8:10 AM ET
Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer
Dana White’s Contender Series has never been more important to the UFC. Through three weeks of this season, White, the UFC president, has awarded 12 contracts to winners on the show. And five of those athletes are already booked to fight in the UFC, including Impa Kasanganay, who is slated to compete in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event.
With very few regional and local MMA events taking place during the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC has been aggressive when it comes to promoting athletes from White’s Contender Series. Four more contracts were handed out last week.
Who will be next?
Episode 4 of Season 4 takes place Tuesday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Five fights in three weight classes begin at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Here are three fighters to look for:
Jhonoven Pati, the Renaissance man
Pati, a 29-year-old Texas resident, is a former college football star at Howard Payne University who dreamed of one day being drafted into the NFL. That didn’t work out, so he went into MMA to feed his hunger for competition. Along the way, Pati earned his master’s degree in family and crisis counseling, to go along with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology.
Pati comes from a military family. He was born on a U.S. base in Germany.
His 6-3 record doesn’t look like the best, but he is relatively inexperienced. He is exciting to watch, has won his past two fights and has finished all of his victories.
Pati will face Jamie Pickett in this week’s middleweight headliner.
Alejandro Flores, a fighting engineer
Flores has a degree in industrial and systems engineering and plans to use that after his MMA career is over, but the 29-year-old native of Mexico said he figured life was short and fighting was the path he wanted to go down — or else he’d regret never trying.
Flores has impressed with a 17-2 pro record, winning nine of his past 10 fights. He comes to Contender Series from the Combate Americas promotion as a legitimate featherweight prospect with a striking background. He trains under Mike Valle, a longtime Jackson Wink MMA Academy striking guru.
Flores, who has won two straight, will face Rafael Alves on Tuesday night.
The versatile Anthony Romero
If you’re a fan of high achievement in multiple martial arts disciplines, Romero is the fighter for you. The Canadian lightweight is a black belt in taekwondo and Japanese jiu-jitsu and has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Romero has been training in martial arts since he was 5 years old and has medaled in tournaments in both striking and grappling.
Romero, 23, is 7-0 and coming off a 58-second knockout of Jacob Miller in Ohio Combat League in March. He will face Mike Breeden on this week’s episode of Contender Series and goes in as a slight favorite.
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