Conlan will face Diego Alberto Ruiz next month.
With Vladimir Nikitin injured and out of a planned grudge match against Michael Conlan on Aug. 3 in Belfast, Conlan will now face Argentina’s Diego Alberto Ruiz in a 10-round featherweight main event, which will stream live on ESPN+.
Conlan (11-0, 6 KO) was set to face Nikitin (3-0, 0 KO) in a homecoming bout, a rematch of their controversial Rio 2016 fight that Nikitin won, largely considered a blatant robbery. Nikitin, a 29-year-old Russian, isn’t really considered a serious pro prospect, but there was money to be made from that fight, so Top Rank and MTK Global put it together.
But with Nikitin pulled from the fight last week, a replacement was needed, and in steps the 25-year-old Ruiz (21-2, 10 KO).
“The show goes on,” Conlan said. “A bigger fight is happening. A harder fight is happening. A better performance will happen. My motivation and mindset haven’t changed. I’ve got a high-class fighter ranked highly in the world. I’m expecting him to cause me more problems than what Nikitin could have caused me.”
Conlan isn’t shutting the door on a rematch with Nikitin.
“Maybe once I’m world champion, I might give Nikitin a shot, but for now I’m moving on because it was more stalling my career than advancing it in terms of the level I’m at. Facing a higher level of opponent is better for me. I want to push on towards world titles and big, big fights and I have to start going through the gears now.”
Ruiz will be the underdog, but has a big opportunity against a rising name in the featherweight division.
“This is the biggest fight of my career and a great opportunity to prove myself as a fighter,” he said. “I fought June 1, and I am going to be ready for whatever Michael brings. It won’t be an easy fight, but it is not an impossible task. I am not scared to fight on the road. That is my motivation because the pressure will be on him.”
Ruiz is currently on a 10-fight win streak dating back to 2016.