Joe Lauzon is the latest to suffer a fight-cancelling freak injury, but he’s certainly not the only one.
From MMA’s early days, the rule of thumb is that no fight can be considered a certainty until the cage door locks. Some of MMA’s biggest what-ifs are the result of some last-minute bad luck.
In Joe Lauzon’s case, the knee lockout he suffered after putting on socks following UFC Austin’s official weigh-ins will close the door on a fight with Donald Cerrone. Compared to others, his bad luck has been relatively mild.
Here are just a few of the fighters who’ve caught a tough break at the last minute.
After winning the vacant UFC heavyweight title, Kevin Randleman was scheduled to make his first title defense against Pedro Rizzo at UFC 24, which was even named after the occasion. But in the hours before the event, Randleman reportedly slipped on some pipes during his warm-up and fell to the concrete floor, knocking himself out. He was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a concussion, and UFC 24 went on without its headliner.
Eventually, UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice met in the cage. But it was seven years after their first booking under the ill-fated EliteXC banner. Shamrock and Slice were supposed to clash on CBS in a major breakthrough for the MMA upstart. But while warming up backstage, Shamrock suffered a cut on his left eyebrow that forced him to withdraw from the fight. Slice, arguably the most bankable non-UFC attraction, was booked to face last-second replacement Seth Petruzelli. In one of the most infamous upsets in MMA history, Slice was knocked out in 14 seconds, and Elite XC soon after folded.
Means slipped in the sauna while cutting weight for a fight against Abel Trujillo at UFC on FOX 5. When he woke up, he said he had a lump on his head and fell to the floor on his hands and knees. He was taken to the hospital and ruled out of the fight.
The towering former UFC heavyweight was scheduled to take on Matt Mitrione at UFC 175 when he reportedly fainted backstage, bowling over a bucket of ice. The Dutch fighter had earlier been diagnosed with a heart condition and started to hyperventilate, drawing scrutiny from the UFC’s medical consultant. Diagnosed with a panic attack, Struve was forced to the drawing board before his next comeback.
One week before UFC 223, Tony Ferguson was getting ready to defend his interim title against longtime rival Khabib Nurmagomedov in a bout that had thrice been called off due to injuries and other problems. While promoting the pay-per-view event at a FOX Sports TV studio, he tripped on a cable and tore his LCL, forcing him to withdraw from the event. Nurmagomedov would go on to claim the title, and the COVID-19 pandemic would later put the nail in the matchup’s coffin as Nurmagomedov retired and Ferguson’s career stalled.
Ferguson’s UFC 223 withdrawal and the music chairs that accompanied it wasn’t the end of the back luck before the April 2018 pay-per-view event. More arrived in the form of Conor McGregor, who, reportedly incensed by Nurmagomedov’s slap-down of his teammate Artem Lobov, infamously attacked a UFC transport bus carrying the Dagestani fighter. Nurmagomedov was unhurt, but then-lightweight Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg were injured by shards of flying glass and forced to withdraw from their fights.
Borg forgave McGregor, but Chiesa took “Notorious” to court, arguing his title prospects were damaged by his cancelled fight with ex-champ Anthony Pettis. Chiesa is still trying to collect in court.
The then-middleweight champion was scheduled to defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum in Melbourne at UFC 234. But on the day of the event, he fell ill with severe abdominal pain and was forced into emergency hernia surgery, leaving Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya as the main event.
Giles was just about to make his walk to the octagon for a fight with Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 5 when he fainted backstage. Nevada commission officials immediately scrapped him from the event. Giles afterward said he was feeling better but couldn’t conclusively say what had happened.
The featherweight was scratched so last-second from UFC Vegas 19 that he left his opponent, Chas Skelly, waiting in the octagon when he failed to walk out for the fight. Back spasms were blamed for Emmers’ sudden removal.
Set to face Jeremy Stephens in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 24, Klose was ruled out of the fight when he said he suffered a concussion after being shoved by his opponent at the weigh-ins. UFC President Dana White blamed UFC matchamaker Sean Shelby for not stopping Stephens, who was thoroughly unapologetic for the incident. The fight was not re-booked, and less than one year later, Stephens’ contract was not renewed by the UFC.