(Ilir Latifi and the ring girl he won during a recent fight)
With our Wandy dreams pulled out from underneath us like a football in a Peanuts cartoon strip, the quest for a replacement fighter to take on Gegard Mousasi soldiered on. Who could possibly take Alexander Gustafsson’s place? Finding someone wouldn’t be easy – not only would the UFC have to locate someone crazy enough to fight Mousasi on less than a week’s notice, they’d also have to sort out travel arrangements and visas and all that international garbage. So is it a huge shocker that the UFC went local when picking their guy?
His name is actually Ilir but hey, cut Dana some slack, he’d probably never heard of the guy until yesterday as well. So who is he? Let’s ask MMAViking.com:
Latifi, who is one of Sweden’s most popular fighters, recently helped Superior Challenge stage a huge show in Malmo behind the huge drawing power of the fighter. “The Sledgehammer” has 7 wins and 2 losses overall, and is on a three fight winning streak. Latifi’s last loss was in July of 2011, where he lost to Emanual Newton by decision, in a bout where he had a torn muscle. The powerful wrestler has trained with the the Blackzilians, and was part of the team with Big Foot Silva that overthrew Fedor in Strikeforce.
So this provides a super popular local guy for Mousasi to inflict violence upon. Is it a kinda weak choice? Well, you can’t expect Dana White to pull an amazing replacement headliner out of his ass every time. And I think even the fans in Sweden would agree that the show must go on. For most of the starving international crowd, a UFC event sans a legit headline bout is still better than no UFC at all.