Mark Hunt will headline the UFC's first event in Russia, the organisation confirmed this morning.
The Kiwi heavyweight will face off against Aleksei Oleinik in the main event of the UFC Fight Night in Moscow on September 15.
Oleinik was originally expected to fight former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, but the bout was put on hold after Werdum was flagged for a potential anti-doping violation.
The UFC then turned to the number eight ranked Hunt – who is looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Curtis Blaydes earlier this year – to headline the much-anticipated event in Moscow.
The 'Super Samoan' (13–12–1 (1)) has had a complicated relationship with the UFC and its president Dana White, and is currently suing the organisation with regards to Brock Lesnar's failed drug test at UFC 200 where Hunt lost by unanimous decision. (The fight outcome was later changed to a no contest.)
The imminent return of Lesnar to the heavyweight division could have a significant impact on Hunt's lawsuit against the UFC, Lesnar and White, but for now, the Kiwi fighter is staying focussed on the task ahead.
"I have a lot of respect for Russian athletes, I have fought one of the greatest Russian fighters of all time in Fedor [Emelianenko]," said Hunt.
"I think Oleinik will be tough like me, but I will bring my best to this match and he is going to have a long night if he makes it out of the second or third round. My style will win me this fight."
Oleinik (56–11–1) is one of the most experienced fighters in the division, an accomplished grappler known as the only fighter to win a UFC fight with an "Ezekiel choke" – a Judo chokehold which compresses the opponent's trachea.
It makes for an intriguing matchup against Hunt's one-punch knockout power.
"If I do not fall under Hunt's cannon, then it will be difficult for him to extricate himself from my arms," Oleinik said.
The Ukrainian-born Russian – who fights out of Moscow – said he was honoured to be headlining the historic event.
"I'm so happy to be a part of Russian MMA history by headlining the first UFC event in Russia.
"The fans can expect a legendary event, a legendary name, and legendary quality of fights in Moscow – and they will get it."