UFC’s Rising Featherweight Star Diego Lopes Defeats Dan Ige

Diego Lopes continues his winning ways…

The 29-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and rising featherweight star defeated last-minute opponent Dan Ige by unanimous decision on Saturday (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), the culmination of a co-main event that had to be reworked four different times.

Diego LopezLopes grabbed a decisive advantage with a strong first and second round, but Ige made a valiant effort in the third, catching the Brazilian with a number of hard blows and winning the round.

The fight was only made possible when Ige stepped in on the shortest of notices to replace Brian Ortega in the co-main.

Ortega, who himself wasn’t part of the card until June 13, was officially announced to be withdrawing during the preliminary card due to an illness that gave him a fever of 103 degrees, leaving the UFC to turn to Ige to face Lopes and save the card.

The fight, which was held as a 165-pound catchweight, was only possible because Ige was already scheduled to fight in Las Vegas in three weeks.

Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Jeff Mullen told ESPN that Ige’s medicals being up to date in the system allowed the body to legally approve the bout.

It’s hard to think of a fight set up at a later minute in UFC history. Ige told ESPN he was getting a massage when he started getting calls from UFC executive Hunter Campbell, manager Ali Abdelaziz and more

“Eight weeks, six weeks, four weeks, four hours. It doesn’t matter. This is what I live for. This is my dream. I get to wake up and do what I love. I was literally getting a massage and I had a call from Hunter, Ali and a bunch of people. They say ‘Hey, do you want to fight tonight?’ I was like ‘Man, this is an opportunity to become a legend.’ This is a story that I want to tell my grandkids.

“I couldn’t be happier with my performance.”

The loss can hardly be held against Ige, who likely earned as many points with UFC president Dana White as you possibly can just by showing up to the arena. The gate for the event was $15.9 million, fourth-highest in UFC history.

The experience was no easy journey for Lopes either, who was initially supposed to face Ortega in a featherweight bout before the veteran requested it be moved up to lightweight. Then a new opponent stepped in and made it 165. Just like Ige, Lopes said the chaos didn’t matter through an interpreter:

“Whomever, whenever, however, it doesn’t matter. I’ll fight anybody. I thought ‘Hey, 145.’ Then I got the news at 4 o’clock in the morning ’It’s going to be 155.’ And then today, 4 p.m., I found out that this fight was changing. It doesn’t matter.”

Now, both fighters have maximum brownie points with the UFC, and both said they wanted to use them to join the UFC 306 card at The Sphere in September.

Alex Pereira Retains UFC Light Heavyweight Title with First Round Knockout of Jamahal Hill

Alex Pereira is keeping his title…

The 36-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and former kickboxer knocked out former champ Jamahal Hill on Saturday to retain the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 300 — one of the biggest events in promotion history — at T-Mobile Arena.

Alex Pereira, The finish came at 3 minutes, 14 seconds of the first round after one of Pereira’s trademark left hooks.

The finish will live on highlight reels forever.

Hill kicked Pereira low, prompting referee Herb Dean to step in and try to pause the fight. Pereira held up his right hand, stopping the official from intervening. Pereira then blasted Hill with the left hook and followed with violent punches on the ground.

“I was gauging the distance and timing,” Pereira said through an interpreter. “Everything went perfect.”

Pereira said the groin kick hurt him a little, but he was just starting to figure out that distance and didn’t want to have to reset if the bout was paused. UFC CEO Dana White lauded Pereira not only for the performance but also the style points he gained for how it ended.

“He got hit in the groin,” White said. “He was like, ‘Nuh uh,’ [to Dean] and then knocks [Hill] out. … That was incredibly gangster.”

Pereira landed 24 of 30 significant strikes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

He has landed 63% of his significant strikes in UFC, which is the fourth-best mark in the promotion’s history. Pereira has eight knockouts in 10 career wins.

