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Canadian Rory (Red King) MacDonald gets new opponent on eve of PFL semifinal

Canada's Rory MacDonald, left, kicks Neiman Gracie during the third round of a welterweight championship mixed martial arts bout at Bellator 222 early Saturday, June 15, 2019, in New York.THE CANADIAN PRESS?-AP/Frank Franklin II)

Canadian welterweight Rory (Red King) MacDonald has a new opponent for Saturday's Professional Fighters League semifinal in the wake of Russian Magomed Umalatov's inability to get a visa to enter Britain.

MacDonald (23-9-1) and Umalatov (12-0-0) were slated to meet in the main event of the PFL playoff card at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales, with the winner advancing to the final with the 170-pound title and a US$1-million payday on the line.

But on Thursday, the PFL said Umalatov and fellow Russian Denis Goltsov, a heavyweight, could not get into the country with alternates taking their place on the card.

MacDonald, a 33-year-old B.C. native who fights out of Montreal, will now face American Dilano (The Postman) Taylor, a third-choice replacement. The PFL said the first two alternates, 2018 welterweight champion Magomed Magomedkerimov of Russia and 2019 and 2020 titleholder Ray Cooper III of Hawaii were unable to compete.

American Juan (The Kraken) Adams steps in for Goltsov against Brazil's Matheus Scheffel (16-8-0), who defeated 2021 champion and compatriot Bruno Cappelozza at PFL 5 on June 24.

“It is very unfortunate for these two fighters who fought and earned their spots in the playoffs,” Ray Sefo, PFL president of fighter operations, said in a statement. “Both Umalatov and Goltsov were impressive in their regular-season fights and were contenders to win the championship. Despite that, we are pleased we have such a deep roster to go to and are excited to see what Dilano Taylor and Juan Adams can do with this great opportunity."

Taylor (9-2-0) won a split decision over Brazil's Joao Zeferino at PFL 3 on May 6 before losing by second-round TKO to Magomedkerimov at PFL 6 on July 1. Taylor, a former champion in the Titan FC promotion, started the season as an alternate after stopping Mark (Showtime) Martin in February in the PFL Challenger Series.

Adams was added as an alternate for the second half of the regular season, defeating Australian Sam (K9) Kei via second-round TKO at PFL 5.

Sweden's Sadibou Sy (11-6-2 with one no-contest) meets Brazil's Carlos (The Lion) Leal (17-3-0) in the other welterweight semifinal Saturday.

Sy won a unanimous decision over MacDonald at PFL 6. MacDonald opened his season with a first-round submission win over American Brett (Fudoshin) Copper at PFL 3.

Unlike other MMA promotions, the PFL features a regular season, playoffs and championship across six divisions, each with 10 competitors. The four fighters in each weight class who earn the most regular-season points advance to the playoffs with the two semifinal winners meeting for the title and US$1-million payday.

Despite the loss to Sy, MacDonald emerged as the top seed in the welterweight class thanks to the extra points earned in his stoppage win over Cooper. Umalatov was the fourth seed.

(The Canadian Gangster) Olivier Aubin-Mercier has already advanced to the PFL lightweight final after winning a unanimous decision over Paraguay's Alex Martinez last Friday.

The 33-year-old from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., will face Scotland's Stevie (Braveheart) Ray for the 155-pound title.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press