When UFC 151 fell apart and company president Dana White made the announcement cancelling the event, the MMA world was aghast.
Dan Henderson’s knee injury knocked him out of the headlining bout with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and the UFC failed to keep a suitable headlining bout intact, so White moved on to ‘Plan B,’ moving Jones to the UFC 152 fight card on Sept. 22 in Toronto.
At the time of the UFC 151 cancellation announcement, he thought he was putting Jones in a rematch with former champion Lyoto Machida. But less than 24 hours later that changed as well.
“When I make a fight, I don't say a word until both bout agreements are signed, the deal is done,” White recounted on Tuesday night’s edition of UFC Tonight. “Well, I did exactly what it is I never do because we're in this position because that big media call was the next day and I wanted to have some answers.”
Machida was en route to Brazil at the time and couldn’t be reached. His manager, Ed Soares, according to White, said that he didn’t see why Machida wouldn’t take the fight with Jones at UFC 152.
“So I went with it and it didn't work out,” White continued. “This is the guy that had been terrorizing me for a title shot, and then he said four weeks wasn’t enough.”
Shift to Vitor Belfort, aka ‘Plan C.’ Both Jones and Belfort agreed to the fight and are now the headlining about at UFC 152.
White didn’t take aim at Machida for turning down the fight – at least not in the way he went after Jones when the champ declined to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 151 – but he didn’t exactly paint a rosy picture for Machida’s hopes of quickly regaining title contention.
“Lyoto has been crying for this title shot for a long time and you know how this stuff goes. When you turn down the opportunity to fight, things start going in another path,” he explained. “It happened to Rashad Evans. Rashad Evans was out of a fight for a year and a half.”
No matter what happens between Jones and Belfort, White declared that Machida would not automatically get a shot at the winner. He didn’t have an announcement for Machida’s next opponent, but did say, “Machida is not next in line. He'll fight another fight.”
That seems to be fine by Machida, who believed that he just couldn’t be fully prepared for a shot at Jones with just a three-week camp for the fight. Having lost to Jones once before, at UFC 140 last year, Machida didn’t want to risk the huge career setback that losing twice to Jones would be.
“If he has to take another fight before the title fight, that’s okay, too,” Soares said recently on MMAWeekly Radio. “But one thing that we want to know is we want to make sure that he’s 100-percent prepared for this next title shot.”