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Neck injury forces Chris Weidman out of UFC 199 title shot

Chris Weidman of Baldwin shadowboxes at the TUF

Chris Weidman of Baldwin shadowboxes at the TUF Gym in Las Vegas on Dec. 8, 2015 ahead of UFC 194 where he will face Luke Rockhold. Credit: Newsday/Jeffrey Basinger

A neck injury forced Chris Weidman to withdraw from next month’s rematch with middleweight champion Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.

Weidman, the former middleweight champion, said he has a herniated disc in his neck that is pushing on a nerve and causing discomfort.

Weidman, from Baldwin, said it will require surgery. Recovery is expected to be six to eight weeks, he said.

“Woke up with severe nerve pain and vertigo from it,” Weidman wrote in a text message to Newsday early Wednesday morning, adding that he went to the emergency room on Sunday after experiencing the pain.

“Got an epidural,” Weidman said. “Didn’t help.”

Later Wednesday morning, Weidman released a full statement and explanation on his Facebook page.

“I then found out I had a large extrusion herniation, which was stuck on a nerve that shuts down the tricep and and forearm area,” he wrote. “So I figured I could get an epidural and I would be good and there was zero chance in my head I was pulling out.

“The first spine specialist I went to in NYC was blown away by the size of it and told me he wasn’t very optimistic about an injection for me and thought surgery was the way to go, but I just figured he’s a surgeon and let him know about how big this fight is and that there is zero chance I’m backing out and getting a surgery. So he sent me to a specialist who does injections, and by looking at MRI images, agreed that the chances of epidural relieving that nerve pain would be minimal, but I was still optimistic and thought either way I’m fighting through this.”

Weidman then explained what went into making the final decision about withdrawing for what he has called the biggest and most important fight of his career.

“I actually felt my best when I was working out but I couldn’t survive throughout the day and night without painkillers and other medication to try to block nerve pain,” he wrote on Facebook. “I had another epidural scheduled for this Thursday but the doctors said again that it most likely wouldn’t make a difference. I still planned on fighting until yesterday when my coaches and loved ones really just put their foot down. The people I trusted most were not behind me fighting and pushing through. So before getting the second epidural I decided to give the UFC a fair amount of time to find another opponent for Luke.”

Weidman’s withdrawal first was reported Tuesday on Twittter by Talk MMA and later confirmed by multiple outlets including Newsday. On Wednesday afternoon, UFC president Dana White announced that Michael Bisping will replace Weidman in the title fight against Rockhold.

Weidman and Rockhold first fought at UFC 194 last December, with Rockhold taking Weidman’s title via TKO in the fourth round.

Injuries are common in mixed martial arts. Fighters rarely enter a fight in perfect condition. When Weidman lost to Rockhold, he entered the cage with a broken foot. Rockhold was an antibiotics to treat a staph infection heading into the fight.

Against Lyoto Machida in 2014, Weidman fought with what later was determined to be a broken hand and won by unanimous decision.

But Weidman, like many fighters, hasn’t always been able to fight through injuries. He pulled out of a scheduled fight with Machida with a knee injury. He also withdrew from two scheduled bouts against Vitor Belfort with a broken hand and fractured rib cartilage.

New York Sports