The mind boggling news continues – Lyoto Machida has now turned down the opportunity to fight Jon Jones for the title at UFC 152 and instead the light-heavyweight champion will now face Vitor Belfort.
Machida was installed as the new No.1 contender at 205lbs following his KO win over Ryan Bader at ‘UFC On FOX 4’ earlier this month and so with Dan Henderson out injured it had been assumed that he would step in to replace him in a title shot against Jones at UFC 152 in under a month’s time.
However, Machida last night declined the fight as he wanted more time to prepare to face the champ for a second time.
Meanwhile in a completely unexpected twist middleweight contender Belfort contacted the UFC and said he’d be willing to fight Jones instead and as a result he was then granted the opportunity. All in all it’s truely bizarre stuff.
That means that his previously scheduled fight with Alan Belcher at UFC 153 has now been canceled.
For one thing – after seeing the flack that Jones has been receiving from both the fans and the UFC brass for his decision to back out of his UFC 151 fight, it’s astonishing that Machida would risk a similar backlash by making this decision.
Lets not forget that this isn’t the first time Machida has put himself in the bad books with the UFC, after asking for “Anderson Silva money” in order to fight Phil Davis at short notice at UFC 133 last year – a request that infuriated Dana White.
Given that White is already fired up about Jon Jones refusal to fight, Machida’s playing with fire here and indeed the UFC boss did confirm last night that ‘The Dragon’ will no longer be considered the No.1 contender in the division and will more than likely have to fight again before being given a title shot.
Meanwhile, it’s also strange how in the end we’ve somehow ended up with a Jones Vs Belfort fight. I must admit it’s not a fight I’d even considered at any time. Having said that, it’s not too shabby – Belfort is a very good fighter who’s proven himself at 205lbs in the past and indeed is a former UFC light-heavyweight champion.
He wasn’t even seen as the current No.1 contender at 185lbs though so it’s a bit of a stretch to have him suddenly fighting the 205lb champion, especially when the likes of Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Alexander Gustafsson could have been approached about the fight instead.
Nevertheless, the show must go on, and if there’s one sliver of light in all this it’s that the UFC 152 card has been significantly bolstered by the addition of another title fight to go alongside the previously scheduled flyweight title headliner between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson.
Meanwhile, behind closed doors the UFC brass are surely down on their knees praying that this has been the final twist in the tale.