Did Strickland almost miss out on his shot at the UFC middleweight championship?
While this has not been confirmed by the organization, Jared Cannonier (17-6) believes that the UFC was fairly close to having him replace Sean Strickland (28-5) at UFC 293 due to the then middleweight title challenger punching a fan during fight week in Australia.
“I woke up, it was Tuesday, we were doing check-ins, and I ran into Sean. He was signing his posters, and he was telling us the same story that got out, that he was out on a beach somewhere greeting fans — you know how fans are, they come up to you — and one of them said some slick s*** to him, and he gave him a nice one to the body and went along his day. There was the potential of that coming out. You know how some people are, they’ll press charges and try to get some attention or even a paycheck out of it.
Had Strickland got pulled from the main event, Cannonier was listed as the backup and would have stepped in to challenge Israel Adesanya (24-3) for the 185-belt for the second time in his career. While the backup plan did not need to be exercised in the end, Cannonier explained just how close things got to him needing to fill a void.
Back in July 2022, Cannonier fell short and lost by unanimous decision in his first and only attempt to snag the title away from Israel Adesanya. Since then, he is on a two-fight win streak, finding success against Marvin Vettori (19-6) and even the now middleweight champion himself, Sean Strickland.
Jared Cannonier really put a beating on Marvin Vettori.
Marvin’s toughness is unreal tho.pic.twitter.com/mpqkOV40sI
— 𝕽𝖆𝖎𝖓𝖒𝖆𝖐𝖊𝖗❂ (@Sa_Gwang) September 13, 2023
Though Cannonier was hoping for another title shot following his two most recent wins, he was happy to at least get enlisted as the backup fighter once the Strickland-Adesanya fight materialized.
“That’s what I heard, that’s the story that I got from him, and then the next day I woke up I was hearing stories from other sources that this fight could potentially be in jeopardy. Stay ready, stay prepared. That’s what it was… It got close – Crouch was about to fly out. He was supposed to fly out, he was at the airport, they were calling him for boarding and stuff. He was about to board, and then he was looking — I guess he found some video of Sean doing media day stuff as if he was still fighting, so he decided to pull the plug and not come, and it never turned into anything.”
“I never talked to any UFC officials directly. I had the hearsay from one of my corners, who communicated with some other individuals. But I was just there handling business. If it happened, that would have been funny as hell, and I would have been ready to swoop in and save the day.”
Cannonier has now expressed his interest in having another fight with Strickland, but this time with the UFC middleweight title on the line.
Jared Cannonier wants the next title shot, but would also be open to fighting Dricus du Plessis or Israel Adesanya 👀 #TheMMAHour
— MMA Fighting (@MMAFighting) September 20, 2023