The fans who file into the Ericsson Globe arena in Stockholm on Saturday will get a fighter with Swedish ties in the main event. Just not the one they were expecting.
Ilir Latifi will replace Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fuel TV 9 in the light heavyweight main event bout against Gegard Mousasi. The match will be scheduled for three rounds instead of the originally planned five.
Latifi, a fighter of Albanian heritage known as "The Sledgehammer," lives in Malmo, Sweden, and is a training partner of Gustafsson. He has a 7-2 record with 1 no-contest. Latifi has won four of his past five fights, with his only loss in that span a unanimous-decision loss to current Bellator standout Emanuel Newton on a 2011 Shark Fights card.
"Mousasi will face Iliir Latifa this Saturday live on Fuel TV," UFC president Dana White tweeted. "Latifa is from Sweden and training partner of Gustafsson."
Several days of speculation ended Tuesday when the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation would not clear Gustafsson to fight on Saturday due to a deep laceration above his eyebrow suffered last week in training.
Latifi, a Greco-Roman wrestler affiliated with the Pancrase Gym Sweden, sent out a message on his personal blogafter the announcement stating "I just want to thank the UFC, Mr. Dana White, Mr. Joe Silva, Mr. Lorenzo Fertitta, Mr. Manos Terzitane and Mr. Gegard Mousasi for giving me the chance to fight in UFC Stockholm."