When an internet report last week suggested that the winner of Saturday's UFC on FOX 4 main event between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Brandon Vera would get the next shot at the UFC light heavyweight title, the idea was greeted with skepticism.
Monday, UFC president Dana White empathically said: Believe it.
"Yes," White said when asked point-blank about whether Saturday's fight will be a No. 1 contender's match.
"'Shogun' Rua just came off a 'Fight of the Year' last year," White said in reference to the classic Rua-Henderson bout at UFC 139. "He's probably one of the best fighters of the last decade. Think about it. This guy knocked out [Quinton] 'Rampage' [Jackson], knocked out Chuck Liddell, knocked out Mark Coleman, knocked out Lyoto Machida, knocked out Forrest Griffin, knocked out Alistair Overeem twice, submitted Kevin Randleman. A win vs. [Vera] puts him right back in position, and then he's probably the No. 2 guy in the world."
While a case can be made for a title shot for Rua -- the man Jones beat for the title in 2011 and a former PRIDE Grand Prix champion -- if he scores an impressive win, Vera's case is harder to make. The San Diego-based fighter has one victory in the past three years and is 1-2 with a no-contest in that time frame.
Vera for his part, is grateful for the potential opportunity. "This is already a blessing in disguise," he said. "And by Dana throwing that [a title shot] out there, it's like winning the lottery twice."
Rua-Vera, of course, isn't the only light heavyweight fight of note on Saturday's card, as former champion Lyoto Machida meets Ryan Bader in the co-main event.
Bader wouldn't question White's decision to offer the Rua-Vera winner a title shot ahead of the winner of his fight.
"If [Vera] goes out there and beats ‘Shogun,' he deserves it," said Bader.
Bader instead is focused on building his own case for a title shot, which started with a win over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in February and would be bolsted by beating another former champion in Machida.
"I beat ‘Rampage' who fought for the title, and I'm fighting Lyoto, who fought for title," said Bader. "[Beating both] puts you right up there in the mix. It will take care of itself."
Should Jones go on to defeat Henderson, the UFC would still have to sell a rematch against a fighter Jones manhandled the first time they met, regardless of who wins on Saturday.
In the case of Vera, it was a first-round TKO in a 2010 bout in which Vera absorbed a broken cheek bone. Vera said this time around, he would take Jones seriously.
"The first time I fought Jon Jones, I thought he was young punk. I didn't respect him at all. The outcome showed itself, I got what I deserved. [If he gets another match with Jones] I promise he'll have my full and undivided attention this time."
Rua lasted into the third round of his UFC 137 bout with Jones before the fight was waved off. Monday, "Shogun" wouldn't take the bait when asked about Jones.
"I'm 100 percent focused on Vera," Rua said through an interpreter. "Later I'll think about the future."