The UFC’s end of the year PPV plans have been absolutely ravaged. What was supposed to be Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira 2 in Abu Dhabi on October 21st was shifted to Makhachev vs. Alex Volkanoski on just a few days notice. A December PPV expected to feature Conor McGregor taking on Michael Chandler off the back of their TUF coaching stint is now set to feature Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington, with McGregor’s return still pushed indefinitely out into the future.
The last remaining big fight still on the books for 2023 was meant to be a heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic. That bout is now also in tatters, with Jones having suffered a torn pectoral muscle in training that will require 8-months of rehab. In its place, top contenders Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall will vie for an interim belt. But why not Stipe Miocic? What’s wrong with the former two-time heavyweight king?
Dana White suggests UFC didn’t even call Stipe Miocic about a new fight
A full-time firefighter alongside his MMA career, Miocic hasn’t been seen inside the Octagon since his knockout loss to Francis Ngannou back in March of 2021. If that seems like it would leave him itching for a chance to fight again, it doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, at least to hear Dana White tell it, the UFC didn’t even consider offering the 41-year-old Ohio native a crack at the interim title. To do so, according to the UFC CEO, would have been disrespectful.
“Stipe’s not fighting for an interim title. You know what I mean?” Dana White told reporters after a recent Power Slap event. “Jones said, ‘I want to fight Stipe.’ I said, ‘You’re fighting Stipe.’ You have the greatest heavyweight of all time vs. the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. This is a legacy fight for both of those guys.
“I mean, to even call Stipe and ask Stipe to fight for an interim title is complete disrespect,” Dana White argued. “This is a fight for two legends; legacy, two of the greatest to ever do it. Fans want to see it, I want to see it, and they both want to do it.”
“Obviously, Stipe’s been in training camp; he’s spent time, energy and money on this thing,” Dana White said later, when asked about Miocic’s emotions on getting the fight cancellation news. “Obviously, he’s very, very upset about it. And these fighters go through a ton of emotions… Yeah, he’s upset, but, you know, he’s the greatest heavyweight of all time; this fight makes sense for him. This is a fight that, for both these guys—for Jon Jones, to beat Stipe at heavyweight, it’s massive for his career. For Stipe to beat Jon Jones and regain the heavyweight title? Why would you not want to do that. Why would you want to do anything else.
“Stipe Miocic is gonna fight in an interim title fight? He’s upset and he deserves to be upset, but it’s one of those things. It’s nobody’s fault. Jon Jones wants to fight. Jon Jones doesn’t want to have surgery. We don’t want the Jon Jones fight to go away, with Stipe. But, it is what it is and we all have to deal with it,” Dana White said.
So what’s the interim champ going to do?
With the UFC set to crown a new interim heavyweight champion at UFC 295 in Madison Square Garden on November 11th, the question has to be asked: What then? Does the winner just have to wait for Miocic vs. Jones to happen someday, probably, maybe?
“100%,” Dana White responded when asked if the Aspinall/Pavlovich winner would just need to sit and wait for Stipe vs. Jones. “Here’s the deal: Jones & Stipe were supposed to fight. Jones gets hurt, right? 8-9 months, he’s gonna be out? You don’t strip him or take him out of the rankings for a year.
“So if you’re Sergei and Aspinall, you’re getting the opportunity to fight for the interim title anyway, now. So yeah, they’re going to have to wait until this fight happens. This fight was set up, this fight needs to happen. Two of the biggest legends in the sport want the fight. The fans want the fight.”
As for what happens if both Stipe and Jones retire after their fight, when (or if) ever it ends up happening? For now, Dana White is just hoping that’s not the outcome.
“Listen, to be the man, you gotta beat the man,” Dana White responded when asked about Jones and Miocic potentially both retiring. “So, whoever wins that fight, it would be nice to see them stick around and defend it. That, we can’t determine until it happens.”
UPDATE: Stipe Miocic says not fighting for interim belt “wasn’t my choice”
Soon after Dana White’s comments, Stipe Miocic said he didn’t have a say in the matter.
“I don’t know why I didn’t get picked, which is fine,” Stipe Miocic told MMA Fighting. “I understand they have a direction they want to go. I’m okay with that. Every guy in the division is tough. I definitely want to fight the biggest fish, which is Jon Jones. It wasn’t my choice, it was theirs. Listen, everything happens for a reason. The fight being canceled, it sucks. No question about it. Unfortunately that’s just the game we’re in. It happens. Like I said, I hope he’s okay. You want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. I want that belt back. It’s my belt. It’s going to happen.”
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