Anderson Silva will replace Jon Jones at UFC 200 and take on light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in a non-title match. Jones was set to meet Cormier in a title unification fight in the main event but was withdrawn due to a drug test violation just three days before Saturday's (9 July) showpiece card at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 28-year-old is being investigated by the US Anti-Doping Authority (USADA), temporarily leaving Cormier without an opponent and a gaping hole on the card for one of UFC's biggest nights of the year. But with just two days' notice, former middleweight king Anderson Silva has stepped in to fight Cormier in the 205lbs weight bracket.
Silva, 42, who typically fights at 185lbs, has fought just twice at 205lbs, but holds a 100% record having sealed first round knockouts against Forrest Griffin in August 2009 and Stephan Bonnar in October 2012.
"I've gone through a lot of phases in my UFC career, and no one's been able to beat everything that I've done," Silva said. "So I really feel like I'm a blessed guy. I don't think anyone's going to be able to do what I've done. I'm just very happy to be able to come in and face a guy like Daniel Cormier."
Silva, the longest reigning champion in UFC history, last fought in February when he was defeated by Michael Bisping. Just two months ago, he underwent gall bladder surgery but has passed his medicals "with flying colours, according to UFC president Dana White.
"I think it's an interesting, fun fight," White said. "Anderson Silva is undefeated at 205, and not just undefeated, but devastatingly undefeated. Every time he's moved up to 205, he looked even better than he did at 185, which is crazy."
Jones vs Cormier was originally scheduled as Saturday's main event but the former's withdrawal temporarily saw Brock Lesnar vs Mark Hunt moved to the top of the bill. ESPN now report the bantamweight title showdown is now Saturday's main event. Lesnar vs Hunt will co-headline while Cormier vs. Silva will feature in the middle of the card.
Jones meanwhile is facing the possibility of a two-year suspension after testing positive for a banned metabolite. The distraught 28-year-old apologised to UFC fans in a hastily arranged press conference on Thursday (8 July) but insisted he had not intentionally taking any performance enhancers.