Fabricio Werdum opted to pull out from UFC 196 just a day after his opponent, Cain Velasquez, did the same.
“I hurt my back,” Werdum told MMAJunkie. “I suffered a hard sprain. I ended up getting massages, going to the doctor, and everything else. But I felt it a lot while training today. I sparred today but couldn’t train as I should. So I decided not to fight since I’m not 100 percent—I’m not 100 percent, as I should be.”
The main event for UFC 196 appears an unsettled question. Stipe Miocic agreed to step in for Velasquez after he reported a back injury. But with the heavyweight champion also out with a back injury the main event necessarily loses its luster. Both originally scheduled combatants, and perhaps more importantly the title they fought for, play no role in whatever main event the UFC offers as a substitute.
To seemingly mitigate injuries, positive drug tests, or other misfortunes derailing cards, the UFC began stacking cards in 2015 with multiple title bouts or numerous compelling scraps. This led to a comeback year for the promotion. But UFC 196 already appeared somewhat weak even when the heavyweight championship bout appeared a go. The current co-feature pits Johny Hendricks against Stephen “Wonder Boy” Thompson, with Ovince St. Preux versus Rafael Cavalcante, Roy Nelson against Jared Rosholt, and Joseph Benavidez-Zach Makovsky rounding out the pay-per view. None of these bouts works as an effective insurance policy to save the card with the loss of its main event.
By way of comparison, recent offerings on free and cable television beat, in terms of quality, the card the UFC wants its fans to pay for on February 6. For instance, the Fox Sports 1 card the Sunday before last featured a bantamweight title fight between T.J. Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz, a lightweight bout between Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis, and a heavyweight tilt between Matt Mitrione and Travis Browne. This weekend’s Fox Card boasts Anthony “Rumble” Johnson-Ryan Bader and Josh Barnett-Ben Rothwell. The UFC’s obligations to their broadcast television partners, coupled with the issue of injuries killing scheduled fights, puts subscription cards in precarious spots.
Why pay for a product inferior to what you get for free? That’s what even hardcore mixed-martial arts fans ask themselves about UFC 196 after enjoying an overdose of quality, free fare from the promotion over the course of the last month or so.
Josh Barnett expressed a willingness to move from this weekend’s Fox card to the pay-per view. So, surprisingly, did Jon “Bones” Jones—but only on the unlikely condition that the stakes for a fight with Miocic include the actual heavyweight championship. With UFC 196 less than two weeks away and without a main event, the numbered card possibly follows UFC 151 and UFC 176 to the land of pay-per views that nobody viewed. Stay tuned for an announcement on whether to stay tuned for an actual fight card.
UPDATE: UFC President Dana White informed Yahoo Sports of the promotion’s decision to move UFC 196 from subscription television to cable television. The beleaguered card, without Miocic, Werdum, or Velasquez on it, now airs on February 6 on Fox Sports 1. The “Why pay for a product inferior to what you get for free?” question apparently crossed the mind of the sellers as well as the buyers.