The MMA world is still collectively digesting the news that light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was forced out of his long-awaited rematch with Jon Jones at UFC 197 and replaced by Ovince St. Preux, who will now meet ‘Bones’ for the interim title in the main event of the April 23 card from Las Vegas.
News came soon after that Cormier would have a recovery time of roughly 4-8 weeks and would be able to return in roughly August or September, putting a possible rescheduling of their drawn-out rivalry at July’s UFC 200 on the shelf.
But Cormier won’t necessarily be out for that long, and we’ve obviously seen other champions — such as his AKA teammate and former heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez — hold up their respective divisions for far longer without an interim belt being created. That made the call to create one here a bit of a puzzling decision, but UFC President Dana White clarified it on ESPN’s SportsCenter by focusing on the fact that Jones never lost his belt in the cage:
“It will [be for the interim title]. It will still be the main event. It will be five rounds for the light heavyweight interim title. Jon has never lost his title in the Octagon. He was stripped of his title because of problems outside. We think it’s the right thing to do. It’s not [Jones’] fault Cormier is injured. He will fight for the interim light heavyweight title and then when Cormier comes back, they’ll decide who the real champ is.”
White is of course referring to the tenuous situation when Jones was unceremoniously stripped of his title and suspended for his arrest on felony hit-and-run charges in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that left a 25-year-old pregnant woman injured and Jones out of his anticipated UFC 187 match-up with Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson.
Jones also had quite the lengthy legal issue this week when a traffic stop resulted in him being jailed for a probation violation of the terms he was sentenced to for the hit-and-run charges, but all of that seems like sort of an afterthought now that Cormier is out of UFC 197.
Cormier has never pulled out of a fight in the UFC or any promotion before now, so the creation of an interim title does seem a bit arbitrary and unnecessary given that it’s little more than a symbolic gestured created to assign importance to the short-notice main event.
With Cormier poised to return sometime later this summer or early fall, it should be expected that his bout with Jones will be re-booked for the UFC’s anticipated Madison Square Garden debut late this year. That is, unless ‘OSP’ somehow shocks the world at UFC 197.