Thiago Santos Signs with Professional Fighters League

Thiago Santos is headed to the PFL

The 38-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and former UFC title challenger has signed an exclusive deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), according to promotion president Ray Sefo.

Thiago Santos Santos will make his PFL debut in 2023 when he competes in the promotion’s season format with a tournament championship purse of $1 million. Santos will fight in the 205-pound division.

“We are very excited to bring in Thiago Santos to the PFL light heavyweight division,” Sefo told ESPN. “He is known throughout the MMA world as a guy who delivers exciting fights, and I’m looking forward to seeing his elite knockout power up close.”

Santos most recently appeared in a UFC Fight Night main event against Jamahal Hill in August, losing via fourth-round TKO. Six of his past seven appearances in UFC were in main events, including a failed title shot against then-champion Jon Jones at UFC 239 in July 2019. Santos lost that fight via split decision.

He was nearing the end of his UFC contract, and the two sides ultimately decided to part ways. Santos had fought exclusively in UFC since 2013.

“It was an amicable separation with the UFC,” Santos’ manager Alex Davis told ESPN. “Thiago is very grateful for everything the UFC did for him, and he’s very grateful toward the PFL for signing with him. He’s looking forward to winning a million dollars.”

Fighting out of Brazil, Santos came close to dethroning Jones in their five-round title fight despite suffering a serious knee injury during the bout. He has struggled to regain his old form since the injury, suffering losses to Glover TeixeiraAleksandar RakicMagomed Ankalaev and Hill. Nevertheless, he was still ranked No. 9 in UFC’s light heavyweight division.

The 2022 PFL finals are in November. The light heavyweight final will feature two former UFC veterans in Robert Wilkinson and Omari Akhmedov.

Teofimo Lopez Defeats Pedro Campa by TKO

Teofimo Lopez is back in the winner’s circle…

The 25-year-old Honduran American boxer and former champion rebounded from his first pro defeat with a seventh-round TKO of Mexican journeyman Pedro Campa on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Teofimo LopezLopez floored Campa with an up jab in Round 7 before he pinned his foe on the ropes and unloaded with a flurry of overhand rights that prompted referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight at 2:14.

The Top Rank Boxing on ESPN main event was Lopez’s first ring action since a November loss to George Kambosos, in which he dropped four lightweight titles in ESPN‘s Upset of the Year.

The bout was also Lopez’s debut at junior welterweight, and early on, his power didn’t make its usual impact. While he wasn’t sharp in the beginning, Lopez never encountered much trouble against the 13-1 underdog according to Caesars Sportsbook.

“We’ve been at 135 (pounds) for about nine years; it was killing my body,” said Lopez, who had a slight esophageal tear when he fought Kambosos following a tumultuous training camp. “… We want Josh Taylor … We want (Regis) Prograis, we want (Jose) Zepeda, that’s what we want. We want to be a two-division world champion.

“I’ll take all them boys and take all their dreams away. I’m here to be their nightmare.”

Taylor, Prograis and Zepeda are among the class of Lopez’s new division. Campa, 30, is decidedly levels below that. His face was busted up round after round, and when the fight ended, his left eye was swelling shut and his nose was spewing blood.

Lopez, who fights out of Las Vegas, seemed to land at will, but it wasn’t necessarily a statement-making performance following the second-longest layoff of his career.

When Lopez (17-1, 12 KOs) last entered the ropes, he was coming off a victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko and was widely recognized as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.

Campa (34-2-1, 23 KOs) wasn’t talented enough to present any trouble, nor present the sort of test that could show Lopez’s readiness to compete for a title in a new weight class.

Brandon Moreno Defeats Kai Kara-France to Claim UFC’s Interim 125-Pound Title

Brandon Moreno is a UFC champion once again…

The 28-year-old Mexican professional mixed martial artist (20-6-2) claimed the interim 125-pound title in thrilling fashion on Saturday, as he finished Kai Kara-France in the third round with a nasty left body kick followed by ground and pound. The TKO came at 4 minutes, 34 seconds.

Brandon MorenoThe title fight co-headlined UFC 277 from inside American Airlines Arena. Figueiredo, the defending unified champion and a longtime rival of Moreno’s, was in attendance cageside.

