Friday, November 14, 2008

West Chester fighter will kick off pay-per-view event

LAS VEGAS — Over the past couple of years, Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight Dustin Hazelett has become something of an underground sensation.

Despite six fights in the world's top MMA promotions, the 22-year-old West Chester Twp. resident has never appeared on a televised main card. Hardcore fans know the legend and rave about the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt's potential, but Hazelett remains a relative unknown to the masses.

However, at Saturday's "UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar" event, which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Hazelett will finally make his long-awaited TV debut.

When Amir Sadollah was forced off the card with a leg infection earlier this week, UFC officials decided to promote a preliminary bout between Hazelett (11-4) and Tamdan McCrory (9-1) to UFC 91's televised main card.

UFC President Dana White predicts UFC 91, headlined by UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture vs. former WWE star Brock Lesnar, will garner a UFC record 1.2 million pay-per-view "buys." And Hazelett's fight with McCrory will kick off the 10 p.m. broadcast.

"I was sorry to hear about Amir, but it's obviously awesome for me," Hazelett said.

A training partner of former UFC champion Rich Franklin, Hazelett recently pushed his UFC record to 4-2 with a victory over Josh Burkman in June. Hazelett won the event's $20,000 SubmWission of the Night bonus and an additional $20,000 for the Fight of the Night.

The bout was so captivating — Hazelett masterfully transitioned from submission attempt to submission attempt — the UFC decided to offer it for free on its Web site the next day.

"I think a pretty good amount of people saw the fight because of that," Hazelett said. "It was pretty cool, and it worked out well. I got a lot of exposure for it."

Yet it could pale in comparison to the exposure he'd get with a win Saturday.

Gurgel, Brown on card

In addition to Hazelett, two other area fighters will compete at UFC 91 — both on the preliminary card.

Jorge Gurgel (12-4), who recently awarded Hazelett his black belt, returns from a shocking July loss to Cole Miller to meet veteran fighter Aaron Riley (26-10).

Gurgel is a world-renowned ground fighter, but Miller beat him at his own game.

"It was extremely difficult for me," said Gurgel, who was 12 seconds away from a decision when Miller locked him in a fight-ending triangle choke. "I never in my life — never in any circumstance — I've never been depressed ... But, I got to the point where I couldn't sleep after that fight."