World Series of Fighting will determine its light heavyweight champion via the tournament, much like they did at middleweight. The bigger story however is not the tournament itself, but who the promotion picked up to be a part of it. Last night, MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani reported that ex-UFC fighter Thiago Silva (16-3, 2 NCs) has joined WSOF on an exclusive multi-fight contract. Silva will face Ronny Markes in one semifinal, while Matt Hamill, now out of retirement, will go up against an opponent TBD in the other semifinal. The winner of the tournament will be crowned the inaugural WSOF light heavyweight champion.
Silva's UFC tenure ended in massive controversy after he was arrested on charges of aggravated assault, battery, and resisting arrest (stemming from his standoff with the SWAT team at his Florida home). His estranged wife, Thaysa Kamiji, alleged that Silva sent threatening text messages to her, had put a gun in her mouth, and threatened to shoot up Pablo Popovitch's MMA academy. Initially, the UFC released him and vowed that he'd never fight for the promotion again. However, in September, all charges against Silva were dropped after Kamiji was uncooperative with authorities and returned to her native Brazil, which led to the UFC re-signing him. Silva was cut again after Kamiji released videos showing Thiago in an agitated state, allegedly high on cocaine, and cocking a gun.
WSOF president Ray Sefo and executive VP Ali Abdel-Aziz explained the organization's decision to sign Silva despite the recent events.
"[WSOF executive vice president] Ali [Abdel-Aziz] and I talked about it," Sefo said. "We researched his situation, and the charges were dropped. He wasn't convicted. In my opinion, you're innocent until proven guilty. The guy is a great fighter so we want to give him an opportunity."
"I've talked to a lot of guys in his camp," Abdel-Aziz added. "Everyone talks about his character. "I'm lucky enough to know a little more about the situation with his ex-wife, and I feel comfortable with this. If the judge didn't convict him, why should we convict him? He's of the top light heavyweights in the world. We can give him an opportunity and a platform to showcase his skills."
The tournament will commence on March 28th on NBC Sports Network. Lightweight champion Justin Gaethje will defend his belt against Luis Palomino in the main event at a venue TBD.