The Professional Fighters League -- formerly the World Series of Fighting -- begins its 2018 season on Thursday, and the competitors headed there can find motivation by perusing the current Ultimate Fighting Championship roster. WSOF alumni are making waves at the sport’s highest level.
Marlon Moraes proved his worth as a 135-pound contender at UFC Fight Night 131, where he finished Jimmie Rivera with a head kick and follow-up punches 33 seconds into the first round of their main event on June 1. Moraes was the WSOF bantamweight champion before the promotion was rebranded. During that transition, Moraes, David Branch and Justin Gaethje moved to the UFC. All three have enhanced their profiles after the change in address.
Branch held WSOF titles at 185 and 205 pounds, and he currently finds himself at No. 7 in the latest UFC middleweight rankings following a first-round knockout of Thiago Santos in April. The decisive victory allowed him to rebound from a Sept. 16 defeat to Luke Rockhold. It should be noted that Branch never lost hist titles in the World Series of Fighting, choosing to vacate them to return to the UFC.
Even though Gaethje has lost his two most recent fights in the UFC, he won over a host of new fans in the process and continued to show why they call him “The Highlight.” The former WSOF lightweight champion joined the UFC with a perfect 17-0 record and debuted with a technical knockout of Michael Johnson in a memorable scrap that was named the Sherdog.com “Fight of the Year” for 2017. Despite subsequent losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, Gaethje remains a must-see attraction at 155 pounds.
Meanwhile, former World Series of Fighting heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov will make his Octagon debut opposite Junior dos Santos in the UFC Fight Night 133 headliner on July 14 in Boise, Idaho. While dos Santos figures to be a significant hurdle for the 2008 World Sambo Championships gold medalist, do not be surprised if Ivanov soon joins Moraes, Branch and Gaethje as an impact player in the UFC.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since UFC 1. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.