With Alexander Gustafsson sidelined due to a severe cut, his replacement will be a Sledgehammer, not an Axe Murderer.
Less than 24 hours after the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation made it official that Gustafsson would not be allowed to fight, UFC officials enlisted the next best 205-pound Swede, Gustafsson training partner Ilir Latifa, to fight Gegard Mousasi in Saturday’s UFC on Fuel TV 9 main event.
Mousasi will face Iliir Latifa this Saturday live on @fueltv Latifa is from Sweden and training partner of Gustafsson.
— Dana White (@danawhite) April 2, 2013
If you’re asking yourself who Ilir Latifa is, you’re probably not alone. Known in Sweden as one of the country’s top light heavyweights outside of Gustafsson, Latifa hasn’t spent much time in the limelight.
Latifa’s biggest wins have come over the likes of King of the Cage champion Tony Lopez and WEC veteran Jorge Oliveira. He will, however, receive the biggest opportunity of his career on the biggest stage in the mixed martial arts world, a UFC main event.
The fight came about when Gustafsson was declared ineligible just four days prior to the event slated for Ericsson Global Arena in Stockholm. That left very little time to find a replacement that would be prepared both physically and with the necessary travel documents to make it in time for the fight, leaving UFC officials to enlist a home grown talent.
Former Pride champion Wanderlei Silva on Monday talked himself up as Gustafsson’s replacement, but following several interviews and confirmations to news outlets, the Axe Murder later admitted his declarations were an April Fools’ Day related hoax.
UFC president Dana White had insisted as recently as Monday that the fight card had not changed, and that Gustafsson wanted to fight. Weekend statements by SMMAF president George Sallfeldt skeptical that Gustafsson could gain clearance came to a head on Tuesday when the sanctioning body’s medical board ruled that Gustafsson would not be allowed to fight.
Enter Latifa into a three-round main event bout with Mousasi.
Mousasi, like Latifa, is also making his UFC debut on Saturday, but his resume dwarfs that of the 7-2 Swede. Mousasi maintains a professional record of 33-3-2, has held the light heavyweight championship for both Strikeforce and Dream, and is largely regarded as one of the top 205-pound fighters in the world.
To be sure, it’s an obscure UFC main event, with two debuting fighters, but it is one built from circumstance due to timing and logistics.