It has to be a crazy day over at the Zuffa headquarters in Las Vegas.
Cain Velasquez on Sunday was forced to pull out of his heavyweight title fight with Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 196 because of a back injury. The UFC announced that Stipe Miocic would replace Velasquez in the Feb. 6 event. But while Miocic was doing interviews with reporters Monday, MMAFighting.com reported that Werdum himself was withdrawing from the fight.
Werdum spoke to MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz and explained why he chose to pull out:
I was already injured. I have a foot injury and haven't been able to throw kicks in training for two weeks. I would still fight Cain because I was injured the last time, but I also hurt my back last Friday. I went to the doctor, tried to continue training, but couldn't spar as I should spar. I decided not to fight because I'm not 100 percent. If Cain was the opponent, I would go on. It not's his fault. It's nobody's fault. Injuries happen. You can't avoid them. I have no option. I made this decision because I'm not feeling 100 percent.
Yahoo Sports had just hung up the phone from speaking to Miocic about the title fight with Werdum when the news came down. Miocic had knocked out Andrei Arlovski in 54 seconds on Jan. 2 at UFC 195, making him the No. 1 contender.
UFC president Dana White had said at the press conference on Jan. 2 that Miocic would fight the Werdum-Velasquez winner. When Velasquez was injured, Miocic told Yahoo Sports that White called him Sunday and offered the bout. He said he quickly accepted despite the fact he would have little time to prepare.
"I pretty much train all the time anyway, and this is what I wanted, so it wasn't really that hard of a call to make," Miocic had said just prior to learning of Werdum's decision.
The fate of UFC 196 remains in the air. There is no obvious bout that could be made to replace the title fight as the main event. Miocic probably wouldn't want to fight so quickly if it wasn't a title bout, and there is no obvious match that would be considered a pay-per-view headliner.
Veterans Ben Rothwell and Josh Barnett are fighting Saturday in Newark, N.J., on a Fox-televised card. Rothwell is ranked No. 7 and Barnett No. 8. Velasquez was No. 1 and Miocic was No. 2. Alistair Overeem is No. 3, and he stopped Junior dos Santos in December.
Arlovski is fourth, but he was knocked out on Jan. 2, so he can't fight. Dos Santos is coming off that Dec. 19 loss to Overeem, and No. 6 Travis Browne defeated Matt Mitrione on Jan. 16.
White did not immediately respond to requests for comment. He's been able to make many last-minute saves after injuries wrecked a card late, but this may be one of his most difficult challenges yet.