Nogueira out as UFC headliner woes mount

MANCHESTER, England – What had become a steady stream of bad news about injuries and illness among Ultimate Fighting Championship headliners turned into a deluge this week.

The company got a triple dose as heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar’s illness woes continue; Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira got a staph infection; and contender Shane Carwin is on the shelf after ankle surgery.

Midweek, UFC president Dana White found out Lesnar’s condition, initially labeled the flu and later diagnosed as mononucleosis, was significantly worse than it was just a week ago.

“It’s bad,” White said. “It’s real bad. I am worried about it. I can’t really talk about it right now, but [Lesnar] is in rough shape.”

Lesnar was diagnosed with mono two weeks ago, then traveled to one of his properties in Canada to recuperate. White said Lesnar collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. White noted that along with the mono, Lesnar has a second serious health issue, but declined to state what it was because Lesnar, who is very private, asked him to not reveal the problem.

Lesnar is back in the country and hospitalized, and White said he was going to fly out from England directly to meet with Lesnar.

“I think the fans have the right to know that he’s not going to be fighting for a while,” he said.

White said that Lesnar doesn’t have a condition on the level of cancer or HIV, but simply called it “very serious.”

“[Lesnar] is in bad shape, and the reality is they don’t really know all that’s wrong with him.” Thursday, UFC officials got the news that Nogueira, who had just been announced two days earlier as Cain Velasquez’s opponent in the UFC 108 main event on Jan. 2, also was hospitalized with a serious staph infection and was receiving antibiotics intreveniously.

Nogueira will not be able to resume training for some time and has withdrawn from the match.

“[He] got staph infection, bad, to the point now it’s in his bloodstream, and he’s probably going to have to be hospitalized and intravenously given the antibiotics,” White said. Nogueira fought Frank Mir shortly after suffering from a staph infection last December, couldn’t do much of anything physically, and lost the fight badly via TKO, the only time he had ever been stopped in his 39-fight career.

And that wasn’t the end of it. With Nogueira and Lesnar out of action, the logical match to make at UFC 108 would be a battle of unbeaten heavyweights with Velasquez vs. Shane Carwin, since Carwin has been waiting for a shot at Lesnar’s title.

However, Carwin, when realizing Lesnar wasn’t going to be ready any time soon, underwent knee surgery last week and also won’t be available for Jan. 2.

White said that he didn’t want to strip Lesnar of the title or create an interim champion until they knew how long he would be out.

White also noted that he was very unhappy with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who is currently filming the movie “The A-Team,” where he’s playing B.A. Baracus – the role that Mr. T made famous during the popular ’80s television show.

Jackson was scheduled to face Rashad Evans on Dec. 12 in Jackson’s hometown of Memphis after a strong buildup on Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show that is currently airing. The two play rival coaches.

But he pulled out when the offer came to make the movie. It had been assumed that a fight between the two would take place in 2010, although several weeks ago, Jackson, mad that White had been critical of him for taking the role, said that he wasn’t coming back.

“Something’s about to happen there,” White said. “You know me, we were good friends. When I’m your friend, I’m your best friend on the world. But we’re not friends anymore, and when I’m your enemy, I’m a bad enemy to have.”

Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Saturday, Nov 14, 2009