According to sources backstage at UFC 96 we were seconds away from the announcement that Lyoto Machida would be fighting Rashad Evans at UFC 98.
The chain of events leading up to this began on Friday when it was announced that Frank Mir was pulling out of UFC 98 because of an undisclosed back injury. Later Mir cleared the air and announced that he had undergone a scoping procedure on his knee that would postpone the heavyweight title unification bout not an injury to his back.
During the same time Mir was making his announcements Dana White kept saying that all was well with the May 23 UFC 98 card and that Mir and Lesnar would be meeting in the octagon as far as he was concerned.
Mir struck back stating that he wanted to put on the best possible fight for the fans and to do so would need time to recover from the procedure and train for the fight.
Last night at UFC 96 the main event between Keith Jardine and Rampage Jackson was to determine who would next challenge light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. If Jackson won he would be the challenger, if he lost, the undefeated Lyoto Machida would become the challenger.
While no official date has been set for the light heavyweight title defense it was rumored to be the co-main event for UFC 100.
Leading up to his fight last night Jackson had spoken about the rigors of training away from his family at the Wolfslair in London. While Rampage's skill set has improved by training overseas he hasn't enjoyed it, saying that he was pissed at Jardine for making him suffer through the cold wet London weather.
The UFC, always looking to use momentum to build future events had a quandary on their hands. If the Mir-Lesnar rematch was off for UFC 98 they needed a replacement to headline the event.
Immediately after Jackson left the cage and headed backstage Dana White approached the fighter to talk about his title shot against Evans. Although the two fighters had already exchanged words in front of the audience Jackson apparently thought their fight would be scheduled down the road.
There were loud voices coming from Jackson's dressing room after White entered. The discussions and rumors backstage were about the ultimatum White had handed Jackson. Either you fight Evans at UFC 98 or we ask Lyoto Machida to step in instead.
Jackson had anticipated some time off from training to spend with his family but the risk of losing the title fight was too great and he accepted.
While I've become less of a fan of Jackson recently I certainly feel for his situation. Not only does he have to fight on relatively short notice but he has to fight the training partner of the man he just beat.
Jackson has had his ups and downs over the last year and Dana White has put him in a precarious position with this ultimatum. We have to wonder if Jackson will be entirely focused on training or if he'll forgo a full camp in order to spend some time with his family?
If Jackson does suffer from another meltdown I think the blame falls squarely on the UFC. They've proven again that profits come first above all. If they take this heavy handed of an approach with a megastar like Rampage Jackson we can only wonder about what else goes on behind the scenes.