Jared Cannonier Wants Back in UFC Middleweight Title Picture

“When it comes to the MMA community, everyone’s like Dory around here. I’m not surprised people forgot about me.”

Jared Cannonier is ready to re-enter the conversation.

Prior to his MCL tear last fall, Cannonier (17-6) had won two in a row, including a victory against Sean Strickland, and was positioning himself for a run at the UFC middleweight title.

And then he tore his MCL.

“It is what it is,” said Cannonier. “I plan on doing it bigger and better this time.”

Prior to Cannonier’s injury, he had just been offered a fight against Khamzat Chimaev. That would have replaced his upcoming bout against Roman Dolidze, and a victory would have catapulted him among the top of the contenders.

“I was originally scheduled to fight Roman Dolidze, and I got the call in October to step in and fight Khamzat because [Paulo] Costa wasn’t able to make that fight,” said Cannonier. “I unofficially accepted the offer, and then I had practice–and that’s when I tore my MCL.”

The Grade 2 tear required surgery, temporarily derailing his momentum. But he put in the work to come back.

Jared Cannonier
Jared Cannonier / Zuffa LLC

Later tonight, Cannonier returns to the UFC in a Fight Night main event against Nassourdine Imavov. Despite turning 40 in March, which is 11 years older than Imavov, this is a match-up that Cannonier believes will highlight his strengths.

Imavov (13-4, 1 NC) defeated Dolidze by majority decision in February, but a determining factor in this bout will be how he responds to Cannonier’s pressure. A year ago, Cannonier pummeled Marvin Vettori with the most significant strikes landed in a middleweight fight in UFC history. Somehow, Cannonier appears to improve with age.

This fight is a chance for Cannonier to show how one injury did not remove him from the title picture.

“When it comes to the MMA community, everyone’s like Dory around here,” said Cannonier, referencing the forgetful fish from Finding Nemo. “I’m not surprised people forgot about me. And I’m not all over the internet saying, ‘Look at me!’ I’m not at the gym practicing interviews.

“Come fight night, they’ll see. They’ll be reminded of the skill and presence I bring to the Octagon.”

Due to the injury, Cannonier missed out on an opportunity to fight Chimaev. He also had to pull out of the Dolidze fight. But the stage is now his, and he is returning to reclaim his place in the division.

“A highlight reel finish ups my stock, and I know that,” said Cannonier. “I’m here to earn it. I’m going to put it on him and get that W.”

Justin Barrasso


Justin Barrasso has been writing for Sports Illustrated since 2014. While his primary focus is pro wrestling and MMA, he has also covered MLB, NBA, and the NFL. He can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.