With the recent news that Jamahal Hill has ruptured his Achilles tendon (possibly during a UFC sponsored pickup basketball game), and has magnanimously decided to vacate his light heavyweight title, what was once the UFC’s bellwether division finds itself in another state of flux. Hill had, himself, only been champ about five minutes—winning gold over Glover Teixeira back in January after champion Jiri Prochazka suffered a brutal shoulder injury in training and also vacated the belt last year.
So what in the hell is the UFC going to do? Of the last five champions at 205 lbs, only Jan Blachowicz is currently capable of taking a fight at light heavyweight in the foreseeable future. Three of those five champs have vacated the belt, two are battling long term injury, and one is retired.
Among the current top contenders Magomed Ankalaev hasn’t fought since his title fight draw against Blachowicz for Jiri’s vacated belt back in 2022. A fight Dana White hated so much, he immediately took both men out of contendership. Aleksandar Rakic is not only coming off a loss, but hasn’t fought since May of last year after blowing his ACL. Nikita Krylov and Johnny Walker both nabbed wins to tie them for 5th place in the rankings. Maybe the UFC will throw them into a title fight?
Email leaks suggesting Blachowicz vs. Pereira winner gets belt
The most obvious target for the next light heavyweight championship is a planned upcoming bout at UFC 291 between former champions Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira. As I mentioned above, ‘Polish Power’ is the only man to have ever held the LHW title still in any kind of condition to compete for it. And while Pereira is making his debut in the division, he’s doing it coming off of a short-lived reign as middleweight champion. Two talents, unquestionably among the elite. It’s the perfect setup.
A recently leaked email from the promotion to bars planning to show the next upcoming PPV event advertised the card as hosting “two title fights.” The BMF main event between Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier, and the light heavyweight co-main between Blachowicz and Pereira.
Seems obvious, makes sense. It’s the only fight currently booked that the UFC could turn into a title bout…. So, obviously, the promotion has denied it.
UFC denies new title fight booking
MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn reports that UFC officials claim the email sent to bars included a “typo” and that the light heavyweight co-main event bout “currently remains a three-round, non-title fight.”
The question, of course, is: Why? Jamahal Hill just got stripped, what’s the holdup? Is the promotion waiting on Jiri Prochazka’s shoulder rehab to see if he’ll be ready to come back?
Back in May, rumors were swirling that they were looking to book Prochazka vs. Hill for UFC 292 in August. But no sooner did word hit the street than Prochazka tamped down any expectations that he might be on schedule for a summer return.
“We’re already dealing with it with the UFC, but I can’t say all the information. August is still early for me because, and I keep saying this, I don’t want to just come there healthy in the cage and go fight right away,” Prochazka told the Breakdown Podcast back in May, noting that he wanted to be sure that he was in better condition than ever before making his return.
A UFC denial doesn’t mean much
The reality here is, even with the organization saying that Blachowicz vs. Pereira is still a non-title fight, the phrase “currently remains” could just as well mean, “will be a title fight tomorrow.” The UFC hates having big news leak out ahead of their planned promotional schedule, and fans don’t have to go back that far to find the promotion lying straight to their faces about obvious news.
“I’ve been told the Gane vs. Jones T-Mobile graphic has been taken down, was a behind-the-scenes mistake. Fight not done deal,” MMA Fighting’s Steven Marrocco told fans, via Twitter, shortly after a jumbotron outside the T-Mobile Arena on January 14th announced the upcoming heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane.
Literally a few hours later, that same day, Dana White was up in front of the media at the UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Imavov post-fight presser telling everyone that Jones and Gane would be fighting for the heavyweight title at UFC 285 on March 4th.
Will Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira end up fighting for the title at UFC 291? Who can say right now. It certainly make sense, but only time will tell if the promotion accidentally sent out the announcement earlier than intended, or whether they have something entirely different cooking.
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