Carlos Ulberg will have to wait a little bit longer before facing the biggest challenge of his UFC career so far.
The Kiwi light heavyweight was booked to meet former title challenger Dominick Reyes at UFC 297 in Toronto this month, but that bout will no longer feature on the year’s first UFC pay-per-view card.
The Herald understands the bout is expected to be shifted to the scheduled fight night in Atlantic City on March 31 (NZ time) to allow Ulberg more time to recover from a foot injury.
The 33-year-old recently fought through injury in September when he claimed the first submission win of his career with a late stoppage of Da Woon Jung. That was Ulberg’s fourth win in a row by finish (three KOs, one submission) and his fifth-straight victory.
Now holding a 5-1 UFC record (10-1 overall), the bout against Reyes will be Ulberg’s first opportunity to crack the UFC’s light heavyweight rankings, with the 34-year-old American sitting at No 12.
Ulberg having to withdraw from the original date has caused a bit of chat between the two online, adding a little fire to an already spicy match-up.
Both fighters are known for their ability to knock their opponents out, with six of Ulberg’s 10 career wins and seven of Reyes’ 12 coming in that fashion.
Reyes has been as high as No 1 in the rankings and has fought for the division’s title twice. His first attempt saw him suffer the first loss of his career in a controversial decision against long-time champion Jon Jones in early 2020. Jones vacated the belt soon afterwards and moved up in weight class, and Reyes fought for the vacant title later that year but was knocked out by Jan Blachowicz.
That was the start of a rough three-fight stretch for Reyes, who has been knocked out in each of his last three appearances in the octagon.
While Ulberg has been active, with three fights in 2022 and two in 2023, Reyes has not fought in more than a year and has fought just twice in the last three years.
The match-up was one Ulberg called for following his most recent win, noting Reyes was the perfect opponent to test himself against as he looks to continue his rise in 2024.
“I feel like I’m building, and I’ll continue to build. This next fight that I want is top 15, then I’ll go top 10 and then I want to go from there; just continue to push,” he said after his win last September.
“I want to get that title and I know I’ll get there, it’s just a matter of getting those fights and getting on the right cards to get the right fights.
“Right now, Dominick Reyes is in a position in the top 15 where I can get that, I can grab that off him, but he’s a name...I think that’s a guy for me to test myself [against].”
With Ulberg’s bout rescheduled, heavyweight Justin Tafa will now be the first Kiwi to step into the octagon this year when he meets Brazil’s Rogerio de Lima at UFC 298 in February.
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you