DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A major blow has hit the UFC 180 pay-per-view event in Mexico City as UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was compelled to withdraw from his title defense against Fabricio Werdum due to a knee injury.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) officials announced the Velasquez’s surprising pullout on Wednesday, October 22 (PH Time).
The withdrawal is particularly detrimental for the aforementioned fight card considering that Velasquez, who is of Mexican-American descent, was one of the key figures expected to lead the UFC’s initial venture into the country of Mexico.
“I’m so unbelievably disappointed. To say, I was looking forward to fighting in Mexico for the time is an understatement. I wanted to fight on that card so bad,” Velasquez stated in a press release.
Velasquez was last seen in action when he successfully defended the heavyweight belt by stopping Junior dos Santos in the fifth round of their rubber match at UFC 166 in October 2013.
Unfortunately, the 32-year-old champion from Salinas, California tore his glenoid labrum on his left shoulder during the grueling encounter and was required to undergo an immediate surgery that put him indefinitely on the sidelines.
Velasquez’s time on the shelf has been extended as he injured his knee in training this time around.
“Looks like it wasn’t meant to be and it’s not going to happen. I’m going to get my knee fixed and get back to training as soon as I can,” he stressed.
As a result of the unfortunate incident, Mark Hunt takes Velasquez’s spot to face Werdum in the UFC 180 headliner for the interim heavyweight title.
Hunt (10-8-1) is coming off a second-round knockout win over Roy Nelson at UFC Fight Night 52 this past September.
The 40-year-old “Super Samoan” has a record of 5-2-1 inside the Octagon, holding notable victories against Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve.
According to Hunt, he presently weighs 302 pounds and has three weeks to meet the division’s 265-pound weight limit.
“When I’m not training, I’m with my family. I’m not in training mode at all right now. There’s not enough time to have a camp, but there’s no way I’m going to turn down an opportunity like this. I wasn’t even meant to be here anyways. I’m not supposed to be here, you know what I mean? But in my mind, I’m supposed to be here and here I am. This is what I’m supposed to do and I believe the hard work has paid off,” Hunt expressed.
On the other hand, Werdum (18-5-1) has not fought since he dominantly outclassed Travis Brown in April at UFC on FOX 11, where he displayed improved striking skills en route to a five-round verdict.
The 37-year-old “Vai Cavalo” is riding high on a four-fight winning streak and has won seven of his last eight outings, which included a successful run in the now-defunct Strikeforce organization.
“I’m ready for whatever comes. I have been training in Mexico for nearly two months and accept the challenge that is presented to me. I’ll continue to prepare and will arrive ready to fight on behalf of all my Latin American fans,” Werdum vowed.
It will mark the first time the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion has offered an interim heavyweight strap since March 2010 when Shane Carwin captured the said belt by knocking out Frank Mir at UFC 111.
Carwin lost to then-official titleholder Brock Lesnar via second-round submission at UFC 116 four months later.
UFC 180 is scheduled to take place at the 22,300-capacity Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Mexico on November 15 (November 16 in PH). – Rappler.com
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