Jared Cannonier had a chance to step into UFC 294 this past weekend. Shortly after receiving the offer to fight Khamzat Chimaev, however, the middleweight contender tore his MCL.
Chimaev had originally been scheduled to face Paulo Costa, who underwent elbow surgery ahead of the fight and wound up contracting a staph infection. With Costa not cleared to compete, former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman instead stepped in, moving up a weight class on ten days’ notice.
Cannonier (17-6), winner of two straight including a victory over current champ Sean Strickland, was given the call to face Chimaev — but just an hour later, had torn his MCL.
“I got the call to step in to fight Chimaev,” Cannonier explained, speaking with Submission Radio. “But unfortunately, before I could tell my manager to tell the UFC yes, I had injured myself. So I wasn’t able to take that fight on 10 days. They called me on the 10th. They called me, offered me that fight— before they offered it to Usman, they offered it to me. So it would have been me. It could have easily been me.”
Cannonier previously fought for the UFC middleweight championship, coming up short against Israel Adesanya over a year ago. Though he had previously questioned the value in fighting Chimaev, who had been working mainly as a welterweight prior to badly blowing weight at UFC 279, in a recent interview with Cageside Press, “The Killa Gorilla” sounded more open to it.
As to how he blew his MCL, Cannonier explained that “10 days before the fight, they give me the call and say, ‘OK, we’ll give you a title shot [with a win].’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. But let me go ahead and discuss this with my coaches like we always do and I’ll call you back with an emphatic yes.’ But not 40 minutes into practice, we’re working. I get hit with a mat return. I’m getting up— we’re working get-ups and stuff. Of course we’re working get-ups, right? Because I’m not expecting to not get taken down by Khamzat.”
“I’m expecting that this guy’s going to be able to take me down, but he’s not going to be able to keep me down. And the answer in my mind is always no, they’re not, they’re never able to keep me down, and he ain’t no different,” Cannonier continued. “So that’s why I was working get-ups. And I got up, I got hit with a mat return, and when I hit the mat, I hit the mat in the way to where my left hip and my right foot hit the mat at the same time, and just the downward force of me hitting the ground in that manner went right to my MCL— tore the MCL. I got the MRI, [and] verified it.”
As a result of the injury, it’s not only the Chimaev opportunity that has been lost. Cannonier had a fight with Roman Dolidze scheduled on December 2 in Austin, TX at a UFC Fight Night. That bout has also been scratched, as Jared Cannonier goes under the knife later this week.