Junior dos Santos will put the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title on the line Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.
What is not so clear is who will be his challenger.
Cain Velasquez is the No. 1 contender and the logical choice after earning the spot with a dismantling of Antonio Silva in May, but dos Santos has other ideas. He wants to get his hands on Alistair Overeem.
“(Dos Santos) told me, ‘I have nothing but respect for Cain Velasquez as a person and a fighter, and I think he deserves a shot at the title, but I don’t want to fight him. Alistair Overeem is a punk. He’s got a big mouth and he’s been saying lots of bad things about me. I want to knock him out and I want to knock him out now,’ ” UFC president Dana White said after Saturday’s UFC on Fox 4 card at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
White said he likes that attitude, but wasn’t ready to commit to Overeem as the challenger. First, Velasquez has earned the shot to reclaim the belt.
Perhaps more importantly, Overeem is serving a nine-month suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission for an out-of-competition drug test that showed elevated levels of testosterone. He is eligible to reapply for a license to fight on Dec. 27, but there is no guarantee the commission would approve the license, or even have a hearing on the matter, in time to make the fight possible.
Still, White says dos Santos has earned the right to have his opinion heard.
“He’s my heavyweight champion and he’s a guy who has done everything we’ve ever asked of him and never asked anything of us,” White said. “When a guy like him comes to me and wants something, yeah, I have to consider it. He wants the fight. I’m not saying it’s happening, I’m just saying that’s what he is saying.”
■ MACDONALD OUT – Rising welterweight contender Rory MacDonald was able to convince star BJ Penn to come out of quasi-retirement to fight him at UFC 152 in Toronto next month.
What MacDonald wasn’t able to accomplish was to make it through his training camp unscathed.
MacDonald suffered a deep cut over his right eye and has been forced to withdraw from the bout, White said Saturday.
“Rory’s out. He got cut open today (and needed) 38, 48 stitches or something like that,” White said. “No contact for a month. (The fight) is off.”
White was uncertain if Penn would remain on the card against a replacement opponent or wait for MacDonald to be ready at a later date, but Penn and MacDonald have exchanged Twitter messages indicating they still would like to fight each other.
MacDonald has proposed fighting at UFC 154 in November, scheduled for his hometown of Montreal. Penn says October’s UFC 153 card in Rio de Janeiro would be preferable.
■ GOMEZ GIVES BACK – Las Vegan Ulysses Gomez hopes some good will come out of his UFC debut, a disappointing first-round knockout loss to John Moraga in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Gomez is raffling off his fight shorts to raise money for friend Rob Mooberry, a seasonal worker at a Strip property, who is uninsured and battling cancer.
For details on the raffle, go to Gomez’s website at uselessgomez.com.
Gomez expects to get another fight in the organization after taking this one on very short notice.
■ HAIR-BRAINED SCHEME – White scoffed when asked about a request made last week by Nick Diaz’s manager Cesar Gracie that the UFC circumvent a one-year suspension by the NAC by allowing Diaz to fight overseas.
The famously bald White said there is no way the UFC would ever consider such a gimmick to avoid the authority of the NAC.
“There is a better chance of me getting hair plugs,” White said. “Not happening.”
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.