The Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to Indiana in late summer after nearly three years away, and one of the region's elite fighters has found his way onto the card.
The UFC will touch down in Indianapolis for an Aug. 28 event that will be broadcast nationally on the Fox Sports 1 channel, which makes its cable debut 10 days earlier.
Hobart-based featherweight Darren Elkins (16-3, 5-2 UFC), who was a state champion wrestler at Portage, will fight the highly touted Hatsu Hioki (26-6-2, 2-2 UFC) on the card, and he'll be looking to return to the win column after an April loss.
The show will take place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the same venue – then called Conseco Fieldhouse – that hosted the promotion's last trip to Indy, which came in September 2010 for the UFC 119 pay-per-view. The card will be headlined by a welterweight rematch between recent title challenger Carlos Condit and perennial contender Martin Kampmann. The co-main event features Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone in a lightweight fight against Rafael dos Anjos.
Elkins had a five-fight win streak since dropping to 145 pounds, including a first-round TKO stoppage of Antonio Carvalho in March in Montreal. That quick win left him unscathed, and when Illinois native Clay Guida, who formerly trained in Tinley Park, had to drop out of a fight with onetime title challenger Chad Mendes, Elkins was called upon to step up on a month's notice.
But he ran into a buzzsaw in Mendes, who handed him a TKO from punches just 68 seconds into their fight at UFC on FOX 7 in San Jose, Calif.
Now he'll look to start a new streak against Hioki, a former champion in Japan who signed with the UFC in 2011 while considered the No. 2 featherweight in the world behind UFC champ Jose Aldo. Hioki's UFC run has been considered a disappointment to many. He won a controversial split decision against George Roop in his debut, beat Illinois-based Bart Palaszewski in a home fight in Japan, then lost back-to-back fights to Ricardo Lamas, of Oak Brook, and Guida.
Still, Hioki remains highly ranked, and a win for Elkins would give him six in seven fights at featherweight – and would keep him in the title picture, especially considering the loss to Mendes came without the benefit of a full fight camp.