Conor McGregor returned to the octagon in style at UFC 246 as he beat American fan favourite Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in just 40 seconds in Las Vegas. Irishman McGregor, 31, came out on top after one of the most spectacular performances of his career. Two of UFC’s most popular fighters went toe to toe in the main event at the T-Mobile Arena.
Nigeria international Henry Onyekuru will finally be able to make his second debut for Turkish club Galatasaray this month after receiving a playing license. The 22-year-old returned for a second loan spell at the Super Lig champions two weeks ago from French club Monaco, but his quest to get in the thick of the action was hit by an administrative problem and a bout of malaria. Galatasaray, who could not obtain a playing license for Onyekuru due to its tax debt problem in Turkey, has finally registered the Nigerian.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says moving the Africa Cup of Nations back to January is, for Liverpool, a catastrophe. The 2021 tournament has been moved from the summer because of unfavourable weather in host country Cameroon. And the Reds face losing Senegal forward Sadio Mane, Egypt winger Mohamed Salah and Guinea midfielder Naby Keita for a month in mid-season.
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will start on 9 January after its dates were moved, hosts Cameroon have announced. The tournament was scheduled to take place in June and July but was changed because of the unfavourable weather in the country at that time of year. It means a number of Premier League clubs could be without first-team players at a crucial stage of the season. The 2019 tournament in Egypt was the first one to be held in the summer. Before that, the Cup of Nations had been held in January and February, clashing with the European domestic season. June and July in Cameroon are during the country’s rainy season.
Xavi says he turned down the offer to manage his former club Barcelona last week because the opportunity came “too early” in his coaching career. The former Spain midfielder has been Al Sadd’s boss since his playing career ended with the Qatari club in May.
Former Chelsea and Juventus striker Eniola Aluko, who won more than 100 England caps, has retired. Aluko, 32, left Juventus in December after nearly 18 months with the Serie A champions and had been tipped to return to the Women’s Super League. She was also part of the Great Britain team at the London 2012 Olympics. “I made the decision about six months ago,” she said. “I’ve taken time out to see if I missed football and training – but that hasn’t been the case.”
Barcelona have sacked coach Ernesto Valverde and replaced him with former Real Betis coach Quique Setien. Valverde, 55, helped the club to two successive La Liga titles and lead on goal difference this season. However, the Catalan side have produced a series of unconvincing displays under his leadership and have failed to reach the Champions League final.
Badminton’s world number one Kento Momota has been injured in a fatal crash in Malaysia. Japan’s Momota, 25, was travelling in a van with three members of his support team when it collided with a truck. The driver of the van was killed but it is understood no-one else suffered serious injury.
The Kansas City Chiefs staged a thrilling comeback from 24-0 down to beat the Houston Texans 51-31 and advance to the AFC Championship game. Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes threw for four touchdowns in the second quarter to overhaul the Texans’ early lead. Kansas City scored 41 unanswered points and dominated the second half. The second seeds now host the Tennessee Titans, who beat the Baltimore Ravens in the other AFC divisional game, for a place at Super Bowl 54.
Sergio Ramos scored the decisive spot-kick as Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 4-1 on penalties to win the Spanish Super Cup. The Real captain sent Jan Oblak the wrong way to secure the trophy after a goalless 120 minutes in Saudi Arabia. Saul Niguez and Thomas Partey missed their penalties for Atletico.
Iran’s only female Olympic medallist, Kimia Alizadeh, says she has defected. Alizadeh, 21, posted on social media that she had left Iran because she didn’t want to be part of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery”. She described herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran”. Alizadeh did not say where she was, amid reports that she has been training in the Netherlands. She made history for Iran in 2016 when she won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Rio Olympics.
Serena Williams won her first title in three years and first since becoming a mother with victory over Jessica Pegula at the Auckland Classic. The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion beat her fellow American 6-3 6-4. It is the 38-year-old’s first singles title since she won the Australian Open in 2017 and her 73rd WTA title overall.
US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has withdrawn from the Australian Open in Melbourne as she continues her recovery from a knee injury. The Canadian, ranked sixth in the world, picked up the injury at the season-ending WTA Finals in October. Andreescu beat Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows in September to win her maiden Grand Slam title.
Malaga have sacked head coach Victor Sanchez four days after he was suspended following the publication of an explicit video of the 43-year-old on social media. The Spanish second-tier side said Sanchez had been dismissed for “disciplinary reasons”, adding that they had been unable to agree terms on a mutual termination of his contract. “Malaga took this decision in consideration of the serious harm the recent non-sporting events have done to the club,” a club statement added.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has confirmed its interest in hosting the 2020 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad told the French radio station RFI that Equatorial Guinea are also interested in hosting the event. CAF is in a race to find a host for the finals after Congo-Brazaville pulled out of the hosting of the 12-team event last year.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic said scoring his first goal for AC Milan since rejoining the club made him “feel alive” as his side eased past Cagliari in Serie A. Rafael Leao had given the Rossoneri the lead just after half-time before Ibrahimovic, starting for the first time since his return, doubled their advantage with a left-footed strike. The former LA Galaxy and Sweden striker had another goal ruled out for offside. “I’ll celebrate like a God at San Siro, not here,” Ibrahimovic said.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane has been ruled out until April after the club said he needs surgery on a hamstring injury. Kane, 26, suffered the injury during Tottenham’s defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day. No timescale was originally given on the England captain’s return but Spurs now say specialists have advised surgery is required. He will return to training in April, two months before Euro 2020 begins.
Lazio have been fined 20,000 euros for their fans’ racist abuse of Brescia striker Mario Balotelli. Sunday’s Serie A match was temporarily halted and a stadium announcement made during the game urging away fans not to sing discriminatory songs to Balotelli. Balotelli, 29, later said the fans should be ashamed of themselves.
Nigeria and Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala was named the African Women’s Player of the Year 2019 ahead of Valerenga and Cameroon forward Ajara Nchout and Beijing BG Phoenix and South Africa forward Thembi Kgatlana. Cameroon, who lost 3-0 to England in the last 16 of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, picked up the prize for African Women’s National Team of the Year.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane has been named the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) Player of the Year. The Senegal forward beat Liverpool team-mate and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah and Manchester City’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez to the award. Mane, 27, helped the Reds to the 2018-19 Champions League title, scoring 30 goals in all competitions last season.