UFC on Fuel TV 9 on April 6, 2013 marked only the second time the Ultimate Fighting Championship had visited Sweden. The originally scheduled main event was a sensational matchup in which Swedish light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson was set to welcome Gegard Mousasi to the UFC. Mousasi, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion and two-division Dream titleholder, was a legitimate Top 10 fighter in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions at the time. His was one of the most highly anticipated UFC debuts ever, and the promotion appeared to be tossing him directly into the deep end of the pool by matching him against the hometown hero.
However, just four days out from the event, “The Mauler” was forced to withdraw due to a cut sustained in sparring. On short notice, the UFC found another Swedish fighter to step up: Ilir Latifi. The matchup did not exactly yield fireworks, as Mousasi used his superior reach and footwork to keep Latifi on the end of his jab and kicks for most of the bout, paving the way to a clear-cut sweep of all three rounds.
From that debut, Mousasi went on to justify the hype, going 9-3 in the UFC and staying on the cusp of title contention before bolting for Bellator MMA in 2017 and later winning its middleweight title. By being pulled from the UFC on Fuel headliner, Gustafsson managed to fall upwards, as he ended up being booked to challenge Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title in his next Octagon appearance, where he pushed the champ to the absolute limit in the consensus “Fight of the Year.”
Of course, Mousasi was not the only two-division champ making his Octagon debut that night in Stockholm. Tucked away on the undercard and to relatively little fanfare, former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight titleholder Conor McGregor took on the 6-1 Marcus Brimage, a veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14.
While the 24-year-old Irishman lacked much of the outsized swagger that we associate with him today—and virtually all of the tattoos—his laser-guided, lead-fisted counterpunching was already on full display, as he blew away Brimage in just over a minute. A star was born: Two fights later, McGregor was headlining a UFC card in Dublin.