Following Thursday’s UFC 151 cancellation, most of the focus has been on UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and his decision not to accept Chael Sonnen as a last minute replacement for his original challenger, Dan Henderson.
While UFC president Dana White had to make one of the toughest decisions in his tenure at Zuffa, Henderson also had to make one of the toughest decisions of his career in pulling out of the fight.
Henderson suffered a partially torn medial collateral ligament, which hampered his lateral movement and caused a tremendous amount of pain.
“I've had to make one of the toughest decisions that I have ever had to make… for the first time in my career I am forced to pull out of a fight, my fight with Jon Jones at UFC 151,” Hendo wrote on his Facebook page.
“Can he fight with it? Yeah, I guess if he really wanted to go out there, but he really wanted to be 100-percent,” White said earlier in the day during the UFC 151 cancellation announcement. Henderson backed that sentiment on Facebook, saying, “I feel that I owe it to my fans and all the people supporting me to fight at my full potential in order to give myself a chance to win the UFC title.”
Henderson’s injury won’t require surgery, but the timetable, even with a dedicated rehabilitation program, couldn’t guarantee that he would be ready to go any time soon, so the fight and the event were scrapped.
“He's got a partial tear in his MCL, so the thing is, obviously Dan would like a little more time to try and take this fight, but we can't be in the same position,” commented White. “We can't be sitting around worrying if Dan can be ready for the 22nd. He said the same thing.”
Jones, after refusing to fight Chael Sonnen on eight days notice, has instead been moved to the UFC 152 fight card in Toronto. White initially announced that Jones would rematch Lyoto Machida on Sept. 22. Machida, however, did not accept the fight, leading White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta to put in a call to Vitor Belfort.
Belfort had been fighting at middleweight and was slated to fight Alan Belcher at UFC 153 in Brazil, but immediately agreed to move back to light heavyweight and face Jones in Canada.
Where this whole situation leaves Henderson upon his return remains to be seen. There is no guarantee that immediately jumps right back to the front of the line in the UFC light heavyweight title picture.
“I don't know. Look at Rashad. If you don't get that shot when it's right there and available, all kinds of crazy things can happen,” said White about Henderson’s position. “Or maybe it will be available right when he comes back. I can't answer that question.”
For now, however, Henderson will devote himself to rehabbing his knee in order to continue his pursuit of a UFC belt.