After failing to come to an agreement on a fight contract, the World Series of Fighting announced plans to pair Jon Fitch with Joao Zeferino for the vacant welterweight title.
Jake Shields, who lost to former champion Rousimar Palhares, was expected to meet Fitch to crown a new champion later this year. Palhares was stripped of the title following the fight with Shields for multiple infractions and subsequently released by the WSOF.
Fitch vs. Zeferino will now take place April 1 at WSOF 30 on NBC Sports Network. No location or venue were announced at this time.
WSOF president Ray Sefo addressed the matter on the promotions official website, disclosing why Shields was not booked and why they went ahead with Fitch-Zeferino:
I have to admit, for the most part, being the President of World Series of Fighting is a dream job. My life has long been centered around combat sports, and to have the opportunity to take part in the day-to-day operations of a company that airs live fights nationally on NBC and NBCSN is truly a blessing.
But this job has its fair amount of headaches, as well.
For the past few months, I have really been looking forward to seeing two of MMA’s best welterweights, Jon Fitch and Jake Shields, meet in the decagon for our vacant 170-pound title. Now, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am to have to tell World Series of Fighting fans this fight will not happen when we had hoped.
While I thought everyone was on board to make this fight happen, unfortunately Jake Shields has informed us that he does not intend to honor the terms of his existing contract at this time and declined to sign a bout agreement to fight Jon Fitch, so we’ve had to go in a different direction.
Fortunately, we found someone on our roster who was willing to step up for this incredible opportunity not only to potentially win a title, but also to face one of MMA’s all-time greats in Jon Fitch. That man is Joao Zeferino.
World Series of Fighting fans will no doubt remember Joao for his incredible run in our historic, single-night, eight-man lightweight tournament this past November. Joao submitted Brian Foster and Jorge Patino to make it to the finals, only to suffer a knockout loss to Foster in an incredible rematch later that evening. Foster, of course, will challenge World Series of Fighting lightweight champion Justin Gaethje on March 12 at WSOF29. But now, Joao will get to fight for a belt, as well, at WSOF30.
That card will take place in early April. We’ll have the final details available in the next few days, but we wanted to get the welterweight title fight details finalized first.
As you can imagine, I’m disappointed we won’t see Fitch vs. Shields, but I’m impressed that Joao was willing to step up a weight division for this opportunity. With 15 first-round submissions in 20 career wins, I think Joao is as dangerous of a jiu-jitsu fighter as anyone else in the sport and will provide a difficult challenge for Fitch. Credit also to Jon for understanding the need for the change and accepting a new opponent with no concerns.
As for Jake, he’s still under contract with World Series of Fighting, and we’ll look to find another fight for him in the near future.