Fabricio Werdum Pulls Out Of UFC 196, Josh Barnett Offers to Step In

UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum has pulled out of his first title defense at UFC 196.

Fabricio announced his withdrawal on Monday, less than 24 hours after his original opponent, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, pulled out of the match because of injuries.

In an interview with the MMA Hour, Guilherme Cruz told Ariel Helwani that Werdum messaged Brazilian journalists via his WhatsApp messenger, informing them he could not fight.

Cruz reported the heavyweight champion suffered both a small fracture in his toe and a pulled muscle in his back, the latter of which he suffered on Monday according to a quote from Sherdog.

“Last Friday, I pulled my back. I went to a doctor and did some massage, but today during sparring, I felt a lot of pain and couldn’t train well, so I decided to not fight, since I’m not 100 percent.”

Werdum went on to say that he would have fought at UFC 196 if Cain had not pulled out, explaining that he and the former champion “have a story.”

“If Cain fought, I would fight anyway, because we have a story and because Cain has canceled the fight [three times]. First, it was when I fought Travis Browne, the second time was Mark Hunt, and then it happened again.”

Had Werdum fought, it would not have been the first time he went toe-to-toe with Velasquez while injured. According to the champion, he had a “serious head injury” the last time he fought Cain.

Fabricio also explained that he pulled out of the match because he was too old to take a fight on two weeks notice against his new opponent, Stipe Miocic.

“I took too long to reach the point I’m at now to throw everything away. I’m not a 20-year-old kid anymore. I’m 38 years old, I’m the champion, and it was hard to reach this point. I can’t face an opponent with two weeks to train and not being 100 percent…”

With Werdum out, Stipe without an opponent, and UFC 196’s main event in jeopardy, the world’s top MMA promotion is in a bind.

Stipe Miocic may have to wait for his next shot at the title.
UFC heavyweight, Stipe Miocic, may have to wait for his next crack at the heavyweight championship [Photo by David Mariuz/Getty Images]
One man offering them a way out, however, is heavyweight, Josh Barnett.

Since hearing the news, Barnett has campaigned for a match against Stipe and said he is open to an interim heavyweight championship match.

Stipe did not answer Barnett’s request, but his camp did voice its irritation at Werdum. In a text message to MMA Fighting, Miocic’s manager, Greg Kalikas, said if Fabricio “was healthy enough to defend against Cain, we can’t understand why he’s not healthy enough to fight Stipe…”

At a media luncheon on Monday, Josh Barnett told reporters that he understood Werdum’s “fear” of defending the the title on such short notice, but said the champion should have taken the fight.

The UFC has not yet responded to Barnett’s requests, but if they do, it may be an uphill battle for the heavyweight.

Barnett has only fought three times since his return to the UFC in 2013, and he was knocked out in one of those matches. Though he is a fomer heavyweight champion, the UFC stripped him of the belt immediately due to a failed drug test.

Still, with UFC 196 only two weeks away, officials may not have a choice but to give into Josh’s demands. Their only other options are to scrap the card entirely, costing them millions in pay-per-view buys, or turn the card’s co-main event between Johny Hendricks and Stephen Thompson into the main event.

As for Fabricio Werdum, he has assured fans he will be available to fight anyone — whether Cain Velasquez or Stipe Miocic — in two to three months.

[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

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