In UFC’s biggest attempt to date to boost subscriptions to Fight Pass, it has announced that Anderson Silva will replace Gegard Mousasi in the main event of the 2/27 show at the O2 Arena in London against Michael Bisping.
Mousasi is not injured, and MMA Fighting reported that Mousasi is expecting to be in the co-main event on the show.
Silva was expected to headline a March pay-per-view against Vitor Belfort. UFC officials had said they were working on the fight, but it was never officially announced. Silva, 40, is currently under suspension until 1/31 due to two different failed drug tests for both steroids and anti anxiety medications, one prior to his fight with Nick Diaz, and the other on a test taken the day of the fight.
The announced Bisping vs. Mousasi fight was an instant sellout, so ticket sales were not an issue with the card change, that UFC announced on Twitter on Thursday.
Silva vs. Bisping is, by far, the highest profile fight that will have taken place on Fight Pass.
This could open Belfort up for a fight with new middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Rockhold asked for a rematch with Belfort, who knocked him out with a head kick in 2013, as soon as he had beaten Chris Weidman for the title on 12/12 in Las Vegas. The winner of the Yoel Romero vs. Ronaldo Jacare Souza fight that took place on the same show was expected to get the next title shot, but there was controversy over that decision, as Romero was judged the winner, but most felt Souza took the fight, and Romero didn’t have great momentum coming out of the show. Belfort is also a bigger name than Romero.
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UFC has taken several steps to promote Fight Pass in recent months, including adding more live non-UFC events, and has scheduled much stronger fights going forward on many of its shows that won’t appear on television.