UFC axes recent title contender

A shocking exit for one of the UFC's recent top contenders.

By: Zane Simon | 4 weeks ago
UFC axes recent title contender
Taila Santos weighs in for UFC 275. | Suhaimi Abdullah / NurPhoto, IMAGO

Fans are getting more used to the ebb and flow of the UFC roster in recent years. Every fall, the UFC signs a huge swath of new fighters off Dana White’s Contender Series. And in the weeks surrounding each season, woe betide any fighter riding a loss or coming up on the end of their contract.

Recent weeks have seen the not so surprising releases of Jinh Yu Frey, Mike ‘Blood Diamond’ Mathetha, Ashley Yoder, and Shane Young. But there have been a few shocks in there as well. Jennifer Maia chose to part ways with the UFC after her recent loss to Vivi Araujo, and Mike Breeden got shown the door despite a win over Anshul Jubli at UFC 294—for which he missed weight and hid a staph infection. Longtime action veteran John Makdessi lost his deal with the UFC as well, following a controversial loss to Jamie Mullarkey. But none of those are quite so surprising as the UFC’s latest roster news.

Top contender Taila Santos out of the UFC

First noted via MMA roster tracking accounts on X/Twitter, MMA Fighting has confirmed that Taila Santos’ removal from the UFC’s website was not due to a clerical error or any sort of suspension or competitive hiatus. Instead, it appears that the Brazilian former title contender has been released from her UFC contract. It is unclear at this time whether Santos requested to be let out of her UFC deal, or if the decision was made entirely on the UFC’s behalf.

The 30-year-old Astra Fight Team member rose to quick contendership in the Endeavor-owned organization, despite failing to secure victory in her Octagon debut. Santos entered the UFC back in 2018, off a win over Estefani Almeida on Dana White’s Contender Series Brazil. She then lost a close split decision to Mara Romero Borella, and followed that defeat with four straight victories, including wins over Molly McCann, Roxanne Modafferi, and Joanne Wood.

That was enough to earn Santos a title shot against Valentina Shevchenko in June of last year. Santos lost an extremely narrow spit decision against the long-reigning champion, a fight many felt she could have won. A hard fought decision loss to Erin Blanchfield came soon after, still leaving Santos firmly ensconced in the top five of the flyweight division.

As of yet no statements have been issued either by the UFC or by Santos, or her team, about the decision to part ways.

Taila Santos’ visa issues

Although we have no information as to whether or not it may have been a contributing factor to the UFC’s release of Santos, it is worth noting that the Brazilian has had a lot of trouble getting to fight night over her time in the world’s largest MMA promotion. That includes some lingering visa issues. Not just for Santos herself, but for her cornering team as well.

Set to fight Erin Blanchfield back in February, Santos withdrew from the bout just one week out from the event, after her husband, Pedro Barbosa, and another cornerman were denied visa entry to the US. Visa issues similarly surfaced for Santos surrounding a planned bout against Mandy Bohm in 2021. Although Santos has competed for the UFC in Vegas on several occasions, her last two fights both took place in Singapore.

Also of note, back in August of last year, Santos made headlines for a more personally precarious reason. Former longtime head coach and manager Marcelo Brigadeiro announced that he was planning to sue his former fighter over breach of contract stemming from her bouts against Roxanne Modafferi, Joanne Wood, and Valentina Shevchenko. Brigadeiro was joined by Marcio Malko in his legal action. Malko had reportedly already initiated court filings at the time, seeking 20% of Santos’ purse from UFC 275.

Similarly, Patricio Barbosa Farias (brother to Santos’ coach and husband Pedro Barbosa Farias) filed a police report against Santos, claiming that he was owed $2,935 as part of Malko’s training staff for Santos’ fights.

In an interesting twist, however, Brigadeiro—a former member of the Daniel Kinehan founded MTK Global management team—was sued by Santos in 2021 for $4,820. A report from MMA Fighting noted that, in the lawsuit, Santos claimed Brigadeiro never allowed her to read or obtain copies of her contract which she stated contained a number of “abusive and illegal” clauses.

Where all this leaves Santos is currently unclear. But, with recent news that the PFL was opening up a women’s flyweight division, it’s hard not to think that both Taila Santos and Jennifer Maia will soon find themselves back on ESPN+ competing for the UFC rival.

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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