World Series of Fighting is heading back to the Valley.

On Thursday afternoon, WSOF officials announced they are returning Phoenix with WSOF 23, which includes world championship doubleheader headlined by a highly-anticipated rematch between undefeated reigning WSOF World Lightweight champion Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje and hard-hitting challenger Luis “Baboon” Palomino. The entire main card will air on NBCSN.

In the co-main event, David Branch will attempt to become the promotion’s first two-division champion and first world light heavyweight  champion in history when he squares off with determined, hard-hitting KO artist Teddy Holder in the championship round of the four-man, multi-event tournament that kicked off at Comerica Theatre on March 28 as part of WSOF 19.

“We are excited to return to Phoenix where we witnessed one of the most incredible fights in WSOF history earlier this year between Justin Gaethje and Luis Palomino, and to see them do it all over again,” stated WSOF President Ray Sefo.

“We look forward to crowning the first WSOF light heavyweight champion in history and, based on their recent performances in our cage, David Branch and Teddy Holder should deliver a thrilling end to our historic tournament.”

Gaethje (14-0) of Safford, Ariz. was last seen defeating Palomino in their initial at WSOF 19 in March. In a performance that drew praise from fans and pundits alike, both men battered each other senseless in front of a roaring crowd before Gaethje emerged victorious with TKO win at the 3:57 mark of the third frame. Palomino (23-10) previously earned his initial title shot after earning back-to-back knockout wins over Lewis Gonzalez and Jorge Patino under the WSOF banner

Branch and Holder find themselves in championship round action in the WSOF tournament that kicked off in Phoenix on March 28, after both fighters faced unexpected, last-minute adversaries in the semifinal stage.

Originally slated to square off with Ronny Markes, the former UFC veteran Branch (16-3), who is the reigning WSOF world middleweight champion, found himself with a new opponent in Jesse McElligott just 24 hours before fight time on April 10, after a dehydrated Markes was forced to withdraw from the affair. Branch would go on to submit him with a Von Flue choke in the second round (1:28) of battle to notch his sixth consecutive win.

Holder (9-1) experienced a stroke of luck in his last outing as just hours before the 29-year-old was slated to enter the cage for a WSOF 19 preliminary bout, one of the original tournament participants, Matt Hamill, withdrew from his semifinal stage matchup with former UFC standout Thiago Silva, and Holder was asked to replace him. Holder would go on to shock the MMA world with a violent knockout over Silva just two minutes into their matchup, earning the title shot in the process.

WSOF 23 is set to take place on Friday, Sept. 18 at the Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix.

About The Author

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José began his career as a mixed martial arts journalist while still enrolled at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. Since graduating in May 2013, he has attended dozens of high profile UFC fight cards as a credentialed member of the media, providing live cage side coverage through his articles and videos. His work has appeared on UFC.com, ArizonaSports.com and AZCentral. He is also currently one of the main contributors on Power MMA Show at Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, one of the first all MMA radio shows on a major radio station.