An injury has forced light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier out of his scheduled title defense against Anthony Johnson at UFC 206 in mid-December. Instead of inserting a new opponent and fighting for the interim title, Johnson has elected to wait for Cormier to heal.
In the meantime, the company is without a marketable main event for a pay-per-view event that was already fighting a post-UFC 205 hangover. According to a report from Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting, the promotion will move the co-main event, a featherweight showdown between top-contenders Anthony Pettis and Max Holloway into the top spot and putting an interim title on the line.
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Pettis is a former lightweight champion, and could become the fourth fighter in history to win belts in multiple weight classes. Holloway is on a nine-fight win streak, his last loss coming to Conor McGregor during the summer of 2013.
This presents a murky situation for the UFC and the featherweight division. Champion Conor McGregor just won the lightweight title as well in November and has remained adamant that he would not relinquish his featherweight strap. Former champion Jose Aldo won the interim featherweight title at UFC 200 by defeating Frankie Edgar and has expressed a desire to leave the UFC due to frustration regarding a rematch with McGregor. Helwani reports that the UFC is considering stripping McGregor, and removing the interim title from Aldo's strap.
The UFC is likely regretting playing hardball with Canadian MMA star and icon Georges St-Pierre this summer. If St-Pierre were on the card, the panic for UFC 206 would be less substantial. There is precedent for a card reverting from a pay-per-view affair to a normal Fight Night broadcast, most recently happening in February of 2016 when Fabricio Werdum was forced out of the main event against Cain Velasquez at UFC 196. The event moved forward as UFC Fight Night 82, and the March pay-per-view, which was originally UFC 197, became UFC 196.