UFC originally wanted Figueiredo to defend his title against Moreno this summer, but Figueiredo was unavailable due to injury. The Brazilian champion entered the Octagon after Moreno’s win and asked to do it in Brazil.

“This guy right here, tonight is his night and he is the champion,” Figueiredo said through an interpreter. “I have a lot of respect for him. … I want to take this fight home to Brazil.”

Brandon Moreno

Moreno, of Tijuana, quickly accepted the invitation. He also apologized to Figueiredo for any bad blood between them in the past. The two have had a heated rivalry, mostly from Figueiredo’s side, since 2020. Moreno challenged Figueiredo for the belt in December 2020 and fought him to a majority draw. He then beat Figueiredo by submission in an immediate rematch before losing a controversial decision in their third fight in January.

“I don’t hate you. I don’t feel nothing against you. I forgive you,” Moreno told Figueiredo. “Please forgive me if I did something bad against you. I want to fight in December.”

Saturday’s fight was Moreno’s first since he left his original training camp in Mexico and joined forces with veteran MMA coach James Krause in Missouri. It proved to be one of the most impressive performances of his career. He already held a prior decision win over Kara-France (24-10) from 2019, and the rematch was similar in that Moreno simply had more tools than the challenger from New Zealand.

He attacked Kara-France with leg kicks, jabs and right hands. He looked for the takedown when the opportunity came but didn’t force it.

However, Kara-France, 29, was certainly competitive until the finish. He relied mostly on leg kicks as his primary offense and had success with it. Moreno’s lead leg was very red from kicks early on. In the third round, Kara-France did his best work after he caught a Moreno kick and dumped him to the floor. He landed a hard elbow from top position that opened a cut under Moreno’s right eye.

Just when it appeared Kara-France had seized momentum, however, Moreno caught him with a spinning back fist and then the body kick that put him down. Kara-France immediately rolled over and covered up, which brought in a quick stoppage from referee Herb Dean, as Moreno swarmed on him with hammerfists.

Moreno, who was cut from UFC in 2018, now holds a 4-1-2 record since re-signing in 2019.

Golden Boy Promotions Reschedules Welterweight Bout Between Vergil Ortiz Jr. & Michael McKinson

Vergil Ortiz Jr.’s next bout is officially (re)scheduled

The 24-year-old Mexican American boxer will fight Michael McKinson in a rescheduled welterweight bout on August 6 in Fort Worth, Texas, according to Golden Boy Promotions.

Vergil Ortiz Jr.It was previously reported that Ortiz and David Avanesyan had agreed to a deal for a fight on the same date, but according to Ortiz’s manager, Rick Mirigian, Avanesyan reneged.

“[Avanesyan] agreed to the contract in writing, both by text and email,” Mirigian, who also manages former champions Jose Ramirez and Joseph Diaz Jr., told ESPN. “Golden Boy accommodated all of his needs to get this done, and then more frivolous demands followed and he backed out. Golden Boy bent over backwards to accommodate him.”

Mirigian said Avanesyan’s team informed Golden Boy they would return the signed contract but never did. That’s when GBP turned its attention back to McKinson.

The Englishman was set to fight Ortiz on March 19 before Ortiz was hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases the damaging protein myoglobin into the blood.

McKinson (22-0, 2 KOs) fought a replacement opponent, Alex Martin, on that same date, and won a unanimous decision to remain undefeated.

“I’m getting what I deserve,” said McKinson. “I was prepared to fight Ortiz Jr. before; now, I have been given the opportunity again to prove I am the best in this division.”

Avanesyan, 33, a hard-punching Russian who now resides in the U.K., appeared to present a far more formidable challenge for Ortiz. Avanesyan scored six straight stoppages since a TKO loss to Egidijus Kavaliauskas in 2018. Most notably, Avanesyan stopped Josh Kelly last year, ending his run as a top prospect.

“There was never a deal signed,” a spokesperson for Queensberry Promotions, which promotes Avanesyan, told ESPN. “It was in discussions but didn’t get that far. The terms offered were not acceptable and changed without agreement in the redraft. We never dealt with his manager, we were dealing with Golden Boy. And we notified the WBC that purse offers were preferable. Avanesyan has never run or avoided anyone and for anyone to suggest that is laughable.”

