Jared Cannonier was supposed to fight Roman Dolidze. And then Khamzat Chimaev. But now the UFC middleweight contender won’t return to the Octagon until next year.
Cannonier told “Submission Radio” on Monday that he suffered a torn MCL in his right knee earlier in October, which made the 39-year-old unable to accept a short-notice matchup against Chimaev at UFC 294 and forced him out of a scheduled bout with Dolidze at UFC Fight Night on Dec. 2.
The former title challenger is scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday to repair the ligament.
Cannonier said the injury occurred Oct. 10, about an hour after receiving an offer to replace Paulo Costa and step up on 11 days’ notice for a title eliminator against Chimaev this past weekend in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Cannonier said he unofficially agreed to the fight before the injury. Chimaev went on to face Kamaru Usman instead and won by majority decision.
“I got hit with a mat return, and when I hit the mat, I hit the mat in a way to where my left hip and my right foot hit the mat at the same time. And just the downward force of me hitting the ground in that manner went right to my MCL, tore the MCL,” Cannonier said. “Got the MRI, verified it.”
He added: “I’m not even as mad about the injury. Injuries happen in this sport. It’s just the timing of it, man. That’s what hurts most about it. But I’m not going to sit here and try to hang onto this moment and wish I could’ve and wish I would’ve.”
Cannonier said he’ll be sidelined for about five months.
Regarding the middleweight title picture, Chimaev appears next in line for a shot at champion Sean Strickland. But Cannonier, like Strickland, doesn’t believe he deserves it.
“You gotta fight middleweights to fight for the middleweight title,” Cannonier said. “And he has yet to fight a middleweight in the last couple years. He hasn’t even fought a ranked middleweight.”
Against Dolidze, Cannonier was looking to improve his winning streak to three after dominating Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision in a UFC Fight Night main event in June. Cannonier is ranked No. 4 in the division and holds a 2022 win over Strickland, who beat Israel Adesanya to capture the belt in September.
Dolidze is coming off a decision loss to Vettori in March. The 35-year-old was originally booked to face Derek Brunson at UFC 295 on Nov. 11 before Brunson parted ways with the promotion in September. Dolidze is ranked No. 7 at 185 pounds.
It’s unclear whether the UFC plans to seek a new opponent for Dolidze on Dec. 2.
The event doesn’t yet have a headliner or location. However, several intriguing matchups have been reported, including former flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo’s bantamweight debut against contender Rob Font.