A January bout between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez has been canceled due to a severe staph infection contracted by Nogueira.
The fight was scheduled to serve as the main event of the UFC’s year-end show on Jan. 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
UFC President Dana White revealed the news after the UFC 105 post-fight press conference, and MMA Junkie reported it shortly after.
“He got staph infection, bad, to the point now it’s in his bloodstream, and he’s probably going to have to be hospitalized and intravenously given the antibiotics,” White said.
Nogueira’s illness continues an unprecented series of injuries and fight cancellations for the company. The main event for UFC 108 was originally scheduled to be Anderson Silva defending the middleweight championship against Vitor Belfort. Silva was forced to pull out of the bout due to elbow surgery. It was replaced by Brock Lesnar defending the heavyweight title against Shane Carwin. Lesnar, however, was forced to withdraw from the fight due to his bout with mononucleosis.
“It’s crazy,” White said. “In nine years of being in this business, we haven’t had this many injuries in one full year.”
This marks the second time in Nogueira’s UFC career that he’s contracted a severe staph infection. He lost to Frank Mir last December while suffering lingering effects from an undisclosed prior bout with staph.
Nogueira’s withdrawal puts the UFC in a tough spot for UFC 108. There are very few marquee matches available that could feasibly headline the card, and the Rashad Evans/Thiago Silva bout isn’t an adequate replacement.
It also spins the heavyweight division further into disarray. With heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness, the company will likely be forced to either create an interim championship or strip Lesnar of the title. Shane Carwin would have been a perfect option as a replacement for Nogueira. But he recently underwent knee surgery while waiting for Lesnar to recover and will not be available for a fight until February.
The only option available right now seems to be a Velasquez bout against Junior dos Santos. That’s not an ideal main event, however, so look for the UFC to reach outside the heavyweight division to create a match that will keep fans interested in purchasing the show.