Former UFC champion Renan Barao has been forced out of his planned rematch with TJ Dillashaw at UFC 177 on Saturday in Sacramento, Calif., just before the fighters were expected to gather for weigh-ins.
UFC officials confirmed the news following a report on ESPN SportsCenter.
Barao apparently was having trouble cutting weight and was not feeling well. After convening with his team, doctors, and UFC officials, the decision was made to pull him out of the fight for health and safety reasons.
The UFC lost preliminary flyweight fighter Henry Cejudo earlier in the day, but the loss of Barao in the headliner of an event that was already being heavily criticized for a lack of drawing power is a devastating blow to the MMA juggernaut.
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Trying to salvage the event, UFC officials scrambled and offered the fight with Dillashaw, still a title bout, to a UFC newcomer.
Tachi Palace Fights 135-pound champion Joe Soto, who was slated to debut on the undercard against Anthony Birchak, steps in to challenge the champ, literally on a moment’s notice.
Soto is a newbie to the Octagon, but has an overall professional mark of 15-2, and has been fighting professionally since 2006. He won a Bellator featherweight tournament in 2009, but failed to take the belt from then-Bellator-champ Joe Warren.
He enters the fight with Dillashaw having won six consecutive fights. His only losses were at the hands of Warren an UFC veteran Eddie Yagin.
The UFC 177 fight card has now been whittled down to eight bouts, UFC officials confirmed to MMAWeekly.com.