Updated September 15, 2023 - 3:40 pm
Combat sports fans will have a major event to attend for Mexican Independence Day weekend in Las Vegas this year.
A day typically reserved for a massive boxing card, in particular featuring Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, is being taken over by the UFC.
Alexa Grasso, the women’s flyweight champion and the only current Mexican titleholder in the organization, will headline Noche UFC at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night in a rematch against former champ Valentina Shevchenko.
She hopes it will become a yearly tradition for the organization.
“That would be super cool, and I think it would be a good thing because there are many Mexicans now in the UFC,” said Grasso, who is particularly proud of resisting calls earlier in her career to move to the United States for training and instead built up her gym and team in Guadalajara.
“In an ideal world, I would love to fight every Sept. 16. It would be really cool to see it become a tradition to go to Las Vegas or if a UFC event can be done in Mexico, that would be crazy. But yeah, in an ideal world, I’d love to see it.”
The entire card streams live on ESPN-Plus with the preliminary fights starting at 4 p.m., followed by the main card at 7.
Mexico City may have been the site for this event had it worked out logistically and very well could be in the future.
UFC president Dana White, who commissioned a special belt for Grasso that honors her heritage, has long called success in Mexico a slam dunk for his organization. The UFC is opening a new Performance Institute in the capital later this year.
“Mexican fans are some of the biggest and most passionate fans in all of combat sports,” White said. “For years, I’ve wanted to truly honor their love for the athletes and the sport by bringing an incredible UFC event with Mexican athletes. It’s happening this year. We are bringing a massive Mexican card to Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day.
“It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t scheduled. I ripped the whole schedule around to make this happen, put pressure on the (matchmakers) to build a card for that event. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Grasso was the logical choice to headline the show. Fellow Mexican fighters Brandon Moreno and Yair Rodriguez lost their belts earlier this year, leaving Grasso to carry the flag for her home country.
She gets a rematch against Shevchenko, who she took the belt from in March with a stunning upset by submission.
It won’t be easy to repeat the performance.
Shevchenko remains one of the greatest female fighters in history and will take the cage as about a minus-175 favorite.
She insists she simply got caught in a submission in a fight she was winning and that the result did little to damage her credentials.
“Everyone’s speaking about the loss or something like that, but I want to remind everyone, I’m a 17-time world Muay Thai champion, seven title defenses, and you can’t get rid of that,” she said.
Three of the other four main-card bouts feature fighters representing Mexico, including 18-year-old Las Vegan Raul Rosas, who will take on bantamweight Terrence Mitchell.
What: Noche UFC
When: 4 p.m. (preliminaries), 7 p.m. (main card)
Where: T-Mobile Arena
Main event: Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko for women’s flyweight title