LAS VEGAS — "The Spider" crawled in at the last minute.
Anderson Silva, one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, will step in and face Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 on less than two days notice, sources confirmed with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani on Thursday night. Cormier will face Silva in a non-title bout in the light heavyweight division Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Cormier was supposed to defend his UFC light heavyweight title against interim champion Jon Jones in the UFC 200 main event, but Jones was pulled from the card Wednesday after failing a USADA out-of-competition drug test.
The UFC spent all of Wednesday night and Thursday trying to find a replacement opponent. Silva, the former middleweight champion, was already going to be in Las Vegas to induct his mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira into the UFC Hall of Fame on Sunday. Silva was the UFC's desired choice from the beginning.
Cormier (17-1) asked UFC president Dana White if he could just sign a waiver and fight Jones anyway. The emotional scene was captured on the UFC Embedded web series. Cormier, 37, also went before the media Wednesday night and it seemed like it would be difficult to find an opponent for him. That meant a potential payday of millions of dollars was squandered.
Silva (33-7, 1 NC), though, will save the day. It's an odd matchup, considering the Brazilian superstar is coming off surgery to remove his gall bladder just seven weeks ago. Silva, 41, is also coming off a unanimous decision loss to Michael Bisping in February. "The Spider" has not registered an official victory since 2012.
The fighters will weigh-in beginning at 8 a.m. Friday morning, meaning this is one of the most last-minute changes in UFC history. And it involves the biggest card ever and one of the greatest luminaries ever to grace the Octagon.
The UFC announced later Thursday night that Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes for the women's bantamweight title will be the new UFC 200 main event. Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt will go back to the co-headliner.