Blame has been flying around on either side of the argument, but whatever side of the argument you’re on I’d like to take a moment to examine the situation and look at both sides of the equation.
Let’s get one thing straight right away: Jon Jones and Greg Jackson did not cancel UFC 151. While they may have turned down a fight with Chael Sonnen that would have saved the card, they were not the ones who made that decision. Also, according to Ben Fowlkes of USA Today and MMAJunkie.com, the Jackson crew had no idea the card would be canceled before turning down the fight with Sonnen. On the side of Jon Jones I understand the decision. Why give Sonnen the satisfaction of talking his way into an immediate title shot at 205 when there are a number of contenders ahead of him? Especially after trashing you in the media for the last two weeks? Forget it, you’re the champ. Piss off Mr. Sonnen. Also, following the news the majority of people lambasted Jon Jones, and not a lot of backlash against Lyoto Machida and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua for turning down the fight as well. Although in their defense, I doubt they wanted to fight Jones without a full training camp.
Now I’m not a professional fighter, much less a UFC champion, but if you’re Jon Jones why not take the fight with Chael Sonnen? You just put in a full training camp in preparation for Dan Henderson. What is Sonnen going to do to you that ‘Hendo’ can’t? He certainly won’t hit as hard as Henderson. The only thing that readily comes to mind is Sonnen pursuing the takedown with more tenacity. Plus, Sonnen would have only 8 days to prepare to Jon Jones! Just squash him ‘Bones’, squash tiny Chael Sonnen and make a statement. You’re a giant next to him.
If ‘Bones’ and Jackson made their choice based on financial reasons, then why not take the fight with Sonnen? We all know Chael Sonnen can rake in the Pay-Per-View money better than almost anyone; he’s got the marketing and hype game down to a science. Along with that if you’re Jones, you’ve got to realize that you are the face of the organization: the youngest champion ever and the future of the sport and UFC. They’re your employer. They sign your checks and give you all that awesome bonus money. If they tell you to jump, you’ve got to say how high. But again, this is coming from someone far removed from the position Jones is in.
Along with that notion is the idea the champion doesn’t get to choose who he wants to fight. As the champ, you’ve got to be willing to take on any and all challengers. Isn’t that what defines someone as the best? I think a lot of people in the MMA community, especially the other fighters on the 151 card, latched onto this idea and criticized Jones heavily for it. I think that holds some merit as well. As the champ, I think you should be open to any and all challengers, especially when there are a number of hungry fighters vying for their shot at UFC gold.
Now, let’s look at Dana and UFC. By cancelling 151, they are acknowledging the fact that the card was too weak to support itself without the title fight headlining. That also means that they do not see the other fighters on the card as big enough moneymakers to try and find a replacement main event. I think this really speaks to the oversaturation of the market with fight cards by the UFC and the problems that can arise from it. By scheduling so many cards you desensitize fans, making it harder to gain interest for all the fights you are scheduling. Also, if you’re going to put Jones in the doghouse, and really feed him to the media like UFC President Dana White and the UFC did, then why are you placing him on the very next UFC card; a card that really didn’t need this fight on it to strengthen it? Why make Jones fight so soon and against Vitor Belfort of all people (props to Belfort for stepping up, but he shouldn’t have even been in this title shot mess at 205 to begin with)? The UFC is essentially saying: we can believe the champ would do this; it was selfish and will really have an adverse effect on our relationship…but don’t forget to watch him next month when he takes on Vitor Belfort at UFC 152! They are really sending a mixed message.
So there’s my two cents. Amazingly the one who comes out looking the best here is Chael Sonnen. Who would have thought?