LAS VEGAS — Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) president Ed Soares announced today that the promotion will be bringing a top-tier flyweight world title fight to New Mexico in September. RFA 18 - Manzanares vs. Sanchez will feature a main event between two dynamic flyweights as RFA flyweight champion Matt Manzanares defends his title for the first time against undefeated top-contender Joby Sanchez. In the co-main event, popular UFC vet Ulysses Gomez returns to action against Abel Cullum, who is also an accomplished bantamweight looking to make a successful comeback. The event takes place Friday, September 12th at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The entire main card will be televised live and nationwide on AXS TV at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.
"I'm excited to announce that the RFA will be bringing a fantastic flyweight title fight to New Mexico," stated Soares. "Matt Manzanares has shown his eagerness and ability to compete with anyone in the world at 125-pounds. He will be defending his title against the undefeated and very talented Joby Sanchez., who is coming off a huge win and will be fighting in front of his home crowd."
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Manzanares (8-2) has made name for himself in the RFA as one of the most exciting and fearless fighters in RFA history, who is always eager to test his skills against the best in the world. This will be the sixth fight in the RFA for the Wyoming native, who has accepted fights against the who's who of the flyweight division since joining the promotion in the summer of 2012. Manzanares' last three fights have come against Junior Maranhão, Zach Makovsky, and Steve Swanson, but in that time, he also had fights scheduled with Sergio Pettis and Leandro Higo that fell through due to injury and visa issues respectively. After defeating Maranhão to win the RFA flyweight title in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming in April, Manzanares will now look to play spoiler as he travels into enemy territory for his first title defense against one of the most dangerous flyweights in the sport. Manzanares will be defending his title 11 days after his 28th birthday and plans to celebrate in style.
"I'm excited to fight someone as well-rounded and dangerous as Joby Sanchez," stated Manzanares. "Like me, Joby is a finisher, that isn't afraid to stand and bang or take the fight to the ground. He's very talented. He's finished everyone he has faced and he has a lot of confidence right now, but even though I'm the champion, the pressure to perform will be on him since this will be in front of his home crowd. I see myself finishing the fight in the first or second round."
Sanchez (6-0) will be fighting for the RFA flyweight title in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico fresh off of the biggest win of his career. That win came against UFC vet and longtime WEC mainstay Antonio Banuelos via TKO on a live Internet stream provided by Sherdog.com. A flurry of punches from the unbeaten Burqueño prompted Banuelos' legendary cornerman John Hackleman to throw in the towel in the second round and made a clear statement that Sanchez is ready for the next level of competition in his promising young career. The 23-year-old is now returning home to Albuquerque with a freshly signed contract with the RFA. His first order of business in the promotion will see him return to AXS TV in the main event of RFA 18 against the Junior Olympian boxer turned MMA champion Manznanares.
"First of all, this is a huge opportunity for me to fight for the RFA flyweight title in my hometown. Any time I have the chance to fight in Albuquerque, it's special to me. New Mexico has great fight fans," stated Sanchez. "I have seen Manzanares fight once before and I know he's a really tough kid. He's an excellent boxer and he has very good jiu-jitsu. For me, I see this as the next level of competition. I want to be fighting guys like Matt Manzanares that are tough, mean, and very well-rounded."
The co-main event of RFA 18 will see the return of the always popular Ulysses Gomez (9-4). The 31-year-old earned a name for himself on the competitive jiu-jitsu and submission grappling circuit over a decade ago after being introduced to the the "gentle art" by UFC vet, jiu-jitsu black belt, and "Peruvian Necktie" creator Tony De Souza. De Souza was Gomez's wrestling coach in high school. Gomez then became one of the founding members of the famed Cobra Kai Jiu-Jitsu academy in Las Vegas, Nevada before crossing over into MMA. In MMA, Gomez became one of the first American fighters to help promote the flyweight division before the UFC established the division in 2012. Gomez would eventually win titles in both the flyweight and bantamweight divisions before earning a two-fight stint with the UFC. In his final fight with the UFC, Gomez lost a close decision to local English fighter Phil Harris and does not plan on going to the score cards again as he prepares to travel his next to opponent's hometown at RFA 18.
"Abel Cullum has a lot of fights and a good record, but he hasn't fought in 3 years. I'm not sure what he's been doing in that time, but fighters always train and I'm sure he's gotten better," stated Gomez. "I don't think he's better than me in any area and I plan on ending this fight early either standing or on the ground. I will not let this fight go to the hometown score cards like it did in my last fight. I know I have to finish him."
Abel Cullum (18-6) returns to the sport of MMA after a 3-year hiatus from competition. In that time, Cullum served as an officer for the Tucumcari Police Department in his hometown of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Before that, Cullum and his trademark cowboy hat were a familiar sight on the bantamweight and flyweight MMA scene both nationally and internationally, where Cullum has competed against some of the world's best in the Japanese promotion DREAM, as well as KOTC and ShoXC. The 27-year-old recently decided to put his career in law enforcement on hold and moved to Albuquerque to prepare himself at Fit NHB and Chavez Dojo for a revamped run in the sport of MMA.
"I'm excited to be fighting again. RFA has given me a great opportunity to make a comeback in my home state on national television," stated Cullum. "Ulysses Gomez is a really good jiu-jitsu guy that has fought in the UFC. This is a good comeback fight for me, because I think Ulysses and I are similar in the way that we can both roll with the punches and take the fight anywhere. I plan on controlling the tempo and getting my hand raised in front of a lot of great New Mexico fight fans."
Also on the main card of RFA 18 will be an explosive welterweight contest pitting RFA fan favorite Chidi "Chidi Bang Bang" Njokuani (10-4) against submission specialist Steve Hanna (4-1). In lightweight action, decorated French fighter and Muay Thai standout Mehdi "The Sultan" Baghdad (9-3) faces Evan DeLong (13-7) who has won 6 of his last 7 fights. In the bantamweight division, local favorite and Bellator vet Adrian "Killa" Cruz (5-1-1) will square off with promising Power MMA product Joey "The Beast" Miolla (4-1).
The entire main card of RFA 18 - Manzanares vs. Sanchez will be televised live on AXS TV starting at 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT on Friday, September 12th. RFA 18 will be the promotion's first event in the state of New Mexico and the tenth state that the RFA has visited. More fights on the RFA 18 fight card will be announced soon.
Please visit RFAfighting.com for bout updates and information. RFA is also on Facebook at Facebook.com/RFAfighting, Instagram at @RFAfighting, and Twitter at @RFAfighting.
RFA is a professional mixed martial arts promotion that gives rising stars and top contenders the opportunity to prove their talent to fans and leaders in the industry. The RFA presents up to 10 fights annually around the United States including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver and Milwaukee. RFA can be seen live in over 40 million homes nationally through its television deal with AXS TV. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, RFA is one of the most active and respected MMA organizations in the fastest growing sport in the world. (The Octagon, Ultimate Fighting Championship®, UFC®, and the eight-sided competition mat and cage design are registered trademarks owned exclusively by Zuffa, LLC. All rights reserved).
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