Edmonton UFC main-event fight cancelled due to illness

Some of the buzz about Edmonton's UFC fights fizzled Friday after the main event was scratched when flyweight contender Ray Borg came down with a viral illness.

Ray Borg pulled from the fight on the eve of UFC 215 at Rogers Place

Ray Borg, right, tries to connect with Louis Smolka during a flyweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 207. Borg has pulled out of UFC 215 in Edmonton due to a viral illness. (The Associated Press)

Some of the buzz about Edmonton's UFC fights fizzled Friday after the main event was scratched when flyweight contender Ray Borg came down with a viral illness.

The UFC medical team was unable to clear Borg ahead of his fight against 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson.

Johnson was looking to break the UFC record for most consecutive title defences; his 11th was scheduled against Borg on Saturday. 

The announcement was disappointing for fans gathered before the Friday afternoon weigh-ins.
Vancouver UFC fans, left to right, Daniel Abdour, Steven Dhillon and Avinaash Dhatt

"It kind of ruins it, but it's not that big of a deal, because we still have 11 other fights to watch," said Avinaash Dhatt, who drove 15 hours from Vancouver with two buddies to watch the show.

The Rogers Place card will now be headlined by women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes against No. 1 contender Valentina Shevchenko.  

Anyone who bought tickets to UFC 215 can request a full refund, the UFC said in a statement Friday. 

MMA writer Mike Bohn said despite the cancellation, Edmonton still has a solid card with 11 fights set to go Saturday.

"[There's] obviously extreme disappointment that we lost a main event," Bohn told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Friday. "Regardless of this unfortunate breaking news over the past few hours, it should still be a really fun event."

Edmonton MMA trainer Shara Vigeant has helped several fighters from the city prepare for the UFC, and is currently helping train one of the busiest fighters, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. 

She understands the disappointment but said the other fights will offer fans what they came for.

"I understand that the fans paid for this headliner. I still feel that there's other fighters on this card, including a local fighter that we should all go and support, Mitch Clarke. And he's going to put on a show."

The fight card is a first for Edmonton, and will be uncharted territory for Arjan Bhullar. 

The former Canadian Olympic wrestler and Commonwealth Games gold medallist is making his UFC debut Saturday against Brazil's Luis Henrique. 

"Just waiting for that time to make the walk to the cage now," said Bhullar, who is from Richmond, B.C. "We've prepared perfectly, we're on point. Done preparing, time to execute."

His debut marks the first time a fighter of South Asian descent will step into the UFC Octagon. 

"South Asian, not South Asian, just bet the best, it's always been that," he said. "The fact that I can be the first for my community is just a bonus. I have to see the future, where more and more guys, more Indians, will be coming to the sport."

'Good step for the South Asian community'

"More than anything, I think the pressure's on the company. Now they've got an Indian, they've got to start connecting with Indian people and educating themselves on what we're about."

It's a moment many of his fans have been looking forward to.  

"It's quite exciting, it's a good step for the South Asian community," said Steven Dhillon, excited toi attend his first live UFC event.

"Even my parents know about him, and they don't even watch fighting sports at all."

Bhullar said his entrance Saturday night will not go unnoticed.  

A Punjabi-styled theme, bhangra music blaring through Rogers Place, along with a special guest appearance by his friend and WWE World Wrestling Champion Jinder Mahal.

"There will be bhangra music loud and proud and everyone in the crowd's going to know what we're about," Bhullar said. "And then I'm going to march into the cage and do what I got to do."

Saturday's event will be the first UFC event in Alberta since 2012, when Calgary held UFC 149. Many in the mixed-martial-arts community deemed UFC 149 one of the worst events in the company's history, after nine high-profile fighters dropped out due to injury.

Bohn said the fight cancellation in Edmonton is reminiscent of issues encountered at Calgary's event.

"A lot of people say fight cards in Alberta are cursed," he said. "I don't know if it truly is a curse or if it's dumb luck, or what it is. But it's not ideal for Canadian fight fans."

But Bohn said fighters dropping out is a reality of the sport, and regardless of cancellations Canadian fans will see a great card.

"I think Canadian fight fans, they really show up every time," he said.

The flyweight bout between Henry Cejudo and Wilson Reis has been moved to the main card, with the fight between Canadian lightweight Mitch Clarke and Alex White kicking off the televised preliminaries.

UFC 215 kicks off Saturday at 8 p.m. at Rogers Place.

With files from The Canadian Press