UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum pulled out of UFC 196 citing a back injury. He pulled out of the fight after his original opponent Cain Velasquez pulled out the day before due to injuries. It wasn’t until Stipe Miocic was named a replacement for Velasquez that Werdum decided to pull out of the fight.
Did you get all that? Ok, good.
Werdum stated that had Velasquez not pulled out of the bout, he would have fought Velasquez at UFC 196 even though he was suffering from the back injury.
That’s where the backlash begins from fans. Why would Werdum state he would have fought Velasquez injured, but decide to pull out of the bout when Stipe Miocic was named as the replacement?
Let’s be clear. I don’t believe that Werdum is afraid of any man on the planet. He has fought some of the baddest heavyweights in the history of MMA, and defeated arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time in Fedor Emelianenko.
I think it was the fear of potentially losing the UFC heavyweight belt under those circumstances that caused Werdum to decline the fight with Miocic. Although, the circumstances to fight Miocic were relatively the same as Velasquez, they were not in some ways.
Miocic just fought in December, defeating Andrei Arlovki in less than a minute. He came away from that fight relatively unscathed, and any injuries he suffered from that training camp have had a few weeks to heal. He would have had about 2 weeks to train for Werdum.
Velasquez had been in camp for Werdum for weeks, and is notorious for getting injured. Werdum probably thought about this and came to the conclusion that it’s likely that Velasquez would be coming into their fight at less than 100% as well. He had fought him in his lasting outing and defeated him, so he would be somewhat familiar with what Velasquez brought to the table.
He has never fought Miocic, and although Miocic has similar attributes to Velasquez, he’s still a different fighter with much lesser known name than Velasquez.
It would have been a huge gamble for Werdum, and there’s no guarantee that he would get an immediate rematch against Miocic should he have lost the title. It’s true that a champion should defend the belt against all comers. However, a fighter has to make smart decisions based on what’s best for their career. Werdum is 38 years old and the world title means everything to him at this point. There’s more money involved as the champion, and to lose the belt under those circumstances was too much of a gamble in his eyes.
When I look at it from his point of view, I can’t fault the man. I would just ask that he use better judgement in saying who he’ll fight when injured.