Champ Amanda Nunes hos­pi­tal­ized, UFC 213 main event scrapped

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ban­tamweight cham­pion Amanda Nunes was scratched from her ti­tle de­fense against Valentina Shevchenko after be­ing hos­pi­tal­ized Satur­day a few hours be­fore UFC 213. The UFC vaguely cited an “ill­ness” as the rea­son for Nunes’ hos­pi­tal­iza­tion in its state­ment. Shevchenko be­lieves Nunes’ con­di­tion re­sulted from a dras­tic weight cut.

Yoel Romero’s in­terim mid­dleweight ti­tle bout against Robert Whit­taker be­came the main event of the pay-per­view show at T-Mo­bile Arena, al­though the UFC also of­fered ticket re­funds to Las Ve­gas fans. Shevchenko ex­pressed her dis­plea­sure over the loss of a big pay­check and a long-awaited ti­tle shot in a post on her so­cial me­dia ac­counts.

“Dur­ing the last three months of train­ing, I did ev­ery­thing to be in my best shape for this fight,” Shevchenko wrote. “Nunes couldn’t cut weight cor­rectly and was hos­pi­tal­ized. She wanted to cut weight and re­cover rapidly to have the ad­van­tage. The end result, ev­ery­thing went wrong. Even though she was med­i­cally cleared to fight, she backed out . ... I did my part and am very up­set that I can’t fight for the ti­tle to­day on this great event.”

UFC Pres­i­dent Dana White spec­u­lated that the bout could be moved to UFC 215 in Ed­mon­ton, Al­berta, on Sept. 9, but a plan hasn’t been fi­nal­ized. After Nunes was hos­pi­tal­ized, White said 115-pound cham­pion Joanna Je­drze­jczyk lob­bied him to give her a late-no­tice fight against the 135-pound Shevchenko.

The Ne­vada Ath­letic Com­mis­sion would never al­low such a thing, but Je­drze­jczyk and Shevchenko al­ready fought each other in muay thai com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing their mar­tial arts ca­reers. Nunes (14-4), a Brazil­ian fight­ing out of Florida, claimed the 135-pound belt from Miesha Tate last July. After Nunes vi­o­lently stopped Ronda Rousey in De­cem­ber, she was sched­uled to make her sec­ond ti­tle de­fense in a re­match of her March 2016 victory over Shevchenko (14-2).

In­stead, for the third straight year, the UFC has been forced to can­cel the main event of its an­nual In­ter­na­tional Fight Week show on short no­tice. Last July, Jon Jones was re­moved from his bout against Daniel Cormier three days be­fore UFC 200 for vi­o­lat­ing the pro­mo­tion’s anti-dop­ing policy. Jones was slapped with a one-year sus­pen­sion, but his re­match with Cormier is sched­uled for July 29 at UFC 214 in Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia.

The UFC also made mul­ti­ple changes to its July 2015 main event at UFC 189, even­tu­ally show­cas­ing Conor McGre­gor’s victory over Chad Men­des. UFC 213 lost its likely main event for the first time in late May when men’s ban­tamweight cham­pion Cody Gar­brandt de­cided his back in­jury wouldn’t al­low him to pre­pare for a bout against T.J. Dil­lashaw.

The can­cel­la­tion of Nunes’ de­fense pushes Romero and Whit­taker into the spot­light, and that’s a for­tu­nate break for a show­down be­tween two elite fight­ers on long win­ning streaks. The 40-year-old Romero (12-1), a Cuban liv­ing in Miami, has won eight straight fights, in­clud­ing six by stop­page. Whit­taker (19-4), a New Zealand-born Aus­tralian, has won seven fights in a row, with back-to-back stop­page vic­to­ries over top con­tenders Jacare Souza and Derek Brun­son.

The win­ner will be the in­terim 185pound cham­pion while champ Michael Bisp­ing re­cov­ers from in­jury. Bisp­ing has de­fended his belt just once since claim­ing it in an up­set of Luke Rock­hold last July, beat­ing 46-year-old Dan Hen­der­son by de­ci­sion last Oc­to­ber.

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