by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship continues to defy the current global economic downturn – as evidenced by a record European crowd of 16,693 at UFC 105 – but you can’t say it’s been an easy road of late. The promotion’s top fighters are dropping like flies.

Add Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to the UFC’s ever-growing injured reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Nogueira and Cain Velasquez were scheduled to meet in the latest attempt at a Jan. 2 main event for UFC 108, but company president Dana White, according to a report on Sherdog.com, on Saturday night revealed that Nogueira had to withdraw due to a recurring staph infection.

Nogueira vs. Velasquez is the third attempt to declare a headline bout for UFC 108. Middleweight champion Anderson Silva, due to elbow surgery, was unable to defend his title against Vitor Belfort on the New Year’s card. An attempt to reschedule heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin for Jan. 2 was aborted due Lesnar’s continued illness.

“Yeah, Rodrigo’s got a pretty bad case of staph,” Nogueira’s manager, Ed Soares, told MMAWeekly.com on Saturday night.

“There is no way that he could be prepared in time to face a fighter the caliber of Cain Velasquez.”

Soares said that Nogueira could possibly make a return to training in about three weeks or so, but he stressed that is “the absolute best case scenario” according the former champion’s doctor. That would leave him little time to prepare.

Nogueira has had staph before, most notably prior to his bout with Frank Mir. Nogueira, his timing off and looking sluggish, lost his interim heavyweight championship to Mir in a second round TKO, the first time in his career he has been finished. He doesn’t intend to make that mistake again.

“At the end of the day, nobody cares about excuses,” said Soares.

It’s believed that Nogueira wasn’t given the proper antibiotic in Brazil to completely clear the staph from his body. His doctor in the U.S. has prescribed a different antibiotic that they believe should completely clear up the infection.

Soares said while the current infection is severe, Nogueira has not been hospitalized and there are currently no plans to do so, unless the current round of antibiotics doesn’t work.

He indicated that it is still too soon to be sure of the medicine’s effectiveness, but Nogueira is feeling a little better with the new antibiotic. He will be in Las Vegas next week to corner his brother, Rogerio, who makes his promotional debut at UFC 106.

It is currently unknown if Velasquez will remain on the UFC 108 fight card. If he does, it won’t be against Carwin, even though Lesnar’s future is in doubt due to his continuing illness.

When the bout with Lesnar was again postponed, Carwin had knee surgery that he had been putting off performed and will be unavailable until at least February, according to a recent post on his official Twitter account.

White wasn’t sure yet what he would do to fill the headline slot at UFC 108.