Bryce Mitchell is out of his fight with Movsar Evloev at UFC 288 on Saturday night in New Jersey after suffering a back injury in training.
The UFC have now swiftly moved to bring in a short-notice replacement in Diego Lopes, who will now make his UFC debut on just five days notice against one of the toughest fighters in the featherweight division.
The 28-year-old Lopes holds a 20-5 career record and actually fought in Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2021, but lost by unanimous technical decision to Joanderson Brito.
At the time that would end a seven-fight winning streak for Lopes, and he would go on to lose his next fight as well, but has since rebounded with back-to-back wins via strikes on the regional circuit.
Now he faces a daunting challenge going up up against the undefeated Evloev, who is 16-0 in his career, including six win in a row since joining the UFC in 2019.
Along the way he’s beaten the likes of Nik Lentz, Hakeen Dawodu and most recently Dan Ige and had been hoping that a win over Bryce Mitchell could have propelled him higher than his current 10th place in the featherweight rankings.
Unfortunately the late fight-change does weaken the main card of the UFC 288 PPV line-up, which remains headlined by a bantamweight title showdown between Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo, while Belal Muhammad fights Gilbert Burns in the co-main event.