LAS VEGAS (AP) — Anderson Silva will replace Jon Jones at UFC 200, taking on light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier on two days’ notice.
One day after Jones apparently failed a doping test, the UFC decided to replace him with one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts history for the promotion’s biggest show of the summer.
The 41-year-old Silva (33-7) reigned as the middleweight champion for nearly seven years, but he hasn’t earned a victory in four fights since October 2012. He was hit with a doping suspension that invalidated his only win in that stretch, and he had surgery to remove his gall bladder just seven weeks ago, forcing him to drop out of a scheduled fight in his native Brazil.
“I haven’t trained in a few months, but I think I’m in good condition to go in there and put on a good fight,” a smiling Silva said through a translator at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Silva and Cormier will have a three-round, non-title bout in the third slot on the five-fight pay-per-view card, UFC President Dana White said. Although Silva claims to be in solid shape, he wasn’t ready to accept a five-round fight, the required length to fight for a championship belt.
“Anderson is giving Daniel the opportunity to fight, to make money and to perform on UFC 200,” White said. “So if Anderson wants three rounds, if Anderson wants two rounds, he’ll get it.”
The UFC also changed the bout order for the second time in 24 hours, promoting Miesha Tate’s bantamweight title fight against Amanda Nunes to the main event.
Brock Lesnar’s comeback fight against Mark Hunt had been named the main event immediately after Jones’ disqualification, but said it was “the right thing to do” to give the prime spot to Tate and Nunes, who are in the only non-interim title bout remaining on the stacked card.
Silva realizes he is accepting a daunting task to step in against Cormier, the UFC’s vaunted 205-pound champion. Cormier has only lost to Jones in his MMA career, and he is coming off a full training camp for what he thought would be the defining fight of his life.
“I’m going to have to run a lot,” Silva deadpanned, before quickly saying to White: “I’m joking, boss!”
Silva lost a decision to current middleweight champion Michael Bisping in his last bout, which featured another dose of the weirdness that seems to follow Silva. He prematurely celebrated knocking out Bisping during the fight, but the round had already ended.
White said veteran Dan Henderson and UFC 200 fighter Gegard Mousasi also volunteered to fight Cormier. The UFC chose Silva, who was able to pass all of the necessary medical tests in time to be cleared by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Globo, the UFC’s longtime Brazilian broadcast partner, first reported Silva would take the fight.