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UFC releases one-time bantamweight title challenger Joe Soto

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Joe Soto
Joe Soto (right) made his UFC debut when he was brought in as a last-minute opponent to fight bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw (left) on Aug. 30, 2014.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

One-time bantamweight title challenger Joe Soto is no longer with the UFC.

MMA Fighting confirmed with sources that Soto has been released by the promotion, following an initial report by FloCombat. This makes Soto a free agent for the first time in over four years.

In eight appearances for the promotion, the 31-year-old compiled a 3-5 record, though he had the distinction of immediately being positioned as a headliner when he debuted in the Octagon back at UFC 177 on Aug. 30, 2014. The main event of that card was supposed to feature bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw defending his title in a rematch against Renan Barao, but after complications with Barao’s weight cut led to him being hospitalized, officials scrambled for a replacement.

Soto was scheduled to fight Anthony Birchak on that same show, but was removed from that booking and instead asked to fight Dillashaw on less than 48 hours notice. The former Bellator featherweight champion made it to the fifth round with Dillashaw before losing by TKO.

He went on to lose his next two fights before rebounding with consecutive victories over Chris Beal, Marco Beltran, and Rani Yahya. However, Soto’s UFC run would end with fast first-round losses to Brett Johns and Iuri Alcantara. The Alcantara outcome dropped Soto’s record to 18-7.