Joe Soto, a former Bellator featherweight champion, has been inserted into the main event of UFC 177 on a days notice, replacing Renan Barao. Officials confirmed the news on Friday.
Soto was scheduled to meet Anthony Birchak in a prelim fight, but will step in for Barao, who was taken to the hospital according to reports from Globo during his weight cut.
The report from the Brazilian news source stated that Barao lost consciousness and hit his head while in a hotel bathtub attempting to cut weight. Barao, the former champion, typically cuts a large amount of weight prior to weigh-ins.
Thank you everyone for all the love and support!
— Joe Soto (@JoeSoto135) August 29, 2014
Soto will be trying to become the third former Iowa Central Community College wrester to secure UFC gold, as Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez both were former Triton standouts. Soto finished second and third at the NJCAA national meet his two years with the Fort Dodge, Iowa-based college.
“It’s just a crazy opportunity for him,” current ICCC head coach Luke Moffitt said. “The chance to have three possible former guys with UFC titles….that’s pretty nuts.
“You can call it luck or whatever you want to call it for Joe, but he has this chance to cash in.”
Soto simply posted a smiley-face icon on his Facebook page after news of the fight announcement was made public.
“23 days ago we were getting ready for his weigh-ins at Tachi Palace Fights as the Main Event defending his Title,” fellow fighter Poppies Martinez posted on Facebook. “Now my buddy Joe Soto and I are heading to his weigh-ins as the Main Event and for the UFC Bantamweight Championship. So Proud of this guy.”
Soto’s girlfriend, Rocio Diaz, wrote on her page, “Can someone pinch me?! Renan Barao is out of the fight, Joe Soto is now fighting T.J. Dillashaw for (the title)!!!!! OMG OMG OMG. A dream come true!!!!!”
Earlier in the day, officials scratched a planned fight between Henry Cejudo and Anthony Birchak, according to MMAjunkie.com.
The card will move ahead with eight bouts. It’s been hit by many injuries and issues, including the loss of a planned co-main event between Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso.
MAIN CARD (PPV/10 p.m. ET)
UFC Bantamweight Championship
T.J. Dillashaw (c) vs. Joe Soto
Lightweight: Danny Castillo vs. Tony Ferguson
Female Bantamweight: Bethe Correia vs. Shayna Baszler
Lightweight: Ramsey Nijem vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Lightweight: Damon Jackson vs. Yancy Medeiros
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX Sports 1/8 p.m. ET)
Middleweight: Derek Brunson vs. Lorenz Larkin
Heavyweight: Anthony Hamilton vs. Ruan Potts
Lightweight: Cain Carriozsa vs. Chris Wade