“Finding an opponent for the number one-ranked MMA heavyweight champion in such a short period of time was a huge endeavor, and I’m thrilled at the amount of fighters willing to take on this challenge,” Affliction Entertainment Vice President Tom Atencio said in a news release. “But in the end, we just didn’t have enough time to promote a new fight to our standards.”
SI.com reported the news first Friday morning, and Sherdog.com confirmed shortly after. The cancellation -- which could spell the end of Affliction's year-long run as a mixed martial arts promotion -- comes on the heels of heavyweight Josh Barnett's failed drug test, which forced him out of the “Trilogy” main event against Fedor Emelianenko on Wednesday. Barnett, 32, tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid and was denied licensure by the California State Athletic Commission.
Promoters scrambled to find a replacement opponent for Emelianenko and reportedly considered middleweight Vitor Belfort, light heavyweight prospect Muhammed Lawal and heavyweights Brett Rogers, Paul Buentello, Jeff Monson and Bobby Lashley.
Atencio declined to comment further when reached by Sherdog.com.
Loretta Hunt contributed to this story, which was updated at 2:10 p.m. ET to include Atencio's comments.