The main event of UFC’s 30th anniversary show on Nov. 11 at Madison Square Garden in New York was derailed on Wednesday when White announced Jones (27-1 MMA, 21-1 UFC) has sustained a torn pectoral tendon and would require surgery, removing him from his scheduled title defense against Miocic (20-4 MMA, 14-4 UFC).
The promotion quickly moved on, and booked an interim title matchup between Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall, which left many wondering what the future of the heavyweight division looked like. There were questions about why Miocic wasn’t one half of the interim title bout, which White explained following Wednesday’s Power Slap 5 event at the UFC Apex.
“Jon called and he said he hurt his shoulder training and wrestling, and his team thought he just needed a few days off and, ‘You’ll be fine and whatever,’” White told MMA Junkie and other reporters. “He felt like something was really wrong, flew out here and did the MRI, found out what was wrong and he was super emotional about it, really upset and we did what we do and flipped it and made another fight.
“Stipe’s not fighting for an interim title. Jones said, ‘I want to fight Stipe. I said, ‘You’re fighting Stipe.’ You have the greatest heavyweight to all-time, versus the greatest martial artist of all time. This is a legacy fight for both of those guys. To even call Stipe and ask Stipe to fight for an interim title, is complete disrespect. This is a fight for two legends. Legacy. Two of the greatest to ever do it. The fans want to see it, I want to see it and they both want to do it.”
White said the expected timeline for Jones’ recovery is at least eight months, but it will depend on whether the surgery goes smoothly. At this point, it’s far too soon to know exactly when he’ll be back in the octagon.
“I’m not thinking about anything until I know how Jon’s surgery goes,” White said. “He’s got to have surgery, so I’ve got to get through the surgery, see how fast he recovers. He was very serious, he was literally like, ‘I want to do the surgery this week.’ So, he wants to go get this thing done and start rehabbing and start working his way back.”
When Jones is eventually healthy and ready to return to competition, White said it’s the UFC’s priority to reschedule the fight with Miocic. That might be confusing to some because an interim title is being introduced with the Pavlovich (17-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) vs. Aspinall (13-3 MMA, 6-1 UFC) fight, but White thinks it’s essential for Jones vs. Miocic to happen.
It’s unfortunate for Miocic, who is 41 and already hasn’t fought since March 2021. However, White said this is the reality of the situation, and not much can be done besides putting plans on hold.
“Obviously Stipe’s been in training camp, and he spent time and energy and money on this thing,” White said. “And when this happens, it’s like – obviously he’s very, very upset about it. These fighters go through a ton of emotions. You saw the backstage with Daniel Cormier when the fight fell out (at UFC 200), and that was days before the fight. But yeah, he’s upset. But he’s the greatest heavyweight of all time. This fight makes sense for him. This is a legacy fight. For Jon Jones to fight Stipe at heavyweight, it’s massive in his career. For Stipe to beat Jon Jones and regain the heavyweight title, why would you want to do anything else?
“Stipe Miocic is going to fight in an interim title fight? No. He’s upset. He’s upset and he deserves to be upset. But it’s one of those things, it’s no one’s fault. Jon Jones wants to fight. Jon Jones doesn’t want to have surgery. We don’t want the Jon Jones fight to go away with Stipe, but it is what it is and we all have to deal with it.”
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