LAS VEGAS — When this week started, the UFC 200 main event featured Jon Jones trying to reclaim the UFC light heavyweight against Daniel Cormier. When the mega-card finally goes off Saturday night, Jones will be gone, Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes will be the main event and Anderson Silva will face Cormier.
It seems crazy to think Silva, the 41-year-old legend coming off gall bladder surgery, will face Cormier, one of the best fighters on the planet, on Saturday here at T-Mobile Arena. And that's because it is. A lot of things had to come together to give the card an added boost and get Cormier that well-earned payday when Jones dropped out.
Silva being added to UFC 200 wasn't as simple as just adding his name to the marquee and making some careful edits to TV ads. Before anything could be official, the UFC had to get Silva licensed to fight by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC). Anyone over 35 years old — referred to as a "comprehensive fighter" by the commission — has to undergo further testing and "The Spider" fits the bill.
"If we were trying to get medicals done for Anderson Silva on a Monday the week of the fight or any fighter, it's next to impossible, but a lot of people got together and pulled this thing off," UFC president Dana White said Thursday night. "Anderson went through all his medicals and passed with flying colors."
Silva needed to pass HIV and drug screens, according to NAC executive director Bob Bennett. Luckily for the UFC, Silva had medicals done for his January fight with Michael Bisping in England and those could be applied to this event. Bennett said he had no apprehension about Silva's health seven weeks out of gall bladder removal surgery, either, because doctors deemed the former middleweight champion free and clear.
"Based on his age, as a comprehensive fighter, our doctor has to review all his medical records and give a green light," Bennett said.
Silva (33-7, 1 NC), who admitted he has not trained in two months since before surgery, last fought in Nevada when he beat Nick Diaz at UFC 183 in February 2015. That victory was later overturned to a no contest when Silva tested positive for steroid metabolites. The Brazilian served a one-year suspension and was able to return for his fight with Bisping, a unanimous decision loss. Silva does not have an official win since 2012.
There are questions about the viability of a past-40 Silva facing Cormier, who is still one of the very best fighters around. But "The Spider" had to go through the vetting process everyone else does. It just happened a lot quicker than usual due to the urgency. Silva agreed to the fight just about 48 hours before the fight was scheduled after Jones was pulled due to his failing of an out-of-competition drug test administered by UFC anti-doping partner USADA.
"There were no shortcuts," said Bennett, who lauded the UFC for their pristine paperwork and attention to detail. "The UFC and the Nevada State Athletic Commission put in extra hours to put this fight on for the public. But as far as holding someone accountable as a comprehensive fighter, we did that completely in compliance with policies."
Silva weighed in at 198.5 pounds (with clothes on) for the 205-pound fight. He'll go into the bout with Cormier rightfully as a huge underdog — the first time he has not been the favorite in a bout in about a decade. "The Spider" held the middleweight title for seven years between 2006 and 2013.
"I think the UFC was thinking outside the box and they got a good replacement," Bennett said.