Jon Jones will fight Ovince Saint Preux for the interim light heavyweight title at UFC 197 after defending champion Daniel Cormier pulled out of the match due to a lower leg injury, UFC president Dana White announced on ESPN.
The new match is still scheduled to be the main event of the April 23 pay-per-view at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
According to White, Anthony Johnson, the No. 2 ranked light heavyweight, was initially offered the fight, but was forced to turn it down as he recovers from a recent surgery.
“Obviously, the No. 1 choice would be Anthony Johnson, who is the No. 2-ranked guy in the world and a fight that everybody wants to see,” White said. “But Anthony Johnson just had surgery on his mouth and can't even put a mouthpiece in for at least three weeks.”
The fight will be Jones’s first since he beat Cormier to defend the title in January 2015. He had the title stripped after being charged with a felony hit-and-run in May.
Saint Preux, a former football player at Tennessee, is 7–2 in the UFC and currently ranked the No. 6 fighter in the division.