Earlier this month, the UFC was forced to cancel UFC 176 due to the injury to reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who was set to defend his title against Chad Mendes for the card in a major rematch. This week, another major rematch was sacrificed to the ever-growing UFC injury epidemic in 2014: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson II.
Gustafsson was forced to withdraw from the fight due to a knee injury he sustained in training. 2014 is already reaching critical mass levels in terms injuries. 2012 saw injuries get so bad that ZUFFA was forced to cancel UFC 151, the first time that the company has cancelled a PPV since it acquired the UFC.
The injury epidemic is getting to the point that fans have to beg the universe, or whatever deity governs over the health of MMA fighters, not to let a crucial fighter get injured.
The highly-anticipated UFC rematch between Jones and Gustafsson was an event in itself. Jones did not seem interested in the fight. He publicly campaigned for a fight with Daniel Cormier. On social media, Jones even suggested that Cormier and Gustafsson should fight each other to determine a rightful No. 1 contender.
Initially, Jones avoided an immediate rematch with Gustafsson by asking for a different opponent because Bones believed he decisively defeated the challenger in their fight at UFC 165 in September 2013. So, Jones went on to face and defeat Glover Teixeira at UFC 172.
Meanwhile, Gustafsson fought and defeated Jimi Manuwa at UFC Fight Night 37. After all the debate and even some awkward public tension between Jones and the UFC, the rematch was lined up for UFC 178 in September. Unfortunately, Gustafsson’s injury has put off the fight for the foreseeable future.
Jones has a new opponent now in No. 2-ranked light heavyweight Cormier. The fight is arguably a very tough matchup for Jones. However, there are still two months between now and the scheduled fight date. Cormier has a knee issue as well. One hopes that the former Strikeforce champ will not tweak his knee so that UFC 178 loses another main event opponent.
2014 is unequivocally becoming just as bad, if not worse, than 2012 was in terms of major injuries. Therefore, the UFC should consider becoming more proactive about this issue. MMA training is brutal, and sometimes injuries are unavoidable. However, perhaps the UFC could consider regulating training camps for main event and co-main event fighters.
If fighters are training so hard that they cannot make it to the cage for their fights, it seems like they are over-training and not doing their jobs properly.