By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on January 15, 2024.
TORONTO – Serhiy Sidey’s first-round TKO win over American Ramon (The Savage) Taveras on Dana White’s Contender Series in September came with a UFC contract.
And a “to be continued” tag.
The 27-year-old bantamweight from Burlington, Ont., knocked Taveras on his backside with a left-right combination. Several blows later, referee Kevin MacDonald stepped in and stopped the bout.
Prematurely in the eyes of most onlookers in Las Vegas, including the UFC president.
“Horrible ref stoppage. One of the worst ref stoppages I’ve ever seen,” White said after the bout while announcing which fighters had earned contracts. “I don’t know what the guy was thinking or why it happened.
“But that’s not your fault. You (Sidey) came in and did what you’re supposed to and you looked damn good doing it “¦ You’re in. Congratulations. Great fight, kid.”
Sidey (10-1-0) got his contract. And Taveras (9-2-0) got a second chance.
Five weeks later, the hard-punching Taveras returned to Dana White’s Contender Series, stopping Cortavious (Are You Not Entertained?) Romious in a 29-second slugfest.
The 30-year-old Taveras, a father of four, got his UFC contract – and another shot at Sidey.
Sidey and Taveras, two of the 46 fighters to win their way into the UFC on the 10-episode seventh season of White’s developmental series, will look to settle the score Saturday on the undercard of UFC 297.
American Sean (Tarzan) Strickland defends his middleweight title against No. 2 Dricus (Stillknocks) Du Plessis of South Africa in the main event at Scotiabank Arena.
American Raquel (Rocky) Pennington, ranked No. 2 among 135-pound contenders, meets No. 3 Mayra (Sheetara) Bueno Silva of Brazil for the vacant women’s bantamweight crown in the co-main event.
The 27-year-old Sidey, one of nine Canadians on the 12-fight card, is still pinching himself.
“I’m just super-grateful for this opportunity,” he said. “This is something that I’ve been dreaming of for a very very long time.”
Sidey was a spectator the last time the UFC came to Toronto for UFC 231 on Dec. 8, 2018. He was 3-0-0 and less than six months into his pro career at the time.
“I just remember looking through the arena and visualizing myself walking out. The fact that it’s my UFC debut and I get to do it here is surreal “¦ The stars have aligned for me, for sure.”
Sidey, who trains at Aegis MMA in Oakville, Ont., the Burlington Training Centre and Niagara Top Team in St. Catharines, sees no controversy from his first meeting with Taveras.
“I was confident that I was going to finish that fight any second,” he said. “Honestly at this point though, it’s a great opportunity for me to leave no doubt in the eyes of the fans or anybody who doubts it at all. I’m confident have all the tools to finish this guy off “¦ This time in my hometown, in front of all my fans and family.”
Born in Chernihiv,Ukraine, Sidey moved to Canada with his family when he was six.
Going into high school, he says he was a “very very scrawny kid” with both a love of extreme sports and lack of self-confidence. He was inspired to start combat sports training after watching “Never Back Down,” a 2008 film about a teenager who attends a new high school and, after discovering an underground fight club there, starts his own MMA journey.
Sidey promptly signed up with a local gym.
“When I stepped into the gym and got to spar for the first time, I was completely hooked on it. And slowly built my confidence from there.”
His parents gave the endeavour their support after seeing Sidey’s dedication. Both doctors in Ukraine, his father now works as a nurse while his mother is a health inspector.
Sidey, who posted a 4-2-0 amateur record, went on to win regional bantamweight titles in the Battlefield Fight League and BTC Fight Promotions.
He has won six straight since losing a decision to Mateo Vogel in February 2020 and his 10 wins include four first-round finishes. Coincidentally, Vogel takes on Unified MMA champion John (The Dragon) Nguyen in the main event of Unified 55 on Friday in Toronto.
Sidey has combined fighting with school, earning a degree in criminal justice from University of Guelph-Humber. These days, he coaches boxing and kickboxing when not training.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2024.