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

    It’s hard to make it to the UFC.

    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 bit too soon. Other times, they’re faced with difficult matchups that time proves were bigger challenges than originally anticipated.

    When the pink slip comes and a fighter departs the promotion, there is often a phrase they hear on the 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 departing the UFC, they won’t be back. However, it’s not impossible. A number of fighters have done it over the years. Just look at UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno. He was released from the promotion, built his way back, became a contender, and then won a UFC title. Others like Brandon Davis, Jesse Ronson, Nicolas Dalby, Chase Sherman, Sean Soriano, and Dustin Jacoby have reinforced it being possible.

    With the new year upon us, 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

    Overall record: 11-5

    Record since UFC departure: 3-0

    [autotag]Ali Alqaisi[/autotag] wasted no time after his UFC departure in early 2021. He immediately got back on the saddle and began racking up wins, the recipe that originally got him into the UFC. In his most recent two fights, Alqaisi captured the Titan FC and UAE Warriors featherweight titles.

    Kyle Bochniak

    Age: 34

    Overall record: 10-5

    Record since UFC departure: 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 remainder of his UFC tenure, Bochniak struggled to find results. Since his UFC departure, Bochniak has won back-to-back fights under the XMMA banner.

    Shane Campbell

    Age: 33

    Overall record: 19-8

    Record since UFC departure: 9-2

    It’s been a long road for [autotag]Shane Campbell[/autotag] to get back on the UFC’s doorstep, but he’s certainly right there. He’s largely wiped out the Canadian regional scene with two Unified MMA titles and a Fight Night belt, too. A fun, striking-based fighter, Campbell could return to the promotion in 2022 six-or-so years after his first stint ended.

    Spike Carlyle

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

    Age: 28

    Overall record: 13-3

    Record since UFC departure: 4-0

    [autotag]Spike Carlyle[/autotag]’s UFC release was deemed by some as perhaps premature. After three exciting fights in the promotion, he was cut. But since that time he’s continued to put on frenetic, back-and-forth wars, including his “Comeback of the Year” candidate against Dan Moret at Bellator 272. Carlyle is a free agent, so perhaps he could circle back to the UFC.

    Cody Gibson

    Cody Gibson

    Age: 34

    Overall record: 18-7

    Record since UFC departure: 6-1

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

    Horacio Gutierrez

    Age: 31

    Overall record: 7-3

    Record since UFC departure: 4-0

    Perhaps [autotag]Horacio Gutierrez[/autotag]’s first UFC stint came a tad too soon. A member of “The Ultimate Fighter, Latin America 2,” Gutierrez had a two-and-out in his first promotional stint. Since then, he’s gone 4-0 with two knockouts. Going against former UFC champ Renan Barao next, Gutierrez could finally punch his ticket back with the most marquee win of his career.

    Kurt Holobaugh

    Age: 35

    Overall record: 19-7

    Record since UFC departure: 2-0

    Few fighters have had a harder run to kick off a UFC stint than [autotag]Kurt Holobaugh[/autotag]. At the time, it may not have seemed that crazy, but looking back Holobaugh’s three UFC fights he fought Raoni Barcelos, Shane Burgos, and Thiago Moises. That’s a murderer’s row. He’s already made it back to the UFC once before. Maybe Holobaugh can do that again if he adds another destructive performance to his resume – like the two he’s had post-UFC in XFC.

    Sarah Kaufman

    Age: 36

    Overall record: 22-5

    Record since UFC departure: 5-1

    Simply put: [autotag]Sarah Kaufman[/autotag] deserves a second shot. Since her UFC tenure came to an end, she’s competed against high-level opponents at heavier weight classes for PFL and Invicta. In a day and age when female bantamweights and featherweights are much needed, Kaufman seems like a no-brainer.

    Taylor Lapilus

    Age: 29

    Overall record: 17-3

    Record since UFC departure: 6-1

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

    Bobby Nash

    Age: 31

    Overall record: 12-4

    Record since UFC departure: 4-0

    [autotag]Bobby Nash[/autotag] retired once and perhaps it was needed. 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 recently in XFC, you’ve seen how he’s an all-offense, all-action fighter. In fact, he’s scored four first-round knockouts. Now a free agent, will the UFC bring him back?

    Eric Shelton

    Age: 30

    Overall record: 15-7

    Record since UFC departure: 3-1

    During his UFC tenure, [autotag]Eric Shelton[/autotag] was an “anywhere, anyone, any time” type fighter. He stepped in on short notice and proved a competitive outing for an opponent. However, he failed to get the results and was cut. Since then, he’s gone 3-1 with his only loss coming against current UFC fighter Juancamilo Ronderos.

    Rob Wilkinson

    Age: 29

    Overall record: 13-2

    Record since UFC departure: 2-0

    It might be revisionist history, but as things stand, [autotag]Rob Wilkinson[/autotag] may not have gotten a fair shake in his UFC stint. After a short-notice step-in against Siyar Bahadurzada in his debut, Wilkinson put forth a competitive outing against a debutant named Israel Adesanya. With two wins since his UFC departure, Wilkinson could get the call to come back in 2022.



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