Mixed Martial Arts: Kiwis Brad Riddell, Shane Young lock in new UFC fights

City Kickboxing teammates Brad Riddell and Shane Young are the latest Kiwi UFC fighters to book returns to the Octagon.

Surging lightweight Riddell will take on Gregor Gillespie at the UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on March 21, headlined by Kevin Holland's middleweight contender clash with Derek Brunson.

Featherweight Young will also head to Las Vegas, where he'll square off with Omar Morales on the March 28 undercard of the UFC 260 pay-per-view, which features heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic's rematch with Francis Ngannou, as well as adopted CKB fighter Alex Volkanovski's bantamweight title defence against Brian Ortega.

Since his late-2019 debut, Riddell has reeled off three straight showstopping wins and being matched against a ranked fighter like Gillespie so early in his tenure is validation that the UFC likes what it sees so far.

"I was stoked," Riddell tells Newshub. "They said they'd give me a new contract if I fought Gregor, thinking that maybe I'd get put off, because I think a lot of people don't want to fight him.

"But I said 'yeah, I'll take a new contract and a ranked fighter any day'."

American Gillespie is pegged as one of the division's hottest prospects, dispatching six consecutive opponents - including five straight finishes - before his momentum hit a judder bar against Kevin Lee in November.

Riddell has three-straight UFC wins to his name.
Riddell has three-straight UFC wins to his name. Photo credit: Getty

The bout will be the first in a new multi-fight deal for Riddell, offering him a platinum opportunity to vault into the official rankings and unlock another tier of fighters.

"I think a win puts me in everyone's 'don't want to fight' category," he says. "If nobody wants to fight him, and I go out there and starch him, then it's not looking too hopeful for the rest of them."

The Christchurch product has already established a reputation as a must-see fighter, and he expects that trend to continue against Gillespie, who's cut from the same aggressive cloth.

"I think it's going to be an awesome fight," Riddell adds. "He's looking to come back, and he genuinely looks like he really enjoys fighting and the grind… it's going to be a pretty cool fight."

Meanwhile, Young will try to  return to the winner's circle against 10-1 Venezuelan Morales.

The 27-year-old was the victim of a Ludovit Klein knockout less than two minutes into their bout at UFC 253 in September, breaking his two-fight win streak in demoralising fashion.

But the ever-exuberant 'Sugar' insists he's better for the experience and has already wiped the slate clean.

"I'm still here and focused on the goal, and I haven't wavered from that," Young tells Newshub.

Young has won three of his four UFC bouts.
Young has won three of his four UFC bouts. Photo credit: Getty

"I've already passed that test and that's a big reason why I got into this sport, which was pushing past my own imaginary barriers.

"To get knocked out for the first time in my life and in that kind of arena, I grew so much from that. I'm just happy that I'm back in the gym.

"Adversity builds character and I'm quite the character."

Morales is also trying to rebound from a streak-snapping defeat, with his loss to Giga Chikadze in October ending 'Venezuelan Fighter's' run of three consecutive UFC victories.

"I've already smoked him a thousand times in my mind," Young says. "He's a great challenge and that's what I'm in the UFC for - to compete with the best fighters in the world.

"My superiority starts off in the gym with my coaching, then it's all in the execution. 

"Last time I didn't get a chance to show it, so this time, there's definitely going to be big adjustments and that's what the sport is all about - adapting."

The pair of bookings almost completes a full schedule for City Kickboxing's UFC contingent, with five of its six fighters having Octagon dates pending.

Kai Kara-France and Carlos Ulberg will join Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 on March 7, where 'The Last Stylebender' will try to become a dual-division champion against Poland's Jan Blachowicz.

Join us for live updates of the Adesanya v Blachowicz UFC light-heavyweight title fight on March 7