Ortiz, (18-0, 18 KOs), a Dallas native, is one of boxing’s fastest-rising stars. He’s coming off his best win yet, an eighth-round TKO of Kavaliauskas in August. Ortiz was hurt in Round 2 but rallied to score five knockdowns en route to the finish. The nine-month layoff will be the longest of Ortiz’s career.

“I am very happy to be stepping back into the ring again,” said Ortiz, ESPN‘s No. 4 welterweight. “I’m ready to show the world once again why I’m ready for a world title.”

Danny Garcia Agrees to Fight Jose Benavidez Jr. in Junior Middleweight Bout

Danny Garcia is preparing to chase down a title in a third weight class.

The 34-year-old Puerto Rican boxer, a former two-division champion, has agreed to fight Jose Benavidez Jr. in a junior middleweight bout on July 30 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, according to ESPN.

Danny GarciaThe PBC on Showtime main event will mark Garcia’s debut at 154 pounds after he captured titles at 140 and 147.

The Philadelphian fighter hasn’t boxed since a December 2020 loss to Errol Spence Jr. in a welterweight title fight. The 19-month layoff is the longest of Garcia’s career.

Garcia (36-3, 21 KOs) was a unified junior welterweight champion who owns wins over Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan, Zab Judah and Erik Morales. His other two losses came against Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman in 147-pound title fights.

Benavidez (27-1-1, 18 KOs) suffered the lone loss of his pro career in 2018, a 12th-round TKO loss to Terence Crawford in a 147-pound title fight. The 30-year-old from Phoenix has competed only once since then, a November draw with the unheralded Francisco Emanuel Torres.

The brother of former super middleweight champion David Benavidez, Jose was still dealing with the effects of a gunshot wound to his right leg suffered in August 2016 when he fought Crawford.

Kiko Martinez to Reportedly Fight Josh Warrington in March

Kiko Martinez it preparing for a massive rematch…

The 35-year-old Spanish professional boxer, who has held the IBF featherweight title since November 2021, will fight Josh Warrington for a featherweight title on March 26 in England, according to ESPN sources.

Kiko Martinez

The rematch is one of two 126-pound title bouts Matchroom Boxing‘s Eddie Hearn will promote on DAZN in the U.K. that month. On March 12, Leigh Wood defends his title against Michael Conlan.

The pair of bouts could lead to a unification later in the year.

Martinez (43-10-2, 30 KOs) scored a highlight-reel sixth-round TKO of Kid Galahad in November in one of the year’s biggest upsets.

When they met in 2017, Warrington (30-1-1, 7 KOs) scored a majority decision victory over Martinez. The fighters were moving in different directions; Warrington, an Englishman, went on to win a featherweight title and scored wins over Carl Frampton, Galahad and Lee Selby. Martinez, meanwhile, suffered losses to Gary Russell Jr., and Zelfa Barrett.

But the 2021 campaign drastically altered their trajectories. Warrington, 31, suffered a stunning ninth-round TKO loss to Mauricio Lara in February in a brutal beating before the September rematch ended in a technical draw after two rounds due to an accidental clash of heads that left Lara with a gruesome cut.

Martinez was an afterthought heading into this bout with Galahad, but the 8-1 underdog scored the biggest win of career at 35.

Now Martinez and Warrington will meet again, and surprisingly, it’s the elder man who has the title and all the momentum.

Vergil Ortiz, Jr. to Reportedly Train with Eddy Reynoso

Vergil Ortiz, Jr. is making a big change…

The 23-year-old Mexican professional boxer, one of the fastest rising stars in boxing, has a new trainer.

Vergil Ortiz Jr.

The undefeated welterweight, who has long been with former trainer of the year Robert Garcia, will be under the guidance of Eddy Reynoso as he prepares for his first bout of 2022.

Ortiz will train with Reynoso at Canelo Alvarez‘s San Diego gym, according to ESPN.

Ortiz denied Friday that the change to Reynoso is happening. Garcia, meanwhile, posted a YouTube video in which he confirmed that Ortiz told him last month that he was opting to leave Garcia’s camp.

