LAS VEGAS — On Wednesday night, one of the greatest fighters of all time was pulled from UFC 200. About 24 hours later, one of the greatest fighters of all time was added to the card.
Anderson Silva will be replacing Jon Jones at UFC 200 on Saturday here at T-Mobile Arena against Daniel Cormier, it was announced Thursday night. Jones tested positive for a banned substance in a June 16 out-of-competition drug test and was flagged by USADA for a potential anti-doping violation.
After a day-long search, UFC president Dana White said it came down to three choices: Silva, Dan Henderson or Gegard Mousasi. "The Spider," the longtime former UFC middleweight champion, was the top choice and after he passed his medicals the fight was booked.
At an impromptu press conference Thursday night after UFC Fight Night: dos Anjos vs. Alvarez, Silva addressed the media and spoke briefly about Jones failing a drug test. Silva, himself, tested positive for steroids in January 2015 and served a one-year suspension imposed by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Silva and Jones have also developed a friendship over the years as perhaps the two best fighters of all time.
"I was sad," Silva said, through a translator, about the Jones situation. "I know he went through a lot and I know he was very well prepared to fight Daniel Cormier. With USADA coming into the UFC, things have gotten a lot more professional. You have to watch out for everything we put into our bodies, every supplement. Things can happen. I think something happened and I hope he doesn't get mad I took his place."
Silva, 41, said his manager Ed Soares reached out to White about two hours after he found out about Jones being pulled. Silva was going to be in Las Vegas this weekend anyway, to induct his mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the UFC Hall of Fame on Sunday. Other than the fight with Cormier, the UFC light heavyweight champion, on Saturday night, Silva said he won't really do anything differently here.
"I came with my kids, so we're gonna do what we were gonna do before," Silva said. "We're gonna go to the mall, have some ice cream and hang out."
Silva (33-7, 1 NC) has not recorded an official win since 2012 and just had surgery to remove his gall bladder about seven weeks ago. "The Spider" admitted he hasn't really trained for two months, but he is on weight, willing and thinks he is up to the challenge of facing Cormier in a three-round, non-title fight at 205 pounds.
"I think it's gonna be interesting," Silva said. "I'm gonna have to run from him a lot."
Silva then turned to White and said in English: "I'm joking, boss. I'm joking. I come to fight."
The Brazilian legend seemed like he was trying to parlay this act of good will in filling in toward a middleweight title shot against Michael Bisping, the man Silva fell to by unanimous decision in January. Bisping was the victor in that bout, but it was a close fight and Bisping was nearly knocked out.
White said if Silva can beat Cormier, he wouldn't rule that out. Silva held the middleweight title from 2006 to 2013. He holds the UFC records for most consecutive wins (16) and most consecutive title defenses (10).
"We'll see how this thing plays out," White said. "Listen, anything can happen. You guys know how this sport is. This sport is crazy."