Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Ilir Latifi’s dominant decision win over Gian Villante on Saturday night was as impressive as it was unsurprising.
Compiling a solid record of 5-2 in his ongoing UFC run, Latifi has quietly compiled a string of notable victories in the Octagon with finishes to boot, barring Saturday night’s performance against a step up in competition—while his two losses to top level European fighters in Gegard Mousasi and Jan Blachowicz are nothing to sniff at.
However, Latifi’s solid UFC record is often overshadowed by the constant commentary patter reminding us of two moments in the fledgling stages of his career.
The former instance was when “The Sledgehammer” took on current World Series of Fighting heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov in his MMA debut. Fighting in his opponent’s backyard in Sofia, Bulgaria, Latifi wrestled Ivanov into the ropes of the apparent ramshackle ring and said ring imploded under the weight of the two burly Europeans. The fight was rightfully declared a No Contest after 55 seconds—a debut to remember for all the wrong reasons.
The latter occasion constantly associated with Latifi was his gallant appearance as Alexander Gustafsson’s late replacement at UFC on Fuel TV 9, taking on the aforementioned Mousasi and losing a hard-fought decision. The event was left on its knees after Swedish superstar Gustafsson pulled out of the contest having sustained a nasty cut above his eye in one of his last sparring sessions before the event. Latifi stepped up on just four days’ notice, subsequently cutting 25lbs in that time to make the fight happen.
I was fortunate enough to cover that show in Stockholm on behalf of Fightland back in 2013. Being present for Conor McGregor’s UFC debut will forever be etched in one’s memory. But, it was the raucous reception reserved for one Ilir Latifi as he strode ….View full article