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21st Sep 2016

There are worrying signs that UFC 205 may be falling apart at the seams

There's something rotten in the state of New York

Ben Kiely

The big wigs will be hopeful that their historic New York debut won’t be a repeat of that much-maligned UFC 200 card.

November 12, 2016 should be a landmark day for fight fans in the Big Apple. After enduring years of the bill to legalise the sport being rejected by the New York Assembly, this was supposed to be the year where everything changed, the year that Madison Square Garden finally housed an Octagon.

Champions such as Chris Weidman, Matt Serra and Jon Jones, never had the chance to defend their titles in front of a home crowd, but now a New Yorker will be free to compete in an MMA event in the city. So, when that bill finally passed and the UFC had set the date, the matchmakers only had one thing to do, book as many local fighters as possible for the event.

However, that’s just not happening for a few reasons.

New York’s biggest MMA superstar Jon Jones’ failed drug test before UFC 200 ruled him out of contention early. He is awaiting a hearing from the Nevada State Athletic Commission to determine his fate.

Gian Villante is also off the card. The Bellmore brawler was heavily linked with a bout against Marcos Rogério de Lima, but he was forced to withdraw due to injury.

Al Iaquinta’s case is probably the most note-worthy. The top-ranked lightweight took a stand against the promotion and refused to sign his contract to fight Thiago Alves. Raging Al appeared on a recent episode of the MMA Hour in an office, donning his uniform for his new job as a realtor.

He explained that neither he nor anyone from his team would be reaching out to the promotion to patch things up. He seems resigned to the fact that he won’t be taking part in what would have been a dream fight for him in the Garden.

Chris Weidman was scheduled to take on Yoel Romero in a potential title eliminator bout, but according to Ariel Helwani, that fight hasn’t been finalised yet. Aljamain Sterling, Ryan LaFlare and Dennis Bermudez are other New Yorkers who have yet to book a fight on the card.

This means that at the time of writing, Rashad Evans is the only fighter from the state of New York who is fighting at UFC 205, and his fight against Tim Kennedy hasn’t even been officially confirmed yet by the promotion.

We still have a long way to go until November, and a lot of fight announcements left to go, but the amount of withdrawals this early is a slight cause for concern.

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