Before Kamaru Usman came into the picture, the opportunity was meant to be Jared Cannonier’s. During a recent interview with Submission Radio, Cannonier revealed that he was initially offered a chance to fight against Khamzat Chimaev at the UFC 294 but a sudden injury impeded him from accepting the offer. Subsequently, Chimaev ended up defeating Usman via a majority decision in Abu Dhabi’s co-main event.
Cannonier shared, “I got the call to step in to fight Chimaev. But unfortunately, before I could tell my manager to tell the UFC yes, I had injured myself. So I wasn’t able to take that fight on 10 days. They called me on the 10th. They called me, offered me that fight – before they offered it to Usman, they offered it to me. So it would have been me. It could have easily been me.” He had not only shown exemplary performances in his previous UFC appearances but also triumphed over the current middleweight champion Sean Strickland, making him an ideal matchup for Chimaev.
However, “The Killa Gorilla” tore his MCL in training shortly after receiving the call from the UFC to potentially compete at UFC 294. Cannonier continued, “But not 40 minutes into practice, we’re working, I get hit with a mat return. I’m getting up, we’re working get-ups and stuff—Of course we’re working get-ups, right? Because I’m not expecting to not get taken down by Khamzat…I hit the mat in the way to where my left hip and my right foot hit the mat at the same time and just the downward force of me hitting the ground in that manner went right to my MCL, tore the MCL. I got the MRI, verified it. So this opportunity had slipped by me. Not only an hour after receiving the opportunity, does it slip through my hands in that manner.”
On top of missing a golden opportunity for a title shot at UFC 294, the unfortunate injury led Cannonier to withdraw from a match against Roman Dolidze at UFC Austin on December 2. “I’m scheduled to have surgery on it this Thursday, actually,” Cannonier expressed. His last appearance was at UFC on ESPN 47, where he emerged victorious in a five-round match against Marvin Vettori. The MMA Lab Representative holds a record of 10-6 during his tenure in the UFC promotional and has won seven of his last nine matches dating back to November 2018.