Hill relinquished the title last summer after rupturing his left Achilles tendon in a pickup basketball game. Pereira won the vacant belt by knocking out former champ Jiří Procházka in November at UFC 295 in New York.

Coming in, ESPN had Pereira ranked No. 3 in its pound-for-pound rankings.

Afterward, Pereira said he wanted to get right back in the Octagon and fight at UFC 301 on May 4 in his native Brazil. Pereira said he would like to do so at heavyweight, which would be his third weight class in UFC.

“I want this fight,” Pereira said. “I’m not hurt. Nothing happened.”

That wasn’t completely true. White said Pereira suffered a broken toe while training for the fight.

“I had to just push through,” Pereira said.

White said Pereira should probably pump the brakes on a move up in weight.

“The heavyweight division is nasty,” White said. “I don’t know if that’s the right move for him. He looked damn good tonight in the division he’s in.”

Pereira (10-2) is the quickest fighter to win two UFC titles in two divisions (seven fights). The Connecticut resident knocked out Israel Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight title in 2022 before dropping the title back to Adesanya last year.

Pereira is a former two-division champion in Glory Kickboxing and a Hall of Famer in that promotion.

Hill (12-1, 1 NC) had won four straight coming in. The Chicago native, who fights out of Michigan, beat Glover Teixeira, Pereira’s coach and training partner, to win the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 283 in January 2023. Hill, 32, was the first Dana White’s Contender Series alum to win a UFC championship.

“I don’t let this belt go to my head,” Pereira said. “I have to go in here and win this belt every time to be champion.”

Taila Santos Signs Exclusive Deal with Professional Fighters League

Taila Santos is switching leagues…

The 30-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and former UFC title challenger has signed an exclusive deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

Taila SantosOfficials haven’t formally announced the deal, but ESPN sources confirmed the news after an initial report by OCP News on Friday. 

Santos (19-3) signed with the UFC after earning a deal on Dana White‘s Contender Series in 2018. She went 4-1 in her first five appearances, including wins over notable names like Molly McCannRoxanne Modafferi and Joanne Wood.

She challenged Valentina Shevchenko for the 125-pound championship in 2022, and nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history in a split-decision loss.

She made her last UFC appearance against Erin Blanchfield in August, losing by decision.

The PFL will promote a women’s flyweight division for the first time in its regular-season history. The division will debut on April 4 in San Antonio.

Alex Pereira to Defend His UFC Light Heavyweight Title Against Jamahal Hill at UFC 300

Alex Pereira is going on the defensive…

The 36-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and former kickboxer will defend his UFC light heavyweight title against former champion Jamahal Hill in the UFC 300 headliner on April 13 in Las Vegas, UFC CEO Dana White has announced.

Alex Pereira ESPN has Pereira ranked No. 7 on its pound-for-pound list.

Pereira (9-2) is the former UFC middleweight champion, and he was the quickest to win two divisional titles in UFC history (seven fights).

The Brazilian knockout artist stopped Jiri Prochazka via TKO to win the 205-pound belt at UFC 295 in November. Pereira knocked out Israel Adesanya in November 2022 to win the middleweight title before dropping the belt back to Adesanya in April.

Hill (12-1, 1 NC) has been out due to a torn Achilles tendon. He never lost the light heavyweight title but relinquished the belt last summer due to the injury. Hill, a 32-year-old Chicago native, has won four straight, and he beat Glover Teixeira to win the title in January 2023.

Pereira vs. Hill is the third title fight added to the card. Justin Gaethje will put his BMF belt on the line against Max Holloway, and Zhang Weili will defend the UFC women’s strawweight title against Yan Xiaonan.

Deiveson Figueiredo to Fight Cody Garbrandt at UFC 300

Deiveson Figueiredo is heading back to the Octagon.

The 36-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist, a former two-time UFC flyweight champion, will fight former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt at UFC 300.

Deiveson FigueiredoThe bantamweight matchup will take place on April 13 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, UFC CEO Dana White has announced.

