For a title holder to truly be a champion they must defend the belt and comply with the promotion they fight for. Unfortunately, due to a conflict of interest and a lack of cooperation Fight Club Rush bantamweight champion Bernardo Sopai has been stripped of his title.
Since his last fight, which took place at FCR 15 as his first title defence, FCR have emplored Sopai to continue defending his title and have given several offers against solid competition.
Unfortunately, Sopai's team have instead decided to pursue other options. The FCR bantamweight divison is one of the promotion's strongest, the rest of the fighters must therefor be allowed to continue pursuing FCR gold.
FCR promotor and match maker Jörgen Hamberg has the following statement on the situation:
"Fight Club Rush have decided to strip our bantamweight champion Bernardo Sopai after difficulties dealing with his team," Hamberg says. "The prelude to the decision is that Sopai has been given three additional opportunities to defend his title during 2023 but his team has had leads to other promotions and other issues, which have been legitimate at the time."
"We countered these points with a career-defining offer at FCR 19 where we see that a win would place Sopai on the map as one of the hottest prospects in all of Europe. His team then decided to book him for a title fight at Allstars Fight Night. We informed his team that a promotions champion traditionally is exclusive to that promotion nationally, while freeing up for international opportunities, but they proceeded to book the fight."
"Following that we requested that Sopai sign an exclusive contract with FCR for 2024 where we guarantee four title defences as a main or co-main event on UFC Fight Pass. During the month of November we had a meeting with the UFC Fight Pass team who confirmed that the UFC's match makers have full knowledge of FCR's champions and talent pool. Based on our meeting with them we concluded that Sopai would need two title defences at most before being picked up by the premiere MMA promotion in the world."
"Team Allstars refused to agree to the deal as they wanted Sopai at AFN, which they expressed themselves. For a team to betray a fighters career opportunities in order to strengthen their own event is highly regrettable."
"We see no other option than to strip Sopai of the title and give other top-tier bantamweights the opportunity to compete for the now vacant title."
"Obviously we at FCR MMA are saddened for Sopai's sake and his loss of opportunies, but this is a clear-cut case where managers need to put their fighters first and not let other interests cloud their judgement."
"Lastly we would like to add that this is FCR's subjective take on the matter based on the evidence at the communication at hand, the other parties involved may have a different take on the matter - a take we cannot comprehend."
It's highly unfortunate but the division must be allowed to go on in pursuit of the title. Team FCR wish Sopai all the best on his new endevours.