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Several major decisions regarding upcoming UFC events are being finalized – including the return of heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar is scheduled to appear on ESPN on Wednesday morning to discuss his situation with diverticulitis, which forced him to cancel a Nov. 21 title defense, hospitalized him for two weeks, and has kept him on the sidelines ever since.
Lesnar will likely announce his return, possibly with a time frame. In the past week, two of Lesnar’s coaches – Greg Nelson and Marty Morgan – have said Lesnar would be returning, hinting it would be soon but saying they couldn’t confirm when. Others close to the situation have noted it has not been an easy decision for Lesnar to make; without having major surgery, there is a risk of another painful attack.
Lesnar, who has not fought since the record-setting UFC 100 event last July 11, when he defeated Frank Mir, had asked UFC and Dana White to keep his medical condition under wraps after a meeting with his doctor earlier in the month. The issue was whether he would need, or it would be advisable, to get surgery on his intestine, which would keep him out of action for more than a year. Such a lengthy absence would force him to vacate the heavyweight championship.
UFC is already advertising a Frank Mir-Shane Carwin match on March 27 in Newark, N.J., as an interim championship bout, making the winner Lesnar’s most logical opponent should he not vacate the title. The general thinking is that a Lesnar vs. Mir match, which would be the third meeting between two men who each have a decisive win over the other, would be the most marketable bout UFC could put on this year.
Another change made is in arguably UFC’s biggest fight on the books at this point: the Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Rashad Evans match built on the last season of "The Ultimate Fighter" with the two as rival coaches. The match will likely take place at UFC 114 on May 29 in Las Vegas instead of the originally announced UFC 113 show on May 1 in Montreal. UFC president Dana White said in a text message Tuesday morning that Jackson vs. Evans will most likely take place in Vegas.
Yet another potential change could be the date of UFC 113, currently slated for May 1 in Montreal. If Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley sign for a fight on May 1, as has been talked about since the Mosley vs. Andre Berto fight scheduled for Jan. 30 fell apart, White said UFC would look to change its Bell Centre date to May 8 to avoid a head-to-head battle against what would likely be the biggest boxing match of the first half of 2010.
With Jackson vs. Evans off the Montreal show, a head-to-head battle would have UFC relying largely on the Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua light-heavyweight title rematch as a counter. Their first meeting on Oct. 24 in Los Angeles, where Machida retained his title in the most controversial judges decision in MMA in a few years, drew what was thought to have been 450,000 buys on pay-per-view televison.
In light of the controversy stemming from October's fight, a rematch would likely beat that figure, but it would not be expected to put up the kind of numbers a Mayweather-Mosley bout would. Either way, it would be logical to presume the UFC event would do better business, perhaps significantly better, on almost any other weekend.
"[I was] in the office all night moving [expletive] around because the boxing [expletives] can’t get out of their own way," White said.
In addition, a decision regarding a planned April 10 pay-per-view event is expected shortly.
White noted that Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and senior vice president Craig Borsari are scheduled to fly to Abu Dhabi within the next week and attempt to finalize the deal to debut in the home of the company’s new minority partners. Even if the deal doesn’t go through, that show – featuring Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort for the middleweight title, B.J. Penn vs. Frankie Edgar for the lightweight title and Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie – would still take place on that date, likely in the United Kingdom or Ireland.