As was initially speculated when it was Murilo “Ninja” Rua would not be allowed to face Joey Villasenor on the June 22nd Strikeforce card in San Jose, Calif., longtime veteran Falaniko Vitale has stepped in to take his place.
Rua did not pass the required physical as is required in the State of California. He was to fight Villasenor for the vacant EliteXC middleweight title as part of the co-promoted event headlined by Frank Shamrock vs. Phil Baroni.
Villasenor was obviously disappointed when he found out the title bout was not going to happen, but at least he still has a fight. He told MMAWeekly yesterday, “With everything going on, I would love to be [EliteXC's] first champion, but right now, I just want to fight. I haven’t trained this hard ever before in my life.”
His replacement doesn’t make the fight a whole lot easier though. Vitale’s 22-7 professional record includes wins over Masanori Suda, Yushin Okami, Matt Lindland, and former UFC Middleweight Champion Dave Menne.