World Extreme Cagefighting middleweight champion Paulo Filho, battling some personal issues, has chosen to withdraw from his March 26 title defense against Chael Sonnen, the promotion announced Thursday evening.
The 29-year-old Filho voluntarily checked himself into an undisclosed rehabilitation center in Brazil on Thursday morning to seek help for a substance abuse problem.
“This is horrible news, but we’re proud of him for stepping up and recognizing his problem,” said Filho’s manager, Ed Soares. “At times like this you realize who your true friends are and who really supports you, and the people around him now are supporting him and are gonna be with him when he comes back.
“Paulo apologizes to his fans but he thanks them for their support and he promised that the next time they see him, he’ll be back at 100 percent and will be the Paulo Filho everyone expects to see.”
Filho had first been rumored to be out of the fight a week ago, telling Tatame.com that he had been going through a bout of depression. He then changed his mind and his management indicated that he had decided to put his efforts into preparing to defend his title against Sonnen in Las Vegas at the end of the month.
“We fully support Paulo in this difficult time and our thoughts are with him as he goes through recovery,” said WEC vice president Peter Dropick.
The WEC announced that the light heavyweight title bout between defending champion Doug Marshall and challenger Brian Stann will now be moved up to the main event. No announcement was forthcoming as to whether or not the promotion will attempt to add an additional bout to the fight card.