New Zealand's UFC contingent is getting back in action in a big way.
With Israel Adesanya (UFC 276) and Blood Diamond (UFC 275) already booked to compete in the coming weeks, Carlos Ulberg and Brad Riddell have now booked their own returns to the octagon.
The Herald can confirm UFC light heavyweight prospect Carlos Ulberg will make his third UFC appearance on June 26 against Tafon Nchukwi. A week later, ranked lightweight Brad Riddell will be back in action against surging finisher Jalin Turner, joining the stacked UFC 276 card.
Both events will be held in Las Vegas.
After spending 11 months inactive following a second-round knockout loss in his UFC debut in March 2021 – a bout that was all-action and earned him a US$50,000 fight of the night bonus – Ulberg made a successful return in February with a unanimous decision win.
After the bout, Ulberg (4-1) asked to be matched against someone who would bring the fight to him, and he's been granted that in Nchukwi (6-2).
"I think this is it. This is definitely the fight that everyone's going to be looking for," Ulberg told the Herald.
"This is definitely the question that needs to be answered. I mean, Tafon is the perfect opponent. He's going to come out blazing, he's got good striking, he may have some really good cage work or wrestling as well so I have to be prepared for everything.
"It's going to be a great match for fans and for the both of us."
Like Ulberg, Cameroon's Nchukwi earned his place in the UFC with a knockout win on Dana White's Contender Series, and has a 2-2 record since. Two of those bouts came at middleweight, but he has looked at his best up a weight class.
The bout will be a part of the Fight Night card held at the UFC Apex, with the headline bout yet to be announced; a week before the stacked UFC 276 card.
Riddell (10-2) joins Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski on the docket at UFC 276, and will look to keep his spot in the lightweight rankings against Turner.
Turner (12-5) has found his way in the octagon as of late, having won five of his last six bouts – all five by stoppage (3 KO, 2 submission). The 26-year-old American has also enjoyed fighting opponents from Down Under, with three of his five UFC wins being against Australian foe.
Riddell has quickly become a fan favourite since making his UFC debut in late 2019. The 30-year-old has a knack for being involved in fights with non-stop action and won four-straight before a knockout setback against former training partner Rafael Fiziev last December.
The bookings mean most of New Zealand's UFC athletes will be in action over the coming couple of months, and with all of them training at Auckland's City Kickboxing gym, Ulberg said a familiar feeling was starting to creep into the team.
"Everyone is feeling that feeling we had pre-Covid," he explained. "We all had fights, we were all travelling around the world and doing our thing, and everyone was doing the Spyda (intense Sunday conditioning workout) and all our trainings together.
"It's not like we're on our own anymore – we're getting that feeling back."