SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Joe Soto has received the opportunity of a lifetime.
Soto, a former NJCAA national runner-up at Iowa Central, has been moved into the main event of UFC 177 Saturday night and a fight with bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.
Renan Barao was expected to face Dillashaw, but he suffered a fall and lost consciousness while attempting to cut down to 135 pounds for the title fight. Dillashaw won the belt earlier this year with a TKO win over Barao.
Soto was expected to compete in a prelim fight against Anthony Birchak on FOX Sports 1. Now, he will be competing for the biggest title in MMA.
"It's just crazy," Iowa Central head coach Luke Moffitt said. "To have three possible former guys with UFC titles from Iowa Central, that's pretty nuts."
Jon Jones is the current UFC light heavyweight champion, while Cain Velasquez is the heavyweight title holder. Both won titles with the Triton program, and Jones was a roommate of Soto's.
Colby Covington, a third roommate with Jones and Soto at Iowa Central, made his UFC debut recently and earned a first round finish.
"It's luck for Joe getting this opportunity, but it's a tremendous opportunity," Moffitt said. "My phone has just been blowing up about messages regarding it; it's a great thing for our wrestling program and school."
Soto is 15-2 in his career and has won six straight since a loss to Eddie Yagin in 2011. All of his wins have been via finish. The 27-year-old overcame a serious eye injury that threatened his MMA career.
With the Tritons, Soto was a two-time NJCAA All-American, finishing second and third.
Velasquez is scheduled to return to action this November against Fabricio Werdum, while Jones and Daniel Cormier had their September fight moved back to January after "Bones" suffered a knee injury.