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UFC signs top heavyweight, releases him a day later during chaotic UFC 280 lineup change

“Our athletes have a UFC clause in their contracts,” Fernand Lopez told Alfredo Zullino back in late 2019. “We made a deal with the UFC, as well: they will sign our best athletes.”

Ares FC heavyweight champion Slim Trablesi, 29, was expected to make his Octagon debut as part of the upcoming UFC 280 pay-per-view (PPV) event on Oct. 22 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, taking over for Hamdy Abdelwahab to battle longtime heavyweight Parker Porter.

But less than 24 hours after reaching a deal with the world’s preeminent combat sports promotion, thanks to a meeting with UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard, Trablesi (5-0) was released because of contractual issues with promoter and manager Fernand Lopez.

“To fight in Ares, we have to be managed by Fernand Lopez,” Trablesi told Sport en France. “Initially he said to me, you have a four-fight contract in Ares and if the UFC calls you, I’ll let you go to the UFC. I trusted him and I signed the contract and when UFC called me, he tried to block me with the Ares contract.”

Lopez, who runs MMA Factory in Paris, may be a familiar name among UFC fans after his public (and messy) fallout with reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. And despite promises from manager Ali Abdelaziz, Trablesi remains grounded in France for the foreseeable future.

“Ali Abdelaziz promised me, ‘If you win the (Ares) fight for the belt, I’ll put you in the UFC,’” Trablesi continued. “And that’s what happened. For the meeting with Mick Maynard, I told him it’s not Fernand who organized this, this is Ali. Lopez was suprised the matchmaker was there. He took the camera to make it look like he was the one who organized this meeting, but it’s not true.”

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when Abdelaziz was running a similar scheme for World Series of Fighting (WSOF), managing WSOF fighters while also serving as Executive Vice President for the promotion before it rebranded as Professional Fighters League (PFL).

Abdelaziz was eventually forced to step down.

“After this meeting, Ali signed me to UFC and I was to fight on Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi,” Trablesi said. “And Fernand blocked me. He called Ali asking for 90,000 Euros to let me go to UFC. Ali offered to give him a percentage of the money I was going to earn in my UFC fights and even with that, he refused.”

A date for Trablesi’s Ares FC return has yet to be determined, but his account stands in stark contrast to the one Lopez provided to Alfredo Zullino during a 2019 interview that outlined his goals for Ares FC and its fighters.

“We’re going to try and build our own exclusive roster, we have the money to sign anyone,” Lopez said. “In a few months, we’ll be bigger than Bellator and ONE Championship. At the same time, though, our athletes have a UFC clause in their contracts. We made a deal with the UFC, as well: they will sign our best athletes.”

Or not.

For more on the upcoming UFC 280 card click here.

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