A day after challenger Cain Velasquez announced he was pulling out of a scheduled main event heavyweight title bout at UFC 196, champion Fabricio Werdum has followed suit.
Velasquez announced Sunday night a back injury would prevent him from fighting on Feb. 6 at MGM Grand. Ultimate Fighting Championship officials quickly named Stipe Miocic as a replacement opponent to challenge Werdum for the title.
Werdum had other ideas, however.
He told Brazilian reporters that injuries to his back and foot would prevent him from defending the title next week.
“I was already injured. I have a foot injury, and haven’t been able to throw kicks in training for two weeks. I would still fight Cain because I was injured the last time, but I also hurt my back last Friday. I went to the doctor, tried to continue training, but couldn’t spar as I should spar,” he told MMAFighting.com. “I decided not to fight because I’m not 100 percent. If Cain was the opponent, I would go on. It’s not his fault, it’s nobody’s fault. Injuries happen. You can’t avoid them. I have no option. I made this decision because I’m not feeling 100 percent.”
Werdum took the belt from Velasquez with a submission in the third round when they met in Mexico City last June.
He said he should be ready to fight again in two or three months and is willing to defend the belt against either Velasquez or Miocic.
“It took me a long time to get here and win this belt, be the champion, to throw everything away because I’m not 100 percent,” Werdum said. “I have to think about everything now, I can’t think and act like I did when I was 20. It’s not like that anymore. Everything changed. I’m 38 now, and I feel I’m at the best moment of my career, and I can’t risk my career because of pride.”
Velasquez posted a message to his fans on Facebook late Sunday about his injury.
“I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am and how I feel I’m letting you all down,” he wrote. “Training camp has been difficult for the last few weeks, but sometimes no matter how much the heart and mind want to fight through an injury, healing has its own timeline. We thought we’d get through it, but we had to face the truth that it wasn’t going to be OK in time to fight. All of us fighters have all fought injured at one time or another, but I can’t ignore this injury, as my doctor has indicated that not addressing the problems with my sciatic nerve could have longer-term consequences.”
No formal announcement has been made by UFC officials in regard to Werdum pulling out of the fight or the status of the event.
UFC 196 also includes a welterweight contender bout between Stephen Thompson and former champ Johny Hendricks and a heavyweight bout between Roy Nelson and Jared Rosholt.
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