LAS VEGAS — A rare brain disease has forced UFC newcomer Josiah Harrell out of his debut fight.
A prefight MRI, required by the UFC and Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), showed that Harrell has a previously undiagnosed affliction called moyamoya, which is “a rare blood vessel disorder in which the carotid artery in the skull becomes blocked or narrowed,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
His manager, Maurice Blanco of First Round Management, said Harrell will need to undergo brain surgery. He called the discovery a “blessing in disguise” because of how dangerous it would have been for Harrell to continue fighting with the affliction.
Harrell was scheduled to take on UFC top prospect Jack Della Maddalena at UFC 290 on Saturday. Harrell made weight Friday morning and was all set to compete before the MRI result came back.
A similar situation happened to Vince Murdock in 2019 when he signed with the UFC — a required MRI turned up moyamoya and ended up potentially saving his life. Murdock was able to make a full recovery and return to fighting, including stints on “Dana White’s Contender Series” and “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Blanco said Harrell is “used to adversity” and “he’ll be back” to fighting once he has surgery and recovers.
Most major athletic commissions require MRIs for fighters to be licensed to compete, but not every jurisdiction requires them. Blanco said Harrell had never before needed to get an MRI before competing, and he has competed in seven pro fights, in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. He also played football and wrestled before that.
Della Maddalena was originally supposed to fight Sean Brady at UFC 290 in a key welterweight fight. But Brady withdrew just last week due to septic bursitis in his left elbow. Harrell, a UFC newcomer, was then tabbed as the replacement.
Della Maddalena (14-2) has won 14 straight fights, including his first four in the UFC. All of those UFC victories have come via first-round finish. Della Maddalena, a 26-year-old Australian, is coming off a first-round submission win over Randy Brown at UFC 284 in February.