Canadian flyweight Malcolm Gordon gets his chance on UFC’s Fight Island


UFC flyweight Malcolm Gordon trains at various gyms in Ontario.

After a string of cancelled fights and the pandemic, Canadian flyweight Malcolm (X) Gordon figured his MMA career had hit a dead end.

But the spotlight will be on the 125-pounders Saturday with a title bout on a televised UFC Fight Night card in Abu Dhabi. And Gordon will play a supporting role, making his UFC debut on the undercard — the first Canadian to compete on Fight Island.

The 30-year-old from Calgary, who now calls Toronto home, is doing it on short notice, after hearing from the UFC on July 5.

“When I got that call, I was shocked,” Gordon said. “My whole life basically changed overnight … It’s a huge opportunity.”

Saturday’s main event sees Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo, ranked No 1 among 125-pound contenders, and No. 2 Joseph Benavidez meet for the flyweight title. Figueiredo stopped Benavidez by second-round TKO when they met in February but did not get the championship belt because he failed to make weight by 2.5 pounds.

Gordon (12-3-0) is stepping in for Russian Tagir Ulanbekov, who withdrew after the recent death of head coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, the father of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The Canadian was initially slated to face Ukraine’s Oleksandr Doskalchuk. But Doskalchuk was forced to withdraw due to medical issues, according to the UFC.

Gordon is now facing Sweden’s Amir (The Prince) Albazi. The 26-year-old Albazi (12-1-0) got 10 days notice, squeezing in one last training session in London after getting the call before heading to Heathrow Airport.

Gordon flew to Abu Dhabi via Las Vegas, stopping off in Sin City to undergo COVID-19 testing and a 36-hour quarantine. Then it was a charter flight to the United Arab Emirates, more testing and another quarantine.

The journey gave him time to let it all settle in.

“I didn’t think this was going to go anywhere,” Gordon said of his recent fight career. “If you had asked me … ‘Do you think you’re going to make the UFC,’ I would have been like ‘OK, I deserve to be there.’ But I would have never thought that this was going to happen. It was such a far reach.”

The UFC’s 125-pound division has also had its ups and downs, with stars leaving — former champion Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson moved to the Asia-based One Championship while Henry Cejudo vacated the title and then retired.

Gordon thought the division might be folded.

He has not fought since April 2019 when he needed just 92 seconds to choke out Yoni Sherbatov on a TKO card in Montreal — a matchup that had been postponed several times.

“Yeah I haven’t fought for a year but I was in training camp for at least three fights that had fallen through,” said Gordon. “I’ve had some (bad) luck, man, the last two years … It’s been a rough road the last couple of years.”

Gordon has fought just three times in the last three years.

“I had gone through three training camps … with no reward,” he said.

Gordon’s track record doubtless has made him an unattractive matchup for fighters looking to climb the MMA ladder. He has won seven of his last eight fights and five of his last six wins ended in the first round.

It hasn’t helped that there aren’t many 125-pounders fighting in Canada.

He was scheduled to fight Marcel Adur in March 18 in Brazil on a Brave Combat Federation card, but that was scrapped due to the pandemic. Since then, he has trained the best he could — running in a nearby park, shadow-boxing, even enlisting his fiancee to help him with drills.

He managed to get one week of training at his gym prior to this fight, with a few close colleagues.

The five-foot-seven Gordon used to train and teach at the Adrenaline Training Centre in London, Ont., but, after getting engaged, moved in January to Toronto where he now manages the Toronto BJJ gym.

He also trains at Bazooka Joe Kickboxing in Scarborough under Joe Valtellini, a former Glory welterweight champion.

Gordon started in martial arts with Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. It became a passion and, at 19, he started spending time training in Las Vegas under the late Shawn Tompkins, a renowned Canadian coach who guided the likes of Sam Stout, Mark Hominick and Chris Horodecki.

He eventually moved to London, where the Tompkins team had its Canadian base.

Diana (The Warrior) Belbita, a Romanian flyweight who trains at House of Champions in Stoney Creek, Ont, fought on Wednesday’s Fight Island card. She lost by first-round submission to Russian Liana (She Wolf) Jojua.


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