This past week was interesting, shall we say, for fans and fighters alike. We saw UFC 151 disappear before our very eyes, and in the fallout, we ended up with a new main event at UFC 152.
Ah, if only things would have been that simple.
Things began to get interesting on Wednesday night, when rumors started to swirl that Dan Henderson had been injured and forced to withdraw from his UFC 151 bout against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Those rumors turned to reality when UFC President Dana White held an impromptu media call on Thursday afternoon.
During the call, White detailed that Henderson was indeed out of the bout and that Chael Sonnen had offered to step in to face Jones. However, much to the chagrin of the UFC boss, Jones had turned down the fight with Sonnen. And as a result, the promotion was taking the unprecedented step of canceling the entire fight card.
White then said that Jones’ next title defense would take place on September 22 and that he would face Lyoto Machida in the main event of UFC 152.
It was somewhat of a surprise to later learn that Machida turned down the fight and had been replaced by Vitor Belfort.
As of now, that’s where we stand: Jones versus Belfort for the UFC light heavyweight title on September 22. However, if you thought that the drama was over, you’d be wrong. Before Belfort accepted the fight, former light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua had been offered the fight and turned it down.
For Rua, a rematch with Jones would have been a chance for him to regain the title he lost to Jones on March 19, 2011. But the rematch never came to fruition. Julio Heller, Rua's manager, explains why (via Luca Gomes of Tatame):
We were in Sao Paulo and my phone rang about midnight. It was Lorenzo’s (Lorenzo Fertitta is a partner in the UFC). Lorenzo was on another call, so I talked to him like half hour later. He offered me a rematch against Jon Jones because Lyoto had declined it and asked me to give him an answer in ten minutes. I hung up and Mauricio was there with me. We talked and called Dida in Curitiba and we got to a conclusion we should accept the rematch, but only if Shogun had a couple of months to train and it would mean a fight later in October or in November. I said that to Lorenzo but he said there was no time because Jon Jones’s fight is on September 22nd. Unfortunately, he couldn’t give us this time but he understood.
Rua is currently booked to fight Alexander Gustafsson on December 8 in the UFC on Fox 5 fight card. With that in mind, Rua is most likely not in the middle of a full-fledged fight camp. And the turnaround time between September 22 and his last fight—an August 4 fourth-round TKO victory over Brandon Vera—would have left him not fully prepared to face Jones.
Let’s not forget that Rua is still under the 30-day no contact medical suspension from that August 4 fight.
It’s been a busy few days for the UFC. Hopefully it can put the fiasco of UFC 151 in the rear-view mirror and start looking toward the final few months of 2012.