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UFC news, rumors: Israel Adesanya confirms offer to face Dricus du Plessis as main event of UFC 300

Booking a main event for UFC 300 was a complicated procedure. UFC president Dana White announced Alex Pereira vs. Jamahal Hill would headline the milestone card but it was far from the promotion’s first choice. One fight the UFC apparently explored was Dricus du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya.

The rumor mill has churned nonstop since UFC 300 was first announced for April 13. Every major name you can think of — from Conor McGregor to Georges St-Pierre — entered the public consciousness. In the aftermath of Pereira vs. Hill being booked, stories continue to emerge about options the UFC explored.

Former UFC middleweight champion Adesanya recently confirmed he was preparing to fight reigning champ du Plessis on the card. Du Plessis’ team allegedly turned down the fight, which would have occured less than three months after he defeated Sean Strickland at UFC 297 to capture the title.

“There are some things that were meant to happen,” Adesanya told Theo Von. “They summoned me for 300, and I was like, ‘Yup let’s roll’. But [Du Plessis] side didn’t want it… They just fought Strickland so maybe he had some little nagging injuries.”

White previously revealed that UFC middleweight champion Leon Edwards had agreed to three fights proposed for UFC 300. Combat sports journalist Ariel Helwani reported that UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, Khamzat Chimaev and Shavkat Rakhmonov were the fighters pitched but none came to fruition.

Interim UFC heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall claimed in January that Miocic turned down an offer to fight him at UFC 300. Aspinall also said there were discussions about fighting UFC light heavyweight champion Pereira. Even reigning UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones told Submission Radio he was contacted about a return at UFC 300 but turned it down as he’s still mending injuries.

Pereira vs. Hill was always on the UFC’s radar but it wasn’t initially planned for the April 13 card. Pereira recently told “The MMA Hour”¬†that his title defense against Hill was originally planned for UFC 301 on May 4 in his home nation of Brazil. Pereira hopes to make a quick turnaround and defend his title a second time in three weeks if he dispatches Hill without getting injured.

Let’s take a look at some of the other top stories from a busy month of February.

Brian Ortega overcomes physical and emotional hardships

Ortega has overcome a lot of adversity professionally and personally. Ortega barely survived Round 1 against Yair Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night in Mexico City on Saturday, but what he endured in the fight can’t compare to recent losses in his personal life.

Ortega was dropped and nearly stopped by Rodriguez in the opening round before securing a third-round submission. Ortega — in his first appearance since suffering a terrible shoulder injury 19 months ago — opened up post-match about fighting with a heavy heart.

“I’ll be honest with you right here, it’s been rough,” Ortega told Full Send MMA. “I lost one of my best friends, I lost two friends after that. I got betrayed by people who were close to me. I had four surgeries back to back. It’s just a lot of things in my personal life, and it looked dark.

“I know a lot of people think it’s cheesy, but when I went to church, I found God, and a year ago I was a broken man. And now today I’m married, I got my kids with me, God gave me my family back. And look at us — we’re doing good.”

Ortega isolated himself for several months to work through personal matters while preparing for his UFC return.

“I probably hit every brick wall you can imagine,” Ortega said. “Like, I’ve messed up my life so much. But, we’re still here, man. I spent months alone. I didn’t answer the door. No one came to see me. I was by myself, bro. And it wasn’t like a ‘Boo-hoo me,’ it was more like… I’m working on myself.

“I had to quit some things that I thought I was never going to quit. I had to change my life in a way that I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to, but I know that if I want a better life and I want to really continue and grow and succeed and be a real example for my kids, I got to knock it off. So I went to war with myself, and here we are, look.”

Ortega’s win over Rodriguez puts him in a sweepstakes to challenge new UFC featherweight champion Ilia Topuria. Other fighters in the running include former champions Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway.

Bellator nearly sweeps PFL in crossover card

Renan Ferreira saved the Professional Fighters League from an abysmal showing against Bellator fighters. The two promotions went head-to-head on Feb. 24. Bellator delivered dominantly but the PFL stepped up when it mattered most.

Bellator fighters were 5-0 heading into the main event. Bellator middleweight champion Johnny Eblen survived a scary second round to defeat PFL light heavyweight champ Impa Kasanganay at 185 pounds via split decision. Bellator welterweight titleholder Jason Jackson punished Ray Cooper III for a TKO stoppage. Vadim Nemkov choked out Bruno Cappelozza, Yoel Romero took a unanimous decision against Thiago Santos and AJ McKee tapped out Clay Collard in roughly a minute.

Ferreira was PFL’s final hope, headlining the card against Ryan Bader in a meeting of PFL and Bellator heavyweight champions. Francis Ngannou’s presence further raised the stakes. PFL had announced that the winner of Ferreira vs. Bader would fight Ngannou in the latter’s eventual return to mixed martial arts. It only took Ferreira 21 seconds to finish Bader, punch his ticket to Ngannou and save the day for PFL.

Jack Hermansson brings Joe Pyfer hype train to a screeching halt

The “Be Joe Pyfer” slogan took a hit on Feb. 10. Hermansson succeeded in gatekeeping the division from Pyfer in their UFC Fight Night headliner.

Pyfer became a bit of an Internet darling after steamrolling four opponents under the UFC umbrella. Pyfer’s four consecutive stoppages earned him his first UFC main event and a chance to crack the UFC’s official middleweight Top 15. Hermansson returned to action for the first time since being stopped by Roman Dolidze. The 14-month layoff was the longest of Hermansson’s eight-year UFC tenure.

Things started well enough for Pyfer. The rising contender took Round 1 and Round 2 on all three judges’ scorecards. But the wily Hermansson made the necessary adjustments across the final three frames to snuff Pyfer out. Momentum swung in Hermansson’s favor as Pyfer started slowing down. The result was 48-47 scorecards across the board for Hermansson. It’s back to the drawing board for Pyfer.

Nassourdine Imavov levels up against Roman Dolidze

Welcome to the middleweight elite, Imavov. The 185-pound title picture could have some new disruptors by the end of 2024.

Imavov pieced together an impressive showing against Dolidze in the UFC Fight Night main event on Feb. 3. He nearly stopped Dolidze in Round 1 and outworked him across the remaining four rounds. Imavov would have won decisively but a point deduction resulted in a majority decision win.

Imavmov improved to No. 8 in the UFC’s official middleweight rankings afterwards. Imavov and Brendan Allen (No. 6) are the most promising of a new crop of middleweights looking to breach territory long held by fighters like Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori.

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