Amanda Nunes' sinusitis brings to life the disclaimer 'Card subject to change' for disappointed fans

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Amanda Nunes says she pulled out of UFC 213 because of chronic sinusitis. (Getty Images)

There are four words, usually placed in an out-of-the-way spot in the smallest type size possible, on fight-related advertising and marketing materials that have served as a warning to fans for decades.

It’s the acknowledgement from the promoter that you might not get what you thought you were getting when you purchased your tickets.

It’s not fraud. It’s not bait-and-switch. It’s not being duplicitous or deceitful. Those four words are meant to warn you, the consumer, that before you put your money down to purchase a ticket, things happen and you might be buying something different than you thought.

Card subject to change.

On Saturday morning, only a few hours before the first bout of what once had the potential to be one of the greatest cards in UFC history, news leaked that women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes was out of the night’s main event at T-Mobile Arena against Valentina Shevchenko because she wasn’t feeling well.

“Leading up to the ceremonial weigh-ins [Friday], I got a call that she wasn’t feeling well,” company president Dana White said at the UFC 213 post-fight news conference. “And it was questionable whether she was going to show up to the ceremonials because the doctor needed to see her and they needed to find out what was going on with her. She does them and everything’s good. This morning [Saturday] I wake up and I hear that … she’s not feeling well again and she’s probably not going to fight. So, I asked the doctors, ‘What’s wrong with her?’

“She was medically cleared. She was physically OK. They found nothing wrong with her. But she didn’t feel right. … It’s not like she was absolutely refusing to fight. She said, ‘I don’t feel right. I don’t feel good.’ ”

Nunes has taken enormous abuse as a result of pulling out of the fight. What could have been a dream card when it was first laid out — also scheduled for the card had been a men’s bantamweight title fight between Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw that was postponed because of a Garbrandt injury as well as a welterweight fight between Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone that was pushed ahead three weeks when Cerrone had multiple issues — quickly turned into a nightmare.

Nunes posted on Twitter Sunday and said she didn’t fight because of chronic sinusitis.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Breathing through your nose might be difficult,” if one has sinusitis.

Nunes explained that she has chronic sinusitis and wrote, “I have fought with it before but this time it didn’t work out. During the weight cut, I was unable to breath and felt off balance from the pressure in my sinuses. I was not feeling well enough to risk getting punched in the head with such pressure.”

And so, she made the decision to withdraw and sparked outrage among the fan base, many of whom complained about spending thousands to travel to Las Vegas, buy tickets, pay for accommodations and then not get to see the fight they came for.

It’s understandable that anyone who spent $1,000 for a ticket, another $1,000 for a plane and more for lodging, food and transportation would be angry when at the last moment, the fight was pulled.

But this kind of thing is one of the unavoidable issues in combat sports. When you buy a ticket to an NFL game, you’re not guaranteed the chance to see Tom Brady or Antonio Brown, you’re promised to see the New England Patriots against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In fighting, though, there is no Jimmy Garoppolo to come off the bench to replace Brady and play quarterback for the Patriots if Brady for some reason couldn’t play. The UFC offered refunds to ticket buyers on Saturday if they no longer wanted to attend because of the depleted card; buy a ticket to see the Patriots-Steelers game and the sale is final, whether Brady, Brown, Ben Roethlisberger or any other member of either team suits up.

White and the UFC matchmakers have performed amazing feats in the past, saving cards when it seemed impossible. But five hours or so before the fight, it was virtually impossible to do. There was nothing that White or matchmaker Sean Shelby could possibly have done.

Amanda Nunes (L) and Valentina Shevchenko pose at Friday’s ceremonial weigh-in prior to UFC 213. (Getty Images)

Oh, strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk gallantly offered to step up and fight Shevchenko at 125 pounds, which Shevchenko quickly agreed to. There were plenty of issues with that, though, not the least of which was that Jedrzejczyk hadn’t taken a pregnancy test that is required by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Results take three days to come back and Bob Bennett, the commission’s executive director, wouldn’t allow her to compete without one.

Jedrzejczyk is one of the most entertaining fighters, male or female, in the UFC, but did anyone really want to see her without benefit of a training camp go against someone as good and as prepared as Shevchenko?

It isn’t fair to blame Nunes, though, and it wasn’t like White could have — or would have, if he had the ability — forced her to fight. Imagine the liability the UFC would face if it had tried to force Nunes to fight when she said she wasn’t feeling well and then something terrible had happened to her in the event.

If she couldn’t breathe properly, she couldn’t compete at the highest level of a sport that requires significant cardiovascular capacity.

Nunes has no history of pulling out of fights like she did on Saturday, and will defend her belt against Shevchenko, most likely at UFC 215 on Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. White said stripping her of her belt, even though she’d been cleared to fight by the UFC’s medical staff, wasn’t an option.

“There’s no pattern of her refusing to fight somebody,” White said when asked about the possibility of stripping Nunes. “Those are the situations where, I’ll read something where a guy says, ‘I refuse to fight this guy.’ It just happened with D.J. [flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson]. We have a fight for this guy. It’s for his chance to break the record [for most successful title defenses in a row] and it’s a very credible guy who wants to fight him. The guy was cutting weight and getting ready and all this stuff and he’s absolutely refusing to fight him. … When there’s a pattern of that, it’s when I’d start looking at stripping a guy.”

This is a case where no one is at fault. And it’s the nature of the sport. Fighters get injured and while many fight with serious injuries, there are some risks which are too great to blame.

The UFC lost a lot of money considering the fights that fell off from such an expensive show.

Its fans who traveled to Las Vegas lost a lot of money when they didn’t see what they came to see.

And Nunes’ reputation took a hit — unfairly, it says here — and won’t be allowed to main event a show again, White said.

There are no winners in this case, but nor is there anyone to point a finger as the culprit.

It’s the fight game and, as always, the card is subject to change.

Amanda Nunes (L) and Valentina Shevchenko fight at UFC 196. (Getty Images)