Garbrandt (14-5) publicly called out Figueiredo after his knockout of Brian Kelleher at UFC 296 last month.

The two were supposed to fight for Figueiredo’s 125-pound championship in 2020, but Garbrandt withdrew with an injured bicep.

Originally from Ohio and now fighting out of Las Vegas, Garbrandt has regained his footing at 135 pounds with back-to-back wins over Kelleher and Trevin Giles. It’s the first time he has won consecutive fights since 2016. He went 1-5 in six appearances from 2017 to 2022, during which he endured multiple injuries.

Figueiredo moved up to the 135-pound division for his latest fight, a unanimous decision over Rob Font last month. He had a notoriously difficult time making the 125-pound weight limit, and has already claimed a No. 8 rank at bantamweight.

The UFC has not yet announced a main event for UFC 300.

Charles Oliveira to Fight Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 300

Charles Oliveira has lined up his next opponent…

The 34-year-old  Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and third degree black belt Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, a former lightweight champion, will look to solidify himself as the division’s next title challenger against Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 300 in April, per UFC CEO Dana White.

Charles OliveiraThe UFC has not announced a main event for UFC 300, but White has teased that it will be one of the best lineups in recent years.

The addition of Oliveira and Tsarukyan is significant.

The winner of the 155-pound contest will face defending champion Islam Makhachev this summer, according to White.

Oliveira (34-9) was supposed to challenge Makhachev in October but was forced to withdraw from their scheduled bout at UFC 294 due to a cut suffered in training.

The Brazilian lost his title to Makhachev in October 2022, but then earned a rematch by knocking out Beneil Dariush in July. Despite his loss to Makhachev just two fights ago, Oliveira is still the No. 1-ranked lightweight contender, with previous title wins against Justin GaethjeDustin Poirier and Michael Chandler.

Tsarukyan (21-3) has been a sleeper of the lightweight division for years. Born in Armenia and fighting out of Russia, Tsarukyan is 8-2 in the UFC. He made his UFC debut against Makhachev on short notice in 2019 and lost by unanimous decision.

He’s been relatively dominant since, though, and is coming off a 64-second knockout of Dariush in a main event slot in December.

Makhachev (25-1) has stated publicly that he will defend his belt against anyone but would prefer to avoid rematches. The Dagestani champ fought twice in 2023, defeating featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski twice. It would appear he’s due for at least one more rematch in 2024, having already beaten Oliveira and Tsarukyan previously.

White is expected to announce more bouts for UFC 300 this week. Welterweight champion Leon Edwards has already announced he intends to defend his belt on the card, although the UFC has not made that official.

Alex Pereira Becomes Fastest MMA Fighter to Two Championships in UFC History

Alex Pereira is making swift championship moves…

The 36-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and former kickboxer has claimed the vacant UFC light heavyweight championship after stopping Jiri Prochazka via TKO at 4:08 of the second round on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden.

Alex Pereira,Pereira, who has been in the UFC for just two years, has now won championships in two weight classes.

Pereira is the ninth two-division champion in UFC history. He was previously the UFC middleweight champion earlier this year.

Pereira is the fastest to two championships in UFC history, doing it in just seven UFC fights. No other fighter has won titles at middleweight and light heavyweight.

“It’s incredible,” UFC CEO Dana White said in the post-fight news conference. “I don’t know about an all-time great [yet]. But it’s incredibly impressive what he’s done in a short amount of time.”

Pereira dropped Prochazka with a left hook with Pereira’s back against the cage. Prochazka was clearly hurt, and Pereira fell right into mount, landing punches and elbows in the process. Prochazka seemed to still be fighting back, but referee Marc Goddard stopped the bout. Some fans booed at the stoppage.

“I’m not surprised after the first left hook,” Pereira said in his post-fight interview. “He fell down on my legs, and I looked for the finish. I don’t think it was a bad stoppage.”

