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MMAjunkie verified the pairing between Barboza (20-6 MMA, 14-6 UFC) and Gaethje (19-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC), as well as date and location details, with a person close to the situation following a tweet about the matchup from MMA Reporter Farah Hannoun. The person requested anonymity because the negotiations aren’t public and added contracts for the bout have not been signed.
UFC on ESPN+ 6 takes place March 23 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The event’s main card airs live on ESPN+ after expected prelims on the same streaming service.
Barboza, No. 6 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, is one month removed from a TKO drubbing of lightweight up-and-comer Dan Hooker at UFC on FOX 31. The win was shadowed by criticism that Hooker took too much damage over two rounds, but it was a much-needed turnaround for the Brazilian after back-to-back losses against current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and onetime interim title challenger Kevin Lee.
No. 9-ranked Gaethje recently called for a fight with Al Iaquinta, who recently issued Lee a second defeat in a rematch at UFC on FOX 31. Iaquinta dismissed the callout on MMAjunkie Radio, seeking higher-ranked opposition.
Gaethje has been inactive since August, when he destroyed the surging James Vick inside 90 seconds at UFC Fight Night 135. The win put him back on the right track after two consecutive losses against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, respectively, that marked his only professional defeats.
The latest UFC on ESPN+ 6 lineup now includes:
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