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John Lineker won't issue callouts or pick dates, but he'll be on stand-by for Cruz-Rivera UFC 219 fight

SAO PAULO – When it comes to the “who’s ducking who” battle between John Lineker and Bryan Caraway, it seems the two might just have to agree to disagree.

On Saturday, Lineker ended an octagon layoff with a unanimous-decision win over Marlon Vera (10-4-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 119. The display put Lineker (30-8 MMA, 11-3 UFC) back on track after a loss to ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw, but not everyone was impressed. That much was clear immediately when Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) took to Twitter to throw a jab his way.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Lineker chuckled at Caraway’s comments that he was the one doing the running.

“I asked. I said, ‘I’ll fight you tomorrow,'” Lineker said. “But he wanted to pick the date. I said, ‘Let’s fight in Brazil. I’m ready. You’re the one picking dates.’ I’m a fighter. I’ll fight whomever wants to fight me. Whomever the UFC wants to. He’s the one who chickened out, not me.”

While Lineker won’t really call out Caraway, he left himself open should his Twitter foe want the fight. But even if that were to happen, there would be some waiting as Caraway is already set to meet Luke Sanders in Fresno on Dec. 9.

On his end, after an injured jaw forced him into a hiatus, “Hands of Stone” wants to reclaim momentum by staying active. Which makes sense considering that, other than the toughness that the “incredible” Vera brought, Lineker believes that the lack of rhythm might’ve contributed to display that “wasn’t one of my best.”

“I didn’t think I would feel it,” Lineker said. “But I did feel it after being away for 10 months.”

As he made it clear, Lineker will not go around picking opponents. In fact, while he’d be open to returning this year, he won’t even make a case for a specific card. But as he looks to get back in the title picture, he’s not about to pass up on opportunities either.

“I’m keeping an eye on the fight between Jimmie Rivera and Dominick Cruz (at UFC 219, on Dec. 30),” Lineker said. “If any of them have to withdraw, UFC, I’m here. I’m on stand-by just waiting.”

Another possibility that would interest Lineker, should it ever happen, is welcoming flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson back into the bantamweight division. The idea of ending the long-running streak of one of the sport’s greatest ever would probably be enough incentive for any fighter, but in Lineker’s case it carries some added weight.

After all, not only did Lineker start his UFC career in the 125-pound division – he had a pretty solid run at it, too, beating six of the seven flyweights he came across. However, with the wins came another consistent issue for the Brazilian: making weight. So he moved up.

Despite being shorter than most of his competition, Lineker found a home at 135. And he has no plans of moving back down. But as he watches Johnson take out contender after contender, he admits he isn’t entirely at peace with the path he could’ve had.

“Every time (Johnson) fights and wins I get that bitter taste,” Lineker said. “That I could have fought him and be flyweight champion.”

As a bantamweight, Lineker feels better than he did in his previous division. He gets to train harder and channel his added strength into better training sessions. So, if Johnson is ever tempted enough to hang with the UFC bantamweights, Lineker thinks he’d make for a much more challenging competitor.

“If there was an opportunity to fight him, it’d be an incredible fight for sure,” Lineker said. “I’d give him a hard time – if not beat him.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 119, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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