Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) president Ed Soares announced on Tuesday that the promotion will be bringing an explosive new top-tier flyweight world title fight to New Mexico in September.
RFA 18 – Manzanares vs. Pantoja will feature a main event between two of the world’s top flyweights as RFA flyweight champion Matt Manzanares defends his title for the first time against Brazilian dynamo Alexandre Pantoja. In the co-main event, popular UFC vet Ulysses Gomez returns to action against Abel Cullum, who is also an accomplished bantamweight looking to make a successful comeback. The event takes place Friday, Sept. 12 at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The entire main card will be televised live and nationwide on AXS TV at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.
“I’m pleased to announce that the RFA will be bringing an exciting new flyweight title fight to New Mexico,” stated Soares. “Once again, Matt Manzanares has shown his eagerness to compete against the best in the world. After Joby Sanchez got the call to the UFC, Manzanares will now defend his title against Brazilian champion and Nova União star Alexandre Pantoja in the main event of RFA 18.”
Tickets for RFA 18 – Manzanares vs. Pantoja are available for purchase NOW through HoldMyTicket.com.
Manzanares (8-2) has made name for himself in the RFA as one of the most exciting and fearless fighters in RFA history, who is always eager to test his skills against the best in the world. This will be the sixth fight in the RFA for the Wyoming native, who has accepted fights against the who’s who of the flyweight division since joining the promotion in the summer of 2012. Manzanares’ last three fights have come against Junior Maranhão, Zach Makovsky, and Steve Swanson, but in that time, he also had fights scheduled with Sergio Pettis, Leandro Higo, and Joby Sanchez that fell through due to injury, visa issues, and a UFC call-up respectively. After defeating Maranhão to win the RFA flyweight title in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming in April, Manzanares will now look to defend his title for the first time against one of the most dangerous flyweights in the sport. Manzanares will be defending his title 11 days after his 28th birthday and plans to celebrate in style.
Pantoja (14-2) will challenge Manzanares for his world title in his highly-anticipated American-soil MMA debut. The dynamic Shooto – Brazil champion will be riding the momentum of a 7-fight win streak that extends well over 4 years. During this impressive run, Pantoja has defeated fellow Brazilian prospects Bruno Azevedo and Lincoln De Sa. He submitted Azevedo via Rear Naked Choke and defeated De Sa twice. The jiu-jitsu brown belt also enjoys the benefit of fighting out of Nova União, which is one of the top MMA teams in the world. UFC champion Jose Aldo, former UFC champion Renan Barão, UFC star Jussier Formiga, RFA star Raoni Barcelos, Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas, and Bellator star Marlon Sandro are just a few of his teammates at Nova União. The 24-year-old Andre Pederneiras protégé will now make his own international debut as he faces the biggest test of his career. Pantoja faces Manzanares, a Junior Olympian boxer turned MMA champion, for the RFA flyweight title in the main event of RFA 18.
The co-main event of RFA 18 will see the return of the always popular Ulysses Gomez (9-4). The 31-year-old earned a name for himself on the competitive jiu-jitsu and submission grappling circuit over a decade ago after being introduced to the the “gentle art” by UFC vet, jiu-jitsu black belt, and “Peruvian Necktie” creator Tony De Souza. De Souza was Gomez’s wrestling coach in high school. Gomez then became one of the founding members of the famed Cobra Kai Jiu-Jitsu academy in Las Vegas, Nevada before crossing over into MMA. In MMA, Gomez became one of the first American fighters to help promote the flyweight division before the UFC established the division in 2012. Gomez would eventually win titles in both the flyweight and bantamweight divisions before earning a two-fight stint with the UFC. In his final fight with the UFC, Gomez lost a close decision to local English fighter Phil Harris and does not plan on going to the score cards again as he prepares to travel his next to opponent’s hometown at RFA 18.
“Abel Cullum has a lot of fights and a good record, but he hasn’t fought in 3 years. I’m not sure what he’s been doing in that time, but fighters always train and I’m sure he’s gotten better,” stated Gomez. “I don’t think he’s better than me in any area and I plan on ending this fight early either standing or on the ground. I will not let this fight go to the hometown score cards like it did in my last fight. I know I have to finish him.”
Abel Cullum (18-6) returns to the sport of MMA after a 3-year hiatus from competition. In that time, Cullum served as an officer for the Tucumcari Police Department in his hometown of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Before that, Cullum and his trademark cowboy hat were a familiar sight on the bantamweight and flyweight MMA scene both nationally and internationally, where Cullum has competed against some of the world’s best in the Japanese promotion DREAM, as well as KOTC and ShoXC. The 27-year-old recently decided to put his career in law enforcement on hold and moved to Albuquerque to prepare himself at Fit NHB and Chavez Dojo for a revamped run in the sport of MMA.
“I’m excited to be fighting again. RFA has given me a great opportunity to make a comeback in my home state on national television,” stated Cullum. “Ulysses Gomez is a really good jiu-jitsu guy that has fought in the UFC. This is a good comeback fight for me, because I think Ulysses and I are similar in the way that we can both roll with the punches and take the fight anywhere. I plan on controlling the tempo and getting my hand raised in front of a lot of great New Mexico fight fans.”
Also on the main card of RFA 18 will be an explosive welterweight contest pitting RFA fan favorite Chidi “Chidi Bang Bang” Njokuani (10-4) against submission specialist Steve Hanna (4-1). In lightweight action, decorated French fighter and Muay Thai standout Mehdi “The Sultan” Baghdad (9-3) faces Evan DeLong (13-7) who has won 6 of his last 7 fights. In the bantamweight division, local favorite and Bellator vet Adrian “Killa” Cruz (5-1-1) will square off with promising Power MMA product Joey “The Beast” Miolla (4-1).
The entire main card of RFA 18 – Manzanares vs. Pantoja will be televised live on AXS TV starting at 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT on Friday, September 12th. RFA 18 will be the promotion’s first event in the state of New Mexico and the tenth state that the RFA has visited. More fights on the RFA 18 fight card will be announced soon.