At UFC Boston, Ben Sosoli has a huge opportunity against Greg Hardy — and will be fighting with stricken pal Sy Leafa in mind.
Boston, MA — UFC heavyweight Ben Sosoli (7-2, 1NC) is the latest winner of what you might call the Greg Hardy Sweepstakes. Any opponent booked against the fallen NFL star seems to get a bit of a rub, as fans eager to see Hardy get his comeuppance — stemming from a domestic violence incident that made him toxic even by NFL standards — get behind whoever might have a chance at derailing the ‘Prince of War,’ as Hardy is calling himself these days.
Sosoli is the latest, but the journey to this point was a strange one. After putting his time in on the regional scene, the Australian heavyweight made it onto The Ultimate Fighter, only to quickly lose to Juan Espino. Another win on the regional circuit go him onto Dana White’s Contender Series earlier this year. But his bout against Dustin Joynson ended in a no contest due to an eye poke.
White, never one to let a heavyweight prospect slip through his fingers, promised Sosoli a shot on Lookin’ for a Fight. Greg Hardy, meanwhile, was booked into a fight at UFC Singapore against Jarjis Danho — a move met with ridicule by fans, as Danho had not fought in years.
Danho, however, reportedly withdrew, and rather than Lookin’ for a Fight, Sosoli got one against one of the highest-profile heavyweights in the promotion. He was booked against Hardy, at UFC Boston, a week ahead of the Singapore card.
Sosoli was taking it all in stride at Wednesday’s UFC Boston media day, in the middle of his first Fight Week for the promotion.
“I’m lucky, because I’ve got a crew that have had a lot of fights in the UFC, so everyone kind of let me know what to expect and what’s going to happen,” he told media outlets including Cageside Press. “Everything’s just going as I’ve been told, and I’ve just been enjoying it.”
Maybe his strange journey here was meant to be. The ‘Combat Wombat’ — which might be the best nickname in sports — admitted that “it was crazy.” And he’ was referring to more than just the card changes. After his Contender Series bout, told he’d be on Lookin’ for a Fight, Sosoli returned home to Australia with just weeks to prepare. “I went home to get ready, but I find out one of my best mates [Sy Leafa], he fought in Thailand, and he had to have two brain surgeries because he had a brain bleed and he’s in a coma there. So I went over, went straight to Thailand and stayed with him as long as I could.”
From there, Sosoli “came back home just to do maybe two weeks training before the Lookin’ for a Fight in Hawaii, but found out I got the Boston contract.”
In a certain way, it felt like the stars were aligning, confirmed Sosoli. “It’s weird how it worked out because me and my mate, we used to talk about how he always wanted me to fight Greg Hardy, ever since we saw him fighting on Contender [Series]. I get the fight he wanted me to have. With how he’s going over to Thailand, he should be able to fly home around the same time I get back from Boston.”
While they might not get the reunion they originally hoped for, Sosoli will see his friend again soon after the Hardy fight. “When I get back home to Australia, I’ll go back over to Thailand until he comes home, and get him set up. And give him the good news hopefully when he wakes up.”
“It’s hard but it feels like everything’s fated to work out the way that it is,” he added. “Maybe that’s all the motivation that I need.”
Against Hardy, who is an athletic, powerful force, he’ll certainly need that motivation. And Sosoli recognizes his opponent’s talents. “Coming from one top area of your sport and transitioning over successfully so far, it’s hard to make it in one big sport,” he observed. “I’ve struggled my whole life just to be in the UFC, and he’s already played in the NFL and fought in the UFC. You’ve got to give him props. He’s very athletic.”
As for Greg Hardy’s checkered past, “personally for me, I’m fighting for something else,” said Sosoli. “The only thing on my mind is my boy Sy.”
Watch the full UFC Boston media day press scrum with Ben Sosoli above! UFC Boston (UFC on ESPN 6) takes place Friday, October 18 at the TD Garden in Boston, MA.
A GoFundMe for Sy Leafa has also been set up, and has already reached its goal.