Paulo Filho vs. Yuki Sasaki is back on, as main event of Bitetti Combat 6

Over the weekend, two-time jiu-jitsu world champion and MMA promoter Amaury Bitetti announced that former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho had withdrawn from his bout against Japanese UFC veteran Yuki Sasaki, which was set to be the main event at Bitetti Combat 6 this Thursday. This was just the latest in a seemingly endless stream of unusual behavior coming from Filho, who has openly discussed his past substance abuse and bouts with clinical depression. These issues would eventually make headline news, after he pulled out of a WEC title fight, where he was set to rematch Chael Sonnen in March 2008.

Filho pulled out of that bout at WEC 33 just before the fight, due to the fact that he had checked into a substance abuse rehab facility. This peculiar behavior would then boil over in November 2008, when he missed weight by 7-pounds in the long-awaited rematch with Sonnen at WEC 36. The bout was then changed from a 5-round title fight to a 3-round non-title fight, because of Filho’s failure to make the contracted weight. The next night, Filho appeared to be a shell of his former self in a lackluster performance. It was obvious his head was not in the fight, as he cruised through three uneventful rounds en route to his first career loss via unanimous decision. After the bout, the WEC’s parent company Zuffa, which also owns the UFC, decided to part ways with the Brazilian fighter due to his sporadic behavior.

After taking some time off from the sport, Filho would resurface in Japan’s premier MMA organization DREAM in July 2009, where he survived an early onslaught from the Dutch powerhouse Melvin Manhoef, before submitting him with a textbook armbar. This victory breathed new life into his career, as he displayed the jiu-jitsu acumen that had made him such a popular fighter back in his PRIDE days (2002-2006), before Zuffa purchased the now defunct organization. After that win, Filho returned to Brazil where he signed with Bitetti Combat. He made his promotional debut at Bitetti Combat 4 in September 2009, which was the largest MMA event in recent Brazilian history. Filho would defeat The Ultimate Fighter 1 veteran Alex Schoenauer via unanimous decision. He would then follow up that success by submitting Japanese fighter Tatsuhiko Nishizaka via first round kimura at Bitetti Combat 5 in December 2009.

Now in the week leading up to Filho’s third appearance for Bitetti Combat as the main event of Bitetti Combat 6, which is set to take place on Thursday, February 25, 2010 in his nation’s capital city of Brasilia, Filho’s outside-the-cage distractions appeared to be derailing the progess he had been making in the last year. Two days after annoucning that former UFC #1 middleweight contender Thales Leites would be replacing Filho in the main event, while Filho is "taking care of his problems", Bitetti then reported to the Brazilian news outlet Tatame that Filho would be facing Sasaki after all with Leites remaining on the card against an opponent to yet to be determined. Bitetti explained, "Sasaki said that he would only fight if it was with Paulo. Knowing this, Paulo said that he would fight anyway."

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