In what is one of the strangest stories in UFC history, a fighter finally earned his shot to make a name in the UFC. Taking the fight against Anthony Birchack just weeks before the event, Soto stepped up his training to make a debut in the UFC undercard. Joe Soto finally got a whirlwind opportunity to make a splash in the organization in the prelims, where you get to prove your worth, let the fans get introduced to you as an athlete and earn your way up. Twenty-four hours before the fight, the biggest day in your life just got a whole lot bigger.
Title shot against the bantamweight champion.
In his hometown.
For your first UFC fight.
What do you do with a guy like Joe Soto?
Placing Soto in his next bantamweight fight presents a marketing challenge to the UFC. No matter what happens from here, he will always be remembered first as the last minute replacement for Barao in a title fight. While many will call this one of the most disastrous cards in the history of the UFC, can you imagine if he had beaten Dillashaw? If the replacement for the rematch took a title he was never supposed to have the chance at, it would have been a disaster of a much different level. The UFC would have no choice but to be fair to Dillashaw and grant him a rematch for a fight that was never supposed to happen in the first place. It would have dragged out a disastrous mishap even longer.
The Future of Soto’s Career
After the exposure of a title contention fight, where do you place him for his next bout? He has the exposure and instant reputation to be a main card fighter, but he is going to be hard to market. Most fans were expecting a quick finish on Dillashaw’s part, but we ended up seeing Soto give the champ a run for his money. Soto showed great heart and ability as a bantamweight fighter, lasting through almost five rounds before Dillashaw put him away. The UFC should grant Soto the chance to earn a different reputation in the organization for his tremendous last-minute effort against Dillashaw. A main card matchup would be the least they could do to reward him for stepping up to the plate so bravely.