As anyone who is reading this knows, UFC 151 was supposed to take place on September 1st, 2012 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and highlighted by a main event featuring Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones defending his title against MMA legend Dan Henderson. Unfortunately Henderson partially ruptured the MCL in his knee while training and had to pull out of the fight on Thursday, August 23rd, just ten days before the event. Several fighters, including former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen offered to fight Jones on short notice, but much to the dismay of many Jones declined and UFC 151 became the first event in the history of the UFC to be canceled.
Instead Jon Jones will defend his title against Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 on September 22nd (after Lyoto Machida turned the fight down). Here are my quick hit thoughts on this situation which has given the UFC a black eye:
Jon “Bones” Jones – Listen, I get it, Jones had been preparing to fight Henderson for months and he did not want to fight a man as dangerous as Chael Sonnen on such short notice. It is being reported that Greg Jackson, who is Jones’ coach, advised him that fighting Sonnen on short notice would be the biggest mistake of his career. Jones would only have three training days to prepare for a totally different fighter, not enough time. While Jackson is right, preparing for Sonnen is totally different than preparing for Henderson, and the UFC’s most marketable star could suffer an embarrassing defeat to Sonnen without the proper preparation. Sonnen just lost to Anderson Silva at middleweight (185lbs) on July 7th and now he is willing to go up in weight and fight at light heavyweight (205lbs) on short notice, and it’s the champion Jones (who had been training to fight at 205lbs) who says no? It makes Jones look like he does not have the best interest of the UFC in mind, that he is all about himself, and makes him look scared of Sonnen. Jones also stated that he did not want to face Lyoto Machida again (Jones submitted Machida at UFC 140) because their first fight had his worst Pay-Per-View buy rates, and a rematch with Machida is “High Risk, Low Reward.” The UFC has always been a place where fighters took the “I’ll fight anyone, anyplace, anywhere” mentality, a place where every champion was a “Fighting Champion” and Jones seems to want to pick and choose his opponents so he has an advantage. I worry that empowering a champion to pick and choose his own fights is the first step towards the boxing mentality of “These are my terms, if you agree, I’ll fight you” and this is why we still have not seen Floyd Mayweather box Manny Pacquaio. I wish UFC President Dana White said, “You’ll fight Sonnen or I’ll strip you of the title, no one man is bigger than the UFC.” Instead, he just made sure that everyone knows that Jones is acting like a prima-donna, and threw his most marketable star under the bus.
Dan Henderson – A legend in the sport, he has one of the greatest weapons we have ever seen, an absolutely punishing right hand. He has wins over some of the greatest fighters of all time and is a surefire Hall-of-Famer, get well soon Hendo, you are a pleasure to watch.
Chael Sonnen – Nobody looks better here than Sonnen, the best trash talker in the history of the UFC has been just trashing Jones, and Sonnen looks like he will eventually get his wish and fight Jones with time prepare. Sonnen has called Jon Jones a “Delusional Brat” and said “It’s not like I’m not going to beat this guy up, it’s just a matter of when.” He’ll get his fight, he talks, the public eats it up and demands it. In the UFC the fans eventually get what they want.
The Rest of The Fighters Scheduled for UFC 151 – You’re disappointed and you should be, but keep training hard, your day in the sun will come soon.
Lyoto Machida – Nothing wrong with not wanting to take on the champion who has already beaten you on such short notice, but you still look a little soft for turning down the fight, and hearing Jones say that fighting you is “High Risk, Low Reward” is a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever heard one.
Dana White – Canceling UFC 151 was a tough decision, but it was probably the right decision. I wish that White told Jones “I’m in charge, this is what is happening, and if not I’ll strip you of the title.” It would have enforced that no one fighter is bigger than the UFC. However there was a major risk involved, White would be trashing his most marketable star if he stripped Jones of the belt, and advertisers would be upset. White was put between a rock and a hard place and decided to cancel the entire event. Instead he has decided to portray Jones as an individual who only cares for himself, a selfish villain who turned his back on the UFC while other fighters have always done everything in their power to help the company reach the levels of greatness that it has today. I just hope that Jones picking and choosing his opponents like a diva does not start a trend, Dana White needs to take control of this situation, before it spirals out of control and turns into boxing.
Vitor Belfort – You are going to have a lot of people pulling for you at UFC 152 Vitor, both the fans and your employers, who want to see “The Man Who Thinks He’s Bigger Than The UFC” looking at the lights and your hand raised high. Good luck.