LAS VEGAS – The UFC took it to the last minute Thursday before announcing that Anderson Silva would step in to replace Jon Jones against Daniel Cormier on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena at UFC 200.
Jones was yanked from the bout with Cormier on Wednesday when the United States Anti-Doping Agency informed him of a possible anti-doping violation.
UFC president Dana White said Wednesday he would try to keep Cormier on the card, but acknowledged it would be difficult on such short notice. As he left the news conference Wednesday, he said he received a call from Ed Soares, Silva’s manager, who relayed Silva’s interest in the fight.
White said the fight wasn’t formally made until 7:30 p.m. PT.
It will be contested at light heavyweight, but won’t be a title fight. Silva said he began training in the last week and sparred on Wednesday for the first time since his gall bladder surgery.
But he said he is confident going against Cormier.
“I think I’m in good shape and I don’t want Daniel or anyone else to think I’m underestimating him,” Silva said. “I’m not coming in to challenge the champion. I’m coming to challenge myself.”
White said the UFC switched the bout order, moving the women’s bantamweight title fight between champion Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes to main event status. He said he and his team were “shell-shocked” after receiving the Jones news, but said Thursday he felt he should have given Tate the main event. He noted that the Frankie Edgar-Jose Aldo fight is for an interim title.
“Miesha is the woman who beat the woman who beat the woman,” White said. “She’s the champ. What Miesha accomplished, you can’t disrespect that. She deserves that.”
Heavyweights Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt will be the co-main, with Cormier-Silva as the third bout on the main card.
There were few really good choices for the slot on such late notice. White said Dan Henderson and Gegard Mousasi were also in contention. But he said he has other plans for Henderson and while Mousasi is fighting Thiago Santos at UFC 200, White said he didn’t feel it was fair to take the fight from Santos.
That left Silva, who arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday. He said when his gall bladder began to bother him in May, he felt like he was going to die.
But he passed all of the medicals and said he is ready to compete.
Asked how he would deal with Cormier’s wrestling, Silva beamed.
“I think it’s going to be interesting; I’m going to have to run a lot,” Silva said, beaming. He then turned to White and said, “I’m joking, boss.”