Alberta’s Anheliger gets UFC contract with Contender Series win


Alberta bantamweight Chad Anheliger, seen here interviewed by Laura Sanko, earned a UFC contract after winning a split decision over Tajikistan's Muin Gafurov on Dana White's Contender Series. (YouTube/UFC)

LAS VEGAS — Albertan bantamweight Chad (The Monster) Anheliger earned a UFC contract Tuesday after winning a split decision over Tajikistan’s Muin Gafurov on Dana White’s Contender Series.

The Contender Series, held at the UFC Apex production facility, offers fighters a chance to impress the UFC president _ and possibly earn a UFC deal.

The judges scored it 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 for the 34-year-old underdog who trains in Calgary but calls suburban Airdrie home.

Anheliger was a substantial underdog.

“Hell of a fight and he’s a Canadian,” White said in announcing the 135-pounder would get a UFC contract.

“You pretend that it doesn’t bother you but I’ve got a list a mile long of people I’m calling and messaging and letting them know they were wrong,” said Anheliger, who had a 35-27 edge in significant strikes. “A very long list.

“I can’t wait to reap the benefits of this win. I fought real hard for it,” he added. “I want the rewards to come with it.”

C.J. Vergara, Saimon Oliveira, Chidi Njokuani and Josh Quinlan also earned contracts after wins.

Anheliger extended his win streak to nine, dating back to May 2016. It marked his first action since a November 2019 win over Brady Hiestand, who lost a split decision last month in the bantamweight final of Season 29 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

After trading leg kicks, Gafurov took Anheliger down 30 seconds into the bout. Anheliger (11-5-0) fought his way back to his feet at the fence but was bodied down to the ground again. Gafurov (17-4-0) took his back, then switched position and looked for a guillotine choke.

Anheliger got to his feet again and, with one minute 40 seconds remaining in the round, caught Gafurov with a knee to the face. Gafurov went down and Anheliger started punching from above. Gafurov got to his feet and survived the round.

“He’s going to want to grapple you again,” Anheliger was told between rounds.

Gafurov took Anheliger down again a minute into the second round, attaching himself to Anheliger back like a limpet as the Canadian tried to get up. The bout was paused late in the round after Anheliger took an inadvertent knee to the groin.

Gafurov powered Anheliger to the ground again with his fifth straight successful takedown.

Anheliger fought off a pair of takedown attempts early in the third and started to go at Gafurov. Another Gafurov takedown attempt backfired when Anheliger landed on top. But he was unable to take advantage.

With the fighters back on their feet, Gafurov connected with a powerful left to the chin at the fence.

Gafurov had won six of his previous seven fights, with the line defeat coming at the hands of former UFC flyweight contender John (Hands of Stone) Lineker in a One Championship bout.

Featherweight T.J. (The Truth) Laramie is the only other Canadian to earn a UFC contract on the Contenders Series show, in August 2020 when injured opponent Daniel (Agent Orange) Swain was unable to come out for the second round. The 23-year-old from Windsor, Ont., subsequently lost his UFC debut, submitted by Darrick Miner in the first round last September.

The Dana White Contender Series is in its fifth season.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.