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Ricky Simon now faces newcomer Gaetano Pirello at UFC Fight Island 8

Ricky Simon will take on a short-notice replacement when he fights at UFC Fight Island 8. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ricky Simon will fight in January after all.

Simon, who was scheduled to face Brian Kelleher on Jan. 16, will now take on promotional newcomer Gaetano Pirello at UFC Fight Island 8 on Jan. 20, multiple people with knowledge of the change told MMA Fighting.

Kelleher was pulled from the first card of the year after testing positive for COVID-19.

Pirello makes his first walk to the octagon in Abu Dhabi on short notice after scoring a pair of first-round finishes in the European circuit in 2018 and 2019, boosting his MMA record to 15-5-1.

Simon (16-3) returned to the winning column in his sole appearance in 2020, scoring a split decision over Ray Borg in May. The former LFA bantamweight champion went 3-0 in the UFC before losses to Urijah Faber and Rob Font.

Abu Dhabi’s UFC Fight Island 8 will be headlined by welterweights Neil Magny and Michael Chiesa.

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