Reynoso is best known for training Canelo, the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world. Along with Alvarez, Reynoso is the trainer of star lightweight Ryan Garcia, former heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr., 130-pound champion Oscar Valdez, heavyweight Frank Sanchez and 112-pound champion Julio Cesar Martinez.

Coming off a Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year campaign, Reynoso now adds Ortiz.

Ortiz makes the change on the heels of the biggest year of his career. He stepped way up in competition with a seventh-round KO of former champion Maurice Hooker in March and then topped that performance with an eight-round TKO of Egidijus Kavaliauskas in August.

Ortiz (18-0, 18 KOs) is now eyeing a January return with Reynoso in his corner.

Canelo Alvarez Defeats Caleb Plant to Become Undisputed Super Middleweight Champion

Canelo Alvarez has a new title…

For the first time in his career, the 31-year-old Mexican professional boxer can call himself an undisputed champion.

Canelo Alvarez

Alvarez, the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world and the sport’s biggest attraction, promised to punish Caleb Plant, and on Saturday he did just that with an 11th-round TKO victory at a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena to unify all four 168-pound titles.

A left hook followed by a brutal right uppercut sent both of Plant’s gloves to the canvas in the penultimate round. He never recovered. On unsteady legs, Plant (21-1, 12 KOs) attempted to escape danger, but Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs) sensed the moment. He closed in with a barrage of shots that dropped Plant a second time as referee Russell Mora halted the bout at 1:05 of Round 11.

“It means so much to me, for the history of Mexico, to be an undisputed champion,” said Alvarez, who earned a guaranteed $40 million. “My respect to Caleb Plant. He’s a very difficult fighter with a lot of ability. I do respect the fighter.

“We’re men at the end. He wanted to continue. I said, ‘There’s no shame. We had a great fight today.'”

Plant, who earned a career-best $10 million, was transported to University Medical Center for observation, according to a PBC spokesperson. He was behind on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage: 96-94, 98-92 and 97-93. ESPN scored it 98-92.

Alvarez broke Plant down with relentless pressure and a dedicated body attack, a strategy he has used time and again on his way to the top of the sport. The entire left side of Plant’s body was red early in the fight as Alvarez continued to dish out blows to the midsection. Plant used a strong jab and deft footwork to keep Alvarez at bay and make him miss, but he rarely made Alvarez pay.

According to CompuBox data, Alvarez landed 102 power punches to 59 from Plant.

Plant, a 29-year-old native of Nashville, Tennessee, is regarded for his defensive ability, not his power, and it showed. The punches never gained Alvarez’s respect, who swarmed, round after round, even as his elusive opponent glided around the ring.

The pressure mounted, and Alvarez didn’t stop coming. It was simply a matter of time. The elusive fourth belt would soon be his.

“He was making things a little difficult, but [trainer] Eddy [Reynoso] told me, ‘Let’s keep with the game plan in the last two rounds here,'” Alvarez said. “And in the end, I got him. That’s the way it had to finish. He was already hurt, and I went in for the kill.”

He also got what he has long searched for: undisputed status. Alvarez won two super middleweight titles with a December victory over Callum Smith and picked up a third when he shattered Billy Joe Saunders‘ orbital bone in May. After that victory, it was clear whom he wanted next: “I’m coming, my friend,” Alvarez warned Plant then.

And Alvarez never stopped coming once he lured Plant into the ring. The outcome was never in doubt, though Plant boxed well over the first few rounds. His use of feints, an educated jab and smooth footwork allowed him to stay off the ropes and, mostly, out of harm’s way. But Alvarez is known for being a methodical starter, and Plant has a reputation for slowing down late in fights.

The matchup was originally being eyed for September 18, but at the 11th hour, the deal fell apart. Alvarez then entered talks for a light heavyweight title challenge from Dmitry Bivol, but before a deal could be completed, Alvarez decided to delay his return until November so he could chase the fourth super middleweight title, which belonged to Plant.

When they finally faced off at a promotional event in September, chaos ensued. After Plant hurled insults at Alvarez, Alvarez responded with an open-handed left hand. Plant went after Alvarez too but emerged with a small cut under his right eye. Alvarez was left with deep personal disdain for Plant, who disrespected his beloved trainer, Reynoso, and called Alvarez a cheater.

