World Series of Fighting 21 tomorrow night, from Edmonton, Alberta, will feature two title fights for the promotion, one at featherweight and the other at heavyweight.
The WSOF featherweight champion, Lance Palmer, will defend against veteran Chris Horodeski — who many fans may remember as one of the stars of the ill-fated IFL promotion a few years ago.
The heavyweight champ, Smealinho “The Prince” Rama, is defending against Blagoi Ivanov, who enjoyed a successful run in Bellator. Ivanov is also known for famously defeating Emelianenko Fedor en route to winning Combat SAMBO World Championships in 2008.
But it’s a bout deep on the undercard which is raising an unusual amount of interest today, as a bizarre turn of events has a fighter facing one of his teammates.
Matt Baker, a native of British Columbia who is listed as fighting under the MMA team Pitbull Brothers, saw his originally scheduled opponent for WSOF 21 forced to pull out, as Ariel Helwani describes, “due to complications with his weight cut.”
He has been replaced by Thiago “Jambo” Goncalves, who was in Edmonton to corner Baker and was even sharing a room with him this week. Goncalves, a black belt under Rodrigo Nogueira who frequently trains with Pitbull Brothers, was also to fight this weekend but an opponent pulled out due to injury.
WSOF officials confirmed to Helwani that Goncalves was offered a separate room after the agreement to fight was reached, but declined.
In a post on his Facebook page, Goncalves explains:
I came all the way from Brazil to fight Valimaki when he injured himself training, (Baker) was ready to fight Hicks when Hicks couldn’t make weight ( Again! ). Matt needed money for his new born baby, all I have is a 100 dollars in my wallet. We doing this because we love each other like brothers and because we spar harder than most of the fights even been in.
An MMA manager from Brazil describes the relationship between Thiago Goncalves and Matt Baker as “like brothers” — and that Goncalves’ “friendship changed Matt’s life.”
@arielhelwani like brothers. Jambo's friendship changed Matt's life.
— Matheus Aquino (@MatheusDCAquino) June 4, 2015
The WSOF 21 main card will air tomorrow (Friday) at 9pm ET/6 pm PT. The preliminary bouts, including Baker/Goncalves, will air at WSOF.com at 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT.