12 former UFC fighters who could return to the promotion in 2022


Getting to the UFC is tough.

Thousands of professional fighters try every year – and most fail. For a small percentage, however, they sign their names on the dotted line to fight for the biggest MMA promotion in the world.

Sometimes the opportunity comes a little too soon. Other times, they face tough matchups that, over time, turn out to be bigger challenges than originally expected.

When the pink slip arrives and a fighter leaves the promotion, there’s often a phrase they hear on their way out: “Go get a few more wins, and the UFC will consider bringing you back.”

Easier said than done.

For the vast majority of those who leave the UFC, they will not return. However, it is not impossible. A number of fighters have done this over the years. Just look at UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno. He was released from the promotion, rebuilt his path, became a contestant, then won a UFC title. Others like Brandon Davis, Jesse Ronson, Nicolas Dalby, Chase Sherman, Sean Soriano and Dustin Jacoby have confirmed it’s possible.

With the new year approaching, here are 12 former UFC fighters who could return to the promotion in 2022.

Note: Fighters considered for this list had to have competed in at least one UFC bout.

Ali Alqaisi

Age: 31

Global report: 11-5

Record since leaving UFC: 3-0

[autotag]Ali Alqaisi[/autotag] wasted no time after his Leaving the UFC at the start of 2021. He immediately got back in the saddle and started racking up wins, the recipe that originally got him into the UFC. In his last two fights, Alqaisi captured Titan FC and the UAE Warriors featherweight titles.

Kyle Bochniak

Age: 34

Global report: 10-5

Record since leaving UFC: 2-0

[autotag]Kyle Bochniak[/autotag] became an instant fan favorite when he went to war with Zabit Magomedsharipov at UFC 223 in one of the best fights of 2018. However, that night, and for the rest of his UFC tenure, Bochniak struggled to find results. Since his Leaving the UFC, Bochniak has won consecutive fights under the XMMA banner.

Shane Campbell

Age: 33

Global report: 19-8

Record since leaving UFC: 9-2

It’s been a long road for [autotag]Shane Campbell[/autotag] to return to the UFC gate, but he’s definitely there. He largely wiped out the Canadian regional scene with two unified MMA titles and a Fight Night belt as well. A fun, striking-based fighter, Campbell could return to the promotion in 2022 around six years after his first stint ended.

Spike Carlyle

February 29, 2020; Norfolk, Virginia, USA; Spike Cralyle (blue gloves) celebrates defeating Aalon Cruz (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Chartway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey – USA TODAY Sports

Age: 28

Global report: 13-3

Record since leaving UFC: 4-0

[autotag]Spike Carlyle[/autotag]it is UFC release was considered by some to be possibly premature. After three exciting fights in the promotion, he was cut. But since that time he has continued to wage frantic, back-and-forth wars, including his “Return of the year” candidate against Dan Moret at Bellator 272. Carlyle is a free agent, so maybe he could return to the UFC.

Cody Gibson

Cody Gibson

Age: 34

Global report: 18-7

Record since leaving UFC: 6-1

Since leaving the UFC in 2016, [autotag]Cody Gibson[/autotag] has slowly, surely, and quietly compiled a nice record outside of promotion. His victories have come against in-game opponents, including former UFC flyweight title challenger John Dodson. Could 2022 be his year? It’s possible, because he has another former title contender in Ray Borg as his next mission.

Horace Gutierrez

Age: 31

Global report: 7-3

Record since leaving UFC: 4-0

May be [autotag]Horace Gutierrez[/autotag]The first stint in the UFC came a little too soon. A member of “The Ultimate Fighter, Latin America 2”, Gutierrez had a one-two finish in his first promotional stint. Since then he has gone 4-0 with two knockouts. Going against the former UFC champion Renan Barao then, Gutierrez could finally deliver his ticket with the most significant victory of his career.

Kurt Holobaugh

Age: 35

Global report: 19-7

Record since leaving UFC: 2-0

Few fighters have had a harder run to start a move to the UFC than [autotag]Kurt Holobaugh[/autotag]. At the time, it might not have seemed so crazy, but thinking back to Holobaugh’s three fights in the UFC, he fought Raoni Barcelos, Shane Burgos and Thiago Moises. It’s a row of murderers. He has already returned to the UFC once before. Maybe Holobaugh can do it again if he adds another destructive performance to his resume – like the two he had after the UFC in XFC.

Sarah Kaufman

Age: 36

Global report: 22-5

Record since leaving UFC: 5-1

Simply: [autotag]Sarah Kaufman[/autotag] deserves a second shot. Since the end of her UFC tenure, she has faced top opponents in heavier weight classes for PFL and Invicta. At a time when women’s bantamweights and featherweights are indispensable, Kaufman seems like a no-brainer.

Taylor Lapilus

Age: 29

Global report: 17-3

Record since leaving UFC: 6-1

It almost feels like ancient history because of how far we’ve come, but [autotag]Taylor Lapilus[/autotag] participated in the UFC four times from 2015 to 2016. Since his departure, Lapilus has become one of the best prospects in the world. He fought tough competition and proved he is a very advanced fighter. Still young at 29, it’s time for Lapilus to join Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane in carry the MMA torch for France.

Bobby Nash

Age: 31

Global report: 12-4

Record since leaving UFC: 4-0

[autotag]Bobby Nash[/autotag] retired once and maybe it was necessary. But when the fire was lit and he came back, he proved to be a much more confident fighter. If you’ve seen him fight in XFC lately, you’ve seen what an all-offense, all-action fighter he is. In fact, he scored four first-round knockouts. Now a free agent, will the UFC bring him back?

Eric Shelton

Age: 30

Global report: 15-7

Record since leaving UFC: 3-1

During his tenure in the UFC, [autotag]Eric Shelton[/autotag] was an “anywhere, anyone, anytime” fighter. He came in on short notice and proved a competitive outing for an opponent. However, he didn’t get the results and was cut. Since then, he has gone 3-1 with his only loss to current UFC fighter Juancamilo Ronderos.

Rob Wilkinson

Age: 29

Global report: 13-2

Record since leaving UFC: 2-0

It may be revisionist history, but as things stand, [autotag]Rob Wilkinson[/autotag] may not have been shaken fairly during his time in the UFC. After a short-term intervention against Siyar Bahadurzada at its beginnings, Wilkinson pointed out a competitive outing against a newbie named Israel Adesanya. With two wins since leaving the UFC, Wilkinson could be called upon to return in 2022.



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