The weekend’s big bombshell was not news of Lyoto Machida’s second crack at light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Instead it was the unexpected announcement that the UFC 152 fight between BJ Penn and Rory MacDonald had been scrapped because of a cut sustained by MacDonald in training.
Since the cancellation was announced on Saturday night by UFC president Dana White, both fighters have said they would like the match to stay on the books and be rescheduled for another event. But they have different ideas about which event to push it to.
Penn wants it moved one event back, to UFC 153. That event takes place October 13 in Brazil. On the other hand MacDonald has cited UFC 154 - which takes place in his home city of Montreal, Canada on November 17. Understandably, Penn doesn’t fancy moving the fight to Montreal but MacDonald’s coach Firas Zahabi of TriStar Gym - says the cut is a lot worse than people are imagining.
“He was sparring and one of the sparring partners did a spinning backfist as Rory was taking him down. Rory got hit with it as he was taking him down. The strike didn’t faze him, I didn’t even notice anything until I saw the blood, Rory was just working on top of him in side-control then I saw this pool of blood, looked at Rory’s face and saw he was cut. Then I took off the headgear and I could see the cut was very severe,” he told Fighters Only today.
“The thing is, Rory’s cut is to the bone and there’s three layers of stitches. There’s stitches on the inside layer and the outside and the eyebrow. So the doctor says no contact at all for one month and that doesn’t mean he can start sparring after a month - he cant get punched there for a while, longer than a month.
“He can start to do technique and wrestling after a month but we are not planning on putting a headgear on him until the first of October. Anything before that would be too early and the chances of Rory getting a new cut would be too high, its too dangerous.
“A cut is a cut but 38 stitches is a massive cut, its not a regular cut where you get ten or twelve stitches and it heals after a few weeks. This is a massive cut, it went internal, all the way to the bone. So you could see the bone of his skull after he got cut.
“That’s why there’s so many stitches - 38 over three layers, that’s why he cant even have any contact at all for one month. Can’t even drill. And after a month he can start technical movements - armlocks and toeholds on the ground, wrestling manoeuvres.
“But he cant get punched. It will be another month a half before we put a headgear on him. And by put a headgear on him I mean making him box. Because if we get another punch on it, its going to reopen. So it will be a while before we can get the headgear on him.”
If MacDonald isn’t back into full-contact sparring until October 1 then it would of course preclude his fighting on October 13. But Penn seems fairly adamant he doesn’t want the fight to happen in Montreal either and so unless it gets moved to a mutually agreeable date, Penn might end up taking another opponent. Would that bother the TriStar team?
“I want what the UFC wants. As a trainer I will let Rory fight whoever he wants and Rory will fight whoever the UFC wants, BJ will fight whoever the UFC wants. So, I believe its a match the UFC wants but whatever works out, you know?” says Zahabi.
“I think its a great fight, I was excited for that fight, but its the UFC that chooses what happens. I don’t have any power over that.”
In the meantime, with MacDonald joining St. Pierre on the off-duty list, Zahabi has some time to spend on his newly-launched Fund-A-Fighter project, which Fighters Only recently detailed. Zahabi says it is already meeting with success and there is a waiting list of names looking to get involved.
“Yeah its going really well. Joey Gambino is halfway to his target and we have two UFC world champions joining FundAFighter soon, we are just finalising contracts. We have a lot of big names that want to jump in and give it a try so we are really excited about that - look out for that in the Fall.”