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Report: Zabit ‘happy not fighting,’ UFC planning Ortega vs. Rodriguez

MMA insider Ariel Helwani has some scoop on the current situation in the UFC’s featherweight division.

Brian Ortega prepares to enter the Octagon for his UFC 266 title fight with Alexander Volkanovski.
Brian Ortega prepares to enter the Octagon for his UFC 266 title fight with Alexander Volkanovski.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Every now and then, long-time MMA insider Ariel Helwani provides fans a scoop about what’s happening within the inner circle of MMA. In his most recent Substack post, one of the things he revealed was a supposed planned booking between two elite featherweights in the UFC.

“UFC is working on booking Yair Rodriguez x Brian Ortega in the future, sources say,” Helwani wrote.

This should be an interesting one, if indeed true. The number two-ranked Ortega is coming off a decision loss to Alexander Volkanovksi in their UFC 266 title bout in September. While the fight didn’t go his way, “T-City” took home a $50K bonus for Fight of the Night.

The number three-ranked Rodriguez, meanwhile, is coming off two consecutive Fight of the Night performances. He last fought former champion Max Holloway in mid-November and lost via decision.

Speaking of top featherweights, Helwani also gave a brief update on Zabit Magomedsharipov. There was a lot of hype behind the 30-year-old Dagestani and many saw him as a future top contender, even a potential champion. However, he hasn’t seen action since his November 2019 fight with Calvin Kattar, which garnered Fight of the Night honors.

According to Helwani, fans won’t be seeing Zabit in the Octagon anytime soon.

“It appeared as though he was on the fast track to an inevitable title reign not that long ago. He was incredible,” Helwani said of Zabit. “Alas, he hasn’t fought since November 2019, and I’m told that isn’t changing any time soon. He is happy not fighting and has no plans on returning at the moment, sources say.

“Never say never in MMA, but if he has in fact fought his last fight, he’ll go down as the greatest what-if story in UFC history. No doubt.”

In January, Zabit’s manager Ali Abdelaziz said his client was back in training and that a conversation with the UFC was being planned. But just eight months prior, Zabit was reportedly dealing with health issues stemming from an immune system problem that put his MMA career in jeopardy.