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Joe Soto astonished by ‘surreal’ twist of fate at UFC 177 but believes he can pull off the unexpected against Dillashaw

Unexpected UFC bantamweight title challenger Joe Soto discusses the “surreal” experience of going from the prelims to a main event title fight in less than 24 hours.

Esther Lin

Friday's twist of fate brought with it new fortune for former prelim fighter Joe Soto.

Yet to make his official UFC debut, Soto, a former Bellator and Tachi Palace champion, was scheduled to kick start his UFC tenure against Anthony Birchak on the preliminary portion of the UFC 177 fight card. That plan stayed intact until Friday afternoon, where he was promptly informed that the main event title challenger, Renan Barao, had been admitted to the hospital after a failed weight cut attempt.

Minutes later, he was being announced as the replacement against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.

"It's surreal a little bit, but I'm a professional," Soto said. "I've been doing this for a long time. I've got 17 fights, a lot of title fights. I've been in this position before."

When asked to clarify his statement, he referenced his title victory in Bellator, where he was far from the favourite heading into the tournament.

"Not this crazy of a position. But a position when I first got into Bellator. They didn't ever think I was going to win a title, and I did. So I've won titles when I was not expected to win."

While Soto's newfound main event slot is not a unique occurrence, the added title shot certainly makes it the first such switch since UFC 50, when Patrick Cote was given a title shot against Tito Ortiz on four days notice.

More recently, Charlie Brenneman was slotted against headliner Rick Story at UFC on Versus 4 the day before the event, although that was not a championship bout.

Transcription taken from

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