T.J. Dillashaw pulled one of the biggest upsets ever in an Ultimate Fighting Championship title bout in May when he knocked out Renan Barao in the fifth round to end his 32-fight winning streak and take the bantamweight belt.
An even more shocking occurrence threw the division into chaos on the day before the rematch.
Barao became ill while cutting weight Friday and has been forced to withdraw from the rematch, which had been slated as the main event of UFC 177 tonight in Sacramento, Calif.
Dillashaw was supposed to make the first defense of the title he won from Barao in May. He will instead defend the belt against former Bellator champion Joe Soto, who will be making his UFC debut. Soto had been scheduled to fight Anthony Birchak, who has been removed from the card.
Brazilian news outlet Globo first reported the news, later confirmed by UFC officials. According to the Globo report, Barao lost consciousness attempting to stand up in his hotel bathroom while cutting weight.
He was treated and released at a local hospital.
Soto, 27, enters the UFC on a six-fight winning streak. He has recorded finishes in 13 of his 15 career wins, with just two losses on his resume. The central California native and Bay Area resident was stunned when he got the news Friday afternoon.
“I was lying on the floor in my restroom naked, cooling off on the tiles, and a UFC number was calling me. I was like, ‘Man, what is this about?’” Soto said in a statement. “And they called me downstairs and asked me if I wanted the shot. And I said, ‘I’ll take it.’”
Soto lost the Bellator belt in his final fight in the organization in 2010. He then lost his first fight on the regional circuit before reeling off six straight wins to earn a shot in the UFC.
He is thrilled with the opportunity he has been presented.
“Dillashaw’s tough, but I’m gonna go out there and give it my all. I actually trained with him not too long ago, and he’s good. He’s a champion, and it’s going to be a tough fight,” Soto said. “(Winning) would be a dream come true, that’s the only way I can explain it. It’s something that only God could have come up with.”
The altered main event was not the only hit the card suffered Friday. Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Henry Cejudo was forced to pull out of his UFC debut due to an undisclosed illness.
Cejudo, 6-0 as a professional in MMA, was slated to fight Scott Jorgensen at flyweight. Cejudo has had issues cutting to 125 pounds in the past, but there was no indication Friday as to whether the weight cut had anything to do with his pullout.
The event was supposed to have two title fights, but the flyweight championship bout between Chris Cariaso and champion Demetrious Johnson was moved to UFC 178 at MGM Grand on Sept. 27 when a scheduled fight between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier was scrapped earlier this month.
A lightweight bout between Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo, a teammate of Dillashaw at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, remains in the co-feature slot on the pay-per-view card.
The event, scheduled for 7 p.m., includes a women’s bantamweight bout between Bethe Correia and Shayna Baszler, who trains with champion Ronda Rousey. Correia already took out Rousey teammate Jessamyn Duke and has stated her mission to conquer the whole crew on her way to the title.
The preliminary card airs on Fox Sports 1 (Cable 329) at 5 p.m.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.