Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez suffered yet another major setback, enduring a right knee injury during training that forced him to pull out of his Nov. 15 title defense against Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 180 in Mexico City.
Mark Hunt has agreed to fight Werdum for the interim title in the show's reconfigured main event. The show will remain on pay-per-view on Nov. 15 in Mexico City Arena.
The extent of Velasquez's injury is not yet known. UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports that Velasquez may be able to return by March, but that is a guess and there is much unknown.
"I’m so unbelievably disappointed that this happened,” Velasquez said in a statement released by the UFC. “To say I was looking forward to fighting in Mexico for the first time is an understatement. I wanted to fight on that card so bad. Looks like it wasn’t meant to be and it’s not going to happen. I’m going to get my [right] knee fixed and get back to training as soon as I can. I’m sorry to the fans in Mexico who were expecting this fight, and I hope to be able to come down and still be a part of this historic event."
The powerful Hunt, a former K1 champion, knocked out Roy "Big Country" Nelson in the second round in Japan on Sept. 20. He is ranked No. 4 in the heavyweight division and is excited to get the main event.
"I feel blessed to have this opportunity to fight for another world title," Hunt said. "This is something that doesn’t happen often to people. First K1 and now UFC. How can I say no, even though it’s on short notice? I’m dropping everything and flying to Mexico tomorrow so I can best prepare myself for this fight. I have to get into shape and acclimatize to that environment, which is really important. There’s nothing to lose when you’re competing against the best at the top level."
Velasquez injured his left shoulder in his title defense against Junior dos Santos on Oct. 19, 2013, in Houston and hasn't fought since.
His loss continues a string in which many of the UFC's biggest stars and best fighters have been sidelined by injury and other issues.
Velasquez, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Nick Diaz, Anthony Pettis and dos Santos haven't fought this year. Jon Jones, Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo each have only fought one time.
"I think I'm going to hire a witch doctor to prevent all of this," White said, trying to make light of a difficult situation.
Werdum said he had no problem switching opponents on short notice. He said he'd continue his training in Mexico.
"I’m ready for whatever comes," Werdum said. "I have been training in Mexico for nearly two months and accept the challenge that is presented to me. I'll continue to prepare and will arrive ready to fight on behalf of all my Latin American fans."