by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Once regarded as one of the top fighters in the world, Paulo Filho has had difficulty gaining any momentum since the shuttering of the World Extreme Cagefighting middleweight division that he once sat atop as champion.

He recently had to withdraw from a planned bout at Sunday’s Dream 12 event in Japan, where he was to face Yoon Dong Sik. Brazilian web site Tatame.com reported that Filho’s mother informed them that he was unable to make the trip to Japan due to issues with his visa.

Filho’s manager, Ed Soares, on Friday confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that there were complications with his visa, but did not provide details.

Following a well-publicized stint in a substance abuse rehabilitation clinic in Brazil, Filho (18-1) returned after a near yearlong layoff for what was expected to be a defense of his WEC middleweight title in November of 2008. He missed weight and the bout was reduced to a three-round non-title bout, which he lost via decision to Chael Sonnen.

The WEC then discontinued its middleweight division. Unlike other top fighters in the WEC’s 185-pound class, Filho’s contract was not picked up by the UFC.

He has since submitted Melvin Manhoef at Dream 10 in July, and then won a unanimous decision over Ultimate Fighter alumnus Alex Schoenauer in September.

He has been unable, however, to ascend back to the heights he attained in becoming the WEC champion.

Japan-MMA.com reports that Tarec Saffiedine is expected to take Filho’s place against Yoon Dong Sik.