UFC prepares for marquee event despite doping cloud

Fri Jul 8, 2016 1:16pm EDT
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By Philip O'Connor

(Reuters) - The Ultimate Fighting Championship is gearing up for one of the biggest events in its history in Las Vegas on Saturday, but a high-profile doping case has cast a shadow over the celebration of the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts.

UFC 200, which boasts one of the most stacked cards in the promotion's history, will cap days of events collectively dubbed International Fight Week that includes amateur championships, a fan expo and some of the sport's biggest names in action.

But the top-billed light heavyweight title fight between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones was abruptly canceled this week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency informed UFC that the latter failed an out-of-competition dope test on June 16.

With the enormously popular Irish featherweight champion Conor McGregor previously kicked off the bill for not fulfilling promotional commitments, Jones was set to meet Cormier in a much-anticipated main event.

With Jones, who was stripped of the light heavyweight belt in April 2015 after he was involved in a hit-and-run accident, now out pending the result of tests on his B sample, Cormier loses top billing but will still fight on Saturday.

The UFC found a replacement at just two days' notice in Brazilian former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who has previously served a suspension for a doping violation.

The title fight between holder Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes in a hugely competitive women's bantamweight division that also includes previous champions Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm is now the main event.

Last-minute changes to high-profile fight cards are nothing new in the UFC and even if they can have a negative affect on pay-per-view sales, they have done little to slow its growth around the globe.   Continued...

March 5, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Miesha Tate celebrates her victory by submission against Holly Holm during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports