Junior Dos Santos vs. Blagoy Ivanov Tops UFC Boise

Junior dos Santos UFC Adelaide
Credit: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Blagoy Ivanov is wasting no time, taking on a former champion and top competitor in his UFC debut later this year.

Newly signed heavyweight Blagoy Ivanov is jumping right into the deep end in the UFC’s heavyweight division. As first announced by ESPN, Ivanov, a former WSOF/PFL champion who also competed in Bellator MMA, will take part in the main event at UFC Boise later this year. Opposite him will be the returning Junior Dos Santos, recently cleared of any intentional doping following an investigation into Brazilian compounding pharmacies by USADA.

Ivanov’s signing by the promotion was announced just days ago. The Bulgarian sambo specialist has been nearly perfect in his career to date, with his only loss coming to current UFC heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov back in Bellator’s season ten heavyweight tournament in 2014. Following that loss he moved to the World Series of Fighting (WSOF, later rebranded as the Professional Fighters League), where he won the heavyweight title in his very first bout against Canada’s Smealinho Rama. Four title defenses followed, including a first round TKO of former UFC heavyweight Shawn Jordan.

Ivanov’s rise in the sport became that much more impressive following an incident in a bar fight during which the fighter was stabbed. The incident took place in February 2012, with the blade of the knife penetrating his heart. After spending time in a medically induced coma, Blagoy Ivanov finally got on the road to recovery and returned to action in September 2013, over a year later.

Junior Dos Santos has faced a different kind of adversity of late. The popular former heavyweight champ was flagged by the U.S. Anti-Doping agency for a banned substance during out-of-competition testing last August, which forced him off the UFC 215 card. Radio silence followed outside of Dos Santos protesting his innocence. Then, just about a week ago, USADA announced that they had determined Dos Santos’ failure, as well as those of ‘Little Nog’ Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Marcos Rogerio de Lima, were the result of contamination at a pair of Brazilian pharmacies. The end result for JDS and the other athletes was vindication, though each agreed to a retroactive six month suspension based on USADA’s belief that athletes always be held accountable for what goes in their bodies.

With the suspension already having been served and then some, Dos Santos was cleared for a return. The Brazilian slugger is 3-3 in his last six, which includes splitting a pair of fights against Stipe Miocic, the second with the title on the line. Dos Santos was knocked out in that rematch at UFC 211 after having won their first meeting.

UFC Boise (UFC Fight Night 133) takes place July 14 at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. Also on the card are Cat Zingano and Sage Northcutt, among other names.