UFC 149 card still looks solid

Mirko Filipovic - unloading a kick during a loss to Cheick Kongo at UFC 75. (QMI Agency/Handout)

Mirko Filipovic - unloading a kick during a loss to Cheick Kongo at UFC 75. (QMI Agency/Handout)

SCOTT MITCHELL, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

CALGARY - The old adage that injuries are part of sports couldn't be more true than when talking about the fight game.

But there's also no denying the disappointment of expecting one thing and getting something completely different.

Calling the weeks leading up to the UFC 149 card slated Saturday for the Saddledome a bit of a mess might be an understatement.

Fans who scurried to the box office to buy tickets in May when the card was announced were likely excited at the prospect of seeing featherweight champ Jose Aldo take on Erik Koch and ex-light heavyweight title holder Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua battling Thiago Silva in the headline fights of the night.

Injuries have torn that original card apart.

Aldo went down with a leg injury.

Silva hurt his back.

Michael Bisping, who was originally slated to take on Tim Boetsch, underwent knee surgery.

Thiago Alves and Yoshihiro Akiyama were set to square off but both succumbed to injury.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was the final casualty -- hopefully -- when he decided he wasn't fully recovered from a gruesome broken arm he suffered at the hands of Frank Mir at UFC 140 in Toronto in December.

Of the 10 fighters on the original main card, only Boetsch and Cheick Kongo remain.

Enter Urijah 'The California Kid' Faber, Renan Barao, Hector Lombard, Shawn Jordan, Siyar Bahadurzada, Chris Clements and Court McGee.

Wait, who?

Hardcore MMA fans will know the names, but they definitely don't have the same type of star power to help lure fringe fans.

Tom Wright, UFC director of Canadian operations, understands some fans are disappointed, but he doesn't feel the lack of big names diminishes the entertainment value.

"Obviously, we've had challenges," Wright said as UFC personnel started to filter into Calgary last week. "I know our fans are disappointed. I know the fighters who have been injured are disappointed. I can tell you (UFC president) Dana (White) is disappointed, and so am I. But in the end, one of the strengths of UFC is we've got so many world-class fighters and we can adjust on the fly and bring in some world-class athletes that are ready to perform.

"Injuries are part of sports. I appreciate the frustration, and we're frustrated, too."

It's not a case of guys wanting to fight at a different venue or under the bright lights of Vegas. It's just bad luck and a cluster of injuries.

"In our sport, they only get paid when they fight," Wright said. "It's not like in professional hockey when the goaltender goes down, he's still getting paid. These guys only get paid when they fight, so clearly they're disappointed."

UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve said fights being changed at the last minute and adjusting on the fly are part of the sport.

His last fight back in May at UFC 146 -- a first-round win via armbar -- was modified nine days before the match.

The 6-foot-11 kickboxer went to work anyway.

"I've done a lot of fights on short notice before I got to the UFC," Struve said. "Pretty much all my fights were on short notice. I was flying to other countries to fight local guys (on short notice), and I beat them all.

"I was ready for whatever, whenever "¶ It didn't matter who I was fighting."

Struve doesn't know it firsthand, but he sees the disappointment when fighters aren't able to make a living due to injury.

"I've never had to pull out of a fight, but I can imagine you're training for so long and focused on one thing and one thing only," Struve added. "To pull out because of an injury -- and a lot of guys on this card have had bad injuries and they need to have surgeries, and they're out for a while -- I can't imagine what it's like."

scott.mitchell@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: SUNMitchell


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