With undefeated Canadian contender Josh Hill forced to withdraw from a planned title fight with reigning World Series of Fighting bantamweight (135 pounds) champion Marlon Moraes (13-4-1) of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. via Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, submission ace Cody Bollinger (16-2) of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. has agreed to step up on short notice and face Moraes in the headlining bout of the World Series of Fighting 13 event at Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Penn. on Saturday, Sept. 13, live on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).
Moraes and Bollinger will meet in a 140-pound catchweight contest, and while World Series of Fighting officials initially expected the contest to be a non-title affair, Moraes is so confident in his chances, he's promised to send Bollinger the bantamweight title belt should "The Cali Cowboy" prove victorious.
"I don't know how we can make it official, but as far as I'm concerned, this is a title fight," said a fired up Moraes. "Anytime I'm fighting, I'm fighting as a champion and I'm defending my belt. I don't know how everybody else will see it but, to me, this is my next title fight and, if Cody wins, I'll send him my belt. If I'm going to be a champion, I have to beat everybody I fight."
"This is an amazing opportunity that came my way from a first-rate fight promotion, and I plan on making my fans proud," said Bollinger. "I will be ready to go at it full force come fight time, shock the world and put an end to Marlon's win streak."
"World Series of Fighting 13: Moraes vs. Bollinger" takes place Saturday, Sept. 13, at Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Penn. Tickets for the event, which include cageside seats for just $129, are currently on sale at Ticketmaster.com.
Doors to the venue open at 5 p.m. ET, with a full preliminary card getting underway at 6 p.m. ET. The live, NBCSN-broadcast main card kicks off at 9 p.m. ET.
"I thought Moraes vs. Hill was going to be an incredible championship fight, but this new pairing might better," World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo said. "Marlon isn't exactly Cody's biggest fan, and Marlon guaranteed me he was going to knock Cody out. Meanwhile, Cody didn't hesitate for one moment when he was given the opportunity to step in on just 10 days' notice, proving what a warrior he really is at heart.
"Now with Marlon promising to put his belt on the line despite fighting at 140 pounds, I think this fight just got even more interesting."
Brazilian striking specialist Moraes has staked his claim as one of the biggest superstars of World Series of Fighting, a process that started nearly two years ago when he upset former WEC champion Miguel Torres by split decision. He then registered additional wins against Tyson Nam, Brandon Hempleman and Carson Beebe before claiming the inaugural World Series of Fighting bantamweight title fight against Josh Rettinghouse earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Bollinger fought most recently in July, earning a first-round submission win over Pablo Alfonso. While the 23-year-old impressed with his performance, he struggled to make weight for the bantamweight matchup and was planning a move to 145 pounds. However, the opportunity to take on Moraes was too enticing to pass up, and Bollinger believes he'll prove his worth by defeating World Series of Fighting's bantamweight title holder.
World Series of Fighting matchmaker Ali Abdelaziz said didn't expect the belt to be on the line for the contest but is happy to honor the wishes of his two athletes in what's quickly shaping up to be an epic grudge match.
"Cody simply can't make 135 pounds in a little more than a week, but he's confident he can beat Marlon, and that's why he took this fight," Abdelaziz said. "And honestly, I think Marlon offering to put his title on the line anyway shows what an incredible champion he is. I've been telling everyone for a while now, I think Marlon Moraes is the best bantamweight fighter in the world. I think he can beat anybody in the world at 135 pounds – anybody. Now he's proving that he has the true heart of a champion, as well, willingly moving up in weight for this challenge and promising to put his belt on the line, anyway. It's incredible."