back to what I started in my last fight: more pressure, more intensity, more output. We’ll see if he can last 241 strikes. I’m going in there and putting it on him. I’m going to do it even better than last time.”

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie