by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com (Additional reporting – Lee Whitehead)
Mostapha Al-Turk’s worst fears came true on Tuesday as the British fighter was denied a visa to come to the United States and fight Rolles Gracie at UFC 109 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Sources close to the event confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that Octagon newcomer Joey Beltran will take his place. MMAJunkie.com first reported the possibility of the “Mexicutioner” being tapped as a replacement on Monday.
Al-Turk has fought in the Las Vegas before. In fact, it was his UFC debut against Cheick Kongo at UFC 92. It’s unclear why the U.S. Embassy in England all of a sudden had a problem this time. Al-Turk has a degree in Pharmacology, comes from an upstanding family of doctors, and reportedly has done nothing in the past to raise alarm.
Paul Ivens, Al-Turk’s coach at London Shootfighters, said that while “Mos is gutted, he is taking no breaks and is gonna train through this.” He added that UFC officials did everything they could to aid Al-Turk, but just couldn’t make it happen. They are hopeful he will be added to the April 10 fight card in Abu Dhabi.
Gracie (3-0) trains with his cousin, Renzo, in New York, and with Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M. At six-foot-four and 250 pounds, Rolles’ stature is the polar opposite of most of the famed Gracie clan. UFC 109 will be his debut fight in the Octagon.
Another UFC newbie, Beltran (10-3) is 6-1 in his last seven fights. He holds wins over UFC veterans Sherman Pendergarst and, most recently, Houston Alexander.
UFC Hall of Famers Randy Couture and Mark Coleman square off in a light heavyweight showdown in the main event of UFC 109 on Saturday night.