UFC officials announced early Friday morning that Jon Jones will not meet Lyoto Machida as previously announced at UFC 152. Instead “Bones” will defend his light heavyweight title against another ex-champion in Vitor Belfort.
Jones was initially expected to face Dan Henderson on Sept. 1 in the UFC 151 headliner before Henderson was forced to withdraw on short notice with a partially torn MCL. Promotion officials then offered Jones a fight with Chael Sonnen, which the champion turned down, resulting in the UFC canceling the show.
After revealing that UFC 151 would no longer take place, UFC President Dana White then announced that Jones would instead rematch Machida on Sept. 22 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in the new UFC 152 main event. However, that booking has also been scrapped, as promotion officials stated that Machida declined the short-notice opportunity.
While Belfort is a former light heavyweight champion, “The Phenom” had done his damage at middleweight in recent years and was next slated to face Alan Belcher at October’s UFC 153. The 35-year-old has won back-to-back fights since his ill-fated middleweight title shot against Anderson Silva, knocking out Yoshihiro Akiyama one year ago before submitting Anthony Johnson this past January at UFC 142.
Jones, 25, has won seven straight fights heading into his upcoming defense. The Jackson’s MMA representative captured the title last year by finishing Mauricio Rua at UFC 128 and subsequently submitted Quinton Jackson and Machida in his first two title defenses. “Bones” last competed at UFC 145, taking a unanimous verdict from former training partner Rashad Evans at UFC 145.