Rua-Vera now not title eliminator

Updated: August 3, 2012, 8:30 AM ET
By Franklin McNeil | ESPN.com

After receiving an outpouring of negative fan reaction, UFC president Dana White has decided that the light heavyweight bout Saturday night between Mauricio Rua and Brandon Vera will not be a title eliminator.

WhiteWhen the fans speak, we listen. So whoever scores the best win, whoever gets the fans excited by going out there on Saturday and looking the most impressive, he will get the winner of (Jon) Jones versus (Dan) Henderson.

-- Dana White

Instead, the co-main event showdown between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader also could produce the next top 205-pound contender.

"When the fans speak, we listen," White said Tuesday. "So whoever scores the best win, whoever gets the fans excited by going out there on Saturday and looking the most impressive, he will get the winner of (Jon) Jones versus (Dan) Henderson.

"It is down to what these four guys do Saturday night in the Octagon. Winning isn't enough."

White stated Monday during a media call that the Rua-Vera winner would receive top-contender billing at light heavyweight.

The decision was questioned immediately, since Jones knocked out Rua and Vera within the past two years. White stated that he had not consulted with Jones about the matter.

"Nope, I have not (discussed it with him)," White said during the media call. "When you're the guy and keep beating people, you might see another guy coming your way you already beat.

"It's part of the business."

Jones, however, wasn't satisfied with White's choice and expressed his confusion on Twitter.

"Scratching my head," Jones wrote.

Much of the criticism White has received centers around Vera, who is just 1-2 with one no contest in his four most recent fights.

"It was cool that Dana announced it yesterday. It was kinda just like a bonus. And today my opinion of it hasn't changed," Vera said Tuesday. "It's still a bonus. I need to concentrate on beating Shogun. Not just winning but beating Shogun. It's cool, I guess. It's the UFC, they're going to do what they want anyways. I just need to go out and perform the best that I can, that my fans know I can, and it will all be settled Saturday night."

Vera said he understood that White had to listen to the fans of the sport.

"This is a fan-based sport, man," he said. "The fans want to start yelling, whooping, hollering, Dana is going to listen. That's just how it is. … They listen to the fans' opinion and the fans have spoken. Dana White added two other guys, and that's it."

Vera has a professional mixed martial arts record of 12-5 with one no contest.

"There is no doubt that Vera is getting the opportunity of a lifetime," White said. "We'll see what happens. We'll see if he makes the most of it."

But placing Rua (20-6) in position to earn a title shot also has many observers questioning White. The former light heavyweight champion is 2-3 in his past five outings.

During that stretch, Rua lost the title to Jones via third-round TKO on March 19, 2011. He was on the short end of a closely fought unanimous decision on Nov. 19, 2011, against Henderson.

The win put Henderson in position to face Jones for the title. They are scheduled to meet Sept. 1 at UFC 151 in Las Vegas.

"I want the winner of Jones versus Henderson," Rua said. "The fight I had with Henderson was a great fight, the fight of the year, and it was a very close fight.

"I am OK with that, it was a great fight. But the loss to Jones, I can't live with. I could have done so much better and I want to fight him again."

Machida (17-3) is 1-3 in his past four bouts, which include losses to Jones and Rua.

Bader (14-2) will enter the cage against Machida having won two fights in a row. He and Machida suffered submission losses to Jones in 2011.

The light heavyweight fights Saturday night take place at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Each bout will air on Fox.

ESPN.com's Josh Gross contributed to this report.

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