UFC 197 will now be headlined by an interim light-heavyweight title bout between Jon Jones and Ovince Saint Preux, UFC president Dana White announced on ESPN Saturday.
The news comes one day after the UFC’s 205-pound champion Daniel Cormier was forced to withdraw from his fight with Jones due to a lower-body injury.
“The decision to not fight on April 23rd was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” Cormier wrote on his Instagram page. “I’ve been scheduled to fight 18 times and I have made that walk every time. I want to apologize to Jon Jones, Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White and all of the UFC fans for not being able to defend my title. This truly saddens me, but as with everything else in life, it goes on. The recovery should not take very long and I can’t wait to compete and defend my title again. For all the fans, thanks for your support, I appreciate each and every one of you.”
Jones (21-1) is the former champion but hasn’t fought since he defeated Cormier at UFC 182 last January. Following that event, Jones got into some legal trouble when he was involved in a hit-and-run incident in Albuquerque, N.M. The 28-year-old’s arrest resulted in the UFC stripping him of the 205-pound title last April and suspending him indefinitely. He was officially reinstated by the organization in October after reaching a plea agreement.
Saint Preux (19-7) is the No. 6-ranked light-heavyweight contender. He is coming off a unanimous decision win over former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante in February. The 32-year-old is 7-2 in the UFC and holds notable wins over Canadian Ryan Jimmo, contender Patrick Cummins and former UFC champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
UFC 197 takes place April 23 in Las Vegas. A flyweight title bout between Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo serves as the co-main event.