It appears Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 23 event has lost a preliminary card fight the day before the show.
Gabriel Benitez (22-8 MMA, 6-4 UFC) came in at 150.5 pounds Friday for his featherweight bout against Jonathan Pearce (10-4 MMA, 1-1 UFC) – 4.5 pounds too heavy for the non-title limit. Pearce hit the mark at 146.
But though it appeared the fight would go on, with Benitez accepting a 30 percent purse fine, Pearce said on his Instagram account not long after the ceremonial faceoffs that he turned down the fight with Benitez at the higher weight.
“Unfortunately, my opponent came in almost 5lb overweight and our fight is off,” Pearce posted. “I did my part by showing up and making weight and I won’t reward him by accepting a fight and giving away any advantage. I’m trying to be smart about my career, and I hope to be back in the cage soon.”
The UFC has removed the fight from its official event page.
Benitez was attempting to return to the featherweight division after a pair of fights at lightweight. In 2020, he moved up to 155 pounds and dropped a decision to Omar Morales in May. But he rebounded with a first-round knockout of Justin Jaynes this past December. That win got him his second $50,000 performance bonus.
Pearce, who earned his UFC shot with a knockout win on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019, was looking for his second straight win in the UFC. He dropped his promotional debut with a first-round TKO setback against longtime fighter Joe Lauzon. But he bounced back in November 2020 with a second-round TKO of Kai Kamaka III.
With the cancellation, the UFC on ESPN 23 lineup now includes:
MAIN CARD (ESPN2, ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET)
Dominick Reyes vs. Jiri Prochazka
Giga Chikadze vs. Cub Swanson
Ion Cutelaba vs. Dustin Jacoby
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Sean Strickland
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Cody Stamann
Poliana Botelho vs. Luana Carolina
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN2, ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
Randa Markos vs. Luana Pinheiro
T.J. Brown vs. Kai Kamaka III
Sam Hughes vs. Loma Lookboonmee
K.B. Bhullar vs. Andreas Michailidis
Felipe Colares vs. Luke Sanders