The twists and turns of UFC 200 continued Thursday night, with confirmation that Anderson “The Spider” Silva will replace Jon Jones and fight Daniel Cormier at the mega-event Saturday in Las Vegas. Thus the UFC was able to salvage something from the loss of its headlining event, with Silva bringing a big name to the occasion, even if his fighting form seems questionable.
Jones was scratched from the UFC 200 card late on Wednesday after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, although he denied intentionally doing so in an emotional news conference Thursday. He was set to take on Cormier for the light heavyweight championship, but instead, Silva will face the 37-year-old belt-holder in a three-round, non-title fight.
“I’ve been working since the [Jones-Cormier] fight fell out,” UFC President Dana White told ESPN of his search for a replacement. He said that, in addition to Silva, he also considered Gegard Mousasi and Dan Henderson, but there were problems with both. Mousasi is already on the UFC 200 undercard, in a match with Thiago Santos, so yet another replacement would have needed to have been quickly lined up, while White said that “we’re looking at other things” for Henderson, which could include an upcoming fight against middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
Silva came with his own set of issues, as a 41-year-old requiring extensive medical testing before the Nevada State Athletic Commission would allow him to participate in UFC 200. The Brazilian fighter caused many to prematurely assume that he had already been selected as the replacement, when he posted a photo to Instagram earlier on Thursday, referring to the event and adding the phrase, “Vegas, here we go,” in the caption.
White confirmed that Silva will fight Cormier at 205 pounds, standard for light heavyweights. Silva had been scheduled to fight middleweight Uriah Hall at UFC 198 in May, but he pulled out of that fight and underwent gallbladder surgery shortly thereafter.
In February, Silva lost to Bisping via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 84. That came after Silva served a year-long suspension for testing positive for PEDs following his victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 183 in January 2015; that fight was changed to a no-contest, with Diaz also testing positive for marijuana.
Recent turbulance aside, Silva is considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, having set the record for longest UFC title streak with 10 successful defenses of his middleweight crown between 2006 and 2013, with six other wins thrown in along the way. He is currently the UFC’s sixth-ranked middleweight.
White made more news Thursday when he announced that the Miesha Tate-Amanda Nunes fight would be the new headlining match at UFC 200. When Jones-Cormier fell apart, that honor had temporarily been conferred on the Brock Lesnar-Mark Hunt bout, but White said that Tate, the women’s bantamweight champion, “deserves” to top the card, while Lesnar-Hunt will be designated the co-main event.
All this upheaval comes several weeks after the original UFC 200 headliner, the Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz rematch, was pulled after McGregor refused to break training and make some promotional appearances. That match is now set to lead the card at August’s UFC 202, even though McGregor offered Thursday to help out Saturday’s event and fight right away. That was maybe the 10th-craziest thing that happened in relation to UFC 200 over a period of about 24 hours.