To say that the last couple of days in the world of mixed martial arts have been confounding would be an understatement.
Following and injury to Dan Henderson and failed attempts to put UFC light heavyweight champion in the Octagon with a different opponent next week in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White on Thursday cancelled UFC 151: Jones vs. Henderson. It marked the first time in the promotion’s history that White had to cancel an event just eight days out.
At the time of the UFC 151 cancellation announcement, White noted that Jones would be moved to the UFC 152 fight card slated for Sept. 22 to face Lyoto Machida, the man promised the shot at the winner of Jones vs. Henderson.
Twelve hours later and the scene changed again.
UFC officials late Thursday evening revealed that Machida declined to face Jones at UFC 152. White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta then put out the call to Vitor Belfort, who had been fighting at middleweight, and the former UFC light heavyweight champion immediately accepted the challenge, putting Jones vs. Belfort in as the UFC 152 headliner.
Machida’s decision to decline the fight was perplexing to most, but the former champion and his camp promised to explain his reasoning…. and they did.
Machida and his camp on Friday released the following statement to MMAWeekly.com:
Lyoto Machida is eager to get back to training, and have another shot at the UFC light heavyweight belt. However, with the proposed fight against Champion Jon Jones only 4 weeks away, Lyoto manifests that the deadline is unfeasible in order to have a training camp that is complete and worthy of his work.
Lyoto believes the bout could take place in Brasil at UFC 153, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro on October 13th, allowing him 6 weeks to prepare.
“I want to serve the UFC and recapture the belt. I always respect my opponent. For those reasons, I must prepare myself in the manner I believe in.”
So much like Jones’ decision to turn down a fight with Chael Sonnen on eight days notice due to a lack of time to prepare for the change in opposition, Machida cited similar reasoning for declining a four-week window to prepare for Jones.
Despite offering up the UFC 153 date as a viable option, Machida is unlikely to be granted that request, as UFC officials have already made it official that Jones vs. Belfort will top the bill in Toronto.