The accusation was a reference to Alvarez’s positive test for the banned substance clenbuterol that postponed his May 2018 rematch with Gennadiy Golovkin and led to a six-month suspension. Alvarez blamed the adverse finding on tainted meat consumed in his native Guadalajara.

After Saturday’s fight, Alvarez, after four fights in 11 months, said he envisions a May return to allow his body time to properly recover. Canelo usually fights on Cinco De Mayo weekend.

Plant, ESPN’s No. 3 boxer at 168 pounds, is the first champion in Al Haymon‘s PBC stable to earn a crack at Alvarez, but he might not be the last. The deal between Canelo and PBC is for one fight, but there’s reason to believe Alvarez will continue to face off against Haymon’s boxers. David Benavidez, ESPN’s No. 2 super middleweight, is aligned with PBC, as is Jermall Charlo, the middleweight champion who plans to jump to the 168-pound division in the near future.

A third meeting with Golovkin, though, is the biggest fight of all. They clashed twice for the middleweight championship after Alvarez unified titles at 154 pounds. He also won a title at 175 pounds, where he could seek a bout with Artur Beterbiev.

It’s less clear where Plant is headed after his first career loss. He won the title with an upset decision victory over Jose Uzcategui in January 2019 and defended it three times against light opposition. The fight with Alvarez was a quantum leap in competition. He fared well early, but in the end, Alvarez was too much.

It’s a familiar story since Alvarez lost to Floyd Mayweather in 2013, and at this point, there doesn’t appear to be anyone on the horizon who can dethrone him.

Oscar Rivas Defeats Ryan Rozicki to Claim Inaugural WBC Bridgerweight Title

Oscar Rivas is a new champion…

The 34-year-old Colombian professional boxer defeated Ryan Rozicki on Friday in Montreal to become the inaugural WBC bridgerweight champion.

Oscar Rivas

Rivas, at 222¼ pounds, dished out punishment on the undersized Rozicki over 12 rounds en route to the unanimous decision victory via scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112.

Rozicki, at 203 pounds, applied pressure and sought to work on the inside but was repeatedly countered and outworked on the inside by the more experienced fighter.

The 224-pound weight class was introduced by WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman last year to sit between cruiserweight and heavyweight.

The WBC now has 18 divisions, the most in boxing; so far, the other three major sanctioning bodies haven’t adopted the bridgerweight division.

Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs) was originally set to fight Bryant Jennings, whom he defeated via 11th-round TKO in a January 2019 heavyweight fight. However, Jennings couldn’t enter Canada because he is unvaccinated and was forced to withdraw.

Since that win over Jennings, Rivas has competed just twice, most notably a July 2019 points loss to heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte.

Rivas now resides in Montreal and enjoyed the hometown advantage over Rozicki, a fellow Canadian from Nova Scotia.

Rozicki (13-1, 13 KOs) has competed at cruiserweight his entire career. He and Rivas both fought the same opponent in their previous outings: journeyman Sylvera Louis.

The 26-year-old Rozicki had never faced an opponent of note before Rivas.

Patricky “Pitbull” Freire to Fight Peter Queally for His Brother’s Vacated Bellator Men’s Lightweight Title

Patricky “Pitbull” Freire is hoping to keep it in the family…

The 35-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist is set to fight Peter Queally on November 5 in Ireland for the Bellator men’s lightweight title.

Patricky “Pitbull” Freire

The announcement comes on the heels of news that Patricky’s brother Patricio “Pitbull” Freire has vacated his lightweight title, according to Bellator president Scott Coker.

Coker announced the news on The MMA Hour.

Patricio dropped his featherweight title to AJ McKee on July 31. Patricio said on The MMA Hour that he will now turn focus to getting the McKee rematch at featherweight, which opens the door for his brother to become lightweight champion.

“First thing is, I lost the featherweight division,” Patricio said. “For me, it doesn’t make sense to be a champion in the lightweight division. If I lost at 145 pounds, I can’t be the champion at 155.”

Queally (13-5-1), an SBG Ireland product, is coming off a second-round TKO (doctor’s stoppage) over Patricky “Pitbull,” a result that Freire’s team disputed at the time. Patricky (23-10) has dropped two straight.