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Borg’s long-awaited return to octagon now is set for March 30

Albuquerque MMA fighter Ray Borg, inactive for a wide variety reasons since October 2017, is scheduled to return to the Octagon on March 30 against China’s Liu Pingyuan (13-5).

Borg (11-3) would join fellow Albuquerquean Michelle Waterson on the UFC card in Philadelphia. Waterson (16-6), a strawweight, is matched against Poland’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-3).

A career flyweight, Borg is moving up to bantamweight (135 pounds) to face Pingyuan.

The March 30 card will be telecast on ESPN2.

Borg last fought on Oct. 7, 2017, when he lost in his bid for the UFC flyweight title against then-champion Demetrious Johnson by fifth-round submission (arm bar).

Since then:

• A scheduled fight against Brandon Moreno in February 2018 was cancelled due to an injury suffered by Moreno.

• A rescheduled April 2018 fight against Moreno in Brooklyn, N.Y., was scratched after Borg took glass shards to his eye when Conor McGregor shoved a dolly through a shuttle bus window.

• Borg had to pull out of a rescheduled fight against Moreno in May 2018 in Santiago, Chile, because of a dire medical condition diagnosed in his infant son, Anthony. Anthony’s condition would occupy most of Borg’s time for months to come.

• In November, Borg pulled out of a fight against Las Cruces native Joseph Benavidez due to an injury.

Since then, Borg had been campaigning on social media for a spot on a UFC card.

“I love to travel,” he tweeted on Jan. 16, in hopes of getting a fight on UFC Fight Night 147 in London on March 16.

But even better, he’d tweeted earlier, would be a fight on UFC on ESPN2 in Philadelphia on March 30. Young Anthony was born on March 27, 2018.

“I would love to give him a win for his birthday,” he posted.

Now, barring anything unforeseen, Borg will get that opportunity.

Anthony, meanwhile, is doing well after undergoing several surgeries to correct his hydrocephalus, an excessive buildup of fluid in the brain.

WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG: Las Vegas, Nev., boxing manager Cameron Dunkin told the Journal he has signed Kirtland junior welterweight Elija Martinez to a pro contract.

Martinez, among New Mexico’s finest amateur fighters of recent years, is only 16 years old.

Dunkin, a former Albuquerque resident, said he’d had no plans to sign a 16-year-old – having never done so before – but had been watching Martinez in the amateur ranks for more than a year.

Martinez and his parents, Dunkin said, were eager for him to turn pro and believed he was ready.

“Someone was going to sign him, so it might as well be me,” he said.

Most states, including New Mexico, don’t allow boxers to fight as professionals until they turn 18. Some states, Dunkin said, do allow fighters younger than 18 to compete.

More likely, Dunkin said, he’ll have Martinez start his pro career in Mexico. World champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez turned pro in his native Mexico at age 15.

CARD UPDATES: Denver-area boxer Johnny Rodriguez will face Albuquerque’s Fidel Maldonado Jr. in the main event of promoter Pat Holmes’ April 5 card at the Embassy Suites, Holmes announced.

Despite having relatively few pro fights – he’s 9-3-1 with six knockouts – Rodriguez is 37 years old and has a son, Jacob, who’s a Colorado Golden Gloves amateur champion. According to a May 2017 Denver Post story, Rodriguez and his son were living in New Mexico when the elder Rodriguez decided to resume his pro career. He hadn’t fought for 12 years before returning to Colorado in 2014.

Meanwhile, Albuquerque’s Legacy Promotions has filled in the last remaining slot for its March 30 card at Expo New Mexico. Albuquerque’s Cristian Castillo (2-0, two KOs) is matched against Belen’s Gene Perez (2-15-1).

As reported earlier, Albuquerque welterweight Josh Torres (19-6-2, 11 KOs) is matched against Mexico’s Francisco Javier Castro (28-9, 23 KOs) in Legacy’s main event.

Five Albuquerque fighters, Whitney Tobin, Joshua Todd, Cody East, Sean Baca and Marc Entenberg, are scheduled to perform on a Muay Thai card at Route 66 Casino Hotel on April 20. The card is promoted by Lion Fight, a company that will stage its 52nd card in Dublin, Ireland on March 16.

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