The reason why Alexandre Pantoja won’t fight Manel Kape at UFC Vegas 17 on Dec. 19 is because the Brazilian flyweight is still struggling with COVID-19, he told MMA Fighting on Friday.
Pantoja was set to welcome former RIZIN bantamweight champion to the octagon in the final UFC card of the year in Las Vegas, but is still under quarantine three weeks after his inicial positive test for the novel coronavirus.
“I’m better now,” Pantoja told MMA Fighting. “But I felt really bad for a week. Fever, loss of taste… I can feel the taste and smell of things now, but still tested positive on my last test on Monday. I’ll do the test again today to be able to leave the house.”
Pantoja admits he expected the UFC to move on with the Kape fight and find another opponent for the Angolan-Portuguese talent, but “they really want to do this fight,” he said. According to Pantoja, “the idea is to do me against him in February.”
The UFC currently has four events scheduled for February 2021, but has yet to decide the exact date for Pantoja-Kape.
Kape (15-4) inked a deal with the UFC after winning three in a row under the RIZIN banner in 2019, knocking out Seiichiro Ito, Takeya Mizugaki and Kai Asakura, but had his UFC canceled twice after health issues with his opponents Rogerio Bontorin and Pantoja.
Pantoja (22-5) was the backup fighter for the Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Joseph Benavidez championship rematch on Fight Island in July, but ended up losing a decision to Askar Askarov that night. Pantoja went 6-3 so far in the UFC with wins over the likes of Brandon Moreno, Wilson Reis and Ulka Sasaki.
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