Mark Martin | photo by Katie Jay
The UFC recently announced its return to Columbus on March 28, as Nationwide Arena will host a Fight Night event.
The UFC’s roster currently features a great crop of talent from Ohio, including heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, women’s flyweight Jessica Eye, welterweight Matt Brown, lightweight Devonte Smith, heavyweight Jeff Hughes, and light heavyweight Aleksa Camur.
While most of the card will be filled with fighters from around the country and the world, there may be a spot or two for a local fighter to be signed to a contract to make his or her debut. Here’s our list of local fighters who could get a look from the UFC in Columbus.
5 – TJ Rigel (3-0)
TJ Rigel / courtesy RFO & Shoot It MMA Photography
A former Ohio State wrestler, Rigel trains with current UFC fighter Matt Brown, so he could definitely have a good word put in for him. Rigel has been nothing but consistent dating back to his 6-1 amateur career, where he defeated future pros Anthony Romero (who is currently 6-0), Izzy William (4-2), and Jake Schilling (1-0).
His three pro bouts might make it a little early for the UFC to sign him, but he has a bout currently scheduled against Damonte Robinson (5-1-1) at Iron Tiger 91 on Jan. 11. The winner of that fight could easily get a look by the UFC.
4 – Mark Martin (3-1)
Another former Ohio State wrestler, Martin was a part of the Buckeyes’ 2015 national championship team. He trains with a big-time camp at The MMA Lab in Arizona that also features Benson Henderson and multiple other UFC fighters.
He’s got a big-time personality with the nickname “Showtime”, and he’s not been afraid to face – and beat – more experienced fighters like Travis Hussey and Trent McCown. He faces Aaron Highbaugh (8-3) at Iron Tiger 91 and could get a UFC call with a win there.
3 – Jake Miller (5-1)
Miller is a seemingly quiet guy outside of the cage, but he’s been impressive inside with all five of his wins coming via stoppage. The Grove City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu product most recently competed at Ohio Combat League 3 in October, when he defeated Jared Chauvin via TKO after the second round. His only loss is to Jeff Pelton, and there’s no shame in that.
Miller is also expected to be on the Iron Tiger 91 card against a veteran opponent, and a win would really look great for his UFC chances.
2 – Jeff Pelton (7-2)
Pelton trains alongside UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at Strong Style Fight Team in Cleveland, and he’s a former NCAA wrestling champion during his time at Notre Dame College in Northeast Ohio.
He already has a win over Miller and most recently earned a decision over Eric Bledsoe at BCM: Fight Night 7 in September. He doesn’t currently have anything lined up, but he’s the No. 1 ranked lightweight in Ohio by Tapology.
1 – Travis Davis (8-3)
Davis headlines this list for a few reasons. First, he’s a great fighter with seven stoppage wins who has consistently challenged himself against tough competition. His only losses are against Sid Wheeler, UFC veteran Dom Steele, and fellow top prospect Josh Fremd. He is also incredibly popular and would sell a ton of tickets to his fan base from all around Ohio.
Davis is set to face John Poppie for the middleweight title at Ohio Combat League 5 on Jan. 4. A win would be his third in a row and could earn him a UFC call.
Honorable mention: Mo Miller (2-0)
Miller is just 2-0 but is maybe the best prospect currently in Ohio. He also trains at Strong Style and wrestled at Notre Dame College. After a 6-0 amateur run he picked up wins in his first two pro bouts this fall.
Honorable mention: Adli Edwards (6-1)
Edwards technically lives in North Carolina now but he has Ohio roots and wrestled at Ashland University. He has posted a 6-1 record as a pro and still trains under Josh Williams at Ronin Training Center in addition to his coaches in North Carolina. “Sunshine” has put on some impressive performances, including beating the Brendon Marotte at Combat Zone 70, who was 5-0 going into the bout.
He may have one of the best shots to make it on the fight card, as he was slated to compete on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series this past summer before having to pull out due to an injury.
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