Vinny Magalhaes is scheduled to face Matt Hamill on the main card of WSOF 24 on October 17th at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, broadcast live worldwide on the NBC Sports Network. It's a fight that was already scheduled to happen once before.
It started out as a bombshell announcement during World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 18 on Feb. 12, 2015: The mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion would crown its first-ever Light Heavyweight champion at the conclusion of a four-man tournament.
And one of the handpicked participants was already a champion in his own right -- Titan FC 205-pound champion Vinny Magalhaes -- a favorite going in against fellow former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Matt "The Hammer" Hamill.
The other half of the bracket was originally set to feature Ronny Markes vs. Thiago Silva, but things went awry in spectacular fashion. Magalhaes was pulled from the tournament because of a contract dispute with Titan FC. Silva and Hamill were then paired up in what would have been a rematch, but Hamill withdrew from WSOF 19 because of illness.
As the dominoes continued to fall, Silva ultimately wound up facing replacement Teddy Holder, with Holder scoring one of MMA's most surprising knockouts of 2015. Meanwhile, in a now completely rebuilt tournament bracket, Markes was set to face WSOF Middleweight champion David Branch, but that fight never happened either.
To make a long story short, David Branch ultimately became a dual weight class champion in WSOF, and we've now come full circle to a fight that should have led to the finals, Magalhaes vs. Hamill, which will take place at WSOF 24 inside Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., airing on NBC Sports Network on Sat., Oct. 17, 2015.
Magalhaes recently sat down with MMAmania.com to clear up what led to him getting pulled from the tournament, his thoughts on facing Hamill after all this time, and whether or not he believes the winner should get a title shot against the inaugural champion, Branch.
In case there's any doubt about his current status, Magalhaes has been released from his Titan FC contract, vacating the title and enabling him to fight for WSOF full time.
"There was an issue with my contract with Titan, so I tried to walk away from the contract, which I believed that I had all the rights to do. My attorney believed I had the right to do it. I felt like there was a breach on my contract from their side. I just told them, 'Look I don't have time for you guys any more since there's this breach.' I never wanted to take it to court, because if I tried to take that situation to court, it could have taken up to 18 months."
There are things Magalhaes says he can't say about the contract because of a mutual understanding from both parties that ultimately led to his release, but he intimates that it was largely due to them not offering him enough fights.
"Even when I signed with Titan back then I was hoping to stay really busy. That's actually like one of the issues that I ended up having. Because of the whole situation I ended up not fighting for a year, but hopefully now I will get to fight more often with World Series."
Several injuries, as well as a really severe (and visually disturbing) staph infection, also kept Magalhaes inactive for much longer than he anticipated.
"(When) I signed with Titan I was supposed to fight Jason Brilz in April of that year and I got a staph infection. That was an awful one. I didn't realize that it was that bad until I went to the doctor, spent six days in the hospital, and the doctor said, 'If you didn't come to treat it, that could have gone to your lungs or your heart.' I said, 'Oh thanks - thanks for letting me know!'"
Now that Magalhaes has his contract issues and his staph infection cleared up, all he has to do is be ready for Oct. 17, 2015, and hope that Hamill doesn't pull out of another fight at the last minute.
"I'm not saying he did that intentionally, he might have gotten sick and had to back out. It's just a situation where I have to be ready to fight my fight. Most of my camp I didn't set up a strategy specifically for him. I tried to get myself ready for any situation. Not just with him, it's nothing personal, but anybody could change an opponent at the last minute, so I don't want to be training for a wrestler then have to fight a striker at the last minute."
Given the recent history of the WSOF Light Heavyweight division, it's hard to blame him for that approach. The interesting twist on it all is that Magalhaes wants to fight two months later on a WSOF card in Las Vegas, Nevada, which means he's got to get in and out of the Hamill fight without anything that could warrant a long medical suspension.
"That's the main thing, like not to get hurt. Every commission works differently, so I don't know how the Connecticut commission works, but yeah that's a risk. Those three rounds I think that's like an automatic 30 (days) whether you get hurt or not."
There's also the possibility the winner moves a step closer to fighting Branch for his Light Heavyweight title and the loser goes to the back of the line, but Magalhaes is only focusing on the "W" itself.
"It's hard to say, 'Well I won this fight, I'm going to be fighting for the title.' Also you gotta count the fact I haven't fought for almost a year. I think it's really going to depend on my performance, how I perform in this fight. To be honest I'm in no rush to be fighting for the title right now, but if I perform well and get a win that deserves some attention then it's like, 'Why not fight for the title y'know?'"
Magalhaes is realistic, focused, and ready for Matt Hamill at Foxwoods Resort Casino one week from today. Complete audio of our interview is below and complete WSOF 24 coverage can be found right here on fight night.