SYDNEY -- Hatsu Hioki
is still contracted to fight for Sengoku Raiden Championships, but should he be released from his contract like top SRC fighters Jorge Santiago, Ronnie Mann and Marlon Sandro were recently, the UFC wants the Japanese featherweight to know that they would welcome him with open arms.
"If Hioki wanted in the UFC, I would be happy to have him," UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby
told MMA Fighting on Friday.
"Because of the way the merger is, my roster is full. I wasn't looking to add talent until June or July, but I would make room for Hioki at any point."
Clearly, the UFC is high on Hioki, who is considered by many MMA pundits to be the second-best 145-pound fighter in the world behind current UFC champion Jose Aldo.
However, while Shelby said he would love to add Hioki to his roster, he noted several times that the organization has never talked to Hioki or his management due to his contract with SRC. Simply put, the UFC can't even entertain the idea of signing Hioki until he is either released from his SRC contract or fulfills his final fight obligation. Any negotiation with a contracted fighter would be considering tampering and could lead to severe legal problems.
As MMA Fighting reported
earlier this month, SRC's future is very much in doubt due the potential of losing a large sponsor after negative press was reported about the organization and they have recently begun releasing some of their top stars. The organization hasn't made a decision on what to do with Hioki yet.
Hioki (23-4-2) recently defeated Marlon Sandro via unanimous decision to win the SRC featherweight title.