Former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Soto started the day on the UFC 177 "Prelims" against Anthony Birchak, signed, sealed, and delivered for Saturday night (August 30, 2014) inside Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California.
Then, the unthinkable happened.
Renan Barao fell ill during his weight cut and was removed from his bantamweight title fight against TJ Dillashaw (full story here). And when the promotion went looking for a viable contender at 135 pounds, it didn't have to look very far.
"I was lying on the floor in my rest room naked, cooling off on the tiles, and a UFC number was calling me. I was like ‘man, what is this about?' And they called me downstairs and asked me if I wanted the shot. And I said I'll take it. Dillashaw's tough, but I'm gonna go out there and give it my all. I actually trained with him not too long ago, and he's good. He's a champion and it's going to be a tough fight. [Winning] would be a dream come true, that's the only way I can explain it. It's something that only God could have come up with. The last four years have been terrible. I know why now. It's crazy, but it's a great story to tell my grandkids, I tell you that."
As crazy as it sounds, Barao wasn't the only fighter to get pulled while cutting weight.
Soto (15-2) is nicknamed "One Bad Mofo" and has a chance to prove it by turning the division on its head in "Sactown." But that's easier said than done against "The Viper," who proved at UFC 173 he can hang with the best of 'em.
Cinderella story? Or squash match?