Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson needs surgery on his jaw and won't be able to fight Rashad Evans as planned on May 23 at UFC 98, UFC president Dana White said.
White said Wednesday that he would give the title shot instead to unbeaten Lyoto Machida.
Jackson said at the postfight news conference for UFC 96 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio – in which he won a close decision from Keith Jardine to earn the title shot – that he wasn't sure he could make it because his jaw was sore.
White said Wednesday that Jackson was examined on Tuesday in Las Vegas and it was discovered he had torn ligaments in his jaw. He also has a hyperextension of his left elbow.
Jackson will have surgery next week and will not be allowed contact for at least five weeks following.
"Rampage deserved the [title shot], but this is an awesome main event," White said of Evans-Machida, which matches two unbeaten fighters. "A lot of people were complaining to me that Lyoto should have had the shot first. I think it's going to be a great fight and Rampage can go get himself healthy."
Evans is 13-0-1, with only a draw against Tito Ortiz marring his record. Machida is 14-0.
Jackson said Saturday that sparring partner Hector "Sick Dog" Ramirez had hit him with an uppercut several days prior to his win over Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92 on Dec. 27 in Las Vegas, injuring his jaw.
Jackson said he didn't tell White about the injury. Jackson went on to knock out Silva in the first round of that fight, then almost immediately went back into training for the bout with Jardine.
The UFC had planned to make Jackson-Evans the main event of UFC 100, but changed plans on Saturday after learning interim heavyweight champion Frank Mir would be unable to train adequately for a rematch with heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar because of arthroscopic surgery on his knee.
White and matchmaker Joe Silva then decided to move Evans' title defense to UFC 98, with the proviso that Jackson would get the bout if he won and felt he could make it and Machida would get it if Jackson felt he could not.
It would have been an unusually grueling pace for a top-tier fighter, with three high-level bouts in less than five months. Jackson, though, told White on Saturday: "You know I have your back" and promised he would fight if he could physically do it.
"It's not the end of the world because we have a great fight to put on," White said. "It shows you the kind of guy that Rampage is – that he was willing to sacrifice and take this fight because we needed him. You don't forget things like that.
"But we're lucky because we have a great fight to put in there and we don't have problems."
- Rashad Evans
- Dana White
- Lyoto Machida
- Wanderlei Silva