UFC 197 is hitting Las Vegas in March with two major title fights, with the UFC changing their plans due to a number of factors.
The event had originally been announced for Brazil, but with UFC 196 needing a headliner, the Fabricio Werdum-Cain Velasquez fight that could have headlined the UFC 197 event was shifted. The UFC’s next plan to keep things in Brazil was a rematch between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort, but as UFC SVP Giovanni Decker explained this week in an interview with Combate, Belfort didn’t want to accept that fight.
“With the card losing a title fight as big as that one, we thought this card would fit better at the Arena, no longer at a soccer stadium,” Decker said (translated by Guilherme Cruz at MMAFighting.com). “But we couldn’t get the deal done with Vitor Belfort. Anderson accepted the fight, but Vitor decided to wait to see what would happen in the fight between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold (at UFC 194), and he was right, because Rockhold won and called him out at the UFC 194 post-fight press conference, which was a good sign for him.
“Many people said Vitor didn’t want this fight, and that wasn’t the truth. He wants it, he made it clear it will happen at some time, but for him, thinking about his career and what he has ahead of him at this moment, this fight wouldn’t make sense. We were running out of time, and the UFC needed to announce the UFC 196 main event in Las Vegas. That’s why the fight between Werdum and Velasquez ended up there.”
Penick’s Analysis: Belfort may yet wind up on the outside of a title fight despite Rockhold wanting that fight, so it may not wind up working out as well. Regardless, the UFC is better off, because instead of a moderately sellable Brazil event with Silva-Belfort at UFC 197, they’re going to have an absolutely massive event on March 5 in Las Vegas instead.
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