Prochazka said he agreed with the stoppage.

“I think it was right,” he said. “I was out. But you know, I will never stop.”

The UFC light heavyweight title has had a rough stretch since Jon Jones, the division’s all-time best fighter, voluntarily gave up the championship before moving to heavyweight. Perhaps Pereira will bring stability.

Prochazka vacated the belt in late 2022 due to a severe shoulder injury. Jamahal Hill then won it by beating Glover Teixeira in January. But Hill tore an Achilles tendon in July and had to relinquish the title.

ESPN had Pereira ranked No. 2 in the division coming into Saturday.

Afterward, Pereira called out Israel Adesanya to move up to light heavyweight and face him. Pereira and Adesanya have split their two meetings in the UFC, and Pereira has beaten him twice in kickboxing. It’s more likely Hill will be next for Pereira when Hill recovers.

Adesanya, who loss the middleweight title to Sean Strickland at UFC 293 in Australia, said last month that he is “not going to fight for a long time.”

“He doesn’t seem motivated and I think it’s a fight everybody would like to see,” Pereira said of Adesanya.

Pereira dropped Prochazka with a leg kick in the first round. Prochazka came back with a takedown late in the first and did some damage with elbows. Pereira continued to work the leg kicks in the second round, leading into the finish.

“He knew it. He kept kicking that leg,” White said. “And that leg was going to be a problem as the fight went on. The kicking power. The punching power. He moves like a middleweight. He’s pretty nasty.”

Pereira (9-2), a training partner of Teixeira, is the only fighter to headline back-to-back UFC cards at Madison Square Garden. The Brazilian-born fighter, who lives and trains in Connecticut, knocked out Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight title at MSG in November 2022.

Pereira is a former two-division Glory Kickboxing champion and was recently inducted into that promotion’s Hall of Fame. He is now 3-0 at MSG.

“It’s my house here now,” Pereira said of the Garden. “How do I get the key?”

Prochazka (29-4-1) had won 13 straight fights, including his first three in the UFC by finish. The Czech Republic native beat Teixeira to win the UFC light heavyweight title in June 2022. Prochazka, 31, is the former light heavyweight champion of Japan’s Rizin promotion.

Paulo Costa to Fight Undefeated Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 294

Paulo Costa is switching opponents…

The 32-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist will face undefeated Khamzat Chimaev in the Octagon at 185 pounds at UFC 294 on October 21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, UFC president Dana White has announced.

Paulo CostaCosta and Chimaev are two of the most popular fighters in the UFC middleweight division.

The card will be headlined by a lightweight title rematch between champion Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira. It’s unclear if the Chimaev-Costa bout will be the co-main event. 

Costa had been scheduled to fight Ikram Aliskerov at UFC 291 next week in Salt Lake City, but was pulled from that fight to face Chimaev. Aliskerov will now fight at UFC 294 against Nassourdine Imavov.

ESPN has Chimaev ranked No. 4 in the world at welterweight, while Costa is rated No. 7 at middleweight.

Chimaev (12-0) has not fought since September, a first-round submission of Kevin Holland at UFC 279. He missed weight before what would have been a fight with Nate Diaz on that card before being given Holland as a replacement.

The Chechen-born fighter is 6-0 in the UFC with five finishes. Chimaev, 29, holds the UFC modern record for the fastest three-fight winning streak (66 days).

Costa (14-2) is coming off a unanimous decision over Luke Rockhold at UFC 278 in August 2022. The Brazilian fighter snapped a two-fight losing streak with that victory. Costa has won six of his eight UFC fights with the lone losses coming to Marvin Vettori and champion Israel Adesanya in a title fight.

Charles Oliveira to Fight UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev in Highly Anticipated Rematch

Charles Oliveira is hoping to return to the champion’s circle…

UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev will defend his belt against the 33-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and 3rd degree black belt Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, a former UFC lightweight champion.

