UFC will make history on July 18 as it hosts UFC® FIGHT NIGHT: BISPING vs. LEITES at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland’s debut UFC event.
To date the UFC has announced nine bouts on this highly anticipated card, featuring athletes from nine countries, across four continents, representing seven weight classes. The roster so far includes three Scottish, four English and three Irish fighters, giving UK and Irish audiences a fantastic opportunity to see athletes compete in front of a united home crowd.
The event is headlined by a five round match-up between the No.9 ranked UFC middleweight Michael “The Count” Bisping (26-7, fighting out of Manchester, England) and the No. 10 ranked middleweight Thales Leites (25-4, fighting out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).
Rising to fame as winner of the second season of the UFC’s reality show The Ultimate Fighter, England native Bisping has not fought in the UK since October 2010 when he defeated Yoshihiro Akiyama in the main event of UFC® 120 at London’s O2 Arena. Since that day, British MMA fans have been clamoring for “The Count” to return to fight in the UK.
Leites, meanwhile, is arguably one of most seasoned fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division, having recorded five straight wins including three straight finishes. Best known in the Octagon® for his title challenge of Anderson Silva, the Brazilian’s most recent win came against Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch at UFC® 183: SILVA vs. DIAZ, a performance which earned him both Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night bonuses.
Bisping said: “I’ve been talking to the UFC for a long time about fighting back in the UK, then when I heard about the card in Glasgow I was straight on to Dana trying to get on that card. It’s been five years since I fought in the UK and the UK is by far my favourite place to fight.
“My skills are always evolving, even now I’m still learning, still progressing, I’m still a student of the sport. One lesson I have learnt is that you must treat your body like an athlete all year round, not just during camp, I eat better and train all year – I wish I did that when I was younger.
“Some could say this fight is striker versus grappler, Thales will look to take me to the floor there’s no doubt. That being said, he’s a jiu-jitsu specialist not a wrestler, and with my take down defence I think he’ll struggle to get me to the floor. Even if he does get me down, I’m confident with my ability on the floor. I’m certainly more skilled and experienced on my feet as well.
“The crowd will see me destroy a Brazilian, fans will definitely get what they’re paying for. I did a signing in Glasgow a few years back and the line went down the street, so many Glaswegians came out to show their support and I think it’ll be no different on July 18th.
“I want the UK audience to show their support and show the UFC why we need to keep bringing events back to the UK. I’ve heard enough about the Irish, never mind them, we’re going to show everyone how we do it in the UK.”
The co-main event of the evening, meanwhile, will see England’s Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson (19-8, fighting out of San Diego, California) face Evan Dunham (15-6, fighting out of Las Vegas, Nev., USA), which could see the winner break their way into the UFC’s top 15 lightweight rankings.
Pearson said: “There’s nothing better than coming back to where it all started, it means so much more and it makes me work harder in my camp and to get that finish. Evan is a dangerous guy, I definitely wanted this fight, he’s been around for a while and has made a name for himself. Stylistically this is a great match up, he’ll come forward but I’m the one with the power and technical ability to get the finish.
“The first UFC event in Scotland is going to be an amazing night, people will see world class fighters and fights. You can expect to see fireworks from me, I’m going in looking for that knockout and to make a statement.”
Scottish athletes confirmed to fight on home soil at UFC FIGHT NIGHT: BISPING vs. LEITES are Stevie “Braveheart” Ray, who meets Brazilian Leonardo Mafra, Robert “The Hammer” Whiteford who will face off against Ireland’s Paul “Redser” Redmond and the No.9 ranked women’s strawweight Joanne “Jojo” Calderwood who will take on Australia’s Bec Rawlings.
UFC FIGHT NIGHT: BISPING vs. LEITES fight card confirmed so far (bout order tbc):
Paddy Holohan vs. Vaughan Lee
Light Heavyweight bout
Ilir Latifi vs. Hans Stringer
Women’s strawweight bout
Joanne Calderwood vs. Bec Rawlings
Robert Whiteford vs. Paul Redmond
Leon Edwards vs. Pawel Pawlak
Joe Duffy vs. Ivan Jorge
Stevie Ray vs. Leonardo Mafra
Ross Pearson vs. Evan Dunham
Michael Bisping vs. Thales Leites