Just 18 days before his scheduled fight at WEC 46 in Sacramento, Eddie Wineland has found himself scrambling to adjust to a new opponent.
Wineland, of Chesterton, the WEC's first bantamweight champion, was scheduled to face Brazilian Rafael Rebello on the Jan. 10 card. But Wineland told The Times on Wednesday that Rebello has pulled out of the fight and he will now face George Roop.
The WEC's official Web site, wec.tv, no longer had the Wineland-Rebello bout listed as of Wednesday evening. A source close to the situation confirmed to The Times that Rebello was off the card and Roop is in as the replacement, though official bout agreements have not yet been signed.
Roop was already attached to the card and MMA Junkie was first to report he would be fighting Jesse Moreng. But with Rebello out, Roop will move up to face the former bantamweight champ in his debut with the promotion.
Wineland (16-5-1, 2-2 WEC) is looking to build off a unanimous decision win over Manny Tapia at WEC 43 in San Antonio in October, which was his first WEC victory since May 2006. Against Tapia, he used an effective counter-striking attack to dominate the former top bantamweight contender with a 30-27 sweep on all three judges' scorecards.
Wineland had been preparing for the 5-foot-5 Rebello, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, for his entire training camp. But the wrinkle with Roop as his new opponent is his height -- Roop is 6-foot-1, extraordinarily tall for a 135-pound fighter.
"He's got a 6-1 frame and is 135 pounds -- I don't know if that's physically possible," Wineland said Wednesday. "That's like a beanpole! Now I've got to bring in some tall guys (to train), but that's fine. I'm not too worried about it."
Roop (10-5, 1-2 UFC) was a contestant on Season 8 of the UFC's Spike TV reality competition "The Ultimate Fighter" and competed as a lightweight. He made the semifinals on the show, winning two fights before losing to Phillipe Nover by submission. He went on to go 1-2 in his three fights with the UFC. Most recently, he beat Matt Dell in the main event of Rage In the Cage 137 in Tucson, Ariz. Through his 15-fight career, Roop has fought at lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight.
Though Roop, who trains primarily with former Xtreme Couture head coach Shawn Tompkins in Las Vegas, is a well-versed jiu-jitsu fighter, just three of his 10 wins have come by submission. He has been submitted in four of his five losses. Still, Wineland said he will prepare for a possible standup fight.
"He looks like he's primarily a standup guy -- pretty tough, pretty scrappy," Wineland said. "I was training for Rebello with some (jiu-jitsu) black belts. But I've got a couple of guys that are taller (to train with) and if I can hang with them, I should be OK."
While part of the fight game is adjusting to new opponents, often on short notice, Wineland said he couldn't recall any recent fights where he's had an opponent drop out on him this close to the fight -- and never in the WEC.
"A fight's a fight," Wineland said. "Obviously I planned a little differently for Rebello than I would have (for Roop). But I've got good head movement, so I think I can avoid his reach."
WEC 46 takes place at the ARCO Arena in Sacramento and the main card will be aired live on the Versus cable network. It features a main event lightweight title unification bout between champion Jamie Varner, fighting for the first time in a year after a hand injury against Donald Cerrone in his last title defense, and interim champ Ben Henderson. The co-main event features Rafael Assuncao against former featherweight champion Urijah Faber, fighting in front of his home crowd for the first time since losing a title rematch to Mike Brown in June. Also on the card, Anthony Morrison takes on Brown, fighting for the first time since losing his title to Jose Aldo last month. And Miguel Torres protege Mackens Semerzier meets Deividas Taurosevicius.