Thiago Tavares has plans to move to featherweight, but they’re being nixed at every turn.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Friday confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that Tavares is once again unable to make his 145-pound debut, after having to pull out of his planned May 31 bout against Tom Niinimaki due to injury. Tavares was expected to make his first featherweight start at UFC Fight Night 36 in February, but had to withdraw from that bout, also due to injury.
Swedish prospect Niklas Backstrom – no not the Minnesota Wild goaltender – has agreed to step in and fight Niinimaki at UFC Berlin on May 31 at O2 Berlin in Germany.
The 24-year-old Backstrom (7-0, 1 NC) was born and raised in northern Sweden (Luleå). He is a former Swedish grappling champion and won his last fight in March of this year against German top prospect Max Coga in just 15 seconds via front kick TKO.
“[Niinimäki] is very talented, but I am awesome. I will let him decide how he wants to be beaten,” said Backstrom upon accepting the fight.
Niinimaki (21-5-1) is making his second start for the UFC. He debuted for the promotion at the TUF 18 Finale, winning a split decision over Rani Yahya.
A key middleweight bout between Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi headlines the UFC Berlin card.