After injury forced Geoff Neal out of his highly anticipated bout with Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC Fight Night 217, many believed it would be nearly impossible to find a replacement on just over two weeks’ notice.
There haven’t been many people pleading for the assignment against the undefeated rising contender, but Bryan Barberena is one name who has put his hand up in hopes of having the matchup come to fruition.
There’s a catch to Barberena’s availability, however, and that’s his inability to make the welterweight limit, where the original fight with Neal was scheduled. Barberena (18-9 MMA, 9-7 UFC) said he can be ready to go, he just needs a 10-pound buffer and proposed the contest with Rakhmonov (15-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) happen at a 180- pound catchweight (via Twitter):
Neal out. We were supposed to fight before on short notice. No one wants to fight you. Fuck it make it at 180 and I’ll see you there! 👊🏽💥 https://t.co/sOLhj5Iitg
— BRYAN BARBERENA (@bryan_barberena) December 29, 2022
Neal out. We were supposed to fight before on short notice. No one wants to fight you. Fuck it make it at 180 and I’ll see you there! 👊🏽💥
Barberena, 33, is coming off a submission loss to former UFC champion Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on ESPN 42 this month. The result snapped his three-fight winning streak, which included a TKO of Robbie Lawler and decisions over Matt Brown and Darian Weeks.
Rakhmonov, 28, for his part, has finished all four of his octagon opponents thus far, including notables Neil Magny and Alex Oliveira. He caught the win of Barberena’s offer, and expressed his interest in booking the matchup (via Twitter):
Why not, let’s do it for the fans 👊🏼 https://t.co/3V58wJfR7C
— Shavkat “Nomad” Rakhmonov (@Rakhmonov1994) December 30, 2022
Why not, let’s do it for the fans 👊🏼
The response came to Barberena’s excitement, and he encouraged the UFC brass to finalize the matchup (via Twitter):
— BRYAN BARBERENA (@bryan_barberena) December 30, 2022
Mad respect ✊🏽 let’s Fucken go! @ufc @seanshelby @danawhite let’s make this official send the contract and let’s get it done.