Fabricio Werdum could have faced Cain Velasquez or Stipe Miocic with a broken foot at Feb. 6's then-UFC 196 event.
It was when a lingering back issue reared its head that the UFC heavyweight champ had to tap out.
"I [had] an injury in my foot this time," Werdum told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I say, ‘No problem. It’s OK. I won’t kick the right leg. It’s OK.’ But, [then] last Friday, I had a big injury in my back. It’s like an old injury, you know?
"For a long time I haven’t had a problem with this because my back is more strong, but I’m feeling very bad, you know? This is Friday. I tried to train again Monday because I rested Saturday and Sunday, I rest[ed], just massage[d] it and recover[ed]...I trained, but I’m not feeling good, man...When I have the injury in my back, my body’s not 100 percent. I’m feeling 70 percent, and then my mind goes down too...I don’t have this balance. This is very important when everything’s 100 percent, because at this level, you have one thing go wrong, it’s done. This level is very high-level."
Coincidentally, Werdum revealed he almost never made it to his UFC 188 showdown against Velasquez – where he captured heavyweight gold – due to an injury suffered in that training camp.
"All the time I have a small injury or a bigger injury," Werdum said. "The last one versus Cain Velasquez, I had a big injury in my head, in my balance, I had it. The last one. I didn’t spar for 40 days. Nobody knows this…[I almost] canceled the fight because I had a big injury in my head. Yes, [a] concussion, in my ear and my head. I didn’t spar for 40 days...I just sparred one week before the fight. This is OK."
UFC officials have been contacted regarding this claim from Werdum but have yet to respond. Still, Werdum made it clear throughout his interview with Helwani that it was a separate injury to his back back that sealed the deal in him pulling out of his most recently scheduled affair.
"When I said the first time in an interview, I said 'I’ll fight against Cain Velasquez but not against Miocic,' this is not true," Werdum said. "I just said, when I had an injury in my foot, I said this. But when I have an injury in my back, [I'm not in a] condition to fight [anybody] this time. Not just my body, but my mind goes down, too.
"It’s not a new injury. This is an old one, because I have a problem in my vertebrae. I have a problem there. But I [haven’t had] a problem with this for a long time because my back’s more strong now. But I’m feeling very bad now, because all the time I’m having a problem with my right side [of my] vertebrae. It’s the right side all the time, but this time it’s the left side. My muscle goes very tight. I’m like an old man. When I stop training, I try to stand up, it’s so hard to breathe."
"I never canceled one fight in my history," Werdum said. "Never. Eighteen years, man. Never in my life. But it’s good because I learned a lot from everything.
"I saw [how] the fans go with you when you’re on the top, and when you’re bad on one decision, the guys say a lot of things. I just want to say for these guys that say a lot of bad things: Just look [at] yourself. How’s your life? Is your life OK? Do you not have a good job? Are you happy? I don’t understand these guys. It’s crazy."
Right now, Werdum said he cannot train until he's cleared by UFC doctors to do so. At 38 years old, however, he recognizes that he cannot hang around the sport forever, and his original plan of fighting two or three times in 2016 is now probably impossible.
Now, the heavyweight champ is looking to get two fights in 2016, and he doesn't much care who is opposite him when those days come. He sees the volatile state of the UFC heavyweight division, and he's open to any and all challengers. He's here to fight, not to pick and choose matchups.
"Hey, man, I don’t know if Cain Velasquez has time to come back...he has surgery today, I think today," Werdum said. "I think [he has] maybe one or two months to recover so he can start to train again. It’d be so hard to fight against Cain Velasquez for the next one.
"Maybe Miocic is waiting, you know? He’s there. And Ben [Rothwell]...I don’t know, man. It’s not my decision. It’s the UFC’s decision...I’m just waiting. I don’t want to promote the guys, man. I don’t like it."