Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz was all set to rematch Aleksandar Rakic in the opening UFC pay-per-view event of 2024, but the big Pole’s plans for a flying start to the new year have been scuppered.

Blachowicz was forced to withdraw from the event after sustaining a shoulder injury that required surgery.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” Blachowicz wrote on his Instagram page.

“It’s hard to express how I feel because it’s a mixture of anger and sadness. Withdrawing from a fight due to injury is one of the most difficult decisions a fighter can make. However, sometimes there is no other option, especially when you are competing in the top 5 and want to put on a show at the highest possible level.

“Instead of fighting for the best shape, I fight with the pain during every training session. I did everything I could, but my shoulders need surgery. In this state, continuing preparations and entering the Octagon would be irresponsible and stupid.”

The news left Rakic angry on social media, with the Austrian contender tweeting, “You can never lose a rematch when you pull out for the second time. Legendary Bulls**t.”

He then called for a bout with another former 205-pound champion, saying, “Let’s see if the Samurai has the balls to step up on Jan 20th.”

“The Samurai,” Jiri Prochazka, saw and replied to the tweet, accepting the matchup, but stating that “the earliest time I can be in octagon is February/March.”