With heavyweight kingpin Brock Lesnar on the shelf for the forseeable future, the UFC is likely moving towards an interim heavyweight title future, but who exactly that future involves is anyone's guess.
FanHouse spoke to several sources in the last 48 hours, and it seems that the organization is no closer to having any type of clarity in the title picture as they continue to deal with illnesses, injuries and other issues that have suddenly crept into scheduling.
According to two sources close to the situation, the UFC's preference is an interim title bout between Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez to be held at UFC 110 on Feb. 21 in Sydney, Australia. But the UFC will have to wade through several difficulties in putting together such a matchup, which seems increasingly less likely to happen.
The matchmaking drama began shortly after Brock Lesnar pulled out of UFC 106. The fight was quickly rebooked for UFC 108, but on Nov. 4, Lesnar told the UFC he was still sick with a mysterious ailment and wasn't healthy enough to get in a full camp. (His illness was recently divulged to be an intestinal infection that required surgery; his recovery time is unknown.)
Upon receiving the news that the UFC 108 matchup was off, Carwin took the opportunity to see a knee specialist for an injury that had been hampering him. Following an MRI, he was diagnosed with an MCL strain and told not to wrestle for three weeks while rehabbing the knee.
About one week after Carwin started rehab, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira withdrew from his Jan. 2 UFC 108 matchup with Velasquez due to a severe staph infection. Hoping to salvage the UFC 108 event, the organization asked Carwin to step in to replace Nogueira, but he was forced to turn down the fight due to the knee injury and the inability to train properly.
According to sources, both Velasquez and Carwin were open to a date at UFC 109, but the promotion had already earmarked a middleweight title fight between Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva as a headliner for the night.
Eventually, the UFC proposed a UFC 110 date. Carwin, however, is unavailable to fight at UFC 110, as he and his wife are expecting a baby on Feb. 11, just 10 days before the event. Because the event is being held in Australia, fighters have been asked to leave on the 11th, and Carwin is reportedly intent on being with his wife for the birth of his daughter, making the date a no-go.
Adding to the difficulty, the UFC is targeting an April event in Mexico, and hopes to showcase Velasquez -- who is of Mexican descent -- as one of the main attractions. A matchup with Carwin so close to April would put that Mexico date at risk and put the UFC in a position of possibly hosting an event without a fighter who has done much to make inroads in the Mexican market. Velasquez has done media tours in the country and has become one of the most popular UFC fighters there.
With Lesnar and Nogueira sidelined indefinitely, Carwin and Velasquez appear to be the favorites to vie for an interim belt, but the UFC brass has its work cut out in navigating roadblocks and charting its future course.