ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On June 7, a long-cherished dream of Albuquerque’s MMA community will become reality.
The UFC, the sport’s most powerful organization, announced Tuesday it will stage a “Fight Night” card that evening at Tingley Coliseum.
It would be UFC’s first show staged in New Mexico, despite the sport’s popularity here and despite the presence over several years of many Albuquerque-based fighters on UFC cards.
Tickets are scheduled to go on sale April 18, said Chris Costello, the UFC’s director of public relations.
Rustam Khabilov, a Dagestan native who trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, is scheduled to fight in the June 7 main event against former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Khabilov has a professional record of 17-1. Henderson is 20-3.
Welterweight Lance Benoist (6-2) of St. Charles, Mo., will face Bobby Voelker (24-11) on the card, it was announced later Tuesday.
The full card will be announced later.
Since the June 7 card was announced Tuesday morning, speculation – and campaigning – has been rife regarding which New Mexico-based fighters might appear.
Holly Holm? Don’t count on it.
Lenny Fresquez, Holm’s promoter, said he talked with the UFC’s top brass Saturday in Dallas. The discussions were productive, he said, but no agreement on a contract was reached.
“We just need to come to (financial) terms,” he said. “I don’t want to mention any kind of figure, but we need to get closer on money. That’s pretty much our only stumbling block.”
Fresquez said the UFC brass – CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, President Dana White, matchmaker Sean Shelby – made it clear they would love to have Holm under contract in time for her to fight June 7.
While he closed no doors, Fresquez said he didn’t like the timing or the situation.
Holm, 6-0 as an MMA fighter, is scheduled to fight Brazil’s Juliana Werner in the main event of an April 4 Legacy Fighting Championship card at Route 66 Casino Hotel. She has another LFC fight scheduled June 20 in Houston, though terms of the contract with Legacy would allow her to leave for the UFC at any time.
Fresquez said he’s not inclined to do so.
“I don’t think (fighting on the June 7 card) would be fair on my part to put that kind of pressure on Holly,” he said. “… It would be pressure enough just to go into the UFC, (let alone) fighting in her hometown in her first UFC fight.
“I just don’t think that’s a good business decision.”
Some obvious candidates to fight June 7 would be UFC’s three native New Mexicans: flyweight John Dodson, welterweight Carlos Condit and lightweight Diego Sanchez, all Jackson-Winkeljohn fighters.
Dodson has been rehabbing from a December knee injury, but apparently expects to be healthy by June 7.
“Who wants to see me fight on UFC Fight Night here in ABQ June 7th?” he tweeted. “Let the @UFC and @danawhite know.”
Condit suffered a knee injury in his loss by TKO Saturday to Tyron Woodley on UFC 171. Sanchez is coming off a disappointing loss to Myles Jury on the same card.
Lightweight Isaac Vallie-Flagg was born in Michigan but has waged his entire MMA career in New Mexico. Vallie-Flagg is scheduled to fight April 26 on the UFC’s Jon Jones-Glover Teixeira undercard.
Meanwhile, Jackson-Winkeljohn lightweight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, like Dodson, was campaigning on Twitter. “Dear @ufc sure would love to fight in June Albuquerque card!!” Cerrone tweeted.
Cerrone is scheduled to fight April 19 on the undercard of a UFC card headlined by Jackson-Winkeljohn heavyweight Travis Browne.
Jackson-Winkeljohn has in the neighborhood of 20 fighters under contract to UFC, so there are plenty of options.
RAW RESULTS: Sanchez, who lost by decisive, unanimous decision to Jury on Saturday, had an unusual postfight explanation: a Friday night loss by knockout to steak tartare. Sanchez tweeted that he had the raw steak dish (with a raw quail egg) as an appetizer at dinner.
“I threw up first at 2 a.m. and all fight day,” he tweeted.
Sanchez said he was supplying this information more as an apology to his fans for his poor performance than as an excuse.
“I made a horrible choice,” he tweeted, “and it’s no one’s fault but mine.”