Charles OliveiraThe rematch between Oliveira and Makhachev will be the main event of UFC 294 on October 21 in Abu Dhabi, UFC president Dana White revealed.

ESPN has Makhachev ranked No. 2 in the world pound-for-pound and Oliveira at No. 6. The two fought last October at UFC 280 with Makhachev submitting Oliveira in the second round to win the then-vacant UFC lightweight title.

Makhachev (24-1) is coming off a unanimous-decision win over featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 back in February. The Dagestan native has won 12 straight fights, all in the UFC.

Makhachev, 31, is the longtime training partner and student of former longtime lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Oliveira (34-9, 1 NC) beat Beneil Dariush via first-round TKO at UFC 289 last month to set up the rematch. The Brazilian-born fighter won the lightweight title in May 2021, beating Michael Chandler. But he missed weight in May 2022 before a fight with Justin Gaethje and was stripped of the belt.

Oliveira has the most finishes (20) and submission wins (16) in UFC history.

There had been speculation that Makhachev could face Volkanovski in an immediate rematch following Volkanovski’s dominant title defense against Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290 on July 8. But Oliveira had been the UFC’s top choice for this fight after running through Dariush last month.

Alexandre Pantoja Defeats Brandon Moreno via Split Decision to Claim UFC Flyweight Belt

Alexandre Pantoja is officially a titleholder…

After five hard-fought rounds, the 33-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist (26-5) claimed Brandon Moreno‘s 125-pound championship, as he narrowly edged the defending champion via split decision in the co-main event of UFC 290 inside T-Mobile Arena.

Alexandre PantojaTwo of the judges scored the title fight 48-47 for Pantoja, while a third had it 49-46 in Moreno’s favor.

UFC president Dana White said afterward that Moreno suffered a broken hand in the first round.

Saturday’s bout officially marked Pantoja’s second win over Moreno (21-7-2), although it’s really his third.

Pantoja submitted Moreno in a bout on The Ultimate Fighter reality show in 2016, but that result didn’t count toward their professional records as it took place as part of the show. They fought again in 2018, with Pantoja claiming a unanimous decision.

Saturday’s contest was the closest and most skilled to date.

“Moreno evolved so much,” Pantoja said. “I don’t expect a tough guy like that tonight, but I worked so hard for this. The last two years, I worked so hard, bringing my family to the U.S. [from Brazil] and my camp to American Top Team. … Guys, if you know my story, you’re gonna love me. I’ve worked so hard for that.”

The final numbers of the fight reflected just how close it was. According to UFC Stats, Moreno slightly outlanded Pantoja 167-161 in total strikes. Pantoja did better work on the ground, however. He took Moreno’s back multiple times and racked up more than eight minutes of control time. Moreno proved to be very tricky to hold down, but Pantoja maintained slightly dominant positions in crucial moments, which might have proved key on the scorecards.

Pantoja also dropped Moreno in the opening round with a nasty left hook. Moreno, 29, recovered quickly and never appeared close to going out, but Pantoja hurt him again with another left hook later in the round. Moreno roared back in the second round behind arguably one of the best jabs in MMA. He doubled and tripled up the jab on Pantoja, occasionally ripping in left hooks to the body and head.

Moreno’s shots bloodied Pantoja’s forehead and nose by the third round, but Pantoja’s takedowns, work in the clinch and body shots of his own all made for strong answers to Moreno’s offense. The pace of the fight finally slowed a little in the fourth and fifth rounds when Pantoja worked his way into threatening grappling positions and Moreno was forced into a bit of caution.

The victory snaps a two-fight streak in title fights for Moreno, who is from Tijuana, Mexico.

Earlier this year, he closed out a very rare four-fight rivalry against another Brazilian in Deiveson Figueiredo. Moreno unified the flyweight belt by finishing Figueiredo in the third round of their final meeting in January, but now surrenders the belt in his first attempted defense.