UFC

Latifi to fight in Gustafsson's place

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Exit Alexander Gustafsson. Enter his training partner, Ilir Latifi.

A deep cut to Gustafsson’s face suffered during training led to a last-minute change in Saturday’s UFC on Fuel TV 9 main event. The UFC announced Tuesday that Latifi will make his UFC debut as he takes on former Strikeforce champ Gegard Mousasi in the light heavyweight main event.

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Earlier Tuesday, the Swedish MMA Federation said it wouldn’t clear Gustafsson to fight because of the seriousness of the laceration.

Like Gustafsson, Latifi is Swedish. UFC on Fuel TV 9 is scheduled to go forward as planned at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, which sold out within hours when the Gustafsson-headlined event went on sale. Coverage begins on Fuel TV at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Latifi, a 29-year-old former national wrestling champ, trained with Rashad Evans and the Blackzilians. He has a 7-2 pro record with one no-contest and most recently beat Jorge Oliveira via decision in the Superior Challenge, a Swedish fighting league, in October.

A message left with Mousasi’s agent by FOXSports.com was not immediately returned.

The change continued the trend of injuries that have forced UFC officials to reshuffle — and in one instance cancel — cards over the last several months.

Light heavyweight champ Jon Jones was slated to fight Dan Henderson at UFC 151, which was scheduled to take place last September in Las Vegas. But Henderson suffered a knee injury in training and had to pull out of the event days beforehand.

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Jones didn’t want to take on Chael Sonnen, who volunteered to replace Henderson, on such short notice. Jones and Sonnen are now slated to clash at UFC 159 later this month. Lyoto Machida, who cited lack of time to prepare for the fight, passed on the opportunity to fight Jones.

UFC 151 became the first card canceled since UFC president Dana White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the organization in 2001.

Several other cards have had to be adjusted, but none more so than UFC 149 in Calgary last July. Nine fighters on the card were forced out due to injury, which led the UFC to change five bouts on the card.

"Last year was the worst year in this company's history as far as injuries and things that happened,” White said at UFC 158 in Montreal last month. “That was the worst card, not only as far as fights went, but as far as fighters falling out of the card. Everybody on the card fell out."

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