Bellator tournament veteran Alexis Vila will return to 125 pounds on Jan. 19, when “The Exorcist” takes on Joshua Sampo for the Championship Fighting Alliance flyweight title at CFA 9.
“I decided to move back down to flyweight because it is a more natural fit for me,” Vila said in the promotion’s official release. “I only moved to bantamweight to try to further my career and get into the UFC, but now that they have a flyweight division, staying at bantamweight doesn't make sense.”
Subtitled “Night of Champions,” CFA 9 takes place at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla. In addition to Vila’s flyweight title clash with Sampo, the event will also see Pride Fighting Championships veteran Luiz Firmino face Bellator alum Luis Palomino for the CFA lightweight strap in the evening’s headliner.
Vila, 41, won a freestyle wrestling bronze medal for his native Cuba at the 1996 Olympics but did not debut in MMA until 2007. The hard-hitting wrestler rattled off nine straight wins before making his Bellator Fighting Championships foray as a bantamweight in 2011, knocking out Joe Warren and edging Marcos Galvao before running into future champion Eduardo Dantas in the Season 5 tournament finals. Vila last competed in April, dropping a unanimous decision to Luis Alberto Nogueira in the opening round of the Season 6 draw.
“I feel I am unbeatable at flyweight. I've been training hard for almost a year waiting for this opportunity. I will walk away with that belt around my waist,” Vila continued. “I know I would run through the guys in the UFC. Many of them have been ducking out of fights with me for years. I want my chance to prove I am the best, and the only way to do that is for the UFC to sign me. Then they will be forced to fight me.”
Sampo, 28, makes his CFA debut on the heels of the biggest win of his career, as “The Gremlin” took a unanimous decision over former World Extreme Cagefighting staple Antonio Banuelos on Sept. 14 under the Texas-based Legacy Fighting Championship banner. Sampo posted a 3-1 record in 2012, with a May knockout defeat to former UFC talent Will Campuzano serving as the lone blemish on his record in his last six fights.