On Sunday night the news broke that Cain Velasquez would no longer challenge Fabricio Werdum for the heavyweight title at UFC 196 on February 6th, as a back-injury had forced the American Kickboxing Academy representative into a withdrawal.
Along with that news came confirmation that Stipe Miocic would be stepping in to take on Werdum and fill the sizeable void left by the former titleholder’s departure on less than two weeks notice.
On Monday, however, that fight was also consigned to the scrap heap, as Werdum decided to remove himself from the card. According to MMAFighting, the Brazilian claimed that he had been struggling with several minor injuries over the last number of weeks and that he wasn’t willing to face a new opponent on short-notice in such condition.
“I was already injured,” said Werdum. “I have a foot injury, and haven’t been able to throw kicks in training for two weeks. I would still fight Cain because I was injured the last time, but I also hurt my back last Friday. I went to the doctor, tried to continue training, but couldn’t spar as I should spar”.
“If Cain was the opponent, I would go on. It’s not his fault, it’s nobody’s fault. Injuries happen. You can’t avoid them. I have no option. I made this decision because I’m not feeling 100 percent”.
“It took me a long time to get here and win this belt, be the champion, to throw everything away because I’m not 100 percent,” Werdum said. “I have to think about everything now, I can’t think and act like I did when I was 20. It’s not like that anymore. Everything changed. I’m 38 now, and I feel I’m at the best moment of my career, and I can’t risk my career because of pride”.
The news has obviously come as a huge disappointment to Miocic, who’s manager, Greg Kalikas, expressed the entire camp’s displeasure with the turn of events.
“We’re extremely disappointed to hear that Werdum is pulling out of the fight,” Kalikas told MMAFighting. “If he’s healthy enough to defend against Cain, we can’t understand why he’s not healthy enough to fight Stipe, who would only have 12 days to prepare for him as it stands”.
“A champion shouldn’t pick and choose opponents. A true champion fights all comers. If he won’t fight Stipe with a short camp, are we supposed to believe he’d fight Stipe coming off a full training camp? No, he wouldn’t… and that’s a bad look for the supposed best heavyweight on the planet. All we can hope is that Werdum ‘heals’ up quick and will agree to fight Stipe sooner rather than later”.
It will be interesting to see how the UFC brass react to this complicated situation. Given that heavyweights don’t have weight-cuts to worry about when it comes to taking short-notice assignments there are likely to be a number of fighters offering to step in against Miocic. In fact, Josh Barnett has already offered his services.
The question is, however, will any of the fighters at the UFC’s disposable make for a serviceable Pay-per-view main event? And will Miocic be willing to risk his high-ranking against a fresh face?