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Who is Jared Cannonier? The American fighting Nassourdine Imavov at UFC Fight Night

The American headlines UFC Fight Night in Louisville on Saturday night, facing the Russian Nassourdine Imavov.

The American headlines UFC Fight Night in Louisville on Saturday night, facing the Russian Nassourdine Imavov.
Carmen MandatoAFP

American fighter Jared Cannonier is headlining another UFC event, as he faces French-Russian Nassourdine Imavov at UFC Fight Night in Louisville. The bout will take place in Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. At 40, Cannonier has spent nearly a decade in the UFC and has fought for the middleweight title, earning a dedicated fan following. Rising Mexican star Raúl Rosas Jr. also features on the card.

In the world of combat sports, every fighter has a story, and Cannonier is no different, with his life having taken a dramatic turn. The American was part of the U.S. Army as a young man but was expelled after testing positive for marijuana. “I had the urge to do martial arts. It wasn’t necessarily mixed martial arts, but I always had the impulse to be a martial artist since I was a kid. I watched them on TV, especially in the army, where I had my first real contact with martial arts,” Cannonier, known as The Killa Gorilla, said in a press conference.

After leaving the army, Cannonier moved to Anchorage, Alaska, with his family and began working for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), maintaining aircraft. “The FAA was essentially a means to be able to do it. Of course, with the support of my wife, I was able to dedicate all those hours,” he explained. At that time, Cannonier weighed 300 pounds. He joined a jiu-jitsu gym and was motivated to compete.

Cannonier made his debut at 27 in the heavyweight division in June 2011, quickly dominating the Alaskan leagues. Three years later, he returned to the continental United States, training in Arizona, and debuted in the UFC in January 2015, suffering a knockout in the first round. The loss did not deter The Killa Gorilla, who secured his first victory three months later with a first-round knockout. “It was something I was going to do, and I was willing to sacrifice a lot to do it. If my wife wasn’t going to support me, goodbye. If my job wasn’t going to support me, goodbye,” he said.

Cannonier continued to lose weight, dropping to light heavyweight and achieving five wins in three fights. In November 2018, he reached his current division, middleweight, shedding 110 pounds. He fought for the title against Israel Adesanya, a dominant champion at the time, but lost by unanimous decision. He later defeated Sean Strickland by split decision and Marvin Vettori unanimously.

Currently ranked fourth in the middleweight division, Cannonier has a chance to earn another title shot, with the belt now held by South African Dricus du Plessis. Imavov, ranked seventh, is also vying for a title shot, making this bout a critical step for both fighters.