The city of Albuquerque, N.M. has played a major role on the mixed martial arts scene for years but has never received a visit from the UFC.
Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn's gym has produced a laundry list of champions, contenders and rising stars who have served to elevate the sport's profile over the past decade. Yet, while the Albuquerque collective has lit up the Octagon over this stretch, the city that has helped to farm some of the organization's best talent has never hosted a UFC event.
That will change on June 7 as Albuquerque will make its debut on the UFC schedule for an event that will be headlined by a lightweight clash between Benson Henderson and Rustam Khabilov. The news was revealed in Tuesday's edition of the Albuquerque Journal. So far, the main event tilt between the former champion and the surging prospect is the only announced bout.
The UFC confirmed the fight, which is scheduled for the Tingley Coliseum.
The MMA Lab product is coming off a split-decision victory over Josh Thompson in his most recent outing at UFC on Fox 10 back in January. The win was his first since dropping the 155-pound strap to Anthony Pettis last August and made him successful in eight of his last nine going back to 2010.
The Glendale-based fighter is eager to get back into title contention, and a victory over the Russian fighter would bolster his chances of doing so.
Whereas the recent titleholder has been a staple in the upper tier of the lightweight fold since coming over from the WEC, Khabilov will be looking to break through into the elite level of the weight class. The 27-year-old Jackson/Winkeljohn representative has won six consecutive showings, three of which have come under the UFC banner.
While his most recent outing was an impressive win over veteran Jorge Masvidal back in October, facing an opponent with Henderson's credentials and resume will be the biggest challenge of his career.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.