The first UFC event of 2023 has taken a hit with the news that Geoff Neal has withdrawn from his co-main event match-up against Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC Fight Night 217 in January due to an injury.
Neal is the current the welterweight division’s No.7 ranked contender after picking up two big wins against Santiago Ponzinibbio and Vicente Luque in the past 12 months, leaving him with a 7-2 record in the UFC to date.
After news of his removal from the fight Neal suggested that he was looking for the bout to be rescheduled for a later date.
“Fights [sic] off people…looking to rebook Shavkat later,” Neal wrote on Facebook. “Nobody’s scared.”
However, the UFC may well be looking for a late replacement opponent to keep Rakhmonov on the card, with the undefeated fighter having so far compiled a four-fight winning streak in the UFC so far, all by finish, against the likes of Alex Oliveira, Michel Prazeres, Carlston Harris and most recently Neil Magny to take the No.10 spot in the rankings.
And the 28-year-old Rakhmonov has already responded favorably to Bryan Barberena’s offer to step in and fight him.
“Neal out. We were supposed to fight before on short notice. No one wants to fight you,” Barberena wrote to Rakhmonov on Twitter. “F*ck it make it at 180 and I’ll see you there! 👊🏽💥.”
“Why not, let’s do it for the fans 👊🏼,” Rakhmonov replied.
“Mad respect ✊🏽 let’s Fucken go! @ufc @seanshelby @danawhite let’s make this official send the contract and let’s get it done,” Barberena responded.
It remains to be seen if the UFC will be down with the idea, but though Barberena is currently unranked and saw a three-fight winning streak come to an end against Rafael dos Anjos at the start of December, it still seems like a solid fight to put on under the short-notice circumstances to bolster a card that will be headlined by Nassourdine Imavov vs. Kelvin Gastelum.