The UFC 197 main event has shifted shapes numerous times this week.
Surviving and initial scare when Jon Jones was jailed for three days in New Mexico, the UFC 197 headlining bout between Jones and current light heavyweight titleholder Daniel Cormier fell apart when the champ had to withdraw due to an injury.
With the UFC doing its matchmaker magic, Jones will remain in the main event. Agreeing to take a fight on short notice is not a Jones trademark, but he agreed to face No. 6 ranked Ovince Saint Preux for the interim UFC light heavyweight title, according to UFC president Dana White, who announced the fight on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Saturday.
After news of Cormier’s withdrawal broke, most speculation focused on Anthony “Rumble” Johnson as his replacement. White said that, while he was the obvious first choice, “Johnson recently had surgery on his mouth and can’t even put a mouthpiece in for another three weeks.”
White explained that another popular pick for the replacement, Rashad Evans, didn’t get the call because he was already scheduled to face Glover Teixeira at UFC on FOX 19, plus Saint Preux is ranked one spot higher than Evans in the official UFC rankings.
“It’s the right decision to make. Many people believe that Jon Jones is not only the best fighter in the world, but probably the best ever,” White responded when asked why he felt Jones accepted the short-notice fight, when he has declined to do so in the past. “There shouldn’t be a guy in the world he’s worried about facing.”
The bout is Jones’ first since he was stripped of the belt following his involvement in a felony hit and run accident last year in New Mexico. Saint Preux has fought three times between then and now, winning two and losing one. He is enters the fight coming off of a victory over Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in February.