As EliteXC builds up its various weight classes, it’s no stretch to say the promotion’s most underdeveloped division at this stage is its light heavyweight class. However, there are plans to rectify that situation and many of those plans surround blue chip prospect Rafael Feijao.
Feijao was discovered by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira when the current UFC interim heavyweight champion was looking for a training partner during a business trip in Brazil, recently. Originally a heavyweight who fought for the IFL, the former veterinarian just recently made the move to 205 pounds. In his EliteXC debut this past February during the promotion’s “Street Certified” event, Feijao knocked out John Doyle with a knee to the body at 2:17 of round one. While Doyle was a virtual unknown to most of the country, he just happens to be one of the top light heavyweight prospects on the Eastern seaboard.
Feijao’s next test will come in the form of 37-year old Wayne Cole, a former Division II All-American at Central Oklahoma. Cole, who like Feijao competed as a heavyweight in the IFL before arriving in EliteXC, made quite an impression when he submitted Mike Kyle with an armbar at 0:45 of round one this past March during the Frank Shamrock vs. Cung Le undercard.
Should Feijao get past Cole, it will put him one step closer to the EliteXC light heavyweight title, a title that could be instituted by the end of the year or by early-2009, according to EliteXC Director of Fighter Operations Jeremy Lappen. Considering that Lappen believes that Feijao has a chance to be one of the best in the world at 205, one can only assume that he’ll be a top contender for the title so long as he keeps winning fights.
But who will Feijao have to get past before he can claim the title? When asked about the current landscape of the division, Lappen mentioned that the promotion thinks highly of Jared Hamman, a former college football player who began his MMA career with a perfect 9-0 record. Also mentioned in the light heavyweight picture was the man who handed Hamman his first career loss during an April ShoXC event, B.J. Penn-trainee Poai Suganuma.
EliteXC also has Aaron Rosa in its 205 pound ranks, but his future in uncertain coming off the heels of consecutive losses, one to Hamman and the most recent one to Jaime Fletcher, who competes primarily at middleweight. However, there is one other off-roster name to also consider. During a Tuesday conference call to promote Saturday’s SHOWTIME card that will feature K.J. Noons defending his EliteXC lightweight title vs. Yves Edwards, reporters grilled Lappen about the status of Tito Ortiz.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion is currently a restricted free agent and has been drawing interest from numerous promotions. Lappen confirmed that EliteXC not only has an interest in Ortiz, but has engaged in preliminrary discussions with him. However, Lappen took a cautious approach in acknowledging that they are hardly the only suitor for Ortiz’s services.
While not mentioned in the discussion, but still a name to keep an eye on none-the-less, is UFC and PRIDE veteran Travis Wiuff. Wiuff is a career journeyman but is currently on a nine fight win streak as he bounces between heavyweight and light heavyweight. He was the winner of YAMMA Pit Fighting’s first-ever eight-man, single night tournament in April and is coming off a first round knockout victory over Kazuyuki Fujita this past weekend at Sengoku III.