LOS ANGELES — Cain Velasquez has been forced out of his UFC 196 heavyweight title fight with champion Fabricio Werdum due to a back injury.
Stipe Miocic will step in to face Werdum at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Feb. 6.
UFC President Dana White announced the changes Sunday in a post on his Twitter account.
“I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am and how I feel I’m letting you all down,” Velasquez wrote on his Facebook account. “I’ve heard and read all of your messages of support since my last fight and during this camp and for that I thank you.”
Velasquez is a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion, but his mixed martial arts career has been slowed repeatedly by injuries. He has fought just once since October 2013, losing his title to Werdum in Mexico City last June.
“Training camp has been difficult for the last few weeks, but sometimes no matter how much the heart and mind want to fight through an injury, healing has its own timeline,” Velasquez wrote. “We thought we’d get through it, but we had to face the truth that it wasn’t going to be OK in time to fight. All of us fighters have all fought injured at one time or another, but I can’t ignore this injury, as my doctor has indicated that not addressing the problems with my sciatic nerve could have longer-term consequences.”
Miocic will get his first UFC title shot on short notice. He should be fresh after stopping Andrei Arlovski just 54 seconds into their bout at UFC 195 on Jan. 2.